Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 3/01/13

A Place at the Table (PG-13)

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Tom Collicchio, Marion Nestle

Directed By:  Kristi Jacobson, Lori Silverbush

.Millions of American children and families go without enough to eat every day. This is fact—and if you had any doubt, this film shows you what’s real. Eschewing charts and graphs, and focusing instead upon the faces of hunger in rural Colorado and Mississippi and urban Pennsylvania, the documentary filmmakers have created a balanced and carefully nuanced viewing experience. The reference point is the 1960 TV documentary Hunger In America—a film that mobilized federal state and local governments and agencies to solve the problem. But that was then, and this is now. Even in the “foodie” mecca of Sonoma County, parents and children line up every week for subsistence levels of calories at food banks, soup kitchens and school breakfast and lunch programs.  As is obvious in the film, it’s not a lack of food, it’s the reluctance of many decision makers to admit there is a problem and the parallel demonizing of hungry people as “takers.”

4 pieces of a documentary as mind-opener toast


Jack the Giant Slayer (PG-13)

Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Bill Nighy, Ewan McGregor, Ian McShane, Stanley Tucci

Directed By:  Bryan Singer

In the TV ads, the computer-generated giants, windmills and boulders that hurtle through the air look fake, but trust me, on the big screen they are “boffo.” The familiar story of the lad who trades the family cow for magic beans, has fresh faces as Jack and the princess, but it is the primarily British character actors who make this fairy tale magic work so well.

3 pieces of fe-fi-fo-fum toast 

21 and Over (R)

Starring: Jonathan Keltz, Justin Chon, Skylar Astin, Miles Teller, Sarah Wright

Directed By: Jon Lucas

Despite the title and the college setting, this film is designed for hormone-driven teenage boys. Cobbled together by the guys who did The Hangover, there’s lots of binge drinking, projectile vomiting, soiled underwear, gratuitous nudity, and remakes of cringe inducing outtakes from Jackass videos. The story involves  a couple of buddies arriving unannounced to party with their pal on his 21st birthday. The inserted dramatic tension comes from this event coinciding with the next-day med school exam and the familial expectations of another doctor in the family. The laughter level is proportional to how “relaxed” you are while watching this film

2 pieces of lots of probably best watched in the comparative safety of your own home toast


Phantom (R)

Starring: Ed Harris, David Duchovny, William Ftchner, Lance Herrickson

Directed By:  Todd Robinson

Although the 1968, cold-war action takes place in a Soviet “smoker” (diesel-powered submarine) none of the actors attempt a fake Russian accent. Instead, they gamely head off on the ship’s (and it’s captain’s) retirement cruise. But before the aging craft is sold to the Chinese, the powers-that-be have bolted a nuclear weapon on board and attached a couple of KGB guys as watchdogs. These onboard newbies supply the dual purpose of being suspicious outsiders as well as uninformed tenderfeet who need the subtleties of submarine tactics explained in terms simple enough for audiences younger than allowed into the theater by the film’s R-rating. In short, this is a B-movie pretending to be a Hunt for Red October (1990), and aspiring for the claustrophobic realism of  Wolfgang Petersen’s masterful Das Boot (The Boat, 1981)

2 and 1/2 pieces of dive, dive, dive toast

The Last Exorcism Part 2 (PG-13)

Starring: Ashley Bell, Spencer Treat Clark, Andrew Sensenig, Julia Garner

Directed By:  Ed Gass-Donnelly

Don’t let the title confuse you. This isn’t a story about the “last” (i.e. 2010) exorcism, which the filmmakers shared in their movie of that name, or is this the last in the series (at least, if this film makes any money). No, it is instead a follow up about what happened to Nell, the possessed farm girl discovered by a preacher in a backwoods Louisiana community. Now, she’s relocated to New Orleans. The only other thing I know about this film is the actress who plays Nell says she literally broke her back while performing the spine-twisting expulsion of evil in the film’s final scenes.

Not available for screening to critics


Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn 2 (PG-13)

Starring: Kristen Stewert, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner

Directed By: Bill Condon
The vampire/human/werewolf love triangle comes to an over the top and often quite funny end in this second of the two part final episode. Director Bill Condon combines his experience from Gods and Monsters, Kinsey, Chicago and Dreamgirls and frees the gothic horror, kinky sexuality, and boffo production numbers into a satisfyingly tacky menage of excess. He first lets his actors use their soap opera closeups to stare, lear, snarl, eyeball, and seduce each other as they stand together in a circle. Then he frees them to let the wolves howl, the vampires feast, and the lovers entwine in gyrating balls of semi-clad lust. For those of you who need a refresher course, you see there was this high-school girl who moved to a Pacific Northwest community where families of vampires and werewolves co-existed until the macho male from each group falls for this human girl and then…

3 pieces of the best film in the series toast 

Chasing Mavericks (PG)

Starring: Gerard Butler, Jonny Weston, Leven Rambin, Elisbeth Shue

Directed By: Curtis Hansen, Michael Apted
There is a documentary feel to portions of this action/drama about the mythologized monster waves that occasionally appear above a hidden reef south of Half Moon Bay. This time, the man to match those mountains is a talented youngster trained by the gruff older, master of his craft (surfing), who has the requisite scruffy family background, and the do-or-die cockiness of a truly gifted, and fine looking young athlete.  The result is a visually amazing, and occasionally uplifting but sadly too long movie with some righteous dude surf riding.

2 and 1/2 pieces of needs to be edited tighter toast

The Master (R)

Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Laura Dern

Directed By: Paul Thomas Anderson
A cult religion that has lots of similarities to Scientology is founded and led by a writer named Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman) in the years immediately following WW2. The group throws parties to attract new members, and a lost, failure-at-many-different-jobs fellow named Freddie Quell (Phoenix) stumbles into one (on a steamship no less), and finds his purpose in life. Dodd and Quell are the fire and water, yin and yang—nourishing each other’s weaknesses while feasting on their strengths. It’s like watching Eric Hoffer’s 1951 book The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements come alive. Riveting, the acting is on a level seldom seen in movies today and the director manages to keep his audience slightly unsettled by the goings on (i.e. pay close attention to comments from Mrs. Dodd).

3 pieces of brilliantly acted, no easy answers toast