Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases For the Week of  6/29/18

Uncle Drew (PG-13)

Starring: Kyrie Irving, Lil Rel Howery, Shaquille O’Neal, Reggie Miller, Erica Ash, Nick Kroll, Tiffany Haddish

Directed by: Charles Stone III

If you’ve seen those Pepsi commercials where a 70-something basketball player performs professional moves on the court, you probably know it’s 26-year-old Kyrie Irving under all that silly-putty makeup. Charles Stone III’s film, Uncle Drew,  stretches those shorts to 103 minutes by providing heavily stereotyped identities for an over-the-hill basketball team: Uncle Drew (Irving), Big Fella (Shaquille O’Neal), Preacher (Chris Webber), Lights (Reggie Miller), and Boots (Nate Robinson). The five players gather together to help an obsessed fan named Dax (Lil Rel Howery), get even with Moochie (Nick Kroll), who stole his girlfriend (Tiffany Haddish). The game quickly becomes the McGuffin, as the real fun is gathering the old-fellows to make a team and the unscripted zingers the guys exchange on the court.

3 pieces of a feel-good, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” toast 

Sicario: Day of the Soldado (R)

Starring: Josh Brolin, Benicia Del Toro, Isabela Moner, Matthew Modine, Catherine Keener, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo

Directed by: Stefano Sollima

I can’t seem to prevent myself from seeing Trumpian overtones in a film that starts with a “take no prisoners” suicide bomber attack on a Kansas City grocery store by Yemeni terrorists who Mexican drug lords smuggled across the Mexican border. It quickly devolves into a “the secretary will disavow anything” style mercenary’s single-minded attempt to close the border (which we are told over and over again, is completely controlled by Mexican drug cartels). He hires his best friend to kidnap the young daughter of a drug kingpin, and things get muddy as the terrorists fade away, border coyotes unwittingly topple the carefully laid-out pattern of dominos, and stunt performers and explosives technicians take over. Italian director Stefano Sollima makes his actors display an attitude of war-weary cynicism punctuated by the irony of gallows humor. If this sounds like the way you’d like to spend a couple hours of your time and money, the choice is (as always), up to you.

2 pieces of everyone is a Soldado toast 

Most Unknown (NR) 

Directed by: Ian Cheney

A few years ago, filmmaker Werner Herzog made a documentary about his conversations with scientists and computer experts he called Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World. Essentially the same idea is used in Ian Cheney’s doc, The Most Unknown, but with a twist. This time, the interviews are conducted in musical chairs fashion as interviewees become interviewers for the next person in line. So we have a geomicrobiologist talking with a physicist who then interviews a psychologist who then chats with a…  Since I am a professional interviewer (Host/Producer for NPR’s Word By Word Conversations With Writers). I feel it is fair for me to point out that unlike Herzog, with his unique, polymath knowledge-base and singular interview style, many of these “experts in their field” flounder as they interview people whose life work and technical language are so different from their own experiences. 

2 pieces of one of those docs that filmed famous people and then felt obligated to use the scene in the movie toast

Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf (NR)

Directed by: Thomas Piper

Writer Rick Drake tells his Dutch co-author and landscape designer Piet Oudolf, “Your work teaches people to see things that they were unable to see.” Unfortunately, Thomas Piper’s doc isn’t able to do the same. With judicious use of some video editing software, there could be a prize-winning short documentary culled from the material shown in this 75-minute feature—especially the occasional glimpses of spontaneous joy exhibited by Oulof on his quest to find plants “with great character.”

1 and 1/2  pieces of needs  massive cutting by a strong editor toast 

Mountain (NR) 

Directed by: Jennifer Peedom

Personally, “Because it is there,” has never seemed reason enough to risk your life challenging icy peaks, so I decided long ago to skip mountain-climbing documentaries. At least this one does try something different, with narration by Willem Dafoe, and music by the Australian Chamber orchestra. 

Gil doesn’t screen mountain-climbing docs

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