Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 2/18/11

I Am Number 4 (PG-13)
Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, Dianna Agron,
Directed by: Kevin MacDonald
Although the soulful eyes and chiseled musculature of the star has teens hearts fluttering, this English import can’t act and so severely handicap’s the film’s watchability. John Smith is a good alien (from space) who frequently changes high schools because the bad guy aliens are killing his kind—one by one. Three are already dead, and he is 4th on the list. His newest school  is populated by cliques (jocks, nerds, etc.) including the cheerleader former girlfriend of the star quarterback. Smarter than she looks, she falls for John Smith’s glowing personality (Really, he glows like that mysterious briefcase in Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction”).
Two pieces of this could have really been something toast
Unknown (PG-13)
Starring: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aiden Quinn
Directed by: Juame Collett-Serra
It is probably a symptom of the times that there are a slew of paranoia-fueled films where a faceless international conglomerate messes with the hero’s life. Liam Neeson reacts with lots of jaw clenching, yelling and running around when he awakens from an automobile accident in Berlin to discover his identity (and wife) have been co-opted by another man. Starts well, but soon dissolves into one improbable manipulation after another.
1 and 1/2 pieces of this one needs a better script toast

Barney’s Version (R)
Starring: Paul Giammai, Dustin Hoffman, Minnie Driver
Directed  by: Richard J. Lewis
Soap opera producer Barney Panofsky is a social mess. Loud, obnoxious, sexist, racist and psychologically tormented by Jewish angst, after two failed marriages, he suddenly finds himself  thrust into the “marriagable” status. When a “classy shicksa” captures his attention,  this oaf pursues her with ruthless determination. You will have to decide if you like this character enough to rush past the ick-factor and appreciate his universality.
3 pieces of flawed personality toast

Cedar Rapids (R)
Starring: Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, Sigourney Weaver
Directed by: Miguel Arteta
When the unexpected death of Wisconsin’s top insurance salesman thrusts the #2 guy into a sales convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the neophyte has a late-in-life coming-of age. For everything you have hear rumored about sales conventions is true (at least according to this film). High-calorie foods, bad jokes, boozing, rampant sexuality, with each hedonistic experience leading to the ultimate achievement—the coveted Two Diamonds Prize for top salesmanship. Although Alexander Payne produces, his sardonic wit is absent from the directors chair, and we end up with some great little scenes by the lead and his dozens of supporting cast members but a decided lack of a biting wholeness.
2 and 1/2 pieces of do you see who that actor is? toast

Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son (NR)
Starring: Martin Lawrence, Brandon T. Jackson, Jessica Lucas, Faizon Love
Directed by: John Whitesell
Father and son FBI agents don fat suits to go undercover at a girls school to find a killer, fat jokes follow.
Unavailable for preview

Unstoppable (PG-13)
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Ethan Suplee
Directed by: Tony Scott
Not content with stopping a subway train (“Pelham 123”) Denzel moves up to being engineer of a transcontinental freightliner loaded with toxic chemicals. He’s days away from retirement, hates his company bosses, and is saddled with a graduate fresh out of train conductor school. When they hear that an unmanned train is picking up speed as it heads for big city and potential big loss of lives and property. What should they do? If you think jumping on the speeding train and trying to get to the engine’s controls via the tops of the 99 cars, you’ve got the movie in a nutshell. Popcorn anyone?
3 pieces of metaphor filled toast
Waiting for Superman (PG)
Directed  By: Davis Guggenheim
The teachers unions are the villains and a certain principal the super hero in this self-labeled expose’ of public education in America. Starting with the premise that public schools (or at least those in major metropolitan areas) are failing to teach our children well, the man who brought you “An Inconvenient Truth” sets up his film to prove his own hypothesis— that private and charter schools are the solution. But it’s just a bit one-sided, and lacks the rigor of the debate about global warming.
3 pieces of you should see and talk about this documentary toast