Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases For the Week of  6/08/18

First Reformed (R) 

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Cedric the Entertainer, Michael Gaston, Van Hansis

Directed by: Paul Shrader

Director Paul Shrader, the screenwriter who created the Travis Bickle character for Taxi Driver has created another movie icon. Rev. Ernst Toller’s small church in upstate New York is in guidebooks for Revolutionary War and Civil War buffs, so he is familiar with the intrusiveness of others. But a simple request from a pregnant woman for a pastoral visit to her husband tears apart the minister’s previously unquestioned core beliefs.

3 and 1/2 pieces of Paul Shrader spirituality toast 

Hereditary (R)

Starring: Toni Collette, Alex Wolf, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne, Mallory Bechtel

Directed by: Ari Aster

One of the fallouts of the “have your DNA decoded” craze is the secrets of your ancestry you may not want to know about, and the family in Hereditary sure has its secrets. Newcomer Ari Aster skillfully parlays the “less is more” trope into a master class in tension-building. Soon after the family matriarch dies, her dollhouse miniature making granddaughter’s off-the-wall behaviors become more and more violent. While her parents (Toni Colette, Gabriel Byrne) search for causes, the audience begins piecing the puzzle together to form an unsettling picture of what is really going on.

3 and 1/2  pieces of Toni Collette is great in this toast 

Hotel Artemis (R) 

Starring: Jodi Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto, Charlie Day, Dave Bautista

Directed by: Drew Pearce

In the not-too-distant future, downtown Los Angeles is filled with rioters searching for clean water in a time when the scarce rainfall is toxic, and the underground aquifers are owned by greedy corporations. Four men attempt to rob a bank during the tumult, and when one is wounded he is whisked to Hotel Artemis, a membership only medical facility controlled by a seen-too-many-bad-things woman simply called The Nurse whose patients are all gangsters. Fans of the John Wick films have noted many similarities and set pieces from that franchise—but less  skillfully envisioned in this low budget film.

2 and 1/2 pieces of violence-strewn, B-movie flashback toast

Oceans 8 (R) 

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, James Corden, Carl Reiner

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

I bet you didn’t know Danny Ocean (the character played by George Clooney in all those Oceans 11 films) has a sister named Debbie who looks and sounds exactly like Sandra Bullock. The McGuffin this time is a $150 million diamond necklace just waiting to be stolen from the neck of a glitzy celebrity. To pull off the caper, quite a bit of screen time is spent recruiting the all female “gang” of experts Debbie needs. These include a professional vodka diluter, a fashion designer, a computer hacker, a pickpocket, and a suburban housewife. If this concept seems like it was stolen directly from the script of Oceans 11, you have skillfully discovered the strength and weakness of Oceans 8. But where are all the Bad Girls in this film.  Despite being presented as crooks whose previous escapades focused on feathering their own nests, everyone of the “gals” roots for the home team. It’s as though the sisterhoodness of wearing high heels makes them super loyal.  Come on. Where’s the dynamic tension in that?

2 pieces of Oceans 11 remade with women as the gang members toast

Comments? E-mail gilmansergh@comcast.net