Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for the week of 3/13/15 

Cinderella (PG)

Starring: Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Helena Bonham Carter, Stellan Skarsgard, Derek Jacobi

Directed By: Kenneth Branagh

The time-tested fairy tale message that kindness, love, and tiny feet will bring happiness is alive and well in Disney’s live-action version of the studio’s 1950 animated classic. Bucking the trend to “re-imagine” a story, the archtypical step mother has a fine flair for fashion but (thankfully) she retains her “wicked” moniker. Prince Charming is blue-eyed and bland, the Fairy Godmother is endearingly klutzy  (I miss Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo), and Cinderella has all the attributes needed to reestablish her rightful place as the “top” “Disney Princess.”

3 pieces of satisfyingly familiar toast 

Run All Night (R)

Starring: Liam Neeson, Ed Harris, Common, Vincent D’Onofrio, Nick Nolte

Directed By: Jaume Collet-Serra

A cadre of aging actors gang together to perform a series of cliche set-pieces in this supposedly stylish thriller about a retired hit man. Audiences know from the get-go that Liam Neesen will never retire, he will still be chasing and avoiding murderous bad guys when he’s using a senior mobility scooter (aka electric wheelchair). The moral of this story is that even if your nickname is Jimmy the Gravedigger, you should make sure your son and heir isn’t a trigger-happy, hot-headed, gang-hating, maniac. Of course, if Jimmy had managed to keep his son, on the straight and narrow, we wouldn’t have a movie thriller.

2 and 1/2 pieces of mix of tried and true hit-man thriller toast 

Song of the Sea (PG)

Starring the voices of: Brendan Gleeson, Fiona Flanagan, David Rawle, Sean Kenney

Directed By: Tomm Moore

This beautiful and poignant tale embraces Irish folklore with an animated wonder that captures both adults and children in its spell. Ben is the son of a lighthouse keeper who is charged with protecting his younger sister. Fearful of the sea, Ben constantly wears a lifejacket—even when Granny takes the children to the mainland. Problem is, the boy’s dog is left behind, and his sister tags along when he decides to use his hand-drawn map to return to the lighthouse. Along the way, they encounter the selkies and wee-creautures from their mother’s stories—and discover that the various fairy-folk are endangered species and that grief is too important a feeling to shut away.

3 and 1/2  pieces of animated Irish wonder toast 

Eva (PG-13)

Starring: Daniel Bruhl, Claudia Vega, Anne Canovas, Marta Etura, Alberto Amman

Directed By: Kike Mallo

This Spanish-made film about the creation of a robotic child was made in 2011, but just released in this country (probably to coat-tail on the presumed success of the South African robot tale, Chappie). The two films provide contrasts in style and substance, with the big-budget, name-brand Chappie bogging down in pointless tangential stories for the sake of some falls-flat punchlines, and Eva offering an Issac Asomovish future where robots are ubiquitous assistants. Both films grapple with what is involved in being “alive” (aka a sentient being). Both embrace the classic Greek myth of Pygmalian replication, and both delve into the convoluted process of assembling the components necessary for emotional intelligence. Despite Eva’s plot offering too much foreshadowing of the ending, the Spanish-made film is a much more entertaining.

3 pieces of Spanish robots toast

Wild Tales (R)

Starring: Ricard Darin, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Oscar Martinez, Erica Rivas

Directed By: John Boorman

Nominated for a Best Foreign Language Oscar, this film is a collection of amoral revenge tales showing the beastial side of human behaviors. The “I’ll get even” protagonists include a waitress wronged by a mob boss, a gardener taking the rap for a rich man’s son, a man whose car is towed away once too often, a workingman in a beat-up Peugeot, and a bride who discovers her groom cheating with a wedding guest. The end result is overly bloody, overly sexual, overly graphic and over-the-top—in short, it’s Argentinian cinema.

3 pieces of human nature Argentinian style toast

Newly Released on DVD

Foxcatcher  (R)

Starring: Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Vanessa Redgrave

Directed by: Bennett Miller

The uber rich—those inheriting family wealth generated over a century ago, have to do something to pass the time. In the case of John E. Dupont, that time-filler involves creating a training facility for Olympic wrestlers at his family estate in Pennsylvania. The audience immediately senses that the motivations behind this are far from altruistic as Steve Carrell creates an onscreen persona unlike anything that has gone before—a self-anointed patriot who “wants to see this country soar again.” The soaring will by done by the members of the USA’s 1996 Olympic Wrestling Team, including Olympic champion David Schultz. Unfortunately, David is repelled by the strange vibes sent out by DuPont, so the “coach” shifts his attention to Dave’s younger brother Mark.  The millionaire brings Mark on board with the not too thinly disguised intent of convincing his older brother to join “Team Foxcatcher.” Based on events that fueled headlines in the mid 90’s this is a psychological thriller in the best sense. No, you think, John E. DuPont can’t be that insane—but he was.

4 pieces of psychological case study toast 

Big Hero 6 (PG)

Starring the voices of: Ryan Potter, Jamie Chung, T.J. Miller, Damon Wayons Jr., James Cromwell

Directed by: Don Hall, Chris Williams

In this Anime-inspired film, The Bay Area has evolved into an Asian-tinged slurb named San Fransokyo, where a brilliant lad named Hiro wastes his talent building robots for the “Bot Fights.” His equally brilliant older brother convinces Hiro to apply for “Nerd University,” and when tragedy strikes, Hiro turns to his “misfit” classmates for support. Old folks in the audience will easily spot the Disneyfied jumble of plots, tropes, and memes, but tweens and younger should delight in the emotion-tugging material and the triumph of youth over tradition.

3 pieces of Disney Anime toast