Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
New Releases for 10/21/11
The Mighty Macs (G)
Starring: Carla Guigno, Ellen Burstyn, Jennifer Butler
Directed by: Jim Chambers
In 1971, a team of unlikely champions emerged at a Catholic girls’ school outside Philadelphia. Wearing old dresses for uniforms, and oven mitts on their hands to increase their ball control, a bunch of misfits (aren’t they always in these movies?) become champions under the guidance of a dedicated, creative and inspiring coach. Filmed in 2009, this based-on-a-true-story languished on the shelf (probably because of that year’s incredible University of Connecticut basketball team), but for young girls looking for inspiration, this one might just be the thing.
2 and 1/2 pieces of girls as winners toast
Paranormal Activity 3 (R)
Starring: Katie Featherston, Chloe Cserngey, Spague Grayden
Directed by: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
The low-budget Paranomal Activity franchise proves once again that the audience is as important in creating suspense as anything shown on the screen. Ostensibly, this film is a prequel to the first one—”recently uncovered” footage shot years ago. The opening encapsulates the premise—a VHS camera mounted on a household fan focuses on a suburban kitchen where a mother and two daughters leave the room. A few seconds later, the mother returns and the camera pivots to reveal everything in the kitchen has mysteriously disappeared. Since these film’s power is in their one-time-only shock value, I can’t reveal much more than to say this may be this year’s spookiest film for Halloween.
3 pieces of less-is-still-more toast
Margin Call (R)
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Zachary Quinto, Demi Moore, Paul Bettany
Directed by: J.C. Chandor
With an insider’s eye, the writer/director takes a look at the first 24 hours of the 2008 economic collapse. Cubicle dwellers begin passing information of impending disaster while their bosses party, and the information slowly filters upwards towards the top floors and beyond, where the CEO arrives in a helicopter. Propelled by increasingly desperate people who see their lives, futures, and personal fortunes vanishing before their eyes, it’s amazing how level-headed, calm, and collected they remain. Strong performances make this watchable, and Kevin Spacey makes it memorable.
3 pieces of edge of economic destruction toast
The Three Musketeers (PG-13)
Starring: Logan Leman, Matthew MacFadyen, Orlando Bloom, Milla Jovovich, Mads Mikkelsen
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Although my youngest son will undoubtedly see this because of Milla Jovovich, she probably said “yes” to the part only because she’s married to the director. This umpteenth version of the Alexander Dumas novel about friendship, duty, and romance, spices things up a bit by adding an airborne war machine supposedly designed by Leonardo de Vinci for the sole purpose of throwing in some extra 3-D effects (as if numerous sharp swords poking at your face aren’t enough). The script stinks, the direction is lackluster, the acting is too much or too little and the ticket price is way too much—even when it’s free.
1 piece of nonsensical waste of time toast
The Way (NR)
Starring: Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Deborah Kara Younger,
Directed by: Emelio Estevez
This father-son collaboration tells the story of a man who vows to complete a religious pilgrimage started by his recently deceased son. The path, known as The Way of St. James, meanders 500 miles across northern Spain. Accompanied by a Canadian woman, a burly Dutchman and an Irish travel writer, the pilgrims’ trek is peppered with religious shrines, and thanks to an excellent script by Estevez, it offers opportunities for quiet reflection, tale-telling, and eventual friendship.
3 and 1/2 pieces of spiritually themed toast
The Interrupters (NR)
Starring: Ameena Matthews,
Directed by: Steve James
The premise sounds like a “B” movie. People imprisoned for violent crimes are recruited to patrol the streets of Chicago to step in—unarmed—and diffuse rapidly escalating confrontations. Presented in classic cinema verite style, this documentary gets right in the face of angry, wigged out, gun-waving and knife wielding people intent on retaliation, retribution or revenge. For each incident has a reason behind it—one that may have a complicated and cloudy evolution that makes no sense to the audience, but is still intensely motivating for the people involved. The film ends on a positive note (one gun-waving guy gets a job), but after an hour and a half inside a world where right and wrong, good and bad, and life and death are fluid, incoherent and uncertain, I felt overwhelmed.
2 pieces of very, very real toast
Johnny English Reborn (PG)
Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Gillian Anderson, Rosamund Pike
Directed by: Oliver Parker
The advertising for this film shouts “A little intelligence goes a long way,” but they should have hired someone with a little intelligence. It’s a follow up to a quickly forgotten 2003 British spy spoof, which apparently made just enough money to convince someone with little intelligence that the world needed another one. This dud is even dudlier than the first. Rowan Atkinson mugs his way through one predictible plot device after another as he tries to prevent the assassination of the Chinese Head-of-State. Except for a brief bit with the star doing martial arts training in Tibet, the film is a throw away.
2 pieces of reheated in an underpowered microwave toast
NEW ON DVD
Bad Teacher (R)
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Molly Shannon
Directed by: Jake Kasden
The screenwriters get an A+ for the title and a D- for the movie. Essentially, it’s “Bad Santa” in a classroom, but where Billy Bob Thornton has the rough edges persona perfected to saw-blade sharpness, there’s something about Mary (oops, I mean Cameron) that makes four-letter-words, inappropriate body language, gold digging, and drug use seem out of character. There are hints which show how this could have evolved into a campy, “love and hate the character at the same time” movie, but either the studio chickened out, or it just wasn’t there in the first place. Strangely for a story set in a school, only a couple of the “students” get any screen time. The studio tacked on a happy ending and filled the soundtrack with comic music, but it simply isn’t enough to make this bomb float (hows that for mixing metaphors?)
1 and 1/2 pieces of Bad, Bad toast
Monte Carlo (PG)
Starring: Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy
Directed by: Tom Bezucha
A Texas waitress’ Parisian trip turns into package-tour boredom until she is mistaken for a snooty British jet-setter and she and two new-found friends fake their way to Monte Carlo for some decidedly PG wish fulfillment.
1 and 1/2 pieces of old gags recycled poorly toast
A Better Life (PG-13)
Starring: Jose Julian, Damien Bichir, Delores Heredia
Directed by:Chris Weitz
The storyline seems almost too trite—undocumented Latino gets a chance at the American Dream, only to have his truck and tools stolen. So he and his defiant teen son hit the hard streets of LA to find and recover his property. Along the way, the two encounter hardships, prejudice, violence, humility and kindness and build a lasting father/son bond.
2 and 1/2 pieces of well acted, but trite storyline toast