Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for the week of 9/25/15

Pawn Sacrifice (PG-13)

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Liev Schreiber, Peter Sarsgaard

Directed By: Edward Zwick

Way back in 1972 the world is a deceptively simpler place—the Americans are the good guys and the Russians are the bad guys. As a result, every head-to-head matchup between the Soviets and the USA becames headline fodder. Basketball games, hockey matches, gymnastics competitions and even chess championships are front-page news. Bobby Fischer is the American chess prodigy that patriotic fate and hubris puts under the hot lights of potential stardom when he is paired against the Soviet’s world chess master Boris Spassky. The self-trained genius son of a Swiss-born, Jewish Communist single mom, Fischer is an odd poster boy for the Red, White and Blue. But his thinly disguised hatred for Soviet Russia convinces the powers that be that he is the right person for the job. The filmmakers try to thwart the boredom of a chess match by filling the theater with heavy-handed music, but ignore that distraction and focus instead on the masterful performances by Tobey Maguire as Fischer and Liev Schreiber as Spassky. Oscar nominations?

3 and 1/2 pieces of cold-war history toast 

Everest (PG-13)

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, John Hawkes, Josh Brolin, Sam Worthington, Robin Wright, Emily Watson, Keira Knightly

Directed By: Baltasar Kormakur

When confronted with something as enormous as the 29,000 foot tall mountain called Everest, the filmmakers did two things. First, they shot it on location using IMAX technology so that the projected images are 70 feet tall and 90-feet wide. Second, they littered the story with numerous famous faces so that the unfolding drama will be reduced to human-scale. (It also means that audiences can nudge each other in the ribs and whisper “isn’t that so-and-so?”) Recounting the incidents John Krakauer wrote about in Into Thin Air, this is the based-on-a-true-story retelling of two competing teams of wealthy climbers “racing” towards the mountain’s summit. Mother Nature provides lots and lots of physical and emotional challenges for the climbers to surmount, but the film is played like the infamous “Master of Disaster” director Irwin Allen rose from his grave to ensure that whatever could go wrong will go wrong as we puny humans react in manners befitting our characters’ stereotypes.

NOTE: Most of us mispronounce the mountain’s name. Named after a British explorer and cartographer, it should be pronounced “EVE-REST.”

2 and 1/2 pieces of mountaintop disaster film toast 

East Side Sushi (NR)

Starring: Diana Elizabeth Torres, Yutaka Takeuchi, Rodrigo Duarte Clark

Directed By: Anthony Lucero

Oakland’s Anthony Lucero shot this tale of a feisty Latina single mom with considerable knife-wielding skill in his hometown. Contrary to expectations, she’s not a street fighter, she’s a wannabe sushi chef. It is a warmly humorous peek into a clash between cultures and genders as the woman’s talent and creativity repeatedly confronts patriarchy’s glass ceiling with determination, skill and a “never-give-up” perspective.

3 pieces of locals make a good film toast 

Intern (R)

Starring: Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo, Linda Lavin

Directed By: Nancy Meyers

It’s not hard to see Robert De Niro’s character in this film as the modern-day equivalent of Clarence the guardian angel in It’s a Wonderful Life. De Niro is the 70-something retired man who turns up as an intern for a 30-something on-line clothing entrepreneur. The intern arrives at the Architectural Digest version of a converted warehouse/ office as though people are expecting him, magically appears at the woman’s side when she needs guidance, and offers his laundered handkerchief, pithy aphorisms and shoulder to cry on with aplomb. In short, he’s the kindly and wise old man and she is the brash, Purel-drenched, obsessive-compulsive, tyrannical boss youngster. Sociologists and psychologists should have fun deconstructing this movie for graduate seminars with titles like “The Emasculated Female Executive,” or “Are We All Just Little Children Dressed Up In Power Suits?”

3 pieces of  another Nancy Meyers unreality toast

Sleeping With Other People (R)

Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie, Adam Scott, Amanda Peet

Directed By: Lesley Headland

This is a TV rom-com with more explicit sex scenes. The set-up is that two New Yorkers who knew each other in college have spent the intervening years cheating on those they thought they loved by bedding people they don’t love. While waiting for Prince Charming and Princess Charmin to pop into their lives, the pair reunite as platonic friends who share their innermost thoughts. The movie takes way too long for them to find out that each one is the brass ring at the end of the happily-ever-after marry-go round. (Is that enough metaphors for one column?)

2 pieces of another New York  toast 

Hotel Transylvania (PG-13)

Starring the voices of: Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Mel Brooks, Kevin James

Directed By: Gabriel Riva Palacio-Alatriste

Mel Brooks steals the show as “the one, the only, Vlad” aka Dracula’s father. Vampires who stay out of the sun not only avoid skin cancer, they also live for a very, very long time. As a direct result, the guy who was born in “the late 1400’s” is still around for the birth of his great grandson, Dennis. The cute little redhead is the result of a marriage between a vampire and a (gasp) human. There’s lots of Loony Tunes style crashing into, on top of and underneath various castle paraphernalia as the “we’re still a family” message is slathered on like butter and syrup on a stack of hot pancakes

2 pieces of generic animated humor toast