Currently browsing posts by Jill Boniske.

Eye in the Sky

I’d have gone to see this flim if only to see Alan Rickman for one last time, but fortunately it is an incredibly well done political thriller that forces the audience to ask some very hard questions about modern warfare. Headlining the wonderful ensemble cast is Helen Mirren playing Colonel Katherine Powell, a British officer on the trail of some of the world’s leading terrorists. Having found three of them in Kenya, she is leading a team of remote surveillance operatives around the world to track and capture them. The film cuts between her team in England, an American drone team near Las Vegas, the group that has the final say at Whitehall in London, and the people on the ground in Nairobi whose lives are on the line, including a Kenyan operative (Barkhad Abdi of Captain Phillips) who goes undercover in a very dangerous neighborhood. But when the mission changes from capture to kill, and a sweet little girl we’ve met in the opening scene is about to become “collateral damage”, not everyone is on board with the military leaders.

Creative Control

Before going to this film, you might want to look up augmented reality (AR). Yes, it’s a thing. Instead of virtual reality, which is entirely created in a computer, AR takes the real world and adds all kinds of digital visuals and sounds to make something new and, one might hope, better. Creative Control is about an ad executive in the very near future who is tasked with designing a campaign for a high-end AR company called Augmenta. To understand them better, he wears their glasses around for a while and experiments with all the bells and whistles and starts to lose track of the borders between his real and augmented lives.

The Lady in the Van

Are you having Maggie Smith withdrawal now that Downton Abbey has ended? Never fear! She’s starring in a quirky little dramedy in theaters now (though it won’t lose anything going to the small screen.) In The Lady in the Van she plays a character as far removed from Violet Crawley, Countess of Grantham as one could imagine, but somehow there is still a haughty dowager quality to her homeless Miss Shepherd. She is Dame Maggie, after all. Set in 1974, the film is loosely based on the true story of a very damaged woman who took to living in her van following a traumatic accident and was canny enough to find a kind playwright who was willing to grant her access to his private off-street parking space and ultimately his life. Originally agreeing to a three week stay, she ended up there for 15 years, and the writer, Alan Bennett (The Madness of King George, The History Boys), turned that experience into a book about their unusual relationship, which he adapted first for the stage, then as a radio play, and now for this sweet, sad little film.

The Big Short

I’m behind on my Oscar nominees viewing, but I finally caught this one. I’d expected it to be more like Margin Call, but thankfully, though its subject matter is kind of similar, it is by turns funny and horrifying. Adapted from Michael Lewis’s non-fiction bestseller “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine,” it tells the story of how a small group of money men saw what was happening in the housing market in 2005 and set about shorting the market and making a killing. Along the way, they tried to wake banking regulators and the wider market to their realization that it was all about to go bust, but were totally ignored by those who were making money hand over fist on bad loans. It is a morality tale, very well told.

Hail, Caesar!

The Coen Brothers are prolific filmmakers, but for me their films are hit or miss. I loved No Country for Old Men, and Fargo was amazing. But then there are those utterly forgettable flicks – The Lady Killers, or Burn After Reading. I’d put Hail, Caesar! somewhere in between. It’s plenty entertaining but it isn’t going on the shelf with The Big Lebowski. It’s a lovely walk around 50s era Hollywood with a star-studded cast having a lot of fun. And if for nothing else, you should see it for Channing Tatum’s dance number.

45 Years

Going into the Academy Awards, Charlotte Rampling had a very good chance of winning a Best Actress statue — for a while. But her ill-conceived remarks about the diversity problems of the Academy could easily cost her a well-deserved prize for her role in 45 Years. In this quiet drama she plays a Kate, just a week away from her 45th wedding anniversary when she suddenly finds the underpinnings of her marriage in question, as a letter arrives to let her husband Geoff know that the perfectly preserved corpse of his true love Katya has been found, 50+ years after she disappeared into a crevasse in the Swiss Alps while on a hiking trip with him.

Oscar Nominees — Short Film [Live Action]

The Short Film category is where new filmmakers get to shine. Several of this year’s directors show a lot of promise, both in terms of directing actors and in creating a gripping story. I wonder how many of them get offers for features after the exposure the nomination gives them. And again, I really wish there were more of these being shown in theaters before the features. It seems a waste that they make the rounds at festivals, but the majority of movie lovers rarely have a chance to see them. If I had a theater!

And the nominees are…

Oscar Nominees — Documentary [Feature]

I’ve seen all of the nominees this year, thanks to attending the AFI DOCS and Full Frame festivals and Netflix. If you’re filling out your Oscar ballot, here are my somewhat edited down reviews of the nominees. It was a great year for docs, though I think they missed a few, but I’m sure they had a hard time whittling down the field. And the nominees are…

Trailers for all the films are at the end of this post.

Oscar Nominees — Animated Short Film

I always love seeing all the shorts before the Oscars. And I always lament that we don’t get to see one of them before a feature, as we should. Sure, it would cut into theater owners profits by taking time away from the barrage of ads we are forced to sit through, but wouldn’t it be fun!

This years animated shorts were pretty spectacular. They all have different strengths. Some are great story. Some are great animation. All are worth viewing!

Youth

Italian writer/director Paolo Sorrentino was responsible for one of my favorite foreign films of the last few years, The Great Beauty aka La grande bellezza. That film dealt with a Roman writer’s shifting view of his life following his 65th birthday bash. In Sorrentino’s newest film Youth, he again looks at men of a certain age, coming to terms with their place in the world. This one is in English and stars Michael Caine as Fred and Harvey Keitel as Mick, two long time friends who are vacationing in a luxurious alpine spa.