A Petaluma360 Blog

Cinema Toast

Gil Mansergh reviews new movies and videos

Immortality Considered in The Age of Adaline, and Ex Machina


Like Dorian Gray, the beautiful Adaline never grows older in Lee Toland Kreiger’s film. But unlike Oscar Wilde’s tale, a pact with the devil isn’t the cause of agelessness. It is, instead a near-death plunge into an icy lake over 80 years ago. Adaline has, as she tells us, “buried generations of spaniels,” and she can’t bear to bury another lover. So the rich San Francisco do-gooder who woos her is repeatedly rebuffed without knowing Adeline’s secret. Then, when we think the film is nearing the end, Adeline’s parents arrive (Harrison Ford, Kathy Bates) looking ageless in their seventies. But wait, you ask as your mind adds up the years, how can that be?… Read More »

Animated film, Cheatin’, is a sophisticated choice


The opening sequence of this animated extravaganza lets us follow along as a lithe female in a bright yellow hat wanders through a crowded carnival reading a book. Either oblivious to or purposely ignoring the attention of the males she attracts, she ends up humiliated, but eventually finds true love while being rescued from a bumper car accident. The couple share marital bliss in a decidedly carnal manner as bedsprings squeak, and the lovers sing what sexologist Alex Comfort called “birdsongs at morning.” He works at a gas station while she stays home, but both feature in the lustful thoughts and machinations of those they encounter—including a magician, a hit man, and a geographically challenged chicken. This is an animated film for adults who are also grownup enough to appreciate the artistry and imagination Bill Plympton shares with those lucky few who actually get to see Cheatin’ in a movie theater. … Read More »

Baumbach’s While We’re Young is worth watching


Writer/producer/director Noah Baumbach has created his While We’re Young, with amusing poignancy as a childless 40-something couple ( Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts) connect with the vivacious 20-something couple (Amanda Seyfried, Adam Driver) who keep a pet chicken in their apartment. Intergenerational yearnings on both sides fuel the nuanced interplay as the “what-might-have been” (or should have been?) couple revel in the “what-might-be” potentiality of the youngsters. The artist/professor world of documentary filmmaking stands in for any creator/teacher environment as the sometimes messy complications of mentor/student hero worship and the frissons of sexual attractions co-mingle.… Read More »

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is Clever


When a Tokyo office worker discovers a waterlogged videotape buried in the sand inside a secret cave, she knows she must process the tape to uncover its secrets in Kumiko the Treasure Hunter. What she discovers are scenes of a bloodied Steve Buscemi burying a bag of money next to a snowy fence in far away Fargo, Minnesota. Unaware that she is watching the Coen Brother’s most famous film, Kumiko quits her job and spends all her money on a quest to find the cash—in the depth of a Minnesota winter. … Read More »

Creative Horror Flick It Follows and Local Film Fests Are Best Bets


The new movie It Follows, proves that talent can turn an old, tired formula into something much better than this critic expected. At the center, is a 19-year-old Detroit girl who enjoys swimming and sun tanning beside her family’s above-ground pool (included not only to have the girl in a bikini but also to show the socio-economic level of her parents). She goes on a date, only to be chloroformed and duct taped to a wheelchair by the guy so she can be killed by a ghostlike shape-shifter called “The Walker” and thereby let him escape the ghoul’s curse. Cue the girl’s friends, who become slightly older Nancy Drew-style detectives and vow to find out what has happened. The tension comes from unexpected, everyday going-on as well as the sudden juxtaposition of sound and fury. … Read More »

Sonoma County’s Competing Film Fests Plus New Releases


Competing Film Festivals

For some poorly planned reason, Sonoma County hosts film festivals on both the Laguna de Santa Rosa and the Maycamas’ hillside next week.

