Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 1/20/12


Red Tails (PG-13)
Starring: Nate Parker, David Oyelowo, Terrence Howard, Bryan Cranston
Directed by: Anthony Hemingway
I keep reading that this is “a story never told” in the press releases, but there was a fine 1995 movie called “The Tuskegee Airmen,” honoring the first African American fighter pilots. With great actors like Laurence Fishburne, Andre Braugher and Cuba Gooding Jr. in the cockpits, this film worked better on the ground than in the air, where the limited budget was obvious. But with George Lucas behind this new project, there’s plenty of money thrown on the screen. Dogfights, in Earth’s atmosphere or in deep space have provided for exciting times in the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, and they are the core of this new movie. But, with the exception of the racist senior officer, there is little drama offered when the script provides lines like, “The expectations placed upon you men are high.” Well, duh.
2  pieces of weak tea toast


Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (PG-13)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Thomas Horn, MAx Von Sydow, Viola Davis, John Goodman, Zoe Caldwell
Directed by: Stephen Daldry
Before that deadly day in September, 2001, Oskar had a loving father and mother who grappled with his Asperger-like symptoms by creating a fantasy life of “reconnaissance expeditions” in New York’s Central Park. This film is designed to tug at your heartstrings and make you fumble with your pack of Kleenex in the theater darkness. You have a choice— embrace the blatant manipulation, or, like me, criticize it. This is a time-capsule film. And although I lived these days on the West coast, I find it unlikely that a grieving widow would blithely let her only son explore the dangerous alley ways and hidden dells of a city in shock. But she does, by letting her child search for the lock that fits a recently discovered key.  This “lone boy on a quest” is a Joseph Campbell archetype, and his mythic heroes had to trek through dangerous places to retrieve their talismans—but to me, when this quest is in post 9/11 New York City, it seems much too dangerous a time and place.

2 and 1/2 pieces of audience manipulation toast


Haywire (R)
Starring: Gina Carano, Michael Douglas, Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
The fabled director of this film picked a real-life, female martial arts champion as his star because he wanted to shoot the fight sequences in”real time,” not the quick edits of “reel time.” On the technical level, this film works well, but characters in Soderbergh’s films always seem emotionally lacking, and this is doubly true here. As a result, the audience has difficulty connecting with the cardboard characters onscreen. Well, at least the fight scenes are good.

2  pieces of female Chuck Norris toast


Underworld Awakening (R)
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Stephen Rae, Michael Ely. India Eisley
Directed by: Mans Marlind, Bjorn Stein
All I can tell you for sure is that you will ponder how Kate Beckinsale manages to put on her tight, tighter, tightest, black leather catsuit in this fourth movie in her vampires vs. werewolves franchise. My guess is a spray gun.

Not available to critics



The Ides of March (R)

Starring: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Paul Giammati, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood

Directed by: George Clooney

This Democratic Presidential nominee and his handler can both be Mr. Cool, because of the sweat, blood and tears dripping behind the scenes by others. Big egos, big money, and big lies fuel the campaign, with dollops of sex and betrayal thrown in for good measure. It turns melodramatic in the third act, but all the Oscar-worthy acting makes up for it.

3 and 1/2 pieces of great ensemble acting toast


Abduction (PG-13)

Starring: Taylor Laughner, Alfred Molina, Antonique Smith, Maria Bello

Directed by: John Singleton

Playing a Native American werewolf in those Twilight movies didn’t demand much more than a shirtless, well developed torso, but this film about a young man who discovers his photo was once a missing poster on the side of milk cartons, requires acting skills. None are evident in the lead role, and the over-acting by the older people in the other parts only makes things worse. Singleton is a good director and should have made this work, but his chair might as well have been empty.

1 piece of don’t waste a dime on this toast