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Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 11/16/12

Lincoln  (PG-13)

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, John Hawkes, Hal Holbrook

Directed by: Stephen Spielberg

A yarn-spinning President, with a high-pitched reedy voice is not what most of us see when we picture Abraham Lincoln, but with Daniel Day-Lewis’s stunning new portrayal, we may change our minds. In the works for over a decade Stephen Spielberg’s vision of the Great Emancipator is above all a man—a  humane, wise, brooding, politically savvy, moody individual who seems to have a quip or wisecrack available at the tip of his stovepipe hat. Focusing on the last few months of his presidency, we delve into the deal-making, arm-twisting, political favoritism and “call it anything but a bribe” realities of Lincoln’s crusade to make Congress enact a Constitutional Amendment abolishing slavery in the United States of America. “We’ve been chasin’ this whale a long time,” Lincoln explains, and the hunt for victory is on.

3 and 1/2  pieces of a whole new Abraham Lincoln toast

Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn 2 (PG-13)

Starring: Kristen Stewert, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner

Directed By: Bill Condon
The vampire/human/werewolf love triangle comes to an over the top and often quite funny end in this second of the two part final episode. Director Bill Condon combines his experience from Gods and Monsters, Kinsey, Chicago and Dreamgirls and frees the gothic horror, kinky sexuality, and boffo production numbers into a satisfyingly tacky menage of excess. He first lets his actors use their soap opera closeups to stare, lear, snarl, eyeball, and seduce each other as they stand together in a circle. Then he frees them to let the wolves howl, the vampires feast, and the lovers entwine in gyrating balls of semi-clad lust. For those of you who need a refresher course, you see there was this high-school girl who moved to a Pacific Northwest community where families of vampires and werewolves co-existed until the macho male from each group falls for this human girl and then…

3 pieces of the best film in the series toast

A Late Quartet (R)

Starring: Christopher Walken, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Kathrine Keener, Mark Ivanir, Imogene Poots

Directed By: Yaron Zilberman
Critic Ty Burr wrote that the actors in this film “speak with the high-minded murmur of an NPR host,” and as the host of Word By Word: Conversations With Writers on our local NPR affiliate, KRCB-FM, I’m honored by the comparison. The performers play members of a celebrated string quartet gathering to honor their 25th anniversary together.  Like any decades-old grouping of people, there are histories to delve into, wounded egos to soothe, hurts to be unveiled, and apologies to be made. If you assume that some of these revelations are passionate, lustful and loving, you would be correct.

3 pieces of stringed instruments are sensual toast

Barrymore (NR)

Starring: Christopher Plummer

Directed By: Erik Canuel
Christopher Plummer won a Tony in 1997 for a Broadway one-man play about the great American actor John Barrymore. The idea is that the aging, alcoholic Barrymore might have attempted to restart his stage career late in life by presenting a special, one-night-only performance presented to an audience of one–a potential financial backer named Frank. Only 60 at the time, Barrymore’s mind, body and voice were not what  they used to be, and the actor uses dozens of “tricks” to cover up what becomes increasingly obvious, he can’t remember what line comes next. Plummer hams it up to the hilt, alternately wailing to the back of the house and bringing the audience in close. The only downside is that the filmmakers have inserted little “home movies” here and there instead of letting Plummer build and soar to an inevitable climax. Too bad. They should have left it like it was on Broadway.

2 and 1/2 pieces of wait until you can fast forward the annoying bits toast

NEW ON DVD

Brave  (PG) 
Starring the voices of: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Waters

Directed by: Brenda Chapman (and Mark Andrews)

Brave is Pixar’s first attempt at providing a strong female lead character, and despite being directed by a strong female, the attempt is marginal at best. First off, the heroine is a princess, albeit a feisty Scottish redhead who can ride horses and shoot arrows better than any male. But that’s not really saying much. For the males in this animated tale are over-caricatured to the max. Her suitors are a dim-witted drooler, a temper tantrum thrower, and a doltish giant, and her father and his advisors are all bombast buffoons who repeatedly display what a Scotsman wears under his kilt. The usual Pixar simplicity has been confounded by stealing too many plot points from previous Disney Princess fairy tales—the distraught mother, the witch’s curse, etc.” Behind the scenes, “creative differences” were given as the reason Mark Andrews replaced Chapman during the last few months of production. He quickly scrapped most of the “magic elements” explaining that these “affected the environment”—whatever that means.

On the distaff side, my wife loved this feisty girl and didn’t think the guys were any more of a caricature than those found in other Disney Classics (i.e. “How the Emperor Got His Groove”). So I upped the pieces of toast.

3 pieces for feisty girls everywhere toast 

Savages (R) 
Starring: Aaron Johnson, Taylor Kitsch, Salma Hayak, Blake Lively, Benicio Del Toro, John Travolta, Uma Thurman

Directed by: Oliver Stone

Director Oliver Stone has created a modern-day film noir by portraying all the sex, violence, and duplicity in the brighter than life hues of sunrises and sunsets. It is a tale of what happens when beautiful, decadent people who got-rich-quick selling super-strong marijuana cross paths with sadistic baddies from a Mexican cartel. The results are far from pretty in this over-the-top production. With full-frontal nudity, and gruesome violence this film is not for everyone, but it proves Stone still has his.

3 pieces of brightly-hued film noir toast

The Watch (R) 
Starring: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayode, Rosemarie DeWitt, Will Forte

Directed by: Akiva Shaffer

With a script by Seth Rogen and a roster of funny guys, it’s a shame they placed this “property” in the hands of a director so weak that he can’t keep a tight rein on the improv. The result is a schtick-filled movie where the stuff that should be on the outtakes part of a DVD is the main attraction. The story is about a group of neighborhood watch bozos who must grapple with a plethora of aliens—the outer-space kind. Originally called Neighborhood Watch, the film was shelved after the February shooting death of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch volunteer. Now renamed, all of the penis jokes unfortunately survive and the infamous Saturday Night Live “lets let the schtick go on way too long” style and less-than-inspired improv leaves us nothing but globs of alien slime.

1 and 1/2  pieces of limp and not very funny toast 

The Queen of Versailles (PG)

Starring: David Siegel, Jackie Siegel, Virginia Nebel

Directed by: Lauren Greenfield
David Siegel became a gazillionaire selling time shares in and around Orlando, Florida and his wife Jackie spent his money as quickly as she could on all things tacky and tasteless. For example, when they decided to build the biggest private house in America, the $100 million price tag didn’t slow them down for a second. However, when the recession hits and time shares stop selling, the filmmaker’s movie about excess turns into something much more interesting—A “Beverly Hillbillies” with some real drama. The result is surprisingly entertaining.

3 pieces of maybe you can be too rich toast

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