Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for the week of 12/11/15

Macbeth  (R)

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, David Thewlis, Paddy Considine, Sean Harris, Jack Reynor, Elizabeth Debicki

Directed By: Justin Kurzil

Justin Kurzil’s mumbled and macabre MacBeth is like a Cliff’s Notes version that has come unglued and then been haphazardly stuck back together. This time, Shakespeare’s fabled “Scottish Play” opens with the burial of Lord and Lady MacBeth’s child on a moody hilltop and melts into a foggy battle scene where the future king proves his mettle as the three witches’ prophecies regarding MacBeth’s thanedom and kingdom swirl among the mists. Indeed, when compared to the minimalist sets, the atmospheric landscapes are treated like another character in the play.  Students hoping to save time and brain cells by watching this movie instead of reading the play itself, will not fare well on their exams. Shakespeare’s carefully constructed pacing is shaken not stirred, and many of his lines are so mumbled and jumbled that you need subtitles.

1 and 1/2 pieces of many theatrical death scenes toast 

In the Heart of the Sea (PG-13)

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleason, Benjamin Walker, Tom Holland

Directed By: Ron Howard

If you have watched the soaked-to-the-skin, heavily whiskered, one-legged Gregory Peck emoting lines from Ray Bradbury’s screenplay while repeatedly stabbing a harpoon into the back of a rubber whale in John Huston’s terrible movie version of Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick, you needn’t bother with Ron Howard’s new film. It is a convoluted and emotionally empty retelling of the real-life sinking of  the whaler Essex by a huge sperm whale in 1820. Problems abound with Howard’s film—most notably the casting of Thor (aka Chris Hemsworth) as the First Mate onboard the Essex. Without his trusty hammer to hold on to, the actor seems (if you will pardon the phrase) lost at sea. What we do learn is that Melville (who appears in the film as a writer looking for source material) knew how to change “the facts” to spin a “whale of a tale.”

1 and 1/2 pieces of a movie swallowed by a whale toast

Fun Family Films Newly Released on DVD 

Inside Out  (PG)

Starring the Voices of: Kaitlyn Dias, Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Bill Hader, Mandy Kaling

Directed By: Pete Docter

Pixar’s Inside Out could be subtitled “Childhood’s End,” for in addition to portraying the conflicting internal emotions (joy, sadness, anger, fear and disgust), in the head of an 11-year-old girl named Riley, the film’s resolution embraces the critical role sadness plays in our psyche. Residents of the Bay Area may grumble about the catalyst for sadness being the family moving from Minneapolis to San Francisco, but “relocation” is a major cause of emotional distress for youngsters. The press notes tell us this colorful, creative and soulful tale is a combination of feedback from “market research” (a tween girl who plays hockey, and shuns dresses and anything pink) and the personal experiences writer/director Pete Docter had with his own family. The phantasmagorical trip into human emotions was created with support from two psychologists, a team of master animators, a story crew that is half female (an animated film first), emulating the glitz of a 50’s Broadway musicals, an expressive soundtrack by Michael Giacchino, and a single-minded determination to create something that had never been done before. It all works.

3 and 1/2 pieces of Pixar triumphant toast

Minions (PG)

Starring the voices of: Pierre Coffin, Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan, Geoffrey Rush, Steve Carrell

Directed By: Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda

Most of us know the minions as the short-statured, yellow-hued sidekicks of Gru in the two Despicable Me films. In answer to an avalanche of requests for an “origin story” about the guys who speak in indecipherable bursts of consonants and vowels, we have Minions. Geoffrey Rush takes the David Attenborough role to voice-over how these critters emerged from the prehistoric sea for the sole purpose of serving various evil masters starting with T-Rex and evolving over time to serve Dracula (and presumably, Gru). After a leaderless century or two in Antarctica, three of the critters ( Stuart, Kevin and Bob) sail north to attend Villain-Con on a quest for a suitable master to slavishly serve. The first half of the film works well, but the second half stakes its humor on a series of “lets make fun of the Brits” set-pieces that go on too long and end with a disappointing pay off. In short, what starts as a really entertaining and original film ends up as another assembly-line cartoon.

2 and 1/2 pieces of only the first half really works toast

Shaun the Sheep (PG)

Voices of: Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes, Omid Djalill, Kate Harbour

Directed By: Mark Burton, Richard Starzak

I’m a great fan of Aardman’s stop-motion Wallace and Gromit movies, and am delighted that Shaun the Sheep has his own feature-length film. The idea is simple. Shaun convinces his flock to con the Farmer into allowing them a day off—after all, a sheep’s life is a very busy one. Much like the feathered critters from Chicken Run, the complicated, Rube Goldberg convolutions the wooly flock comes up with are crazy inventive. But when the Farmer gets amnesia and is hauled off to the hospital, even Blitzer the sheep dog joins the plan to spring their shearing-mad employer from his bed. Wordless, and fun for all ages, we Anglophiles will get an extra delight from the quirky British humor of it all.

3 and 1/2 pieces of Baa-Baa good toast