Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
New Releases For the Week of 3/03/17

Before I Fall (PG-13)
Starring: Zoey Deutch, Halston Sage, Logan Miller, Cynthy Wu
Director: Ry Russo Young
In a refreshing change of pace, boyfriends aren’t the focus of Ry Russo-Young’s movie of Lauren Oliver’s popular novel. Like the classic movie Groundhog Day, the protagonist is forced to relive the same event over and over. Only this time, the stakes are much higher, for the Friday redux always ends in a catastrophic crash. Zoey Deutch is excellent as Samantha, the high school girl trapped in the continuous time loop in which both she and the audience focus on different details each time—looking for the one little thing that might alter the outcome. Hats off to Russo-Young and her editor Joe Landauer for the nuanced changes each time the events are re-lived.
3 and 1/2 pieces of aces the Bechtel Test (*for how females are portrayed onscreen) toast

The Salesman (PG-13)
Starring: Taraneh Alidoosti, Shahab Hosseini, Babak Karemi, Mina Sadati
Directed by: Ashgar Farahdi
When watching Asghar Faradhi’s film, The Salesman, I couldn’t help but wonder what playwright Arthur Miller would think his Death of a Salesman being staged as an amateur theater production in modern-day Iran. Most of the press coverage for this Oscar-winning film has focused on the absence of the director at AMPAS’ glitzy awards ceremony and the proxy-read acceptance speech castigating Trump for his baby-with-the-bathwater immigration/visa crackdown. The film features a couple going through a divorce at the same time the crumbling condition of their apartment forces them to relocate to a former brothel—complete with hot and cold running customers upset that their favorite lady friend isn’t there. The comparisons of the fighting between both Willy and Linda Loman and Emad and Rana seem tenuous until the climactic third act—in the play and the movie.
3 and 1/2 pieces of art transcending borders toast

Logan (R)
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keene, Boyd Holbrook, Richard E. Grant, Ellizabeth Rodriguez
Directors: James Mangold
Since I have lambasted superhero movies for the cavalier manner in which massive amounts of collateral damage are inflicted upon the residents and infrastructure in cities unluckily called upon to serve as the backdrops for the inevitable final battle between the forces of so-called Good and so-called Evil, I am encouraged that director James Mangold has elected to set Logan in a semi-real universe in which there are horrible consequences. The down side of this, is that this so-called “realism” is drenched in blood and violence. When Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) slashes out with his adamantine-sharp claws. flesh is ripped, bones are laid bare, and blood spurts and splutters. Another “real” aspect of the film is that Wolverine is an alcoholic who works as a border-town limousine driver for enough money to take care of the ailing Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) who inconveniently paralyzes everyone nearby when he has one of his daily seizures. So the $50,000 a Mexican offers to escort a young girl to safety in Canada will help, and if the pair are doggedly followed by an ominous line of black SUVs, so be it. After all, everyone knows that the long-anticipated, final showdown will arrive in the last 15 minutes.
3 pieces of despite starring a Marvel superhero, parents should pay heed to the R-rating toast

United Kingdom (PG-13)
Starring: David Oyelowo, Rosamind Pike, Jack Davenport, Tom Felton, Laura Carmichael
Directors: Anna Assante, Steven Hall
Based on the true story of an African prince who falls in love with a lovely (White) English girl when he is attending a British university, this movie was made because of the talent and persuasive skill of the film’s star, David Oyelowo. The couple’s marriage comes at an unfortunate time in history. The man’s kingdom, Bechuanaland (now Botswana) is a British protectorate that sits directly above South Africa—a country which has just imposed apartheid to forcibly keep Blacks and Whites separate. Not surprisingly, everyone (i.e. the Brits, the prince’s king and family, and most especially the South African government) is opposed to this marriage. Since the film is made for an audience with 2017 sensibilities, much of the exposition seems (in retrospect) a tempest in a tea pot. So we are left with a simple question (Can love conquer all) and a not-quite-that-simple resolution.
2 and 1/2 pieces of I wanted to like this movie more than as just a TV movie-of-the-week toast

Table 19 (PG-13)
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Craig Robinson, June Squibb, Lisa Kudrow, Stephen Merchant, Tony Revelori
Directors: Jeffrey Blitz
I guess its because I don’t read Bride magazines, but I didn’t know that the place where the odd-ducks are seated at a wedding is generically labeled “Table 19.” In this film, the guests around the dreaded table include a bridesmaid bumped from the ceremony because she broke up with the bride’s brother, the bride’s former nanny, a lonely teenager, a boring couple, and a jail inmate on a weekend pass. The actors who play these parts have been funny in the past, the director made the quirky hit Spellingbee, and the script is by those indie greats Jay and Mark Duplass. Unfortunately, the whole lacks the “spark” that makes it work. I have the feeling things would have been funnier if the actors were just given their character’s bios and everything else was improvised.
2 pieces of easily forgotten toast