Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for the week of 11/27/15

Room  (R)

Starring: Brie Larson Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridgers, Joan Allen, William H. Macy

Directed By: Lenny Abrahamson

Emma Donoghue’s gripping novel Room has been turned into a movie divided into two distinct halves. The first half focuses on a mother and son whose entire existence is confined to a shed in a back garden that they call “the room,” and parallels with real-life cases of kidnapping and imprisonment are obvious. The second half is what happens after the boy turns five and they break free into the big wide world. Here the problems multiply exponentially—transformed into a much more complex and challenging environment.

4 pieces of mother-son bonding toast 

Trumbo  (R)

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, John Goodman

Directed By: Jay Roach

Dalton Trumbo was Hollywood’s best paid screenwriter—until the HUAC Communist witch hunt and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper branded him a traitor and he went to prison for contempt of Congress. The big studios blacklisted Trumbo who was forced to move to Mexico where he wrote over 30 “not very good” screenplays using pseudonyms  and “fronts.” In 1960, his public credit for both Exodus and Spartacus helped reinstate his membership in the screenwriters guild and effectively broke the studio blacklist.

3 pieces of not quite up to Dalton Trumbo’s best screenplays toast

The Good Dinosaur (PG-13)

Starring the voices of: Raymond Ochoa, Sam Elliott, Anna Pacquin, Frances McDormand, Steve Zahn, John Ratzenberger

Directed By: Peter Sohn

Pixar’s continual press updates on the status of this film revealed its fatal flaws along the way. The project started with Bob Peterson in the director’s chair and Neil Patrick Harris, John Lithgow and Bill Hader as part of the voice cast. In the summer of 2013, it was announced Peterson “couldn’t crack the third act” but that “he still works at Pixar as a beloved member of the studio who helps out on a lot of the movies.” Peter Sohn was installed as director and the entire film reworked. If you look carefully, all this hullabaloo appears on screen. The  new concept was that “audiences need to see the boy inside the dinosaur.” Too little, too late. Fact is, the screenplay is slapdash and  and derivative. It’s just not up to  what we have come to call “Pixar standards.”

2 and 1/2 pieces of meh and meh again toast 

Creed (PG-13)

Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stalone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Tony Bellew

Directed By: Ryan Coogler

Suppose Rocky Balboa’s nemesis (and eventually best friend) Apollo Creed had a love-child who rejects his paternity, yet fights and wins in the clandestine Mexican boxing circuit. That is the premise behind a formulaic yet still very satisfying continuation of the Rocky magic. Fresh faces, new writer/director, but Stallone is here (playing the Burgess Meredith gruff trainer character), and perhaps most important, Bill Conti’s original Rocky theme music swells at just the right moment in the championship fight!

3 pieces of a good seventh round for the Rocky universe toast

Victor Frankenstein (PG-13)

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, James McAvoy, Jessica Brown Findlay, Charles Dance

Directed By: Paul McGuigan

Although this film is played very, very straight, it is almost impossible for those of us of a certain age not to superimpose images from Mel Brooks comedic Young Frankenstein (“That’s Frank-N-steen!”) as we watch. This time, the story is told from Igor’s point-of-view. An additional problem is that Igor isn’t played as a lazy-eyed hunchback with a limp, but by a young and vital Daniel Radcliff (aka Harry Potter). Audiences have not been impressed. On opening day, the film grossed under $175,000 instead of the studios projected $12 million. UGH!

2 pieces of we all miss Marty Feldman toast