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A Petaluma360 Blog

Cinema Toast

Gil Mansergh reviews new movies and videos

The Babadook offers inventive supernatural horrors

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The Aussie film of supernatural horrors, The Babadook, artfully propels the genre into an entirely new realm. Do real beasties hide under the child’s bed or in his closet? Do cockroaches scuttle around at night? Do pharmaceuticals help or harm the patient? Do the police and child protective services have any idea how to handle families in crisis? Is the mom just trying to cope with the problems thrust upon her, or is she making it all up? The answers are (like the plausible explanations we see onscreen), multi-fold, inventive and too perfect to give away in this column. You’ve just got to see this film.… Read More »

Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman and documentary Glen Campbell” I’ll Be Me, are both good

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Opportunities for “good” women in the Old West were severely limited. In Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman, existence on Nebraska’s spare and sun-seared prairie country has already driven three pioneer wives mad, and it falls to a former East Coast schoolteacher to transport the trio via covered wagon to far-off Iowa for professional care. She recruits a hard-drinking drifter to accompany the wagon as a sort of “cover” so the females have protection. Directed by the male star in his signature, plain-spoken style, it is remarkable in its simplicity and ambiguity.… Read More »

Horrible Bosses 2 and Penguins of Madagascar are so-so sequels

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As local Pearls Before Swine cartoonist Stephan Pastis knows, a good pun is artfully constructed from a series of seemingly non-connected parts into a groan (and chuckle) inducing whole. Puns also have to grounded in this century. Unfortunately, the filmmakers who made this “Penguins of Madagascar do Mission Impossible” rip-off, have completely ignored this sage advice and have crammed the not particularly original goings-on with outdated puns. The result will amuse easily entertained youngsters long enough to allow their moms and dads to do some holiday shopping (if the parents use roller skates). In addition to some very cute penguins, the script is filled with pithy messages about teamwork, how scientists in lab coats are evil, how wild animals shouldn’t be trapped in zoos or marine parks, and how puns scuttle this franchise. … Read More »

Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is only for fans

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This is a Do-It-Yourself review. Pick one of the following as the one-word synopsis of the third in the Hunger Games quartet, Mockingjay Part 1:: 1. Grim, 2. Dark, 3. Dull, 4. Foggy, 5. Worthless. Whichever you chose, it is a fair summation of a film designed as a money-stealing, for-fans-only, time-waster (as well as for movie-goers who believe jumpsuits are fashion’s future and a bow and arrow can bring down a hover-copter).… Read More »

Great Week For Great Acting

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The beautiful Afro-English actress who shone brightly in the title role of the period drama Belle, continues to excel by playing a hip-hop artist at the cusp of mega-stardom in Beyond the LIghts. Responding to the sudden and unexpected attention, the tea-totaling singer gets drunk and stumbles onto a high balcony to kill herself. The rookie LAPD cop stationed outside her hotel door quickly becomes her only lifeline. But this particular cop faces a moral dilemma—his police captain father is grooming him for politics, and being labelled a “hero” to a scantily-dressed ingenue in the tabloids could be the end of his father’s ambitions.… Read More »

Nolan’s Interstellar is stellar, Disney’s Big Hero is heroic

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Aided and abetted by the excesses of the 20th Century, in a near future, “the blight” has turned much of the world into a dustbowl in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. One of those excesses was exploring space—billions of dollars and a not inconsiderable amount of rocket fuel blasted into the atmosphere. But the solution to mankind’s survival may reside with a former astronaut-turned-farmer selected to travel through a worm-hole in search of Terra-like planets. The only misstep in this jaunt is the filmmaker’s need to explain the quantum physics behind the journey. Since a large portion of the population continues to ignore the scientists’ concerns regarding global warming (aka climate change) it is doubtful that this group of ostriches will buy tickets to the film. The rest of us (lets call us “believers”), were weaned on Star Trek and Star Wars and Memento, which never really tried to explain the science, and we don’t need it this time either. By the way, the film is stunningly awesome to watch—see it in the biggest and best theater you can.… Read More »

Michael Keaton Oscar-worthy in Birdman

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When I talked with Michael Keaton at a film festival in the Sebastiani theater a few years ago, he was the epitome of the “whatever happened to?” actor, taking roles in independent films and doing voice-overs for animated features. So it is easy for Keaton to slip into the shoes of a character who also played a spandex-suited superhero onscreen. Under Inarritu’s masterful direction and paired with master-class actors, Keaton shines in a film that is crisp, taut, and mind-blowingly creative. It revolves around a stageplay that the former movie superhero perceives as his shot at redemption—not only as an actor, but as a father and human being. This one is special, and it’s not too early to suggest that Keaton’s performance and the movie Birdman are Oscar-worthy … Read More »

Viewing List for “Women In Film Presentation” at Healdsburg Rotary

Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast     Avatar—PG-13 (2009) Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriquez, Sigourney Weaver Director: James Cameron 
“Avatar” gives us several powerful females. The one with the bow-and-arrow is Zoe Saldana as the blue-skinned Na’vi named Neytiri. Sigourney Weaver wears a Stanford T-shirt to show that Dr. Grace Augustine is both smart and strong as the leader of the Avatar team, and Michelle Rodriguez plays gyro-pilot Trudy Chacon, as a gutsy, no-nonsense warrior—equal to or better… Read More »

Bill Murray plays grumpy Walter Matthau type in St. Vincent

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Bill Murray is relaxing into old age playing a series of increasingly grumpy bachelors. In Theodore Melfi’s St. Vincent, he’s Vincent McKenna, living in a Brooklyn row house conveniently close to his bookie, his prostitute, his bar and the Belmont race track. Vincent’s life starts to change when a new, single-mom neighbor moves in next door with her 10-year-old son, Oliver. Due to a plot device, Vincent ends up babysitting Oliver, and he has him tag along while visiting the various dens of iniquity. Turns out, that as a Jewish kid, Oliver is having trouble fitting in at the Catholic school where his mother has enrolled him. You see, there’s all those saints to learn about, and the bullies on the schoolyard, and…. You get the drift. Not surprisingly, all this schmaltz takes a decidedly somber turn so Murray can adopt his earnest, “serious actor” face. So what if he keeps forgetting which accent he’s using or which leg has the limp, it’s Bill Murray! … Read More »

Rohmer’s A Summer’s Tale is best bet

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French filmmaker Eric Rohmer created this movie 22 years ago, but it is now in American theaters for the first time. It is a disarmingly simple tale of a young mathematics student on a beach vacation for the purpose of running into a girl who casually mentioned she may be headed that way. She is nowhere in sight, but the student/waitress is friendly, and she introduces her customer to a wildly sensual young woman—which is the moment the previously absent girl appears. It is a lyrical, poetic film, with no dialogue for long stretches broken up by casually intense conversations that may not lead anywhere. Rohmer once said he wanted to look at “thoughts rather than actions”, dealing “less with what people do than what is going on in their minds while they are doing it,” and that precisely defines A Summer’s Tale.… Read More »