Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
New Releases For the Week of 12/15/17

The Shape of Water (R)
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlberg, Octavia Spencer
Directed by: Guillermo Del Toro
All of Guillermo Del Toro’s movies are lush, intensely sensual imaginings filled with dreamlike wonder. In The Shape of Water, sexuality is finally allowed to take center stage. The sexy woman part is an unlikely candidate named Elisa Espisito (Sally Hawkins)—a mute, mousey, and orphaned Baltimore cleaning lady who mops up blood in a top-secret laboratory. The blood comes from “The Asset” (Doug Jones), an amphibious Creature From the Black Lagoon-stye humanoid stolen from the Amazon River. Late one night, Elisa discovers The Asset housed in a murky-water aquarium and makes contact by playing music on her portable record player and feeding him hard boiled eggs. Overhearing the plan to dissect The Asset for scientific research, Elisa whisks him away to her own apartment where he lives in her bathtub. Growing closer, the pair make semi-amphibious love before his hiding place is discovered by the Bible-thumping, military-industrial-complex mad scientists and Cold War Russian spies. Wow!
3 and 1/2 pieces of consider this a grown-up version of The Little MerMAN toast

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (PG-13)
Starring: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, Warwick Davis, Laura Dern, Andy Serkis, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Benicio Del Toro, Domnhal Gleason, John Boyega, Gwendoline Christie
Directed by: Rian Johnson
Revisiting the same North Sea island from where Rey met Luke Skywalker at the end of The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi rumbles along in a carefully contrived manner sure to pluck the emotions of all Star Wars fans. Much has been written about how the scenes featuring Carrie Fisher were filmed before her untimely death, and General Leia Organa gives a great “last act” as she shares soulful profundities with a lavender-haired Vice Admiral. Except… since the whole enterprise smacks of set-ups for the next series of sequels, there’s a nagging feeling that this may NOT be Leia’a final scene. Or Mark Hamill’s either. Haunted by the destructive genes of his biological father, Darth Vadar, and the positive-reinforcement exercises from his Force-mentors, Obi-wan Kenobi and Yoda, the latest version of Luke Skywalker is wrestling with regret, aging, and inner demons. Meanwhile, the younger generation’s Knights of Ren leader Kylo Ren has parallel conflicts, only his focus on two women—his mother, Leia, and a wannabe-a-Jedi orphan named Rey. Using the playbook that helped make the original Star Wars Trilogy so great, the filmmakers have once again utilized the Jungian archetypes that Joseph Campbell elaborated so well in his classic study of mythologies, The Hero With a Thousand Faces.
3 pieces of could have been GREAT, but the marketing-driven, tangential story-lines slow things down toast

Wonderwheel (PG-13)
Starring: Kate Winslet, Jim Belushi, Juno Temple, Justin Timberlake, Max Casella
Directed by: Woody Allen
The characters in Woody Allen’s newest film sound like they are updated versions of those we first met in Rogers and Hamerstein’s Carousel, with a merry-go-round-operator husband, his Coney Island seafood waitress wife, her beach lifeguard lover, and the unexpected arrival of the husband’s tawdry daughter from a previous relationship. Allen places too much attention on mood lighting, and the result is a neon tinged, squirm-inducing, youth-fixated director’s misogynistic slide into hatred of how women get older.
1 piece of we can’t remove the director’s sleezy “real life” from his movies toast

Ferdinand (PG)
Starring the voices of: John Cena, Gina Rodriguez, Bobby Cannavale, Karla Martinez, Gabriel Iglesias
Directed by: Carlos Saldanah
Walt Disney’s version of Munro Leaf’s 1936 children’s classic The Story of Ferdinand (illustrated by Robert Lawson) won the 1938 Academy Award for Best Short Subject. It is impossible to conceive that 20th Century Fox Animation’s new version of the story will win anything. That’s because the filmmakers decided to “open up” the story to feature-length by adding extraneous characters like the little girl who takes Ferdinand home as a pet and Austrian-accented Lipizzaner stallions who challenge the clumsy bulls to a dance-off. Many sequences, like the chase scene through Madrid’s streets, are obviously “padded” to add length (does that city really have that many vegetable carts or pottery booths to crash into?) But worst of all, the “new stuff” detracts from the story’s original message—that it is perfectly alright to “sit quietly and smell the flowers.”
1 piece of uninspired remake of a nearly perfect original toast