Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

Films Opening 3/21/14

The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Lunchbox and Muppets Most Wanted are great fun


The Grand Budapest Hotel  (R)

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Ralph Fiennes, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton.

Directed by: Wes Anderson

Director/screenwriter Wes Anderson may be the greatest living exponent of deadpan comedy. Think how Buster Keaton kept his unchanging expression even when buildings were crashing around his ears or trains were hurtling towards him at high speed. Now change that face to that of Bill Murray or Ralph Fiennes, and place it in a technicolor setting filed with improbable oddities. The plot device is the theft of a priceless Renaissance painting, the setting, a lavish hotel in the grand, old style with bellboys, elevator operators, a concierge par-excellence, and mustaches that are lavish. However, since this is Wes Anderson, underneath all the frenetic activity, ominous forces are at work.

3 and 1/2 pieces of Wes Anderson toast 


The Lunchbox  (PG)

Starring: Irfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Denzil Smith, Nawazuddin Siddiqul

Directed by: Ritesh Batra

A housewife creates an aphrodisiac lunch to spice up her marriage bed, but when she sends it to here husband via one of Mumbai, India’s lunchbox delivery services,  it ends up going to the wrong man. Passions are inflamed; notes are delivered; and the audience is given a delightful view into a hundred-year old oddity— Mumbai’s army of dabbawallas who daily deliver tens of thousands of lunch boxes from wives to husbands in a system that defies logic. You will enjoy this movie.

3 and 1/2 pieces of tasty, spicy toast 


Muppets Most Wanted (PG)

Starring: Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Ty Burrell, Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey

Directed by: James Bobin

Our favorite assemblage of bubble-eyed, furry critters heads to Europe on tour, only to find themselves caught in a dual-identity caper movie cooked up by a master criminal who, except for the mole on his cheek, looks exactly like Kermit. Aging purists who have had their memories of the original Muppet Show antics immortalized in bronze, may find some of the bits a little too puppet-like, but there’s a lot of fun goings on here, ad Tina Fey is a hoot.

3 pieces of we miss Jim Hensen, but it’s still fun toast 


Divergent  (PG-13)

Starring: Shallene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Ansel Elgort

Directed by: Neil Burger

In case you haven’t figured this out, the most popular books and movies featuring teen characters, are the ones where the teen is a misunderstood outsider. Here, at last, is a film about a young woman who is such an outsider, she’s downright divergent. (Wait. Haven’t we seen this plot device before? Like with mutants, or replicants, or vampires, or werewolves or ???? No matter. This is planned as the first of at least three films based on Veronica Roth’s popular books.

2 pieces of we’ve seen this before but it still sells tickets toast 


Veronica Mars  (PG-13)

Starring: Kristen Bell, Ryan Hansen, Jason Dohring, Chris Lowell, Tina Majorino

Directed by: Rob Thomas

Fans of similarly named, and very popular TV series should flock to the theaters as the title character leaves her beloved Neptune, California , and heads to New York to earn a law degree. Resurrected from reruns by a fan-based Kickstarter campaign, the characters are a decade older, and just like the fans, they have changed a lot (or maybe not that much). The movie makers ignore Thomas Wolfe’s famous adage: “You can’t go home again,” and have Veronica do exactly that. But people, and times they are a changin’, even if if the nostalgic memories of Veronica’s fans don’t.

3 pieces of made for Veronica Mars’ fans toast


American Hustle (R)

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Robert DeNiro, Michael Pena

Directed By: David O. Russell

David O. Russell’s American Hustle is a con job of a movie, the way The StingThe Thomas Crown Affair, and House of Games are movie con jobs. This means that because the audience has seen all the the short cons, the pay offs and the double and triple crosses laid out in front of them like a magician’s deck of cards, they think they know what is going online casino to happen. But, it isn’t until the long con pays off (i.e. when they are leaving the movie theater), that a few will realize they have been played. Russell has a stellar cast working from his own script (co-written with Eric Singer) and the movers and shakers portraying the “me first” shysters of the 197o’s roll along with style and substance that may want you see the move for a second time.

4 pieces of so you think you know what’s going on? toast


Saving Mr. Banks (PG-13)

Starring: Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Colin Farrell, Ruth Wilson, Paul Giammatti, Bradley Whitford. B.J. Novak, Jason Schwartzman

Directed by: John Lee Hancock

When Walt Disney follows his children’s advice and buys the rights to Mary Poppins, the Australian-born, British author P.L. Travers comes along with the deal. Problems arise when Disney wants to “work his magic” by opening up the story with songs and animation—two concepts Travers strongly opposes.  There are, in fact several different stories going on here. One is about two strong-willed creative types butting heads, one is about how an author always carries personal history into their work (with all the good and bad this can bring) and the other is about how a classic movie—that most collaborative of artistic efforts—gets put together.

3 and 1/2 pieces of Disneyfied cinematic history toast 


Kill Your Darlings  (?)

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Ben Foster, Jack Huston, Elizabeth Olsen, Dabne DeHaan, Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Directed by: John Krokidas

Despite warnings from his mother, Allen Ginsberg quickly ended up hanging around with the wrong crowd at Columbia University—a crowd that included William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, and Lucien Carr. Fueled by hormones, booze and drugs, these future founders of the “Beat Generation” become embroiled in the stabbing death of a stalker who had been pursuing Carr sexually since he was 14. Capturing the spirit of the early 50’s, the young men whose names we now recognize were still just a bunch of college kids back then.

3 pieces of artists in the making plus a dead body 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 storytelling task toast