Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
New Releases for 8/24/12
Premium Rush (PG-13)
Starring the voices of: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Jamie Chung, Dania Ramirez
Directed By: David Koepp
“Kill the Messenger,” Plutarch wrote long ago, but the Bicycle messengers who hurtle across the streets of Manhattan look like they are going to kill themselves—or an innocent pedestrian—as they peddle, push, text-message, chat, eat, drink and do almost everything else on the backs of their two-wheeled cyclones. When a messenger unwittingly accepts a package that needs to be delivered to Chinatown, he gets pursued at break-neck speed by a dirty cop with “anger issues.” Dodging baby carriages, taxis, car doors, pregnant women, elderly pedestrians with walkers, open manholes, and the assorted detritus of America’s largest city, the photography gets you right into the thick of things—most of which is live action. In fact, Joseph Gordon-Levitt got so into it, he crashed into the back of a taxi and required 31 stitches on his arm.
Disclosure note: Joe Quirk, a Bay Area writing colleague and Facebook friend, has sued Sony Pictures et al for copyright infringement of his very similar 1998 novel, “The Ultimate Rush.” In July, a judge ruled that the suit had merit and could continue.
3 pieces hold on to your handlebars toast
Hit and Run (R)
Starring: Kristen Bell, Dax Shepard, Kristin Chenowith, Bradley Cooper, Tom Arnold
Directed By: Dax Shepard, David Palmer
The car is a black-on-black, ’67 Lincoln Continental, the girl is a graduate student who needs to get to LA for a job interview, the boy/driver is a laid-back Californian and the three combine for a no-plot-needed, cross-country chase movie with lots and lot of metal scraping, tire burning, exhaust fumes twirling, dust billowing, real life (not CG) stunt driving. A perfect way to end the summer.
3 pieces end of summer escapism toast
2 Days in New York (R)
Starring: Julie Delpy, Chris Rock, Alexia Landeau, Alex Niahon
Directed by: Julie Delpy
Actor/director Julie Delpy follows up her 2007 film “2 Days In Paris,” by flying across the Atlantic for “2 Days In New York.” The new film has all the charm and quirkiness of the first one, but with the advantage of having most of the film in English. Chris Rock plays an NPR radio host living with a French artist (Delpy). When her father and sister arrive from France with the artist’s boorish former lover in tow, the culture clash fuels many of the “I Love Lucy” style situations. Thankfully, Chris Rock makes all Delpy’s Franco-American fluff work.
2 and 1/2 pieces of Franco-American toast
Farewell My Queen (R)
Starring: Diane Kruger, Lea Seydoux, Virginie Ledoyen
Directed by: Benoit Jacguot
Opening just days before murderous crowds storm the gates of Versailles, the beautiful Marie Antoinette is friendly with her closest servants, and it is through her maid’s eyes that we see the collapse of the French monarchy and the rise of revolutionary righteousness. This perspective provides a “Downton Abbey” or “Upstairs Downstairs” look at a major historic event, and, as always, it’s the little details, the behind the veils gossip that pique our interest, and charm, and amaze us.
3 pieces of this sure ain’t Les Miserables toast
2016: Obama’s America (NR)
Directed by: Dinesh D’Souza, John Sullivan
When a recent news story quoted a Texas Judge that he had warned the local sheriff to be prepared for “Civil War” when Obama hands US sovereignty over to the UN, letters to the editor asked, “Where does this guy get his “facts?” The answer is obvious in this unapologetic, one-sided view of a President who is “not like us.” The author of a book entitled “The Roots of Obama’s Rage,” creates a film by rehashing old stories, interviewing “experts,” and even President Obama’s Kenyan half-brother.
Unavailable for preview
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Samantha Morton, Paul Giamatti
Directed by: David Cronenberg
I’m not sure Robert Pattinson will ever be able to shed his vampire persona. Playing a Wall Street billionaire in Cosmopolis, when Pattinson looks out his limousine window at the protesters who are tossing dead rats at the car and says “They came from horror and despair,” titters of laughter rolled across the theater. In truth, Pattinson acts more like a robot than a vampire, and his erotic interludes with his art dealer, female body guard, and all too perfect wife, just continue Cronenberg’s penchant for the kinky. A true person of “The Street,” this billionaire’s life is centered around his limo rides. Even his prostate exam is given by a physician who joins him in the back seat. I suppose it’s supposed to be symbolic in some fashion, but it’s all too cool and calculated for my taste.
1 and 1/2 pieces of minor Cronenbergian toast
Robot and Frank PG-13)
Starring: Frank Langella, Liv Tyler, James Marsden, Susan Sarandon, Peter Sarsgaard
Directed by: Jake Schrier
Frank is an aging, semi-retired jewel thief who lives alone in upstate New York until his son rents him a robot companion. Programmed to make Frank live a healthier, longer existence, Robot makes healthy meals and encourages exercise. Robot also wants to keep his patient’s mind engaged, so he willingly accepts Frank’s offer to teach him the tricks of the jewel thief’s trade, and a new partnership is formed.
2 and 1/2 pieces of slight, but well-acted toast
NEW ON DVD
A Separation (PG-13)
Starring: Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayat, Peyman Maodi, Sarina Ferahdi
Directed by: Asghar Farhadi
This year’s Oscar-winner in the Best Foreign Language Film category is a family story set in modern Tehran. A woman asks for a divorce because her husband refuses to emigrate to Europe and make a better life for their daughter. He says he can’t leave, because no one will take care of his senile father. When the wife moves out, the husband hires a female caretaker who tries to keep the job secret from her family. Things happen, lies are told, different points-of-view are explored, respect is elusive, and the audience leaving the theater can’t wait to discuss what they have seen.
4 pieces of must see (even though it’s subtitled) toast
The Dictator (R)
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley, Anna Faris, Jason Mantzoukas, Megan Fox
Directed by: Larry Charles
The comedic genius who brought us “Borat” and “Bruno” has created a fresh new character—Admiral General Aladeen, the hereditary dictator of a mysterious North African country that no one heard about before this movie hit the theaters. The dictator is an equal opportunity offender and non-PC to the extreme, and is disliked immensely by almost everyone on the planet (except his fellow third-world despots). Determined to speak “the truth”at the UN, the real dictator is kidnapped, shaved and cast onto the streets of New York, while his enemies install a look-alike in his place, and the world is none the wiser. The beardless former-dictator is given shelter by Zoe, an organic grocery store manager, who assumes the guy is a “crazy street-person,” and can be retrained to be socially acceptable. Paced with an opening that is primarily exposition, the big laughs are mostly R-rated, and clustered towards the end, giving the audience enough time to see the scripted genius of making a thoroughly horrible fascist become a satiric mirror for current events.
3 and 1/2 pieces of farcical fascist toast
Starring: Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey
Directed by: Richard Linklater
The premise is that a well-liked Texas funeral director hooks up with an aging, wealthy, and strident widow. They travel the world and burn through money while she yells at him. One day, the guy has heard enough, so he shoots her in the back and deposits the body in a freezer. Repenting for his rash actions, he gives the money away to needy people and leaves none for himself. When the truth comes out, the locals think Bernie should go free. I expected this “based on a true story” black comedy would have a Hitchcockian twist to make it really work, and with Jack Black as the star, I kept waiting for the punch line.
3 pieces of a nice-guy murderer toast