Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
New Releases For the Week of 1/26/18

Hostiles (R)
Starring: Christian Bale, Rasamund Pike, Wes Studi, Timothee Chalamet, Ben Foster, Adam Beach
Directed by: Scott Cooper
Scott Cooper’s Hostiles is the perfect example of the “Hollywood just doesn’t get it” mind-set. At the exact same time that exploited women and under-represented ethnic groups take center-stage at awards ceremonies, this movie opens with “up-close-and-personal” scenes of rape and murder. The plot shifts to a bigoted, “injun-hating” cavalry officer escorting a dying Cheyenne war-chief to his burial grounds. The natives are portrayed as “noble, thoughtful survivors” of the calculated extermination of their people, but are only allowed minimal amounts of screen time. For underneath everything, is the amorality projected in the TV show Westworld with its over-the-top, blood splattered violence. Here too, secondary characters (natives and settlers alike) are simply disposable props playing their scripted roles as agents of redemption for the uniform-wearing representative of all that is the United States.
1 and 1/2 pieces of dystopian Olde West hostilities toast

Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool (R)
Starring: Annette Bening, Jamie Bell, Julie Walters, Stephen Graham, Vanessa Redgrave
Directed by: Paul McGuigan
“I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Believe me, rich is better” tawdry gun-moll Gloria Grahame famously tells the audience in Fritz Lang’s Film Noir classic, The Big Heat. As played by Annette Bening in Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool, a 57-year-old Grahame is trying to recapture her younger self when she shows up on the Liverpool doorstep of her much younger former lover. Surprisingly, her lover’s family invites the frail, aging actress to stay with them—and, in proper British fashion, avoids asking embarrassing questions. Similarly, this movie glosses over the physicality of the couple’s relationship, and focuses instead on their deep friendship and simple joys of being together. Despite being based on a memoir I think the movie would have worked much, much better if, instead of her being Gloria Grahame, the aging actress would have been a composite. That way, real-life events (including how old she is and where Gloria Grahame died) wouldn’t intrude on this film’s made-up storyline.
2 pieces of I’ve watched Gloria Grahame, and Anette Bening is no Gloria Grahame toast

Forever My Girl (PG)
Starring: Alex Roe, Jessica Roth, Abby Ryder Fortston, Judith Hoag, Travis Titt, John Benjamin Hickey
Directed by: Bethany Ashton Wolf
Apparently, the country singer from a tiny Louisiana town wants to live his own lyrics, so he leaves his childhood sweetheart at the altar to pursues a musical career. Eight years later, the guy returns to his roots, and discovers his former bride-to-be is now a churchgoing, single mom with an annoying child-actress as her daughter. The moral to all this is to pray to God that the guy who dumped you will grow up enough to come back and make you (and your daughter) “honest women.” If you listen carefully to the lyrics to almost any country western song, you’ll quickly find the major flaws in this storyline.
1 pieces of anyone of us could write a better screenplay toast

Maze Runner: The Death Cure (PG-13)
Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Sangster, Rosa Salazar, Giancarlo Espisito, Ki Hong Lee
Directed by: Wes Ball
When I interviewed Maze Runner author James Dashner on my NPR radio show, he was in the midst of writing the book that forms the basis for this film. “It’s a challenge to sew up all the loose threads,” Dashner told me back then. Apparently, the filmmakers had the same problem. The result is an increasingly frustrating, overlong movie where the same trope (kids running for their lives through dystopian backdrops are captured, injured while escaping, saved, captured again, etc, etc. etc. It’s obvious nobody involved has ever heard the mantra “Less is more.”
1 pieces of way too long to show us this is all there is toast

Den of Thieves (R)
Starring: Gerard Butler, Pablo Schreiber, O’Shea Jackson Jr. 50 Cent, Evan Jones
Directed by: Scott Cooper
Christian Gudegast’s Den of Thieves is classic cops and robbers fare. Big Nick (Gerard Butler) is the cop. Marrimen (Pablo Schreiber) is the robber (and former marine). The back and forth move style of pursuer and pursued works well—especially since Big Nick never plays things “by the book,” while Merrimen is all “military protocols.” It’s a testosterone-fueled story, with occassional females added in to assure audiences that both cop and robber are “straight-shooters.”
2 and 1/2 pieces of there’s a bit of Usual Suspects here toast