Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

Films Opening 9/20/13

 Short Term 12 features break-out performances

Short Term 12 (R)

Starring: Brie Larson, John Gallagher, Stephanie Beatriz, Alex Calloway, Kaitlyn Dever, Keith Stanfield

Directed by: Destin Cretton

A halfway house for troubled teens provides the setting for a drama that could provide the breakout role for a number of talented actors who should soon be famous. The gifted guidance counselor in love with her co-worker, the mercurial, doll-loving red-headed boy,  the abused teen, the discarded teen, the soon to be cast out because he will turn 18 teen. There’s lots of psycho-jargon thrown around, but these weighted words serve as shorthand for what life (and love) is really like.

3 and 1/2 pieces of  blossoming talents toast 


Prisoners (R)

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhall, Viola Davis, Paul Dano, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo

Directed by: Denis Villanueve

A Pennsylvania Thanksgiving dinner abruptly shifts from Norman Rockwell to the Brothers Grimm when two little girls are kidnapped from the front yard. Enter the tooth-pick-chewing, loner detective, unmask the vigilante father,  interrogate every sex offender in the county, and then destroy the carefully created tension with a third act that seems like Hercule Poirot has gathered everyone in the drawing room for tea and accusations.

2 and 1/2 pieces of  drags at the end toast 


Salinger (PG-13)

Directed By: Shane Salemo

Author J.D. Salinger was known as a recluse, but this documentary only gives tantalizing hints about why this was so. In fact, this is almost a mini-course in how NOT to make a documentary about an important historical figure. You shouldn’t shoot ham-handed re-enactments of a smoking man pounding a typewriter or a child pounding on a huge door. You shouldn’t include people with famous names and faces expounding about the “importance” the dead guy’s writing (especially Catcher In the Rye) had on their careers. You shouldn’t make a movie about a guy and not include input from his surviving children. And most of all, you shouldn’t have a jarring music soundtrack interrupting otherwise interesting revelations. What’s left would make a good half-hour TV show.

2  pieces of Salinger is still reclusive toast 


Thanks For Sharing (R)

Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth PAltrow, Tim Robbins, Josh Gad, Carol Kane

Directed by: Stuart Blumberg

I keep writing that addiction is an inherently unfunny topic, but filmmakers keep ignoring my advice. The latest is a “serio-comic” examination of a sex addict who recites the 12-step mantra, but easily gives in to the temptations which surround us all. There’s lots of sharing at group meetings, lots of soul searching and earnest support from fellow addicts and lots of opportunities to show some skin—some of it tattooed, some of it not.

1 and 1/2 pieces of  misdirected toast 


Battle of the Year  (PG-13)

Starring: Josh Peck, LAz Alonso, Caity Lotz

Directed by: Benson Lee

Billed as “edgy” and “hip” this latest Step Up wannabe is tame enough for parents  to relax. In preparation for a dance-off called the Battle of the Year where teams from France and Korea threaten the Americans, the lead daner turns to a has-been basketball coach for help. In formulaic fashion, the supposedly self-taugt street dancers show off in solos, but must be molded into a well-oiled team. Forget the plot. Just enjoy the moves.

2 pieces of dance battle toast 



World War Z  (R)

Starring: Brad Pitt, Marielle Enos, Daniella Kertesz, David Morse

Directed By: Marc Forster

Our fascination with zombies continues in a film which touts itself as the ultimate in the genre, but even with its Contagion-style search for the viral nexus, it still doesn’t top 28 Days Later. Airplanes provide vector distribution as the brain-sucking hordes expand across the globe, and only Israel and North Korea manage to hold the zombies back. But all that brainpower (eaten and otherwise) means the undead are clever little beasts, so even the most insular parts of the planet…Wait. I almost wrote a spoiler. I suggest you find out yourself.

3  pieces of zombie pandemic toast


The East (PG-13)

Starring: Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgard, EllenPage, Patricia Clarkson, Julia Ormond

Directed By: Zal Batmanglij

In the classic undercover spy films, the man usually beds a particularly attractive woman as part of his “cover.” In this film, a woman infiltrates a violent anarchistic group who believes two wrongs DO make things right, and falls for the messianic leader. Things get complicated pretty fast, motivations include old grudges, morality is fluid, and the rag-tag bunch of hippies in the crumbling mansion turn out to be more complex than we first assume.

3 pieces of asks some timely questions toast


Disconnect (R)

Starring: Stellen Skasgard, Andrea Riseborough, Colin Ford, Frank Grillo, Hope Davis, Jason Bateman

Directed By:  Alex Rubin

A classic tale of despair and loss of identity is told in the modern-day mileu of smart phones, chat rooms and cam-sex. The concept shines in some sequences, but the script becomes to obvious and the question of “who are the grown ups?’ is answered in a morally dishonest and  unsatisfying manner.

2 and 1/2  pieces of smart phones, dull people toast


The Bling Ring (PG-13)

Starring: Emma Watson, Leslie Mann, Taissa Farmiga, Israel Broussard, Katie Chang

Directed By: Sofia Coppola

Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring was inspired by a news item about a gang of SoCal teens who “shop” in celebrities’ homes to surround themselves with “famous stuff.” The director’s films are very personal pieces, and this one obviously struck a cord with its very obvious reveal of the shallow side of the glitz and glamor of the famous and the wannabes. But in an Emperor’s-new-clothes sort of way, we come to realize (in this film at least), there’s nothing there.

2 pieces of oddly vapid storyline toast


Epic (PG)

Starring the voices of: Beyonce Knowles, Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson, Amanda Seyfried, Christoph Waltz

Directed By:  Chris Wedge

Imagine cramming every animated fairy tale about bugs, ants, secret gardens, fairies, and magical forests into one movie, and you’ve got the idea. This cafeteria approach to filmmaking means some of what’s served-up is good, some is overcooked, and some is insipid. The artistry is often beautiful, but the film is quite forgettable.

2  pieces of completely forgettable animated toast