Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
Good picks for the Week of 12/29/17—In Toasty order)

Thor: Ragnarok (PG-13)
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Benedict Cumberbatch
Directed by: Taika Waititi
I’m surprised the opening music isn’t Peter, Paul and Mary singing “If I Had a Hammer,” for that is the premise of this impressive film. Thor, the mighty God of Thunder and Lightning, has lost his beloved talisman and is imprisoned on the other side of the (Marvel?) universe. Meanwhile, Hela, the Goddess of Death is hastening Ragnorak (the prophesied End of Times) to Thor’s Asgard homeland. A long role of odd characters helps Thor in his mission to thwart extinction, including the Incredible Hulk, who first appears as his opponent in a kill-or-be-killed gladiatorial contest. The destructive fight is presented with the same tongue-in-cheek humor that has always made Thor a likable character, but changes the audience’s assumption that the Hulk, is just angry grimaces. Surprisingly, these two incredibly different heroes become buddies who delight in trading one-liner zingers with each other. Marvel purists will probably cringe at all the light hearted jibs and jabs, but they will love the over-the-top climax of the film. I credit screenwriter Eric Pearson and director Taika Waititi for making everything work so well.
4 pieces of much needed lightness in the often dreary Marvel Universe toast

Coco (PG)
Starring the voices of: Anthony Gonzales, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Rene Victor, Jaime Camil, Gabriel Iglesias, Ana Ofelia Murgula, Edward James Olmos
Directed by: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina
When Pixar writer/director Adrian Molina’s brainchild, Coco was released in Mexico on the recent Dia de los Muertas (Day of the Dead), the film about a musically-gifted 12-year-old boy who runs away from his “no-music-allowed” home and stumbles into a parallel universe-de-muertos populated by humorous skeletons and prophetic spirit-animals quickly became Mexico’s highest-grossing film of all time. Coco’s problem is that he must find his way back to the land of the living before the day is done, or be stuck with the dead ones forever. Sounds simple enough, except there are so many distractions for a music-obsessed youngster. Every being on the other side loves to create and play music including his feisty, long dead, great, great, great grandmother Imelda, the charismatic troubador, Hector, who willingly agrees to help Coco—but still must stop occasionally to sing a song or three, a very friendly stray dog named Dante, and Miguel’s favorite musician Ernesto de la Cruz—a 1940’s crooner killed by a freak accident with a church bell. The opening scenes are crammed full of exposition, but once they are liberated from the constraints of the conventional “real-world,” the animators have created a masterpiece of wild sights and sounds where the “other side” appears to be a happy, and very musical place to be.
3 and 1/2 pieces of an enjoyable holiday treat toast

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (PG)
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Bobby Cannavale, Karern Gillan, Nick Jonas
Directed by: Jake Kasden
Four stereotyped teens (jock, brain, wimp and babe) are magically transformed into the game avatars they selected to play an “ancient” video game. The wimp becomes a muscular, self-effacing “expert” with a “smoldering look.” The brain develops sex appeal and long shapely legs, the football star becomes a wise-cracking, short-statured fellow named Mouse, and when the babe selected “a curvy genius cartographer” she did not envision Jack Black’s body. It takes awhile for these teens to learn to utilize their avatar’s skill sets, but fortunately, the game gives them two extra lives. The McGuffin everyone is searching for, is the gigantic emerald eye missing from a jaguar statue. If you are looking for a fun afternoon, this movie is a perfect fit. It even manages to build in a couple of moral lessons along the way.
3 pieces of they got me when they hired Dwayne Johnson 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

Wonder (PG)
Starring: Julia Roberts, Jacon Tremblay, Owen Wilson, Izabela Vidovic, Mandy Patinkin, Sonia Braga
Directed by: Stephen Chbosky
It is unfortunate that the JPMorgan/Chase TV ads featuring a little girl in the space helmet are airing at the same time the movie Wonder arrives in theaters. That’s because the girl wears the helmet to prove she can do anything, while the Wonder boy, Augie, wears the helmut to hide a face that, despite 27 surgeries, looks like a space alien. Home schooled, Augie’s foray to the outside world is a local fifth grade classroom where he earns straight A’s, makes a friend, provokes a bully, and provides numerous teachable moments for everyone onscreen and off.
3 pieces of everyday miracles toast