Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
New Releases 11/14//14
Beyond the Lights (PG-13)
Starring: Gugu Mbatha Raw, Nate Parker, Minnie Driver
Directed by: Gina Prince-Bythewood
The beautiful Afro-English actress who shone brightly in the title role of the period drama Belle, continues to excel by playing a hip-hop artist at the cusp of mega-stardom. Responding to the sudden and unexpected attention, the tea-totaling singer gets drunk and stumbles onto a high balcony to kill herself. The rookie LAPD cop stationed outside her hotel door quickly becomes her only lifeline. But this particular cop faces a moral dilemma—his police captain father is grooming him for politics, and being labelled a “hero” to a scantily-dressed ingenue in the tabloids could be the end of his father’s ambitions.
3 pieces of child of The Bodyguard toast
Starring: J. K. Simmons, Miles Teller, Paul Reiser, Marisa Benoist
Directed by: Damien Chazelle
“Small” films (aka low-budget films) are often the vehicle that allows someone pigeon-holed as a “character-actor” to shine in a leading role. This time, J.K. Simmons seizes the opportunity and runs with it by playing a demanding, caustic, and sadistic jazz band teacher. Familiar as the avuncular insurance guy, Simmons is a petty tyrant (in the mold of IU basketball coach Bobby Knight), who uses the excuse of demanding perfection to bully his students into submission. His latest victim is a talented drummer who holds his own against his mercurial teacher (at least at the beginning). But the battle of the wills expands to include other band members, the drummer’s family and girlfriend, and the audience.
3 and 1/2 pieces of imagine Bobby Knight as a music teacher toast
Starring: Gael Garcia-Bernal, Shohreh Aghadashloo, Dimitri Leonides
Directed by: Jon Stewart
Most of the buzz about this movie is focused on its director, Jon Stewart. The Emmy Award winning writer, producer and on-air host of TV’s The Daily Show, has crafted a clever (and media-savvy) film about the real-life events that thrust an Iranian into blindfolded solitary confinement where daily interrogations and tortures are conducted by a man identified only by his rosewater aftershave. The connection to Stewart, is that a film clip aired on The Daily Show is repeatedly used as evidence of the imprisoned man’s guilt. Criticism of Stewart selecting Mexican-born actor Gael Garcia Bernal to play the prisoner should be silenced by how perfect he is in the role.
3 pieces of only 2 degrees of separation toast
Force Majeure (R)
Starring: Johannes Kuknke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Clara Wettergren
Directed by: Ruben Ostlund
A Swedish family on a ski holiday in the French Alps seem happy enough, until a cannon-initiated avalanche bears down on their scenic patio luncheon. The fight-or-flight reactions of the parents happens in the blink of an eye, but opens up long hidden resentments, distrusts and anger that threatens the family’s future.
3 pieces of avalanched Swedish marriage toast
Dumb and Dumberer To (PG-13)
Starring: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Kathleen Turner
Directed by: Bobby and Peter Farrelly
It has been over 20 years since the fart-joke-loving Farelly brothers thrust Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels into 3-Stooges-style movie history. Harry’s (Daniels) never-before-seen-or-heard-about daughter may provide a much-needed kidney for a much needed organ transplant. These two actors should have turned their thumbs down on this project, the result is downright embarrassing (in a very unfunny way).
1 pieces of astoundingly unfunny toast
NEW DVD RELEASES
A Most Wanted Man (R)
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright. Wilem Dafoe, Grigoriy Dobrygin
Directed by: Anton Corbijin
A significant shift occurred in transforming John Le Carre’s novel, A Most Wanted Man, from the printed page to the screen. In the book, we know little about the young, super skinny, Chechen Muslim who suddenly appears on the streets of Hamburg, Germany. Tiny clues begin to emerge—he was smuggled to Germany by a circuitous route through various ports from Turkey to Scandinavia. He has the untainted certainty of a true believer. He is protected by an illegal immigrant family with their own fears of arrest and deportation, and he hires a female human rights attorney to guide his request for asylum through the system. In the film however, his furtive swim from the freighter, his guilt-fueled prowl through unfamiliar streets, and most especially, his saturnine face hidden inside a dark hoodie immediately makes the audience suspicious. The instantaneous labeling of this fellow as a “terrorist” by the Hamburg secret police only compounds the racial profiling. Philip Seymour Hoffman is exceptional (in what is reportedly his final starring role) playing the Anglo/German policeman, and the rest of the actors are at the the top of their form as well. Only problem is the one I mentioned at the start of this review. The guy in the book is a character who you learn about in bits and pieces—some accurate, some far from that. The book works better because of this ambiguity, and the film became more ordinary by short-cutting the characterization.
3 pieces of good, but the book is more nuanced toast
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (PG-13)
Starring the voices of: Jay Baruchell, Kate Blanchett, Djimon Hounsou, America Ferrara, Gerard Butler
Directed by: Dean Dubois
It is doubtful that when threatened by a “madman without any conscience or pity” that any of my Viking ancestors ever said “Let’s go find him and change his mind,” but that is exactly what the now one-legged Hiccup say in this animated sequel. There’s lots of great animation, lots of dragons acting like puppies and other familiar pets, lots of sight-gags, and lots of missed opportunities for one liners. The result is entertaining enough, but perhaps a little too heavy on the “can’t we all just get along even if we are differently-abled?” morality message.
3 pieces of pretty good toast