Review: The Two Popes

Currently browsing posts by Jill Boniske.

Arty Chick’s 2019 Top 10

Unlike Mainstream Chick, I don’t think 2019 was a good year for movies. I didn’t come out of many saying, “That was amazing! I have to tell people about it!” There were a couple I really liked, but it seemed more like a year of great performances in just okay movies. Many of the films that have made it onto the lists of the big critics did not move me. The Irishman actually bored me. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was a fun watch thanks to the two leads, but I can’t say it stuck with me. These would be my Top 10 (in no particular order), mainly because they’re memorable:

Review: Little Women

Louisa May Alcott’s 1860s novel Little Women has been adapted to film more times that I can count, beginning in the silent era. So do we really need another one? Yes, we do. In the hands of the talented Greta Gerwig, this story of the four March sisters in Concord, Massachusetts feels as fresh and as relevant as any modern story. And blessed with a perfect cast including Saoirse Ronan, Laura Dern, and Timothée Chalamet, it’s one of the gems of this awards season.

Mini review: Marriage Story

Both of us Chicks saw this one at the Middleburg Film Festival earlier this year where it was the opening night film. From director Noah Baumbach (Margot at the Wedding, Frances Ha) it stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver as a New York couple whose marriage is coming apart. Nicole is a former TV actress married to Charlie who’s a theater director. And they have a cute little boy Henry (Azhy Robertson), whose custody becomes an issue when Mom moves home to the west coast to star in a TV show leaving Dad to commute if he wants to be a part of his son’s life. But once a couple of high powered LA divorce lawyers (Laura Dern and Ray Liotta) enter the story, what started out as an amicable split turns contentious. The film has some great performances, but sadly the story itself feels entirely too familiar.

Review: Bombshell

This movie has so much going for it – a knock-out cast, a ripped from the headlines #metoo #girlpower story, a humiliating takedown of the creator of Fox News – so why in the world isn’t it more compelling? Bombshell is taken from a true story. In case you missed it, a couple of years back, Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) one of the blondes of Fox News was fired and rather than just take it on the chin, she sued her boss, Fox founder Roger Ailes (John Lithgow), for sexual harassment and opened the gates for a flood of other women within the organization to come forward with similar stories, culminating in his ouster. At about the same time another of the beautiful women of Fox, Megyn Kelly (channeled here by the amazing Charlize Theron) decided to have her very own #girlpower moment during a Republican presidential debate when she famously asked GOP candidate Trump about his sexist treatment of women and was the recipient of one of his memorable disses about “blood coming out of her wherever.” You might think these two women would be natural allies then. But it seems that at Fox News it was every woman for herself.

Review: Queen & Slim

Worst first date ever! Queen only went on the date because she had a bad day and didn’t want to be alone. But Slim (Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out) was having a decent time anyway. Then on the way home they get pulled over by a racist cop who shoots Queen in the leg when she gets out of the car, and Slim is afraid he might be next, so he wrestles the cop’s gun away from him and shoots him in self-defense. And the couple are suddenly on the wrong side of the law. The whole thing was caught on dash-cam video, so there’s no question what physically happened, but their guilt or innocence is a question of perspective, and once the video goes viral they become folk heroes to the black community. Queen & Slim turns Bonnie and Clyde on its head, with the hunted couple being innocents fleeing a broken justice system. And intertwined with the couple on the run for their lives narrative is a love story that blossoms between the two whose fates become one in a tragic instant.

Review: Uncut Gems

Adam Sandler is one of the most exasperating actors out there. He’s made a slew of horrible, stupid movies (The Waterboy, Billy Madison), and yet every now and again he proves that he can actually act (Punch-Drunk Love, Spanglish). Now he’s getting all kinds of awards season love for his performance in Uncut Gems and deservingly so. It’s one of those roles where you’re simultaneously rooting for the guy and hoping for his comeuppance. His Howard Ratner is not a good guy. He’s a loud, frenetic gambling addict who’s cheating on his wife (Idina Menzel) with one of his employees (Julia Fox) and taking advantage of everyone he meets. But when he procures a huge black opal smuggled in from Ethiopia with plans to auction it off to settle his considerable debts, he feels like things are finally going his way. But from the moment the stone comes into his life, everything spins even further out of control than it was before. And you’re with him for every single anxiety inducing minute of it.

Review: The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open

This is a total indie gem. It’s the story of two Indigenous women who meet by chance on a street in Vancouver as one of them is fleeing domestic abuse. What follows is told in real time as Áila (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, also the co-writer/director) tries her hardest to help Rosie (Violet Nelson) see her situation for what it is. The film was inspired by Tailfeathers’s real life experience in a similar situation. It’s a story told from the perspective of a middle-class Indigenous woman who is trying to bond with another Indigenous woman of a lower class. Though they share a deep cultural connection, their lives could not be more different. It’s a powerful film.

Review: Knives Out

I caught this one at Middleburg, and sadly it was my biggest disappointment of the festival. As whodunits go, the jig is up pretty early on. But it has so much going for it, with a killer cast — Christopher Plummer, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette and Ana de Armas — and a fun setup, that I kept hoping.  It is of course difficult to review since it depends on the element of surprise, and director Rian Johnson (Star Wars:The Last Jedi) even filmed a “don’t tell anyone the secret” spot to go before the movie. So here’s what I can tell you:

Review: The Two Popes

At the Middleburg Film Festival this year, The Two Popes was my top pick and if that’s any indication, it will win the Oscar. My favorites won the last two years. This sure to be a crowd pleaser is a somewhat imagined tale of the friendship that developed between the most recent Popes, Benedict and Francis, after beginning as rivals, and stars two actors at the top of their game — Anthony Hopkins as Benedict and Jonathan Pryce as Francis. And it’s by turns warm and funny and heartfelt. A total delight.

Review: Synonyms

Based on the real-life experiences of writer-director Nadav Lapid (The Kindergarten Teacher), Synonyms is the strange story of a young Israeli man named Yoav (Tom Mercier) who comes to Paris to escape his Israeliness and meets French couple Emile and Caroline who become his best friends and more. You’re never really sure who he is and what he wants, but you’re along for the ride as he walks the streets of Paris memorizing his French vocabulary (particularly synonyms), dancing in his tiny apartment and in streets and clubs, and doing everything he can to shed his former skin.