Currently browsing posts by Jill Boniske.

Review: Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti

If you are a lover of modern art in the least, you’re most likely familiar with Paul Gauguin’s work, particularly the bold colorful paintings he did while living in French Polynesia. Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti explores his first voyage there during the years from 1891 and 1893. Tired of the Paris scene, and looking to inject something new into his work, Gauguin decided to go half a world away to free his soul to create. And from the paintings I’ve seen in museums around the globe, it worked. French actor Vincent Cassel (Black Swan) plays Gauguin with his usual abandon, disappearing into the role of the driven artist in the exotic world of his dreams. The film won’t give you many insights into his work though. It’s a fictional view of his life with one particular girl/muse. It’s absorbing, but also seriously lacking.

Review: Dark Money

It’s the documentary of our time. Untraceable money is flooding US political races, from corporations and rich individuals with agendas that run counter to the will of the people. Filmmaker Kimberly Reed went to her home state of Montana see how the 2010 Citizens United ruling changed the political climate and what they did about it. According the filmmaker: “The only way to really understand how the dark money shell game works is to follow the nonprofit corporations over multiple election cycles as they pop up, disintegrate, reconstitute, and wreak havoc once again. It usually takes journalists years to uncover the damage that dark money causes, and by that time it is too late. I played this game of Whack-A-Mole over three election cycles in what became the perfect environment to tell the campaign finance story. Montana was not only the first and hardest hit with dark money but also the state that fought back the hardest with grassroots citizen outrage. Dark Money puts a human face to that fight.” It’s a film that will outrage you no matter your political ideology!

Review: Under the Tree (Undir trénu)

There are actually two storylines running concurrently in this very dark dramedy from Iceland. In one, everyman Atli is caught by his wife watching a sex tape in which she is not a participant, is kicked out of the house, and has to go live with his parents. In the other, Atli’s parents Baldvin and Inga are in an ever escalating fight with their neighbors Konrad and Eybjorg over a tree in the backyard. And while Atli tries to make amends with his wife and get to see his cute little daughter, he’s living with a mother who doesn’t have a firm grasp on reality and a father who is taking his cues from her in the battle over the tree’s future. The theme that runs through both stories is how easily people think the worst and act on their assumptions. And how nothing good ever comes from it.

Review: Whitney

Whitney, the new documentary about Whitney Houston has it all. Star power, incredible performances, heroes and villains, a sexual abuse bombshell, and the self-destruction and ultimate tragic death of its subject. But its greatest flaw is that it feels like her family and inner circle had way too much control over what went into this big documentary. And its most glaring deficiency is that Robyn Crawford, Whitney’s best friend, probable lover, and seemingly the only person who cared about her well-being rather than her success, was not interviewed. Nonetheless, what you’re left with is a documentary that kept reminding me of Amy, the Amy Winehouse documentary, where you know the sad outcome and you really just want to know why someone with so much talent would kill herself.

Review: Hereditary

I saw a blurb before I went to Hereditary that said it was “the scariest movie since The Exorcist.” I think they must have seen a different film. Yes, there are disturbing scenes and the usual horror flick tropes all over the place, but I was never really scared and I didn’t take it out of the theater as I did with The Exorcist. Hereditary is from first time director Ari Aster who assembled a first rate cast including Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense), Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects), Alex Wolff (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), newcomer Milly Shapiro and character actress Ann Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale, Aunt Lydia). He also has a very talented cinematographer who loves to show off his tricks of the trade. But the film felt like two stories. The first half is about grief and the second is the horror part. And at 2 hours and change, it takes way too long to get to the scary stuff.

Review: Bye Bye Germany (Es war einmal in Deutschland)

This “based on a true story” movie takes place in 1946, in a displaced persons camp, where those who survived the Nazi death camps are being held until they can get themselves to America. But they need money to do that. Enter David Bermann (Moritz Bleibtreu), a man with a plan. His family had a linen shop before the war, and he recruits a group of salesmen to sell high-end linens to the gullible Germans surrounding them. But while the biz goes well, he’s also being interrogated by an American Army Investigator (Antje Traue) who suspects that he collaborated with the Nazis. The film is by turns funny and sad and sweet and horrifying. And well worth seeing.

Review: RBG

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg aka The Notorious RBG is a fabulous role model for the masses. At 85 and with 15 years on the highest bench in the land, it’s time that her story be told. She may be tiny, but she is formidable! This wonderful documentary is based on the autobiography she read in her own confirmation hearing, the story of her professional ascent to the Supreme Court along side the truly touching love story of her life with fellow Harvard Law grad Marty Ginsburg. It’s a must see film!

Review: Foxtrot

This moving Israeli drama begins with a scene every parent with a child in the army fears — the knock at the door and the soldiers with solemn faces. They don’t even have to hear the words to know their world has been changed forever. When Daphna (Sarah Adler) and Michael (Lior Ashkenazi) Feldmann are informed of the death of their son Jonathan, she is immediately sedated by the soldiers and put to bed, as Michael is forced to deal with the funeral arrangements and a slew of other people’s emotional needs, while still numb and unable to find out what exactly happened to his child.

Review: The Guardians (Les gardiennes)

Most World War One movies are set in the battles and the trenches, but The Guardians takes place at home on a farm in rural of France. There the women keep the home fires burning and the crops in the fields harvested as they await news of their husbands and sons. At the center of the film is the matriarch of the family, Hortense Sandrail, played by one of France’s great actresses, Natalie Baye. She has two sons and a son-in-law in the fight, and with only her daughter Solange (Laura Smet) not enough help to keep the farm running. So she hires young woman, Francine (Iris Bry), who fits right in grows to be almost one of the family. But just under the surface of the bucolic farming tale is the horror of the war and the fear that their little isolated corner of the world will never be the same and their men will not all be coming home.

Review: You Were Never Really Here

Joaquin Phoenix is a phenomenal actor, but his choices of roles lately tend to be odd loners in strange situations (Inherent Vice, The Master, Her, to name just a few)) You Were Never Really Here continues that trend. It’s a very arty film that some have compared to Taxi Driver, with Phoenix playing Joe, a hired gun (or hammer, his weapon of choice) who specializes in tracking down missing and sex trafficked girls. He’s got a lot of personal demons that intrude on his life, but he’s good at the job. But when his latest assignment goes sideways, and he’s surrounded by violence and death, nearly dragged down by it, he keeps himself going by thinking of the missing little girl. It’s grizzly.