Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 9/16/11


Drive (PG-13)  

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston

Directed by: Nicholas Winding Refn

A man with no name, who could be one of those fabled, “professional driver—do not attempt this at home,” guys we see in TV car ads, is a Hollywood stunt driver by day and drives getaway cars for armed robbers at night.  He lives in a stylized Los Angeles with lots of neon reflected on shiny surfaces and despair around every corner. It’s a testosterone-fueled environment of burning rubber, crashing vehicles, and shockingly sudden violence, where a couple of miscast actresses are thrown in so the audience can be reassured that everything is as straight as the 110 freeway.

3 pieces of Gosling as Clint Eastwood toast


Straw Dogs (R)  

Starring: James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgard, James Woods

Directed by: Rod Lurie

In a remake of Sam Peckinpah’s classic 1971 movie,  a young married couple travels to her Mississippi hometown to sell off the family home. Culture wars begin to take their toll when locals are hired to make much-needed repairs and lust and violence increasingly become more visible. It leads to the inevitable bloodbath when the husband finally fights back. If possible, you may want to view the original version after you see the new one and compare the stylistic nuances directors and decades add to the tale.

3 pieces of remakes can be good toast


I Don’t Know How She Does It (PG-13)  

Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan, Kelsey Grammer, Greg Kinnear, Christina Hendricks

Directed by: Douglas McGrath

What she supposedly is doing in the title, is being a working mom. With a subject brimming with comic possibilities, it’s astounding the screenplay is so flat, the characters so uninteresting, the situations so hackneyed, and the total thing an absolute mess. The fact that it’s crammed full of respected actors and comedians, just makes it worse, especially when they turn and make crude remarks directly to the audience.

1 and piece of lame and cliched toast


Lion King 3D (G)  

Starring the voices of: James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Matthew Broderick, Whoopie Goldberg, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella

Directed by: Rob Minkoff

What can I say about a true Disney Classic—one which has spawned a game-changing Broadway musical, and numerous direct-to-video sequels? Other than bringing the film to the big screen again, the 3-D effects don’t do much but add a little more depth to the landscapes (which were done in the Disney patented multi-plane photography effects in the first place). Bottom line, take the money you were going to spend at the theater,  buy the newest 2-D Blue-Ray version, and watch it on the biggest and best home-screen you can find (come on, you know someone who would like to show off his “state-of-the-art” home theater system—just offer to bring the popcorn or sodas).

4 pieces for the original. 3 pieces for having to pay extra for those pesky 3-D glasses



Thor (PG-13)
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins
Directed by: Kevin Brannagh
Directed by a man steeped in Shakepearean tales, this is one of the few comic book inspired films to be great. Thor, the Scandinavian god of thunder, angers his father Odin, and the ticked off King of the Gods banishes his son to Earth. Stipped of his powers (including his magical hammer) and forced to live among mere mortals, Thor brings smiles to the audience as he uses bluff and swagger to retain his self-esteem and his flirtatious attempts to woo a girl are delightful.  Thor’s brother Loki is a multi-faceted villain, and a giant flame-spouting suit of armor called The Destroyer a worthy foe.
3 and 1/2 pieces of Asgard toast


The Tempest (PG-13)
Starring: Helen Mirren, Felicity Jones, Ben Whishaw, Chris Cooper, Djimon Hounsou
Directed by: Julie Taymor
Noted for her exceptional visuals, director Julie Taymor has succumbed to the Terry Gilliam syndrome, where the just-for-the-heck-of-it special effects overwhelm the performance. Filmed as a gender-bending version of Shakespeare’s classic play, a group of exiled aristocrats are trapped on island populated by the spirits of the air and the earth. When a shipwreck strands the king who banished these people from their native land it also provides for romance and foolery. The actors, bellow, whisper, and drone the poetic lines but are often drowned out by the rock-guitar soundtrack.
Noble gesture, badly executed.
1 and 1/2 pieces of trying too hard toast

Incendies (R)
Starring: Lubna Azabal, Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin, Maxime Gaudette
Directed by: Denis Villeneueve
It is important to note that this film was made in Canada. It has the clear-eyed modesty of great story telling with North of the Border sensibilities. In lesser hands, the story would be overdone and melodramatic, but here, less is more and the result is gut-wrenchingly real. It is about modern-day holy war. Medieval-like holy war where one group of people hates another group of people because of injustices committed thousands of years ago. It is about the role of women in these societies, and the power wielded by patriarchy. It is about family loyalties, generational legacies, and the curse of intransigence. It is powerful, realistic, and about as un-Hollywood as you can imagine.
3 and 1/2 pieces of Canadian sensibilities toast