Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

Films Opening 1/03/14

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones has Latino focus, The Great Beauty is Fellini-light

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (R)

Starring: Andrew Jacobs, Crystal Santos, Molly Ephraim, Richard Cabral

Directed by: Christopher B. Landon

The filmmakers behind the wildly successful, low budget/high box-office Paranormal Activity movies have shifted the focus from suburbia to a Latino apartment complex in Oxnard. Tailored to fit the franchise’s most loyal fan base, the change of faces and scenery adds a much needed vibrancy to this film. Following the tried-and-true “found footage” concept, the hand-held camerawork is still shaky, the night-vision tripod shots are still set so the action is just out of the shot, and the sudden surprises still make the audience jump in their seats and  scream (or laugh) with delight.

3 pieces of Latino-style paranormal activity toast 


The Great Beauty (NR)

Starring: Toni Servillo, Sabrina Ferilli, Toni Servillo, Iaia Forte

Directed By: Paolo Sorrentino

An aimless line of conga dancers is a recurring vignette in this Felliniesque film updated to Berlusconi-era, and like the dancers, the story doesn’t go anywhere. Instead, we have a series of voyeuristic incidents involving drinking, and/or snorting performance artists such as a circus magician, a woman who keeps butting her head against Roman aqueducts, and a Botox injecting cosmetician. All of these characters are observed by a jaded writer who once showed literary promise but has chosen instead to pay his bills working as a magazine hack. Critics are raving about this film (which was nominated for a Golden Globe) with some extolling its originality, others its existential satire and others just calling it “stark, raving mad.” From my wisdom-of-a-certain-age, I  prefer Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.

2 and 1/2 pieces of art or artifice? toast



Don Jon (R)

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julienne Moore, Tony Danza, Brie Larson. Glenne Headley

Directed by: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

The talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote, directed and stars in this modern-day update of the classic tale of the self-obsessed libertine, Don Juan. Except this New Jersey lothario’s Dona Ana is a idealized composite of the silicon-breasted, instantly orgasmic porn stars he addictively watches every single day. Along comes a “real, live, girl,” who prompts a moral (and physical) dilemma—give up porn and have a life, or… The surprising dark comedy turn in the third act brings everything to an unexpected climax (pun intended).

3 and 1/2 pieces of interesting and intriguing toast