Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases 12/26/14

Indies The Imitation Game and Big Eyes soar, but Big Studio Christmas Releases are uninspired


The Imitation Game (PG-13)

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightly, Alan Leech, Roy Kinnear, Matthew Goode, Charles Dance

Directed by: Morton Tyldum

Alan Touring, the creator of the modern computer, and the code-breaker who Winston Churchill credited with the “greatest single contribution to the Allied victory,” was long buried in the dusty recesses of history simply because he was gay. In 20th Century Britain, (and most of the world, including the USA) being a homosexual was considered a criminal act. If you were a code-breaker with top-secret clearance who was gay, you would (at least in the mind of the powers-that-be) likely become a spy to avoid that secret being made public. This bio-pic tells the tale of the brilliant and very eccentric individual who almost single-handedly saved Democracy from destruction by the Nazis, yet was hounded and vilified by the British government’s “thought police.” The film starts after the WWII, when Touring has been tried and convicted of “criminal indecency,” and must make the choice between chemical castration or imprisonment. We then flash-back to 1939 when Touring was hired to help decipher the clockwork intricacies of a captured German code machine (The Enigma), which resets itself every 24-hours. Touring’s personality is “off-putting” to say the least, and the chain-of-command is slow to understand that this strange man’s single-minded brilliance is just what is needed to crack the code. Everyone involved in this film is brilliant, but Cumberbatch’s brilliance is at the supernova level.

4 pieces of see it for Cumberbatch, share it with others toast 


Big Eyes (PG-13)

Starring: Amy Adams, Christopher Waltz, Jason Schwartzman, Krysten Ritter

Directed by: Tim Burton

Successful American artist Walter Keane made his paintings of big-eyed children popular in the 50’s and 60’s without the public knowing the work was actually done by his wife, Margaret. Directed by a man whose movies are synonymous with the gothic and unusual, this film is a surprisingly reverential bio-pic, where Margaret gets to prove before the world that those famous BIG EYES were her creations, and Walter was an abusive, manipulative, and untalented huckster.

3 and 1/2 pieces of Big Eyes meant BigBucks toast 


Into the Woods (PG)

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Meryl Streep, Chris Pine, Emily Blunt

Directed by: Rob Marshall

This big-screen transition of the Broadway musical has its share of magical, fairy-tale moments with Meryl Steep wondrous as the Witch, and Chris Pine’s testosterone-fueled Prince Charmingas “manly” as all get-out. But the play was almost four hours long, so in this version, the songs that should have been reprised aren’t and the second act is so crammed full of off-key minor characters that some kids in the audience actually fall asleep. Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics are clever and convoluted and subtitles might have helped, since some of the singers don’t know how to articulate the words. In short, the movie version of the childless couple’s quest for magical fairy-tale talismans should have been made tighter, less populated and used more “real” singers.

2 and 1/2 pieces of the story gets bogged down in the middle toast 


Unbroken (PG-13)

Starring: Jack O’Connell, Takamasa Ishihara, Domhnall Gleason, Garrett Hedlund

Directed by: Angelina Jolie

Olympic runner Louis Zamperini volunteers to fight in WWII. After his bomber crashes at sea, he ends up spending 47 days with 2 other survivors in an open raft until they are captured by the Japanese navy and sent to a deadly POW camp.  Based on Laura Hillebrand’s biography, the movie’s main flaw is in its weak script and rehash of themes explored better in such classic POW films as King Rat, Empire of the Sun, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, Three Came Home, and, of course, Bridge Over the River Kwai. In short, this film needed some major surgery before it was released.

2 pieces of the another of those “Japanese POW camps were horrible” toast  


The Interview (R)

Starring: James Franco, Seth Rogan, Randall Park, Lizzy Caplan

Directed by: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogan

When two hosts from a celebrity tabloid show land an unexpected interview opportunity with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un, the CIA recruits the duo to assassinate the dictator. Receiving tons of attention from the illegal hack on Sony Pictures (reportedly by North Korea) this film is an odd “poster-child” in the fight against censorship. If other names were involved, this sophomoric, foul-mouthed comedy would never have received a “green light,”  but since I know that Franco and Rogan and Goldberg have displayed talent in the past, I am doubly disappointed that this comedy only works part of the time.

2 pieces of watch the clever cartoon Team America: World Police instead toast 




The Gambler (PG-13)

Starring: Amy Adams, Christopher Waltz, Jason Schwartzman, Krysten Ritter

Directed by: Tim Burton

This remake of the 1974 film starring James Caan misses the mark by miles. Caan’s self-destructive professor/gambler was likable, Mark Wahlberg’s self-destructive gambler is not. Yet the script forces characters like the gambler’s mother and one of his students to stick with the guy despite the “burn all bridges” collateral damage he inflicts on everyone. The only good thing about this movie is John Goodman as the mercurial loan shark—all avuncular bonhomie one moment and avaricious enforcer the next.

2 and 1/2 pieces of faint praise toast





Instead of Angelina Jolie’s ’ Unbroken, watch

The Bridge Over the River Kwai  (1957)

Starring: Alec Guinness, William Holden, Jack Hawkins, Sessue Hayakawa

Directed by: David Lean

Based on true events where the Japanese forced POWs to build the Burma Railway, this astounding film earned seven Oscars (including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor). The movie’s whistled theme music (Colonel Bogey March), became an unexpected hit as well.

Instead of  Mark Wahlberg in The Gambler, watch

The Gambler (1974)

Starring: James Caan, Paul Sorvino, Lauren Hutton, Vic Tayback, Jacqueline Brookes, Burt Young

Directed by: Karel Reisz

Gritty, film-noir exploration of the downward spiral of a gambler-addicted English professor earned a Golden Globe nomination for James Caan.

Instead of Seth Rogan’s  The Interview, watch

Team America: World Police (2004)

Starring the voices of, written and directed by: Trey  Parker, Matt Stone

When Sony Pictures pulled their film The Interview from theaters because of North Korean hackers, several theaters scheduled this parody film from the creators of South Park instead (it features marionettes attempting to assassinate North Korea’s dictator). In response, Paramount pulled Team America from any release in theaters and individuals purchased every copy of the DVD that Amazon had in stock.