Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 3/09/12

John Carter too familiar, Murphy stinks in A Thousand Words


John Carter ((PG-13)
Starring the voices: Taylor Kitsh, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe, Samantha Morton

Directed by: Andrew Stanton

In order to keep paying the bills for his Tarzana, CA complex, author Edgar Rice Burroughs (and his son) created several different pulp-novel heroes, including John Carter of Mars. He populated the red planet with odd-named creatures and loincloth-wearing humans, and George Lucas stole those ideas, renamed the characters, and made gazillions with his Star Wars franchise. There, in a nutshell, lies the problem with this movie. Despite some whiz-bang stuff from the Disney studios, every landscape, every furry, slimy, or leathery character, and every prop looks familiar. The dialogue (partly written by Pulitzer Prize Winner Michael Chabon!), is old-fashioned and stilted, (think of the stuff Arnold said in Conan the Barbarian), and halts the action in it’s tracks. Only the super-fast, ten-footed Woola is worth seeing, and he’s there just to make a marketable character for those Happy Meal prizes.

2 pieces of this ain’t no Tarzan toast


A Thousand Words (PG-13)
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Allison Janney, Kerry Washington, Clark Duke
Directed by: Brian Robbins
Murphy plays a constantly talking literary agent who never reads author’s manuscripts, and I bet the star never read this movie’s script. Filmed in 2008, the film’s new release date was scheduled to coincide with the buzz generated by Murphy hosting this year’s Oscars (only he quit, and Billy Crystal hosted instead). The so-called story involves a tree which loses a leaf every time Murphy’s character says a word. When all the leaves are gone, the guy dies—but nobody sees if this happens, because the audience has left the theater and demanded their money back.

1/2  piece of it should never have seen the light of day toast


Silent House (R)
Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Adan Barnett, Eric Sheffer Stevens
Directed by: Chris Kentis, Laura Lau
The sister of the famous twins is striving to extend her fifteen seconds of fame by hiding under furniture and screaming while wearing unbuttoned clothing throughout this Paranormal Activity clone. The filmmakers conceit is to shoot this “abandoned home with hidden family secrets” tale as one long (way too long) scene, without any edits. The gimmick shows why (except for Hitchcock’s “Rope”), movies aren’t made this way.

2 pieces of starts fine but filmmaker’s gimmick gets in the way toast 


We Need to Talk About Kevin (NR)
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller, John C. Riley
Directed by: Lynne Ramsay
This film is about guilt. It focuses on a suburban housewife who gave birth to a boy who massacres his high school classmates. Told in flashbacks, we learn the grim facts of biology, religious intolerance, neighborly ostracism, and Freudian-style psychoses and neurosis. The result is a well-acted but emotionally draining film without any answers. Not the sort of movie you’d see on a first date.

2 pieces of it never answers “why” toast 


Friends With Kids (R)
Starring: Adam Scott, Jon Hamm, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, Jennifer Westfeldt, Chris O’Dowd
Directed by: Jennifer Westfeldt
You’ve probably figured out by now that I don’t like films populated with whining New Yorkers—and this is that type of film. It’s kind of like a low-budget Woody Allen turned into a TV sit-com. The story involves a platonic couple who notice their friends are all having children, and decide to join the club and have a baby. If you think this will lead to formulaic comic scenes involving diapers, bottles and Baby Bjorns, raise your hand. Many of the stars were in the raunchy (and quite funny) “Bridesmaids,” but the edge of that film is sadly missing here, and the result is like the bits of dried baby cereal that seem impossible to remove from improbable household surfaces.

2 pieces of t’aint funny toast





Footloose (PG-13)  

Starring: Kenny Wormaid, Julianne Hough, Andi MacDowell, Dennis Quaid

Directed by: Craig Brewer

The original “Footloose,” was the classic story of parents in a 1984 evangelic midwestern town terrified of what will happen to their sweet, innocent children when they are tempted by the siren call of dance music. It gets updated for an audience raised on music videos and dancing with the stars and the result is amazingly similar to the original with forgettable dialogue, but catchy tunes and dance sequences. The scary bit is that a town outlawing dancing seems more plausible today than it did thirty years ago.

3 pieces of enthusiastic dancing sequences toast


Senna (R)  

Starring: Ayrton Senna, Reginaldo Leme, Alain Prost

Directed by: Asif Kapadia

The brief and fiery life of Brazilian race car driver Ayrton Senna is the focus of this exciting doc made from grainy 1980’s newsreel footage. Rising to stardom in go-kart racing, Senna graduates to formula one where he wins his first Grand Prix and starts a deadly rivalry with fellow McLaren teammate Alain Prost. Fighting with race officials over safety rules, this mercurial superstar cuts as many corners as he can get away with to win races. Filled with harrowing crashes in blood-spattering detail, this fast-paced film isn’t for the faint of heart, but offers an insider’s view of this mano-y-mano sport.

3 and 1/2 pieces of archival documentary toast


Like Crazy (PG-13)
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, Jennifer Lawrence
Directed by: Drake Doremus
Based upon bits of life experienced by the director, the tale is that an American furniture maker and a British writer who meet at an LA college, make some hasty, love-fueled choices, and then end up separated by logistics. The result is a tour of a long-distance relationship with actors improvising many of the lines from situations suggested by the director. Fresh, inventive and quite real, this film won the Grand Jury prize for the film and a Special Jury prize for Felicity Jones at Sundance.
3 and 1/2 pieces of romantic love can conquer all toast