Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for the week of 12/18/15

Star Wars: The Force Awakens  (PG-13)

Starring: John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Dominhall Gleeson, Gwendolyn Christie, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew

Directed By: J.J. Abrams

With Star Wars: The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams has saved the franchise. Episode 7 from that galaxy far, far, away gives old and new fans what they wanted (and needed). The Empire’s latest group of baddies are called The First Order, and their single task is to destroy the Resistance and wipe out out all the Jedi. Females have slipped into roles that used to be male-only. For example, Rey (Ridley) scavenges on a desert planet while longing for the stars, and the mask-wearing face of evil is Captain Phasma (Christie). (I wonder if others expect the inevitability of Phasma uttering a future line “I am your mother!”) The most endearing bit is the reunion of fans with the aging stars from the original Star Wars, and the whiz-bang action sequences are state-of-the-art. You can breathe a sigh of relief. It all works.

3 and 1/2 pieces of welcome back toast 

Sisters (R)

Starring: Tina Fey, Amy Pohler, Madison Davenport, John Leguizama, Maya Randolph

Directed By: Jason Moore

I just read Tina Fey’s popular book Bossypants, so I completely understand why she and her frequent alter-ego, Amy Pohler decided to play against type as the two siblings in this raunchy but uplifting tale. The duo head casino online to Orlando to dutifully clean out their childhood bedroom. Instead, they come up with the movie premise: “Lets invite all our old friends to a “hella” party.”  The party starts off as a straight-laced grownup get-together but quickly devolves into a raunchy extravaganza of R-rated “crude sexual content, profanity and drug use” laced with Fey and Pohler zingers.

3 pieces of Bridesmaids style raunchiness toast

The Danish Girl (R)

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard, Mathias Schoenarts

Directed By: Tom Hooper

Transgendered characters are front and center these days—but way back in the mid 1920’s, Einar Wiegener’s sexual “reassignment surgery”  to become Lina Elbe was an unprecedented medical experiment. The story is presented in a straightforward, chronological progression—slow to start, but finally settling down to become a love story between and wife and her husband who “must” become the woman he is inside.

2 and 1/2 pieces of a historical transgendered drama toast

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (PG)

Starring: Justin Long, Jason Lee, Jesse McCartney, Kelly Cuoco. Anna Faris, Christina Applegate

Directed By: Walt Becker

In 1925, the City of Los Angeles Health Department discovered that squirrels, chipmunks and rats liked to catch rides on the new electric railroad cars—and coincidentally spread the bubonic plague. A county-wide extermination solved the problem, but apparently Alvin and his chipmunk (and chipette) buddies still know the benefits of using public transportation to get to where they want to go. This time, it’s a trip from L.A. to Miami for the rather mean-spirited purpose of preventing their Dad from marrying a doctor chipmunk. Despite the great voice cast, the whole thing is obviously made on the cheap, but since it’s almost the only non-R-rated film out there (besides Star Wars), the seats will probably be filled over the Christmas holidays and yet another Chipmunk film will follow next year.

1 and 1/2 pieces of squeaky Chipmunk voices toast