Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 9/09/11

 

Contagion  (PG-13)  

Starring: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

Searching for the right phrase to describe the professionalism and dedication researchers at the World Health Organization devote to tracking down diseases, actress Marion Cotillard uses the phrase “Cold-Blooded.” The same can be said about how filmmakers approach this movie about a world-wide pandemic that claims millions and millions of lives. A simple cough into a woman’s hand, the same hand reaching into a bowl of peanuts at a bar, touching a door knob in a restroom, handing money to a cabdriver, shaking hands with a colleague, caressing her husband, straightening her daughter’s hair. Simple, everyday actions that microscopic pathogens turn into deadly acts. The events unfold exponentially as others unwittingly spread the destruction. In a matter of days, the whole world is effected, and the audience is too. There was a line in the men’s room after the screening, as dozens waited to wash their hands with soap and hot water.

3 pieces of truly terrifying toast

 

The Devil’s Double  (R)  

Starring: Dominic Cooper, Ludivine Sagnier, Raad Rawi, Philip Quast

Directed by: Lee Tamahori

Employing a time-tested means of protection, Sadam Hussein used “fidays,” (body doubles) to confuse would-be assassins. His sociopathic son, Uday did as well, and this film recounts the true life story of one look-alike recruited to play the heir apparent in public. Corrupted by wealth and absolute power, Uday tortured and slaughtered his enemies without qualms. He also liked to sexually conquer and eventually kill any beautiful woman who caught his eye. Upsettingly, much of this is portrayed onscreen, almost overshadowing the amazing dual performance by Dominic Cooper as both an ordinary man and the Devil incarnate.

3 pieces of stomach-turning history toast

 

Warrior (PG-13)  

Starring: Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, Jennifer Morrison, Nick Nolte

Directed by: Gavin O’Connor

I’m not a fan of the bare-knuckled brutality of mixed martial arts fighting, so screening this film was a chore. A mixture of old and new boxing films, it works best away from the ring, where an abusive and recently sober father still terrifies his sons. Inevitably, one son,  the ex-Marine, will compete for a big prize in the ring against the other son, a school teacher who keeps his training a secret from his wife. Who wins isn’t important. It’s the getting there that counts.

2 and 1/2 pieces of a boxing movie with back-story toast

 

Bucky LArson: Born to Be a Star (R)  

Starring: Nick Swardson, Christina Ricci, Don Johnson, Kevin Nealon

Directed by: Tom Brady

When an Iowa grocery clerk discovers his seemingly conservative parents were porn stars in the 70’s he does what any Middle America boy would do—head to Hollywood (actually, the San Fernando Valley), to become a porn star himself.

This self-described “raunchy comedy” was unavailable for screening by critics

 

Creature (R)

Starring: Mehcad Brooks, Serinda Swain, Dillon Casey, Sid Haig

Directed by: Fred Andrews

A couple who never paid attention to the ghost stories told around the campfire decides to spend the night in a Louisiana bayou after a store keeper tells them to watch out for Lockjaw—the inbred local man who lost his family to an alligator and became half-gator himself.

Low-budget shlock unavailable for screening

 

 

 

NEW ON DVD

X-Men: First Class (PG-13)
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, January Jones
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
The “StarTrek” prequel showed it is not only possible to reprise a well -loved franchise by using intelligence and talent, but that with the aid of state-of-the-art FX, it can do it better. The original X-Men movie, which opened in 2000, was set in the “present day,” where the super-smart and telepathic Professor Xavier rides a wheelchair and his nemesis Magneto is a crotchety old man. So lets flash back to when Kennedy is in the White House, the world is focused on the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the young X-Man-to-be are just dazed and confused mutants striving to belong. Charles Xavier, an Oxford student sheltering a beautiful shape-shifting mutant named Raven, is recruited by the CIA to join forces with survivor of the Nazi death camps named Erik. Their goal is to thwart the evil genius of a former Nazi who is manipulating the USA and Russia into a nuclear war. Although talky sometimes, this works because of the talent both in front of and behind the camera. It even manages to survive the curse of having 6 writers!
3 and 1/2 pieces of refreshingly reinvigorated X-Men toast

Hanna (PG-13)
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Banna, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hollander
Directed by: Joe Wright
In an amalgamation of  “Kick Ass,” “La Femme Nikita,”” “Run, Lola, Run,” and “Atanajurat—The Fast Runner,” a girl is home-schooled by her secret agent dad who teaches her to hunt, stay fit, and survive attacks in the remote wilderness of Finland (which, if you think about it, isn’t a wise choice of locations to eventually do battle against your arch-enemy in deserts and cityscapes). With her training complete, she is kidnapped by bad guys, only to escape, running, and then keep running from Morocco to Germany bent on revenge against the big, bad, Freudian mother-figure in business suits.
2 pieces of haven’t we seen a female assassin before? toast