Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 3/15/13

The Gatekeepers (PG)

Featuring interviews with: Ami Ayalon, Avi Dichter, Yuval Diskin, Avraham Shalom, Carmi Gillon, Yakkov Peri

Directed By:  Dror Moreh

This is a classic “Talking-heads” documentary but with a decided difference. That difference is that the “heads” belong to the six former leaders of Shin Bet, the Israeli Intelligence Service. With amazing candor, these six men detail the reality of trying to contain violence in the occupied Palestinian territories while their politician bosses change directions like windmills.”We didn’t know what we wanted to do there,” says one man.  “There was no strategy to it at all,” says another, “just tactics.”  And underlying it all is the single-minded intransigence of Israel’s religious right—zealots with political power. “I understand why [the Palestinians] fight,” one former intelligence chief says in summary. “I would too…one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”

3 and 1/2 pieces of candid truthfulness toast


The Call (R)

Starring: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Michael Imperioli, Morris Chestnut, Roma Maffia

Directed By:  Brad Anderson

I am upset about this film on so many levels that I need to enumerate them:

•  This woman-in-peril scenario is presented like it is soft-core porn.

• Halle Berry has a Best Actress Oscar, and Abigail Breslin was nominated for one, so why iare these the only roles Hollywood could offer them?

• The psycho-serial-killer is played like he is there for comic relief.

• The ending (which I gladly spoil), involves the 911 operator (Berry) dashing from her war room of a call center to single-handedly defeat the bad guy. Come on. Is that all they could dream up?

1/2 piece of save your money to show the studio what you think of  them making this dreck toast 


The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (PG-13)

Starring: Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Jim Carrey, James Gandolfini, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin, Brad Garrett

Directed By: Don Scardino

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton are a pair of superstar Vegas magicians who go through lovely lady assistants so frequently that they call all them “Nicole.” But competion arrives in the form of a “freak” former stuntman who bills himself simply as “Steve Gray.” “He’s not a real magician,” Burt whines. “He doesn’t even have a costume.” But presto-chango happens, and Burt ends up doing small tricks at retirement homes while Gray rakes in the big bucks. Unfortunately, Burt Wonderstone sounds better on paper than it is onscreen. One of those “how could this be so lame with all that talent available?” movies I’d like to re-edit.

2 pieces of not really that incredible toast


Life of Pi  (PG)

Starring: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Kahn, Rafe Spall

Directed by: Ang Lee

Director Ang Lee (and CG special effects) have done the impossible. They have transformed Yan Martin’s symbolic novel into a wondrous visual miracle. A clever Indian lad named Piscine Molitor Patel (Pi for short) does well in school, but troubles his parents by changing his beliefs from Hindu to Muslim to Christian and then combining all of the above. When the family decides to move to Canada with the animals from their small zoo, a shipwreck casts Pi adrift in a lifeboat, with no companions except an orangutan, a hyena, a zebra, and a full grown Bengal Tiger. No Peaceable Kingdom here. The carnivores get hungry, and the numbers onboard gradually diminish. Hope is provided when the lifeboat lands on a floating island, but the greenery is carnivorous too, and only Pi’s cleverness can keep him alive.

NOTE: There are some truly horrific events in this film, including a hyena devouring a wounded zebra—beginning with  a leg. It is not suitable for young children (and some adults too).

3 and 1/2  pieces of a symbolic, magical-reality toast

Rise of the Guardians (PG)

Starring the voices of: Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher, Jude Law

Directed By: Peter Ramsey
My reaction when I first saw the scowling faces in the preview the studio sent to critics, is “they look mean.” The completed film is even worse—it’s mean-spirited. The Guardians are the fabled ones from childhood: the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, Jack Frost, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, etc.. Only this film shows the “naughty, not nice”  side of these characters. Santa swears (using the names of Russian composers), Bunny is angry, and Jack Frost acts like Mr. Freeze from Batman by turning random things into blocks of ice. It makes you worry that when this Jack Frost goes “nipping at your nose,” it just might fall off and shatter into a thousand frozen pieces. The Guardians gather together to form a united front against Pitch Black the night terror. You see, this really bad guy wants tell little boys and girls that the Guardians aren’t real. Unfortunately for audiences, this dreck of a movie is real.

1 piece of was made to steal dollars from unsuspecting parents and grandparents toast

Hitchcock (PG-13)

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirrin, Scarlett Johansson, Danny Huston, Toni Collette, Ralph Macchio, Jessica Biel, James D’Arcy

Directed by: Sacha Gervasi

Alfred Hitchcock earned the title, “The Master of the Macabre,” by making over  50 movies involving murderous death and mayhem, and his signature techniques are still powerful today. I often give talks illustrated with clips from Hitch’s films, and it doesn’t matter if the audience is made up of high school students, teachers, writers, psychotherapists, or film buffs, they all react to classic suspenseful scenes like the out-of-control carousel from Strangers on a Train, the discovery of the farmer’s body in The Birds, the chase across the faces of Mt. Rushmore in North By Northwest, or the voyeuristic scenes from Psycho. The Psycho film is the centerpiece of the new biopic Hitchcock which not only showcases the director’s fears and foibles, but also his manipulation of women, collaborators, the press, and Alma Reville, his wife, co-writer, editor, script girl, and mother of his daughter, Patricia. This film places a little too much emphasis on the “McGuffin” of having Paramount Studios be unwilling to bankroll a black and white movie, when the truer story is how Hitch wanted to make more money off his films, and by being his own banker/producer, he reaped a huge profit. But you don’t have to be a film buff to delight in all the great work by the actors personifying Hitch, Alma, Janet Leigh, Tony Perkins, Vera Miles, composer Bernard Hermann and screenwriter Josef Stefano. Just sit back, relax, and be prepared to scream (and laugh, too).

3 and 1/2  pieces of Hopkins playing Hitchcock toast

Smashed (R) 
 Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul, Octavia Spencer, Mary Kay Place

Directed by: James Ponsoldt

Functioning alcoholism is the centerpiece of this wisely directed film. The first grade school teacher and the music critic who are “the couple” we see onscreen, are addicted to alcohol, but (most of the time) manage to keep their drinking “under control” through lies, excuses, and self delusion. After a single horrific incident makes the teacher realize she must get sober, she discovers that standing up in front of strangers, and admitting to them, the world, and herself that “I am an alcoholic,” is very, very difficult. One value of this film, is showing how almost everyone adds to that difficulty, and the ending is remarkable in its honest simplicity.

3 and 1/2 pieces of avoids preaching, and makes it’s point toast

Skyfall  (PG-13)

Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardeem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomi Harris Albert Finney

Directed by: Sam Mendes

Entirely new but still very familiar, the latest in the James Bond franchise is a re-set of what we thought we knew about 007. The covert establishment is still present, but existential cyber-age threats force MI-6 into a heavily shielded underground lair and although M is still greying, the fresh-faced Q looks like he’s cramming for his A-levels. Befitting a government assassin, Daniel Craig’s Bond has always had a cold-bloodedness about him, but this time he’s more nuanced, more vulnerable, more human. There are all the set pieces, flash cars, gorgeous women, lavish settings, and cool gadgets, but director Sam Mendes and his cinematographer Roger Deakins — well, to quote an earlier Bond theme song, “Nobody does it better.”

3 and 1/2  pieces of James Bond shaken and stirred toast