Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

Films Opening 8/30/13

 Grandmaster masterful, but stay away from Getaway 

Grandmaster (PG-13)

Starring: Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi, Zhang Jin, Chang Chen

Directed By: Wong Kar Wai

If you know who Bruce Lee was, you may know that he learned his martial arts techniques from the legendary Grandmaster, Yip Man (aka Ip Man).  This is an artfully told biography of Yip Man’s resolution of the centuries-old battle between the martial arts style of Northern China and Southern China. A bit of feminism is thrown in when the Grandmaster of the North is forced by chauvinist traditions to pass his mantle to a hot-headed male instead of a much better fighter who happens to be the Grandmaster’s own daughter. Beautifully shot with some truly astounding scenes of power, skill and finesse, my only criticism is the skip-over of the historical excesses of China’s Cultural Revolution

3  pieces of spade, pin, and sheath hand positions toast 


One Direction: This Is It (PG)

Starring: Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Stiles, Louis Tomlinson

Directed by: Morgan Spurlock

Supersize Me director Morgan Spurlock has shifted his camera from pop food to pop music in a slick piece of marketing propaganda featuring the British boy band, One Direction. Essentially, it is a multi-camera concert piece intercut with scenes showing what a genius British impresario Simon Cowell is in “real” life. In the end, the film is just as generic as the songs, and you either like that or you don’t.

2 pieces of they certainly aren’t the Beatles toast 


Ain’t Them Bodies Saints  (NR)

Starring: Casey Affleck, Roony Mara, Ben Foster, Keith Carradine

Directed by: David Lowery

This is one of those “in the style of” movies that elevate murderous bandits into folk heroes. Derivative set-pieces reminiscent of Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde, Terrence Malik’s Badlands and Robert Altman’s McCabe and Mrs. Miller, crowd a screen intercut with tenderly nuanced scenes between lovers or parents and children. The result is probably fresh and exciting for those under 30—at least those looking for an old-fashioned, 1970’s style movie.

2 and 1/2  pieces of derivative toast 


Closed Circuit  (R)

Starring: Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Jim Broadbent, Julia Stiles

Directed by: John Crowley

For this film to have worked, there needed to be some genuine chemistry between  the stars. Instead, we have two former lovers on opposite sides of an incendiary terrorist case being tried under Britain’s State Secrets Act who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.  Problem is, the audience doesn’t believe the basic premises—first that the lawyers ever cared for each other, and second, that they are so naive that they aren’t aware of the constant surveillance by the government, the bad guys, and the “public has a right to know” media. The director’s choice of multiple screens (similar to those audiences hated when first used in the original Thomas Crown Affair way back in 1968), just makes things more confusing than they need to be.

1 and 1/ pieces of overused multi-screens toast 


Getaway (PG-13)

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez, John Voight

Directed by: Courtney Soloman

The only thing different about this generic car chase flick is that it is set in Sofia, Bulgaria. It involves a disgraced race car driver’s Bulgarian wife being kidnapped and the guy “forced” to steal the specially equipped Mustang he drives through a series of increasingly deadly stunts. Trouble is, star Ethan Hawke plays this like he’s still in his Before Sunrise characterizations, and this just shows that as a stunt car driver, he’s no Paul Walker!

1 and 1/2 piece of unbelievable and uninteresting car chases toast




The Great Gatsby (PG-13)

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher

Directed By: Baz Luhrmann

The 1920‘s zeitgeist F. Scott Fitzgerald portrays in his classic novel The Great Gatsby has been carefully choreographed by 21st Century Australian director  Baz Luhrmann with a hip-hop soundtrack. There’s lots of glitz and glamor in the first half, and DiCaprio and Maguire take turns stealing scenes, but the second half, with it’s doomed downward spiral, is underwhelming. End result, instead of being “Great” its just an “Okay” Gatsby.

2 and 1/2 pieces of see it for DiCaprio and Maguire toast


Kon Tiki (PG-13)

Starring: Paul Sverre Hagen, Anders Baasmo Christiansen,  Agnes Kitelsen, Tobias Santelmann

Directed By: Joacheim Ronning, Espen Sandberg

Reading Thor Heyerdahl’s true-life-adventure Kon Tiki was a rite of passage in my half-Norwegian family, so I am delighted that the incredible 1947 journey from South America to a Polynesian island on a balsa wood raft was made into a good movie. The sailors are rugged, Heyerdahl is obsessed with his human migration theory (since proved wrong by genetics), the sharks circle, storms howl, and people fall overboard with regularity. Problem is, Heyerdahl never learned to swim.

3 pieces of six men on a tiny raft in a gigantic ocean toast 


At Any Price (R)

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Zac Efron, Kim Dickens, Heather Graham

Directed By: Rahmin Bahrami

The title says it all. A midwestern farmer who seems to be all smiles and handshakes, is driven by inner demons to cover his state with genetically modified crops, and thereby bankrupt anyone who struggles to compete. His wife and family stay clear most of the time, except for Dean, the son who races cars because he doesn’t want to be like his dad. The performances are first rate, but the story becomes overly complicated and the audience wants to be as far away from this farmer as his family does.

2 pieces of complicated story overwhelms good acting toast