Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 6/17/11

Green Lantern fizzles out, 13 Assassins achieves Samurai greatness

Green Lantern (PG-13)
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively. Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong
Directed by: Martin Campbell
I was confused by the trailers they sent critics for this movie. I didn’t understand what was going on or who the different characters were. Watching the completed film hasn’t helped much. First off—the title. Turns out there isn’t one Green Lantern, but a corps of warriors with each one wearing a magical Green Lantern ring. The designated hero, is a womanizing fighter pilot, bad , who blames everyone else but himself for all his speeding tickets, and boorish, self-obsessed chauvinist who sets up his female coworker as expendable bait while destroying billion-dollar fighter aircraft simply to win a computer-simulated dogfight. No wonder he is a disappointment to his family. He is also a disappointment to fans of his Marvel Comics origins. If the filmmakers had tried just a little bit harder, it might have been comical, but the director, the actors, and the screenwriters (who obviously never finished that “How to Write a Script” book), approach everything way too seriously.
1 and 1/2 pieces of  SKIP IT toast

Mr. Popper’s Penguins (PG)
Starring: Jim Carrey, Carla Guigino, Angela Lansbury, Ophelia Lovibond
Directed by: Mark Waters
I don’t know who decided that poop jokes were a required facet of every kid-oriented movie. This time, it’s penguin poop, and the target is Jim Carrey’s rubber mask of a face. I vaguely recall reading the book as a child, and it involved a midwestern housepainter who wins a penguin in a contest. The penguin lives in the family’s icebox, but yearns for companionship, and so trips are taken to the zoo and circus to find a mate. However, none of this has anything to do with the movie. All that remains is the title, and the rest is Jim Carrey acting like himself in front of a bluescreen even though the penguins are real and not just CG effects. The result is pretty generic, although there is some poignancy as Mr. Popper (AKA Jim Carrey) confronts middle age.
Good for the kids if it’s raining really hard or it’s really, really hot outside.
2 pieces of Jim Carrey toast

The Tree of Life (PG-13)
Starring: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, Fiona Shaw
Directed by: Terrence Malick
If Monty Python hadn’t already used the title, “The Meaning of Life” would have been a good one for this film, but if you like movies with beginnings, middles and ends, this isn’t going to be your cup of tea. Director Terrence Malick uses a fractured timeline to create impressions of events in various pasts and presents. Ostensibly, it is the story of one man’s childhood and adulthood—of the stern father and ethereal mother who raised him and the father he has become himself. It is also about evolving from the primordial ooze of prehistory, growing up as a baby boomer in Waco Texas, the transcendence of the aurora borealis, and a filmmaker who presents us with an his own, very personal, artistic vision. In one way, this film completes the Texas Trilogy Malick started with “Badlands” and “Days of Heaven,” but on another level, it is as enigmatic as the ending of Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
3 and 1/2  pieces of Terrence Malick toast

13 Assassins (R)
Starring: Kojia Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Masachiko Ishimura. Koji Yakusho
Directed by: Takashi Miike
Both Akira Kurisawa and Eichi Kudo fans will delight in the cinematography, intensity, vividness and genius of Takashi Miike’s samurai epic. Set when Japan’s feudal system is breaking down, unemployed samurai knights come together to defeat a sadistic warlord before he can destroy Japan. As a bonus, the long, longer, longest sword fighting scene ever filmed is destined to become a classic.
4 pieces of Samurai artistry toast

The Art of Getting By (PG-13)
Narrated by: Freddie Highmore, Emma Roberts, Michael Angarano
Directed by: Gavin Wiesen
If you have rich parents, an inflated ego, and have never earned a dime or worked hard for anything in your life, than this film is a perfect fit, but the rest of us might have trouble relating to the pseudo angst of it all. Freddie Highmore, who was so enchanting as the kite-flying youngster who inspired J. M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) in “Finding Neverland,” has grown up enough to take on the role of the self-obsessed young adult character who describes himself as a “teflon slacker.” But the sweetness he brought to the screen is abandoned in favor of striving for cultish standing in the mold of “Rushmore,” or “Say Anything.”
2 pieces of only for very limited demographic toast

Hall Pass (R)
Starring: Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Christina Applegate
Directed by: Peter & Bobby Farrelly
Two buddies are given a “hall pass” by their wives before their 20th anniversary. This means the guys can act like adolescents for a week, and not suffer any consequences (except,of course, STDs, broken bones and criminal records). Filled with racial and homophobic stereotypes, the Farrelly brothers are equal opportunity offenders frantically trying to reclaim the “magic touch” they  found with “There’s Something About Mary” way back in 1998.
1 and 1/2 pieces of crude comedy that misses the mark toast

Little Red Riding Hood (PG-13)
Starring: Amanda Seyfried,Gary Oldman, Julie Christie, Virginia Madsen
Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke
There are ten minutes of really good movie in this 99 minute film. This shows that with a little more time and effort, the filmmakers could have really done something special with their semi-plausible retelling of the classic fairy tale. Instead we are left with a realization that Neil Jordan’s “The Company of Wolves”  and last year’s Swedish import “Let the Right One In,” are in an entirely different league.
1 and 1/2 pieces of too grim a fairy tale toast