Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast 

New Releases for the week of 3/27/15

It Follows (R)

Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Lili Sepe, Daniel Zovatto, Olivia Lucardi

Directed By: David Robert Mitchell

The new movie It Follows, proves that talent can turn an old, tired formula into something much better than this critic expected. At the center, is a 19-year-old Detroit girl who enjoys swimming and sun tanning beside her family’s above-ground pool (included not only to have the girl in a bikini but also to show the socio-economic level of her parents). She goes on a date, only to be chloroformed and duct taped to a wheelchair by the guy so she can be killed by a ghostlike shape-shifter called “The Walker” and thereby let him escape the ghoul’s curse. Cue the girl’s friends, who become slightly older Nancy Drew-style detectives and vow to find out what has happened. The tension comes from unexpected, everyday going-on as well as the sudden juxtaposition of sound and fury.

3 and 1/2 pieces of  would be a great double bill with The Babadook toast 

Serena (R)

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Toby Jones, Rhys Ifans, David Debcik

Directed By: Susanna Bier

Since we live in a region where protecting old-growth forests is applauded, the Depresssion Era timber baron who wants to clear cut his land before it becomes the Smokey Mountains National Park is clearly a “bad guy.” The wealthy, horseback-riding, ax-wielding woman who suddenly appears with her tame eagle along to fight rattlesnakes is supposed to spark things up, but… Problem is, there aren’t enough sparks between the two Oscar-nominated stars to ignite a tinder box let alone a wildfire. Include subplots about a pregnant mountain gal, bribes to Federal officials, bloody, bloody lumbering and hunting accidents and you get some pretty scenery but a worthless film.

1 and 1/2 pieces of only the stumps are left toast 

Seymour: An Introduction (PG)

Starring: Seymour Bernstein

Directed By: Ethan Hawke

Reportedly conceived during a chance dinner-table meeting, this documentary presents a portrait of a talented concert pianist and philosopher who gave up the rat race of public performances years ago and now focuses on making sure his students “practice, practice, practice. His reactions to parents who don’t appreciate the importance of art in their children’s busy lives, is worth the price of admission.

3  pieces of an introduction to a fascinating guy toast 

Human Capital (NR)

Starring: Fabrizio Bentivolglio, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi

Directed By: Paolo Virzi

A bicyclist is forced off an Italian road by a car and we flashback to the days leading up to the incident. These flashbacks are presented Roshomon-style, from the point-of-view of different characters on personal quests for money and power. The final segment lets us see everything that “really” happened and results in some stylish filmmaking.

3 pieces of offers an ironic ending toast

Get Hard (R)

Starring: Kevin Hart, Will Farrell, Alison Brie, Craig T. Nelson

Directed By: Etan Cohen

Imagine the blonde star of the cable TV show Orange is the New Black, hiring an African-American woman who details her car to teach her how to survive before doing “hard time” in prison. Now imagine online casino that the woman is played by Will Farrell in his “I can keep a straight face through anything” mode while Kevin Hart frantically changes personas as he tries to out-schtick the white guy. It’s supposed to be a comedy, but ends up being a groan fest as one stereotype after another is mined for laughs even though the gold turns out to be pyrite.

1 and 1/2  pieces of slumming for laughs toast

Home (PG)

Starring the voices of: Jim Parsons, Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, Steve Martin

Directed By: Tim Johnson

Home is one of those assembly-line movies from Dreamworks Animation that is made so parents can stash their 8-and-under kids at the movies for 90 minutes of Frappuccino sipping with friends. The humor is supposed to arrive from the problems faced by a notoriously cowardly race of space aliens called the Boov, as they attempt to hide from the murderous Gorg. Problem a teen-aged Boov wants to have a party so she sends out an evite giving away her family’s intergalactic hideout.

2 pieces aimed at fourth graders or younger toast

Competing Film Festivals Continue 

For some poorly planned reason, Sonoma County hosts film festivals on both the Laguna de Santa Rosa and the Maycamas’ hillside next week.

The 8th Annual Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival launched Thursday night, and venues are almost sold out, but Festival director Jason Perdue suggests that for local interest check out On Her Own, Morgan Schmidt-Feng’s up-close-and-personal look at Sebastopol’s Nancy Prebilich’s fight to save her family farm. There is also a loving retrospective of a local documentary lion in A Life Well Spent: A Les Blank Tribute. My long-time favorite of his films is Gap-Toothed Women. Tickets and info at: sebastopolfilmfestival.org

The 18th Annual Sonoma International Film Festival begans it’s 5-day run at various downtown venues on Wednesday, and Festival Executive Director Kevin McNeely suggests you try to snag tickets to Lunafest—eight short films by women, plus documentaries Dior and I about the fashion house, and Sold about a year-old Nepali girl sold into prostitution. Tickets and info at: sonomafilmfest.org