Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

Films Opening 8/09/13


Planes (PG)

Starring the voices of: Dane Cook, Julia Louise Dreyfus, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, John Cleese, Val Kilmer

Directed By: Klay Hall

The folks at Pixar/Disney have been lured by  the “dark side” into churning out mediocre animated fare for the sole purpose of merchandising toy tie-ins. It’s a reworking of the “final race” scenario of Cars, but without the well-crafted script or good jokes. It has the feel of an assembly-line project slated for airing on the Disney Channel, but they are charging theater prices. The plot involves a crop duster plane who longs for the celebrity lifestyle. If you need a good animated plane story, I suggest you search out the 1940’s Disney South American-themed film Saludos Amigos (Hello Friends) and take a look at the segment called Pedro, about a plucky Chilean mail plane that has to fly over the Andes.

1 piece of animated assembly-line toast 


Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (PG)

Starring: Logan Leman, Alexandra Daddario, Brandon T. Jackson, Nathan Filloan, Mark Hamill, Stanley Tucci

Directed By: Thjor Freudenthal

Purists may cringe at the reworking of “classic” myths and characters, but the light-hearted parts of the movie work well. What doesn’t work. is the lack of dynamic tension. Nobody is at risk in these films—no life and death struggles occur, and the result is pretty flat. Local winemakers will identify with the introduction of a “new” character, Dionysus, the Greek God of wine in this humorous sequel. “Mr. D.” has offended the easily offended Zeus somehow, so every vintage bottle of wine turns to water as soon as the cork is pulled.

2 and 1/2 pieces of humorous mythology toast 


Elysium (R)

Starring: Jodi Foster, Matt Damon, Sharlito Copely, Alice Braga, William Fichtner

Directed By: Neil Blomkamp

The South-African filmmaker who brought us the sci-fi parable District 9 returns   with a film set in a much bloodier, much more class-structured 150 years later. The title is the name of a space station which circles the polluted and overpopulated Earth. In contrast to the planet-bound masses, Elysium’s residents are wealthy, relaxed, and healthy. This vibrance comes in part from a “healing bay” where residents can sit in a sun-tan-like device and emerge free of any diseases. When the hero of the tale is exposed to radiation and has only 5 days to live, he kidnaps a billionaire as part of a scheme to travel to the space station and get “cured.” But it’s Jody Foster as the single-minded defense official that brings  shudders to audiences becoming complacent about our own “security” agencies quietly co-opting our personal freedoms.

3  pieces of intriguing toast 


We’re the Millers (R)

Starring: Jennifer Anniston, Jason Sudeikis, Ed Helms, Emma Roberts

Directed By: Rawson Marshall Thurber

This terrible waste of talent proves that the tired “aren’t drug dealers fun!” scenario still isn’t funny.

1  piece of crude, sexualized toast 


Blue Jasmine (PG-13)

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale, Max Cassella

Directed By: Woody Allen

Woody Allen continues his “travel to major cities” string of films by setting his latest if San Francisco. It features a recently-made-poor New Yorker who heads West to live with her working-class sister in a film which may have been intended as an homage to 1930‘s class warfare comedies, but instead makes us aware of the static nature of Allen’s filmmaking.

12 pieces of recycled Woody Alllen toast


Lovelace (R)

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Saarsgaard, Sharon Stone

Directed By: Jeffrey Friedman, Robb Epstein

This morality tale about the making of  Deep Throat, America’s most famous X-rated movie and the star of the film’s instant notoriety and subsequent disenchantment with everything (including her paltry acting fee) has been explored before.  For some reason, the Oscar winning documentarians who took on this project  decided a dramatic presentation would be the way to go. The schizophrenic result presents the creation of the ludicrous original movie in an almost slapstick fashion, while the follow up expose is a jarringly ugly tale of spousal abuse and venality.

2 pieces love’s got nothin’ to do with it 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.

Mud (R)

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Tye Sheride, JAcob Lofland,

Directed By: Jeff Nichols

This Huck Finn tale of how a couple of boys spent their summer vacation contains some very dark elements (just like Mark Twain’s classic story). The title character is discovered living in a boat perched high in a tree by the river’s historic flood last season. “I’m not a bum,” the scruffy fellow insists. “I’ve got money, but I’m in a tight spot.” The tight spot is his mythically powerful love for  woman guarded by a trigger-happy man. The result is a Southern Gothic tale done so well you can almost smell the river mud.

3 and 1/2 pieces of Matthew McConaughey toast

On the Road (PG)

Starring: Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Tom Sturridge, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Alice Bragga

Directed By:  Walter Salles

The Brazilian director who did the Che Guevara road-movie The Motorcycle Diaries, manages to bring Jack Kerouac’s “unfilmable” novel to the screen by avoiding reverential excess. Instead, he explores the geography of time, and place, and thought by taking us on the road again in a ’49 Hudson, and showing flashbacks of the checklist of wives and lovers left behind. The film took a couple years to film, with at least two coast-to-coast road trips punctuated by the stars’ offscreen visits with talk show hosts in “major markets” along the way. The challenges of making the 21st Century look like 1957 were tackled head on, and the result, combined with some very fine acting, is astoundingly beautiful. However, deciding if these icons of the Beat Generation are worthy of adulation—that’s a very personal decision.

3 pieces of beautifully wrought 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 high-def, big screen for the graphics toast