Currently browsing posts by Jill Boniske.

Past Life Review

Set in Jerusalem in 1977 and based on a true story, Past Life is a tangle of secrets. Safe in Israel after escaping the Nazis during World War II, Dr. Baruch Milch (Doron Tavori) has raised a family and is a successful gynecologist. But when his youngest daughter Sephi (Joy Rieger) is invited to Berlin to sing at a concert, his peaceful life is turned upside down. A Polish woman (Katarzyna Gniewkowska) accosts her and tells her that her father is a murderer. Back at home, she doesn’t immediately tell him about the experience, but she does tell her older sister Nana (Nelly Tagar) who’s a liberal journalist and who is determined to get to the truth of the story. The sisters have never really talked with their Holocaust survivor parents about their wartime experiences, and their sudden interest uncovers painful and sad memories and exposes the sisters’ unspoken emotions regarding their father. And throughout the girls’ investigation, you have no idea which way it’s going to go, but you can feel that Sephi is truly afraid of what she’ll find.

God of War Review

In this historical epic from China, you get it all – Samurai, Pirates, Shaolin Warrior Monks, battles galore, and kick-ass female fighters, too. Based on a true story, during the Ming dynasty (the 16th century) China’s coast was being invaded by pirates. They were pillaging and terrorizing the local communities and the Emperor was not pleased. He sent army after army to take them on, but they were usually out-manned and out-maneuvered. Then a young general by the name of Qi Jiguang risked his life and reputation on some outside the box strategies that his wise superior Yu Dayou allowed him to pursue. And they kicked those pirates out once and for all. God of War is a pretty faithful and action packed retelling of that story. Gordon Chan (known for Jackie Chan and Jet Li flix) directs, so you know it won’t be just a bunch of dialogue in subtitles.

The Wedding Plan

In this fun little chick flick from Israel, Michal (Noa Kooler) is finally getting married. She has the fiancé, the wedding hall, and has invitations ready to go out for the big day. But just when it seems she’s destined to become a married woman, her groom decides he doesn’t really love her. Devastated, she heads to a matchmaker and starts dating a series of men, thinking that one of them must be her intended. And she doesn’t cancel her plans to get married on the eighth night of Hanukkah, so she has a month to find Mr. Right. Being an Orthodox Jew, she puts it in God’s hands to find her a husband by the day of the wedding. Of course, everyone thinks she is totally nuts!

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City

If you love lower Manhattan, especially Soho, Little Italy, and the Village, you have one person to thank — Jane Jacobs. In this inspiring documentary from Matt Tyrnauer (Valentino: The Last Emperor) the audience is given a front row seat to a David vs Goliath battle that saved New York from being permanently transformed into an unlivable city. Jacobs was no ordinary citizen. She was a journalist who had long written about her observations on what makes cities vibrant. She was up against Robert Moses who had been given unlimited power in remaking the city. He was responsible for an immense urban renewal plan that depended in large part on knocking down what he deemed “slums” and moving people into projects. And he had no idea who he was up against.

The Lost City of Z

The Lost City of Z (pronounced zed in the British fashion) tells the “true” story of the intrepid Lieutenant Colonel Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam of Sons of Anarchy) who was sent to Bolivia in 1906 to map the country’s borders for the Royal Geographic Society (RGS) and stumbled upon clues to a lost civilization deep within the Amazon. He made numerous trips back and forth between England, where his wife (Sienna Miller) and children lived, and the Amazon. And he eventually disappeared into the jungle. The film is a beautifully shot tale of obsession in the last age of the great world explorers. Slightly too long, it is nonetheless entirely worth your time.

Cézanne et Moi

Cézanne et Moi offers a view of a friendship that spanned nearly a lifetime. It’s the story of the bond formed in an Aix-en-Provence childhood between two great artists of the late 19th century, painter Paul Cézanne and writer Émile Zola. Surprisingly devoid of paintings and writing, it’s mostly about the men’s relationship. There are warm moments you recognize as signs of a deep friendship but also painful scenes of betrayal. Not terribly deep, it’s an entertaining trip through the Paris art world as the world is leaving behind the Impressionists, as seen by one of the great post-Impressionists whose work was not yet recognized for its greatness and a writer on the rise.

Toni Erdmann

This father-daughter dramedy/farce from German director Maren Ade may clock in at 162 minutes, but I never got bored and it certainly didn’t drag. The film starts with a familiar premise, but doesn’t go to the sentimental or obvious places you’re expecting. It pits Ines (Sandra Hüller), an über-focused young corporate consultant, against her semi-retired dad Winfried (Peter Simonischek) who just loves a good gag or practical joke. He drops in for an unannounced visit with Ines and tries to get her to loosen up and have a life, and all she wants is for him to go home so she can get back to business. Though it does lead to a happy ending, the journey is full of absurd scenes and uncomfortable moments.

Frantz

French writer/director François Ozon has made some of my favorite films these last few years. With The New Girlfriend, In the House,  and Potiche he’s shown himself to be very adept with comedy and unusual situations. But with his new film Frantz, he enters the realm of historical drama and shows he is equally skilled in more serious films. A semi-remake of Ernst Lubitsch’s Broken Lullaby, it’s set just after the first World War, in a small German town. It’s the story of Anna (Paula Beer), a beautiful, young German woman whose fiancé Frantz (Anton von Lucke) died in the war and Adrien (Pierre Niney), a sad young Frenchman, who comes to town having been close friends with Frantz in Paris before the war. She discovers him as he is laying flowers on Frantz’s grave, and he becomes a source of happy memories for her and for Frantz’s grieving parents.

Live Action (Short Subject) Nominees

This is also a hard category, because the films are all so different, and the art of telling a story in a short time without either rushing it or shortchanging the narrative creates its own sort of film making. There’s dancing, and singing, and interrogation, and infatuation, and this year’s theme of the Islamic immigrant/refugee is included. They’re funny and romantic and sad and surprising. It’s really a great bunch of shorts. I am sure they will land their filmmakers a meeting or two with people who can help them and their careers along. See them if you can. They’re in theaters now and will certainly be streaming later. And once more I will plead with theaters to start showing shorts before the features. Please!

(Trailers for all the films below.)

John Wick: Chapter 2

He’s back! And he’s still a bad ass killer. I called the original John Wick stylishly violent, and this one takes it up another notch, both on the style and the violence. But it’s still the story of a sad and weary hit man who’s brought back in to the violent world he’s trying to leave behind. Keanu Reeves stars as Wick and he’s just as fun to watch as the last time.