Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for the week of 2/05/16

Hail Caesar (R)

Starring: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton

Directed By: Joel & Ethan Coen

If you know a bit about Hollywood in the early 50’s, you know that Communism, stars and directors becoming free agents, and Television (with a capital “T”), panicked the Big Studios. Added to these historic events, are the continual “headaches” caused by stars and starlets (ie. pregnancy, risque photos, sexual orientation, acting ability, etc. etc.) and then dumped on a Hollywood-studio “fixer’s” desk. Adept at dealing with gossip columnists, “tell all” magazines, the cops, high-priced lawyers, and cowboy crooners, this “fixer” needs to handle the kidnapping of the star of the big-budget historical epic, Hail Caesar, and the ransom demands from a group that calls itself “The Future.” In between surrealistic goings-on, the Coen Brothers singularly literate script grapples with economics, existentialism, and theology as well as Lee Strasberg and the Stanislavsky method.

3 pieces of Coen Brothers “Hollywood Fixer” toast 

45 Years (R)

Starring: Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtney, Geraldine James

Directed By: Andre Haigh

Even though a letter is the catalyst in this sensitively honest portrait of 6 days in the 45-year marriage of a British couple, this is far, far removed from a treacly Nicholas Sparks movie. Instead, it is an acting tour-de force, where two comfortably retired people’s certainties are invaded by a ghost from his past—his first, and perhaps only, love?

3 and 1/2 pieces of Charlotte Rampling toast

The Lady In the Van (R)

Starring: Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, James Corden, Francis De La Tour

Directed By: Nicholas Hytner

Maggie Smith “playing down” is the main reason people will see this film, but in addition to the pithy one-liners and redoubtable stares over the tops of her glasses, there is a thoughtful look at what is meant by the term “home.” Based upon real life, a playwright moves to Camden and chances upon an old woman who resides in her van. Moving whenever her nearest neighbor’s ire reaches the boiling point, she takes advantage of the bred-to-please young man and parks on his driveway “and off the street.” A friendship of sorts develops over time, and as the ravages of age and history combine, the non-familial bonds are repeatedly tested.

3 pieces of Maggie Smith triumphant toast

Jeruzalem (R)

Starring: Yael Grobglas, Yon Tumarkin, Danielle Jadelyn

Directed By: Doran & Yoav Paz

Two jewish-American women are flying to Tel Aviv for a hedonistic vacation, but meet a handsome archeologist on the plane, and shuffle off to the catacombs of Old Jeruzalem instead. Their visit happens to coincide with Yom Kippur which (according to this movie) coincides with the rising of the undead. To keep this “found footage” fresh, instead of a movie camera or an iPhone taking the pictures, one of the victims wears the latest smart glasses.

1 and 1/2 pieces of yet another found-footage scream-fest but without the screams toast

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies  (PG-13) 

Starring: Lily James, Lena Headey, Jack Huston, Matt Smith, Charles Dance. Suki Waterhouse, Bella Heathcote

Directed By: Burr Steers

Imagine that Jane Austen’s Bennet sisters aren’t just marriageable young ladies, but are sword-slashing, gun-totting zombie killers as well. That’s the pastiche of an idea that Seth Graham-Smith parlayed into his best selling novel, and the basis for this film. Unfortunately, writing scenes in the style of Jane Austin, and staging them in the grandest of PBS Masterpiece/Merchant-Ivory traditions don’t work well. In the place of character development, we have brain-thirsty killers striving for a death grip on the slippery satins of Victorian dresses worn by the comely young women who just spent their tea time cleaning and oiling their guns. Jarring is a kind word for the result.

1 and 1/2 pieces of just doesn’t work toast

The Choice (PG-13)

Starring: Benjamin Walker, Teresa Palmer, Maggie Grace, Tom Wilkinson

Directed By: Ross Katz

This latest movie from a Nicholas Sparks novel has all it’s genre cliche’s intact. With the main character being flawed (a veterinarian who has difficulty expressing emotions) the movie uses stand-ins instead—like the second chair brought to the breakfast table. Since this film is for fans who have already read the book, I won’t give away too much when I say there is a horrific accident that leaves the medical student on life support while the vet sits by her side. Meh.

1 and 1/2 pieces of really just for fans of this stuff toast