Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases For the Week of  5/25/18

The Rider (R) 

Starring: Brady Jandreau, Lane Scott, Tim Jandreau, Lilly Jandreau

Directed by: Chloe Zhao

In an unlikely mix of cultures, a Chinese-born filmmaker, an injured Lakota Sioux bronco rider, a paralyzed bull rider, the horseman’s emotionally supportive sister, and his hard-edged (and hard-drinking) father live their lives in a scripted, but real-life, film starring the real people using stage names. Brady Jandreau is the centerpiece of The Rider. With a life-threatening brain injury, he is warned of possible death if he continues to ride and train the wild horses that are his life. Depressed after his father sells his favorite horse to pay the bills, he begins work at a Wal Mart. But the mystical connection with horses remains his core, and there is one must-see sequence where Brady tames a wild horse. Chloe Zhao instructed cinematographer James Joshua Richards to “let the camera roll.” Edited down to a three-minutes of visual poetry, we watch with amazement as Brady gentles a violent, bucking, and very dangerous wild animal to the point where the now trusting horse lets Brady ride him and dismount smoothly. This astounding movie is a must-see (especially for wanna-be filmmakers).

4 pieces of there’s never been anything quite like Cloe Zhao’s The Rider toast 

Beast (R) 

Starring: Jessie Buckley, Johnny Flynn, Geraldine James, Charley Palmer Rothwell

Directed by: Michael Pearce

Fellow fans of British mysteries set on tiny, windswept isles where everyman is grizzled, and the women drink tea so strong, the spoon stands upright, will love Michael Pearce’s Beast. Jessie Buckley is the astounding actress who brings the feisty, redheaded teen, Moll to life. On the surface, the girl acquiesces to her mother’s strictures of how to act demure and wear pastel frocks in this tiny community where everyone has opinions about everyone else. The film starts at Moll’s birthday party where we discover that she’s not as young as we assumed when she heads out for a night of dancing and drinking into a spare landscape where at least three girls have been murdered and a fourth is missing. When Moll finds herself cornered by a pushy drunk offering “a good time,” she is rescued by a craggy man who just so happens to be on the police radar as a suspect in the killings.  Forget any Beauty and the Beast analogies, this is a Gothic romance with a few twists and welcome surprises from the hands of master storytellers.

3 and 1/2  pieces of a fiery redhead meets her Gothic beast of a lover toast 

Solo: A Star Wars Story (PG-13)

Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Joona Suotomo, Woody HArrelson, Emelia Clarke, Danny Glover, Thandie Newton, Paul Bettany, Linda Hunt

Directed by: Ron Howard

When you see Alden Ehreneich trying to fill Han Solo’s chair on the MiIlennium Falcon, you can’t help yourself from saying “I watched Harrison Ford, and this guy is no Harrison Ford.” Fortunately, Danny Glover dons the swirling cape of  Lando Calrissian in a style that should make Billy Dee Williams proud. The behind the camera difficulties surrounding this film cover almost a decade—with changes of screenwriters, directors and a blunt directive from the Lucasfilm president herself to place the time-tested Ron Howard in the director’s chair. The pieced-together result only partly works. In typical origin-story-style, the Lawrence and Jonathan Kasden script depicts young Han as a petty thief with a pretty girlfriend who escapes imprisonment by joining the Imperial Army, and then goes AWOL with a fur-covered chum named Chewbacca, to join a gang of thieves plotting to heist a cache of the valuable (but highly explosive) fuel, (and new, Big-Pharma laxative?) coaxium.  The overall problem is that you can see the gaps where last-minute applications of super glue just didn’t work. The difference is even more obvious in the final segments where Ron Howard was competently in control of what we see.

2 pieces of a minor blip in the Star Wars pantheon toast 

Love and Bananas: An Elephant Story (NR) 

Directed by: Ashley Bell

Don’t take the kids to this documentary thinking it will be a Disneyesque romp of cute baby elephants. Originally looking for a “feel-good story,” movie actress and elephant lover Ashely Bell visited a Thai “elephant sanctuary,” where she learned the cruel reality of forcing these huge creatures to perform tricks that amuse humans. The result is a warts and all doc concluding with Bell rescuing a blind, 70-year-old elephant from the torture of an “elephant trek” enterprise.

3 pieces of Ringling Brothers was just the tip of the iceberg toast

Comments? E-mail gilmansergh@comcast.net