Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 3/22/13

Stoker (R)

Starring: Dermot Mulroney, Nicole Kidman, Lucas Till, Mia Wasikowska

Directed By:  Chan-wook Park

Cult Korean director Chan-wook Park shows American audiences why he is so popular as he combines a melodramatic tale of deaths, inherited money and a long-lost, lustful uncle with unsettling (and delightful) feeling of dread that comes to a clever and unexpected conclusion. It starts with a funeral, moves forward with a “lets-meet-the-relatives” exposition reminiscent of those old Perry Mason TV shows, and then masterfully slides into something much more interesting in a creepy sort of way. Once again, “less is more.”

3 and 1/3 pieces of  “is this a murder mystery?”  toast 


The Croods (PG)

Featuring the voices of: Nicolas Cage, Ryan Reynolds, Katherine Keener, Emma Stone, Cloris Leachman

Directed By:  Christopher Sanders, Kirk DeMicco

Apparently the feisty teenage heroine of today, had a prehistoric ancestor named Eep. Her family is headed by a terrified father who repeatedly intones “Never, not be afraid,” and shivers alongside his family members in the relative safety of their cave. But Eep likes to venture outdoors where she meets a hunky young male who has “discovered” fire, and pointedly shares the danger of living in a cave when it’s earthquake season. On cue, Eep’s home collapses and the fur-clad group heads out on a road-trip of sorts, where they repeatedly (as in over-and-over), encounter never-before-seen creatures and landscapes.

2 pieces of might keep the younger set amused toast


Spring Breakers (R)

Starring: James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudges, Ashley Benson, Harmony Korine

Directed By: Harmony Korine

Four pretty coeds don’t have the money to take a trip to Florida for Spring Break, so they pull on ski masks and holdup a diner. A diner! Obviously the quartet are not the sharpest knives in the drawer (although they do make nice window-dressing in their bikinis). Think of this as Girls Gone Wild meets Bad Girls, only without any reason for being other than cameras repeatedly focusing on specific portions of female anatomy during a week-long bacchanal of sun, sand, booze, drugs and sex.

2 pieces of beach bimbos gone bad toast


Olympus Has Fallen (R)

Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo

Directed By: Antoine Fuqua

The body count reaches for the stratosphere in this first of the “terrorists take over the White House” movies scheduled for release in the next few months. Confronted with missile-blasting bad guys, this President doesn’t go without a fight, and his Secret Service agents die defending their boss—except for one guy. A slightly disgraced good guy survives the initial carnage, and in this script written by a committee stealing from other, better films, he single-handedly goes up against a literal army of martyr-seeking zealots.

1 and 1/2 pieces Die Hard wannabe toast


Admission (PG-13)

Starring: Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Michael Sheen, Gloria Rubin, Wallace Shawn, Lily Tomlin

Directed By: Paul Weitz

The by-the-book admissions officer at Princeton has a “comfortable” life until the head of a less-than-stellar high school arrives making unprofessional overtures, and a genius-level applicant who doesn’t do well on standardized tests but still deserves a chance both begin to complicate things. The humor comes from unexpected directions in this surprisingly original film. It’s quite enjoyable.

3 pieces of it’s not just a high SAT score toast


No (R)

Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Alfredo Castro, Antonia Zegers

Directed By: Pablo Larraine

Bowing to international pressure, the Chilean dictator August Pinochet held a national vote in 1988 to determine if he should stay in power. The ballot was a simple “Si” or “No,” and the anti-Pinochet advertising campaign adopted a surprisingly effective tactic. Instead of showing mass graves and tortured prisoners, the “No” campaign featured happy children, beautiful sunsets, and joyful celebrations—a promise of what Chile could be without Pinochet. Nominated for an Academy Award, this film, with it’s 1980’s feel, is a comedy of sorts, but a very serious comedy sharply focusing on that old advertising tag-line: “What is real, and what is Memorex?”

3 and 1/2 pieces of thoughtful, artful, must-see toast



Zero Dark Thirty (R)

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerto, Mark Strong, Jennifer Ehle, Kyle Chandler, Edgar Ramirez

Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow

Our search for definitive answers is partially resolved in this dramatically satisfying (but fictionalized) account of the hunt for and death of Osama Bin Ladin. Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal proved with The Hurt Locker that they are in the elite cadre of really, really good action/suspense directors and writers, and they top that tour de force here. Some of the scripted action has been criticized for being too “revealing,” or “incendiary,” or even”disloyal,” but from a story telling point-of-view, these moral ambiguities only make the film more powerful.

4 pieces of must see to be able to discuss it toast 


Rust and Bone  (R)

Starring: Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Armand Verdure, Celine Sallette

Directed By:  Jacques Audlard

Like Ariel the mermaid and Prince Eric, the human in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, the characters in this film come from different worlds. Here, the female is a whale trainer at Marineland, and the male is a single father who works as a bouncer at a nightclub. They meet by chance, and when she ends up in a wheelchair after a tragic work accident, she inexplicably turns to the rough-hewn man for help and the will to live.

3 pieces of suspend disbelief for this fairy tale toast 


Les Miserables (PG-13)

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter

Directed By: Tom Hooper

The Broadway musical, based on the Victor Hugo’s classic, 1500-page novel of the same name has been made into a screen version that is over two and  a half hours long. The story is complex, the timeline covers decades, the coincidental meetings  are numerous, the characters are remarkable, and the ending is tragic. This film also thrums with movement as the camera glides, slides, and floats among the actors and settings. We are in the surf as prisoner 24601 helps haul a huge ship into drydock, we are close by as wee Cossette is abused by the inn keepers, and we are manning the barricades as the soldiers fire their muskets our way. The entire stroy is done in song, and audiences seemed to want subtitles for some of the less familiar lyrics. The singing, in an artistic triumph, is done by the performers as they act their parts, adding an immediacy lacking in other movie musicals. People who love the stage version should delight in the movie. Those who don’t already know the story and songs may find the movie goes on too long, especially since so many good people end up dead.

3 pieces of an exceptional experiment toast


The Hobbit (PG-13)

Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom

Directed by: Peter Jackson

I read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit when I was in junior high, and I recall it as a rollicking adventure filled with humor, wizardry, Norse-style gnomes, elves and trolls, and some quite bloody fight scenes. There was also a magical gold ring of invisibility to be stolen from a very hungry dragon. The title character is Bilbo Baggins, a halfling Hobbit who is perfectly content to live in The Shire, put his furry feet up at the end of the day, and smoke a pipe or two. I enjoyed the detail of how Bilbo’s home was constructed, of how he likes to wet his finger before turning the page of a book, and how many puffs it takes to get his pipe to draw correctly. In the attempt to make a billion dollars out of his newest voyage to Middle Earth, Peter Jackson decided long ago to do two things—and the results are mixed. First, he would make this book into three films. Second, he would film it in 3-D at 48-frames-per-second. He made the film longer than necessary by focusing on all the little details in the book and giving  “barely mentioned-in-passing” characters (like Gandolf’s nature-loving brother) several minutes of screen time. The 48-frames technology means that everything our brains process is much more detailed, so the Hobbit-hole architecture, damp-fingered page turning and careful pipe lighting are shown in meticulous visual detail. Initially, the “look what we can do” aspect of all this technology drowns the story, but once the quest begins, (about an hour in), things roll right along. In the end, it’s too long, but the bits with Gollum—sixty years younger and even more devious—are worth the price of admission.

3 pieces of it doesn’t need to be three long movies toast