Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

Films Opening 10/11/13

Captain Phillips (PG-13)

Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Catherine Keener, Max Martini

Directed by: Paul Greenglass

Like the movie about the Titanic, we already know the ending to the Somali pirate hijacking of the Maersk Alabama—but this one ends on a much happier note. Director Paul Greengrass excels at telling taught tales of heroism in claustrophobic hijaking situations (United 93Bourne Ultimatum), and in Captain Philips, he adroitly tells the tale of two captains brought together by fate. The story works so well because of the astounding skill that Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi bring to their roles of dueling captains. The reality of this situation (and the other recent Somali hijaking film, A Hijaking) is a true life and death struggle that leaves you breathless at times as you white-knuckle the arms of your theater seat.

3 and 1/2 pieces of  astoundingly powerful toast 

Inequality for All (PG)

Starring: Robert Reich, Nick Hanauer, Ladd and Nancy Rassmussen

Directed by: Jacob Kornbluth

Former Secretary of Labor and current Berkeley professor Robert Reich has collaborated with director Jacob Kornbluth to share the facts, fantasies, manipulations and complacence that have made 400 Americans richer than the combined wealth of all the other 150 million citizens of the U.S.A.

Stop! Read that last bit again. Only 400 rich people own more than the combined wealth of all the rest of us. Reich manages to capture our attention with of combination of common sense, personal stories of overcoming bullying and seasickness, and standing tall enough that your feet reach the ground. This is a must see film for the 150 million of us.

4 pieces of must see and share with others toast 

Wadjda (PG)

Starring: Waad Mohammed, Reem Abdullah, Ahd Kamel

Directed by: Haiffa Al-Mansour

It is considered immoral for Islamic girls to ride bicycles in Saudi Arabia, and the fact that the shiny green bike in the shop window is a girl’s model explains part of the obsession 10-year-old Wadja has about owning it. Clever, creative, and a natural born rule-bender, the girl comes up with a novel way to earn enough money for her prize—win the traditionally male-only school competition memorizing and singing the text of the Koran.

3 and 1/2 pieces of you’ll like this girl’s spirit toast 

Romeo and Juliet (PG-13)

Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Douglas Booth, Paul Giamatti, Damien Lewis

Directed by: Carlo Carlei

It seems each decade much have its own version of the classic tale of star-crossed lovers—including recasting them on the streets of 1950’s New York City in West Side Story (1959), or  modern-day Verona Beach, Florida  in Baz Luhman’s sexy and quite creative Romeo and Juliet (1996).  In the latest re-telling, Julian Fellowes (of Downton Abbey andGosford Park fame), has rewritten Shakespeare’s original text into a more modern day style even though the setting is still the Italy of the late 16th Century. Here the problem is with the casting of the leads. Hailee Steinfeld was fine as the resilient young survivor in True Grit (2010), but lacks the “true beauty” to inspire Romeo’s desires and Douglas Booth is beautiful—but he can’t act. In contrast, Paul Giamatti steals his every scene as Friar Lawrence

2 pieces of miscast toast 

Machete Kills (R)

Starring: Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Damien Bichir, Antonio Banderas, Sofia Vergara, Cuba Gooding Jr., Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson, Lady Gaga

Directed by: Richard Rodriguez

Craggy-faced Danny Trejo reprises his role as Machete, the ex-Federale “at war with the cartels,” when he is summoned to Washington D.C. to “stop a Mexican madman with a bomb.” With gritted teeth, Machette wields his long-knife in the cause of truth, justice and the Mexican-American way. Fast-paced, bloody violence, beheadings and other gruesome bits of seemingly unscripted mayhem are sporadically populated with well-known celebrities in cameos.

2 pieces of  fans of Rodriguez’s fast and loose filmmaking style toast 

Out of the Dark (R)

Starring: Nicholas Jacob, Michael Aloni, Jameel Khouri, Alon Pdut

Directed By: Michael Meyer

Out In the Dark is an LGBT-award-winning Israeli import where its name describes the movie in both literal and figurative ways.  Largely filmed in dark places, the gay couple at the center of the movie are a Palestinian student targeted for death because of his sexual preference, and a wealthy Israeli lawyer who has come out to his family, but stays closeted to almost everyone else. The gay plot will seem uninspired to sophisticated audiences in western Sonoma County familiar with The Invisible Men, the astounding (and true) tale of three Palestinian men that director/producer Yriv Mozer brought to this year’s Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival.

2  pieces of too dark to see at times toast

Still Mine (PG-13)

Starring: James Cromwell, Genevieve Bujold, Campbell Scott

Directed by: Michael McGowan

A long-married man whose aging wife is drifting away from dementia, decides to build a smaller, and much warmer house on their farmland—without a permit. Nay-sayers arrive in the form of a by-the-book building inspector, and while the man slowly complies with the red-tape, he keeps building the house and his love for his soul-mate.

3 pieces of love in their 80‘s toast 

Grace Unplugged (PG)

Starring: AJ Michaelka, James Denton, Kkevin Pollak, Shawnee Smith

Directed by: Brad J. Silverman

This self-labelled “Christian-oriented musical drama” tells a tale of an 18-year-old Alabama girl who heads to Los Angeles to become a musical sensation and escape

Unavailable for preview

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Much Ado About Nothing  (R)

Starring: Jillian Morgese, Fran Kranz, Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker

Directed By: Joss Wheadon

Using his rambling LA home as his set, casting familiar faces from his TV series as his actors, having them wear modern dress, shooting in black and white, and using The Bard’s original dialogue, the “Nothing” in the title is obviously “SEX.” Double entendres are de rigueur in Shakespearean comedies, and the juxtaposition of the modern with the Elizabethan makes the words sparkle.

3  pieces of cleverly done update of Shakespeare toast

We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks  (R)

Starring: Julian Assange, Adrian Lammo, Bradley Manning

Directed By: Alex Gibney

“The public has a right to know” mantra guides the assumptions behind a once shadowy internet whistle blower. But when a documentary Oscar-winner turns his camera on the founder of the information-sharing website, Julian Assange, we want to quickly text “TMI!”  This doc is unfinished since history is still being written. At the end of the movie, Assange is escaping arrest by taking refuge in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy, and Army private Bradley Manning is being court-marshalled for allowing Assange to publish thousands of classified State Department cables.

2 and 1/2 pieces of paying close attention to Assange behind the curtain toast

After Earth (PG-13)

Starring: Jaden Smith, Will Smith, Zoe Kravitz, Sophie Okonedo

Directed By:  M. Night Shyamalan

The film title should be “Daddy’s Going to Try to Make His Son a Star.” The sci-fi set-up involves a father-son team sent back to Earth 1,000 years after humankind abandoned it’s birth planet. There’s a crash landing, and as daddy slowly dies, he provides a running video commentary to his son about “facing fear” and other psycho-babble. Trouble is, the lad must fight against hostile CG beasts, hostile CG climate shifts, hostile direction from M. Night Shyamalan, a hostile script, and hostile pans from the critics.

1 piece of don’t bother seeing this one toast 

The Purge ( R)

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Adelaide Kane

Directed By: James DeMonaco

May Day was historically a time to let one’s inhibitions run wild, and this concept is taken to the max in a sci-fi speculation of “what would you do?” if you could do anything you wanted for one night—and never commit a crime? I almost wrote “and never pay the consequences” but that inevitably leads to a moral conundrum.  Instead, this audience never has a chance to consider the rightness of “culling the streets” to lower the unemployment rate, because the onscreen 24-TV news personalities tell us what we should think about it every minute of the horror-filled night.

1/2 piece of morality play hypocrisy toast