Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
New Releases For the Week of 9/22/17

Two Trains Runnin’ (NR)
Director: Samuel D.Pollard
Unknown to each other, a couple of musicologists from Berkley and Cambridge head South in June, 1964 on a search to find two elusive blues singers named Skip James and Son House. At the same time, throngs of other college students travel to Mississippi as part of a Civil Rights/voter registration event labelled “Freedom Summer.” Three of these activists, Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney are murdered by the KKK. Documentarian Samuel D. Pollard masterfully weaves these stories together with a voice-over narration read by Common, and punctuated by the blues of Skip James and Son House.
4 pieces of here is how documentaries should be made toast

Stronger (R)
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, Clancy Brown, Miranda Richardson, Frankie Shaw
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Jeff Bauman entered the Boston Marathon to impress a girl named Erin, and lost his legs to a terrorist’s bomb. His obnoxious family were on the sidelines yelling him on, and they continue to scream at each other throughout the film. In contrast, Erin’s demeanor is reserved. She dumped Jeff before the race, was wary of meeting him at the finish line, and is challenged by his double amputation. In addition, two other issues take center stage. The unflinchingly realistic portrayal of Jeff’s recuperation, and the constant pressure exerted by the Boston community to have Jeff become their “poster boy” for the “Boston Strong” mantra.
3 and 1/2 pieces of Gyllenhaal is triumphant toast

The Lego Ninjago Movie (PG)
Starring the vocies of: Dave Frabco, Justin Theroux, Fred Armison, JAckie Chan, Olivia Munn, Michael Pena
Directed by: Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, Bob Logan
I had no idea what Ninjago meant, so I expected the word was made-up like Jumanji and Hagen-Das were. Turns out, the movie is based on a Cartoon Network TV show featuring Lego Ninjas that’s been running since 2011! No matter, the film needs to stand on its own to earn the critical kudos and box office receipts of The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie and it doesn’t. The failure lies in the lack of dynamic tension between Lloyd the hero (voice of Dave Franco) and Garmadon the villain (voiced by Justin Theroux). Part of the problem may be that seven screenwriters are listed (never a good sign) and numerous close-ups of Lego character’s faces abound. They try hard, but the little guys are just too plastic to convey nuanced emotions.
2 pieces of just too plastic toast

Brad’s Status (R)
Starring: Ben Stiller, Austin Abrams, Jenna Fischerm, Shazi Raja, Michael Sheen, Jemaine Clement, Mike White, Luke Wilson
Directed by: Mike White
A mid-life crisis faces Brad Sloan (Ben Stiller) when he takes his teen son on a college tour. Brad is a Tufts grad, and although by any measure he is successful, he believes he lacks the Status (with a capital “S”) of his college buddies. The audience gets to see Brad’s perception of his friends status in slo-mo vignettes. Just before we grow tired of Brad’s neurotic obsessions, writer/director Mike White manages to provide a transformational and very satisfying conclusion.
3 pieces of based on MikeWhite’s own neurotic impulses toast

Marie Curie: The Courage of Knowledge (NR)
Starring: Karolina Gruszka, Arieh Worthhalter, Charles Berling, Piotr Glowacki
Directed by: Marie Noelle
Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and eight years later, she garnered one more. This film attempts to tell the story of the physicist’s life during the years between these two awards. Her husband (and co-Nobel Prize winner) is killed in a traffic accident, and the grieving widow and mother of two must cope with the new realities. Her work and very existence is challenged by the patriarchy, and the criticism explodes when Marie begins an affair with a married colleague. Noelle’s version of Marie is that of a beautiful proto-feminist proud of her achievements and striving to elevate scientific discoveries into life-saving medical techniques. In the end, the 1943 Greer Garson film is much more engaging.
1 and 1/2 pieces of heads off in too many directions toast