Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

Films Opening 8/16/13

The Butler (PG)

Starring: Forrest Whitaker, Oprah Whinfrey, Cuba Gooding Jr., Robin Williams, Mariah Carey, David Oyelowo, Jane Fonda, Alan Rickman, Liev Shreiber, John Cusak

Directed by: Lee Daniels

Inside the beltway, the title character is referred to as a “White House staffer,” but his duties are similar to those of Downton Abbey’s white gloved stickler for tradition, Carson. It is based on the real-life “staffer” Eugene Allen who was first instructed to “Hear nothing…see nothing…only serve,” in Eisenhower’s White House and stayed on the job through six more Presidents. Writer/director Lee Daniels has created a distinctive insider’s look at the dramatic challenges that impacted our country and the world (the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy assassination, Civil Rights movement, Vietnam, Watergate, etc.) from the point of view of an African-American husband and father. Star-studded, the Oscar-winner Forrest Whitaker is astounding in the starring role.

3 an 1/2 piece of well served toast 

 

Hannah Arendt (NR)

Starring: Barbara Sukowa, Axel Milberg, Janet McTeer

Directed by: Margarethe von Trotta

Proving once again, that the typewriter is far superior in illuminating how writers write and think than any computer screen, this is the tale of a writing teacher who hears about the upcoming trial of former Nazi SS leader Adolf Eichmann in Israel, and writes about the proceedings for the New Yorker magazine. Coining terms like “the banality of evil,”  the issues she writes about are complex, the politics multi-layered, the immorality gargantuan, and the fact this is a German-made film adds a frisson of guilt to everything on screen.

2  pieces of too many wooden supporting actor performances toast 

 

Kick Ass 2 (R)

Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse

Directed By: Jeff Wadlow

The surviving dad in this sequel about costumed, wannabe heroes warns his son, “This is the real world…it has consequences.” Except it doesn’t.  The title character is repeatedly trashed in ways that would permanently cripple someone in our “real world.” His female sidekick, the revenge-fueled Ninja warrior trained by her tortured-to-death father to “be” the fist, bullet, blade (or stick with a sharp nail sticking out), was pruriently Manga-like as a preteen, but comes off as a sociopathic “Bad Girl” this time around. And despite the supposed bad guys maiming and killing hundreds of cops and innocent bystanders, “the system” doesn’t seem to give a rat’s ass about anything.

1  piece of  needed some subtler hands behind the scenes toast

 

Paranoia (R)

Starring: Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Liam Hemsworth, Amber Heard

Directed by: Robert Luketic

The Luddites who hate smart phones and all they stand for, are supposed to root for the guy who sells out his high-tech company to earn money to support his addled, aging father through his Dad’s “golden years.” But despite having some talented actors onscreen, the plot is so muddled, the direction so scattered, the screenplay so full of holes, that it could have been written by a smart phone…Wait…Let me think about that concept…Hmmmm!

1 piece of sad waste of time and talent toast 

 

Jobs (PG-13)

Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Jooosh Gad, MAtthew Modine, J.K. Simmons

Directed by: Joshua Michael Stern

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is dead and buried, but his spirit is reanimated by Ashton Kutcher in this mythic homage to the guy Steve Wozniak (the inventor of the personal computer) called “the coolest guy in the room.” Cool, that is, if a narcissist with anger-management issues who disowns his own daughter is cool. The filmmakers have tried to cram all the well-known events from Jobs’ life and the founding and rebounding of Apple Inc. into just over 2 hours, and the result is uneven at best.

1 and 1/2 pieces of Steve Jobs wasn’t Godlike toast

 

 

NEW DVD RELEASES

What Maisie Knew  (R)

Starring: Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgaard, Onata Aprile, Steve Coogan

Directed By: Scott McGhee, David Siegel

Two truly unlikable characters have a child together, but never bothered to marry. Now they want a “divorce,” and we see their mutual destruction society through the eyes of their seven-year-old girl. Updated from Henry James novel, the result is unsettling. 100 years ago, the zeitgeist was that children were tabula rasa (a blank slate) where adults could write or draw anything to shape a kid’s personna. Today, we have a different perspective, and the child as observer feels off-putting, as though a 2nd grader can’t construct her own structure from the sum of the shattered pieces which surround her.

3  pieces of brilliantly portrayed but emotionally draining toast 


The Company You Keep (R)

Starring: Robert Redford, Shia LeBeouf, Richard Jenkins, Chris Cooper, Julie Christie, Nick Nolte, Susan Sarandon, Terrence Howard

Directed By:  Robert Redford

A newspaper reporter tracking down a good story, discovers that several 60’s radicals have been living underground—in plain sight—as farmers, lawyers and college professors. There’s just one problem with this tale. There are frequent references to a “30 years ago” which in reality was 45 years ago, but the actors faces reveal that Redford and Christie and Nolte are septuagenarians. This conceit of the march of time is a fatal flaw no makeup can cover.

2 and 1/2  pieces of miscast actors toast


The Big Wedding (R)

Starring: Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace, Robin Williams

Directed By: Justin Zakham

With the pedigree of this project—excellent actors, a story taken from a popular French farce, and the screenwriter from The Bucket List—this should have been funny. But instead of the fast-pace satire of the French original, we have a movie that needs Geritol or something. The pace is too slow, the set ups to long, the punch lines too obvious, and the end result is appallingly bad.

1 piece of absolutely unfunny 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 DVD 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