Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
New Releases For the Week of 11/11/16
Starring: Amy Adams, Forrest Whitaker, Jeremy Renner, Tzi Ma, Michael Shuhlberg, Mark O’Brien
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Ever since H.G. Welles wrote his War of the Worlds, we humans have been trained to believe that space aliens are coming to Earth to kill everyone (or, in the classic B-movie mindset, enslave our beautiful women). I am pleased to say that the notable exceptions to this atavistic fear (E. T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, etc.), include a worthy newcomer—Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival. When eight alien craft appear in the skies above our home planet, the military doesn’t immediately respond with guns and rockets, it wakes a female linguist (Amy Adams) up in the middle of the night, shoots her full of antibiotics, encapsulates her in a space suit and sends her to meet the aliens armed with only her wits, her intelligence, and a Magic Marker. At her side is an astrophysicist (Jeremy Renner) who serves as her gofer, while safe within the command center, Forrest Whitaker is the military commander with his finger twitching over the attack button. Unlike the big-eyed bipedal creatures we have seen before, these aliens are “something completely different.” With no sense of time as we know it (i.e. past, present, future), their written “language” looks like inkblots, and the secret to communicating with them is to “show, not tell.”
4 pieces of not your parent’s space-alien toast
The Handmaiden (NR)
Starring: Kim Min-hee, Kim Tae-ri, HA Jung-woo, Cho Jin-woong, Kim HAe-sook, Moon So-ri
Director: Park Chan-wook
Sarah Walters 2002 bestseller Fingersmith is set in Victorian England, and tells a tale of an orphaned pickpocket raised in the London slums who is placed as a maid with the secret task of getting an heiress to marry one of the thieves. Isolated in a mansion, the maid and the heiress become lovers, the heiress marries the despicable cad and the plot gets thicker. Park Chan-wook adroitly relocates Walter’s story to Japanese-occupied Korea in the 1930‘s, and tells the tale from three different points-of-view. The result is a lush and nuanced film where a bathtub plays a pivotal role in a movie that may offend some viewers with its erotic candor.
4 pieces of sensual and evocative Korean toast
Starring: Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevonte Rhodes, Janelle Monet, Naomie Harris, Mahershala Ali
Directed By: Barry Jenkins
“How do I know if I am gay?” young Chiron asks his mentor. “You just do,” is the honest answer. “But you don’t gotta know right now. Not yet.” The fact that the lad’s mentor is a street-smart drug-dealer says a lot about this coming-of-age-film. Writer/director Barry Jenkins has cast three different actors to play Chiron—as a 9-year-old, teen, and young adult, and in a seamless manner, all three evoke the same repressed, monosyllabic loneliness. It is a mistake to try and pigeon-hole this film as a “Black Movie” or an “LGBT Film,” or as “Arthouse Cinema.” For, although it is each of these things, this exceptionally well-told tale is much, much more.
4 pieces of intensely real humanistic experience toast
Almost Christmas (R)
Starring: Kimberly Elise, Omar Epps. Danny Glover, Romany Malco, Mo’nique
Directed By: David E. Talbert
The family patriarch gathers his clan together with the wish for only one gift—get along with each other all of Christmas Day. Everyone in the audience knows what is going to happen, but this familiarity (and the strong acting talent) helps to make this festive fare just a little more palatable than an under-cooked Christmas goose.
2 pieces we see this same story played by different actors every year toast
Shut In (PG-13)
Starring: Naomi Watts, Jacob Tremblay, Oliver Platt, David Cubitt, Charlie Heaton
Directed By: Farren Blackburn
In the latest attempt to cast psychotherapists in a negative light, this Babbadook wannabe has Naomi Watts playing a child psychologist living in a creepy old house who becomes convinced that one of her clients has returned as a ghost to make life a living Hell for her and her bed-ridden son. Unimaginative, predictable, and more of a chore than a guilty pleasure.
1 and 1/2 pieces of what a waste of talent toast