Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
New Releases For the Week of 10/07/16

Girl On the Train (NR)
Starring: Emily Blunt, Justin Thoreaux, Luke Evans, Alison Janney, Lisa Kudrow, Rebecca Ferguson
Director: Tate Taylor
In a set up that Alfred Hitchcock would like, in Girl On the Train, Rachel (Emily Blunt) is a divorced, vodka drinking young woman who dresses in a business suit to ride the commuter train each day. She no longer has the job she needed for the suit, but she enjoys peering in the houses that pass by—especially the one inhabited by her former husband and his new family, and the lusty young couple who live next door. When she spies the neighbor woman flirting with another man, Rachel goes on a bender and wakes up with a bloody head wound, a loss of memory and a detective asking pointed questions. The rest of the film is a Rashomon-like recollection from each of the women involved with director Tate Taylor deftly elaborating the book’s inner dialogues by opening them up onscreen. You will quickly learn that memory is a very elusive commodity.
3 pieces of well-played mystery toast

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life (NR)
Starring: Griffin Gluck, Laura Graham, Efren Ramirez, Andrew Daly, Rob Riggle
Directed By: Steve Carr
Based on the popular book by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life tells the story of a doodling, mid-school-year transfer student with a strong aversion to authority figures—AKA the middle school principal. Echoing high school movies like The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, these pint-sized versions of their older counterparts boldly square off against the adults in charge (who, except for the protagonists mother, are a pretty lame bunch). The result is a film that should delight the middle school demographic while providing a few chuckles for any parent who happens to be in the same theater.
2 and 1/2 pieces of mildly amusing if somewhat generic toast

Girl Asleep (NR)
Starring: Bethany Whitmore, Harrison Feldman, Matthew Whittet
Director: Rosemary Myers
This 14-year-old’s new-girl-in-school, Australian coming-of-age story evolves into a delightful visit to some magical parallel universe where friends and family cavort around in story-book outfits and have fey adventures. According to the press notes, the film was inspired by Bruno Bettelheim’s Freudian analysis of fairy tales. Fortunately, it maintains a whimsical tone instead of the dark, dank recesses of nightmares.
2 and 1/2 pieces of would make a nice double-bill with Middle School (see above) toast

Birth of a Nation (R)
Starring: Nate Parker Armie Hammer, Colman Domingo, Naomi King, Gabrelle Union, Jackie Earle Haley, Penelope Ann Miller, Roger Guenveur Smith
Directed By: Nate Parker
Incensed by the whippings, mutilations and rapes of slaves by white men, in August, 1831, slave/preacher Nat Turner and six other men went on a 36-hour killing spree of white folk (at least 10 men, 14 women, and 31 infants and children died). The other insurgents were quickly killed or captured, but Turner eluded his pursuers for several weeks. His prison “confession” was written down and distributed in pamphlet form by attorney Thomas R. Gray. In those pages, Turner expressed the belief: ”That I was ordained for some great purpose in the hands of the Almighty.” Gray’s take on the man was: “He is a complete fanatic, or plays his part most admirably.” Unfortunately, the “most admirably” phrase doesn’t apply to Nate Parker. This is Parker’s first time in the director’s chair, and it shows. Mired in controversy about the title chosen, the brutal rape scenes (especially since Parker and his college roommate were arrested for raping another Penn State student and the roommate is credited with the story for the film) these issues aren’t helped by the tendency for Parker to focus the camera on himself most of the time. The result is a seemingly well-intentioned but stylistically and morally flawed and overly brutal film which will turn people off instead of making them rush to historical sources to learn more.
1 and 1/2 pieces of the movie’s flaws overshadow the story toast