Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
New Releases for 7/15/11
Final Harry Potter is grand, Winnie the Pooh is gentle
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (PG-13)
Starring: Daniel Radcliff, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon
Directed by: David Yates
The franchise that began a decade ago, ends with a satisfying emotional roller-coaster of a film which this generation will recall with delight a half century from now. And that is no small accomplishment. The fifth graders who who began their training at Hogwarts are all grown up, and the story line is as mature, sure-footed, and nuanced as the actors who have lived these roles for a decade. The final showdown is a man-to-man duel between HArry Potter and Lord Valdemort — a battle of good vs. evil for the future of Wizards and Muggles alike. This is a must-see film for all but the very young (it’s scary as Hell).
4 pieces of grand conclusion toast
Winnie the Pooh (G)
Starring the voices of: Jim Cummings, Craig Ferguson, Bud Luckey, Tom Kenny, Travis Oates, Kristin Anderson-Lopez, John Cleese, Zooey Deschanel
Directed by: Stephen J.Anderson, Don Hall
The classic A.A. Milne story first was a lovable 1966 Disney feature film narrated by Sebastian Cabot and featuring the very recognizable voice of Sterling Holloway as the “bear with little brain.” But today’s youngsters exist in media overload, and so the studio decided to “re-imagine” the story for the here and now. The result is exceptionally well done. The story line is tighter, the computer generated drawings sharper, and the pacing clips along (the film is a brief 63 minutes). But the best of the original—the quest for huney, the importance of friendship, the quirkiness of each character—these are left intact, and the result is delightfully entertaining visit to a very kind and gentle world of childhood.
3 and 1/2 pieces of Hundred Acre Wood toast
A Better Life (PG-13)
Starring: Jose Julian, Damien Bichir, Delores Heredia
Directed by:Chris Weitz
The storyline seems almost too trite—undocumented Latino gets a chance at the American Dream, only to have his truck and tools stolen. So he and his defiant teen son hit the hard streets of LA to find and recover his property. Along the way, the two encounter hardships, prejudice, violence, humility and kindness and build a lasting father/son bond.
2 and 1/2 pieces of well acted, but trite storyline toast
NEW ON DVD
Starring the voices of: Jonny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
The man who directed Johnny Depp in three “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, creates an animated spaghetti western landscape (the Nevada desert), filled with bug-eyed monsters (chameleons and other reptiles) riding feathered steeds (roadrunners and other desert birds) while wearing cowboy garb and six-guns. Unlike anything I have seen or imagined, and filled with humor directed at adults (but, not what is called adult humor) the story is about a pet lizard who is dumped into a desert town populated by indigenous reptilian, mammalian, avian and arachnid denizens of the desert and quickly has a sheriff’s tin star pinned to his vest. Strange, bizarre delightful, surreal, and occasionally brilliant (like the galloping posse ride accompanied by banjos playing Wagnerian opera), I loved it.
3 and 1/2 pieces of now for something completely different toast
Starring: Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Greta Gerwig, Jennifer Garner, Nick Nolte, Luis Guzman
Directed by: Jason Winer
Acting on the assumption that younger audiences don’t know who Dudley Moore was, and do know Russell Brand, Hollywood has made a remake of “Arthur,” the 1981 classic story of a pampered, billionaire who never really grew up. Remembered most for John Gielgud’s droll delivery of the line “I’ll alert the media,” when Arthur says he will take a bath, the butler has inexplicably been transformed into an older woman. The script stays annoyingly true to the original film while throwing some “updated” set pieces on screen. For example, Arthur dresses as Batman while his chauffeur is Robin, and the two race around the streets of Manhattan in their own Batmobile. (How much funnier it would have been if Arthur played Arthur, Batman’s butler). Another “update,” has Arthur grappling with his alcoholism—with the help of crude one-liners.
2 pieces of unoriginal remake toast
The Lincoln Lawyer (R)
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomeii, Ryan Phillipe, William H. Macey
Directed by: Brad Furman
A lawyer whose office is his automobile, unexpectedly finds himself defending a rich client who may actually be innocent. Stylishly directed in a Los Angeles we are familiar with from post-noir detective tales, this film has some standout performances, some reasonable plot twists and an entertainment value that hints at several sequels.
3 pieces laid back LA toast