Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

Films Opening 3/28/14


Noah (PG-13)

Starring: Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Watson, Ray Winston

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

Audiences learn that Methusela’s genetic heritage and snake-oil were instrumental motivators for an aging prophet named Noah to construct a boat/zoo crammed full with mating pairs of critters big and small.  It is a desperate ecological rescue mission to repopulate the Earth when the water from the proverbial 40-days and 40-nights engulfs every other creature. We also learn that Biblical-era Canaan, was bothered by pesky, leather-armored warriors, Transformer-like, fallen angels, and teen-age lovers rebelling against their parents‘ traditions (and plumb-crazy pronouncements). At its core, the film remains a story of faith, trust, family and environmental awareness—it’s just hard to see this underneath all the special effects and computer-generated armies.

3 pieces of it ain’t your Sunday School Noah story toast 


Cesar Chavez (PG-13)

Starring: Michael Pena, Rosario Dawson, America Ferrara, John Malkovich

Directed by: Diego Luna

I must tell you up front, that I met Cesar Chavez several times when I was director of a Federally-funded day care center outside Hollister, CA. His sincerity and modesty are what I remember most, and this film strives to share those same qualities. The story begins in the early 60’s when Chavez loads his wife, and eight kids into an old car, and heads to Delano to offer support to a strike by mostly Filipino vineyard workers. The media-savvy Chavez family helps get the striker’s plight on front pages, but the growers are a powerful force, and the State of California soon makes it illegal to say (or carry a sign saying)  the word “huelga” (strike) in the fields. Unfortunately, the  “names have been changed” of those bigoted and mean-spirited individuals and businesses who utilized almost any means necessary to maintain the status quo. Since those names are still on billboards and wine bottles today, this probably protects the filmmakers from lawsuits, but it robs audiences from knowing “the whole truth.”

3 pieces of Hispanic hero toast 


God’s Not Dead (PG)

Starring: Kevin Sorbo, Shane Harper, David A.R. White, Trisha LaFache

Directed by: Harold Cronk

Undisguised anger fuels this supposedly faith-based film. It’s an “us against them” diatribe against all Godless, secular-humanists, Arabs, Chinese, and leftist journalists attacking the good-old-boys of TV’s Duck Dynasty. (No, I’m not making this up). Using stereotypes and circular logic, the movie panders to the lowest common denominator and provides fodder for the paranoid as it “preaches to the choir.”  The movie’s star, Kevin Sorbo, (who played Hercules on TV) doesn’t mince words: “I kind of removed myself from Hollywood a long time ago…The hypocrisy just reeks in this town…[Political Correctness] is destroying this country.” Asked why so many faith-based films are being made, Sorbo replies, “It’s all about making a buck.”

1/2 piece of badly made, unChristian-like toast 


Enemy  (R)

Starring: Jake Gyllenhall, Melanie Laurant, Isabella Rosellini

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Based upon a book by Portuguese Nobel Prize winning novelist Jose Saramago, this Canadian film attempts to create a David Lynch style tale about a man who sees his exact double in a movie, and tracks him down in middle-aged-crisis mode. This sounds more interesting than the film actually is, which is unfortunate, because there are some hints of being really good amid all the confusion.

1 and 1/2 pieces of confusing doppleganger toast 


Sabotage  (R)

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Olivia Williams, Sam Worthington

Directed by: David Ayer

California’s former Governor drives another nail into the coffin of his resurrected movie career with a blood-soaked tale of dirty drug cops. With names like Breacher, Monster, Pyro, Tripod, Sugar and Smoke, the supposed good guys uncover oodles of drug lord cash, but neglect to turn it in. When the oddly named posse starts dying gruesome deaths (shown in “up-close-and-personal” detail), a British actress with a fake Georgia accent plays an Atlanta detective trying to uncover the truth. Arnold chomps on cigars throughout.

1 and 1/2 pieces of don’t waste your time or money toast



Face of Love  (PG-13)

Starring: Annette Bening, Ed Harris, Robin Williams, Amy Brenneman

Directed by: Arie Posen

You never quite believe that the painter who looks exactly like the star’s dead husband would have anything to do with this obviously messed-up lady. She calls him by the dead man’s name, hides him from her grown daughter, and generally acts like she is in a farcical stage play (one of those where characters continually miss each other by going through a door at just the wrong moment). The filmmakers obviously want to tap into that valuable group of women who revel in melodramas about rekindling love and romance, but this particular role model needs therapy.

1 and 1/2 pieces of fatally flawed character toast



The Wolf of Wall Street (R)

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Kyle Chandler, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughy, Rob Reiner Spike Jonze

Directed By: Martin Scorcese

When I interviewed Richard Shickel about his Conversations With Scorcese biography, we spent some time talking about the Catholic-schooled filmmaker’s antipathy towards directing sex scenes. Apparently Scorcese has gotten over that hang-up. In this film, scenes depicting vanilla-sex ratcheting up to tutti-fruitti kinkiness reportedly shocked and dismayed many AMPAS voters at a pre-Oscar vote screening. Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance as the stock broker who sells his shady goods with evangelical fervor deserved the Oscar nomination. Problem is, that for a movie to work well you have to like the guy. I, for one, did not and apparently the AMPAS voters agreed.

2 and 1/2 pieces of Scorcese has done better work toast


The Delivery Man  (PG-13)

Starring: Vince Vaughn, Cobie Smulders, Chris Pratt, Britt Robertson

Directed by: Shawn Levy

Vince Vaughn eschews his patented cynicism and instead plays a sperm donor who unwittingly fathered over 500 children as a loser of a teddy-bear. Shooting for warm and cuddly with a smidgen of hard-knocks thrown in for dynamic tension, the director of the original French-Canadian film uses many of the same moves, but loses the accented charm along the way.

2 and 1/2 pieces of Vince Vaughn as a cuddly teddy-bear toast