Me & Earl and the Dying Girl is something truly special

Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for the week of 6/26/15

Me & Earl and the Dying Girl (PG-13)

Starring: Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke, R. J. Cyler

Directed By: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

A Pittsburgh teen and wannabe filmmaker is saddled with the thankless summer task of “visiting with” a neighbor girl who has cancer. The boy would rather be making 2-minute sock-puppet parodies of famous films with his best friend, and the girl would rather be anywhere but where she is. This is a boy-meets-girl-meets-his-camera type of movie that blissfully breaks all the Hollywood stereotypes and creates a freshness that captured Sundance’s biggest awards. You’ve got to see it. (By the way, the narrator is quick to tell us that despite the title, this film has a “completely happy ending”).

4 pieces of Indy film at its best toast 

A Little Chaos (R)

Starring: Kate Winslet, Matthais Schoneaerts, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci. Jennifer Ehle

Directed By: Alan Rickman

Alan Rickman wisely casts himself as France’s King Louis XIV opposite Stanley Tucci as the Duke d’Orleans, the king’s outspoken brother. Their scenes together sparkle with sibling rivalry and one-up-man-ship as a “mere Duke” matches wits against  the “Sun King” over the future of France’s crowning glory—the gardens of Versailles. The female landscape architect chosen to “tame” the swampy morass, finds the existing gardens too orderly and lacking in the “abundance of chaos” she proposes. Drama, humor, and star-crossed lovers populate this costume drama in the era of a king who stayed on the throne longer than any other European Royal. Louis was truly one-of-a-kind, a “glorious King” who loved flattery, and who applied his personal stamp to French politics, war, commerce, finance, religion, fashion, architecture, art and even ballet (he adored ballet, dancing in over 80 different roles in 40 ballets).

3 pieces of really quite fascinating historical toast 

Ted (R)

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Amanda Seyfried, Jessica Barth, Morgan Freeman, Michael Dorn, Patrick Warburton

Directed By: Seth MacFarlane

Apparently someone finds the idea of a foul-mouthed, just-married teddy bear “making a baby” with his attractive human bride a funny idea for a movie. The same folk think that having the bear go to court to establish that a stuffed bear has the legal right to marry and have children is even funnier. The potential for a barbed satire about marriage laws and determining the legal rights of sentient beings (i.e. chimpanzees and dolphins) is completely overlooked, and instead we have a two hour comedy based upon a single, unfunny joke. Even an onscreen trip to ComicCon can’t save this bomb.

1 piece of Ted’s back and even more unfunny toast

Max (PG)

Starring: Josh Wiggines, Lauren Graham, Thomas Hayden Church, Mia Xitlali,

 Directed By: Boaz Yakin

Imagine going to your brother’s military funeral, where, in addition to the folded flag, your family is given Max, the bomb-sniffing dog who partnered with the now dead Marine in Afghanistan. The dog suffers from PTSD, and the teen-aged boy suffers from CTS (carpal-tunnel-syndrome) because of all the video games he plays. Apparently, the dog thinks the boy smells like his dead partner, so he is the only human who can console the animal when he howls through the night or quakes in fear from Fourth-of-July fireworks. Help comes along from a friend’s female cousin who collects numerous chihuahua dogs and “speaks their language.” Subplots (like the one about the gang of video pirates), unnecessarily clutter up a story which should have been about a boy and his dog.

2 pieces of a boy meets dog story toast

Escobar: Paradise Lost (R)

Starring: Benicia Del Toro, Josh Hutcherson, Claudia Triasac, Carlos Bardem

Directed By: Andrea D’Stefano

Benicio Del Toro is mesmerizing as Pablo Escobar the Columbian drug lord pursued by authorities for ruthless murders while being protected by the locals because he funds health clinics and fiestas. We watch scenes of the ruggedly handsome, stone cold killer cavorting with happy children in a swimming pool squirt-gun fight contrasted with scenes of brutality and mayhem against Escobar’s enemies. Escobar is mercurial. When a Canadian tourist makes the mistake of falling in love with Escobar’s pretty niece, instead of being upset, the coke dealer takes the young man under his protection—going so far as to assassinate some local bullies who have targeted the tourist. The movie is muddled—the first half paints a portrait of saint and sinner, while the second half evolves into a taut thriller involving the laundering of billions in ill-gotten loot.

2 pieces of Del Toro is the reason to watch this drug lord’s biopic toast