Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast



Avatar—PG-13 (2009)

Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriquez, Sigourney Weaver

Director: James Cameron 
“Avatar” gives us several powerful females. The one with the bow-and-arrow is Zoe Saldana as the blue-skinned Na’vi named Neytiri. Sigourney Weaver wears a Stanford T-shirt to show that Dr. Grace Augustine is both smart and strong as the leader of the Avatar team, and Michelle Rodriguez plays gyro-pilot Trudy Chacon, as a gutsy, no-nonsense warrior—equal to or better than the guys. But both Dr. Augustine and pilot Chacon die before the film is finished, and Michelle Rodriquez has told several interviewers that she thinks she knows why. In 2010, she responded to the question “Why do your characters always die?” by candidly saying:

Because I don’t take my clothes off and I’m nobody’s girlfriend. The writers are new to the whole tough girl thing, and they don’t know what to do with [me]. We’ve got the dude who’s strong, so what do we do with the chick who’s strong? We kill her. Eventually they’ll get used to it.

3 and 1/2 pieces of awesome 3-D toast


DOA Dead or Alive—PG-13 (2007)

Starring:Devon Aoki, Jamie Pressly, Holly Valance

Directed by: Corey Yuen

Based on a popular video game and loaded with Kung fu fight scenes, girls in bikinis, and Eric Roberts (Emma’s father, Julia’s brother) as the villain in a bad wig—it is tailored for the adolescent boys demographic. The carefully choreographed dressing/disarming scene just manages to retain the PG-13 rating.

2 pieces of adolescent images toast


Edge of Tomorrow—PG-13 (2014)

Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Brendan Gleeson, Bill Paxton, Charlotte Riley

Directed by: Doug Liman

Although the Edge of Tomorrow sounds like it should be a TV soap opera, it offers something much better—Tom Cruise dying a million ways. Think of Cruise as Wile E. Coyote in a futuristic war version of Groundhog Day where Emily Blunt is the Army’s literal poster-girl. Since the film was released on the 50th anniversary of D-Day, the future space alien invasion has bogged down on the Normandy coast. Cruise and his fellow exoskeleton wearing comrades must storm the beaches where, over and over again, Cruise’s character is swallowed up by a squid-like baddie and dies. Think of this as a video game where the gamer learns which dead end alleys, fire swamps, and squid-filled streams to avoid the next time they play the game.

3 pieces of see it for Tom Cruise dying over and over toast


Hanna—PG-13 (2011)

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Banna, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hollander

Directed by: Joe Wright
In an amalgamation of  “Kick Ass,” “La Femme Nikita,”” “Run, Lola, Run,” and “Atanajurat—The Fast Runner,” a girl is home-schooled by her secret agent dad who teaches her to hunt, stay fit, and survive attacks in the remote wilderness of Finland (which, if you think about it, isn’t a wise choice of locations to eventually do battle against your arch-enemy in deserts and cityscapes). With her training complete, she is kidnapped by bad guys, only to escape, running, and then keep running from Morocco to Germany bent on revenge against the big, bad, Freudian mother-figure in business suits.

2 pieces of haven’t we seen a female assassin before? Toast


The Hunger Games—PG-13 (2012)

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks

Directed by: Gary Ross

In a post-revolution North America, a feisty archer-girl named Katniss Everdeen saves her sister from death by volunteering to take her place in the televised annual “survival of the fittest” (and luckiest) called The Hunger Games. 24 contestants begin the games, and only one will come out alive. We watch Katniss hunting for food before the games, see her waxed and styled and given fighting tips from a Games survivor, and then watch her run and jump, and empty her quiver as others die around her. The story-line, settings and costumes are re-hashed from films like “The Running Man, “The Most Dangerous Game,”  “Logan’s Run,” and even “The Wizard of Oz,” but it will still be widely popular with this new generation of film-watchers already primed by the bestselling novels.

3 pieces of perfect allegory for this generation toast


Kick Ass—R (2010)

Starring: Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Chloe Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Mark Millar’s violent comic is brought to the screen with all the swear words intact and an intrinsic validation of the less than perfect humans among us who merely need to don spandex masks and costumes to transform them into superheroesThe breakout in all this is 11-year-old Chloe Grace Moretz, who plays the purple-wigged Hit Girl with profanity and a true Kick Ass attitude. Note: Includes a graphic (and totally unnecessary) scene of the girl’s father brutally beaten to death onscreen.

3 pieces of the PTA probably won’t like this movie toast


Salt—PG-13 (2010)

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Liev ScSchreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andre Braugher

Director: Philip Noyce

Originally green-lit for Tom Cruise, the hero became a heroine, so now, the CIA officer is called Evelyn Salt (Jolie) who is outed as a Russian sleeper agent, (Gasp, Russian sleeper agents in the USA!).  Despite the sex-change, the violence directed at the hero remains just as brutal  (i.e. when Salt is tortured by North Koreans). Forget reality, this is a popcorn movie and, if you can accept the unisex violence, and don’t mind killing brain cells for a couple hours, it’s exactly what you expect.

3 pieces of take this with a grain of salt toast


300—R (2007)

Starring:Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Dominic West, Vincent Regan, Michael Fassbender, Tom Wisdom, Andrew Pleavin.

Directed by: Zack Snyder

Frank Miller’s blood-soaked graphic novel of the Spartans against the Persians in 300 B.C. arrives on the big screen with its sexism, racism and homophobia intact. Its scenes of chiseled warriors seem lifted from Play Station 3, but it is still oddly compelling as a Wagnerian-style soap opera aimed directly at the slightly less than half of the viewing population who happen to be male.

3 and 1/2 pieces of fans of Frank Miller toast


Twilight—PG-13 (2008)

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli

Director: Catherine Hardwicke

Shot like an Abercrombie & Fitch ad, this pretty-vampire-as-teen-heartthrob movie is designed to elicit screams of delight from young females rather than terror. (Turns out the teens mom’s loved it too). Directed by and starring the duo from the insightful coming-of-age movie, “Thirteen,” they bring nothing but sullenness to this tale of adolescent angst

1 and 1/2 pieces of pretty but asexual vampire toast


Vampires Suck—PG-13 (2010)

Starring: Matt Lanter, Chris Riggi, Ken Jeong, Jenn Proske

Director: Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer

The gloomily operatic mood and story of the “Twilight” films is ripe for parody, but this film is like a group of high school students’ YouTube videos strung together by filmmakers who assume that imitating a vampire scene and winking at the audience is enough. It isn’t.

1/2 piece of no teeth to this one toast


Winter’s Bone—R (2010)

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Kevin Breznahan, Dale Dickey

Director: Debra Granik

A New York-based director manages to get the nuance and timelessness of meth-addicted and debt-drowning Ozarks backwoods just right. Jennifer Lawrence sinks her heart and soul into an achingly believable portrayal of a high-school-dropout turned head-of household destined to lose the family acreage if her drug-addled father doesn’t show up for his bail hearing. Locals are cast as locals, and John Hawkes is outstanding as the uncle determined to make things work out right—not in our suburban sense of right and wrong, but in the parallel morality of his off-the-grid, play by their rules community.

4 pieces of intensely honest toast