Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases 12/05/14


The Homesman  (R)

Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank, Meryl Streep, John Lithgow, James Spader, Grace Gummer

Directed by: Tommy Lee Jones

Opportunities for “good” women in the Old West were severely limited.  In Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman, existence on Nebraska’s spare and sun-seared prairie country has already driven three pioneer wives mad, and it falls to a former East Coast schoolteacher to transport the trio via covered wagon to far-off Iowa for professional care. She recruits a hard-drinking drifter to accompany the wagon as a sort of “cover” so the females have protection. Directed by the male star in his signature, plain-spoken style, it is remarkable in its simplicity and ambiguity.

3 pieces of the Western as psychological wasteland toast 


Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me (PG)

Starring: Glen Campbell with appearances by Paul Mc Cartney, Bruce Springsteen

Directed by:James Keach

Glen Campbell performed at several local venues over the years, delighting audiences with his signature songs, Witchita Lineman and Rhinestone Cowboy.  In 2011, the singer publicly announced that he was battling the memory-robbing Alzheimer’s disease, and would do a final series of concerts as a thank-you and good-bye. This documentary, filmed by James Keach during the first part of that tour, eschews any rhinestone bling, and is instead a sad, funny, heart-warming and honest portrayal of how a celebrity and his family grapple with this insidious disease. We learn from the onscreen doctors that “the music will be the last thing to go” and so even though Campbell dmay not know know where he is or even who he is, the seasoned professional entertains his audiences.

3 pieces of an entertaining and informative farewell toast   




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 


The Hundred-Foot Journey (PG)

Starring: Helen Mirren. Om Puri, Manish Dayal, Charlotte LeBon, Michel Blanc

Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom

Coincidentally, I just happened to watch Helen Mirren’s first movie (Age of Consent, 1969) where she posed nude for an Australian painter (James Mason). I mention this only because 45-years and beaucoup awards later, Mirren still uses some of the expressions and acting “tricks” she experimented with as a 19-year-old. The Hundred-Foot Journey’s Hallmark-movieish storyline features Mirren as a perfectionist chef trying to add an additional star to her restaurant’s Michelin rating in a small village in the French Pyrenees, when a cook from Mumbai sets up a spicy alternative restaurant across the road  Studiously avoiding any discordant cross-cultural conflicts, the whole thing is as light as a curry-flavored souffle can be.

3 pieces of enjoyable toast 


Cantinflas (PG)

Starring: Oscar Jaeneda, Michael Imperioli, Ilse Salas

Directed by: Sebastian del Amo

I only know the Mexican comic actor, Cantinflas,  from his role as Phileas Fogg’s valet Passepartout in Mike Todd’s 1956 technicolor extravaganza, Around the World in 80 Days.  As this often slow-moving biopic tries to tell us, the man was much more than that—a world-famous, Latin American comic who portrayed a slew of improvised characters with regional Mexican accents in over fifty films. Set in the mid-50‘s when Todd is trying to sign on the “Mexican Chaplin” for very little money, we see the star’s life in flashbacks. Because much of the humor derives from the regional accents, to American audiences, the earlier clownish scenes in silent pantomime are the most effective.  But since Cantinflas once said his profession was “a way with words,” and the “way” of those words  doesn’t translate well, much of the vitality and spontaneous humor goes right over our heads.

2 pieces of in Spanish, Passepartout is called Juan Picaport toast