Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

Films Opening 2/28/14


The Square (R)

Starring: The participants in Tahrir Square

Directed by: Jehane Noujaime

It would be interesting to look back in fifty years and see if the so-called “Arab Spring” has any lasting effects. Jehane Noujaime’s superb documentary, The Square, chronicles the revolutionary events that occurred in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in the Spring of 2011.  Shockingly real, and visceral, this doc was shot on the streets in the middle of the emotional fervor, murderous reprisals, and clear-eyed determination of the actual participants. It is their faces, their voices, their blood we see—and feel.

4 pieces of astounding toast 


Non Stop (PG-13)

Starring: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Anson Mount, Corey Stoll

Directed by: Jaume Collett-Serra

By the time the air marshal receives a text message announcing a “murder in 20-minutes,” on this cross-Atlantic plane ride, the guy has already had his daily share of booze and pills. Problem is, this fellow hates to fly, but, being Liam Neeson, he is doggedly determined to find the bad guy within the movie’s hour-and-a-half timeline. The only unexpected thing to happen along the way is that Downtown Abbey’s sad widow has reincarnated as one of the flight attendants. Other than that, it’s just another notch in Neeson’s “I’ll save the day” belt.

2 and 1/2 pieces of not very original toast


Omar (NR)

Starring: Adam Bakri, Samer Bisharat, Iyad Hoorani, Waleed Zuaitier

Directed By: Hany Abu-Hassad

Nominated for a Best Foreign Language Oscar, Omar is a Palestinian baker who plots to ambush an Israeli soldier. Captured, beaten and tortured, Omar is quickly “turned” and becomes a double agent. His friends and family are suspicious about the man’s quick release, and slow to welcome him back into their lives, so Omar is forced to live his life as a Pariah.

3 pieces of Oscar-nominated Palestinian toast

The Wind Rises (PG-13)

Starring the voices of: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Krasinski, Stanley Tucci, Martin Short, Emily Blunt, Mandy Patinkin, Werner Herzog

Directed by: Hayaio Miyazaki

The last of the great Japanese animator’s films has stirred up a great deal of criticism in his own country. On the surface, it is the story of a Jiro Horikoshi, the real-life creative genius who dreams of building airships—and eventually does. The problem is, those planes were super-efficient weapons of war, constructed by Chinese and Korean forced labor. In this film, the great director has chosen to present these terrible truths through a distorted lens. For example, the powerful forces unleashed in the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 are shown in vivid detail, instead of the havoc wrought by the war planes, and the “pure” love Jiro has for a girl with incurable tuberculosis is squeezed for every possible tear. Miyazaki has chosen to tell his tale by focusing on the “tragedy” befalling one man (Jiro) while largely ignoring the militaristic suicide by Japan itself.  It’s puzzling, to say the least.

3 pieces of flawed Miyazaki toast 




Gravity (PG-13)

Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris

Directed by: Alfonso Cuaron

We all know that in the silence of space, no one can hear your screams, and that silence is used to great effect in this gripping tale of survival. The setting is the Hubble space telescope where a pair of space-walking astronauts are suddenly floating free after debris destroys their shuttle. The stars (including the unseen Ed Harris, still at mission control where he was in Apollo 13), are astounding. The special effects more so, and if the number of accidents seems to become too big a coincidence, the enormity of being alone in space makes up for it.

4 pieces of  astoundingly powerful toast 


Nebraska  (R)

Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Stacy Keach, Bob Odenkirk, Angela McKwan

Directed by: Alexander Payne

I got a call from my aging father a few years back saying that he had received a notification that he was in the final round of a magazine sweepstakes and would be getting at least $300,000. Instead of a prize, everyone in the family ended up with subscriptions to unwanted magazines—paid for by my dad. In Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, the 80-something Woody Grant receives a similar letter, only he decides to travel from Montana to the Nebraska sweepstakes headquarters to retrieve his prize. Undeterred by nay-sayers, Woody starts trudging down a wintry highway on his quest, and is quickly picked up by the cops. Joined by his stereo-salesman son for a road-trip,  Woody grapples with the generational shifts occurring in the Heartland—and his own family. The poignant humor is handled deftly by director Alexander Payne, Bob Nelson’s script is well-crafted, and Bruce Dern secures Woody as his acting legacy.

4 pieces of a slightly Sideways road trip toast 


Thor: The Dark World (PG-13)

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Christopher Eccleston, Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo, Stellen Skarsgard

Directed by: Alan Taylor

The director who replaces Kenneth Branaugh has slavishly kept the tongue-in-cheek tone and feeling of the first Thor movie, but the result is a copy-cat sequel. The original stars play the same characters, and again it is the interactions between the blonde-tressed, muscle-bound Thor, his half-brother Loki, and his mortal girlfriend Dr. Jane Foster that sparkle. Unfortunately, the script sends the last third of the film into a string of Norse battles crammed with formulaic CG earthquakes and lightening.

2 and 1/2 pieces of copy-cat toast