Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for the week of 5/22/15

Tomorrowland  (PG)

Starring: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie

Directed By: Brad Bird

Disneyland’s 60th anniversary is a good time to imagine what today would be like if it emulated what visitors found inside Tomorrowland all those decades ago. Would we be riding monorails and submarines from here to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, or using people movers and a skyway to travel around Santa Rosa? Could we take scheduled rocket rides to the moon? Or, more importantly, would we live in plastic houses (by Monsanto) with General-Electric kitchens and Crane bathrooms. Unlike Disney’s original Pirates of the Caribbean movie, which included visual homages to portions of the beloved amusement park ride, Tomorrowland, the movie, eschews amusement park tie-ins in favor of location shooting in the futuristic portions of Valencia, Spain and the waving wheat fields of Alberta, Canada. In interviews, director Brad Bird says his intention was to offer an “antidote” for the plethora of sci-fi movies predicting a catastrophic dystopian future. Here, things are intended to be be sunny and bright—sort of a “happiest place on Earth” kind of feeling. Unfortunately, the muddled story line, shifting times/places, curmudgeon of a hero (George Clooney), increasingly jaded heroine (Britt Robertson), and bore-you-to-death villain (Hugh Laurie) have movie audiences leaving theaters with puzzled looks on their faces. “What did we just see?” they collectively ask each other.

2 pieces of missed opportunities toast

Poltergeist (PG-13)

Starring: San Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Kyle Catlett, Saxon Sharbino, Kennedi Clements

Directed By: Gil Kenan

“They’re back” the little blond girl in front of the TV intoned in Poltergeist Part II, and the same might be said about this redux version of Tobe Hooper’s original Poltergeist. The filmmakers have chosen to cut out the frights-along-the-way action from the original and packed everything into an effective final sequence. It will be interesting to see if today’s pre-programmed audiences will wait for the big payoff, or (gasp) break theatre rules and turn on their hand-held screens.

2 and 1/2 pieces of interestingly paced remake toast 

Slow West (R)

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Mendelsohn

Directed By: Thomas Vinterberg

New Zealand doubles for the old west as a dry-eyed bounty hunter on the Colorado trail ends up chaperoning a 16-year-old Scot’s boy searching for the girl he loves. Getting it’s marching orders from the title, things move along at a snail’s pace until sporadic gunfights erupt followed by laugh-out-loud inappropriate humor. The violence effects adults and children alike, but the only thing that shifts is the discovery the shootist may have a tender side.

3 pieces of moseying-along toast

Lambert & Stamp  (R)

Starring: Kit Lambert, Chris Stamp, Pete Townsend, Roger Daltrey

Directed By: James D. Cooper

When most people picture the British rock band The Who, they see front man Rogery Daltrey, bassist John Entwistle, guitarist Pete Townsend, and drummer Keith Moon, but according to this documentary, the reason for the band’s success was the offstage machinations by managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp. Fans will revel in the  R-rated “truth” behind all the glitz and glamor (and Keith Moon’s untimely death). The rest of us will wonder if a documentary on Andrew Loog Oldman can’t be far behind. (If you don’t know the name, look it up).

2 and 1/2 pieces of who’s the Who toast 

Good Kill  (R)

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Zoe Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood, January Jones

Directed By: Andrew Niccol

If you have to spend your 12-hour shift encased in a metal shipping container plunked down under a scorching desert sun you can be thankful you have air conditioning. But the coolness and humidity control isn’t for the benefit of the “pilots” who man the computer terminals inside—it’s to protect the hardware controlling the drones (I mean remote-piloted aircraft) armed with cameras and guided missiles searching for a “good” (i.e. clean and accurate) kill on the other side of the planet. We get up close and personal with one of the pilots—a man who increasingly questions the effectiveness and morality of long-distance “surgical strike” warfare. Despite the fine acting, the film has long stretches where we watch the pilots watch their screens—kind of like watching cactus grow, and things aren’t helped by the scripted polemics.

2 pieces of our interest lags toast 

The 100-Year-Old Man Wh Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared  (R)

Starring: Robert Gustafsson, Mia Skaringer, Jens Hulten, Alan Ford

Directed By: Felix Hemgren

Instead of attending the 100th birthday party planned by his Swedish nursing home, the man carries a suitcase full of drug money with him as he climbs out his bedroom window. Chased by both gangsters and police, we flashback to events in his past including hitchhiking with Winston Churchill, having dinner with Harry Truman, taking a riverboat with Mao’s wife, and hiking the himalayas on foot.

3 pieces based on Jonas Jonasson’s bestselling novel toast