Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 9/21/12

Master masterful, End of Watch riveting 


Master (R)

Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Laura Dern

Directed By: Paul Thomas Anderson
A cult religion that has lots of similarities to Scientology is founded and led by a writer named Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman) in the years immediately following WW2. The group throws parties to attract new members, and a lost, failure-at-many-different-jobs fellow named Freddie Quell (Phoenix) stumbles into one, and finds his purpose in life. Dodd and Quell are the fire and water, yin and yang—nourishing each other’s weaknesses while feasting on their strengths. It’s like watching Eric Hoffer’s 1951 book The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements come alive. Riveting, the acting is on a level seldom seen in movies today and the director manages to keep his audience slightly unsettled by the goings on.

3 and 1/2 pieces of brilliantly acted, no easy answers toast


End of Watch (R) 

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick, America Ferrara

Directed by: David Ayer
Just when you think you’ve seen every mismatched cops buddy movie, along comes this fresh look. It stems from the recent practice of police filming their work days—arrests, pursuits, donut breaks and all. The brilliance is in director David Ayer’s own screenplay. Having cut his teeth on “Training Day” and “S.W.A.T.,” he brings the right sound to the movie, and by using the “found footage” technique, he ramps up the “we are there” feel. We watch the partners in a series of increasingly high-publicity busts, but this notoriety also attracts unwanted overtures from a Mexican street gang. The unexpected results surprised this film critic—and that’s not an easy thing for a cop movie to do.

3 pieces of a new take on the cop movie genre toast



Trouble With the Curve (PG-13)

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman

Directed by: Robert Lorenz

A few years ago, Clint Eastwood said he’d never make another movie, but here he is again. The story is about an over-the hill baseball coach who is slowly loosing his eyesight, and his spunky, attorney of a daughter who both idolizes her father and hates his style of parenting. Striving for a partnership in her law firm, this ambitious young woman decides to place her life on hold and travel with her father on his final scouting trip. Here, in a nutshell, is the problem with the movie. Everything, and I mean everything, is a plot device, and I was not impressed. Amy acts feisty, Justin acts hunky, and Clint….? Well, lets just say that his rambling, unfocused, talking to a chair persona wasn’t limited to the Republican convention.

2 pieces of Clint should have stayed retired toast



Barfi (NR)

Starring: Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Ileanna D’Cruz, Ranbur Kapoor

Directed By: Anurag Basu
The latest Bollywood star from India’s famous Kapoor acting dynasty, plays a deaf-mute character in a pseudo-Chaplinesque style that wears out its welcome too quickly in a film that lasts way too long. In classic style, the story tells how this man limited to communicating in mime falls in love with an engaged woman, years pass, and he begins romancing a young autistic girl. Since this is a film infused with improbably choreographed dancing sequences, myriad closeups of actors mugging for the cameras, and swirling bolts of colorful silk, the “ick factor” in all this is diminished. But, unfortunately for audiences, the length of the film stretches on and on and on.

1 piece of probably should never have been released in American theaters  toast


Samsara (PG-13)

Directed By: Ron Fricke

Way back in 1988, a mind-blowing documentary entitled “Koyaanisquatsi” mixed music, voices, ambient noises and stunning visuals like time lapse photos of freeways at rush hour or skyscrapers at night to show audiences what the filmmakers called “life out of balance.” Several sequels followed over the years, and a collaborator on the original film has now made his own movie. It is, simply put, a collection of exceedingly beautiful images of natural and man-made environments edited in juxtaposition to “make you think.” It is lovely to watch, but (and this is a big but) compared to the recent IMax projects revealing the wonders of this planet we live on, instead of seeming new and fresh, it just seems beautifully comfortable—rather than transformational.

3 pieces of “ever-turning wheel of life” toast



The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (PG-13)
Starring: Judy Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Tom Wikinson, Penelope Wilton, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie
Directed by: John Madden
A gaggle of familiar faces and voices decides to save money on their retirement accomodations by booking into an Indian hotel that looks beautiful on the website, because the photos were taken when India was a British colony. Deciding to make the best of a ramshackle reality, the wrinkled, and rumpled retirees handle leaking faucets, burned-out lights and holes in the walls with British aplomb, while the young hotel manager slaps a smile on his face and whitewash on the walls to keep his guests satisfied. It’s unpretentious and predictable, but everyone is top-notch and the delight is the ensemble itself.

3 pieces of aging Britishers in India toast


Hysteria (R)
Starring: Maggie Gylenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Rupert Everett, Jonathan Pryce

Directed by: Bobby Birleffi, Beverly Kopf

Several years ago, I introduced Emiko Omori and Wendy Slick’s film “The Passion and the Power” at the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival. The film provided a history of one of the first electrical appliances sold for home use—the vibrator. “Hysteria” is a fictionalized account of some British doctors who are treating an epidemic of hysteria among Victorian women by manually bring them to orgasm in their examining rooms. Unfortunately, the doctors develop carpal-tunnel-syndrome and other stresses to their hands and arms, so the learned duo and a wealthy inventor team up to create a “vibrating electrical device” that brings about the same results but with less wear-and-tear on the physicians. The actors do their best, and some scenes work very well, but…   Sadly, the director seems unsure what tone to maintain, and the result is mildly amusing film that lacks (pardon me for saying this) a satisfying climax.

2 and 1/2 pieces of needs to be more like the Tom Jones movie toast


Katy Perry: Part of Me (PG)
Starring: Katy Perry, Shannon Woodward, Bradford Cobb

Directed by: Dan Cutforth, Jane Lipsitz

Unfortunate timing means this documentary about the likable “Bubble-gum Girl,” Katy Perry is much more interesting to audiences than we expect. The “unfortunate” event is Perry’s crumbling marriage to narcissistic British actor Russell Brand. Following Perry’s rise to stardom from Pentacostal churches to the Candyland excess of her recent California Dreams Tour, the filmmakers sagely give us glimpses of the heartache roiling inside as the singer goes onstage. We quickly learn to like Katy Perry, and root for her to come out on top. We even end up humming some of her songs.

3 pieces of  musical documentary toast


Cabin in the Woods (R)
Starring: Kristen Conolly, Chris Hemsworth, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford

Directed by: Drew Goddard

Advertised as “the smartest horror film in years,” it isn’t. The set up is familiar—five stereotypical college kids on a weekend camping trip in a remote cabin are terrified by unexplained phenomenon. In the classics of this genre, the kids lives are on the line and the stakes are high. This time, two mad scientists are watching the kids every move, and controlling the haunted house’s special effects while reciting inane dialogue stolen from better films. The result is like watching a reality TV-show where the producers manipulate the “contests” for the TV viewing audience, but no one cares who “wins.”

1 and 1/2 pieces of so-what toast