Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
Films Opening 7/11/14
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (PG-13)
Starring: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Kerri Russell, Gary Oldman, Kodi
Smith-McKee, Toby Kebbell
Directed by: Matt Reeves
Perhaps you didn’t know that when Caesar, the former laboratory ape, escaped across the Golden Gate Bridge with some of his fellow primates, they set up house in beautiful Muir Woods. The apes develop language and social structures, capture and ride horses, shoot rifles, and and create a Golden Rule: “Ape not kill ape.” Many will view the standoff between the oppressed primates (pick yourself a side for which is the more oppressed), as an allegorical treatise on conflict past and present, but I suggest you disregard the predictable plot points, and revel in the marvels of motion capture technology as the apes swing through the branches of the towering redwoods in one our North Bay wonderlands.
3 pieces of truly cool special effects toast
Life Itself (R)
Starring: Roger Ebert, Chaz Ebert, Martin Scorcese, Werner Herzog
Directed by: Steve James
The Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert is the center of this documentary about how he transformed the genre into accessibility, discovered love in middle-age, and valiantly fought the cancer that stole his jaw, face and life. It opens with a full on view of a visage ravaged by disease and repeated surgeries, but once the queasiness passes, the audience breathes a collective deep breath and comes to embrace the man—warts and all.
4 pieces of a biography as it was meant to be told toast
Begin Again (R)
Starring: Kiera Knightly, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine, CeeLo Green, Mos Def, Katherine Keener
Directed by: John Carney
Irish writer/director John Carney follows up his Oscar-winning mega-hit Once, with this tale of a downwardly spiraling music producer and the talented singer/songwriter he spots playing in a seedy bar. Set in New York, it sounds trite, but manages to stay fresh and interesting by using grungy alleyways, decrepit rooftops, and Central Park rowboats as backdrops for music videos as the musician performs her songs for a potential album.
3 pieces of well-acted, tune-filled toast
Third Person (R)
Starring: Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis, James Franco, Olivia Wilde, Adrien Brody, Maria Bello, Kim Bassinger, Moran Atias
Directed by: Paul Haggis
The talent assembled for this flick had piqued my interest, but ended up making me even more disappointed. It is a tale of hotel rooms in Paris, Rome and New York where the decor is often more intriguing than the rooms’ inhabitants. Writers are the centerpiece, with their velcro-attached lovers, spouses, children friends and relatives passing through the hotels. It comes off like a failed experiment in a film school seminar where money is no object so you can cast it with some of the hottest names in the business. It never caught my interest, and judging by reactions from other viewers, it bored them too.
1 and 1/2 pieces of wasted talents toast
NEW DVD RELEASES
Jadorowsky’s Dune (NR)
Starring: Alejandro Jadorowsky, Brontis Jadorowsky, H.R. Giger, Michel Seydoux, Richard Stanley
Directed by: Frank Pavich
Add the film at the center of this documentary to the short list of potentially great movies that were never finished (like Terry Gilliam’s Don Quixote, Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind, Alfred Hitchcock’s Kaleidoscope, and Marilyn Monroe’s final film, Something’s Got to Give). Anyone who has cringed over the ridiculousness of David Lynch’s version of the complex Frank Herbert sci-fi novel, Dune, should enjoy this documentary about a Dune movie that might have been. Funded by a Frenchman, it was to be directed by a Chilean filmmaker who had never read the book, and when he finally did, he decided the movie would be 12 hours long. He wrote the screenplay in a castle, sent his son through two years of martial arts training to play the lead, and agreed to pay $100,000 a day to the Surrealist artist Salvador Dali for a cameo role. Also involved in the project were David Carradine, Mick Jagger and Orson Welles, and the score was to be done by Pink Floyd. Interviews with people involved, show that the concept still excites them, and in the filmmaker’s mind, the project is complete—it just needs to be put on film.
3 pieces of what might have been toast
Bad Words (R)
Starring: Jason Bateman, Alison Janney, Katheryn Hall, Philip Baker Hall
Directed by: Jason Bateman
Arrested Development’s Jason Bateman directs and stars as a boorish, mean-spirited, misanthrope who manipulates the rules for the National Spelling Bee so a 40-year-old can compete with school kids. It would be easy to hate this guy as he not only knocks of his much younger competitors, but grinds them to dust under his heel. Instead this lout is humanized through interactions with a female reporter and a young Indian-American contestant. The jokes about kinky sex and plastic bags of poop should have been left on the cutting room floor, since they only make the audience wince instead of laugh.
2 pieces of the kid gets all the good lines toast