Currently browsing posts by Jill Boniske.

Review: Victoria & Abdul

20 years ago Judy Dench was nominated for her role as Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown, a retelling of the Queen’s unconventional relationship with her Scottish groom. Victoria & Abdul is almost a sequel to that film. In it she develops another unorthodox friendship, this time with a handsome, young man named Abdul who has come from India to England for her Golden Jubilee.  Initially hired as a waiter, he quickly becomes her closest confidant and teacher (Munshi), which doesn’t sit well with her family, nor with her government. The film opens with “based on real events – mostly”, and it is that vein that you should view the history in it. Go for Dench’s performance and the warm story.

Review: Lucky

Indie flick alert! Don’t go to see Lucky expecting a real story. Not much happens in it. Go expecting a series of scenes with quirky characters saying meaningful things. And mostly go to see Harry Dean Stanton’s wonderful final performance as an oddball loner looking mortality and life in the face and soldiering on.

Review: Te Ata

Te Ata was the stage name Mary Thompson Fisher took on in 1919 when she left her Chickasaw home in Oklahoma to pursue a career in acting. The film is the inspiring story of her journey to becoming a renowned storyteller who brought the stories of Native Americans to the white population. Played beautifully by Q’orianka Kilcher, Te Ata was a true pioneer, breaking barriers and humanizing her people at a time when the government was still actively trying to suppress their culture. The film lays the racist politics out clearly, but focuses on the story of the unheralded hero. Girl power!

Review: Blade Runner 2049

Thirty-five years after the original Blade Runner comes a sequel. Wow! It is a continuation of the original story 30 years on, and it is amazingly faithful to the world of the former while incredibly innovative. I LOVED the first one, and the only thing I miss this time around is Rutger Hauer. But fortunately in the new one, the replicant longing to be human is played by the talented Mr. Ryan Gosling. And it is his story that takes center stage. This is a hard one to review because the story has several twists that you don’t want to know going in. Or I wouldn’t, so here’s the gist: LAPD Officer K (Gosling) is out doing his Blade Runner job, hunting down and eliminating old replicants, when he stumbles upon an impossible secret that could change the world. And to get to the truth he has to track down former Blade Runner Deckard (Harrison Ford), which puts them both in the cross-hairs of some extremely powerful people.

Review: So B. It

Adapted from Sarah Weeks’s YA novel, So B. It is the story of a 12-year-old girl named Heidi (Talitha Eliana Bateman) who lives in Reno with her severely autistic mother (Jacinda Barrett) and a mother-figure neighbor Bernadette (Alfre Woodard) who suffers from agoraphobia. She knows very little about her past or her family since her mother cannot tell her and there’s no one else to ask. But when she stumbles upon an undeveloped roll of film and prints it, she finds the key to her mom’s history. It points her to Liberty, New York, and so she takes off on a cross-country journey to discover who she really is. It’s a heartwarming coming-of-age story, though more ABC After School Special than must-see in a theater.

Review: May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers

This is from one of our occasional Guest Chick reviewers who just happens to be a big Avett Brothers fan. Thanks, Marcianne Miller. In this heart-tugging, intimate portrait of the country’s wildly popular folk-rock act, the music is accessible and clear — and the message that echoes after the film is over– is a welcome reminder that in a few entertainment families, love and appreciation of one another weigh out over ego and fame. Cynics call such a message corny. For me and millions of the Avett Brothers fans, it’s a message worth clinging to and a film that merits repeat viewings.

Review: Year by the Sea

I know there are not enough great roles for women of a certain age, but could someone please write something good for Karen Allen (Indiana Jones, Starman) to act in. Year by the Sea isn’t it. She is so much better than this. In it, she plays a cliched wife/mother whose son just got married and whose husband sells the house without telling her he’s been relocated, just expecting she’ll go along. And so she feels very unmoored and decides to “find herself” by moving to a cabin on an island somewhere up on Cape Cod. Based on a book of the same name, the film is a jumble of tired tropes on menopausal women and empowerment, set against a soundtrack of the songs you were happy to have forgotten from your youth. I cannot imagine why it was made.

Review: mother!

This is without doubt the most divisive movie to come out in a long time. People either hate it or love it, with very few people on the fence about it. I make it a point not to read reviews before I go to see a film I’m planning to cover, but the headlines screaming about mother! (not to be confused with one of my favorite Korean films called Mother sans exclamation point) couldn’t be ignored. It got an F from viewer-polled Cinemascore, but earned raves from some well-known critics. The New York Times even posted an article titled, “Hating ‘Mother!’: Readers Speak Out.” And after finally seeing it for myself, I understand both sides of the argument, but come down on the WTF#?! side.

Review: Brad’s Status

I lie in bed and overthink everything in my life on a regular basis, but I don’t think everyone needs to hear about it. Writer/director Mike White (School of Rock, Beatriz at Dinner), however, thought that that kind of obsessive inner life monologue would make for a great film. Perhaps, though not this film. In Brad’s Status, Brad (Ben Stiller) is a dad about to take his only son (Austin Abrams ) on a college tour, and it throws him into a self-absorbed walk down memory lane where he compares his life with those of his classmates (Michael Sheen, Jemaine Clement, and Luke Wilson) and comes up totally lacking. Though there is dialogue in the film, Brad’s voice-over dominates. And boy is he annoying.

Review: The Villainess (AK-NYEO)

If you’re looking for some bloody violence, this is the movie for you! The opening sequence alone has a higher body count than even Tarantino’s most epic movie. A woman (Sook-hee- unseen until the end of the fighting) goes into a building and hall by hall, room by room, kills every single man in the place. They’re shooting and knifing and martial arting at her, too, but she’s just a better bad-ass than any of them. And at the end she walks out covered in blood ready to be arrested by the waiting police. The next thing she knows, she wakes up in some shady off-book South Korean Intelligence agency’s secret facility, and she’s told they’re going to train her, use her for various nefarious undercover ops, and after ten years she’ll have her freedom back. Or they can kill her. She goes for option one.