Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 2/22/13

Escape From Planet Earth (PG)

Starring the voices of: Brendan Fraser, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rob Corddry, William Shatner, George Lopez, Ricky Gervais

Directed By:  Cal Brunker

The Weinstein Company is pouring billions into making a name for itself in animated movies. So far, with mean-spirited bombs like Hoodwinked, and Hoodwinked 2, that name is spelled AWFUL. Fueled by behind-the-scenes lawsuits, multiple re-writes, and feuding animators, it’s surprising that Escape From Planet Earth finally earns the company the label “NOT TOO BAD.”  The animation is amazing (but save your money and skip the 3-D version), Ricky Gervais as the computer is very funny, most of the sight gags work, and if you can avoid the fact that much has been stolen from Monsters vs Aliens, and Toy Story, the storyline works. It’s about a hotshot blue space-hero who fires his by-the-book Ground Control brother just before a mission to the “Dark Planet—the only known world where evolution is taking place in reverse.” (Spoiler alert—the Dark Planet is Earth).

2 pieces of NOT TOO BAD animated toast 


Snitch (PG-13)

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jon Bernthal, Rafi Gavron, Susan Sarandon, Barry Pepper, Benjamin Bratt

Directed By:  Ric Roman Waugh

Cinema Toast fans know that I like Dwayne Johnson. He plays his characters (well, he plays the same character) with the knowledge that he realizes this stuff is over the top, but he’s going to have fun roughhousing, running, and blowing things up anyway. This “based on a true story” involves the star using his Missouri trucking company to transport drugs for a Mexican cartel. Only the guy is really just a caring father working undercover with the Feds to free his wrongly imprisoned son from jail.

2 and 1/2 pieces of lots of talking before the explosions start toast



Bless Me Ultima (PG-13)

Starring: Miriam Colon, Luke Ganalon, Benito Martinez, Joaquin Cosio

Directed By:  Carl Franklin

In 1944 New Mexico, a seven year-old’s brothers are fighting WW2, when his mysterious aunt arrives to take care of him. She is an herbalist and healer, and she begins to teach her nephew about the power of native plants. Their desert town is a place of magical realism, where returning war vets grapple with bad memories and the realities of subsistence farming, while powerful curses are used and rival clans of witches feud despite knowing that whenever they change events, they send ripples through the fabric of fate.

3 pieces of a Chicano classic toast



Dark Skies (PG-13)

Starring: Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, Dakota Goyo, J. K. Simmons

Directed By:  Scott Charles Stewart

You know the formula—a suburban family confronts increasingly sinister phenomenon until it is forced to barricade the house and fight back against evil. This time, the evil is supernatural aliens who “already live among us and take our jobs.” (Of course, even the dullest can see that the threat could just as easily be from undocumented aliens). One odd side bit is that the “paranormal expert” is played by actor J.K. Simmons who stars as the professor in the Farmers Insurance TV commercials. It makes audiences wonder if their homeowners policy covers alien invasions.

1 1/2 pieces of thinly disguised America-first paranoia toast



West of Memphis (R)

Starring: Damien Echols, Lorri Davis, Holly Ballard, Peter Jackson

Directed By:  Amy Berg

This film owes it’s existence to a series of documentaries by Joe Berlinger and Joseph Sinofsky entitled Paradise Lost, but they are not mentioned in this movie.   Instead, we are given a retelling of the grisly 1993 murders of three 8-year-old boys, the arrest, conviction and imprisonment of three teens for the crime and a detailed review of the obvious mistakes by the police, medical examiners and prosecutors. As chronicled in the Paradise Lost films, a series of increasingly famous people got involved in trying to free the victims from prison, and this doc is studded with many of those stars like Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder, the Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines, and even The Lord of the Rings himself—Sir Peter Jackson. These folk are united in their belief that a miscarriage of justice occurred, but how come the guys who did decades of documentary work on this case aren’t on camera. Reminds me of Rob Marshall winning an Oscar for the film Chicago, and not even mentioning that he stole all the musical sequences from Broadway’s Bob Fosse.

3 pieces of big-budget redoux of previously low budget documentary toast



Argo  (R)

Starring: Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, Taylor Schilling, Tate Donovan

Directed by: Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck stars and brilliantly directs a taut thriller that tells a story so incredible it has to be based on reality. When the Shah of Iran was deposed in 1979, insurgents stormed the US embassy and took dozens hostage. Another six people found refuge in the residence of the Canadian Ambassador. Fearing they would be discovered and killed, the CIA hatches several rescue plots. The “best bad idea” is to send a Hollywood film crew into Iran to make a Sci-Fi movie, and whisk the hidden Americans out of the country as members of the film crew. Taking cues from a Hollywood make-up artist, the CIA recruits a “real” producer with “real” Hollywood movie credits to become part of the rescue. The rest is nail-biting suspense as one thing after another goes wrong.

4  pieces of must see toast 


Anna Karinina (R)

Starring: Keira Knightly, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Emily Watson

Directed By: Joe Wright
Originally appearing as a serial in the 1870’s, Leo Tolstoy’s tale af an aristocratic wife and mother brought down by her lustful infatuation with a handsome young cavelry officer, has been made into over a dozen movies with actresses like Greta Garbo, Vivien Leigh, and Jacqueline Bisset in the starring role. The “Keira Knightly version” is directed by Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice) from a screenplay by Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare In Love) with a sometimes confusing,  decidedly 21st Century take on the tale. Visually stunning, with a melodramatic flair, it is best seen on a big, big screen.

3 pieces of the Tolstoy classic beautified toast


Sinister (R)

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Clare Foley

Directed By: Scott Derrickson

When a crime writer neglects to mention to his family that their new home is the scene of several gruesome murders, you might expect them to be scared when horrible things start happening—but they’re not, and neither is the audience. Oh they scream, and hold their hands in the air like the kid in Home Alone, but that just isn’t enough.

1 piece of keep your money in your wallet toast