Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 3/02/12

 

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax ((PG)
Starring the voices: Danny DeVito, Zach Efron, Betty White, Ed Helms, Taylor Swift, Rob Riggle

Directed by: Chris Renaud

Ted Geisel is probably rolling over in his grave because the timelessness of his book has unwisely been transformed to a film filled with set-pieces, dull songs, and never-before seen characters intent on selling toys and fast-food combo-packs. Two preteens have been added to capture a wider demographic (with “hip” young stars voices attached), with the boy trying to impress the “little red-headed girl” (where have I heard that phrase before?) by escaping their plasticized city only to discover a depressing “real” world. Here is where Dr. Seuss’ original characters reside —a place where the greedy Once-ler systematically destroyed the planet. Casting Danny DeVito was a mistake too, since he plays the Lorax as a clown rather than the tragic figure from the book, with shallowness the result.

2 pieces of Seuss deserves better toast

 

Project X (R)
Starring: Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Brown, Dax Flame
Directed by: Nima Nourizadeh, Jonathan Kaplan
A text invitation goes viral by promising free booze and “girls, girls, girls’ when a boy’s parents unwisely leave him home alone. The result is like an adolescent’s wetdream as quick-to-disrobe women magically appear and tweets and sexting messages call in the News-at-11:00 helicopters and the backyard party threatens to destroy property values. Minus a plot, real actors, direction or any redeeming social value,  this film will probably be a big hit on video where under-age boys can guzzle beer, fantasize to their heart’s content, and throw up when the film is over.

1 and 1/2 piece of puerile toast

 

Pariah (R)
Starring: Adepero Oduye, Pernell Walker, Kim Wayans, Aasha Davis
Directed by: Dee Rees
The autobiographical nature of this film by writer/director Dee Rees adds a realistic depth to this otherwise “we’ve seen this before” story. Presented in brief vignettes that are funny, poignant or soulful, the main character’s inner turmoil while searching for her developing identity and the open-ended closing makes this film even more worth your time and reflection.

3 and 1/2 pieces of Black is gay and beautiful toast 

 

Woman On the Sixth Floor (NR)
Starring: Fabrice Luchini, Natalia Verbeke, Sandrine Kiberlain
Directed by: Phillipe Le Guay
Advertised as “The Help” in French, to me the story is more akin to the the TV miniseries Downton Abbey, where the upper-crust Earl of Grantham had a “what if” relationship with Ethel, the new housemaid. Here, it’s 1962,  the new maid is from Spain and the French bourgeoisie man going through a mid-life crisis, finds more joie-de-vivre among his Spanish maids than with his family and friends.

3 pieces of it’s France in 1962, so don’t examine this one too closely toast 

 

NEW ON DVD

Hugo (R) 

Starring: Ben Kingsley, Asa Butterfield, Ray Winstone, Sasha Baron Cohen, Chloe Moritz, Emily Mortimer

Directed by: Martin Scorcese

I recently had a chance to interview filmmaker/historian/critic, Richard Shickel about his book “Conversations With Scorcese,” and I wonder where he would rank this homage to film pioneer Georges Melies in Scorcese’s list of films. In interviews, the director gushes about the opportunity to shoot a film in 3-D, but for me, that optical gimmick doesn’t add enough of a “wow” to warrant paying extra for the clunky glasses and the at home 3-D set up. The 2-d version is fine, and  What you will discover is a loving adaptation of Brian Selznick’s children’s book with scenes reminiscent of Harry Potter, The Polar Express, The Wizard of Oz, and some of Terry Gilliam’s absurdities. You see there is this orphaned boy who lives in the walls of a Parisian train station at the turn of the last century and…

3 and 1/2 pieces of more enjoyable in 2-D 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 predictable 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