Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
New Releases For the Week of 2/23/18

A Fantastic Woman—Una Mujer Fantastica (R)
Starring: Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes, Luis Gnecco, Aline Kuppenheim. Nicolas Saavedra. Amparo Noguero
Directed by: Sebastien Leilo
It would be easy to pigeonhole Chile’s Foreign-Language, Oscar Nominee as a tale of a transgendered woman coping with societal prejudice after her lover dies. However, doing so, limits appreciation of the the intelligence, creativity, and artfulness of the film. Daniella Vega shines in the starring role as Marina, who first acquiesces to authority figures who talk to her using masculine pronouns. But when others infringe on Marina’s self identity and sense of worth—barring her from the funeral, evicting her from her apartment, and even taking her dog, she (and the magical realism projected on the movie screen itself) react with determination, fire and raw emotion.
4 pieces of Fantastic, must-see toast.

Game Night (R)
Starring: Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Lamone Morris, Danny Huston, Michael C. Hall, Kyle Chandler
Directed by: John Francis Daley, Jonathan M.Goldstein
The “meet cute” opening is set in a bar trivia contest where a couple fall for each other because they both answer “Tinky-Winky” to a Teletubbies question. After marriage, they host a weekly Game Night for their friends until the guy’s venture capitalist brother suddenly appears intent on continuing to upstage his younger sibling. When the older brother invites everyone to a murder-mystery party at the mansion he is renting, a couple of real life criminals arrive and “realistically” kidnap the host. Every other guest gets involved, acting heroic, squeamish, terrified, or crazy on cue, and the R-rating comes from the de-rigueur double entendres, sexual situations, and non-life threatening, but still copiously bleeding gunshot wounds. The result is more successful than the moribund game-based 1985 movie Clue, but miles away from the astoundingly entertaining blockbuster Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
2 and 1/2 pieces of as much fun as an 80’s Trivial Pursuit contest toast

Annihlation (R)
Starring: Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Sonoya Mizuno
Directed by: Alex Garland
Inspired by Jeff Vandermeek’s best-selling book, this is the tale of a female soldier/scientist whose husband disappears inside the mysterious “Shimmer.” She recruits an all-female team made up of a medic, physicist, geothermal expert, and psychologist to join her quest for answers inside a bizarre yet beautiful jungle-like landscape very similar to the ones found in Avatar. Stealing plot devices from other films—like found-video footage, members of the rescue team possibly going crazy, and the wife reliving her husband’s past memories—the audience finally discovers that despite the familiar X-Files mantra, the answer isn’t “out there”—it’s within.
3 pieces of well-made sci-fi toast

Every Day (PG-13)
Starring: Angourie Rice, Justice Smith, Debby Ryan, Maria Bello, Jacob Batalon
Directed by: Michael Sucsy
Redesigning the Quantum Leap body-swap idea for today’s teens more-inclusive mind-set, Michael Sucsy’s Every Day opens with a 16-year-old Baltimore girl named Rhianon (Angourie Rice), falling in love with a jerk of a bi-racial football player who has a “kindly soul” deep inside. Every morning that follows, Rhiannon has similar feelings for whatever person happens to be inhabited by that moveable “kindly soul.” These include: a younger girl student; a dance-obsessed boy, a bookstore girl, a bald, overweight boy; and even Rhianna herself. The opportunities for this to devolve into a smarmy sex comedy are skillfully avoided by creating a distinct Afterschool Special feel. That’s not a bad thing, especially with all the positive role-model messages included along the way.
2 and 1/2 pieces of teenage transmogrification toast

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