Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
New Releases for 8/13/11
The Help soars, Final Destination 5 crashes and burns
The Help (PG-13)
Starring: Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sissy Spacek, Cicely Tyson, Alison Janney
Directed by: Tate Taylor
Novelist Kathryn Stockett and screenwriter/director Tate Taylor were preschool classmates, and when her book “The Help” was finished, she brought it to her long-time friend. The result is nothing short of fabulous— a complex story of the relationships between Jackson, Mississippi women of privilege and their house maids unfolding during the tumultuous year of 1963. Bridging the worlds of whites and blacks is a misfit named Skeeter, a recent journalism graduate who has returned home to care for her cancer-stricken mother. Filled with literary ambitions, she takes a job writing the household advice column for the local paper and turns to the knowledgable maid Abileen for advice. This one-sided arrangement grows into something much deeper as Skeeter prompts Abileen to share juicy tidbits of what it is really like to work as The Help.
3 and 1/2 pieces of time capsule toast
Final Destination 5 (R)
Starring: Emma Bell, Miles Fisher, Nicholas D’Agosto, Arlen Escarpeta
Directed by: Steven Quale
The fickle finger of fate continues to select and then brutally dispatch random victims in a series of Rube Goldberg style mishaps that turn deadly. But this latest in the series lacks the pacing, timing, and black humor of the set-ups in the earlier films. The result is flat and lackluster. Of course it’s hard to have a believable bridge collapsing sequence a week after the fantastic destruction of the Golden Gate Bridge in last week’s The Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
1 piece of quickly forgotten toast
Thirty Minutes or Less (R)
Starring: Jessie Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Michael Pena
Directed by: Reuben Fleischer
The latest of this summer’s raunchy comedies falls flat as a pizza delivery guy, a teacher, a wannabe brothel owner and a pyromaniac join forces to kill the dad who just won the lottery and take his millions in winnings. Whee. What a fun concept (this last comment is me intending to be sarcastic).
1 pieces of don’t waste your money toast
Another Earth (PG-13)
Starring: Brit Marling, Matthew-Lee Eribach, D.J. Flava
Directed by: Reuben Fleischer
A Sci-Fi staple is the concept of parallel universes with duplicate Earths where everything is almost the same as here, but with subtle differences. That is the conceptual framework for the other Earth that suddenly appears in the sky above us. The idea that things are different up there, and that it might be a place where certain bad things didn’t happen, propels the drama of a young woman consumed by grief and guilt after she kills a woman and child when driving drunk. The result is a melancholic tone-poem shot with a hand-held camera by people who are intensely involved in the story. perhaps too intensely involved for the audience to maintain its interest.
2 and 1/2 pieces of Indie with a capital “I” toast
Starring: Jacob Wysocki, John C. Reilly, Creed Braton, Bridger Zadine
Directed by: Azazel JAcobs
Terri is a lonely, overweight teen-age boy who lives in a rundown house with his senile uncle. But a lifeline is thrown when he is taken on as a project by the assistant principal at his high school. In a surprising twist, this isn’t the rule-obsessed assistant principal of so many teen comedies This guy is genuinely interested in helping Terri to not only survive high school, but to actually thrive. Terri begins to do things with two other social outcasts—the know-it-all geek, and the girl whose sexual persona is consuming the nice girl inside. Low keyed, masterful performances and directing make this one work.
3 pieces of tragicomic teendom toast
Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times (R)
Starring: David Carr, Sarah Ellison, Bruce Headlam
Directed by: Andrew Rossi
This documentary is exactly what its title proclaims. The year just happens to include the “should we print this” challenge from Wikileaks, the “is print journalism dead” challenge, the “entertainment as news” challenges, and the personalities of various editors, corporate directors, reporters, and a certain billionaire Chicago real estate developer who acquires and then “loots” The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Orlando Sentinel and other newspapers in the Tribune Syndicate. A decade from now, will this have become a film record of the time when newspapers still existed?
3 pieces of rapidly shifting media toast
Glee: The 3D Concert Movie (NR)
Starring: Lea Michele, Chris Colfer, Naya Rivera, Cory Montieth
Directed by: Kevin Tancharoen
The cast from the hit TV series Glee recreates the song and dance production numbers from the small screen on a big stage and even bigger movie screen. If you online casino are a fan of this lip-synched, toothpaste-smile sort of thing, you’ll be delighted. I was mildly amused at first and missed the flubs and mistakes of the tryouts for “America’s Got Talent.”
3 pieces of Glee-Full toast
NEW ON DVD
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogan, Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Blythe Danner
Directed by: Greg Mattola
The filmmakers imagined what things would be like if a movie alien acted like Jack Nicholson did in the classic road movie, “Five Easy Pieces.” The result is a movie with lots of inside jokes that people who enjoy TV’s “The Big Bang Theory” will find amusing but are lost on the rest of the audience. The set up is that a space alien captured in 1947 escapes and hits the road with his captors on his tail. He teams up with a couple of “regular guys” which is good since, the alien’s English is peppered with four-letter-words and multiple references to assorted bodily functions.
2 pieces of I expected something better toast
Mars Needs Moms (PG)
Starring the voices of: Seth Green, Joan Cusak, Dan Fogler
Directed by: Simon Wells
Although Seth Green spoke his lines while wearing the motion-capture suit this style of filmmaking requires, the powers that be decided Green didn’t sound young enough, so they have replaced his voice with those from a child actor. This is all explained in the “during the credits” bits at the end of the film. You see, the motion-capture suits allow for computer-generated rotoscoping so that everyone has that creepy, cadaver look that the Tom Hanks’ character had in “Polar Express.” The story revolves around a what happens to a boy who does’t like broccoli when he wishes he didn’t have a mom and then watches in disbelief as a spaceship beams her up to be relocated on Mars. It overflows with heart, but lacks wit and laughter.
2 pieces of it’s just OK toast
Jumping the Broom (PG-13)
Starring: Angela Basset, Paula Patton, Laz Alonso, Loretta Devine
Directed by: Salim Akil
The bride is from a well-to-do Martha’s Vineyard family, the groom is from working-class Brooklynites, and the African-American cast are all from Tyler Perry films—but this isn’t from that studio. Freed from the farcical subtext of those Atlanta-based movies, this T.D. Jakes project can focus instead on the universal miscommunications, misunderstandings, and missteps prior to a Miss becoming a Mrs. Filled with humor, warmth, etiquette tips from the wedding planner as well as a love-like chemistry between the stars, this entertaining film is much better the the big-budget disaster “Something Borrowed” released the same day.
3 pieces of wedding bells toast
Starring: Ellen Page, Rainn Wilson, Kevin Bacon, Liv Tyler
Directed by: James Gunn
We’ve seen an ordinary guy don a spandex suit and hit the streets to fight crime before. With no super powers, and skin that bleeds, bones that break, and subject to the laws of physics, the guy soon gets his butt kicked. Rainn Wilson (the devious guy from TV’s “The Office”) plays it straight as the wrench-wielding vigilante and Ellen Page steals the film as the comic book store clerk who becomes his diminutive (but very feisty) sidekick.
3 pieces of not-quite-so-super-hero toast