Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
Films Opening 11/29/13
Frozen is for young families, Nebraska for older families
Starring the voices of: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh GAd, Alan Tudyk, Ciaran HInds, Jonathan Groff
Directed by: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
The Disney animators seem to have gotten their “groove” back, and the result is an enjoyable holiday film that actually deserves to be labelled a “Classic.” The studio expands their Princesses franchise with a Scandinavian blonde named Elsa who has suddenly developed magical powers (like creating an indoor blizzard). To keep keep her younger sister Anna safe from any magical mishaps, Elsa wears one glove all the time, the two girls grow up separately. There’s plenty of catchy songs, a traditional Disney-style Prince charming, scheming villains and funny support characters to join those phalanxes of Happy Meal figures. The stand-out is a malleable snowman whose head, body, nose and eyes are recombined in amusing Mr. Potato Head configurations. It’s a timeless tale, well told, with lots of amusing interludes, catchy tunes, and lovable character—in short, a “Must See” for the whole family this Holiday season.
4 pieces of Must See Disney animation toast
Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Stacy Keach, Bob Odenkirk, Angela McKwan
Directed by: Alexander Payne
I got a call from my aging father a few years back saying that he had received a notification that he was in the final round of a magazine sweepstakes and would be getting at least $300,000. Instead of a prize, everyone in the family ended up with subscriptions to unwanted magazines—paid for by my dad. In Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, the 80-something Woody Grant receives a similar letter, only he decides to travel from Montana to the Nebraska sweepstakes headquarters to retrieve his prize. Undeterred by nay-sayers, Woody starts trudging down a wintry highway on his quest, and is quickly picked up by the cops. Joined by his stereo-salesman son for a road-trip, Woody grapples with the generational shifts occurring in the Heartland—and his own family. The poignant humor is handled deftly by director Alexander Payne, Bob Nelson’s script is well-crafted, and Bruce Dern secures Woody as his acting legacy.
4 pieces of a slightly Sideways road trip toast
Starring: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Spphie Kennedy Clark, Ruth McCabe, Mare Winningham
Directed by: Stephen Frears
The filmmakers have created just the right tone for uncovering the scandal of the Irish laundries. For decades, certain orders of Irish Catholic nuns would “protect” unmarried, pregnant girls by giving them “good jobs” in industrial laundries, and selling their babies to adoptive families in North America. This film tells the tale of one former laundress who is joined on her quest to find her now 50-year-old son by a journalist working for a tabloid newspaper interested in the headline-grabbing aspects of such a story. Judi Dench is truly amazing as the remarkably determined mother, Steve Coogan is perfect as the stand-offish, OxBridge-educated journalist, and Stephen Frears directs their quest for closure with a nuanced hand.
3 and 1/2 pieces of a tragic true story toast
The Book Thief (PG-13)
Starring: Sophie Nelisse, Ben Schnetzer, Emily Watson, Geofrey Rush
Directed by: Brian Percival
The message of this film is supposed to be that books can set you free. But… The reality of what is happening down the block and next door in 1938 Germany hovers over the film like unacknowledged Death Eaters. In this parallel universe version of the Holocaust, adoptive parents are kind and loving—even willing to have crippled Jewish boy live in their basement, and the mayor’s wife is willing to open her library of first editions to an orphan girl who just buried her brother. Perhaps it works on the page, but it comes across as disingenuous onscreen.
1 and 1/2 pieces of history rewritten toast
Starring: Jason Staham, James Franco, Winona Rider. Kate Bosworth
Directed by: Gary Fleder
Sylvester Stallone penned the original script way back in 1976 as the third in his Rambo series, but it sat on the shelf and mildewed instead. With all the Good-Ole-Boys characters on cable channel reality shows, there is probably a market for this film about an undercover DEA agent and a swamp-rat drug dealer—but this mish-ash of sociopathic revenge is completely unbelievable and unwatchable
1 piece of sociopathic gator bait toast
Black Nativity (PG)
Starring: Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Jacob Latimore, Jennifer Hudson, Mary J. Blige
Directed by: Kasi Lemmons
Langston Hughes 1961 musical retelling of the Nativity story has been modernized to the present day with some added songs. The original featured traditional Christmas Carols sung in Gospel-style, and those few pieces which remain in the movie, show how effective that “avant-guard” interpretation was then and still is now. In contrast, the new songs are as uninspired as something that catches the fancy of the judges on America’s Got Talent. The director has tried to combine gritty urban reality with the schmaltzy sounds and smells of a Wall-Mart decorated Christmas season, and the result may be be well-intentioned, but only works in fits and starts.
1 and 1/2 pieces of gritty Christmas-pageant toast
NEW DVD RELEASES
RED 2 (PG-13)
Starring: Bruce Willis Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Mary Louise Parker
Directed By: Dean Parisot
The tag line for the original RED movie was “codgers make the coolest killers,” and we saw some great older actors add thier skills to a Bruce Willis action-flick. This time, the tag line could be “codger killings are fun,” except they really aren’t. Lets take the scene where assassin and love interest Helen Mirren disposes of a body in a bathtub by pouring acid over him. The laughs supposedly come from the bickering phone conversation she is having while multi-tasking. For me, the gruesomeness of the set piece overwhelmed any humor. Everything is over-the top, and as Mirren says in TV interviews, “One 360-degree automobile spin-out was good, so we have three 360-spin-outs this time.” More is not necessarily better.
2 pieces of trying to hard to make distasteful murders funny toast
Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Josh 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