Cinema Clash Podcast: Antebellum; Blackbird; The Way I See It; H is for Happiness; Cobra Kai

Currently browsing posts by Jill Boniske.

Quickie Review: Burning Ghost (Vif-argent)

When we meet Juste (Thimotée Robart) he’s wandering on the train tracks somewhere in Paris, confused. He stops at a small house and the man there recognizes what is happening and tells him where he needs to go for help. Then flash forward 10 years and Juste is still wandering about Paris, only he’s not confused any longer. And it slowly becomes clear that he sees dead people, and he’s got a job helping them cross over by sharing a strong memory from their lives with him. And that’s pretty much all he does. That is until a young woman named Agathe (Judith Chemla) starts following him one day. And when he confronts her, it seems they had a brief, and for her memorable, connection back before he left the normal world. And so begins their otherworldly love affair.

Review: Coup 53

Looking for a political thriller to suck you in for a couple of hours? Then watch this documentary. Iranian director Taghi Amirani spent ten years filming his obsessive hunt for documents and witnesses to tell the story of the coup d’état that stopped democracy in Iran in its tracks, all because the new, democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh had the gall to nationalize the oil industry. It is common knowledge that the US and UK were behind it, and the CIA has even declassified some of the documents related to their part in it, but the UK and MI6 have never admitted their role. In the film, Amirani is reading through transcripts from a 1985 BBC series called “End of Empire” that talks about Iran when he notices that there is one interview that has been totally redacted. The transcripts are heavily edited to obscure the name. The filmed interview itself is nowhere to be found in the BBC archives. And he knows that this interview could be the key to the whole story.

Review: Sputnik

Russia, 1983. The Cold War is still raging. Two men are orbiting earth in a spacecraft, preparing for their reentry when there is an incident. And when they crash land in Kazakhstan, the commander is found dead and the flight engineer in a coma. When he awakens, he has no memory of the accident or what happened up there in space. Hoping to get to the bottom of it, secretive Colonel Semiradov (Fedor Bondarchuk) lures psychologist Tatiana Klimova (Oksana Akinshina) who is known for her unconventional methods to a remote, high security facility where the cosmonaut Konstantin Veshnyakov (Pyotr Fyodorov) is being held. It doesn’t take long for her to find out that there is an alien living inside him, and her quest becomes trying to find a way to get it out without harming the host. Director Egor Abramenko is upfront about his love of space horror flicks. “Alien was always in the DNA of Sputnik.” But it’s no rip-off. It has its own satisfying trajectory.

Review: Jazz on a Summer’s Day

The Newport Jazz Festival is America’s oldest jazz festival, having begun in 1954. All the luminaries of the genre have played there, and many of the best recordings of their music were recorded there. In 1958, celebrity photographer Bert Stern came to document it. And rather than being about the music, Jazz on a Summer’s Day is truly a document of a place and a time. From the aspect ratio to the style of shooting it is very much a film of its era. In addition, the audience for the festival is noticeably only somewhat integrated and mostly upper class. Not that the music isn’t present. It’s just that it’s the background for images of the town, the people, the sailboats, the privileged. It’s a fascinating documentary that was named to the National Film Registry in 1999, and its restoration was funded by the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress for the film’s 60th Anniversary.

Review: I Used to Go Here

In this likable little indie comedy, thirty-something Kate (Gillian Jacobs from TV’s Community) has just published her debut novel and is excitedly planning for her first book tour. Then her agent calls to tell her that sales are slow and it’s been canceled. On top of it her recently ex-fiancé isn’t returning her calls. And all her friends are having babies. And life sucks. So what’s a girl to do? Accept an invitation from her favorite professor and mentor to return to her alma mater in Carbondale, Illinois for a reading to his latest writing class. What follows is a light and somewhat familiar story, elevated by a well-chosen cast and solid direction by Kris Rey (Unexpected).

Review: Red Penguins

Red Penguins is a sports documentary that is less about the actual sport – ice hockey – than the place and time and personalities. It’s the story of how the Pittsburgh Penguins owner had the crazy idea to step in and save the Russian Hockey Team after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 left them penniless and unmoored. It’s a wild dive into the New Russia with its gangsters and emerging capitalism. And the actual game isn’t really all that central to this fascinating story. The naiveté of the Americans believing that business would be conducted just like at home in the a country that was just emerging from decades of state control is pretty hilarious in hindsight. And the film itself teeters between these naive American’s rushing in with money and the Russians taking advantage with a wink and a nod and a Kalashnikov at the ready. It’s definitely a stranger-than-fiction doc worth seeing.

Review: Summerland

Set mostly during World War II, Summerland takes place on the beautiful and remote southern coast of England. Misanthropic writer Alice (Gemma Arterton, Vita & Virginia, Tamara Drewe) lives in a small village where the kids think she’s a witch, and the rest of the villagers leave her a wide berth. She’s fine with that since she’s hard at work writing while pining away for the loss of her one great love. Then one day she opens her door and a young boy named Frank (Lucas Bond) is there – an evacuee from London who expects to live with her. To say she’s reluctant to take him in would be a gross understatement. But of course she does and little by little they grow to care about one other. It’s a pretty familiar story, and it feels a bit like an episode of one of your favorite BBC series. But it’s also a pleasant, heart-warming diversion we can lose ourselves in for a time during this virus obsessed period.

Review: The Cuban

The Cuban started life as a short film script. But when they couldn’t get the money to shoot it they expanded it to a feature and crowdfunded to get started. Then they found out that Oscar winner Lou Gossett Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman) had already read the script and they were off and running. It’s the story of the relationship between Luis (Gossett), an elderly Cuban musician suffering from Alzheimer’s who’s languishing in a nursing home, and Mina (Ana Golja), a young, headstrong pre-med student, who brings him back to life though the power of music. It’s a fairly predictable story, but well-done and ultimately heart-warming.

Review: Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful

If you spent any time reading or viewing Vogue from the 60s to the 90s, you are familiar with photographer Helmut Newton’s work. Naked women often in power poses, most notably in black and white, were his trademark. He died in 2004 still at the top of his game. A German Jew whose family fled in 1938, he’d already apprenticed with one of Germany’s top photographers, and eventually landed in Singapore, then Australia, where his fashion photographer career blossomed. Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful talks to the models who posed for him, the editors who hired him, as well as friends, admirers, and detractors. Grace Jones, Isabella Rossellini, Charlotte Rampling, Marianne Faithfull, and Claudia Schiffer sing his praises. Anna Wintour loved his work. Susan Sontag calls him a misogynist. I always thought of him as Sontag did, but the documentary gave me a different view of the women who worked with him and his view of his own pictures. And we’re far enough from the work and the culture of the time to see them in a new light.

Quickie Review: The Rental

The setup is all there for your usual thriller, with a few of the standard horror tropes thrown in. A couple of couples rent a house for the weekend in a very remote, yet gorgeous seaside location. There’s a caretaker who immediately comes off as kind of creepy and racist, but they just shrug it off and get on with their fun getaway, star gazing, doing a bit of ecstasy, hanging in the hot tub, hiking. But when a late night hookup with the wrong partner is about to be exposed by someone who filmed it with some cameras hidden around the house, everything spins out of control. And people start dying.