Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 12/28/12

Les Miserables (PG-13)

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter

Directed By: Tom Hooper

The Broadway musical, based on the Victor Hugo’s classic, 1500-page novel of the same name has been made into a screen version that is over two and  a half hours long. The story is complex, the timeline covers decades, the coincidental meetings  are numerous, the characters are remarkable, and the ending is tragic. This film also thrums with movement as the camera glides, slides, and floats among the actors and settings. We are in the surf as prisoner 24601 helps haul a huge ship into drydock, we are close by as wee Cossette is abused by the inn keepers, and we are manning the barricades as the soldiers fire their muskets our way. The entire stroy is done in song, and audiences seemed to want subtitles for some of the less familiar lyrics. The singing, in an artistic triumph, is done by the performers as they act their parts, adding an immediacy lacking in other movie musicals. People who love the stage version should delight in the movie. Those who don’t already know the story and songs may find the movie goes on too long, especially since so many good people end up dead.

3 pieces of an exceptional experiment toast


Django Unchained (R)

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L, Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Kevin Costner, Kurt Russell

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Because this is Quentin Tarantino’s movie, some will forgive all the revenge-fueled bloodshed, woman hatred, KKK-style racism, and distinctly un-genteel slice of Southern hypocrisy. The director loves old filmmaking techniques, and includes homages to spaghetti westerns, the picturesque rocks of the Alabama Hills (outside Lone Pine, California), and the old “Western” movie stars who dot the landscape. But (and this is a GIGANTIC BUT), the movie doesn’t work, and comes across as a racist smirk. The first third, featuring a bounty hunter searching out runaway slaves is good, but the plantation owner middle, needs intense cutting of scenes that go on way too long, and despite the big wink to the audience, the stereotypical caricatures aren’t funny either. The last section is just a blood-spurting series of body counts which the “riding off into the sunset” ending does not remedy. I agree with director Spike Lee”s summary of the film: “American slavery was not a Serge Leone spaghetti western—it was a holocaust!”

1 and 1/2 pieces of  tain’t my cuppa tea toast 


Parental Guidance (PG)

Starring: Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei

Directed By: Andy Fickman

The man who directed Reefer Madness: the Movie Musical, has ploddingly lead this attempted comedy down a lane of predictability. The set up is that two 20th Century grandparents babysit three rambunctious 21st Century grandkids. Obviously written by a computer taught that hitting grandpa in the groin with a baseball bat is funny, the heavy-handed message that love will conquer all gets lost in all the schtick.

1 and 1/2 pieces of Crystal and Midler deserved better toast




The Words  (PG-13)

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Zoe Saldana, Olivia Wilde

Directed By: Brian Krugman, Lee Stemthal

A failed novelist with a beautiful and supportive wife discovers an old manuscript in an best online casino antique shop, publishes it under his name, and wrestles with the fame and guilt. The filmmakers muddle this simple story by cramming in a backstory of the now elderly man who wrote the manuscript about his post WW2 love, and yet another writer reading from his novel about those two other writers at a bookstore with a pretty young groupie by his side. The three writers may or not not be figments of each other’s imaginations, or they could be fleshed out incarnations of muses gone wild. In short, it’s complicated—unnecessarily so.

2 pieces of why did they make this so confusing? toast


Resident Evil: Retribution (R)

Starring: Milla Jovovich, Shawn Roberts, Michelle Rodriguez, Oded Fehr, Bing-bing Li

Directed By: Paul W.S. Anderson

Alice the zombie killer squeezes into a new skintight leather outfit in this latest of the video game inspired series, but not much else is new. Oh, did I forget the part where Alice is a blonde suburban mom with a cute little daughter? Not really. That bit is just here to make those brain-imbibing new neighbors more accessible to some marketing team’s dreams of a wider demographic. Why bother? The same game-obsessed young males who made the other films so profitable, will pay to see this one too. No disappointments for them. Alice whips her trusty shotguns our of her back holsters at the hint of zombie and even manages to recruit Ada, a leggy Asian sidekick (in all senses of that word) to wage war against the evil Umbrella Corporation. The x-ray views of bones shattering and arrows piercing vital organs should keep those paying customers happy.

2 pieces of they’ll keep churning out sequels as long as they make millions toast