Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 6/24/11
Cars 2 (G)
Starring the voices of: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine, John Turturro, Eddie Izard, Emily Mortimer, John Ratzenberger
Directed by: John Lasseter, Brad Lewis
I suppose it was inevitable that the folks at Pixar would finally make a misstep, but they should have know the Hollywood dictum:
“When sequels travel to Europe (i.e. National Lampoon’s European Vacation), boredom results.”

To compound things, the studio press release describes the movie using the cursed “hilarious,” (and you know what I think of that word!). The feeble premise is that race car Lightning McQueen heads to the World Grand Prix where he, and his sidekicks, get sidetracked from winning the fastest car contest by secret agents, mechanical breakdowns, alternative fuel failures, and femme fatales. The result is a mish-mash, with the Transformers-style changes ridiculous, the tow truck’s hillbilly persona wearing thin fast, and the hundreds of car-themed puns being downright “cartastrophic!”
2 pieces of buy the DVD for the kids toast

Bad Teacher (R)
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Molly Shannon
Directed by: Jake Kasden
The screenwriters get an A+ for the title and a D- for the movie. Essentially, it’s “Bad Santa” in a classroom, but where Billy Bob Thornton has the rough edges persona perfected to saw-blade sharpness, there’s something about Mary (oops,I mean Cameron) that makes four-letter-words, inappropriate body language, gold digging, and drug use seem out of character. There are hints which show how this could have evolved into a campy, “love and hate the character at the same time” movie, but either the studio chickened out, or it just wasn’t there in the first place. Strangely for a story set in a school, only a couple of the “students” get any screen time. The studio tacked on a happy ending and filled the soundtrack with comic music, but it simply isn’t enough to make this bomb float (hows that for mixing metaphors?)
1 and 1/2 pieces of Bad, Bad toast

Beginners (R)
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Melanie Laurent, Christopher Plummer, Goran Visnjic
Directed by: Mike Mills
Don’t let the premise of this film scare you away. A graphic artist reconnects with his father soon after his mother’s death, when he learns
1.) His 75-year-old father has cancer and will die soon.
2.) His father is gay.
3.) His father has a new, much younger, lover.
The director wrote the screenplay based on his own father’s late life revelations, and he cleverly uses photo montages and flashbacks to let us get to know the father and son over the years. It’s very well done, and Christopher Plummer’s Oscar-worthy performance makes it thoroughly enjoyable.
3 and 1/2  pieces of out-of-the-closet late-in-life toast

Princess of Montpensier (NR)
Starring: Melanie Thierry, Lambert Wilson,
Directed by: Bertrand Tavernier
Set in the France of the 1560’s, when Catholics and Protestants are fighting for each other’s annihilation, this film resounds with 21st Century sensibilities. The intelligent woman juggles the attention of four men at a time when most males make war, not love. With Tavernier,  a castle’s passageways, nooks and crannies are as important as the bedrooms and ballrooms in this sumptuous epic where hand-to-hand combat has none of the glamor of Hollywood movies.
3 pieces of Gallic history toast


The Adjustment Bureau (PG-13)
Starring: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, Shohreh Aghdashloo
Directed by: George Nolfi
This week’s best film about paranoia, starts with a story by Philip K. Dick combining science fiction with a mushy, love-at-first-sight romance. Our protagonist is a Senate candidate who meets the girl of his dreams in a hotel men’s room because, we believe, she crashed a wedding and is hiding from hotel security. In reality, this meeting was organized by two fedora and top coat wearing guys who know what the future will bring. Their next assignment is to make sure our hero never sees the girl again. Top notch performances and great direction allow us to forget the logical plot questions that haunt the back of our brains and allow us to enjoy the ride.
3 pieces of Philip K. Dick-style toast

Unknown (PG-13)
Starring: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aiden Quinn
Directed by: Juame Collett-Serra
It is probably a symptom of the times that there are a slew of paranoia-fueled films where a faceless international conglomerate messes with the hero’s life. Liam Neeson reacts with lots of jaw clenching, yelling and running around when he awakens from an automobile accident in Berlin to discover his identity (and wife) have been co-opted by another man. Starts well, but soon dissolves into one improbable manipulation after another.
1 and 1/2 pieces of this one needs a better script toast

The Eagle (PG-13)
Starring: Jamie Bell, Channing Tatum, Donald Sutherland, Mark Strong, Tahir Rahim
Directed by: Kevin MacDonald
At the northern outpost of Roman Britannia, a young commander attempts to regain the Empire’s glory and his family honor by reclaiming  the eagle standard his father lost twenty years earlier. This means battling against the fearsome warriors called the Painted Seal People and using all the CG special effects (with slo-mo blood and guts) people have learned to tolerate on TV’s “Spartacus.” But this film without women lacks the gratuitous female nudity and sex provided viewers on cable TV, and gives us lots of wordy, pontification with lines like “The eagle is not just a piece of metal. It is Rome.”
Two pieces of why do these movie Romans speak with Alabama accents? toast

Cedar Rapids (R)
Starring: Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, Sigourney Weaver
Directed by: Miguel Arteta
When the unexpected death of Wisconsin’s top insurance salesman thrusts the #2 guy into a sales convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the neophyte has a late-in-life coming-of age. For everything you have hear rumored about sales conventions is true (at least according to this film). High-calorie foods, bad jokes, boozing, rampant sexuality, with each hedonistic experience leading to the ultimate achievement—the coveted Two Diamonds Prize for top salesmanship. Although Alexander Payne produces, his sardonic wit is absent from the directors chair, and we end up with some great little scenes by the lead and his dozens of supporting cast members but a decided lack of a biting wholeness.
2 and 1/2 pieces of do you see who that actor is? toast