Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 7/20/12


The Dark Knight Rises (PG-13)
Starring: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, Tom Hardy

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

The Nolan brothers have taken the Batman character from Frank Miller’s Dark Knight graphic novels, and the Bane character from DC Comics’s Knightfall  series and combined them with current events in a spectacular film that encapsulates the fears (and a few wistful hopes) that burden today’s film audiences. The story is that since Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is in the top tier of the 1-percenters, he and his companies are obvious targets for the brutal, anesthetic-sniffing  Bane (Tom Hardy), and his mercenary army of anarchic revolutionaries. Bruce (AKA Batman) has been a depressed cripple for the past eight years, which prompts his British butler, Alfred (Michael Caine), to tell his ostensible employer, “You’re not living. You’re just waiting for something bad to happen.” And voila, “BAD” appears. A tremendous amount of material flashes before our eyes in the “just under 3-hours” length of the film, including the introduction of “new” characters who debuted as comic-book-style illustrations decades ago. Most notable are the sarcastic, leather-suited cat-burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) the mysterious millionaire philanthropist Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), and the new “cop on the block,” John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Last, but definitely not least, is the villainous masked-man Bane (Tom Hardy) the personification of chemically-charged evil who jolts Bruce Wayne out of his comfy recliner and back out on Gotham’s streets as Batman, its “Caped Crusader.” For audiences, it was worth the wait.

Commentary: Only a few of you may notice that I studiously avoided using the word “bloated” in my Cinema Toast column about The Dark Knight Rises. That’s because that word in negative reviews of the film so incensed a few readers of the Rotten Tomatoes movie review website that they threatened death and/or rape of any critic who panned the film. In response, Rotten Tomatoes disabled the “Readers Comments” bulletin board. But this type of overreaction is exactly what makes The Dark Night Rises so  timely. It’s the over-reactive zealots quick to revert to death and destruction over something as trivial as another person’s opinion about a movie, sports team, religious book, or political candidate, who are the really scary villains.

FYI: Gil wrote this review and commentary before he heard about the shooting at the Aurora, Colorado movie theater. His sympathy and empathy go out towards the victims and  their families and everyone who is impacted by this senselessly selfish act.

3 and 1/2  pieces of a timely Batman toast 


Beasts of the Southern Wild (PG-13)

Starring: Quevenzhane Wallis, Dwight Henry, Levy Easterly, Lowell Landes, Pamela Harper 

Directed By: Benh Zeitlin
Burdened with a terrible title, this truly original film takes place in a Louisiana backwater called Bathtub. Growing up in this singular place, is a wide-eyed six-year-old named Hushpuppy (Quevenzhane Wallis), who lives alone with her father (Dwight Henry) in a couple of ramshackle trailers. Hurricane Katrina is bearing down on them, and the “Guvment” (with a “capital G”), is forcing Bathtub’s inhabitants to “evacuate” to a safer place. Hushpuppy narrates the film in such a way that we hear her inner thoughts—and the thoughts of a six-year-old are often wild and mysterious. Lets take, for example, the aurochs. Hushpuppy’s first-grade teacher introduced her to these recently extinct ancestors of modern-day cattle, and the youngster is convinced that the storm will somehow release these long-horned beasts from some frozen, underground imprisonment, so they will once again walk the Earth. In fact, much of Hushpuppie’s world may (or may not) be a dream. In addition to the aurochs, there is the ancient fisherman who pilots his boat to a floating island where a mother-like woman resides. But this island, boat, fisherman, and Madonna, and the dynamite-filled alligator may all be will-of-the-wisps.

3 and 1/2 pieces of truly wondrous and magical toast


Take This Waltz  (R) 

Starring: Michelle Willams, Seth Rogan, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman

Directed by: Sarah Polley
Margot (Michelle Williams) is a Canadian freelance writer who is happily married to her aspiring chef husband Lou (Seth Rogan). On a business trip, Margot innocently flirts with a handsome stranger named Daniel (Luke Kirby). Sharing a cab from the airport, it turns out the two are neighbors, and this geographic accident has a much to do with what follows as any rom-com meet cute. But this is a drama—an onscreen erotic novel, and Take This Waltz doesn’t follow cinematic conventions. Instead, it creates a visceral appreciation for the sensuality and nuance of the little things in life—like love and lust.

3 and 1/2 pieces of Canadian eroticism toast



The Three Stooges (PG)
Starring: Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, Chris Diamantopolous, Jane Lynch, Sofia Vergara, Jennifer Hudson.

Directed by: Peter and Bobby Farelley

You could say that watching the Three Stooges cartoonish mayhem is an acquired taste, but to me, they are about as funny as a poke in the eye with a sharp shtick. In this film, the burlesque-style antics begin on the steps of an orphanage, where the Stooges grow up, acquire those trade-mark haircuts, and choreograph their incessant bullying. You can’t tell that this film took over a decade to make, with musical-chair directors, writers and actors, because all we get is three guys imitating the three (or four or five, depending on how you count them) originals who entertained depression-era audiences with their two-reelers. I guess this is an homage, but bringing in the cast of TV’s Jersey Shore as straight-men falls as flat as an uncharged seltzer bottle.

2 pieces of this doesn’t woik toast


Lockout (PG-13)
Starring: Guy Pearce, Peter Stormare, Maggie Grace
Directed by: James Mather, Stephen St. Leger
Convicted of a crime he did not commit (where have I heard that line before?), a government agent, is shipped off to a space-station prison. After the required number of fights and beatings, the wise-cracking, bad-ass, has a shot at redemption. His task? To rescue the President’s beautiful daughter from the kidnappers who took advantage of her improbable sightseeing tour (plot-device anyone?) of this maximum-security Botany Bay.

1 and 1/2  pieces of completely unbelievable toast


Salmon Fishing In The Yemen (R)
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Amr Waked, Emily Blunt
Directed by: Lasse Halstrom
Set in a Middle East where geopolitical realities don’t seem to exist, this desert-island fairy-tale revolves around a mystical sheik who dreams of turning a much-needed water project into a fly-fisherman’s paradise. He corrals a stuffy, uppercrust, and unwilling  Scotsman to oversee the project, and the females who come along for the ride provide wit, backbone and romantic interest.

3  pieces of everyone is top-notch in this 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 comic 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 inumerable household surfaces.

2 pieces of t’aint funny toast


Casa de Mi Padre (R)
Starring: Will Farrell, Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna, Gensis Rodriguez
Directed by: Matt Piedmont
Farrell builds up a sweat trying to make this 10-minute Tele-novela parody into an hour and a half feature—but it’s not enough, and after the first few chuckles, even the subtitles get in the way. It involves a proud man willing to fight for his ancestral hacienda against his brother’s drug gang. Ridiculous sight gags, like wooden horses, drooping painted landscapes and miscued sound effects are supposed to be funny—but they just seem contrived.

1 and 1/2  pieces of rent Three Amigos instead toast