Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases For the Week of  4/20/18

Final Portrait (R)

Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer, Clemence Poesy. Tony Shaloub, Sylvie Testud

Directed by: Stanley Tucci

Director Stanley Tucci knows how important the absence of words can be for some critical scenes. So do Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush and Emmy-winner Tony Shaloub. So when this threesome creates their magic within sculptor/painter Alberto Giacometti’s casually littered Paris studio, the result is sublime. The film’s  Final Portrait title refers to a black, silver-grey, and white portrait of American-born author James Lord where the eyes peer sphynx-like from a figure posed like the famous seated statues of Ramses II.   In contrast to Rush and Shaloub, Armie Hammer’s performance as James Lord seems like he was more comfortable hiding behind the Lone Ranger’s mask which he wore in the film where Johnny Depp overacted in the Tonto role. So forget Hammer and revel in watching Geoffrey Rush create a larger-than-life portrait of a different kind.

3 and 1/2 pieces of Geoffrey Rush is astounding as Giacometti toast 

I Feel Pretty (PG-13) 

Starring: Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams, Rory Scovel, Busy Phillips, Emily Ratajakowsi

Directed by: Abby Cohen, Mark Silverstien

The shtick in this rom-com is that a woman who doesn’t look like a runway model can have confidence in herself and her body—all she has to do is wake up after an excercise class accident feeling that way. Amy Schumer plays the woman as an extension of her nude 2016 Pirelli Calendar photo shoot with Annie Liebovitz. At that time she tweeted  “Beautiful, gross, strong, thin, fat, pretty, ugly, sexy, disgusting, flawless, woman. Thank you.” This film fails in its attempt to turn that sentiment into a humorous screenplay. This is because the script is crammed full of “plus-size” jokes and tries to save itself by tacking on a “we were just kidding” ending. Too little, too late.

1 and 1/2 pieces of anti-female shtick disguised as a female empowerment flick toast

1945 (NR) 

Starring: Peter Rudolf, Bence Tasnadi, Szabo Kimmel, Dora Sztarenki

Directed by: Ference Torok

The phrase “it’s legal” keeps echoing through Ference Torok’s new film, 1945. The war in Europe has already ended when two darkly dressed Jews step off the train in a small Hungarian village. They discover the town has a festive air as it prepares to celebrate mid-August with a wedding. “Everyone’s invited,” we are told—everyone except the newcomers.  The “It’s legal,” phrase refers to how the village prospered after a wealthy Jew was denounced and sent to a concentration camp before his house and land split up among his former neighbors. Are the strangers here to enact revenge? “No need to worry,” the town’s residents rationalize. “It’s legal.”

3 pieces of our past shapes our futures toast

Super Troopers 2 (R)

Starring: Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, Rob Lowe, Brian Cox

Directed by: Jay Chandrasekhar

Fifteen years ago, my college-aged kids rented the original Super Troopers movie and forced me to sit through it to the end. “It’s funny,” they told me about the Broken Lizard comedy troop’s sophomoric tale of sex-obsessed highway patrolmen (and Canadian Mounties). I thought that only two minutes of the film were humorous, and my offspring have kidded me about this ever sense. Now, low and behold, a sequel hits theaters featuring most of the same cast including even Lynda Carter (TV’s Wonder Woman) as the Governor of Vermont. Many of the original so-called jokes have been recycled, and are performed by people who are now old enough to know better. Since pot is now legal, this film will probably make lots of money in both ticket and concession-stand sales.

1 and 1/2 pieces of a very few funny jokes per mile toast

Never Really Here (R)

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov, Judith Roberts, John Doman, Alex Mannette

Directed by: Lynne Ramsay

Joaquin’s performance is the complete antithesis of Never Really Here. For Phoenix is most assuredly here as he creates the amoral, hit man who uses a ball-peen hammer to dispatches his targets. Winning the Best Actor award at Cannes,  Phoenix’s character is the supposed “good guy,” working for a private detective tracking down youngsters kidnapped and sold as under-age prostitutes. In contrast, the “bad guys” are really, really bad. The problem for me is that the mayhem created with swings of that aforementioned ball-peen hammer take everyone involved (except, perhaps, the kids) to a place of evil. Even worse, the screenplay apologizes for Phoenix’s character by making him a soldier afflicted with PTSD who was abused by his own father and has a fixation on his ailing mother. Armchair Freudians should love this, and film fans will instantly see parallels to the Robert De Nero character in Martin Scorcese’s more finely crafted Taxi Driver.

1 and 1/2 pieces of well acted but morally bereft toast

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