Maps to the Stars

Currently browsing posts by Jill Boniske.

Mad Max: Fury Road

What a ride! From the beginning to the end, there is hardly a static scene in this film. It begins as Max (Tom Hardy) is contemplating the vast scorched earth that the world has become in its not so distant dystopian future. But before you can say “Where’s Mel?” the crazy car caravan arrives filled with even crazier warriors. They snatch him up and take him back to their stronghold called the Citadel to become a “blood bag” that keeps their troops at fighting strength. But when the evil leader Immortan Joe’s wives are stolen and the warriors take chase, one of them who just happens to be receiving his refresher blood directly from Max, decides to join the fight and takes his supply along for the ride, cleverly attaching him to the front of his vehicle. It probably isn’t the safest place to be in a road war. Especially when the person you’re up against is the super bad-ass fem-warrior Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron.)

Welcome to Me

What happens when a mentally ill woman who is obsessed with Oprah wins the lottery? She buys her way onto television and her very own talk show, of course. In Welcome to Me, Kristin Wiig plays Alice Klieg. She lives her quirky little life in a California desert town and spends most of her time watching and memorizing Oprah shows (on VHS) and devouring infomercials. She is in court-mandated therapy, but has decided that she doesn’t need any meds because she can control her emotions through other means, or so she firmly believes. So when she suddenly comes into $86 million, she decides to live out her dream to have her own talk show and finds a struggling production company that is more than happy to take a huge chunk of her winnings. And what is the show about? It is all about her. And it’s called “Welcome to Me.”

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Adapted from the best-selling novel by Jonas Jonasson, which I thoroughly enjoyed, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is a fun little Swedish flick about an old man who, just before his nursing home keepers can sing him happy 100th, climbs out the window and has a big adventure. It is in Swedish, feels kind of Forrest Gumpish, and it involves a biker gang and an elephant.

Ex Machina

In his directorial debut Alex Garland, the writer of 28 Days Later and Sunshine, has served up an intriguing minimalist sci-fi thriller that is more about what isn’t onscreen than what is. It’s a very simple story about an evil genius’s quest to design a sentient robot and the pawns he uses in the perfection of his plan. The cast of three (Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, and Oscar Isaac) spends most of the film sequestered away in a remote house/research facility and the audience spends most of its time wondering if things can possibly end well, as layer upon layer of artifice is stripped away.

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2015

Film festivals are a lot of fun, but kind of exhausting, too. I headed to Durham, NC last weekend for the Full Frame Festival, one of the premier documentary festivals in the country. The program included world premieres, some big time invited docs, and some thematic selections. Now in its 18th year, I kind of wish I’d attend this festival years ago, before it got so big and popular and crowded. I was only able to fit in eleven films in four days, and a few that I really was looking forward to seeing were sold out before I even had a chance to select tickets, but I was happy I got to see most of what I did. And here are my minireviews!

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

Back in the 90s I liked Nirvana’s music, though I wasn’t what I would call a big fan. But when lead singer/songwriter Kurt Cobain killed himself, I was shocked and saddened. The story around his personal life and suicide was messy and there was a lot of finger pointing and demonizing of his wife, the infamous Courtney Love. What Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck does really well is paint a picture of Cobain that runs counter to the tabloids and gives you a real glimpse of the tragic artist that he was. So much of it is told through his diaries and his own private tapes that no one, not even Courtney Love, had bothered to look at. It’s a film that will make even those of us who just liked the music respect his artistry on a whole other level.

Mr. Turner

When I think of Mike Leigh, I think of great female characters — Vera Drake, Secrets and Lies, Happy Go Lucky. And with Mr. Turner he proves that he is just a adept with the other half of the population. The film looks at the Victorian era painter J.M.W. Turner’s final 25 years and I must say, he is not the man I would have imagined from seeing his work. Played by wonderful character actor Timothy Spall (Harry Potter, Secrets and Lies) the painter is both crude and caring, crazed and cunning. If you are unaware of his work, head to any of the great museums and take a look. He was ahead of his time. While the others were clinging to the rules of Romantic realism, his landscapes were somewhat abstract and full of passion. This film will give you an even greater appreciation for his work. It is a gorgeous step backwards in time to the early 19th century in British society. (Warning: Some of the authentic speaking was hard for this 21st century American to understand.)

Maps to the Stars

David Cronenberg has always brought us characters and situations that are unsettling. His early films were smart horror flicks like The Fly and Dead Ringers, and I thought he’d moved into his more mature years with serious dramas like A History of Violence and Eastern Promises. But Maps to the Stars feels like a step backwards or perhaps an attempt to blend his earlier and later genres into one. It is a semi-horror satire of the Hollywood film world run amok, complete with ghosts and murder and incest. Every single person in the film is only out for themselves. And if you’ve never been to LA, Maps to the Stars will make you never want to go near the place.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel picks up slightly after the original ended, and if you did not see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel you could be a bit confused as to the relationships. All the same old folks are living in the ramshackle hotel in Jaipur, India, having ditched their old ways of defining themselves and it is going pretty well. Where the first one was about finding themselves, this one is about finding love. As with the first, a pretty straight forward story is elevated by an amazing cast including Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, and this time Richard Gere. It is a lot of fun!

Timbuktu

Timbuktu was a very deserving 2015 Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign film. The movie was inspired by the real life events of 2012-13 when religious fundamentalists, took over the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu, destroying much its cultural heritage in the name of Islam and imposing Sharia law on the inhabitants. (They were ultimately run out.) In the film, we meet these militants as they chase down and shoot gazelles from their jeep and then turn those same guns on a cache of wooden statues, particularly ones of naked women. We find them next strutting around the town with megaphones laying down the law, upsetting the townspeople with their strict-to-the-point-of-ridiculous rules. No music. No soccer. No smoking or drinking. No fun. And women need to be nearly invisible and have zero rights. Needless so say, the locals don’t take kindly to it, including the local imam who shoos the heavily armed Jihadists from his mosque. Director Abderrahmane Sissako contrasts this claustrophobic extremism with the story of a pastoral family living in the dunes just outside town whose life soon intersects with the new order.