Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 10/19/12

Detropia documentary best bet, everything else is dreck 


Alex Cross  (PG-13)

Starring: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Edward Burns, Jean Reno, Rachel Nichols

Directed by: Rob Cohen

Tyler Perry told Stephen Colbert that he uses his famous character Medea as “the anaesthetic” to make audiences receptive to more substantial  issues, but in Alex Cross, the lackluster plot, performances and dull screenplay are what put audiences to sleep. Playing a character made popular in a dozen James Patterson novels, and two previous R-rated films starring Morgan Freeman, this time, Perry and his filmmakers play it very, very safe. Everything seems low budget, with Cleveland, Ohio acting as the stand-in for Detroit, and the inane poster tag-line reading “don’t ever cross Alex Cross.” Say what?

1  piece of must skip toast 


Detropia (PG)

Directed By: Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady
The documentary filmmakers who brought us Jesus Camp focus their lens on the crumbling physical and social infrastructure of the the once proud and powerful city of Detroit, Michigan. The camera discovers beautiful images among the ruins of the ravaged city, but the true strength lies in the people who chose to remain in this rust belt graveyard. With the jobs shipped overseas (one sobering statistic, 50,000 U.S. manufacturing plants have closed forever since 2002), the vast majority of the previously middle-class workforce live far from Detroit and survive as low-paid service workers. The ones who remain include several young artists who easily find cheap (or free) places to work, and the former Detroit Pistons player who as, Detroit’s mayor, spends much of his time telling angry crowds, “We can’t do that. We don’t have any money.”

3 pieces of what post-urban documentary toast


Deep Dark Canyon (NR) 

Starring: Spencer Treat Clark, Ted Levine, Matthew Lillard, Nick Eversman, Martin Starr.

Directed by: Martin McDonough
Filmed in and around Sonoma County, the story tells what happens when the sons of a small town sheriff accidentally shoot the town’s mayor. The brothers escape from custody while handcuffed to each other,

Not available for preview


The Paperboy (R)

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, John Cusak, Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, Macy Gray

Directed By: Lee Daniels
Comparing The Paper Boy to the last time Matthew McConaughey played a low life in William Freidkin’s NC-17 Killer Joe, seems obvious. The decided difference is that the director of The Exorcist knows that “less is more.” Lee Daniels, whose previous film was Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire, obviously believes “it you can show it in lurid detail, you should.” The setting is a damp, foggy, moldy, and fecund Southern town in the early sixties and the characters are as kinky, bigoted and Gothic as they come. The turgid swampiness infects everything onscreen, as the gauzy flashbacks and muck-covered couplings make the horrible sucking sounds of a terrible film.

1 piece of terrible filmmaking toast


360 (R)

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Ben Foster

Directed By: Fernando Mirelles

The premise of this movie is that things happening to people in one part of the world are somehow connected to other people elsewhere. It’s a trope that has been done much better in other films (like Alejandro Inamatu’s Babel, and Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter), but here, the marvelous cast, amazing director, and astounding screenwriter would get low marks in kindergarten— they simply don’t play well with each other. The diverse stories involve an adulterous couple, Russian pimps, a horny Parisian dentist, a recently paroled sex offender, and a father searching for his missing daughter, but nobody in the audience cares what happens to these strangers on the screen.

1 and 1/2 piece of an enormous waste of talents toast


Paranormal Activity 4 (R) 

Starring: Katie Featherston, Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively

Directed by: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
A new, and temporarily alive family is introduced in this fourth of the lucrative “put a camera on a tripod in a darkened bedroom” franchise. Other than that, nothing else is much different. Wait. Did I mention the location shifts from California to Nevada? That’s about the most exciting thing in the filmmakers’ repetitive bag of tricks.

1 and 1/2 pieces of seen it all before and much better toast




Moonrise Kingdom (PG-13)
Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel

Directed by: Wes Anderson

When a recent news story told of two young teens ditching their school’s field trip and taking a bus to LA, I thought of this movie. The same thing happens here, the difference being it’s 1965 so instead of texting, the teens have set up their escape as pen-pals. Trapped on an island, there’s no bus available and the “storm of the century” is headed right at them. The adults are all played by marvelous actors who, like Bruce Willis as the island’s entire police force, brings their previous character’s gravitas to the role. In interviews, the writer/director claims naivete about the appropriateness of scenes where the pre-teens cavort around in their underwear in sexually charged situations. Forgetting “Romeo and Juliet,” he seems to believe teen lust didn’t exist before the fabled Summer of Love. But since biology programs us to be ready, willing and able at the age of these kids, his protestations are unconvincing.

3 pieces of could bring up some interesting family discussions toast


Madagascar 3 (PG)
Starring the voices of: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinckett Smith, Sacha BAron Cohen, Martin Short

Directed by: Eric Darnell

My son spent three weeks on Madagascar a year ago, and he assures me that except for the cute lemurs (and the villainous  fossa) the animals on this island nation off Africa’s east coast, are nothing like the ones in any of the animated films in this series. Of course, the star animals escaped from a New York zoo in the first film, and are from the circus in this one, so these creatures are not indigenous. And they don’t stay on Madagascar very long either, since they travel to Africa in the second movie, and  Europe to join the circus in this one. How they get there is never explained, but movie-goers know that any series that has to take a European Vacation, has lost it’s comic inventiveness. What this animated tale lacks in originality, it makes up for in Loony Tune-style disregard of physics and anatomy. The circus acts at the end of the film are fast and funny. If only we didn’t have to sit through all those jokes about how things are different in Europe.

2 and 1/2 pieces of skip to the circus parts toast