Currently browsing posts by Jill Boniske.

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.

Review: Materna

The four women in Materna whose stories collide in a New York subway could not be more different. But they are connected by narratives exploring the theme of “mother”, what it means to be one, to have one, to contend with their expectations and our own autonomy. The film is essentially an anthology of four shorts connected by a violent incident on the subway, but each of their stories informs how they will react to their shared experience. It’s a fascinating, tension-filled ride.

Review: Stealing Chaplin

This dark comedy is based on a true incident. In 1978, a couple of thieves dug up Charlie Chaplin’s body in Switzerland and unsuccessfully tried to extort ransom from his family. In this modern version, the story is transported to Las Vegas a distinctly a more gritty milieu.  The grave robbers this time are a couple of British brothers, deeply in debt to the mob who need some quick cash.  Cal (Simon Phillips) and Terry (Doug Phillips, not related) are small time conmen, but when Terry loses big on a stupid bet, they’re given one week to come up with the dough or it’s curtains! Cal is the brains of the outfit, but he’s at a loss, so when Terry tosses out the Chaplin idea, he figures they have nothing to lose.

Review: Lorelei

At the center of this working class drama is Wayland (Pablo Schreiber, First Man, “Orange Is the New Black”), just out of prison after 15 years and looking to go straight. And running into his high school sweetheart Dolores aka Lola (Jena Malone, Hunger Games, Inherent Vice) while still living in the half-way house gives him something to hope for. She’s just barely hanging on though, working part-time and taking care of three kids alone. And it becomes clear that she’s been waiting for him all this time, to start the life they both dreamed of back in their youth. But can love conquer all, including the lure of his old pals and the money they need to live?

Review: Broken Diamonds

They don’t make a lot of films that deal with mental illness for good reason. It’s a tough subject to portray realistically. Sure there are plenty that have that one crazy aunt or a sweet homeless guy that just needs to be loved. But actual problems like the ones in Broken Diamonds require a director and a script not to fall into the trap of treating mental illness as a plot point to be exploited for a dramatic beat. Sadly, that’s exactly what this film does with the main character’s schizophrenia.

2fer review: Settlers and Cousins

I watched these two indie films back to back. Both of them deal with a girl growing up with just about every kind of obstacle thrown in her way. One takes place on a planet far away in a not so distant future. The other takes place within the Māori community of New Zealand in the mid-20th century.  Young Remmy in Settlers is played by Brooklynn Prince who made her splashy debut in The Florida Project four years ago as a kid running around looking for adventure and getting into trouble. She’s more serious this time around, but still pretty much doing the same thing, only on a desolate planet instead of backwater Orlando. Young Mata (Te Raukura Gray) in Cousins is not so lucky. She’s been ripped from her Māori family (including two female cousins) and adopted by a loveless white woman. Both girls weather adversity as they grow to adulthood, but both come out of it all battered but still standing.

Review: Pig

Pig is a quest film and a really good one at that. Nicolas Cage plays Rob a self-exiled hermit in the Oregon wilderness whose beloved truffle-hunting pig is violently abducted, forcing him to leave his isolated cabin to track her down in the city and return to a world he turned his back on years before. He’s aided by young Amir (Alex Wolff, Hereditary), his truffle buyer who knows the lay of the land once they’re back in town. Their search takes them deep into the belly of the Portland culinary world where Rob was once a star, and he’s able to trade on that reputation. Cage turns in one of his best performances in years as the weary and wounded chef in this surprisingly touching drama from first time director Michael Sarnoski, who’s someone I’ll be following.