Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for the week of 1/23/15

Cake (R)

Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Adriana Baaraza, Anna Kenrick, Felicity Huffman, Chris Messina, William H. Macy

Directed By: Daniel Barnz

The role of Claire, a woman in debilitating pain after a car-crash, was supposed to have propelled Jennifer Aniston to multiple awards. Instead, we have a “dressed down” star (i.e. no makeup, unwashed hair, rumpled PJs and T-shirts, a scarred and wrinkled face) accepting the challenge of being likable as her character defensively alienates people to chase them away. Unfortunately, the script is a mess. With the exception of the Latino housekeeper, other actors are thrown into the mix for the sole purpose of providing illogical plot developments. For example, the ghost of a friend who committed suicide seems to be included to allow Anniston’s character to consider (and reconsider) that possibility. However well-intentioned, it’s a messy film that’s difficult to watch.

1 and 1/2 pieces of Jennifer Anniston works hard, but she needed a strong script and director toast


Strange Magic  (PG)

Starring the voices of: Evan Rachel Wood, Elijah Kelley, Kisten Chenowith, Alan Cumming, Alfred Molina, Maya Rudolph, Peter Stormare

Directed By: Gary Rydstom

George Lucas says it took him 15  years to write and produce an animated version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He needn’t have bothered. The story (love between the evil Bog King and sprightly fairy princess Marianne) is hidden behind truly ugly animated characters (several look like the “Snot” family in the Mucinex ads, others like evil-eyed versions of the puppets used in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth (1986)). Another major stumble is the misguided use of golden-oldies pop songs to “punch up” the lackluster action. (It is reported that the animated sequences were originally made using songs by the Beatles and Lynyrd Sknyrd, but even George Lucas couldn’t get the licensing rights so other songs were inserted into the soundtrack). The result is massively underwhelming, with some scenes about as interesting as the now infamous (and deadly dull) opening line  in Lucas’ Star Wars, The Phantom Menace prequel: “The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute.” Lucas’ newest film can be summed up by something Marianne says in Strange Magic: “I don’t know…I was expecting more.”

1 and 1/2 pieces of I was expecting more from George Lucas toast 


The Boy Next Door (R)

Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman, John Corbett, Kristen Chenowith

Directed By: Neil Fearnley, Rob Cohen

The studio who does the Paranormal Activity franchise has created a film about the forbidden love affair between a high school student and his AP teacher (they have tried to avoid the “ick” factor by casting 30-year-old Ryan Guzman opposite 45-year-old Jennifer Lopez).  The quote that best sums up this film is the double-entendre the “kid” declares to his teacher’s son: “I love your mom’s cookies.” Both Lopez and Guzman make sure to fill the screen with their bare “cookies” during the lovemaking scenes, but the guy’s unsubtle transformation into a horror-movie style stalker may make some people want to toss their cookies. Unintentionally camp, this film seems destined to become a popular late night backdrop at college-aged drinking parties.

1 and 1/2 pieces even Jennifer Lopez’s “cookies” can’t save this toast


Mortdecai (R)

Starring: Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewen McGregor, Paul Bettany, Paul Whitehouse

Directed By: David Koepp

Based on a series of farcical novels about the mustachioed, upper-crust, British art dealer,Lord Charlie Mortdecai, the MacGuffin is a missing Goya masterpiece that will save Lord Charlie’s proverbial bacon. The quest around the globe (or at least the studio backlot), provides ample opportunity to have Johnny Depp’s acting friends appear in cameos, but the appalling lack of any decent jokes makes their appearance about as interesting as the antiquated caricatures they play. Shot in a supposedly “swinging sixties” retro style, the stereotypical gay characters are portrayed as though the are prancing on a music hall stage, all the women are nymphomaniacs, the aristocratic Brits are dimwits, the Americans are boringly insufferable.  etc. etc. etc.).

1 and 1/2 pieces of Johnny Depp and his friends aren’t funny toast



Newly Released on DVD

Love Is Strange (R)

Starring: John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Charlie Tahan, Marissa Tomei, Darren Burroughs

Directed by: Ira Sachs

The story in this film oddly resembles the opening of the 1974 movie, Harry and Tonto. In that classic, Art Carney is forced by economic circumstance to share a bedroom with a teenage relative until things “pick up.”  The same thing happens to the John Lithgow character in Love Is Strange, except that he has to do so while his “finally married to each other after 20 years together” husband rooms with two NYPD cops. These new living arrangements thrust the fine actors into convoluted sit-com situations where they manage to rise above all the shenanigans because of their inherent style and grace.

2 pieces of watch it for Lithgow and Molina toast