Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 7/22/11

Friends With Benefits, Captain America and The Double Hour all great

Friends With Benefits (R)
Starring: Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Emma Stone, Jenna Elfman, Woody Harrelson, Patricia Clarkson, Richard Jenkins, Shaun White
Directed by: Will Gluck
In case you didn’t know it, there is an ongoing battle between the NYC types and the LA types. Maybe it started with the Yankees vs Dodgers cross- town feud before one of those baseball teams moved west. Maybe it began even earlier when the movie studios left the bad weather in New York and New Jersey for sunny Hollywood. Whatever. When an intelligent and pretty NY headhunter recruits a quick-witted and handsome LA magazine editor for GQ Magazine, sparks fly. In an updated version of the great chemistry of Bogart/Bacall or Tracy/Hepburn, the two become friends—with benefits (meaning SEX). The only condition, no emotions are allowed, and the LOVE word must never be mentioned. But underneath it all is the constant challenges to the laid-back LA guy trying to fit into the fast-tracked NYC lifestyle. Great fun, and sexy too.
3 and 1/2 pieces of sexy in the city toast

Captain America: The First Avenger (PG-13)
Starring the voices of: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanly Tucci, Derek Luke.
Directed by: Joe Johnston
This retro-looking movie was inspired by a Marvel comic book and is saddled with the problem of trying to provide the “origins of” backstory for a super hero while tying it into comics which weren’t even on the drawing boards when the hero first appeared in print (i.e. The Avengers and Ironman). But with the aid of a well-crafted script, the director of “Jumanji,” “Hidalgo,” “October Sky,” and “The Rocketeer,” pulls it off. We start during WWII, when a wannabe soldier is labelled 4F—unfit for military service. So the classic 98-pound weakling volunteers for a top-secret Charles Atlas program that literally stretches and molds him into shape. Instead of embracing their new super-soldier, the Army dresses him a patriotically colored skin-tight suit and sends him on a publicity tour. Meanwhile, the evil Nazis are creating their own brand of super soldier by using the Norse God Odin’s power source. Do we sense a battle coming?
3 pieces of Marvel Comics toast

The Double Hour (NR)
Starring: Kseniya Rappoport, Filippo Timo, Antonio Truppo
Directed by:Chris Weitz
A Russian chambermaid from a Turin hotel meets a security guard on a singles date-night. They take a picnic lunch to a mansion whose owners are on vacation where masked thieves with moving vans arrive, steal everything, and tie up the hapless witnesses. Chekov’s gun appears, and everything goes off kilter. First-time director Giuseppe Capotondo leads us on exciting mind game of suppositions, raised expectations and inspired plot twists that should keep audiences guessing until the last reel, where everything is neatly tied-up.
3 and 1/2  pieces of this should surprise you toast

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (R)
Starring: Gianna Jun, Li Bingbing, Vivian Wu, Hugh Jackman
Directed by: Wayne Wang
I interviewed novelist Lisa See on my KRCB-FM Word By Word: Conversations With Writers show last year, and I wonder what she thinks now about the movie made from her book. It is a muddled mish-mash of flashbacks trying to parallel the agony of Chinese foot-binding with the self-inflicted pain of high heeled shoes while these women survive the constant pressures from their Chinese mothers. Oh, did I mention Hugh Jackman appears singing in Mandarin Chinese from the stage of an Australian nightclub? It works on YouTube but not in this movie.
1  piece of soggy Chop Suey toast


Take Me Home Tonight (R)
Starring: Dan Fogler, Topher Grace, Anna Farris, Teresa Palmer
Directed by: Michael Dowse
The 80’s rock soundtrack and the older Topher Grace lead me to believe that this was going to be an R-rated “That 70’s Show,” but instead, it is a familiar retread of raunchy material from other, much funnier films. The year is 1988, and Grace plays a recent MIT graduate without a clue about what to do next, so he moves back with his California parents and works in a video store. Sound familiar? Just under lethal quantities of alcohol result in a series of sexual encounters, misadventures and embarrassing situations supposedly redeemed at the end by sudden sincerity.
1 and 1/2 pieces of another raunchy comedy that misses the mark toast

Limitless (PG-13)
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro, Abbie Cornish
Directed by:Neil Burger
Although neurologists debunked this years ago, most of us believe that we only use about 10% of our brainpower. This film’s premise is that a single pill can let someone use all of his little grey cells, and be able to write a novel in a week, learn languages in a day, play the piano like a maestro, and pick up beautiful girls as easily as finding porn on a computer. The filmmakers chose to tell the tale from the point-of-view of a failed novelist named Eddie Morra and when he pops the pill, they use prismatic lenses, strobe lights and other experimental visual effects overused in the late 60’s to “get inside his head.” Just when we think things are back to normal, the pill’s side effects kick-in and we suffer the pains of withdrawal. All this artsy-fartsy stuff is surrounded by a wannabe thriller involving Russian mobsters and vividly visual violence.
1 and 1/2 pieces of everything old is new again toast