Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

Week of 12/31/10

NOTE:  It’s All Holdovers This Week
Here’s The Best (Organized by Pieces of Toast):

Black Swan (R)
Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
If you, or someone you love, wore ballet slippers when they were young, and embraced the lurid bits in the original Grimm Brothers fairy tales, then this dark, and moody and Freudian-filled stage-door story is perfect. For like the wrestler in Aranofsky’s earlier critical success, the main characters shouldn’t be doing what they are doing‑but it is all they know and all they ever dreamed about. Lyrical and nightmarish at the same time, this is an intense psychological thriller designed to trigger the long-buried horrors of body image, eating disorders and obsessive mothers.
4 pieces of “en pointe” toast

The King’s Speech (R )
Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Derek Jacobi, Guy Pearce, Timothy Spall
Directed by: Tom Hooper
The shy and stuttering Duke of York never expected to be crowned King of England, but when his brother abdicates to marry an American divorcee, that’s exactly what happens. Like some really good reality TV show, this film shows us not only the glitz and glamour of the royals, but the behind closed doors reality of the pressures and challenges of facing down Hitler’s rapidly rising Nazis. The King’s secret weapon is a commoner—a failed actor hired to make George VI lose his stutter and give a sepech that will unite a nation in this time of crisis. Brilliant all around, “The King’s Speech” has been nominated for dozens of awards.
4 pieces of stiff upper lip toast

True Grit (PG-13)
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, Hailee Steinfeld
Directed by: Ethan & Joel Coen
John Wayne earned an Oscar for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn in the original 1969 version of this tale. Now the Coen brothers hand-pick the comic, ironic and most violent parts of the Charles Portis novel and plunk Jeff Bridges in Rooster’s well-worn saddle and let-out jeans. The story is one of revenge, as a 14-year-old girl hires a worn-out lawman to track down her father’s murderer but it is the combination of mood, style, and honesty that mark this film as outstanding.
4 pieces of Coen Brothers Toast

The Fighter (R)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, Amy Adams
Directed by: David O. Russell
Mickey Ward, a boxer who can “take a punch,” is surrounded by Monday-morning-quarterbacks. His drug-fueled half brother, his frying pan wielding mother, his seven harping sisters and everyone in the bars and pool halls of Lowell, Massachusetts constantly offer advice on how he should have fought his last bout. But he meets this girl see…and Mickey’s brutal business and loveless lifestyle could change for the better. Oscar-worthy performances elevate this dark and depressing film to its “must see.” status.
3 and 1/2 pieces of brutal fighting toast

Tamara Drew (R)
Starring: Gemma Arterton, Luke Evans, Roger Allum, Dominic Cooper
Director: Stephen Frears
Writers’ retreats are ripe and ready for farcical films, and this one, set in the English countryside “far from the madding crowd,” updates Thomas Hardy in ribald fashion. It seems that a nosejob has done wonders for the physical appearance (and sex life) of a young woman returning to her hometown as a successful writer. The others at the retreat are perfect foils in this comedy/drama that ends with every bad guy getting their just deserts and the good guys reaping the rewards.
3 and 1/2 pieces of you don’t have to be an English Lit major to enjoy this toast

127 Hours (R)
Starring: James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn, Treat Williams, Clemence Poesy
Director: Danny Boyle
A gonzo rock climber falls into a claustrophobic crevasse whith his arm pinned down by a huge boulder. Despairing of being rescue, his only option is to use his Swiss Army knife to cut off his arm. (P.S. Not for the squeemish, the arm in the movie is prosthetic, but it looks real).
3 pieces of nail-biting, one-armed toast

Tangled (PG)
Starring: Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Ron Perlman
Director: Nathan Greno, Byron Howard
The classic Grimm Brothers fairy tale, Rapunzel,  has been updated by Disney as their 50th animated feature film. The girl with the long blonde tresses has been locked away in a remote stone tower since she was a baby and is discovered by a traveling rogue. Comic antics and several songs follow.. Even though John Lassiter’s Pixar sensibilities can’t overcome the classic Disney formula) a feisty, doe-eyed heroine, a memorable villain, and a generically forgettable hero) it’s still good family fun.
3 pieces of Disney animation toast


Resident Evil: Afterlife (R)
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Kim Coates, Shawn Roberts
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Milla Jovovich is on record that she would never again appear in one of these films but money talks, and here she is, battling the Umbrella Corporation’s 3-D zombies in LA. I expected that the zombies would lurch off the screen and make people run, screaming, down the theater aisle, as everyone is sure they will become the zombies next meal.  Eeeeek! Only it didn’t happen. Instead, swords and axes and bullets and people fly towards us in frankly cheesy-looking 3-D.
1/2 pieces of sequel-mania, we’ve seen everything in this before toast

The American (R)
Starring: George Clooney, Paolo Bonacelli, Thekla Reuten, Violante Placido
Director: Anton Corbijn
The grizzled but still gorgeous George plays against type as a lonely master gunsmith/assassin called upon to do “one last job.” Despite its title, the filmmakers decided to make things feel and look European and the result is artistic and moody while we are used to fast-paced and moody.
3 pieces of art-house bound toast