AFI DOCS 2014 (Days 3&4)

Currently browsing posts by Jill Boniske.

Snowpiercer

I really wanted to like this movie. It has a top notch cast with Chris “Captain America” Evans, Tilda “Chameleon” Swinton, Octavia “Oscar” Spencer, John “Gravitas” Hurt and Ed “Reliable” Harris, and I LOVED director Bong Joon Ho’s last film, Mother. But dystopian future movies need to have an internal logic and this one just doesn’t. It is a two hour battle from one end of a train to the other without anyone I could give a damn about.

Me and You (Io e te)

There are a handful of directors whose names lead me to expect greatness. Bertolucci is definitely one of them. He has written and directed some of the most successful and critically acclaimed films of the last 50 years. From The Conformist to 1900 to The Last Emperor and The Sheltering Sky, his movies have frequently been political and sweeping in scope. His latest by contrast is a small film adaptation of a popular young adult novel with no big name actors and it takes place mostly in a very dingy basement. But it just goes to show how good a director he really is. It is a slight piece, but entertaining and assured filmmaking.

Begin Again

Begin Again is all about the transformative power of music. In it a down on his luck, alcoholic ex-record company executive discovers a down on her luck songwriter and the two of them help one another come back into the world of the living. That the two are played by Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley helps this pretty simple story become more than the sums of its parts. It is a thoroughly entertaining little film, especially for music lovers.

Land Ho

Land Ho is a road movie, in which a couple of 60ish ex-brothers-in-law named Colin and Mitch head to Iceland to, as Mitch puts it, “Get their groove back.” That includes getting stoned and watching the young crowd in Reykjavík dance, driving their Hummer through the wilderness to take a plunge in the hot springs, and lots of buddy repartee about aging and loss replete with Mitch’s constant teeneage boy style sexual joking. The film ultimately feels more like a bunch of scenes than a full fledged story, so it works mostly as a travelogue that makes you wish you could go to Iceland and, groove or no groove, just see the place.

AFI DOCS 2014 (Days 3&4)

The last two days of the festival I spent in AFI’s Silver Spring theaters. All the films were shown in both the downtown DC venues and at the AFI home base. It was easier in Silver Spring with everything in one building, but seeing films at the National Portrait Gallery or the Naval Heritage Museum or the Goethe Institute’s theaters and being in town was a lot more interesting between screenings. Next year, I hope to be a bit more organized so I can see everything! Trailers for all the films are at the end of this post.

Ida

Ida is one of those extremely beautiful but ultimately depressing films. It is the story of an 18-year-old Polish orphan who was brought up by nuns and is about to take her vows, but first she has to visit an Aunt she knew nothing about, because her Mother Superior insists they meet before deciding on her future. The film is mostly her road trip with this aunt named Wanda to discover who she is and what happened to her family during World War II. It is also her first taste of the outside world, with the sad, alcoholic aunt as her tour guide.

AFI DOCS 2014 (Days 1&2)

As Arty Chick, I am a great lover of the documentary genre and this year’s AFI DOCS in Washington, DC sated my docu-hunger quite well. As with any festival, there were standouts and there were films that raised interesting topics, but did not meet my expectations in terms of filmmaking/storytelling. And an even larger problem was that the festival was spread between Silver Spring, MD and downtown DC, making the logistics a bit of a conundrum for an out-of-towner like me. The sheer number of films I wanted to see was simply impossible, but I can honestly say, I gave it my all.

Here’s what I thought of the first two days.

Citizen Koch

If you’ve never heard of the Koch Brothers, Charles and David, then this film could give you a bit of an introduction to the enormous power they currently wield in American politics. The documentary Citizen Koch reaches back a few years to the moment when the Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case that corporations can give without limit to political candidates, and uses the example of what happened in Wisconsin as a result of that decision as a cautionary tale. It is a textbook look at the political disenfranchisement that occurs when the people with the most money are allowed to buy an election. And in this case it is also the story of how what seemed from the outside to be a grassroots movement, The Tea Party, was in fact created and bankrolled by a couple of the wealthiest brothers in the country.

Chef

Written, directed and starring Jon Favreau, Chef is the feel good foodie flick du jour. Favreau stars as Carl Casper, a formerly hot young chef who’s lost his mojo, but finds his way back by starting from scratch. It’s a fun movie with a lot of heart and a fabulous cast. Besides Favreau, it boasts Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, John Leguizamo, Sofia Vergara, and a host of other top shelf talent. For audiences hungering for a change of pace from the special effects driven films out there, this is the ticket!

X-men: Days of Future Past

I will admit up front, I haven’t seen any of the other X-men flicks. But the good news is that this one stands alone and begs me to watch the others to see what I was missing. In Days of Future Past, Wolverine is sent back in time to 1973, so the characters that populate this series are youngsters and their relationships with one another are not yet certain, which makes for a great introduction to the mutant clan. And it is a LOT of fun with a fabulously yummy cast too boot. Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy — what could be wrong with that? And Jennifer Lawrence proves once again that she is a force to be reckoned with.