Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 12/21/12

Hyde Park on Hudson (R)

Starring: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Samuel West, Olivia Coleman

Directed By: Roger Michell

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s affair with his distant cousin, Daisy, adds the spice to a choreographed for the press meeting at Roosevelt’s New York estate with the British king and queen before the U.S. entered WW2. Some critics whine that Bill Murray is more like himself than FDR, but I doubt any of them actually knew FDR. I enjoyed Hyde Park on Hudson as a farce with serious international consequences, and Murray is perfect for that type of film. My only real problem is how Eleanor Roosevelt is portrayed. She was a much gutsier woman than we see onscreen. (But what do I know—I never met her).

3 pieces of Bill Murray toast


This Is 40 (R)

Starring: Paul Rudd, Megan Fox, Leslie Mann, Albert Brooks, Chris O’Dowd, Melissa McCarthy

Directed by: Judd Apatow

This is an LA movie, and like NY movies, that designation comes with it’a own baggage. The filmmaker and characters are a little bit older, a little bit disappointed with how their lives are turning, and (depending on your point-of-view) the result is either a selfish, narcissistic rant, or a standup routine that goes on too long. It lacks the sweetness that imbued The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up with a “you should see this” buzz. Instead, the bickering lifestyle cliche of the main couple draws forth a “don’t bother.”

1 and 1/2 pieces of  the Bickersons “t’aint funny McGee” toast 


The Guilt Trip (PG-13)

Starring: Barbra Steisand, Seth Rogan, Kathy Najimy, Colin Hanks

Directed By: Anne Fletcher

An insufferably nagging mother is trapped in an 8-day cross country car trip with her grown son. The result is supposed to be a comedy, but instead, it’s a cliched road trip movie with all the predictable plot points including the car breaking down.

1 and 1/2 pieces of mehh 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 new talent 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


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (PG)

Starring: Zachary Gordon, Rachael Harris, Steve Zahn, Devon Bostick

Directed By: Jeff Kinney
The demographic who find slapstick funny will approve of the newest in the Wimpy Kid franchise. The rest of us won’t even know it exists. Dog days are the hot, sticky, doldrum period of late summer when city dwellers escape to the cooler countryside or sea shore to relax and recharge. The exact opposite occurs in this movie. Everyone reverts to stereotypical, over-reactive behaviors and then mugs at the camera while cartoonish music plays so the audience thinks it’s funny.

1 and 1/2 pieces of wimpy movie toast


Total Recall (PG-13)
Starring: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bill Nighy, Bokeem Woodbine

Directed by: Len Wiseman

The director who brought us the completely forgettable “Underworld” trilogy, has hauled a couple of the actors from that series over to work with him in a completely unnecessary remake of Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 sci-fi classic (which starred Arnold Schwartzenegger). Both are based on a story by Philip K. Dick, but the one thirty years ago had humor, satire, intelligence and underlying questions of what exactly does make up our personal identities. The new one is flashy but lacks any warmth or humanity. We don’t care what happens to the 2012 version of a guy named Doug Quaid or his wife or even the three-breasted prostitute (who looks even more realistic this time).

1 and 1/2  pieces of great production values, vapid storyline toast


Killer Joe (NC-17)

Starring: Matthew McConaughy, Emile Hirsch, Thomas Hayden Church, Gina Gershon

Directed by: William Freidkin

The director who made The Exorcist and The French Connection made a film last year called The Master’s Touch: Hithchcock’s Signature Style so we know he understands the wisdom that, “less is more.”  Then there is his Killer Joe, which is a film so crowded with taboo themes like mother-killing, child suffocation, psychological abuse, kinky sex, and a sociopathic cop who moonlights as a hit man because he likes the rush as much as the money, that most movie-goers should stay far, far away. When the title character learns that his pay-in-advance fee to kill a mother for her insurance won’t be available until after the policy pays off, he decides to take the nubile, trailer park daughter with him as his “retainer.” Not to give away too much, the ending is like a Jerry Springer family feud gone completely insane.

3 pieces of heed the NC-17 rating toast 


Premium Rush (PG-13)

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Jamie Chung, Dania Ramirez

Directed By: David Koepp
“Kill the Messenger,” Plutarch wrote long ago, but the Bicycle messengers who hurtle across the streets of Manhattan look like they are going to kill themselves—or an innocent pedestrian—as they peddle, push, text-message, chat, eat, drink and do almost everything else on the backs of their two-wheeled cyclones. When a messenger unwittingly accepts a package that needs to be delivered to Chinatown, he gets pursued at break-neck speed  by a dirty cop with “anger issues.” Dodging baby carriages, taxis, car doors, pregnant women, elderly pedestrians with walkers, open manholes, and the assorted detritus of America’s largest city, the photography gets you right into the thick of things—most of which is live action. In fact, Joseph Gordon-Levitt got so into it, he crashed into the back of a taxi and required 31 stitches on his arm.

3 pieces hold on to your handlebars toast