Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
New Releases for 6/10/11
Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer (PG)
Starring: Jordana Beatty, Heather Graham, Paris Mosteller, Preston Bailey, Garrett Ryan, Taylar Hender
Directed by: John Schultz
Sebastopol’s Megan McDonald co-wrote the screenplay for “Judy Moody and the NOT bummer Summer” from her “over 10 million sold” series of children’s books. Inside the book’s pages and on Judy’s website, there is a sweetness to the precocious third grader, and this likeability is amplified by Peter H. Reynolds simply drawn illustrations. Unfortunately, the good natured fun which is a hallmark of the books gets transformed into brash, brightly colored, merchandise hawking blandness. Most of this is the Nickelodeon/Disney Channel inspired direction where the actors act like they are acting. Every closeup has eyes rolling, mouths gesticulating, and heads gesturing. When I interviewed Megan McDonold on my KRCB-FM radio show “Word By Word: Conversations With Writers,” she told me how incidents in the book were inspired by her own childhood memories and activities of her children and their friends. Hometownish, nostalgic, endearing, and just a little bit gross (in a Sebastopudlian, kid-friendly way of course) in print, Judy Moody deserved a lighter, more loving touch on screen
2 pieces of frankly disappointing toast
Starring: Lubna Azabal, Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin, Maxime Gaudette
Directed by: Denis Villeneueve
It is important to note that this film was made in Canada. It has the clear-eyed modesty of great story telling with North of the Border sensibilities. In lesser hands, the story would be overdone and melodramatic, but here, less is more and the result is gut-wrenchingly real. It is about modern-day holy war. Medieval-like holy war where one group of people hates another group of people because of injustices committed thousands of years ago. It is about the role of women in these societies, and the power wielded by patriarchy. It is about family loyalties, generational legacies, and the curse of intransigence. It is powerful, realistic, and about as un-Hollywood as you can imagine.
3 and 1/2 pieces of Canadian sensibilities toast
Super 8 (PG-13)
Starring: Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Joel Courtney, Amanda Michalka
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Stephen Spielberg is the star of this Speilbergian homage. His name is listed as Producer, but director J.J. Abrams recreates camera angles, lighting effects, and fresh-faced performances that harken back to a time when special effects weren’t as important as a strong screenplay. The film is set in a small Ohio town in 1979 where local teens shooting a super-8 movie become involved in something much, much bigger than they ever imagined. It recaptures the less cynical and jaded age of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and “E.T.” by being fun, intelligent and entertaining.
3 and 1/2 pieces of Spielbergian toast
Queen to Play (NR)
Starring: Kevin Kline, Sandrine Bonnaire, Jeenifer Beals
Directed by: Caroline Bottaro
A maid who eavesdrops on a couple playing chess as a game of seduction becomes infatuated with the game of kings, learns to play better and better and ends up taking on the immodest males who dominate the sport. The story deserved a more skillful director. Too many scenes fizzle en passant.
2 pieces of feeling rooked toast
Winston Churchill: Walking With Destiny (NR)
Narrated by: Ben Kingsley
Directed by: Richard Trank
The man who single-handedly (with the help of millions of others) defeated Nazi Germany, is the centerpiece of this well researched and documented film about Winston Churchill, but it is the tangential stories of “little people” and “little-known events” that make this film so fascinating. History buffs will love it, but the rest of us can wait for it to arrive on The History Channel.
3 pieces of fascinating historical toast
NEW ON DVD
Another Year (PG-13)
Starring: Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, Imelda Staunton, Oliver Maltman
Directed by: Mike Leigh
Mike Leigh assembles his trademark ensemble of outstanding actors to confront middle age in diverse ways (drinking, flirting, eating, pontificating, etc.). One character sums it up by saying “I’m really comfortable with where I am in my life,” and then downs her fifth highball of the evening. Another gives her life “a 1 on a scale from 1 to 10.” The same group gathers seasonally for weather dictated barbecues or cocktail parties, and as we move from spring to winter, a distinct chill pervades the gathering. Bridges which took decades to construct are in danger of being burned, kindnesses may have hidden motives, and the audience is entranced by a masterpiece without a single explosion, car chase, or slo-mo Ninja.
4 pieces of Mike Leigh style toast
True Grit (PG-13)
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, Hailee Steinfeld
Directed by: Ethan & Joel Coen
John Wayne earned an Oscar for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn in the original 1969 version of this tale. Now the Coen brothers hand-pick the comic, ironic and most violent parts of the Charles Portis novel and plunk Jeff Bridges in Rooster’s well-worn saddle and let-out jeans. The story is one of revenge, as a 14-year-old girl hires a worn-out lawman to track down her father’s murderer but it is the combination of mood, style, and honesty that mark this film as outstanding.
4 pieces of Coen Brothers Toast