Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
New Releases for 11/04/11
Tower Heist (PG-13)
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller, Matthew Broderick. Tea Leoni, Alan Alda, Michael Pena
Directed by: Brett Ratner
In this ensemble heist movie, it’s Eddie Murphy who is the driving force—the one you watch the most and miss the most when he’s not on screen. The premise is drawn from today’s headlines. A billionaire whose ponzi scheme stole from everyone else, lives above it all in his luxurious penthouse apartment. Several workers and residents in the same residential tower lost everything to the swindler, and they come up with an audacious plan to steal it all back. The fun is in their ineptness—sort of a “Mission Impossible” bloopers reel, aided and abeted by the backdrop of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
3 pieces of imagine Bernie Madoff here toast
Matha Marcy May Marlene (R)
Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson, John Hawkes
Directed by: Sean Durkin
A young woman who joined a cult as a teenager where she was indoctrinated and ceremonially raped by the cult’s leader, escapes and returns to live with her socialite sister and her husband. At least four identities (each with its own name) reside within the young woman—the coping mechanism which allowed her to survive. Uncovering how these different facets combine is the task of the sister and the audience. Well acted by all involved (especially Elizabeth Olsen), the director finishes the film to soon, leaving too many questions, too many choices, and too many unfulfilled expectations.
2 and 1/2 pieces of vivid psychological thriller without an ending toast
Scholem Aleichem: Laughing In the Darkness (NR)
Starring: Don Miron, Ruth Wisse, David Roskies
Directed by: Joseph Dorman
The Yiddish writer who penned “Fiddler on the Roof” is the centerpiece of this documentary celebrating the healing aspects of everyday life, art and humor. The photo-illustrated biography combines historical context with readings from Aleichem’s works and a amazing interviews including one with his 100-year-old grandaughter, Bel Kaufman (author of “Up the Down Staircase”).
3 and 1/2 pieces of literary treasures toast
A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas (R)
Starring: John Cho, Kal Penn, Neil Patrick Harris
Directed by: Todd Strauss-Shulson
Pause for a moment to consider the various types of fluids that can escape from a human body. Then shoot them splatting, splurting, drizzling and oozing in 3-D, add some peppy Christmas music, a song and dance by the former Doogie Howser, and you have a movie that shouldn’t have bothered. Filled with sly references to how far the boys have come since their quest for White Castle hamburgers (the ones with the hole in the middle), truly tasteless, sophomoric jokes that fall flat, and scatological and blasphemous plot devices, the end result is a sorry mess which will probably win this week’s box office prize.
1/2 piece of yucky, icky, truly worthless toast
Worst In Show (NR)
Written and Directed by: Don Lewis, John Beck
Petaluma’s ugliest dog contest provides lots of drama and humor when two past winners compete nose to nose, and nose to tail, for the 2010 trophy. Locally born and bred, with a cast of thousands (the crowds at the Sonoma-Marin Fair), this hour-long film is sure to be Top Dog at Petaluma’s Boulevard Cinemas.
4 pieces of always root for the home team toast
NEW ON DVD
Cars 2 (G)
Starring the voices of: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine, John Turturro, Eddie Izard, Emily Mortimer, John Ratzenberger
Directed by: John Lasseter, Brad Lewis
I suppose it was inevitable that the folks at Pixar would finally make a misstep, but they should have heeded the Hollywood dictum:
“When sequels travel to Europe (i.e. National Lampoon’s European Vacation), boredom results.”
To compound things, the studio press release describes the movie using the cursed “hilarious,” (and you know what I think of that word!). The feeble premise is that race car Lightning McQueen heads to the World Grand Prix where he, and his sidekicks, get sidetracked from winning the fastest car contest by secret agents, mechanical breakdowns, alternative fuel failures, and femme fatales. The result is a mish-mash, with the Transformers-style changes ridiculous, the tow truck’s hillbilly persona wearing thin fast, and the hundreds of car-themed puns being downright “cartastrophic!”
2 pieces of harmless enough DVD for the kids toast
Crazy, Stupid Love (PG-13)
Starring: Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei, Kevin Bacon
Directed by: Glenn Ficarra, John Recqua
Steve Carrel’s pleasant enough life is suddenly turned topsy-turvy when he discovers his wife is having an affair and wants a divorce. Floundering in the dating world of today, he gets advice from a well-known womanizer, help from a new haircut, and some great clothes and tries hard to appreciate the females that literally fall in his lap while still missing being married to someone he loves.
3 pieces of Steve Carrell rules! toast
Water For Elephants (PG-13)
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Paul Schneider
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Saddled with Robert Pattinson’s lifeless performance, the love affair that sizzled and soared on the pages of Sara Gruen’s novel is as ponderous as an elephant onscreen.
1 and 1/2 pieces of read the book instead toast
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (R)
Starring: Gianna Jun, Li Bingbing, Vivian Wu, Hugh Jackman
Directed by: Wayne Wang
I interviewed novelist Lisa See on my KRCB-FM Word By Word: Conversations With Writers show last year, and I wonder what she thinks now about the movie made from her book. It is a muddled mish-mash of flashbacks trying to parallel the agony of Chinese foot-binding with the self-inflicted pain of high heeled shoes while these women survive the constant pressures from their Chinese mothers. Oh, did I mention Hugh Jackman appears singing in Mandarin Chinese from the stage of an Australian nightclub? It works on YouTube, but not in this movie.
1 piece of soggy Chop Suey toast