Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for 4/19/13

Filly Brown (R)

Starring: Gina Rodriguez, Lou Diamond Phillips, Jennie Rivera, Edward James Olmos

Directed By: Youssef Delara, Michael D. Olmos

This story of a talented Latina who aspires to lifting herself out of her hard-scrabble life through her musical ability has been portrayed before with different ethnicities and musical styles. Propelled by fine acting, great singing, and a realistic ambiance, the formula still works. The “tattoos as a way to make money, demand respect and reflect self-identity” sub-plot is fresh and well-played too.

3 pieces of see it for the breakout performance by Gina Rodriguez toast


The Sapphires (PG-13)

Starring: Chris O’Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Mirana Tapsell, Shari Sebbens

Directed By:  Wayne Blair

Once a group of 60‘s Australian Aboriginal singers switch from country-western to Motown, their careers skyrocket (changing their names from The Cummeranjanga Songbirds to The Sapphires helps too). Based on a real girl group, and co-written by the real singer’s son, there is an honesty and vibrancy to a storyline which could have seemed overly familiar. Instead, the Aussie twist brings unexpected depth and the singing and familiar songs reach deep inside your core being.

3  pieces of talented Aussie toast.


Oblivion (PG-13)

Starring: Tom Cruise, Olga Kurylenko, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo

Directed By:  Justin Zackham

In WALL-E, the cleanup guy for a post-apocolyptic Earth is a machine. In Oblivion, the clean-up guy is Tom Cruise, and both of them make a collection of artifacts that pique their interest. Both movies showcase outstandingly talented digital artistry, but where audiences bonded with the little robot, they have a difficult time warming up to a robotic human—especially one featured in so many tabloids and talk shows. Based on an unpublished graphic novel, the storyline involves the human clean-up guy discovering that not all of mankind was destroyed by the alien invasion, and that the people in charge “lied to me!” It’s all been done much better before—just not as beautifully rendered.

2 pieces of worth seeing on a big screen for the graphics toast


Upstream (NR)

Starring: Shane Carruth, Amy Seimetz, Andrew Senseng, Thiego Martins

Directed By: Shane Carruth

One of the downsides of the “auteur” school of filmmaking, is the potential for self-indulgence. Shane Carruth wrote, directed, produced, edited, and created the music for Upsteam, and it is decidedly his personal vision of how the film should be made.  But…the movie is completely unintelligible. It involves (I think) a couple who were captured and operated upon by mad scientists who utilize pigs and psychotropic, glow-in-the-dark worms as part of the experiment. Are they harvesting organs? Messing with people’s memories? Messing with the audience’s minds? Whatever the plot, it’s sure to leave people shaking their heads in disbelief and perhaps even demanding their money back. (Shane Carruth envisions a different scenario, where people flock to see the film over and over again to unlock its mysteries).

1 piece of beautiful but confused, self-indulgent toast


From Up On Poppy Hill (PG)

Starring the voices of: Sarah Bolger, Gillian Anderson, Anton Yelchin, Jamie Lee Curtis

Directed By: Goro Myazaki

My sister, who lives where movies are released sooner than they are in the North Bay, told me she saw “the new Myazaki film,” and was “disappointed.” This is probablly due to the fact that this Myazaki isn’t the amazing master Japanese animator Hayao  Myazaki (of Princess Mononoke fame), but instead, the son, Goro Myazaki. Eschewing Japanese mythology for a newer, anime-for-girls storyline, quaint, provincial-looking Yokohama settings contrast sharply with the modern concrete of Tokyo preparing for the upcoming 1962 Olympic Games. The Yokahoma kids attend school in a crumbling pre-war building, and their clubhouse is a wreck the school principal wants to bulldoze into oblivion. Instead, the kids use the school newspaper to rally support for the old “Latin Quarter” building. One odd thing is the suggestion that the teenl-aged boyfriend and girlfriend may secretly be brother and sister. An incest subplot is not uncommon in Japanese anime, but it could raise a few eyebrows over here.

3 pieces of  beautifully animated Studio Ghibli fare, but it could have been directed/edited better toast



Django Unchained (R)

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L, Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Kevin Costner, Kurt Russell

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Because this is Quentin Tarantino’s movie, some (including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences) forgive all the revenge-fueled bloodshed, woman hatred, KKK-style racism, and distinctly un-genteel slice of Southern hypocrisy. The director loves old filmmaking techniques, and includes homages to spaghetti westerns, the picturesque rocks of the Alabama Hills (outside Lone Pine, California), and the old “Western” movie stars who dot the landscape. But (and this is a GIGANTIC BUT), the movie doesn’t work, and comes across as a racist smirk. The first third, featuring a bounty hunter searching out runaway slaves is good, but the plantation owner middle, needs intense cutting of scenes that go on way too long, and despite the big wink to the audience, the stereotypical caricatures aren’t funny either. The last section is just a blood-spurting series of body counts which the “riding off into the sunset” ending does not remedy. I agree with director Spike Lee’s summary of the film: “American slavery was not a Serge Leone spaghetti western—it was a holocaust!”

1 and 1/2 pieces of  tain’t my cuppa tea toast