Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
New Releases for 8/19/11
Project Nim fascinates, Conan the Barbarian needs Arnold
One Day (PG-13)
Starring: Ann Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Patricia Clarkson, Tom Arnold
Directed by: Lone Scherfig
The set up is that two college friends find themselves sharing a bed graduation night, and spend the time talking into the wee hours of the morning. They wonder where they will be, what they will be doing and who they will be with 40 years later, and promise to check in every few years. The audience is helplessly dragged through the ups and downs of the next 18 years, until his multiple affairs and her crying alone in bed at night settles into a depressing sameness. We expect the couple to eventually spark onscreen and discover that what they are searching for is their long-term college chum, but the sparks never fly and the ending is unbelievable.
1 and 1/2 pieces of spark-free toast
Project Nim (PG-13)
Starring: Herbert Terrace, Garry Harris, Stephanie LeFarge
Directed by: James Marsh
In a real-life story that could have been the start of the new Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a well-intentioned Harvard researcher selects a newborn chimpanzee to raise among humans, names him Nim Chimpsky, and places him with a Manhattan couple with seven kids. In 1970’s style, the mother even breastfeeds her furry new baby. Like many foster children, Nim is shuffled from home to home as he grows older, stronger and more cunning. For in spite of diapers and custom-made leisure suits, Nim is still a wild animal. Eventually, cuteness is trumped by long, sharp teeth and jungle-strength, and Nim ends up back in the caged area where he was born. The film is includes by archival video shot over forty years ago, and the candid arrogance of a researcher who doesn’t see how inhumane his experiment was and eventually will be.
3 and 1/2 pieces of human-like behavior toast
Fright Night (R)
Starring: Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin
Directed by: Craig Gillespie
“Twilight” taught us that vampires can smell how bood (or bad, I guess) a particular human will taste, but in this remake of the 1985 film, the “vampire as food critic,” goes over the top. Perhaps this is because of the leering grin that seems plastered on Colin Farrell’s face, ot perhaps it is because the filmmakers thought they were making a fun, camp, vampire comedy with lots of implied sexuality. If so, it never quite happens.
1 and 1/2 pieces of another attempt to make more money by renting you those 3-D glasses toast
Conan the Barbarian (R)
Starring: Jason Momoa, Mickey Rourke, Rachel Nichols
Directed by: Marcus Nispel
Conan is played by an actor who looks lie he stepped off the cover of a tawdry romance novel—all swirling hair, glistening pecs, and leering grimace showing such perfect teeth, I began to wonder where all the dentists practiced in this ancient land of Cimmeria. The story is luke warm “Hero With a Thousand Faces”—predestined youngster grows big and strong for the sole purpose of avenging parent’s death at the hands of magic-abetted foe. Fighting, wenching, more fighting and still more fighting occur along the way. Where’s the giant snake when you need one?
1 and 1/2 pieces of it looks like they plan a sequel toast
Sarah’s Key (PG-13)
Starring: Kristen Scott Thomas, Neils Arestrup, Frederic Pierrot
Directed by: Gilles Pacquet-Brenner
In 1942, while French collaborators rounded up her family, a young Jewish girl locks her younger brother in a closet and hides the key in her pocket. Whisked away to a concentration camp, she never unlocks the door, and that nightmare (and many others) haunt her dreams. A modern-day journalist begins searching for the stories long hidden behind the bright Parisian facades.
3 pieces of the past shall not be forgotten toast
Spy Kids: All the Time in the World In 4-D (PG)
Starring: Jessica Alba, Alexa Vega, Jeremy Piven, Daryl Sabara
Directed by: Robert Rodriquez
Robert Rodriquez seems to have grown old and tired in the newest of the franchise about the children of super-spies who take on villains despite their parent’s explicit rules against doing so. The elements are all there but laid out like the are on the chart of elements in a junior high chemistry classroom. No boffo combinations like H2SO4 NaCl, or even H2O. Instead, it’s all a little too compartmentalized and and the artificial smells are downright annoying instead of fun.
1 and 1/2 pieces of smell-o-vision stinks toast
NEW ON DVD
The Conspirator (PG-13)
Starring: Robin Wright Penn, James McAvoy, Tom Wilkinson, Evan Rachel Wood
Directed by: Robert Redford
Recalling the fear and paranoia Americans felt after the 9/11 attacks, this film takes a 21st Century look at 19th Century, post Civil War “justice.” Almost everyone in power believed the assassination of President Lincoln (and other attempted assassinations the same evening) were a Confederate plot to destabilize the United States. To stop this anarchy, John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators needed to be captured, tried and quickly hung as examples to other would-be terrorists. One of those arrested, was Mary Surratt, who ran the boarding house where the conspirators lived and held their meetings, and whose son was an active participant in the plot. Tried under military tribunal. Mary’s defense attorney is young Fredrick Aiken, a combat veteran primarily intent on marrying the girl he left behind and unaware what a social pariah he will soon become. Director Redford presents what appears to be injustice to our modern-day eyes as the prosecution disregards the protections of the U.S. Constitution in favor of maintaing civil order.
3 pieces of well-made historical toast
Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs Evil (PG)
Starring the voices of: Hayden Panttiere, Patrick Warburton, David Ogden Stiers, Glenn Close, Martin Short, Amy Poehler, Andy Dick
Directed by: Mike Disa
I liked a few parts of the 2005 original retelling of the Red Riding Hood story but I hate this blandly-written and deadly dull sequel. The talented comedy writers who lend their voices to this project must have cashed their checks quickly while thinking how they could have written a much funnier film. Instead, they were saddled with Tony Leech’s screenplay, and the audience suffers from its lack of originality or single shred of humor.
1/2 piece of please take your kids to the park instead of sentencing them to 94 minutes of this dreck toast
Jane Eyre (PG-13)
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Judi Dench
Directed by: Cary Fukanaga
Charlotte Bronte’s 1847 romantic novel, has been filmed countless times, and this new film shakes up the story by telling it in flashbacks. The result is less “true to the original” than earlier versions starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine or William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsbourg, and opens with a hysterical woman escaping from the Gothic darkness of Thornfield Hall. My impression is that the filmmakers made artistic choices to appeal to audiences familiar with “Twilight” and similar films, and financially, it’s a wise decision.
3 pieces of pieces of “to Eyre is human” toast