Cinema Clash podcast: Radioactive; Yes, God, Yes; The Rental

Currently browsing posts by Jill Boniske.

Review: Summerland

Set mostly during World War II, Summerland takes place on the beautiful and remote southern coast of England. Misanthropic writer Alice (Gemma Arterton, Vita & Virginia, Tamara Drewe) lives in a small village where the kids think she’s a witch, and the rest of the villagers leave her a wide berth. She’s fine with that since she’s hard at work writing while pining away for the loss of her one great love. Then one day she opens her door and a young boy named Frank (Lucas Bond) is there – an evacuee from London who expects to live with her. To say she’s reluctant to take him in would be a gross understatement. But of course she does and little by little they grow to care about one other. It’s a pretty familiar story, and it feels a bit like an episode of one of your favorite BBC series. But it’s also a pleasant, heart-warming diversion we can lose ourselves in for a time during this virus obsessed period.

Review: The Cuban

The Cuban started life as a short film script. But when they couldn’t get the money to shoot it they expanded it to a feature and crowdfunded to get started. Then they found out that Oscar winner Lou Gossett Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman) had already read the script and they were off and running. It’s the story of the relationship between Luis (Gossett), an elderly Cuban musician suffering from Alzheimer’s who’s languishing in a nursing home, and Mina (Ana Golja), a young, headstrong pre-med student, who brings him back to life though the power of music. It’s a fairly predictable story, but well-done and ultimately heart-warming.

Review: Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful

If you spent any time reading or viewing Vogue from the 60s to the 90s, you are familiar with photographer Helmut Newton’s work. Naked women often in power poses, most notably in black and white, were his trademark. He died in 2004 still at the top of his game. A German Jew whose family fled in 1938, he’d already apprenticed with one of Germany’s top photographers, and eventually landed in Singapore, then Australia, where his fashion photographer career blossomed. Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful talks to the models who posed for him, the editors who hired him, as well as friends, admirers, and detractors. Grace Jones, Isabella Rossellini, Charlotte Rampling, Marianne Faithfull, and Claudia Schiffer sing his praises. Anna Wintour loved his work. Susan Sontag calls him a misogynist. I always thought of him as Sontag did, but the documentary gave me a different view of the women who worked with him and his view of his own pictures. And we’re far enough from the work and the culture of the time to see them in a new light.

Quickie Review: The Rental

The setup is all there for your usual thriller, with a few of the standard horror tropes thrown in. A couple of couples rent a house for the weekend in a very remote, yet gorgeous seaside location. There’s a caretaker who immediately comes off as kind of creepy and racist, but they just shrug it off and get on with their fun getaway, star gazing, doing a bit of ecstasy, hanging in the hot tub, hiking. But when a late night hookup with the wrong partner is about to be exposed by someone who filmed it with some cameras hidden around the house, everything spins out of control. And people start dying.

Review: The Painted Bird

Based on Jerzy Kosiński’s novel, The Painted Bird is a brutal tale of a young nameless boy’s fight to survive on his own during World War II in the wilds of Eastern Europe. He’s beaten and abused wherever he turns, and all he wants to do is find home, though he doesn’t really know where that is. And as he makes his way towards that imagined home, he grows more and more hardened and more like the people he meets, scared and mistrustful of the world at large. Though it takes place during the war, the conflict is distant even if the effects are all around The Boy. While it’s beautifully shot in black and white, it’s also 169 minutes long and essentially a litany of horrors. It’s not a film for the masses.

Mini-Review: Dirt Music

Good actors in gorgeous settings without a cohesive story does not add up to a great movie. In this rom-dram from down under, Georgie (Kelly Macdonald – No Country for Old Men, Puzzle) is living in an insular small town in Western Australia with its most powerful resident Jim (David Wenham – Lord of the Rings, 300) who she’s not really that fond of any longer. One early morning while swimming nude she meets a hunk named Lu Fox (Garrett Hedlund – Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Mudbound) who’s out lobster fishing where he isn’t supposed to. But one thing leads to another and soon they’re romantically entangled. A tragedy haunts Lu and though Georgie is prepared to give everything up for him, her partner Jim doesn’t want to let her go. But when Lu leaves town to get away from Jim’s thugs, Georgie follows him to the ends of the earth.

Quickie review: The Tobacconist

In this coming-of-age story, set mostly in Vienna just as the Nazis are rising, 17-year-old Franz (Simon Morzé) arrives from the countryside to work at a tobacco shop owned by his mother’s old flame Otto Trsnjek (Johannes Krisch). He’s a kind man and takes to Franz immediately, teaching him the ropes of the place. And who should walk through the doors but one of his regular customers, Sigmund Freud (Bruno Ganz, Wings of Desire, Downfall) who also takes to Franz and gives him advice on finding love.

Quickie Review: Guest of Honour

Somewhere in this movie from director Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter) is a decent story, but you really have to work to find it. It’s a father-daughter melodrama about Jim (David Thewlis – The Harry Potter series) and Veronica (Laysla De Oliveira) that cuts back and forth in time as she tells a priest (Luke Wilson- Legally Blonde, Rushmore) the story of their lives so he can deliver Jim’s eulogy. Jim is a lonely food inspector who spends his days testing the temperature of meat and hunting under kitchen cabinets for rat droppings. Veronica is a music teacher who willingly goes to jail for a crime she didn’t commit out of a sense of guilt for something she did do. He visits her in jail and tries to understand why. She can’t forgive him for a transgression she misunderstood in childhood. Ultimately, it’s a bleak and not very coherent story buoyed ever so slightly by David Thewlis’s nuanced performance.

Review: Denise Ho: Becoming the Song

This film could not be more timely. Just days ago the Chinese government passed a repressive national security law that essentially kills the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. I was probably watching this documentary at the same time it was happening. I’ll admit, I know nothing about Cantopop music. And I’d never heard of Denise Ho before I saw this film, but I’m a huge fan now. Not for her music, though some of it is quite beautiful, but for her heroic sacrifice in the name of democracy for Hong Kong. Denise Ho: Becoming the Song is the story of her rise to stardom alongside the story of Hong Kong’s history post-British rule, the creeping power grab by Beijing, and Ho’s evolution from pop star to activist. She’s truly an inspiration.

Review: The Truth (La Vérité)

Director Hirokazu Koreeda’s follow-up to his award winning Shoplifters could not be more different. No longer set in his home country Japan, The Truth is a mother-daughter drama set in a lovely Paris house where an aging actress and her grown daughter come together for the launch of the mother’s memoirs. That the mother is played by the inestimable Catherine Deneuve and the daughter by the equally talented Juliette Binoche makes it a pleasure to watch, despite its fairly well-trodden storyline.