Currently browsing posts by Jill Boniske.

Rosewater

Jon Stewart’s crossover from host of a hit satirical news show to feature film writer/director was slightly surprising on the face of it. But once you get into Rosewater, you see why this true story was so personal to him. In 2009, Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones, donning a silly undercover spy persona, conducted a mock interview in Tehran with Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari for a segment about the country’s elections, which Iranian-born Bahari had returned home to cover. A short time later that interview was actually used against him when he was arrested and charged with spying for the CIA. “Why this man claim to be a spy if he is not a spy?” his interrogator asks in the film. “Why would a spy have a television show?” Bahari answers incredulously. And this was the rabbit hole he fell down — an absurdist nightmare with no room for reality or truth.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Birdman has no competition, because there is nothing remotely like it out there. It is a semi-fantasy, dark comedy with an amazing cast and a highly imaginative script. Michael Keaton has never been better, and in this role he shows off a kind of raw emotive talent that I would not have guessed he possessed. Playing Riggan, a former mega-star who was known for his role as the immensely popular superhero Birdman a couple of decades back, he has come down to earth and is trying to make a name for himself again, only this time with a Broadway play that he wrote, an adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” He is directing it and starring in it as well. And he may just be losing his mind.

John Wick

The moral of John Wick is never ever kill someone’s dog, probably a good thing to bear in mind anyway. In the case of this film, the perpetrators of the vile act choose the absolutely worst person possible to piss off. Keanu Reeves plays the title character and he is a retired hit man. And not just any hit man, but the best in the biz. But he left that life behind a while back and got married, and as the film begins, his beloved wife has just died from an unnamed illness. And John is taking it really hard, when a crate shows up at his house with an adorable little dog and a note from the dead wife saying that she wanted him to have a companion to help him get through his grief. So it is not just a dog, but a link to the love of his life.

St. Vincent

St. Vincent is a surprisingly feel good flick, and a great deal of that is due the performance of Bill Murray, who has followed his early comedy career with some wonderful dramatic turns. He is fortunate to have teamed up with a very talented newby writer/director who crafted a layered character for him to sink his teeth into. But the film also has what could have been a pretty cliched story at its center that is slowly turned on its head as the film chugs along. Not that Bill Murray isn’t funny in this role. There are some very funny bits in that deadpan, world weary way only he can pull off. It’s just that the laughter is tempered with some dramatic moments that keep it from being typical curmudgeon comedy.

Kill the Messenger

Kill the Messenger is based on a true story, and what a story it is! It is the tale of a journalist/whistleblower who had the guts to publish the truth about the CIA’s complicity in bringing crack cocaine to our inner cities in order to fund a war Congress wouldn’t pay for. And what did he get for it? He was demonized by his peers and hounded out of the profession. It is no All the President’s Men, which you can feel it trying to be at times, but it is another sickening story of people in high places feeling they are above the law, and an intrepid reporter stumbling into the story that blows the lid off their dirty little secrets. Jeremy Renner plays real life journalist Gary Webb, and it is his performance that keeps you watching. It is at times heartbreaking.

Dracula Untold

Another Dracula movie you ask? Haven’t we had enough vampire movies yet? Well, maybe not. Dracula Untold gives the traditionally evil bloodsucker his back story and makes him a more sympathetic creature than any of the other iterations. Yes, he’s still in Transylvania and he’s been known to impale a lot of folks, but it’s not that he’s inherently blood thirsty. He has a really good reason for acting the way he does and Dracula Untold gives you a ringside seat to this good guy gone bad story. This Dracula is no Edward or Jacob or even Tom Cruise Lestat. He’s a Game of Thrones hunk of a warrior with a big heart, but he’s given an impossible choice that changes his fate forever.

The Trip to Italy

I did not see the first of this series, but it is now on my list. In the first one, called simply The Trip (2010) the same two men, comedian/actors Steve Coogan (Philomena) and Rob Brydon, traveled around the the north of England eating and talking while ostensibly writing an article for a newspaper. This one takes them to one of my favorite places on earth, Italia! And there they dine at six fabulous restaurants and continue their silly conversations, frequently doing impersonations of actors from Pacino to Christian Bale to a contest of who can do Michael Caine best. (Brydon does a pitch perfect Hugh Grant a few times.) The film is not really about the food, though the director does shoot the chefs and the presentations lovingly, and Coogan and Brydon do ooh and ahh from time to time. It is really about the witty repartee covering an uneasy feeling that both men’s lives are in flux, and each is struggling to find his next move.

Mood Indigo

Writer/director Michel Gondry brought us Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind , one of the more strangely inventive stories of the 21st century. With Mood Indigo he returns with a French novel adaptation that is every bit as odd, though maybe not quite as effective. It begins as Colin discovers that his best friend Chick has found love, which sends him on a quest to find his own. His chef/friend/lawyer Nicolas, the beautiful Omar Sy from The Intouchables, has a neice who is having a party, and there Colin meets Chloé, the lovely Audrey Tautou of Amélie. He is instantly smitten. And their romance is all fun and sweet and beautiful until she falls ill with a water lily growing in her lungs and the world turns dark.

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.