Currently browsing posts by Jill Boniske.

Review: Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins

If you don’t know who Molly Ivins was, you’ll be a fan by the end of this doc. If you do remember her, you’ll fall back in love. And after watching it, everyone will wish there were a journalist of her intellect and humor around today to take on the political class in America and abroad. Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins is a pretty straightforward telling of her life and times. But what times they were. She tackled some of the big stories from the late 60s to the era of W (she coined that moniker) with such a keen eye for people and their motivations, and she pulled no punches. The film is by no means the definitive story of her very full though cut short life, but it is a hell of a lot of fun to be with her for its 93 minutes.

Review: This is Not Berlin

In this coming-of-age film set in Mexico City in the 80s, 17-year-olds Carlos and Gera are on the cusp of adulthood. And when they’re invited to the coolest club in town, they’re suddenly thrust into the dizzying world of punk rock and drugs and unbridled sexuality, and everything changes, especially their friendship. This is Not Berlin is a paean to rebellious youth and the urge to find your tribe, seen through the eyes of an inquisitive young man. It’s an emotionally absorbing ride.

Review: Vita & Virginia

Vita Sackville-West was a British socialite and a popular writer in the 1920s. She was also fond of scandalizing the society in which she lived, especially with her female lovers. Virginia Woolf was also a writer at the time, though less popular, but Lady Sackville-West set her sights on her after meeting at a dinner party. What followed was a relationship that lasted a decade and was responsible for one of Woolf’s greatest books, “Orlando.” Vita & Virginia is the story of these two women as they come together passionately for a while and then remain friends for a while. The film feels a lot like the lost lesbian episode of Downton Abbey, and while the performances are quite good, the costumes gorgeous, and the sets to die for, this telling of the famous literary romance does leave you less than satisfied and wishing Julian Fellowes had had a hand in it.

Review: Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché

She was there at the very beginning of the film industry. She directed hundreds of popular films and built her own studio that rivaled all the others of the day. She wrote and produced her films in Europe and the US. And yet, few filmmakers today know about her. Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché aims to correct that oversight. Guy wasn’t just the first female filmmaker, she was the first person to make a narrative film. When the moving picture was invented, it was used to shoot daily life or documentary, but she was the first to see the potential for stories to entertain. And because she was a woman, despite her groundbreaking work, she was lost to history. But no longer!

Review: The Peanut Butter Falcon

Most movies with Down syndrome characters treat them with kid gloves, painting them as lovable but limited people. But in The Peanut Butter Falcon Zak (Zack Gottsagen) is anything but a sweet sidekick. He’s a young man with a dream of becoming a pro wrestler, and to that end he escapes from the residential home where he’s being housed, and teams up with Tyler (Shia LaBeouf) a man on the run from some pretty angry people he’s wronged. What follows is a funny odd couple/road flick with lots of heart as Zak and Tyler elude their chasers and share an adventure in the wetlands of the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Review: Cold Case Hammarskjold

In this thoroughly odd documentary, Danish filmmaker Mads Brügger heads to Zambia after hearing conspiracy theories and tall tales about how UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold was murdered in 1961. In his search for the truth he’s joined by Swedish aid worker and part-time detective Göran Björkdahl, and as they dig both figuratively and literally, they begin hearing about a secret society of spies and assassins from South Africa who may have been the perpetrators of the killing. At first it sounds entirely outlandish, but as the story widens, it seems there actually is some nefarious group called the South African Institute for Maritime Research (SAIMR) and one of their members tells the tales of their many bad deeds on behalf of corporations and governments. And it’s gripping.

Review: Piranhas

In this adaptation of Roberto Saviano’s (Gomorrah) coming of age novel a group of fifteen-year-old boys in Naples transform themselves from one of the city’s many adolescent street gangs into a gun toting mafia presence. These boys begin the film as pretty naive, just out to have some fun, but when Nicola (Francesco Di Napoli) grows weary of his mom being extorted for “protection” money he seeks out the son of a murdered crime boss and soon he and his friends are working for a drug dealer and making some serious money. And from there they work their way up the food chain, leaving their childish lives behind in a pool of blood.

Review: Tel Aviv on Fire

You might not think that there’s much humor to be found in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Palestinian director Sameh Zoabi has crafted a very amiable farce that spans the borders and steps lightly around the conflicts. In Tel Aviv on Fire, Palestinian bumbler Salam (Kais Nashif) falls into a writing job on a very popular Palestinian soap opera. But he soon finds his freedom depends on the story going the way a certain Israeli Defense Force officer (Yaniv Biton) at the border crossing wants it to. Meanwhile Salam is also wooing an old flame and dealing with the diva antics of the soap’s French lead. And as he’s running around trying to please everyone, the show must go on.

Review: The Mountain

Set in the 50s, The Mountain is the story of Andy (Tye Sheridan, Ready Player One), a directionless young man. Early in the film his father dies and he meets Dr. Wallace Fiennes (Jeff Goldblum) who hires him to accompany him on the road as his photographer. The doctor is a lobotomist and they spend the rest of the film bouncing from mental hospital to mental hospital leaving pliant patients in their wake. But when the good doctor begins to find his services are going out of fashion as less drastic new procedures replace his, he spins a bit out of control, drinking and sleeping with random women, with Andy as his silent witness. And it seems to be building to something. But that something never really comes.

Review: For Sama

For Sama is a thoroughly engrossing and heart-wrenching documentary made by the mother of a baby born in Aleppo, Syria during the rebel uprising and daily bombings. Sama’s mother Waad al-Kateab frames the film as a letter to her daughter about the time and place in which she was born. An avid citizen journalist, al-Kateab was already documenting her world in 2011 while she was a student at Aleppo University when protests began against the corrupt regime of Bashar al-Assad. Her camera caught the beginnings of the student led uprising and the early optimism. And then all hell broke loose and she was right there in the middle of it, with her camera and a conviction that what was happening needed to be shown to the world. And it is harrowing, unlike any war correspondent’s version of life during wartime. During the five years of filming, she lived through nearly daily bombings and massacres, as well as marriage and the birth of her first child. It’s her own personal story, but also the story of the destruction of Aleppo at the hands of the Syrian regime with the aid of the Russians and the determination of the inhabitants to keep going. It’s a must see film.