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Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 2/01/13

Amour (PG-13)

Starring: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Riva

Directed By:  Michael Haneke

“Please don’t let them take me back to the hospital,” the aging, wheelchair confined stroke victim pleads to her husband, and the reality of his loving promise to care for her needs soon takes its toll in this unflinching look at the realities of end-of-life decisions. Adding to the drama, is the woman’s desperate declaration “ I don’t want to go on.” Some are calling this a love story, but in reality, it is a story about what can happen beyond the “happily ever-after” part.

NOTE: My 104-year-old father died a “natural death” at my Sebastopol home last week under hospice care. Like the woman in this movie, he also asked to stay away from the hospital or nursing home. Since he was in excellent health for someone his age—with his humor and memory (and savings) mostly intact, I was able to make the conditional promise to keep him in his home (with 24-hour caregivers), “as long as you don’t fall and break a hip or get really sick.” But my dad’s mental sharpness was rare for someone past 85. This movie showcases a much wider reality—one that will occur more and more as millions of Baby Boomers age up and need care.

3 pieces of realistic end-of-life toast 

 

Stand Up Guys (PG-13)

Starring: Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, Julianna Margulies

Directed By:  Fisher Stevens

The idea of reuniting three aging, former criminals who reminisce about the good old days, joke about how things aren’t like they used to be, and decide to resurrect their old “skills” for a final adventure isn’t new. The first part of this film with just two old cronies (Pacino and Walken) limps along. But when they break their former getaway driver (Arkin) out of his retirement home, the adrenalin begins to flow, the banter has a much-needed straight man, and the movie becomes a mild delight.

2 and 1/2 pieces of three excellent actors together at last toast

 

5 Broken Cameras (NR)

Directed by: Emad Bernat, Guy Davidi

The first video camera used to make the  gripping footage in this film, was acquired to record the growth of a new-born son. As we see the boy grow older,  the camera begins capturing the very personal reality of invasion and death from the Israeli “neighbors” who inexorably assimilate Palestinian olive groves and houses to form their own “settlements.” The result is decidedly one-sided and unambiguous. The filmmaker and his fellow Palestinians are the “victims,” and the Israelis are the “aggressors.” But imagine how you might feel if the people from Santa Rosa kept expanding their city limits, tore out your apple trees and grapevines, bulldozed your house or shop, and then built their own concrete settlement on the land where your son and family had once lived and played?

3 pieces of citizen-journalism documentary toast 

 

How to Survive a Plague (NR)

Directed By: David France

The historic activism of ACT UP and TAG form the centerpiece of this documentary reconstruction of how the two grass roots anti-AIDS groups raised the consciousness of our country, and convinced the powers-that-be to mobilize efforts into finding a cure for this deadly disease. Using archival footage, and a mostly “this-was-the-way-it-was” approach, the film is a powerful and moving homage to those who fought and died so others could continue to live.

3 and 1/2 pieces of documentary as testament toast

 

A Bullet to the Head  (R)

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Jason Momoa

Directed By:  Walter Hill (Wayne Kramer, etc)

The behind the scenes shuffling of directors, actors and scripts is all too obvious in this cobbled together mish-mash of action hero set pieces. The fact that the “heroes” are decidedly “older” than they were in their prime, only makes the stunt-doubles work overtime (and we in the audience can obviously see where those stunt-doubles are used). I assume this was Sly Stalone’s answer to Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand, but a tough-guy leading man should never say the line “You stay here and listen to the radio.”  It just makes him sound…(fill in the blank).

1 and 1/2 pieces of Sly should have left well enough alone toast

 

The Invisible War (NR)

Directed By:  Kirby Dick

Rape by a fellow solider, sailor or marine is more likely than being wounded in action for members of the U.S. military. And, because there are ten times as men males in the service than females, the majority of these rapes are against men. That is the sobering reality excavated from the secretly shrouded facts outlined in countless military white-papers, investigations, and instructional videos. The Pentagon’s own educational film released by their Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, proves that the armed services are at least aware of the problem,  but their dogged reliance on the old “chain-of-command” structure hasn’t worked.  As one retired sergeant from the Judge Advocate General Corps notes, “The commanding authority…who’s not legally trained…makes the final decision.” All to often, that decision has been to just sweep things under the rug.

3 pieces of rape is a 4-letter word toast

 

Warm Bodies (PG-13)

Starring: Ias Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Cordday, John Malcovich, Analeigh Tipton

Directed By:  Jonathan Levine

Being a teen-aged zombie isn’t fun—but it can be fun for the audience. The angst of this teen narrator is palpable, especially since his reason for being is just as a consumer (of brains) and he’s lonely and acne-plagued on top of that. The surviving humans exist in a walled enclave, where the nimblest foray out into the devastated city scape for much-needed medical supplies, canned food and the like (no Twinkies, however). When one gorgeous human girl’s boyfriend becomes a tasty snack, the angst-ridden zombie boy captures her, but, since he’s absorbed her dead boyfriend’s memories along with other guy’s brain, he has strong feelings for her. Well, whoever said love wasn’t complicated?

3 pieces of slow as a zombie walk toast

 

Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts  (NR)

and

Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts

The five animated films and five live action films nominated for an Academy Award are so well crafted, they scream for feature length versions. Expect both the unexpected and the sublimely familiar from all around our planet and you won’t be disappointed.

3 and 1/2 pieces of often humorous, sometimes somber toast

 

 

 

NEW DVD RELEASES

Seven Psychopaths (R) 

Starring: Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits

Directed by: Martin McDonough
The fact that we cared about what happened to the two Irish hit men from In Bruges, made the film work. But in this plodding movie from the same director, we don’t give a “flying expletive-deleted” about most of the weirdos who populate the screen. The storyline involves a Hollywood screenwriter who snatches his next plot from newspaper stories about a gangland-style murder.  He then manages to get mixed up with some inept dognappers and the murderous gangsters from the newspapers. Staccato bursts of gunfire, pyrotechnical explosions, vapid one-liners, andgallons of  Max Factor’s best fake blood follow. Walken, as the dog napper whose wife is terminally ill, is what makes the film watchable.

2 pieces of only Christopher Walken is worth watching 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

 

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

 

The Cold Light of Day (PG-13)

Starring: Henry Cavill, Bruce Willis, Sigourney Weaver

Directed by: Mabrouk El Mechri

Telling you this is like a film school exercise where the filmmakers are required to include a Hitchcock-like “McGuffin” in the plot makes this sound better than it is. The dull, been seen too many times before story is about an American family on a sailboat vacation being kidnapped by intelligence agents who want a certain briefcase as ransom for their release. Seems that grandpa never told his family that he used to be a CIA agent.

1/2 piece of now I know why this was unavailable for preview by critics toast

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