Currently browsing posts by Jill Boniske.

Review: The Half of It

If you’re looking for a light as air romantic comedy, Netflix has you covered with its latest Cyrano de Bergerac retread. In this version, set in a Pacific Northwest high school, a Chinese-American girl with prodigious verbal gifts agrees to ghostwrite a love letter for an inarticulate jock to a beautiful girl who becomes the object of both their desires. It’s a sweet version of the old story and surprisingly charming.

Review: Lucky Grandma

This dark comedy set mainly in New York’s Chinatown begins with curmudgeonly chain-smoker Grandma (Tsai Chin – Joy Luck Club, Casino Royale) visiting LeiLei the Fortune Teller (Wai Ching Ho – Hustlers). Her reading predicts a most auspicious day. So Grandma immediately empties her bank account and heads to a nearby casino. But it’s on the ride home to New York where things takes a truly fortuitous turn when a bag full of money literally drops in her lap, kicking the film into action, as Grandma becomes the target of one of Chinatown’s dangerous triads who want it back. Fortunately for Grandma, she’s a no-nonsense widow who knows just what to do. She hires a bodyguard from the rival gang. What could possibly go wrong?

Quickie Review: Arkansas

Arkansas is one of those indie flicks that somehow finagled a pretty impressive cast – Liam Hemsworth, Vince Vaughn, John Malkovich, Vivica A. Fox – even though it’s directed by a first timer, Clark Duke (actor from Hot Tub Time Machine, The Office), who also wrote the adaptation and took one of the lead roles. It’s the story of a couple of low-level drug runners Kyle (Hemsworth) and Swin (Duke) who bumble their way through the Southern drug world working for a mysterious guy named Frog (Vaughn). Along the way they meet Ranger Bright (Malkovich) who becomes their direct boss and local nurse Johnna (Eden Brolin, Josh’s daughter) who somehow falls for Swin. It’s a film that might have worked if the director/writer had a better sense of timing and character development, but it’s ultimately a waste of talent and time.

Review: How to Build a Girl

In this engaging coming-of-age flick, Johanna Morrigan (Beanie Feldstein – Booksmart, Ladybird) is a nerdy teenager living on a council estate in Wolverhampton, England in 1993. Her Dad’s a ne’er-do-well aging rocker. Her Mom’s suffering from post-partum depression after the birth of twins boys. And Johanna just wants to get away from them all. So when one of her other brothers shows her an ad for a writing job at a rock and roll magazine, she sends a sample article. She knows nothing about rock music, but she can write and what does she have to lose?

Quickie review: Working Man

In this time of sheltering in place anxiety, this indie flick touches a nerve. It’s the story of a Rust Belt factory closing down and the workers feeling lost without a job to go to. At the center of the film is Allery Parkes (Peter Gerety – Sneaky Pete) a man running from his pain by continuing to work past retirement age. But when his reason for getting up in the morning is taken away from him, he’s unmoored. So he returns to the factory, sneaking in and spending his days tidying up the place. But when the rest of his fellow workers find out, and urged on by his new friend and neighbor Walter Brewer (Billy Brown – How to Get Away with Murder), a movement is started to get the plant up and running again. And Allery is thrust into the uncomfortable role of leader.

Review: Deerskin (Le daim)

This has to be one of the oddest movies I’ve seen in a long while! It’s from Quentin Dupieux the writer/director who brought us Rubber. In case you missed that one, it was about a tire named Robert that terrorizes a desert community. This time it all starts with the purchase of a deerskin fringe jacket. And it’s an equally absurd premise that somehow sustains itself for just over an hour, thanks in large part to the central character Georges being played by the marvelous Jean Dujardin (The Artist.)

Review: Bull

I hadn’t heard of this one and was a bit wary of it since it seems to be about rodeo, not high on my list of entertainments. But I really liked it. Set in a poor Houston suburb, it’s the story of 14-year-old Kris (first time actress Amber Havard) who’s living with her Grandma since Mom is in the slammer. She’s just trying to get by, but crosses the line one night, breaking into her neighbor Abe’s house. Abe (Rob Morgan – Mudbound, Just Mercy) is an aging rodeo rider who’s also just hanging on by a thread. But instead of sending her to jail, he makes a deal that she will work for him for a bit. What follows is a classic story of the curmudgeon who gradually becomes a friend, and a young girl finding herself through adversity.

Review: True History of the Kelly Gang

The film opens with, “Nothing you’re about to see is true,” so you know that even though it’s based on the true story of an infamous Australian outlaw and folk hero, extensive liberties have been taken. Adapted from a novel by Peter Carey, True History of the Kelly Gang is really Ned Kelly’s (George MacKay, 1917) story. It’s told in two parts: young Ned’s education at the hands of his less than perfect parents and grown Ned’s criminal life and death. The first part gives you a sense of how he became who he was. The second part is less coherent.

Quickie Review: The Booksellers

Antiquarian booksellers aren’t people you meet every day. Theirs in an insular world and an industry that may be fading away. The booksellers that this documentary introduces its audience to are a curious bunch, mostly older, mostly white, mostly New Yorkers. Their world is one of obsessives and money and a deep appreciation for all things bookish. The film begins at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, then weaves its way though upscale shops, classic used book stores and apartments crammed full of books, collecting the stories of the men and women who are still on the lookout for that one elusive rare volume to buy or sell. It’s definitely a film for a certain audience. And you know who you are.

Quickie Review: The Other Lamb

This coming-of-age story is set in an unknown place and time where a charismatic hunk of a man called Shepherd (Michiel Huisman – Game of Thrones, Wild) leads an all-female cult. One girl Selah (Raffey Cassidy – Vox Lux, Tomorrowland) begins to question the only world she’s ever known. She was born and raised in this isolated place with these strict rules, but as she’s about to move from her status of sister to that of wife, she begins to see that this is not the paradise they’re supposed to believe in and Shepherd isn’t the man she thought he was. And when some policemen come to talk with him, he forces the group on an arduous trek to seek a new refuge, and things begin to fall apart.