Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
New Releases For the Week of 4/28/17
Starring: Adrian Titieni, Maria Dragus, Lia Bugnar, Malina Manovici, Vlad Ivanov
Director: Cristian Mungiu
In Cristian Mungui’s film Graduation, a Romanian-born physician returns to his native country with his family, including his teenage daughter. On the eve of sitting for an exam to win a scholarship to a British university, the girl is attacked by a would-be rapist. With her arm in a cast, and her confidence eroded, the “certainty” of the exam’s outcome is in doubt. The daughter isn’t sure she wants to move to Britain and leave her friends, family and country behind. To the dad, however a rock through his apartment window, a smashed windshield, and his daughter’s assault are symptomatic of everything wrong in Romanian society. He is certain his daughter must get away from all this, and when he manipulates his hospital’s transplant list to “smooth things along,” he becomes part of the corruption he condemns.
3 and 1/2 pieces of astoundingly made, moral dilemma movie toast
Chasing Trane (NR)
Starring: Sonny Rollins, Bill Clinton, Wynton Marsalis, Jimmy Heath, John Densmore, Carlos Santana
Director: John Scheinfeld
Films about jazz musicians always seem to include a series of tropes—hardscrabble background, child-prodigy talent, discovery, failed relationships, addictions, and early death. John Coltrane’s life not only includes all of the above, but also is filled with spirituality. Both grandfathers were AME ministers, and much of Trane’s work reflects his study of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Zen Buddhism, Hinduism, Universalism, astrology, African history, Plato and Aristotle. Coltrane’s music was constantly evolving—Church, high school, the Navy band, and Charlie Parker, were early influences, and as he matured as an artist, Trane played his saxophone beside jazz greats like Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespe, Duke Ellington, and his second wife, pianist Alice Coltrane. John Scheinfield’s documentary captures snippets of all of this, as well as satisfyingly long clips from rarely seen performances.
3 pieces of the monster that dwells within us all toast
Mr. Gaga (NR)
Directed by: Tomer Heymann
Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin is the inventor of “Gaga,” a therapeutic philosophy of movement originally developed for dancers but recently embraced as an exercise regime. Shot by Tomer Heymann over a period of eight years, Naharin’s dances are the centerpiece of a documentary embellished with home movies, archived performances and interviews. The end result is a portrait of a brilliant perfectionist who demands a level of obedience and dedication way above the norm.
3 pieces of dance documentary toast
The Circle (PG-13)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, John Boyega, KAren Gillan
Director: James Ponsoldt
Dave Eggers novel, The Circle, painted a dystopian future where technology has “lightened our burdens” while absconding with our privacy. Eggers wrote the screenplay, so the framework of facts remains, but the movie version lacks strong characterizations and relies too much on the “puffery” of high-tech buzzwords. Mae (Emma Watson) fares the worst. In the book, she is an intelligent, proto-feminist overjoyed with getting a job at a company that seems to be a melange of Silicone Valley corporations. Onscreen however, the company chairman looks a lot like Tom Hanks doing his best “Steve Jobs as profound guru” imitation, and Mae is a chameleon without a backbone who reacts instead of instigating. Too bad. The questions raised are worth examining.
2 pieces of a future too much like today? toast
Their Finest (G)
Starring: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jake LAcey, Richard E. Grant
Director: Lone Scherfig
Shortly after a flotilla of 800 boats rescued 340,000 Allied soldiers at Dunkirk, British screenwriters are tasked by the government with crafting a movie about the evacuation that will lure America into WWII. This becomes a “movie within a movie” in Lone Scherfig’s Their Finest. Humor is used to soften the tragedy raining down on London as a cadre of exquisitely cast British actors perform in parts that match our expectations and dry and wry Bill Nighy steals every scene he is in.
3 pieces of an enjoyable throwback to Ealingesque filmmaking toast
My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea (R)
Starring the voices of: Jason Schwartzman, Reggie Watts, Maya Rudolph, Jena Dunham, Susan Sarandon
Director: Dash Shaw
As local news stories reveal that schools built on “backfill” are unsafe in an earthquake, graphic novelist Dash Shaw has the staff of a student newspaper “nobody reads” discover their own “potential seismic catastrophe,” a few minutes before the campus begins the event mentioned in the animated film’s title. The simply drawn characters are familiar to anyone who survived 12th grade, including a Gandolf-wise lunch lady (voiced by Susan Sarandon). The plot evolves into a combination of a teen movie like The Breakfast Club (complete with detention) and a disaster film like the Poseidon Adventure (complete with swimming upwards to safety through flooded rooms).
3 pieces of clever and entertaining but suffers from SNL-syndrome (some bits go on too long) toast
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