Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
Films Opening 1/24/14
The Invisible Woman (R)
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Kristen Scott Thomas
Directed By: Ralph Fiennes
Charles Dickens, the English writer whose memorable characters and descriptions of social conditions are encompassed in the word “Dickensian,” was a Victorian superstar. His books were bestsellers across the globe, and the author travelled widely on profitable lecture tours. Like many successful men of his era, Dickens had a mistress, but this arrangement is not the lust-fueled affair found in romance novels.
Instead, the couple’s time together is dictated by the logistics of Dickens’ very busy work schedule and juggling the needs of his wife, Catherine, and their 10 children. Although several biographies portray Dickens as a misogynistic tyrant, this film presents the man, (and his women), as products of their times.
3 pieces of not quite “the best of times,” but not “the worst of times” either toast
Gimme Shelter (PG-13)
Starring: Vanessa Hudgens, James Earl Jones, Rosario Dawson, Brendan Fraser, Ann Dowd
Directed by: Ron Krauss
The pregnant, 16-year-old child of a druggie becomes a runaway determined to find her father. Shocked by Dickensian encounters with other street people, the teen finally finds succor in a one-dimensional women’s shelter run by an avuncular priest (with the voice of Darth Vadar), and a no-nonsense nun. The choices offered, the futures available, and the realities facing a pregnant teen are side-tracked in favor of allowing the former star of Disney’s High School Musical to shed her goody-two-shoes image. The result is a simplistic movie with all the hallmarks of a faith-based, after-school special.
2 pieces of pregnant teen searches for shelter toast
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto
Directed by: Stuart Beattie
Apparently Dr. Frankenstein’s monster wasn’t killed by the crazed mob. 100 years from now, he’s still alive (or is he?) in a time when the world is besieged by (what else?) zombies. Cobbled together with parts from much better films (remind you of anyone or anything), the result is a mess sure to be in contention for a “Razzie” (Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Film of the Year).
1/2 pieces of they’ve got to be kidding! toast
NEW DVD RELEASES
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 situations (United 93, Bourne 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 pirates 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
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 for fans of Rodriguez’s fast and loose filmmaking style toast
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale, Max Cassella
Directed By: Woody Allen
Woody Allen continues his “travel to major cities” string of films by setting his latest in San Francisco. It features a recently-made-poor New Yorker who heads West to live with her working-class sister in a film which may have been intended as an homage to 1930‘s class warfare comedies, but instead makes us aware of the static nature of Allen’s filmmaking.
2 pieces of recycled Woody Allen toast
Starring: Vin Diesel, Matt Nable, Jordi Molla, Katee Sackoff, Karl Urban
Directed by: Davis Twohy
On the assumption that the hard-core fans who enjoyed 2004’s Chronicles of Riddick have aged up enough to see an R-rated flick, the filmmakers have increased the gore factor and added a nude female to keep the crowds coming. The plot is filled with holes, and the screenplay feels like it’s grabbed from a two-hour video game session featuring the same brand name. The result is a film which crosses over the line to being absurd, but will probably make enough money to spawn another sequel.
1 and 1/2 pieces of see it if you must (it’s your money) toast