Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

Films Opening 12/28/13

The Wolf of Wall Street (R)

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Kyle Chandler, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughy, Rob Reiner Spike Jonz,

Directed By: Martin Scorcese

When I interviewed Richard Shickel about his Conversations With Scorcese biography, we spent some time talking about the Catholic-schooled filmmaker’s antipathy towards directing sex scenes. Apparently Scorcese has gotten over that hang-up. In this film, scenes depicting vanilla-sex ratcheting up to tutti-fruitti kinkiness reportedly shocked and dismayed many AMPAS voters at a pre-Oscar vote screening. Despite this, Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance as the stock broker who sells his shady goods with evangelical fervor may still capture enough ballots for the Best Actor statuette. Problem is, that for a movie to work well you have to like the guy. I, for one, did not.

2 and 1/2 pieces of Scorcese has done better work toast


The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (PG)

Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Patton Oswalt, Shirley MacLaine, Sean Penn

Directed by: Ben Stiller

Ben Stiller directs and stars in this remake of the 1947 Danny Kaye comedy based on humorist James Thurber’s short story, however the CGI effects are so fast and furious, they get in the way. Essentially the tale about an “inconsequential guy” with a vivid imagination, has been modernized so that Mitty flies to Greenland to track down a cover photo for the final print version of Life magazine and then heads to other exotic locales to chase down an elusive globe-trekking photographer. So the imaginary secret life of the original becomes “realities,” like those experienced by jaded billionaires who travel to Himalayan mountaintops, blast into space or deep dive into Pacific wonderlands. I was reminded of the old TV commercial asking “what is real, and what is Memorex?”

2 and 1/2 pieces of misses Thurber’s “everyman” concept toast 


47 Ronin (PG-13)

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Jin Akaneshi, Ko Shibasaki, Rinko Kikuchi, Tadanabu Asano

Directed by: Carl Rinsch

People who believe the American ad campaign may be surprised how little screen time Keanu Reeves gets in this film starring 46 other guys. Reeves ancestry is explained by referring to him as the “half-breed,” instead of correctly labeling him “the box-office-builder.” The Ronin in the film’s title are Samurai warriors left leaderless after their master commits ritual suicide. There is a confusing mish-mash of witchcraft and wizardry thrown into the mix, but the film lacks the  conviction that it believes in anything of importance. I suggest checking out the Akira Kurosawa classics Seven Samurai and Yojimbo, Yoji Yamada’s The Hidden Blade or, for lighter fare, Takeshi Kitano’s humorous Zaitochi

1 and 1/2  pieces of directed by a guy who makes commercials toast


Grudge Match (PG-13)

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Robert DeNiro, Alan Arkin, Kevin Hart

Directed by: Peter Segal

A collection of cartoon-like figures playing greying shadows of their former selves shuffle around the boxing ring in this ill-conceived film about two aged prize fighters. The only reason this film is getting any attention is that its stars played boxers in good movies (Rocky and Raging Bull) over thirty years ago. The story line is about two pugilistic rivals who fought over the same girl all those years before, and are coaxed back into the ring for a grudge match publicity stunt.  Labelled a comedy—it isn’t.

1 and 1/2 pieces of they shouldn’t have said “yes” toast


Justin Bieber’s Believe PG)

Starring: Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, Usher Raymond, Ellen DeGeneres, Ryan Seacrest

Directed by: Jon Chu

If you are a “Bielieber,” then this pastiche of concert footage, video clips, and person-on-the-street interviews revolving around teen-icon Justin Bieber should fuel your cravings. For the rest of us—meh!

2  pieces of Justin Bieber toast




C.O.G. (PG)

Starring: Jonathan Groff, Denis O’Hare, Corey Stoll, Dean Stockwell

Directed by: Kyle Patrick Alvarez

David Sedaris publicly announced that he wouldn’t sign over the rights to any of his short pieces to a movie maker because of his fear of how Hollywood would pasteurize his distinctive humor.  Somehow, he relented on this simple tale of a Yale grad who dumps all his electronic gizmos and escapes to the simple life as an Oregonian apple picker. The resulting film proves that Sedaris’ fears were well founded but that the collaborative effort of making a film has advantages in other ways.

2 pieces of loses something in the translation but is still an interesting film toast