Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast


New Releases for 9/28/12


Hotel Transylvania (PG)

Starring the voices of: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Kevin James, Selena Gomez

Directed By: Genndy Tartakovsky
I could blame this fiasco on Adam Sandler, but that would be too kind. The people behind Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs manage to make this so called “animated comedy” with very few laughs. The set up is a hotel for monsters where clumps of caricatures parade across the screen in a series of sight gags and weak puns (like having “scream cheese” on the breakfast bagel). When a mere mortal appears at the front door, he instantly falls for Dracula’s daughter, who, since she’s just turned 118, is finally old enough to date. Of course her vampire dad doesn’t think the suitor is good enough and the laughter….well, it never happens.

1 1/2 pieces of a frankly unfunny monster bash toast


Won’t Back Down (PG) 

Starring: Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Oscat Issac, Holly Hunter, Rosie Perez

Directed by: Daniel Bamz, Walter Hill
Pennsylvania (and about 20 other states including California) have a law which allows parents to correct problems in a failing school, and even start their own charter school to replace it if necessary. The set up is one which will be familiar to many parents—a mother simply wants to move her daughter from a “low scoring” classroom to one taught by a “really good” teacher instead. She has no idea the firestorm this will precipitate.  Strongly acted by all concerned, the movie paints a picture of “won’t budge an inch” teachers unions, school boards, and State Board of Education, who are adamantly opposed to change—unless it’s their own ideas.

3 pieces of save our schools toast



Stars In Shorts (NR)

Starring: Lily Tomlin, Julia Stiles, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Keira Knightly, Judi Dench, Colin Firth, Jason Alexander, Keira Knightly

Directed by: various

This movie is a collection of seven short films of varying quality. Which shorts you will consider “the best,” depends upon your expectations and circumstances. For example, do you respond to the one with Judi Dench as a mature woman dipping her toe into online romance? Or the one with Colin Firth as the annoying neighbor of Keira Knightly and Tom Mison? Or the conversation between mother and grown son as they drive in a funeral cortege for a person they don’t really know? Or the Twilight Zone style episode with Kenneth Branagh? It’s up to you, but you may want to wait until you have control of the fast forward button on your remote.

3 pieces of some of these shorts are better than others toast


Pitch Perfect (PG-13)

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Skylar Austin

Directed By: Jason Moore
In this post Glee era, it is difficult to make a good movie about college acapella competitions, but the filmmakers wisely set this in a college where the newtalent is discovered when she sings in the dorm shower. Forced to attend school instead of heading to LA for her electronic music “career,”  she wonders why the acapella song list “doesn’t include anything from this century?” She eventually forms her own team of fellow misfits, and they head to the glee club championships. Lots of upbeat music and some really funny scenes along the way, (although a couple of sets featuring cameos by recognizable faces could have been left on the cutting room floor).

3 pieces of light, frothy, and often quite funny college singers toast


Looper (R)

Starring: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano

Directed By: Rian Johnson

There are two competing schools of thought about time travel. For one, the prime directive is to avoid changing anything in the past that will alter the future (aka our present). The other group argues that people have the responsibility to change things in the past to make a better today (killing Hitler is always given as an example of a “good” type of time meddling). In this film, “loopers” (aka time travelers), are routinely sent into the past to assassinate someone before they can mess things up in the here and now. A crime boss has decided to send his aging loopers back to kill their younger selves, thereby erasing any ties to his gang. One aged looper finds out about this ploy and so the looper of Christmas Past, needs to avoid being killed by the looper of Christmas Future, who is also the looper of Christmas Present. Got that? Oh, did I mention the gangsters who want to kill the looper(s) as well?

3 pieces of you need to pay attention toast



The Avengers (PG-13)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner

Directed by: Joss Wheden

We’ve already met Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America in other films, now the four superheroes unite as a team—albeit a team where multi-billionaire Tony Stark (AKA Iron Man) wants to be in charge. The plot involves a Hitchcockian McGuffin called the Tesseract, which gives it’s owner unlimited power. The bad guys steal the sparkling blue cube, and the superheroes are assembled to retrieve it. The showdown occurs at Tony Stark’s mid-Manhattan high-rise where glittering gadgets abound. (I almost wrote “Final showdown” but quickly realized a sequel is sure to follow).

3 and 1/2 pieces of super, super-toast


Damsels In Distress (PG-13)
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Analeigh Tipton, Adam Brody, Carrie MacLemore
Directed by: Whit Stillman

Set in the time-warp of a college town, three young women try to make the lives of everyone they meet be a little better. Like some modern-day musketeers, they bring a freshman girl into their “youth outreach” program where they hold parties to bring a little joy into the lives of the boys who attend. The result is as fizzy and light as a creme soda sweet, and decidedly vanilla.
3 pieces of well written humor toast