Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
New Releases 11/20/09
The Blind Side (PG-13)
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Kathy Bates, Quinton Aaron
Director: John Lee Hancock
A chance encounter on a rainy night completely changes the lives of an overweight orphan and the affluent Memphis family who adopt him so they can remold him into a great football player. Improbable as this sounds, it is the remarkable true story of All-American offensive left tackle, Michael Oher. Filled with sports clichés and studiously avoiding any in-depth investigation into Southern race relations (did I mention the important point that Michael is African American and the family Confederate White?), Sandra Bullock dives headfirst into the role of overly-coiffed Southern Belle, and makes the whole thing work.
3 pieces of football dramady toast
Planet 51 (PG)
Starring the voices of: Dwayne Johnson, Jessica Biel, Justin Long, Seann William Scott, Gary Oldman, John Cleese
Director: Jorge Blanco
In an obvious attempt to be clever, the filmmakers force an “ET” in reverse plot about an American astronaut getting marooned on a planet inhabited by round-edged green characters a lot like us. Internationally and independently produced, the film is competently animated but the pathetic plot dooms it to kiddy-fare for youngsters who have never had the joy of seeing a Pixar project.
1 and 1/2 piece of insipid toast
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (PG-13)
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Dakota Fanning
Director: Chris Weitz
Because it faithfully follows the plot of the second book in Stephanie Meyers’ series, the two lovers from different tribes (human and vampire) are kept apart for most of this film, and the audience suffers through this lack of cosmic charisma. Werewolves and time travel are added to the mix, and more “rules” about vampire mythology are stretched, but when Bella and Jacob finally get back together, you realize that this is the spark that was missing for over an hour and the sudden appearance of characters played by Dakota Fanning and Michael Sheen just make you wonder why the middle part wasn’t just filmed in fast-forward mode.
2 pieces of howling at the moon toast
Precious: Based on the Novel PUSH by Sapphire (R)
Starring: Gabourey “Gabbie” Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Paula Patton, Lenny Kravitz
Director: Lee Daniels
Oprah Whinfrey and Tyler Perry are the cheerleaders and producers of this gritty (like gravel made of broken glass) darling of Cannes and Sundance. Precious is an incestuously pregnant again, 16-year-old Harlem mother who manages to survive despite her nonexistent self-esteem, her physically and emotionally abusive parents, and a school that provides a nice place to sleep.
Not for everyone (in fact, not for anyone who goes to the movies strictly for entertainment), this film is strongly acted, frighteningly believable and finally, after dozens of harrowing, “I can’t believe I just saw what I did” scenes, provides a story of transformational redemption.
4 pieces of powerfully and frighteningly realistic toast
NEW ON DVD
Star Trek (PG-13)
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Zoe Soldana, Eric Bana
Director: J.J. Abrams
It is appropriate that a TV writer/director (“Alias,” “Lost”) should take the venerable TV series created by Gene Roddenberry 42 years ago, and successfully bring it back to where no one has gone before—the past. A whole new cast creates 21st century versions of 20th century icons Kirk, Spock, Sulu, Scott, Chekov, McCoy and Uhura and the chemistry is quite different this time around. Play-it-by-the-book Spock would detest the fast-fisted Kirk—if he allowed himself to display his emotions. And the USS Enterprise isn’t the shiny plastic toy we grew up with, it’s a well-used battleship with rusty bolts, chipped paint and transporter that still won’t work when they need it. Cool.
4 pieces of reincarnated magic toast
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen
Director: Larry Charles
The talented comedian who brought us “Borat” imports another visitor (this time it’s a gay Austrian dude), to trek across America and confound the natives. There are some laugh-out-loud moments, some thoughtful chuckling moments, and some wincing-in-discomfort moments, but Cohen certainly knows how to keep our attention.
3 pieces of choreographed discomfort Toast
Is Anybody There? (PG-13)
Starring: Michael Caine, David Morrissey, Anne-Marie Duff, Bill Milner
Director: John Crowley
The story (about the ravages of Aging and the wonders of Youth) has been told before (“Harold and Maude” comes to mind), but this time around, it is Michael Caine’s twinkle-eyed, curmudgeon who you love to watch as he effortlessly steals every scene (and he’s competing against a talented ten-year old, and you know how difficult W.C. Fields said that was).
3 pieces of watch it for Michael Caine toast