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Cinema Toast: ‘The Post’ gets four pieces of toast, ‘The Commuter’ gets two

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THE POST (PG-13)

Starring: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Alison Brie, Carrie Coon, David Cross, Bruce Greenwood, Tracy Letts, Bob Odekirk, Bradley Whitford

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Way back in the pre-fake-news time of 1971, the New York Times began publishing excerpts from the classified “Pentagon Papers,” stolen by government researcher Daniel Ellsberg. The damning revelations about America’s real reasons for the Vietnam War rattled National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger so much, he convinced President Nixon that they needed to stop publication to prevent dissemination of any future secrets. Attorney General John Mitchell invoked the Espionage Act and a judge ordered the Times to “cease and desist.” In reaction, The Washington Post began running excerpts from the documents, and this film artfully presents the results of that historic decision. In the same time-frame, Post editor Ben Bradlee is focused on his front-page scoop about the White House’s involvement with the Watergate burglary. Behind the scenes, Post publisher Katherine Graham is planning on saving the paper’s future by floating a public stock offering. The fast-paced conflict between what is right for the business and what is right for Freedom of the Press in the United States become the crucible that forges both heroes and villains. This is great movie-making, right up there with an earlier film featuring some of the same players, 1977’s eight-Oscar-nominee “All the Presidents Men.”

4 pieces of ‘Standing up for Freedom’ toast

PADDINGTON 2 (PG)

Starring: Hugh Grant, Brendan Gleeson, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Waters, Jim Broadbent. Peter Capaldi and the voices of Ben Whishaw, Imelda Staunton

Directed by: Paul King

Everyone involved with “Paddington 2” had oodles of fun overacting in the best traditions of British pantomime. The McGuffin in the film is an antique pop-up-book that the Peruvian-born bear wants to give to his Aunt Lucy. When the book is stolen by a former movie star relegated to acting in dog food commercials, Paddington is thrown in jail for “a crime he did not commit.” Hugh Grant parodies himself by dressing as a train conductor, nun, Scottish laird, armor-clad knight, etc. etc. But Brendan Gleason’s performance as the prison cook, Nuckles McGinty is the one to treasure as his whiskered countenance turns from sneer to smile when eating a marmalade sandwich. This is an endearing “family fare for all ages” movie. Don’t miss out on the fun!

3-and-1/2 pieces of ‘Enjoy this sweet and tangy marmalade of a movie’ toast

INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY (R)

Starring: Lia Shaye, Tessa Ferrer, Angus Simpson, Leigh Wannell

Directed by: Adam Robitel

The 70-something actress from the previous films in this franchise returns as her character revisits her childhood home in New Mexico to “cleanse” it from the demonic abuse she suffered from her father. However, the amateurish antics of almost everyone else involved produces the same slap-dash results. The only obvious improvements from a bigger budget is a marginally scary creature. Don’t assume “the Last Key” in the title means these films are reaching their conclusion. There’s still all those “locks” that the key can open.

1-and-1/2 pieces of ‘QUESTION: Why do they bother? ANSWER: Your Money!’ toast

THE COMMUTER (R)

Starring: Liam Neeson, Vera Famiga, Sam Neil, Elizabeth McGovern

Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra

It is possible that Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra has never seen the superb train-based movie thrillers made by such greats as Hitchcock (“The Lady Vanishes,” “Strangers on a Train”), Costa-Gavras (“The Sleeping Car Murders”), Fleisher (“The Narrow Margin”), Von Sternberg (“The Shanghai Express”), Sargent (“The Taking of Pelham 123”). Possible, but unlikely, since every plot development appeared in these earlier films. Liam Neeson plays the just-fired insurance salesman approached by a mysterious lady (on a train of course) with the prospect of making a quick $100,000 if he will simply “find and take care” of another passenger.

2 pieces of ‘More style than tension’ toast