Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for the week of 5/15/15

I Am Big Bird (PG-13)

Starring: Caroll Spinney, Frank Oz, Jim Henson, Jerry Nelson, Bob McGrath, Jane Henson, Debra Spinney,

Directed By: David LaMattina, Chad Walker

With as little fuss and feathers as possible, in I Am Big Bird, we get to meet the genius who brings America’s beloved giant yellow bird to life. Hidden from view, with his hand held high in the air as he makes the 8-foot puppet walk and talk and receive hugs from fans of all ages, Caroll Spinney is now 81-years-young. We also see inside Big Bird’s alter-ego, Oscar the Grouch, the green-furred curmudgeon who resides in a garbage can. Fans who remember Jim Henson may get a little teary-eyed as Spinney recalls his mentor’s cautious approach to having him wear the yellow feathers, and that same crew will “remember where they were” when we hear about a part the puppeteer didn’t get. It’s also fun to meet “Mrs. Big Bird,” the kindly, former fan who shares Spinney’s “nest.”

3 pieces of unruffled feathers toast

Mad Max: Fury Road (R)

Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Zoe Kravitz, Riley Keough

Directed By: George Miller

In the Australian wasteland of a distant future human blood is is more valuable than water or liquid petroleum. Not (as we’ve been led to believe in other film franchises), because of zombies, but because blood transfusions can keep those with money and power alive a little longer. Turns out our titular hero, Max Rockatansky, has the misfortune of having O-negative blood, and is imprisoned as the vein-to-vein donor for the War Boys clan. Things get harrier when Imperitor Furiosa drives her machine into camp for some gasoline, and leaves with five of the Bad Boy’s breeder-wives. After a bunch of explosive battles, Max and Furiosa travel through scenic canyons in search of memories and survivors from their birth-clans.

3 and 1/2 pieces of Miller shows how movies like this should be made toast 

Far From the Madding Crowd (PG-13)

Starring: Cary Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturrridge

Directed By: Thomas Vinterberg

Thomas Hardy’s novel is more earthy and sexual than Jane Austen’s Victorian romances, and that is true of the film version as well. The orphan heroine rejects the notion that she can only rise in status by marrying a landholder, and instead, she rolls up her sleeves, cleans house (both literally and figuratively) and earns the grudging respect of her neighbors. Enter the man in uniform, an arrogant dandy who captures the woman’s heart—despite her head (and all her neighbors) telling her otherwise.

1 and 1/2 pieces of really not that interesting toast

Iris  (PG-13)

Starring: Iris Apfel, Carl Apfel

Directed By: Albert Maysles

What could have been a film about a sad, odd eccentric, is instead an homage to aging “with style.” The inventor of “fly-on-the-wall” documentaries lets us roam the parties of New York with a 90-something fashion icon who rumbles through her closets of haute couture dresses and accoutrements to assemble this evening’s outfit. Stripes? Plaids? Prints? Solids?  Bejeweled? Furry? Bias-cut? Swathed? It doesn’t matter as Iris Apfel’s instinctive fashion sense, champagne-colored hair, and personal presence makes seemingly odd combinations work (dare I say this?) FABULOUSLY!

3 pieces of you show ‘em how it’s done gal toast 

Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten  (NR)

Directed By: John Pirozzi

Before the Vietnam War, Cambodia had a vibrant, Western-inspired pop music culture—complete with beehive hairdos and go-go dancers. But fate (in the form of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge ) intervened, and the music and its performers were systematically wiped out. Generations later, this documentary shows that the music has been recovered and reappreciated in an odd mix of nostalgia paired with the discovery of something completely new.

3 pieces of post-genocidal pop-music revival toast 

Pitch Perfect 2  (PG-13)

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfield, Birgetta Hort Sorensen

Directed By: Elizabeth Banks

Glee Clubs are (to quote this film) “an inspiration for girls all over the country who are too ugly to be cheerleaders.” However, this sequel has made the tragic decision of all doomed sequels—head off to Europe for the second one! The misfits from the first film have been joined by someone who acts like she could have a face off with western outlaws (like the character she played in True Grit) so the team can face off against German “Deutsche bags” in an a capella singing competition way over there in Europe. Sadly the European Vacation jinx still holds true as the songs fall flat.

3 pieces of you another “lets go to Europe” sequel toast 

Welcome To Me (R)

Starring: Kristen Wiig, Tim Robbins, James Marsden, Jennifer jason Leigh

Directed By: Shira Piven

I’m going to forego my comments and tell this movie;s storyline straight: A woman diagnosed with borderline personality disorder has crammed her apartment with swan figurines, VCR tapes of Oprah shows, and discarded lottery tickets. One day, she wins $86 million dollars from one of those tickets, and “invests” $15 million to star in a TV reality show where she offers idiosyncratic sexual advice and tracks down her  high school tormentors to embarrass them in public.

3 and 1/2 pieces of if you’re comfortable with the premise, this black comedy works toast