Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast



New Releases for 4/27/12


The Raven (R)
Starring: John Cusak,

Directed by: James McTigue, Brendan Gleeson, Luke Evans, Alice Eve

Vincent Price brought a certain campiness to Edgar Allen Poe’s macabre tales that is sadly missed this time around. Falling into the trap of rewriting history, the grisly stories Poe relates are supposedly based on a real-life series of murders in 19th century Baltimore. John Cusak is terribly miscast as Poe and the absurd script has him playing Sherlock Homes to a city detective in the mold of Inspector Lestrade. It’s “R” rated to boot, so all the terrible things are shown in gruesomely bloody closeups. They should have followed the raven’s “Nevermore” advice before making this mess.

1 and 1/2 pieces of gross-out toast


The Five Year Engagement (R)
Starring: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, Alison Brie
Directed by: Nicholas Stoller
The concept must have sounded good at the pitch session—let’s follow what happens to a rom-com couple after they get engaged—but the end product feels like a rough-cut that’s way too long. The demographic portrayed onscreen is notoriously prone to postponing things like marriage, children and growing up, and this is the poster-couple for the group. Life events, like dying grandmas, grad school and taking a job to pay the bills are the rationale behind the wait, but the female half of the couple is working on a post-doc in psychology and if she is blind to the problem, then one of her quirky classmates should certainly be able to make a diagnosis.

2  and 1/2  pieces of likable actors but way too long a film toast


Pirates! Band of Misfits (PG)
Starring the voices of: Hugh Grant, Brendan Gleeson, Martin Freeman. Imelda Staunton, Brian Blessed, Salma Hayak

Directed by: Peter Lord

Technically, the British-accented sailors in this animated delight are Privateers—sailing under the flag and protection of Queen Victoria. Full of bluster and bombast, the film is like a throwback to those golden days of Loony Tunes, where characters defy gravity and anatomical laws of nature as they fly through the air and crash into various masts, sails, rocks, figureheads and other creatures. The claymation techniques of Aardman Animation are perfect for 3-D, adding to the sense of absurdity, delight and joyfulness. The script is a marvel of intelligent detail as the Captain’s “Parrot” turns out to be an “extinct” dodo bird, and the crew become amateur scientists who mix things like baking soda and vinegar together “just to see what happens.” Kabooom!

3 and 1/2 pieces of lets us be kids again toast


Safe (R)
Starring: Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, Robert John Burke, James Hong, Anson Mount

Directed by: Boaz Yakin

This is one of those movies that critics hate and audiences love. That’s because the males who choose to pay money for the privilege of watching muscular guys whoop ass other guys on the mixed-martial-arts circuit are a self-selected focus group. The set up involves the Russian Mafia exterminating the main character’s family before banishing him to the streets of New York. He quickly discovers that anyone who befriends him is killed, so his isolation deepens. In other words, the plot is there to hang all the action sequences on, as well as the rationale for all the testosterone-fueled violence.

2 and 1/2 pieces brutal immorality toast


Deep Blue Sea (R)
Starring: Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston
Directed by: Terence Davies

Rachel Weisz is astounding as the free-spirited wife of a passionless judge in post WW2 Britain. She starts an amorous relationship with a former RAF pilot and ignores the wise advice from an older friend, “Beware of passion…a guarded enthusiasm [is] safer.” Based on a Terrance Ratigan play, the lead role is considered “one of the greatest roles for an actress in  modern theater. Weisz makes it her own.
3 and 1/2  pieces of Rachel Weisz toast


The Island President (PG-13)
Starring: Mohamed Nasheed

Directed by: Jon Shenk
Imagine what it must have been like for the ruler of Atlantis as his nation sank into the sea, and then place it in the modern world of anti-democracy fundamentalists and anti-science knuckleheads. That is the dilemma facing Mohammed Nasheed, the democratically-elected President of the Maldives, a low-lying group of islands in the Indian Ocean that is rapidly sinking as ocean levels rise. The documentary interweaves the President’s amazing personal story with the astoundingly beautiful scenery and the geo-politics of being a “little” fish, among all the “big fish” on the World stage. The result is a vividly constructed story of survival, realistic determinism and hope.

4 pieces of it’s happening right now! toast




Contraband (R)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Kate Beckinsale, Giovanni Ribisi
Directed by: Balthasar Komakur
Based on an Icelandic thriller, this is a formulaic B-movie, but it’s a well done formulaic B-movie. It involves a former New Orleans smuggler who has gone legit and now has a beautician wife and two cute kids. If you think the guy will get sucked back into the action, and his wife and kids will be kidnapped and put in harm’s way, raise your hand. Raise the other one if you think there will be lots of explosions, fighting, threats like “don’t you even mention my wife and kids,” and, just for a surprise, some nifty, shipboard heist sequences.

3 pieces of defrosted from the Icelandic film toast