Currently browsing posts by Jill Boniske.

Review: Roma

Director Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men, Gravity) recreated the Mexico City neighborhood of his childhood to tell the story of Cleo, an indigenous woman who worked for his family and was an integral and loving part of his young life in the 1970s. Shot in gorgeous black and white, the film has all the details of a child’s memory, while foregrounding Cleo’s role and her struggles within the story of a middle class family going through some difficult changes. Roma is populated mostly by non-actors, and Yalitza Aparicio’s performance as Cleo is riveting. You’ll fall in love with her by the end. And I think that’s the point.

Review: First Reformed

It’s that time of year again. The run-up to awards season, when I catch up on all the films I missed for one reason or another. And since First Reformed is already winning top honors in the early year-end critics’ awards, I thought I should watch it. It’s from Paul Schrader who was the hottest writer (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Mosquito Coast) and sometimes director (American Gigolo) in the 70s and 80s and then mostly faded away. But with this film, it’s clear he’s still got it. He knows how to draw a deeply flawed man in a deepening personal crisis, and his Rev. Ernest Toller played masterfully by Ethan Hawke (Juliet, Naked, Maudie, Boyhood) is his best character in decades. Divorced, ill, drinking, and questioning his faith, Toller is circling the drain, while the tiny church he heads is planning its 250th anniversary rededication and one of his parishioners is in desperate need of guidance he’s ill-equipped to give. This is not a happy movie, but it is intensely thought-provoking and a glorious return to form for one of our great filmmakers.

Review: Becoming Astrid

This lovely Swedish biopic tells the story of the challenging early life of Astrid Ericsson (Lindgren) who would go on to write the children’s classic Pippi Longstocking and a slew other memorable books. Born in a rather idyllic if strict farming community, at 16 she was offered a job at the local paper and fell for the married editor. Though it was reciprocated, an unplanned pregnancy caused her to make some very difficult decisions that colored the way she saw children and undoubtedly made her the writer she was to become. Played by Alba August (The Rain), Astrid is initially brimming with curiosity and energy, but her pregnancy and the choices she is forced to make with the child take a heavy toll. Fortunately, it all works out by the end, or we wouldn’t have her wonderful books.

Review: The Favourite

The Favourite was another of my top picks at The Middleburg Film Festival. England’s Queen Anne was such a sad queen. But this period dramedy of the fight to be her favorite is wickedly funny and full of Oscar-worthy performances, particularly Olivia Colman (The Lobster, Broadchurch) who plays the gout-ridden, isolated monarch with little interest in doing the job she was born to. Fortunately, she has Lady Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) to take care of her and all those pesky decisions she’s supposed to make. But when Lady Sarah’s cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives at court and finagles her way into the Queen’s good graces, the gloves come off and it’s every woman for herself. And it’s savage and hilarious! The dialogue alone in this film makes it worth seeing, but the direction and attention to detail make it sing.

Review: Shoplifters

This film from Japanese director Hiorkazu Kore-eda (Nobody Knows) is a beautiful drama about what family means. I saw it at Middleburg, and it’s stayed with me. The story is about a group of people living together on the edges of society, with pretty fluid ethics but enormous hearts, and it’s both uplifting and heartbreaking.

Review: Green Book

Who’d have thought that the director of Dumb and Dumber would bring us the best movie of 2018? With two great performances from Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises, Captain Fantastic) and Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Green Book is based on the true story of a working-class New York Italian bouncer (Mortensen) who was hired to drive a classically trained black pianist (Ali) on a tour through the Jim Crow South. It’s the best road trip flick in ages as it explores race and class through an unexpected friendship. And it is by turns sad and funny and sweet and horrifying. It’s a must see!

Review: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

We’re so used to Melissa McCarthy being the funny actress, that’s it’s hard to imagine her otherwise. But nobody’s going to question her acting chops after her turn as Lee Israel, true life best-selling author turned celebrity memorabilia forger. While there are certainly funny moments in this adaptation of Israel’s book about her descent to the remainders table and her newfound skill writing faux letters in the voices of some of the great authors of the 20th century, McCarthy’s Israel is a caustic misanthrope whose only friend is her cat. That is, until she meets aging party boy Jack (Richard E. Grant, Gosford Park, Withnail & I) who becomes her drinking buddy and partner in crime.

Quickie Review: The Girl in the Spider’s Web

To call this an adaptation is an insult to all other adaptations. I was wary when I read that another author was continuing “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series following Stieg Larsson’s death, but once I read it, I was looking forward to more. So when I heard about the The Girl in the Spider’s Web film, I was cautiously optimistic. (I was a lot more taken with the Swedish versions of the originals than the American one.) But what this film does to the book is ignore it entirely and replace a gripping story and complex characters with a lame cookie cutter action pic. Shame on them!

Review: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

This anthology film from the Coen Brothers will only be in a few big city theaters for a week before it begins streaming on Netflix. It’s made up of six separate stories all set in the Wild West held together by beautiful cinematography and a great cast. A couple of the stories are a lot of fun. A few, meh! All together it clocks in at 132 minutes, and there were certainly places where a little snip or two would have made it better. But if you’re a fan of the Coens, you’ll probably overlook the length and have a fine time.

Review: El Ángel

Set in Buenos Aires in 1971, El Ángel is a true crime drama about a baby-faced teenage sociopath named Carlitos (Lorenzo Ferro) whose love for thievery blossomed into a passion for cold-blooded murder when he met fellow student Ramon (Chino Darin). It’s a truly disturbing portrait of a kid totally devoid of a moral compass. And you’re on the edge of your seat the whole way because you just know he and his accomplices will (and should) be caught.