The 8th Annual Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival launches Thursday night, March 26th with a film, food and wine gala at the Sebastopol Center For the Arts featuring the California premiere of the powerful and sometimes disturbing documentary How to Change the World which focuses on Greenpeace’s historic efforts to stop commercial whaling. Environmentalists and filmmakers will be on hand for a Q&A after the film. Festival director Jason Perdue suggests that for local interest check out On Her Own, Morgan Schmidt-Feng’s up-close-and-personal look at Sebastopol’s Nancy Prebilich’s fight to save her family farm. There is also a loving retrospective of a local documentary lion in A Life Well Spent: A Les Blank Tribute. Tickets and info at: sebastopolfilmfestival.org

The 18th Annual Sonoma International Film Festival begins it’s 5-day run at various downtown venues on Wednesday, March 25th. Offering 104 films and 200 filmmakers in attendance, previous years’ opportunities to rub elbows with name-brand movie stars has passed, so you will have to settle for the buzz of being “the first on your block” to see movies before they receive wide-release. Festival Executive Director Kevin McNeely suggests you try to snag tickets to Alan Rickman’s directorial debut in A Little Chaos where Kate Winslet plays Versailles gardens’ architect to Rickman’s King Louis XIV and Lunafest—eight short films by women. Documentaries include Dior and I about the fashion house, and Sold about a year-old Nepali girl sold into prostitution. Tickets and info at: sonomafilmfest.org… Read More »

Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo Missing In Live-Action Cinderella

Cinderella poster 2015 movie 876

Cinderella’s time-tested fairy tale message that kindness, love, and tiny feet will bring happiness is alive and well in Disney’s live-action version of the studio’s 1950 animated classic. Bucking the trend to “re-imagine” a story, the archtypical step mother has a fine flair for fashion but (thankfully) she retains her “wicked” moniker. Prince Charming is blue-eyed and bland, the Fairy Godmother is endearingly klutzy (I miss Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo), and Cinderella has all the attributes needed to reestablish her rightful place as the “top” “Disney Princess.”… Read More »

Lots New, but Deli Man is Best Bet


As Eric Greenberg Anjou’s documentary Deli Man shows us, Jewish delis are dying. In the 40’s, New York City boasted over 3000 temples of Kosher comfort (like matzo ball soup, cold borscht with sour cream, and hot pastrami on rye bread). Today, only 150 remain—and they are widely scattered across the country. ((My favorite is Sherman’s in Palm Desert and Palm Springs). Like the Romanian-Jewish invention, pastrami, this flavorful documentary is peppered with spicy factoids and celebrities recalling gustatory orgasms from a particular time, space, and taste. But it is the deli owners themselves who provide the “soul” to the film, like Abe Lowenthal of NYC’s 2nd Ave, Deli who says he is: “saving the world—one sandwich at a time.”
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Will Smith Runs Clever Con in Focus


The sleight-of-hand-artist and self-described “gentleman thief,” Apollo Robbins shared a few of his tricks to add authenticity to Focus, a film about a con man who begins to teach his girlfriend the tricks of the trade, but breaks it off when she expects a long-term commitment. Flash forward three years to Buenos Aires where the ex-girlfriend has become the Femme Fatale in a convoluted long-con for mega bucks.… Read More »

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry is empowering


She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry is a blast-from-the-past focus on the times that were supposed to be a-changin’. Mary Dore’s inspiring documentary about women’s (continuing) struggle for equal rights captures the hopes, dreams and certainties shared by the women and men who gather together to create equality for themselves, their children and grandchildren. The fact that only a portion of the agenda has been realized and that many of the “rights” established by legislation and court decisions could be instantly reversed, adds a nostalgic and fragile sensibility to the thoughts and wishes articulated by the powerful women we see onscreen. Many of the voices and faces (i.e. Susan Brownmiller, Rita Mae Brown, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Vivian Rothstein), are people I met creating empowerment programs for the YWCA-LA in the 70’s and 80’s. I sincerely appreciate how the filmmakers don’t shy away from the splinter-prone fault lines in the Feminist movement as multiple hyphenations are added to the cause.… Read More »