Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for the week of 9/18/15

Black Mass (R)

Starring: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgard

Directed By: Scott Cooper

This is Scott Cooper’s biopic about James “Whitey” Bulger, the notorious Irish Southie (South Boston) gangster, murderer, drug-dealer, and FBI-informant who topped the Ten Most Wanted list for decades. Johnny Depp drops his pirate garb, twang, earrings and eyeshadow and emerges as a white-haired, grey-eyed, sociopath who tells his girlfriend:there are four people I would turn up on a street corner for—Douglas (his son), you, Billy (his Massachusetts State Senator brother), or my mother…and they all make me vulnerable [to death or arrest].” The film’s title comes from the 2001 non-fiction book Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill and the complete title encapsulates the “truth is stranger than fiction” storyline that is so compelling it has already provided the basis for numerous TV dramas and Jack Nicholson’s role in Martin Scorcese’s 2007 Oscar winning film The Departed. Don’t expect Tony Soprano here. There’s nothing likable or socially redeeming about Whitey. His advice to his young son about how to handle a grudge at school is “if nobody sees it, it didn’t happen.” Of course if nobody ever sees this film, the terrors Whitey Bulger inflicted on society did happen.

3 and 1/2 pieces of Johnny Depp as a stoney-eyed killer toast 

Tangerine (R)

Starring: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, James Ransome, Mya Taylor, Ala Turnanian, Clu Gullagher

Directed By: Sean Baker

Shot entirely on an iPhone, this funny, provocative, and truly original film takes viewers inside the marginal world of transgender prostitutes on one particular Christmas Eve day in L.A.. The movie is not for those easily upset by non-traditional lifestyles as we become part of lives of Sin Dee and Alexandra, two sex workers halfway through male to female gender reassignment. As an added bonus, people who have been asking “Whatever happened to Clu Gullagher (from TV’s The Virginian) will get an answer.

3 and 1/2 pieces of watch it for the two instantly likable transgender characters toast 

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (PG-13)

Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Thomas Brodie Sangster, Kaya Scodalario

Directed By: Wes Ball

The second installment of James Dashner’s dystopian teen trilogy has little that is new and imaginative (except for the “ain’t it cool” three screen projection system at Santa Rosa’s Airport Cinemas). The entire film seems like a derivative “filler” movie designed to appeal to fans of the books by revealing a tiny bit more of the “truth” behind imprisoning these plucky teens. This isn’t helped by placing them on a quest across a dull, duller, dullest wasteland of seemingly endless sand dunes. You can wait for when it appears online since there’s no compelling reason to see this at a theater (except, of course, if you want to be “surrounded” by shifting piles of scorching sand projected on THREE SCREENS at once. Pretty tame if you remember that the Circle-Vision 360° movies at Disneyland that were projected on NINE SCREENS!).

2 pieces of sand-dune dull toast 

Un Gallo Con Muchos Huevos (PG-13)

Starring the voices of: Bruno Bichir, Omar Chapparo, Carlos Espejel

Directed By: Gabriel Riva Palacio-Alatriste

If you have seen film critic Leonard Maltin’s commentaries that precedes some of Disney’s  “let’s love our Latin American neighbors” films of the late 40‘s, you notice that he often comments that the racial stereotypes and homophobic humor “reflect the cultural norms of that era.” So is is unfortunate that the exuberance, artistry and free-wheeling comedy of this feature-length “Made In Mexico” cartoon has a flamboyantly gay character played for laughs, and centers around the brutal blood-sport called cock-fighting. Audiences are spared documentary-style closeups of dead and dying roosters disemboweled in fights between genetically altered superbirds wearing razor-sharp steel spurs, but pretty much everything else that goes on in this so-called sport is included. To my Gringo’s eyes, this is an odd choice of subject for an animated film aimed squarely at pre-teens.

2 pieces of creativity squandered on a cockfighting story line toast

Jimmy’s Hall (R)

Starring: Barry Ward, Simone Kirby,Jim Norton, Bryan F. O’Byrne

Directed By: Ken Loach

Based on a true story, this unlikely slice of Irish history places the conflicts first showcased in the 1984 Kevin Bacon teen dance/drama Footloose and sets it in the turbulent days of 1930’s Ireland. This time, the pro-dancing guy is a leftist union organizer just returned from a decade in the U.S.A., and the fundamentalist minister is an overly controlling Catholic Priest.  The “Hall” in the title is a teen center—a secular place for young people to gather, talk, do their homework and (gasp) listen and dance to popular music. It is also a place where Jimmy can share his pro-Communist political views with an attentive audience and upset everyone in the local power structure. Dramatic conflicts abound.

3 pieces of  “You know what it is, you’ve got an attitude problem”  toast