Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 2/10/12


Safe House (R)
Starring: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Brendan Gleeson
Directed by: Daniel Espinosa
This Bourne-wannabe is set in South Africa, but except for a couple of pretty backgrounds it could just as well be any modern city with a shantytown attached. Filled with spy-movie cliches and a “shocking” expose of how we treat terror suspects (i.e. waterboarding, rendition, safe-houses, etc.), we are just here for a thrill ride of quickly-cut chases, shootouts, and mind games. Like the old-fashioned dime-novel westerns, we end up rooting for the truly evil bad guy—of course it helps that he is played by Denzel Washington.

2 and 1/2  pieces of watch it for Denzel toast


The Vow (PG-13)
Starring: Channing Tatum, Rachel McAdams, Sam Neill, Jessica Lange
Directed by: Michael Sucsy
When a car-crash victim emerges from a coma, a man tells her he is her husband and they should begin doing all the things they used to do together (including (gasp) having “marital relations.” Based on a true story where the couple’s religious faith provided the support to make this work, the filmmakers had several choices  of how to proceed—such as a Judd Apatow-style raunchy comedy, a “Total Recall,” style quest for a lost love, a “meet cute” style rom-com where the couple pretend they never met, or, the awkward amalgamation of all the above with dialogue stolen from Hallmark cards. In the end, it’s an OK movie to to see with your date on Valentine’s Day.

2 pieces of wake from a coma Valentine’s toast


Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (PG)
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine, Vanessa Hudgins, Luis Guzman
Directed by: Brad Peyton
“Vernians” are people who believe Jules Verne wasn’t writing science fiction in his 19th Century novels, but travel diaries of real adventures. The first “Journey” in this movie franchise, was to The Center of the Earth. This time, it’s to The Mysterious Island, where dinosaurs of normal size compete with insects of enormous proportions to either chase or assist the humans who crash-land on their shores. Lacking suspense, intelligent dialogue, or believable CG effects (the ride best online casino on the insect’s back is laughable), the filmmakers resort to 3-D tricks and action sequences stolen from “Star Wars” and “Avatar.” All in all, it’s truly underwhelming.

2 pieces of mild-mannered adventure toast  


Star Wars: Episode 1—The Phantom Menace in 3D   (PG)
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman
Directed by: George Lucas
Way back in 1999, when this “prequel” appeared in theaters, I posted an open letter in my movie column asking George Lucas “Why?” had he bothered to make this oxygen-gasping film and open it with an over-long civics lesson on the political structure of the Star Wars universe. I still have the same questions—but even stronger—about creating a 3-D version of the origins of Obi-Wan Kanobi and his Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn as they escort Queen Amidala on her travels to resolve a trade dispute. The only answer I can think of is…money. You just have to decide if you want to help refill George’s bank account—depleted from financing his recent “Red Tails” fighter-pilot movie.

2 and 1/2 pieces of did they really need to do this? toast 






The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part One (R) 

Starring: Kristin Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner

Directed by: Bill Condon

People too young to remember Mia Farrow’s pregnancy in “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968), may have a difficult time with the labor pains in this film. Finally married, Bella chooses to remain human for the wedding night and ends up with a very hungry vampire-child inside her. Kristen Stewart does a lot more than just bite her lower lip this time around. Except for the astounding lack of acting skills from the Quilett werewolves (guys who were obviously hired for their bulging muscles), and cheesy CG effects, this part of the franchise offers a few surprises and some genuine emotion.

3 pieces of fans will flock to buy this 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.
1/2 piece of  yucky, icky, truly worthless toast


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


Anonymous (PG-13) 

Starring: Rhys Ifans, Joely Richardson, David Thewles, Jamie Campbell Bower, Ed Hogg

Directed by: Roland Emmerich

The German director who specializes in end-of-the-earth-as-we-know-it films crammed with special effects (Independence Day, Godzilla, 2012) seems an odd choice for a film about a historic cover-up from the Elizabethan era. The premise is that a nobleman named Edward de Vere, is forced by his dour Puritan in-laws to hide the fact that he writes the increasingly popular, anti-establishment plays attributed to an itinerant actor named William Shakespeare. An equal-opportunity conspirator, de Vere lets Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlow take credit for a few of his plays as well. The whole thing is filled with shadowy darkness, soulful eyes, frantic scribblings and ink-stained fingers, but for me, it lacks the clever wit and whimsy of Shakespeare In Love.

2 and 1/2 pieces of unsubstantiated rumors toast