Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
New Releases for 3/25/11
Sucker Punch (PG-13)
Starring: Emily Browning, Jena Malone, Abbie Cornish, Jamie Chung
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Using the “actors in front of a blue-screen” style developed for his “300,” Zack Snyder creates video game backdrops and CG-enhanced cleavage and crotch shots in a film purportedly championing female empowerment. Based upon popular themes in Manga (the pornographic Japanese cartoons where nubile female victims trapped in mental institutions, prisons, schools, dungeons, brothels or hospitals are sexually exploited by males, females and something in between called Futanari), this film somehow manages to eke out a PG-13 rating. Here, a young woman named Babydoll is sent to a mental institution for a lobotomy by her stepfather. Summoning imaginary saviors called Sweet Pea, Rocket, Blondie and Amber, implausible escapes are attempted and battles waged against Godzilla and Transformer type enemies. Adolescent males will love it.
2 pieces of logic and the laws of physics don’t apply toast
Of Gods and Men (PG-13)
Starring: Lambert Wilson, Michael Lonsdale, Olivier Rabourdin
Directed by: Xavier Beauvois
Trappist monks in an Algerian monestary become unlikely heroes when Islamic fundamentalists appear at their door with a wounded fighter. We have learned to appreciate the insulated certainty and quiet beauty of the monks daily rituals, and instantly recognize the peril to body and soul these strangers pose. Decisions must be made quickly. The Algerian government wants the monks to abandon their bastion of Christianity, the local villagers want the monks international visibility as a shield against Islamic violence, and the real-life climax is more engrossing than anything Hollywood can imagine.
4 pieces of truly great toast
The Last Lions (PG)
Narrated by: Jeremy Irons
Directed by: Dereck Joubert
The rapidly disapearing wild lions of Botswana are the real stars in this National Geographic special. Human poaching, natural disasters, diseases and, most importantly, human land grabs, have reduced the numbers of lions to only 5% of their numbers in under fifty years. Using the Disney nature-film approach, the filmmakers focus on a single pride of lions to make their struggles more human-like. The photography is astounding, but this critic easily saw through the manipulation of time and space and the use of several different lions for the various characters for the sake of the storyline. To add an ironic twist the narrator was the voice of the murderous uncle, Scar in Disney’s “The Lion King.”
NOTE: With some very graphic hunting and fighting scenes, this film is not recommended for young children (and even some adults).
3 pieces of carefully plotted wildlife documentary toast
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (R)
Starring: Zachary Gordon, Devon Bostick, Greyson Russell, Steve Zahn
Directed by: David Bowers
This sequel based on Jeff Kinney’s popular middle-school diaries, is set in seventh grade and is decidedly less entertaining than the first film. With a baby brother old enough to talk and an older brother intent on “torturing” him, poor Greg Heffley has teachers who pigeon-hole him as a loser, and a mom who uses money as an incentive for sibling cooperation. The result is surprisingly insipid.
1 and 1/2 pieces of wimpy in a bad way toast
Jane Eyre (PG-13)
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Judi Dench
Directed by: Cary Fukanaga
Charlotte Bronte’s 1847 romantic novel, has been filmed countless times, and this new film shakes up the story by telling it in flashbacks. The result is less “true to the original” than earlier versions starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine or William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsbourg, and opens with a hysterical woman escaping from the Gothic darkness of Thornfield Hall. My impression is that the filmmakers made artistic choices to appeal to audiences familiar with “Twilight” and similar films, and financially, it’s a wise decision.
3 pieces of pieces of “to Eyre is human” toast
NEW ON DVD
Starring: Carmine Famiglietti, Miriam Shor, Sharon Angela, Michael Aronov
Directed by: Matthew Bonafaccio
Those of us lucky enough to see actor/screenwriter Carmine Famiglietti in “Amexicano” at the 2008 Sonoma Valley Film Festival may recall him telling us about his first film “Lbs.” Searching for a distributor, this heartfelt Indie about a 300 pound Brooklyn bus driver’s life-threatening glimpse at his own mortality, and his self-imposed banishment upstate to a dilpidated trailer miles away from any fast-food joint was a nominee for a 2011 John Cassavettes Independent Spirit Award and has just become available on DVD. Wryly humorous, often insightful, this is a film that captures Americans deep in the gut— and the funny bone.
3 and 1/2 pieces of in for a penny toast
Yogi Bear (PG)
Starring the voices of : Dan Ackroyd, Justin Timberlake, Anna Farris,Tom Cavanagh
Director: Eric Brevig
They did it with “Garfield” and “Scooby Do,” and they again foolishly combine animated 3-D versions of 2-D icons with live actors and backgrounds because……? I don’t have the slightest idea. Dan Aykroyd is only marginal as Yogi’s voice and Justin Timberlake was cast as Boo Boo because he “imitated various cartoon characters when I was younger.” If you’ve seen the TV ads, you’ve seen the funny bits. All seem to involve Yogi flying through the air and then smashing into something. Rent the original Hanna-Barbera cartoons instead.
1 and 1/2 pieces of only good for babysitting the kids toast
How Do You Know (PG-13)
Starring Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owne Wilson, Jack Nicholson
Director: James L.Brooks
A recently retired softball player is romantically involved with a nice guy and a cad, but since the nice guy is going to jail for something his father (Jack Nicholson) did, she’s stuck with the smiling womanizer. To keep things simple, let’s just say the words “It’s Bad?” should be added to the film’s title.
2 pieces of not really that interesting toast
The Tourist (PG-13)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Paul Bettany, Timothy Dalton
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
It sounds like a good idea—put two box office stars together and cast him against type as a junior college math teacher and her as a female James Bond and hire the German director whose film about domestic spying in Cold War Berlin won the Best Foreign Language Oscar and giveg them a “North By Northwest” style script and you get… a complete disaster. It’s as formulaic as they come, with speedboat races, explosions, gunfights, car chases and bedroom scenes clicked off like they were llisted on a clipboard. At least it lets us know Rufus Sewell is still alive and well.
1 piece of a should have been released in the February doldrums toast