AFI DOCS 2014 (Days 3&4)

Currently browsing posts by Jill Boniske.

Lucy

I generally like Luc Besson movies — The Fifth Element, Leon: The Professional, La Femme Nikita. He writes some pretty interesting female characters who frequently have to fend for themselves in a very violent world. And that is just what the title character in his latest flick Lucy does. Played by Scarlett Johannsen, Lucy is an American student in Taipei who is forced to be a mule for a very interesting new designer drug, and then through a series of unfortunate events, pretty much all hell breaks loose as she turns into superhuman.

Boyhood

Boyhood, the new film from Richard Linklater (Before Midnight, Bernie, Dazed and Confused) is getting a lot of accolades because of the way it was shot, over the course of 12 years with the same cast. In it you actually watch a boy named Mason (and his sister) grow up, from being a typical a 5-year-old to his first day at college, along with all the trials and tribulations that get him there, as well as the expanding and contracting family that he is a part of. I was worried it might be just a gimmick but Boyhood is the ultimate coming of age flick and it mostly keeps you engaged through almost 3 hours.

Venus in Fur (La Vénus à la fourrure)

Theater lovers rejoice! And run to see this film. It is a fantastique adaptation of a play about a playwright/director and the mysterious woman who just may be the perfect actress to play his leading lady. It is in French, so I know that leaves out a lot of viewers, but try and get past that, because this is one fun ride.

A Most Wanted Man

There is really just one reason to go see A Most Wanted Man — Philip Seymour Hoffman. The film, while good on its own terms, mainly serves as a reminder of what an immense talent we lost. Hoffman plays a German spy in this John le Carré adaptation from director Anton Corbijn who brought us the equally thoughtful The American. And like his previous film, this one depends on the audience getting inside the protagonist’s skin. I’m not sure it would have worked without Hoffman.

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.