Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 1/21/11
The Rite (R)
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Alice Braga, Colin O’Donoghue, Toby Jones, Rutger Hauer
Directed by: Mikael Hafstrom
The title cards tell us there are Vatican-certified exorcists plying their trade today (fourteen in the US alone), so you would think there could (and should) be more to this story instead of just Anthony Hopkins now overly familiar bag of actor’s tricks and some updated special effects.
1 and 1/2 pieces of overacting toast

The Mechanic (R)
Starring: Jason Stratham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland
Directed by: Simon West
The 1972 film by the same name starred Charles Bronson, and is best remembered for its wordless, 15-minute opening sequence where an assassination is meticulously developed. Flash forward to modern day New Orleans where an experienced hit man is training the grown-up son of his recently murdered mentor in between sexual liaisons with a gorgeous French Quarter call girl. Add a dollop of explosions, car chases, and tongue-in-cheek dialogue presented with the patented Stratham grimace or grin, and you have the backdrop to a well-constructed bit of escapism where the cleverness of how the hits are constructed and carried out is more important than the deeds themselves.
3 pieces of better than the original toast

From Prada to Nada (PG-13)
Starring: Camille bell, Alexa Vega, Adrianna Barazza, Wilmer Valderama
Directed by: Angel Gracia
Spoiled Beverly Hills sisters must suddenly learn to embrace their Mexican ancestry when their father’s death leaves them penniless and so they move in with relatives in Boyle Heights. Plays like a pilot for a TV sitcom and even features some familiar faces from old TV shows.
2 pieces of harmless enough toast

Somewhere (R)
Starring: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fannig,
Directed by: Sofia Coppola
Sofia Coppola’s films lack a beginning, middle and end. Instead, they show us bits of people’s lives. The focus in this darling of the Cannes Film Festival is a movie star completely disconnected from pleasure. He hires twin strippers to perform pole dances, but stares past their athletic activity to the empty wall behind them. HIs daughter comes for the visiting time negotiated in the divorce and despite a forced smile or two, the actor is still alone in the hotel room. It sounds depressing, but Coppola uses her personal experiences with celebrity to make it work.
3 and 1/2 pieces of Sofia Coppola style toast

Red (PG-13)
Starring: Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Mary-Louise Parker
Directed by: Robert Scwentke
Taking it’s clue from the slew of action hero stars assembled by Sly Stallone for his “The Expendables,” this film recruits: the fellow who saved earth from destruction, the woman who was Queen of England, the original Hannibal Lector and the man who made the first vampire film come together in what may be the biggest pile of talent ever assembled. Unfortunately, the script and situations created for these supposedly retired former CIA operatives doesn’t do much but demand that the oldsters look good while out-shooting, out-thinking, and definitely out-acting everyone half their age and younger.
2 and 1/2 pieces where else can you catch Helen Mirren firing a machine gun? toast

Secretariat (PG)
Starring: Diane Lane, John Malkovich, Dylan Walsh, Dylan Baker
Directed by: Randall Wallace
We knew Seabiscuit, and Secretariat is no Seabiscuit.  That is true for both horses and movies. The filmmakers want us to root for an under dog (under horse?)  and Diane Lane plays Secretariat’s owner as a plucky survivor, but “survival” is a relative term when you are the daughter of a millionaire. So we are left with the tale of a fast horse, a strangely garbed trainer, and a rival horse owner who reminds us of someone who owns a sheep-herding pig named Babe. Its pretty, but it lacks drama.
2 pieces of just another horserace or three toast