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Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 2/15/13

Beautiful Creatures is Gothic,  A Good Day to Die Hard is really BAD!

Beautiful Creatures (PG-13)

Starring: Alden Ehrreneuch, Alice Englert, Emmy Rossum, Viola Davis, Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons

Directed By:  Richard LaGravenese

In contrast to the South Carolina of Nicholas Sparks’-based Safe Haven, the South Carolina in Beautiful Creatures is decidedly “Goth.” There’s a Hellfire and damnation fundamentalist, a reclusive wealthy uncle, a love-smacked teen and a tattooed, raven-haired “new girl,” who is a witch in disguise. It all works because of some scene stealing by the British actors dabbling in pseudo-Southern drawls, and some real sparks between the two teen stars. Only quibble is the attempt to rename the witchcraft terms (“we prefer the term ‘casters’”). Audiences spent 10 years learning the appropriate words from Hogwarts School, so why create a whole new vocabulary?

3 pieces of secret teen witch romance toast

 

Safe Haven (PG-13)

Starring: Josh Duhamel, Jlianne Hough, David Lyons, Cobie Smulders

Directed By:  Lasse Halstrom

“Take a lot of [beach] pictures…you’ll only regret the ones you didn’t take.” is the advice a southerner gives to a recently arrived Yankee. The beach is in sleepy Southport, South Carolina, a fictional froth dreamed up by midwestern novelist Nicholas Sparks. As anyone who has seen the previous films based on Sparks’ books knows, the characters have secret pasts that influence their romantic present, in a  winning formula sure to fill theaters with people who love this sort of thing. Swedish director Hallstrom tries hard to add a bit of “edginess” to the formula, but the with a Valentines’ Day release date, the suits would only let things evolve from a snail-mail greeting card moment to an animated e-card one.

2 and 1/2  pieces of Nicholas Sparks romanticism toast 

 

 

The Matchmaker (R)

Starring: Adir Miller, Maya Dagan, Tuval Shafir, Dror Keren, Bat-el Papura

Directed By:  Avi Nesher

Israel is at war with Lebanon in 2006, but that doesn’t prevent ancient traditions from continuing—traditions like matchmaking. For anyone who doesn’t remember “Fiddler On he Roof,” or “Hello Dolly,” a matchmaker is a person who arranges marriages between two families. In a break with those popular musicals, the matchmaker here is a Romanian male who lives in the Fellini-style wrong-side-of-town populated with gamblers, prostitutes and dwarves. The present-day stories intertwine with those from 1968 and the Holocaust—historic milestones proving that love can survive even the worst-of-times.

3  pieces of can love survive matchmaking? toast 

 

A Good Day to Die Hard (R)

Starring: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Yulia Sniger

Directed By:  John Moore

Gritted-teethed John MacClane is back, in a cartoonish parody of himself that still thinks it’s playing things straight. Like the coyote in the Roadrunner cartoons, he gets smashed, crashed, bashed, and shot but bounces back with just an Acme brand adhesive bandage on his bald head to show for it. The storyline is trite, recycled from a hundred spinoffs, wannabes, and homages featuring the “regular guy”  who (hold your breath) has an estranged son trapped by bad guys in Moscow. Only the bad guys may really be good guys and the son may really be a good guy acting like a bad guy and working for the good guys. Got that? Do you care? I don’t.

1 pieces of time for MacClane to die-off toast

 

NEW DVD RELEASES

Bully (PG-13)
Starring: Ja’Meya Jackson, Londa Johnson, Kelby Johnson, Bob Johnson, Alex Libby, Jackie Libby
Directed by: Lee Hirsch
Originally labelled “R” when it first appeared in theaters,  the MPAA reacted to media pressure and a petition circulated by Hollywood stars and changed the rating to “PG-13.” This change came after the film’s producers removed three “F-word utterances” from a crucial scene of a teen being bullied on a school bus. Showing the horrific results of bullying upon several teens and their families, the film is praised by many social advocates who call it “a film every parent and child in America must see.” I would add: “If they can talk about it afterwords with school administrators, teachers, parents, legislators, and mental health professionals.” For just watching it in a vacuum, won’t do much. Part of this is the one-sided perspective of the movie itself. We don’t get to know the bullies who are involved or ask why they act this way. We don’t investigate how and why people who are supposedly put in place to protect our children don’t see this as a priority. And most of all, we don’t meet the parents and families of the bullies, and their faces are blurred out in the film footage. The idea is to “break the silence,” but the bullies onscreen are protected. Why?

3 and 1/2 pieces of social advocacy toast

 

Robot and Frank PG-13)

Starring: Frank Langella, Liv Tyler, James Marsden, Susan Sarandon, Peter Sarsgaard

Directed by: Jake Schrier
Frank is an aging, semi-retired jewel thief who lives alone in upstate New York until his son rents him a robot companion. Programmed to make Frank live a healthier, longer existence, Robot makes healthy meals and encourages exercise. Robot also wants to keep his patient’s mind engaged, so he willingly accepts Frank’s offer to teach him the tricks of the jewel thief’s trade, and a new partnership is formed.

2 and 1/2 pieces of slight, but well-acted toast

 

The Sessions (R)

Starring: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy, Alan Arkin

Directed By: Ben Lewin
Although he is paralyzed from the neck down, and he can only be out of his iron lung for a few hours at a time, 38-year old Mark O’Brian is a sexual being. Despite not having “seen my penis since I was 6-years old,” he knows it’s still there, and with the moral guidance from his parish priest, he hires a professional sex surrogate. Clinical at first, a relationship grows over time, and the audience watches this unfold in every, explicit detail. Avoiding sentimentality, this film is made with sensitivity and appreciation of the gift of being alive.

3 and 1/2  pieces of a great film for grown ups toast

 

The Man With the Iron Fists (R)

Starring: Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, Cung Le , Rick Yune

Directed By: RZA (Robert Fitzgerald Diggs)
The director grew up watching 1970’s and 80’s Asian martial arts films, and has constructed an homage of sorts, by remaking all the best set pieces and stringing them together in one movie. Scenes of hand-to-hand combat featuring flashing fists, blades and fighters whirling through the air on invisible wires is the only reason to see this movie. The story, crammed with pseudo honor and revenge, is just the coat hanger to hang everything else on.

2 pieces of great for its limited audience toast

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (PG-13)

Starring: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman

Directed By: Stephen Chobosky
Dateline, Pittsburg,1991—Charlie starts high school and records his thoughts about being depressed and lonely only to have those thoughts turn  lighter and rampant when he decides to drag himself to a football game, talk with a senior in his shop class and gets introduced to the guy’s pretty step-sister. The film keeps the book’s sardonic point-of-view which isn’t that surprising since the director wrote the YA bestseller.

3 pieces of surviving Freshman year toast

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