Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
Films Opening 2/14/14
Vampire Academy (PG-13)
Starring: Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, Danila Kozlovsky, Gabriel Byrne, Joely Richardson, Sarah Hyland
Directed By: Mark Waters
It certainly can’t hurt that one of the stars of this film is from TV’s mega-hit comedy, Modern Family—especially when ads for the movie are shown during the TV show. If you imagine that the undead from Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s high school attend a creepy private academy modeled on Harry Potter’s Hogwarts, and add a bit of Mean Girls snarkiness and Twilightcross-species romance, you’ve got the idea. Played and directed with a sense of humor and lightness, this is the first of several proposed films in the series based on Richelle Mead’s bestselling books.
3 pieces of enchanted silver daggers toast
About Last Night (R)
Starring: Kevin Hart, Bryan Callen, Joy Bryant, Michael Ealy, Regina Hall
Directed by: Steve Pink
Manic comedian Kevin Hart plays the Rob Lowe role in this African-American remake of a 1986 film (Regina Hall plays the Demi Moore part). What makes this a film oddity, however, is that much of the witty banter comes from lines written by David Mamet for his play “Sexual Perversity in Chicago.” Only it’s Los Angeles where all the modern-day sexual perversity, binge drinking, drunken coupling, verbal assaults and one-liners take place. Despite this film’s faults, the sparklingly professional, comic interplay between the two stars keeps the audience in their seats
2 and 1/2 pieces of David Mamet! toast
Winter’s Tale (PG-13)
Starring: Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Russell Crowe, Will Smith, Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt
Directed by: Akiva Goldsman
Calling this assemblage of Oscar winning actors a jumbled mess is being kind. By labeling the film “magical realism” the filmmakers have freed themselves from the laws of physics and common sense, so the story about a circa 1916, flying-horse-riding burglar, falling in love with a beautiful, bed-bound tuberculosis patient while escaping one of Lucifer’s, deadly, oyster-loving henchmen supposedly suspends our disbelief without question. Sorting out all these issues falls squarely on the shoulders of a Manhattan single mom/food columnist, and her newspaper editor father circa 2014. There are a few fine scenes along the way, but in the end we have to quote Mr. Spock: “It’s just not logical.”
2 pieces of Frozen is a much more enjoyable winter’s tale toast
Starring: Joel Kinneman. Abbie Cornish, Gary Oldman, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton
Directed by: Jose Padilha
It has been almost thirty years since Paul Verhoeven released a human-brained robot to tame the Detroit streets controlled by civil-liberty-smashing government agents and sadistic gangsters. The before the credits prequel in the new film shows what might have been by featuring the ubiquitous Samuel L. Jackson (not, as some believe, Laurence Fishburne), as a CNN news anchor reporting on how the good old USA controls Iran with drones and killer robots. Instead, we have a modernized version of RoboCop who is more focused on exacting revenge on the bad guys who destroyed his family than paying attention to the over-the-top excesses of the mind-controlling government. Sadly missed is the opportunity to extend the potentials of using drones and NSA spying to clamp down on any original thoughts from ordinary citizens in the near future. Instead, we have a reboot of Transformers-style mayhem.
2 pieces of it doesn’t even look like Detroit toast
Endless Love (PG-13)
Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Bruce Greenwood, Gabriella Wilde, Robert Patrick, Joely Richardson
Directed by: Shana Feste
This film should have been titled “Endless Boredom.” The director of this remake is no Franco Zeffirelli, the infamous sex scene made famous by Brooke Shields is gone, and the new plot fails to give any motivation to the boy’s infatuation or even steal the rival family backstory from Romeo and Juliet. What we are left with is some pretty pictures populated by pretty youngsters crammed into a series of pop music videos. As Rhett Butler would have said: “We don’t give a damn.”
1 and 1/2 pieces of tepid remake toast
The Past (PG-13)
Starring: Berenice Bejo, Ali Mossafa, Elyes Aquis, Pauline Burlet
Directed by: Asghar Farahdi
The plot sounds like a soap opera—A French woman with two children from a previous relationship, meets her Iranian current husband so he will sign the divorce papers and allow her to marry a new man whose wife is, unfortunately for the legalities, in a coma. The pacing seems soap opera-like at times, as things proceed verrrry slowly, with lots of soulful looks and silences. But despite the pace, you become involved as the onion-peeling revelations of different plot points turn this movie into an engaging mystery with clues around every corner. It’s worth your time and money.
3 and 1/2 pieces of skilled moviemaking toast
NEW DVD RELEASES
All Is Lost (PG-13)
Starring: Robert Redford
Directed by: J.C. Chandor
A movie about an aging sailor alone and adrift in the middle of the Indian Ocean is bound to be compared to The Old Man and The Sea and Gravity. But unlike Spencer Tracy’s fisherman and Sandra Bullock’s astronaut, Robert Redford’s sailor is a hobbiest—an amateur with a wooden boat stuck in a series of predicaments which would kill the most experienced of old salts. After a shipping container full of tennis shoes stoves in the side of his 35-foot sailboat, the All Is Lost title seems self-fulfilling. Instead, we watch a 77-year-old man who refuses to give up as time and time again when nature and emotions drag him down. Redford is brilliant. The photography and direction are superb, and this 105 minutes of adventure will leave you physically drained—but what a ride!
3 and 1/2 pieces of tour-de-force acting toast
The Best Man Holiday (R)
Starring: Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs, Regina Hall, Terence Howard, Nia Long
Directed by: Malcom D. Lee
Well past college age, the folk who populated the 1999 rom-com The Best Man are back to show that their “groove thang” still works in a Christmas-themed reunion. The result is occasionally funny but schizophrenic with its mixture of Christian values and raunchy sex jokes.
2 and 1/2 pieces of can’t seem to figure out who is the audience toast
Enders Game (PG-13)
Starring: Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin
Directed by: Gavin Hood
This film has a lot of similarities with other movies. Like Harry Potter a mild-mannered boy is destined by fate to battle evil and save humankind. Like Hunger Games, a small cadre of children is selected to fight and die while others sit on the sidelines, like Star Wars, there’s lots of space battles, and like Star Trek, there’s an obvious moral to every story told. Based on the popular YA novel, this film will slip easily to a school’s list of “anti-bullying” movies to watch. The story involves junior ROTC style cadets (see Red Dawn), recruited from their video game addictions (see Last Starfighter), to destroy giant ant-like alien invaders (see Starship Troopers). It is also the first in a proposed series of films with the same characters.
2 and 1/2 pieces of this looks pretty familiar toast