Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 4/22/11

Water for Elephants plods along, African Cats is nature Disney-style

Water For Elephants (PG-13)
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Paul Schneider
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Saddled with Robert Pattinson’s lifeless performance, the love affair that sizzled and soared on the pages of Sara Gruen’s novel is as ponderous as an elephant onscreen.
1 and 1/2 pieces of read the book instead toast

African Cats (PG-13)
Narrated by: Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by: Alastair Fothergill, Keith Scholey
Walt Disney transformed nature films when he told his editors that “all seals look alike” for his “Seal Island” film. So ever since, tales of animal “families” contain shots of different, but similar-looking animals. This same technique works with lions, so Mara the lion cub has stand-ins for some of her scenes.  Loaded with amazingly photography, this 21st Century movie adroitly manages to put the reality of predation front and center while keeping a kid-friendly tone.
3 and 1/2 pieces of Kenyan cats toast

Even the Rain (NR)
Starring: Louis Tosar, Gael Garcia Bernal, Juan CArlos Aduviri, Karra Elejalde, Carlos Santos
Directed by: Iciar Bollain

Dedicated to historian Howard Zinn, a film crew making a revisionist movie about Christopher Columbus in Bolivia hires a local activist to play a native chieftan. When the actor is arrested by the government, the tightly budgeted film project is threatened and ancient imperialist tendencies rise to the surface.

3 pieces of intriguing and engaging toast

Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family (PG-13)
Starring: Isaih Mustafa, Loretta Divine, Shad “Bow Wow” Moss, Tyler Perry
Directed by: Tyler Perry
Madea’s niece Shirley, tries to gather the family together to let them know some disastrous medical news, but egos and personal priorities intrude.
Tyler Perry does not show previews to critics

Gulliver’s Travels (PG-13)
Starring: Jack Black, Emily Blunt, Billy Connelly, Amanda Peet
Directed by: Rob Letterman
An aspiring travel writer heads off to the Bermuda Triangle and ends up on the shores of Lilliput, where its 6-inch-high inhabitants first tie the guy up and then have him be a match-maker for the king’s daughter. Except for the title and big guy/little-people concept, little of the classic Jonathan Swift satire remains and the studios are so afraid of the result that they didn’t show the film to critics.
Unavailable for screening

The Way Back (PG-13)
Starring: Jim Sturges, Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, Saoirse Ronan
Directed by: Peter Weir
In the 1950s, a Polish refugee wrote a book about his escape from a Siberian prison and his harrowing 4000 mile trek to freedom in India. Abetted in his trek by an enigmatic American, a member of the Russian Mafia, and a Polish girl they meet along the way, this unlikely group combats the sub-zero climates, natural roadblocks, and unimaginable tracts of barren nothingness in a literally chilling (and somehwat unbelievable) tale of determination and survival.
3 pieces of long walk toast

The Rabbit Hole (R)
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Sandra Oh
Directed by: John Cameron Mitchell
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross would instantly recognize the alternative reactions the Corbetts have to the senseless accidental death of their four-year-old son. She is angry—lashing out when someone tries to offer consolation by suggesting: “God needed another angel.”  He is in denial—still keeping a car seat strapped in the back of his car. She bakes and gardens obsessively. He tries to establish a connection with another woman in their support group. But by the end of the film, we know the couple is going to emerge from the rabbit hole and begin to live again.
3 pieces of strongly acted 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” was nominated for dozens of awards and earned a Best Actor Oscar for Collin Firth.
4 pieces of stiff upper lip toast