Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 5/27/11
Kung Fu Panda Part 2 (PG)
The Voices of: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Gary Oldman. Michelle Yeoh, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogan, Lucy Liu, James Hong
Directed by: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Using the tried and true combination of wit, talent and intelligence, this sequel is often better than the original. Despite his less than supportive parents, Po the chubby panda is now a full-fledged warrior and when an invading peacock general and his wolves threaten all of China he uses a combination of kung-fu, ancient wisdom, fireworks and a climactic battle at sea to save the day.
3 and 1/2 pieces of 3-D visual delight toast
The Hangover Part II (R)
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifanakis, Justin Bertha
Directed by: Lynn Roth
Two years after the gang’s Vegas trip celebrating Doug’s last days of bachelorhood, it’s Stu’s time to head to the altar. The result is more like a remake with the same actors than a sequel and by relocating the crudity to Bangkok (complete with sex clubs prostitutes and a smoking monkey), it slips pretty close to an NC-17 rating. Second time around, it’s more depressing than funny.
1 and 1/2 pieces of warmed over toast
Better World (R)
Starring: Michael Persbrandt, Trine Denholm, Ulrich Thomsen, Marcus Rygaard
Directed by: Susanne Bier
Shakespeare linked the words “melancholy Dane” together, and this film shows they still apply. School bullying in a small Danish town is presented in counterpoint to that of a psychopathic African warlords when a smaller weaker boy named Elias is taunted on the playground by his Danish classmates because he comes from Sweden. A stronger, but in many ways more vulnerable boy named Christian has just moved to the village and he goes to Elias‘ defense in increasingly more violent ways. Thought provoking but flawed in it’s story telling, it might have been stonger without the African scenes. No matter, it was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar.
2 and 1/2 pieces of just misses the mark toast
Forks Over Knives (PG)
Directed by: Lee Fulkerson
Little attempt is made by the filmmakers to be balanced in their presentation. Eating meat and dairy products will make you sick, and avoiding these foods will prevent you from getting diabetes, heart disease and cancer. That’s it. Period. End of discussion. The fact that humans are omnivores, and that meat proteins include essential enzymes and proteins not available in a strictly plant-based diet is disregarded. As is the difficulty of shifting to a completely vegan lifestyle in urban America. It’s easy they say in the film. But it’s not say all my vegetarian friends.
2  pieces of preaching to the veggie choir toast
The First Grader (PG-13)
Starring: Oliver Litando, Naomie Harris
Directed by: Justin Chadwicke
This is a heartwarming film about a determined old man in the mode of  “The Straight Story.” It tells the true tale of an 84-year-old Kenyan man who comes to the local elementary school to learn to read when he hears that the government is offering a free primary school education. There is not really much more to the story. The man is charming, the teacher exasperated at first, the children are cute and sweet, and the parents and community are upset. That’s it.  End of story. If you think the man will mange all obstacles and will learn to read, raise you hand.
2 and 1/2 pieces of sweet and very predictable toast
NEW ON DVD
Gnomeo and Juliet (G)
Starring the voices of: James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Maggie Smith, Jason Stratham, Ozzie Osbourne, Hulk Hogan
Directed by: Kelly Asbury
Not content with stealing the story from William Shakespeare, the filmmakers unwisely add Elton John’s songs and rhinestone-studded persona along with dozens of other, dated pop-culture references to what was supposed to be a tragedy. But of course, those plaster statues cluttering up your great aunt’s garden aren’t really alive. So why, with belief suspended, did they resort to the “lets throw it against the wall and see what sticks” approach?
2 pieces of mediocre Disney toast