Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 3/08/13

Oz, the Great and Powerful (PG)

Starring: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Bruce Campbell

Directed By:  Sam Raimi

The title is familiar to the gazillions of people who love the 1939 classic, The Wizard of Oz. It is the honorific the “man behind the curtain” gives to the enormous face he projects on smoke when Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion first enter Oz’s throne room. But that wizard was a grey-haired, bumbler of a fellow magically brought to life by character actor Frank Morgan. This new film is presented as a prequel revealing how the Kansas huckster, Professor Marvel, came to be in the land of Oz in the first place. For some unfathomable reason, actor James Franco was cast in the lead role, (apparently a last minute choice when Johnny Depp and Robert Downey Jr. declined), and the result is devastating. No matter how good Glinda and her two sisters are and how marvelous the animation may be, Franco’s not anything like a younger Frank Morgan. The action-movie direction and the how overly familiar Danny Elfman doesn’t help either.

2 pieces of a miscasting the title character dooms this film toast


56 Up (NR)

Directed By:  Michael Apted

What began as a British TV documentary featuring interviews with 7-year-olds from different socioeconomic levels, has, through updates every seven years, provided a riveting validation that “the child is father of the man [and woman].” In this latest installment, those kids are now 56, and we get brief revisits into how they have fared over the mast decades. Tony wanted to be a jockey when he was little, but ended up driving a taxi instead. Sue had dreams of living “a full life” before marriage, but real life intruded , and she was divorced by the time of 35 Up. Neil, who spent years homeless and depressed, has found his calling as a lay-minister and elected official. For many, the most interesting part of this latest film may be the tables-are-turned involvement of the filmmaker himself, who takes time to share the criticisms from some of his “kids,” and the pundits who took him to task for reinforcing class differences and making a reputation at the expense of his subjects.

3 and 1/2 pieces of “let’s see what they are up to now” toast 


Lore (R)

Starring: Saskia Rosendahl, Andre Frid, Hans-Joachem Wagner

Directed By: Cate Shortland

At the close of WW2, while the Holocaust inexorably grinds to a halt around her, the German daughter of a mid-level Nazi escapes on a 500-mile trek through the Black Forest with her younger siblings. They are attempting to reach the supposed safety of their grandmother’s house after the Allied troops have captured their country and arrested their parents. The long journey reveals a variety of “truths” that will resonate with different audiences in different ways. The girl must force herself to rely on a young man she has been taught her whole life to be “subhuman” (since he’s Jewish). The horror and sheer numbers of “relocation camps” they stumble across shatters the children’s belief systems and morality. And the truth about the American troops who (the children were warned), will torture them if they are caught, offers a different level of fearsomeness.

3 pieces of coming of age in a different time and place toast


Dead Man Down (R)

Starring: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Terrence Howard, Armand Assante

Directed By:  Niels Arden Oplev

Farrell plays a tight-lipped, tough-guy mob assassin who uncharacteristically bonds with his neighbor as she recovers from reconstructive facial surgery following a hit-and-run automobile accident. She wants revenge, and Farrell’s character has the skills she needs. There is also the not too subtle (i.e. a body left in the freezer) battle to take over Farrell’s boss’ territory. Clumsily directed, badly written, over acted-by some, the plot’s so obvious it’s worthless

1 piece of we know these people can do better toast



Barbara (PG-13)

Starring: Nna Hoss, Ronald Zehrfield, Jasna Fritzi Bauer

Directed By:  Christian Petzold

Transferred to a small-town hospital by her East German superiors because she asked for an exit visa, Barbara lives under the constant threat of surveilance and random cold-war arrest for “suspicions.” We learn that there is a warm inner core to this doctor, but that it is reserved for her patients. She lives simply, carfully, stealthly, with her only joy coming from bike rides in the countryside. But, as audiences slowly discover, “still water runs deep.”

Three pieces of well made, Cold War toast


Wreck It Ralph (PG)

Starring the voices of: John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch

Directed By: Rich Moore
In Monster Inc. fashion, we discover that the characters who populate arcade video games exist in some parallel universe after the game is over. Ralph is the 9 foot tall, 643 pound, self-described “bad guy” who delights in destroying all the constructions made in the popular Fix It Felix game (which looks a lot like Donkey Kong). Of course, like the aforementioned scary monsters, Ralph is actually a lovable, well-intentioned kind of guy who wants to be the hero in some other game. I’ll be interested to see how this film works with the junior-high-and-younger demographic targeted for the film. I haven’t played a video game since my grown up children took their equipment with them when they moved out, but I still recognized the Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Mario-Brothers and Sonic the Hedgehog style characters onscreen, But do younger players addicted to the slick CG/3D stuff even know who these guys are—or care?

3 pieces of video game-based, family-friendly animation toast


Red Dawn (PG-13)

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Adriane Palicki, Jush Hutcherson, Josh Peck, Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Directed By: Dan Bradley
If you can believe that the North Koreans can parachute an army into Washington state to take over the USA, then this, Bud, is for you. Based on a semi-plausible 1984 film where the invaders were Russian, the bad guys in this remake were originally Chinese, until someone in the studio realized that the Chinese buy lots of movie tickets, and the North Koreans ban American movies. Forget any attempt at a plot. The new version is directed by an ex-stuntman, and he does know how to rig and shoot those explosive action sequences. Dialogue scenes? That’s a whole different kettle of fish.

2 pieces of another remake made for the bucks toast


The Intouchables (NR) 

Starring: Francois Cluzet, Omar Sy. Anne Le Ny, Audrey Fleurot

Directed by: Eric Toledano, Oliver Nakache
In this international blockbuster, an aristocratic, wheelchair-bound, French millionaire hires an Islamic ex-con as his unwilling caretaker. This oil and water combination shouldn’t work but the intervention of basic humanity whips everything into a splendid mayonnaise of a based-on-a real-life-story movie. It’s engaging, simplistic, funny, sentimental, sweet, and very uplifting.

3 pieces of very popular French toast


Playing for Keeps (PG-13)

Starring: Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Uma Thuman, Judy Greer, Dennis Quaid

Directed By: Gabrielle Muchino
This film could be shown in a seminar about how NOT to make a rom-com. The script stinks, the director fumbles, the entire thing is misogynistic, and the stars should cash their paychecks with their heads held low. The set up is that an international soccer star wants to reconnect with his ex-wife and their 9-year-old son, so he coaches his son’s team. The bleachers are lined with the sexually starved mothers of the other boys who literally fight over the tousle-haired, Scottish hunk of a man who suddenly appears in their midst. This so-called comedy is contrived, uninspired, demeaning to women, and a total waste of time and money.

1/2 piece of truly worthless toast