Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
New Releases for 5/25/12
Men In Black 3 (R)
Starring: Willl Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Emma Thompson
Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
Those of us who remember the original MIB fondly, will cringe at this limp update. The idea is that an alien serial killer travels back to 1969 to retrieve the arm that was blown off by Agent K. This means that Agent J will have to board a time machine (that looks an awful lot like the one in the 1960 George Pal movie), to protect his going-to-be partner. Since Agent K is a lot younger, James Brolin gets to play the craggy-faced Tommy Lee Jones character as a younger, but still cock-sure, angry Elvis-type. Sonnenfeld directs like he has just discovered the close up, and he manages to let some of the funniest set ups fizzle like the sound an Arquillian swamp beast makes when you pull it’s finger,
2 pieces of often labored toast
Chernobyl Diaries (PG-13)
Starring: Olivia Taylor Dudley, Jesse McCarthy, Jonathan Sadowski
Directed by: Oren Peli
The “Paranormal Activity”director has created another horror film, but he’s changed the locale to the literally glowing landscape around the Russian nuclear reactor that suffered a horrific melt-down 25 years ago. The premise is that six Americans decide Chernobyl is a good spot to spend their vacation. Seemingly, this is an unwise choice, but I don’t really know, because the film wasn’t available to critics.
Unavailable for screening
Monsieur Lazhar (PG-13)
Starring: Mohamed Fellag, Sophie Nielisse, Emelien Neron, Danielle Proulx, Brigette Poupart
Directed by: Phillipe Falardeau
This is one of those “little” films from Canada that takes a well-worn theme and polishes it into a glowing gem. The premise is simple: a beloved teacher dies and a substitute takes over. The fact that this substitute is a 60-something Algerian immigrant who has to cope with the grief and loss of his students, while adhering to a “no touching or sharing feelings” school policy, adds complexity and nuance. There is, of course, a secret or two from the past, but those are just Hitchcockian McGuffins to hang the story on. The real joy comes from the completely natural skill of the child actors, and the comedic timing of Mohamed Fellag.
4 pieces of back to school toast
First Position (NR)
Starring: Aran Bell, Michaela DePrince, Joan Sebastian Zamora, Miko Fogarty
Directed by: Bess Kangman
This isn’t like those beauty pageant docs where over-accessorized moms push their tarted up little girls on stage to strut and pose like pole dancers. The nonprofit that runs the Youth America Grand Prix grants $250 million in scholarships to prestigious dance academiesannualy, and the young people in the competition don’t just think they can dance, they know it in their soul. As with every contest involving physical skill, it’s the things that occur backstage that make this movie memorable—the helicopter parents, the pre-teen puppy love, the girl who signs up to be with her closest friend, the adoptee from Sierra Leone and the boy from Columbia who have a lot more riding on this competition than a trophy. It’s assembled as a fresh and entertaining and sometimes almost unbelievable exposition of dance, for it’s not just the Olympic athletes who benefit from the modern training methods).
3 pieces of young ballet stars toast
NEW ON DVD
The Secret World of Arietty (PG)
Starring the voices of: Bridgette Mendler, Amy Pohler, Will Arnett Carol Burnett
Directed by: Hiiromasa Yonebayashi, Gary Rydstrom
This delightful tale brings Mary Norton’s “The Borrowers” to life with Japanese-style animation. Arrietty is the diminutive girl who hides in the garden with her father and mother and subsists on scraps of sugar cubes and cake crumbs carelessly left unguarded by the human housekeeper. Then, when a 12-year-old-boy moves into the house, a secret friendship develops that could put the little folk in danger. The joy is letting yourself go and becoming enchanted with the whimsy of it all.
3 and 1/2 pieces of teeny-tiny toast
This Means War (PG-13)
Starring: Chris Pine, Reese Witherspoon, Tom Hardy
Directed by: McG
Two male CIA operatives show little intelligence as their long time partnership is threatened by falling for the same woman. Director McG makes the same mistake he did in the Charlie’s Angels movie—beautiful, but extremely cardboard people parading around in expensive outfits and insulting the audience by stealing their admission dollars.
1 and 1/2 piece of you could fall asleep from boredom toast
The Woman In Black (R)
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds, Janet McTeer, Shaun Dooley
Directed by: James Watkins
We’re in Britain in the early 20’s where a widowed barrister has difficulty making enough to care for his young son, so he takes a job settling an estate at a haunted mansion. Since the movie opened with three village girls hurling themselves out of a window. we know that evil consumes the fog-shrouded environs, and we embrace the old-fashioned, jump-out-of-your-seat frights. Oh, did you notice I refrained from a single mention of Harry Potter?
3 pieces of ghostly going-on toast
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