Currently browsing posts by Jill Boniske.

Review: Queen & Slim

Worst first date ever! Queen only went on the date because she had a bad day and didn’t want to be alone. But Slim (Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out) was having a decent time anyway. Then on the way home they get pulled over by a racist cop who shoots Queen in the leg when she gets out of the car, and Slim is afraid he might be next, so he wrestles the cop’s gun away from him and shoots him in self-defense. And the couple are suddenly on the wrong side of the law. The whole thing was caught on dash-cam video, so there’s no question what physically happened, but their guilt or innocence is a question of perspective, and once the video goes viral they become folk heroes to the black community. Queen & Slim turns Bonnie and Clyde on its head, with the hunted couple being innocents fleeing a broken justice system. And intertwined with the couple on the run for their lives narrative is a love story that blossoms between the two whose fates become one in a tragic instant.

Review: Uncut Gems

Adam Sandler is one of the most exasperating actors out there. He’s made a slew of horrible, stupid movies (The Waterboy, Billy Madison), and yet every now and again he proves that he can actually act (Punch-Drunk Love, Spanglish). Now he’s getting all kinds of awards season love for his performance in Uncut Gems and deservingly so. It’s one of those roles where you’re simultaneously rooting for the guy and hoping for his comeuppance. His Howard Ratner is not a good guy. He’s a loud, frenetic gambling addict who’s cheating on his wife (Idina Menzel) with one of his employees (Julia Fox) and taking advantage of everyone he meets. But when he procures a huge black opal smuggled in from Ethiopia with plans to auction it off to settle his considerable debts, he feels like things are finally going his way. But from the moment the stone comes into his life, everything spins even further out of control than it was before. And you’re with him for every single anxiety inducing minute of it.

Review: The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open

This is a total indie gem. It’s the story of two Indigenous women who meet by chance on a street in Vancouver as one of them is fleeing domestic abuse. What follows is told in real time as Áila (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, also the co-writer/director) tries her hardest to help Rosie (Violet Nelson) see her situation for what it is. The film was inspired by Tailfeathers’s real life experience in a similar situation. It’s a story told from the perspective of a middle-class Indigenous woman who is trying to bond with another Indigenous woman of a lower class. Though they share a deep cultural connection, their lives could not be more different. It’s a powerful film.

Review: Knives Out

I caught this one at Middleburg, and sadly it was my biggest disappointment of the festival. As whodunits go, the jig is up pretty early on. But it has so much going for it, with a killer cast — Christopher Plummer, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette and Ana de Armas — and a fun setup, that I kept hoping.  It is of course difficult to review since it depends on the element of surprise, and director Rian Johnson (Star Wars:The Last Jedi) even filmed a “don’t tell anyone the secret” spot to go before the movie. So here’s what I can tell you:

Review: The Two Popes

At the Middleburg Film Festival this year, The Two Popes was my top pick and if that’s any indication, it will win the Oscar. My favorites won the last two years. This sure to be a crowd pleaser is a somewhat imagined tale of the friendship that developed between the most recent Popes, Benedict and Francis, after beginning as rivals, and stars two actors at the top of their game — Anthony Hopkins as Benedict and Jonathan Pryce as Francis. And it’s by turns warm and funny and heartfelt. A total delight.

Review: Synonyms

Based on the real-life experiences of writer-director Nadav Lapid (The Kindergarten Teacher), Synonyms is the strange story of a young Israeli man named Yoav (Tom Mercier) who comes to Paris to escape his Israeliness and meets French couple Emile and Caroline who become his best friends and more. You’re never really sure who he is and what he wants, but you’re along for the ride as he walks the streets of Paris memorizing his French vocabulary (particularly synonyms), dancing in his tiny apartment and in streets and clubs, and doing everything he can to shed his former skin.

Review: Waves

Mainstream Chick and I both watched this one at the Middleburg Film Festival. It’s a family melodrama with a capital “F.” At its center is the African-American Williams family, whose patriarch is a driven man who made something of himself and expects nothing less from his son, pushing him to the breaking point. It’s an emotional roller coaster of a film that shocks and aches and takes a deep dive into the meaning of love and family. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s definitely worth seeing for its insistent style and excellent performances.

Review: The Report

We Chicks both saw The Report at the Middleburg Film Festival last month. We were both fans of this political thriller that should be seen widely, and agreed that its audience may be limited by the subject matter. And that’s unfortunate, because it’s an important story, extremely well done, that could very well change hearts and minds about a very dark moment in our country’s all too recent past.

Review: Harriet

Harriet Tubman was an extraordinary woman and she deserves to have her story told (and to be on the $20 bill.) She was a tiny, illiterate slave, but she was also fearless and smart. She escaped her bondage, but returned into hostile territory to bring hundreds more people to freedom as a key figure in the Underground Railroad. And this new film Harriet touches all the high points of her heroic tale. But despite a great cast doing their best, the film never really rises to the level her amazing story deserves.

Review: GIFT

When I was in grad school, the first book we had to read was Lewis Hyde’s “The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.” It’s a beautiful meditation on the concept of gifting through cultures and history and folklore, and a wonderful read for anyone concerned about surviving our current consumer culture. Robin McKenna’s documentary GIFT is based somewhat on that book. She trains her lens on four separate art stories around the world where people are doing what they do for art’s sake, not for money. And the film just might make you want to go out and do something in a similar vein.