Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 9/07/12


The Words  (PG-13)

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Zoe Saldana, Olivia Wilde

Directed By: Brian Krugman, Lee Stemthal

A failed novelist with a beautiful and supportive wife discovers an old manuscript in an antique shop, publishes it under his name, and wrestles with the fame and guilt. The filmmakers muddle this simple story by cramming in a backstory of the now elderly man who wrote the manuscript about his post WW2 love, and yet another writer reading from his novel about those two other writers at a bookstore with a pretty young groupie by his side. The three writers may or not not be figments of each other’s imaginations, or they could be fleshed out incarnations of muses gone wild. In short, it’s complicated—unnecessarily so.

2 pieces of why did they make this so confusing? toast


Sleepwalk With Me (NR)

Starring: Mike Birbiglia, Lauren Ambrose, James Rebhorn, Carol Kane

Directed By: Mike Birbiglia
I readily admit I’m an “NPR guy.” I not only listen to the broadcasts, I host the Word ByWord: Conversations With Writers show on the Sonoma County NPR station KRCB-FM. So the names, voices, and writing styles of Ira Glass, Mike Birbiglia and Seth Barrish are recognizably familiar. Birbiglia is a stand-up comic and monologist who who first presented his Sleepwalk With Me as a segment on Ira Glass’ NPR magazine show This American Life“ and then expanded the piece into a one-man off Broadway show, book and film. The story is a fictionalized version of Birbiglia’s life as an alter-ego named Matt Pandamiglio reacts to his girlfriend’s pressure to get married by sleepwalking. That’s right, sleepwalking. And like the old cartoon character Mr. Magoo, much of the fun comes when bathroom hampers, bookshelves and tables become dangerously funny stepping stones. Made with a modest budget, the film’s “auteur” style is part of its charm. The fact that it actually grapples with fear of commitment in such an alarmingly visual way is heightened because we realize this really is “based on a true story.”

3 and 1/2 pieces of a This American Life segment onscreen toast


Ek Tha Tiger (NR)

Starring: Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Girish Kamad

Directed By: Kabir Khan
Bollywood films usually combine banal love stories with colorfully choreographed dance sequences in a whole that seems slightly off-kilter to American audiences. This production adds a third element—spy capers with lots of chase scenes, crashes, and gunfire. The story about a handsome Indian secret agent and the kindled love for his beautiful Pakistani counterpart actually just gets in the way of the Dublin, Istanbul and Havana based action .

2 pieces of watch this at home so you can fast forward the sappy bits toast


Bill W. (NR) 

Starring: Blake J. Evans, Chris Gates, Dennis Lowell

Directed by: Carracino and Kevin Hanlon
As the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, William Griffith Wilson was one the most influential people of the last century—but because of AA’s famous pledge of anonymity, he was only known as “Bill W.”. This documentary about Bill W.’s flawed life story and the 2 million member self-help organization he founded, makes for an interesting but not particularly enjoyable tale. We follow Bill W.’s highs and lows (his numerous adulteries, his repeated back-sliding bouts with alcoholism, his flirtation with LSD and other drugs), through still photos and archival voice recordings. Unfortunately, this is one of those docs that includes “re-created” events using unprofessional actors. Too bad. Bill W’s story is better told without the fake stuff.

2 pieces of should have skipped the “re-created” bits toast



The Cold Light of Day (PG-13)

Starring: Henry Cavill, Bruce Willis, Sigourney Weaver

Directed by: Mabrouk El Mechri

Sounding like a film school exercise where the filmmakers are required to include a Hitchcock-like “McGuffin,” in the plot, an American family on a sailboat vacation in Spain is kidnapped by intelligence agents who want a certain briefcase as ransom for their release. Seems that grandpa never told his family that he used to be a CIA agent.

Unavailable for preview by critics in the USA



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


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


Piranha 3DD (NR)
Starring: Clu Gullagher, David Hasselhoff, Christopher Lloyd, Gary Bussey

Directed by: John Gulager

This is a follow up to the profitable Piranha 3D film and is populated with “whatever happened to” TV stars, and Ving Rhames as the deputy partially eaten in the first film. As far as I know, the DD in the title does not refer to anybody’s bust size, but there are a lot of pretty women in bikini’s for the fish to fancy. Other than that, it takes too log for the toothy fish to appear, and when they do, the fake blood flows by the gallon and the camera wiggles as much as the 3D females.

1 piece of tacky, senseless, badly-made shlock toast