Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 12/09/11

 

New Year’s Eve (PG-13)
Starring: Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Robert De Niro, Ashton Kutcher, Hilary Swank, Abigail Breslin, Zac Efron, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sofia Veraga, etc. etc.
Directed by: Garry Marshall
Leave it to Gary Marshall to take the splendiferous talents of multiple Oscar winners and nominees and throw them into this movie in such a haphazard way, that the result is a puff pastry minus the puff—in short, soggy dough. New York’s Times Square takes center stage (the documentary footage shot by Charles Minsky on location last year, is the only standout part of this movie). You see, there’s this big celebration downtown where a rock star and rapper are going to sing and this teen age girl wants to go but her mother says “No,” while another woman goes into labor, a nurse tends to a dying veteran, a man plagued by priapism gets stuck in an elevator with a backup singer while an attractive but frazzled office assistant quits because her record label boss is boorish, but before she leaves, she hires a young courier to help her finish her list of last year’s resolutions. Got that? Do you care? You can catch the same kind of thing on the Hallmark Channel almost any night of the week, and pop your homemade gift cookies in and out of the oven during the commercials.
1 and 1/2  pieces of warmed-over shallowness toast

 

The Skin I Live In (R)
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya. Marisa Paredes
Directed by: Pedro Almodovar
My wife refuses to see any more films by the Spanish genius Pedro Almodovar, and there is no way I will be able to convince her to see this one. The premise is creepy, the movie disturbing, the acting intense, the setting Gothic, and the screenplay is drawn from the pages of the DSM5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Think of the lead character as a plastic surgeon with a Dr. Frankenstein complex who creates a resilient artificial skin to use in skin grafts, so he kidnaps an unwilling guinea pig to test his new product and, at the same time, avenge a rape, infant swap, murder and fiery suicide.
2 pieces of stylish but quite perverse toast

 

Melencholia (R)
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Alexander Skarsgard, Kiefer Sutherland, Chalotte Ginsbourg, Jon Hurt
Directed by: Lar Von Trier
The Danish writer/director who founded the Dogme 95 film movement (shoot on location using natural light, and hand held cameras with minimalist scripts) has created two films and placed them one after the other. The reason for this is that there is (or perhaps isn’t) another planet that mirrors Earth, but in a parallel way so that the other globe is drowning in Scandinavian best online casino melencholy (hence the name). To highlight the difference, we are thrust into a sumptuously expensive party for Justine and her husband, held in the home of her sister Claire and her husband. Doom is on it’s way, as Earth’s recently discovered sister planet is hurtling towards us and certain annihilation

2 pieces of sometimes brilliant but too obtuse toast.

 

The Sitter (R)
Starring: Jonah Hill, Landry Bender, Kevin Hernandez, Sam Rockwell
Directed by: David Gordon Green
It must have sounded good in the pitch session—slothful slacker is forced by his mom to take a job babysitting three sociopathic youngsters on a weekend peppered with four letter words, violence, drugs, bad music and too much slapstick. Along the way, the film stereotypes African Americans, Hispanics, Jews, Gays, and several other gourpings of various races, colors and creeds. Ugh.
1/2 piece of  bottom of the Hill toast

 

NEW ON DVD

The Help (PG-13)
Starring: Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sissy Spacek, Cicely Tyson, Alison Janney
Directed by: Tate Taylor
Novelist Kathryn Stockett and screenwriter/director Tate Taylor were preschool classmates, and when her book “The Help” was finished, she brought it to her long-time friend. The result is nothing short of fabulous— a complex story of the relationships between Jackson, Mississippi women of privilege and their house maids unfolding during the tumultuous year of 1963. Bridging the worlds of whites and blacks is a misfit named Skeeter, a recent journalism graduate who has returned home to care for her cancer-stricken mother. Filled with literary ambitions, she takes a job writing the household advice column for the local paper and turns to the knowledgable maid Abileen for advice. This one-sided arrangement grows into something much deeper as Skeeter prompts Abileen to share juicy tidbits of what it is really like to work as The Help.
3 and 1/2 pieces of time capsule toast

Cowboys and Aliens (PG-13)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell

Directed by: Jon Favreau
Expect a little bit of “Rango,” a little bit of “Westworld,” and little bit of  “War of the Worlds” (the George Pal version) when an amnesiac stranger finds himself on a dusty street in old New Mexico Territory. Cliches abound and tongues are firmly planted in the cheeks not filled with chewing tobacco as the film’s title becomes reality. A lot of my fellow critics panned this film, but if you’ve got enough popcorn, soda and candy, it will take you back to the feel of an old-fashioned Saturday Matinee. Not a great movie, but enjoyable.
2 and 1/2 pieces of these aliens are from outer space toast

Mr. Popper’s Penguins (PG)
Starring: Jim Carrey, Carla Guigino, Angela Lansbury, Ophelia Lovibond
Directed by: Mark Waters
I don’t know who decided that poop jokes were a required facet of every kid-oriented movie. This time, it’s penguin poop, and the target is Jim Carrey’s rubber mask of a face. I vaguely recall reading the book as a child, and it involved a midwestern housepainter who wins a penguin in a contest. The penguin lives in the family’s icebox, but yearns for companionship, and so trips are taken to the zoo and circus to find a mate. However, none of this has anything to do with the movie. All that remains is the title, and the rest is Jim Carrey acting like himself in front of a bluescreen even though the penguins are real and not just CG effects. The result is pretty generic, although there is some poignancy as Mr. Popper (AKA Jim Carrey) confronts middle age.
Good for the kids if it’s raining really hard or it’s really, really hot outside.
2 pieces of Jim Carrey toast
The Debt (R)  

Starring: Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, Claran Hinds, Jessica Chastain

Directed by: John Madden

In the summer of 1966, three Mossad agents captured a Nazi war criminal in East Berlin. Flash forward to 1997 when a long buried secret comes to haunt the team. Unfortunately, the secret is all too obvious to the audience and suspense suffers. Great performances, but someone should have studied Hitchcock a little bit more.

2 pieces of Helen Mirren tries for an Oscar toast