Currently browsing posts by Jill Boniske.

Review: Wife of a Spy

This stylish thriller from director Kiyoshi Kurosawa is set in Japan in 1940 shortly before they entered World War II. It opens with beautiful young couple making an amateur movie about betrayal. The husband Yusaku (Issey Takahashi, Kill Bill) though is in the import-export business and movie-making, just a hobby. He and his wife Satoko (Aoi Yû ) are a thoroughly cosmopolitan couple, but the prevailing winds in the country are turning anti-Western and nationalistic. Then on a business trip to Manchuria, Yusaku witnesses horrifying atrocities being committed by the Imperial Japanese Army and returns with documentary proof that he plans to share with the world. But once Satoko discovers her husband’s plan, the question becomes whether she will be loyal to him or her country.

Review: Azor

This claustrophobic drama is set in Argentina in the late 1970s, just after a military junta has taken over the country and the moneyed elite are trying to pretend that they are not scared to death. Private banker Yvan (Fabrizio Rongione) comes to Buenos Aires from Switzerland with his wife Ines (Stéphanie Cléau) following the disappearance of his partner Keys. He’s there to shore up accounts and find out what happened. What he finds as he visits with his clients in their mansions and on their thoroughbred estates is that Keys was both loved and despised and possibly reckless. And he had a secret client that Yvan was not privvy to.

2fer review: The Salvator Mundi docs

Back in June I saw The Lost Leonardo at AFIDOCS and described it as a great art thriller documentary. I remember when the Salvator Mundi (Savior of the world) painting was front page news and shook up the art world. But the story here begins when an art dealer finds a painting at a small New Orleans auction house and purchases it for $1175. He takes it to a respected art restorer who removes years of over-painting and comes to believe that it is in fact an undiscovered work by the master Leonardo da Vinci.  It goes on to become the most expensive ($450 million) painting ever sold.  And what the twisty documentary does is take the audience behind the scenes as the authenticity of the painting is questioned and then obscured. The cast of characters involved in its journey upward are politicians, art dealers, a Russian oligarch, even Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman. And the question of whether its provenance even matters becomes the big question. It’s a fascinating look inside the hidden art world where owning a piece has nothing to do with its aesthetics and more to do with its perceived worth.

Review: Blood Brothers: Malcolm X & Muhammad Ali

If you saw the excellent One Night in Miami earlier this year, you’re aware that Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali were close friends. And if you’re like me, you wanted to know more about that friendship. That one night was just a small part of their story. This new documentary airing on Netflix tells what happened before and after. It’s a fascinating and sad story of three years in the lives of two charismatic giants of the 20th century.

Quickie Review: Zone 414

I like a good sci-fi flick. And the blurb for this one sounded intriguing: “Set in the near future, private detective David Carmichael is hired by Marlon Veidt, an eccentric businessman, to track down his missing daughter. David teams up with Jane, a highly advanced A.I. to solve the mystery.”  That it stars Guy Pierce also made me think it might be worth a look. But boy was I wrong! Not that the story is all that bad, but the longer I watched, the more I realized that someone had watched Blade Runner one too many times and was incapable to coming up with their own story. And then, in his feature debut director Andrew Baird chose to go with a ripped off look and feel from the same film. Why, why, why?

Review: Yakuza Princess

Set in São Paulo, Brazil, home to the largest Japanese diaspora in the world, Yakuza Princess is an action packed martial arts thriller and story of self-discovery. A young Japanese woman with a mysterious past, an ancient and powerful Muramasa katana (sword), and an amnesiac stranger come together to right a wrong and find redemption.  Adapted from a graphic novel, the movie begins in Osaka with the massacre of an entire family, except for a little girl. Fast forward 20 years and Akemi (Japanese pop musician MASUMI) is now a grown woman, working on her martial arts skills in Brazil, unaware of her true origins. But when a disfigured stranger (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, “The Tudors”, Match Point) appears in her apartment just in time to save her from would-be assassins, their fates are set. What follows is a couple of hours of violence as they draw closer and closer to their truths. 

Review: The Magnificent Meyersons

This family drama is for those who like a good conversation. The film consists of a series of talks between various members of the Meyerson family and their friends and family over the course of one day in New York, frequently walking down the street or sitting on a park bench. They’re a normal enough family with the usual kinds of problems we all have. There are four grown siblings, a mother, and a grandmother, and the elephant in the room is the father who left and affected them all in different ways that still resonate.  It’s a smart script that lets you get to know, and mostly like, the characters as the deeper story of the family emerges.

Quickie review: Crime Story

Sometimes the right ingredients do not make the tastiest meal. That’s the sad case in Crime Story, a revenge thriller starring Oscar winners Richard Dreyfuss and Mira Sorvino. He’s  reformed mobster Ben Myers who’s drawn back to his violent ways when thieves stage a home invasion and steal his stash while his beloved memory challenged wife Nan is home. His estranged daughter Nick (Sorvino) is a cop who’s currently working with a Congressman’s election team, and she’s trying to get Ben to step up for his other daughter’s kids, since she’s in hospice. Neither of them is going to get what they want. The basic plot is a clever series of twists and turns, and in the hands of a better director, it might have worked, but the film is a sad miss on so many levels. 

Review: The Meaning of Hitler

This timely documentary takes on a huge question: Can we ever really understand Hitler and people’s endless fascination with him? It’s a daunting task, since there have been countless other documentaries, books, and fictions dedicated to that same quest. The filmmakers flit around the world talking to experts and provocateurs who have been thinking on the question for decades. The title comes from a book by Sebastian Haffner, with its chapter titles serving as the structure of the film and jumping off points for discussion. Directed by  Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker, The Meaning of Hitler is less a history lesson than a frightening illustration that the very conditions that allowed for Hitler are present and growing today. 

Review: Escape from Mogadishu

This based on a true story film is a nail biter. It’s the tale of North and South Korean diplomats and their  families caught in the middle of a civil war in Somalia in 1991 and their harrowing escape together. Then as now, the divided Koreans were natural enemies, but as the violence expanded and all their lives were at stake, they were able to put aside politics and work together to make their way across the war torn city to the safety of the Italian consulate and a plane home. With a stellar cast and breathtaking action, Escape from Mogadishu is a potent political thriller for foreign film aficionados.