Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

Films Opening 2/07/14

The Lego Movie (PG)

Starring the voices of: Chris Pratt, Allison Brie, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Will Arnet

Directed By: Chris McKay

I was just at the big Lego store outside Disneyland, and was amazed what creative minds can do with “children’s” building blocks (and astounded by the prices like $400 for an out-of-stock Simpsons house and $800 for a Star Wars space ship). Relegated to bit parts in other films (Time Bandits, Toy Story, etc.), Legos finally get a chance to star in their very own movie. Animated with a Looney Tunes sensibility by the folks who did the first Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, those multi-colored, molded plastic, toy bricks come to life in a a fun-filled romp. All the classic fairy tale ingredients are included (blind wizard, unlikely hero, female ninja, evil villain, dastardly henchmen, etc.) but imaginations run wild as both plastic bricks and storyline are assembled and re-assembled in countless different realities.

3 and 1/2 pieces of build and rebuild with Legos toast 


Monuments Men (PG-13)

Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchette, Bill Murray, John Goodman, John Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville

Directed by: George Clooney

Don’t be fooled by the well-crafted previews. George Clooney should have studied his Three Kings war movie before making Monument Men, because the humor, drama, and sense of adventure in Three Kings is sadly missing. Instead, we have a star-studded recreation of WWII history involving the Allies (but mostly, of course, the AMERICANS) sent to recapture the thousands of artistic masterpieces looted by the Nazis. There’s the recruitment of unwilling college profs, museum curators, forgers and logistics experts (which is strangely left to the end credits to view), there’s the 3-week boot camp of aged and overweight men vocally missing their afternoon naps, there’s the scurrying around darkened caves and musky barns looking for artistic treasures, the de rigueur mishaps which result in tragic loss, and, of course, those nasty Nazis (and Russians, and Frenchmen, and Italians, and other assorted baddies), who don’t want to give back the stolen loot. Parts are brilliant, but the rest is just OK.

2 and 1/2 pieces of not a movie masterpiece toast 



Mandella: Long Walk to Freedom (PG-13)

Starring: Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Garth Breytenbach, Grant Swanby

Directed by: Justin Chadwick

There is enough material here for three or four films about Nelson Mandela—his childhood and coming-of age, his life as a lawyer and bomb-throwing activist, his imprisonment, his release and rise to become his nation’s President. Instead, the filmmakers have tried too hard to include details while leaving critical information aside. Being old enough to remember South Africa under Apertheid (strictly enforced racial segregation of “whites” and “people of color.”), I can vaguely recall the headlines and TV news stories of history being made. But for people born after 1990, the events in this far-away-land, a long-time-ago, needed to be carefully and artfully presented. Instead we have a semi-sanitized story about a very complex individual, and the result is uninspired.

2 pieces of an impossible task toast 




About Time  (R)

Starring: Bill Nighy, Domhall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Vanessa Kirby

Directed by: Richard Curtis

Imagine having a time machine so you could go back, Groundhog Day-style and repeat experiences with the girl you love until you get things right and she falls in love with you. Now add in some really good actors, a sweet and intelligent script, on-screen chemistry between the stars, a sexxy scene or two, and you have a “little” movie that’s a winner.

3 and 1/2 pieces of repeating “meet cutes” until it’s right toast


Free Birds  (PG)

Starring the voices of : Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler, George Takai, Colm Meany, Keith David

Directed by: Ash Brannon, Jimmy Hayward

“Turkeys are dumb,” Owen Wilson’s voice tells the audience, and this movie is too. It’s about a flock of T-birds coming to grips with the realization that they are being fattened up for a humans-only festival called Thanksgiving. Plot twists are added like a Presidential pardon, and time-travel back to Plymouth, Massachusetts circa 1621 to get turkey off the menu. Factually of course, written records list venison, cod, rabbit and other small game as being served—but no turkey on the Pilgrims’ and Indians’ tables. This film could have had fun with that bit of historic trivia—and tweeked the brains of youngsters in the audience. Instead, the writers and animators apparently are just as vapid as real-life, factory bred birds and have made an un-funny, “turkey” of a movie.

1 and 1/2 pieces of a real animated “turkey”  toast


Dallas Buyers Club (R)

Starring: Matthew McConaughy, Jared Leto, Jeenifer Garner, Steve Zahn Griffin Dunne

Directed by: Jean-MarcVallee

A Texas electrician and rodeo cowboy discovers he has AIDS in 1985, and is given 30 days left to live. Experimenting with alternative therapies across the border, he begins bringing untested, “life-saving” drugs in from Mexico with the help of an unexpected ally—an HIV-positive transexual. Outstandingly gritty performances by all involved but especially McConaughy and Leto.

3 pieces of gritty and well-acted toast


Escape Plan (PG)

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwartzenegger, Amy Ryan, 50Cent, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jim Caviezel

Directed by: Mikael Hafstrom

The action stars who began their film careers in soft-core porn and body-building  documentaries are getting long-in-the-tooth for roles involving lots of physicality, so they “use their brains” instead. Sly plays a McGiver-inspired escape artist who “tests” escape-proof prisons by escaping them. Arnold is the German-speaking inmate in a super-high security “secret” prison that houses “secret” prisoners. Trapped inside these unbreakable glass walls, the aging dynamic duo combine forces to escape or “die trying.” The result is much more entertaining than the recent Expendables, films, and projects a time when these two start getting cast as the intelligent men they really are in real life.

2 and 1/2 pieces of entertaining old guys toast