And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

Currently browsing posts by Jill Boniske.

Review: Decision to Leave

This Korean romantic thriller from Park Chan-wook (Handmaiden, Snowpiercer) begins with the classic set-up. Weary detective Hae-joon (Park Hae-il ) arrives at a crime scene. A man is dead. But was it an accident or could it be murder? The police want to close the case and call it an accident, but it begins to look like his young, beautiful widow Seo-rae (Wei Tang, Lust, Caution) could be murder suspect after she comes to the station. But she has an alibi and Hae-joon wants to believe her. Still something is off. And as the attraction grows between them while he continues his investigation, the question of whether she is a femme fatale seducing him to get away with murder or her feelings for him are real plagues him. It’s a slow twisty story. And though it is probably a bit longer that it needs to be, it’s a satisfying and engrossing murder mystery.

Review: Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon

Ana Lily Amirpour’s Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon is one of those little Indies that you hope people will see because it’s weird and quirky and a fun ride. It might not get a lot of coverage in mainstream press for those same reasons, since most of the Indies that get covered this time of year are the ones that might be in contention for the big year-end awards. And though it stars Kate Hudson (Glass Onion, Almost Famous), it’s a pretty low budget, niche genre flick. But if you can, go see it.

Review: Blonde

Blonde from Director Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) takes the well-known, sad story of Marilyn Monroe, from her tragic childhood to her tabloid fodder death, and beats the drum of the her abuse for almost three hours. They would be thoroughly excruciating hours if not for the stellar performance of Ana de Armas (Knives Out, Blade Runner 2049) in the title role. The film isn’t exactly a biopic since it’s based on a 750-page Joyce Carol Oates novel, and it is hard at times to tell where the line between fact and fiction lies. But I suspect those fictions are many of the scenes that felt off. After all, most of Marilyn’s story has been covered over and over to feed the endless fascination with the screen icon. So this “new” information just doesn’t quite fit. 

Review: The Good Boss

Javier Bardem is one of my favorite actors. I would pay to watch him read a phone book. (Do they still make those?) He is definitely one of the most versatile actors around. From his complex villains in No Country for Old Men and Skyfall to his achingly sensitive performances in Biutiful and Before Night Falls, he’s always a joy to watch. In his latest, The Good Boss, a Spanish workplace satire, he plays the seemingly benevolent boss Julio Blanco, owner of an industrial scale factory who is trying to make everything look perfect in order to win a prestigious prize that could help his business. But a series of misfortunes befall him, and he scrambles to get everything back into balance before the committee makes their visit to decide his fate, revealing his true nature along the way.

Review: Breaking

Watching this “based on a true story” drama, you can’t help but think back to several other films about decent men taking hostages because the system is horribly unfair to them — Dog Day Afternoon is the most obvious comparison. But Breaking had me thinking more of John Q with Denzel commandeering a hospital ER when his insurance company refuses coverage for his son’s heart transplant. Here John Bodega turns in a career topping performance as Brian Brown-Easley, a decorated Marine who brings a bomb to a bank because he wants the VA to give him the money they owe him so he can take care of his family. And it’s that performance and Michael K. Williams’s (“The Wire”) last turn before his death as the hostage negotiator that make this fairly predictable drama worth watching.

Review: Happening

Talk about a film arriving at just the right moment! This gripping French drama about a young woman in the early 1960s who gets pregnant and has to go through hell for an abortion will hit you right in the gut. If I’d seen it a month ago, I’d have described it as a cautionary tale. Now it feels more like a glimpse into our dystopian future.

Review: Hit the Road

This wonderful road trip drama traverses the Iranian landscape with a family and their dog. Along for the ride are a mother (Pantea Panahiha) and father (Hasan Majuni) and their two sons, one grown (Amin Simiar) and the other a bouncing off the walls 6-year-old (Rayan Sarlak). The story comes together in small hints as the family deals with their circumstances, attempting to shield the younger son (and the audience) from what is actually happening. It is by turns tense and warm and funny.

Quickie Review: The Northman

This is a quickie because I know I am not the audience for this violent revenge epic.  It’s the latest from writer/director Robert Eggers who garnered high praise for his previous film The Lighthouse. Similar in tone, The Northman depends very heavily on atmosphere and creating an authentic time period rather than character or story. In a nod to Hamlet, Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) sees his dear father King Aurvandill (Ethan Hawke) killed by his Uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang) and his mother Gudrún (Nicole Kidman) taken by him as his wife. He escapes vowing, “I will avenge you, Father. I will save you, Mother. I will kill you, Fjölnir.” And that’s just what he does for the next 137 minutes.

Review: Everything Everywhere All At Once

At the center of this wild ride of an action/sci-fi flick is Chinese immigrant mom Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh, Crazy Rich Asians, Shang-Chi) whose life definitely took a wrong turn somewhere. Stuck in a boring marriage to Waymond (Ke Huy QuanGoonies), running a coin-op laundry, regularly tangling with her lesbian daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”) who disappoints her again and again, and on her way to an audit by an unforgiving IRS agent (Jamie Lee Curtis), she’s woefully unprepared for the role suddenly thrust upon her as the savior of the universe. But she really has no choice in the matter.

Review: Topside

This is a really gritty and entirely engaging little film. It’s about Nikki (co-director Celine Held) and her 5-year-old daughter Little (Zhaila Farmer) who’re living on the edge underground in a homeless camp beneath the city of New York. Their life is not easy by any stretch, but they have a warm bond and community and a place of their own. But when the powers that be decide to clear out the riffraff, Little is forced to accompany her mother into the unknown and noisy and VERY bright city. And the question becomes whether they will be able to survive and stay together up there.