Currently browsing posts by Jill Boniske.

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years

Fun! Fun! Fun! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! This documentary from Ron Howard looks at the touring years of the greatest musical group the world has ever known. Okay, that’s just my considered opinion, but if you’re a Beatles fan, this is a must see flick. The film combines archival footage and interviews that take you inside the Beatles’ world during their early years on the road, which only lasted from 1963-66. But during that time they performed 250 concerts and went from obscurity to legend!

The Magnificent Seven

A remake of a remake has a lot to live up to. The original was the Japanese film Seven Samurai, shot in 1954, considered one of director Akira Kurosawa’s masterpieces starring the legendary Toshiro Mifune. Fast forward six years and Hollywood makes a version substituting cowboys for Samurai, starring Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn. Now we have another one with Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Peter Sarsgaard. All three films follow the same essential plot. A village is being preyed upon by outsiders, so they hire Samurai/Cowboys to defend them and mayhem ensues. So is the new one magnificent?

Snowden

Unless you never watch the news or have been hiding under a rock for several years, you’ve probably heard of Edward Snowden. A gripping documentary called Citizen Four was made about him in 2013 and won the 2015 Oscar. Here’s what I said about that film:

In January of 2013, filmmaker Laura Poitras began receiving emails from a mysterious person who only identified himself as “citizenfour” and who had information about US government surveillance on a scale unheard of in history. A few months later, after a number of encrypted email exchanges, Poitras headed to Hong Kong along with journalist Glenn Greenwald to meet the sender. The rest is history. Waiting for them in a hotel room was Edward Snowden who would hand them evidence of massive citizen surveillance and data mining by the NSA and other government agencies, and would expose our global cyber-spy program.

Oliver Stone’s new movie Snowden begins in that hotel with Poitras (Melissa Leo) and Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and flashes back to Snowden’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) tortured path to this clandestine meeting. The film succeeds in telling its story without becoming a typical Oliver Stone polemic. Whether that is a good or bad thing is up to you.

Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?

Based on the Aristophanes comedy set in Athens circa 411 BC, and translated to small town Texas in the 21st century, Is That a Gun in Your Pocket? is essentially Lysistrata Lite. The women in the original withheld sex from their husbands to stop the Peloponnesian War. Here they do the same to rid their town of guns after a boy takes Dad’s cool pistol to school and accidentally shoots the crossing guard in the derriere. The film feels a lot like a TV movie, except for foul-mouth Granny (Cloris Leachman), and the cast is mostly television actors. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but sadly as comedies go the film never rises above the sitcom level.

Landfill Harmonic

The town of Cateura in Paraguay is built on a landfill. Most of the people there make their meager livings sorting trash into sellable recyclables. 40% of the kids don’t finish school because they need to work and the main work is in the dump. There are few opportunities to move up economically or widen their view of the world. But into this community 8 years ago came Favio Chavez, an environmental consultant who was hired to make the recycling program more efficient and help the people of the community. But what he did next was unexpected, even to him. He decided to teach the young people to play music. And where would they get the instruments in a town where one cheap violin would be worth more than a family’s house? From the trash itself!

Mia Madre

This is not a film you will enjoy, but you may relate. The main character Margherita (Margherita Buy) is a film director whose life is falling apart around her. Her relationship with her significant other is over, the film she is directing is being ruined by an actor (John Turturro) who can’t remember his lines, and to top it off her mother is in the hospital dying. Apparently, the film is autobiographical as Nanni Moretti, the writer/director and actor playing the director’s brother Giovanni, lost his mother while shooting his last film. Mia Madre balances the quiet drama of watching the mother go downhill with the silly comedy of Turturro’s Barry Huggins, who has a rich fantasy life including having worked for Kubrick and dreaming that Kevin Spacey is trying to kill him. Unfortunately, the wacky actor from America really steals the show.

Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World

Anyone who knows me knows I am a HUGE Werner Herzog fan. So when we went to AFI DOCS and could only get one ticket to the Guggenheim Symposium, where Werner would be interviewed and show his new documentary, I was thrilled to be the one to go. The interview was wonderful, and Herr Herzog did not disappoint in his storytelling laced with wry jokes. But the film? Sadly, I was not blown away. The film is essentially a primer on the Internet, its history, its promise, its dangers, its future. It is told in chapters, some interesting, some no so much, with titles like, “The Glory of the Net” and “The Internet of Me.” As the title suggests, it is Herzog’s musings and we are along for the ride.

Into the Forest

What would happen if the electricity and all the things it powers were to disappear? No Internet. No radio. No cell phones! No way of knowing what caused it and when or if it would come back. And what if you were living in some remote locale where just getting into a town that might have some information was nearly impossible since there’s no gas for the car? That is the premise of Into the Forest, starring Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood as sisters, left alone way out in the woods in a semi-finished house to fend for themselves as their isolation puts enormous strains on their relationship. It’s a quiet post-apocalyptic film with flashes of violence that force them into life-changing choices about their future.

Little Men

Little Men is a small film with a simple story. Two adolescent boys Jake (Theo Taplitz) and Tony (Michael Barbieri) become best buds when Jake’s grandfather dies and his family moves into his Brooklyn apartment. Tony’s mother Leonor (Paulina Garcia, Gloria) runs a shop downstairs in the building, but when Jake’s father Brian (Greg Kinnear) and his sister Audrey decide to raise her rent, the ensuing arguments between the parents threaten the boys’ relationship.

Demon

Demon is a strange little Polish horror flick that mostly takes place during what I’d call a blow-out wedding. Handsome young couple Peter (Itay Tiran) and Zaneta (Agnieszka Zulewska) have been given a house in the country that they’re planning to rehab. Prior to the wedding Peter begins some of the work, digging up the yard where they will be building a summer house and/or a swimming pool. But when he hits something and discovers bones, everything changes.