Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for the week of 12/25/15

Carol  (R)

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, Sarah Paulson, Jake Lacy, Cory Michael Smith

Directed By: Todd Haynes

It’s love (or lust) at first sight when a New Jersey woman goes Christmas shopping. The attractive object that captures her attention is the shop girl in a Santa hat. “Nice hat,” she offers as she departs. The film is based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, a comic-book writer and novelist who once brought a purse full of snails (and a head of lettuce) as her cocktail party guest. Her sequential love affairs were always short lived, and she wrote her banned lesbian romance, The Price of Salt, aka Carol, under a pseudonym (presumably because it includes scenes modeled on her own experiences). The filmmakers have chosen to emphasize the dream-like quality of love rather than focus on the complexities of the potentially happy ending that scandalized readers in 1952. Cate Blanchett plays the title character, and Rooney Mara the shopgirl in Oscar nomination-level performances.

4 pieces of a lesbian classic brought to the screen toast 

Youth (R)

Starring: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano, Jane Fonda

Directed By: Paolo Sorentino

The Christmas weekend is traditionally filled with Oscar-worthy performances, and Youth presents several choices. Cockney-born Michael Caine plays an aging and retired musician and Brooklyn-born Harvey Keitel a Hollywood director actively writing his latest film project for his long-time star (Jane Fonda). Caine and Keitel mesh perfectly on screen—an unlikely cross-the-pond friendship cemented by the marriage (and impending divorce) of the moviemaker’s son to the musician’s daughter (Rachel Weisz). The setting is an exclusive Alpine spa where, as in Grand Hotel, familiar faces appear in supporting roles and cameos. The film has already won numerous awards for acting and Paolo Sorentino’s screenplay and direction, but to me, the “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” ending seems contrived.

3 and 1/2 pieces of beautifully filmed and acted toast

The Big Short (R)

Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Karen Gillan. Marisa Tomei, Melissa Leo

Directed By: Adam McKay

Great actors with bad haircuts play the greedy, self-centered, Wall Street misanthropes who profited from the 2008 financial collapse. Inspired by Michael Lewis‘ bestselling nonfiction book, director Adam McKay (best known for Will Farrell’s Anchorman movie), spices the jargon-filled ledger sheets with quick edits and ambient sounds of the disastrous results fueled by a series of individual, heads-tails choices. Steve Carrell plays the character with the conscience—or at least the shrieking smoke alarm triggered before the raging fire explodes.

3 and 1/2 pieces of hedge-funders with feet of clay toast

Point Break (PG-13)

Starring: Luke Bracey, Edgar Ramirez, Teresa Palmer, Delroy Lindo, Ray Winstone

Directed By: Ericson Core

If you believe that people have the right to endanger themselves and others by repeatedly jumping off mountaintops, climbing precipices without a safety harness and jet-skiing out to surf back on “killer”60-foot ocean waves, than this should be the movie for you. A supposed remake/update of the Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze 1991 original, there’s still an FBI agent tracking down an elusive master criminal with a “unique skill set” that lets his him utilize extreme-sport techniques to steal from “impossible” locations. Trouble is, they forgot the need for a plot and focus instead on improbable action sequences.

1 and 1/2 pieces of too little action and absolutely no real plot toast