Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for the week of 7/10/15

Amy (R)

Starring: Amy Winehouse, Mitch Winehouse, Blake Fielder-Civil, Nick Shymansky, Tony Bennett

Directed By: Asif Kapadia

Like he did with his award winning documentary, Senna, director Asif Kapadia has made an masterful story of a great talent’s meteoric rise and explosive finale. In Amy, he focuses on the little girl with the soulful voice, Amy Winehouse. Octogenarian crooner Tony Bennett recorded the song “Body and Soul” as a duet with Amy in what proved to be her last recording. “What an incredible voice,” Bennett says about her short, substance abuse dictated, life and death. “I should have shared [with her] the phrase that turned my life around: ‘Don’t sin against your talent.” Except for Bennett, the men in Amy’s life were like leeches sucking out her life force to line their pockets and inflate their egos. Her lover, manager,  father and friends encouraged the antics that inflamed the paparazzi, and placed profitability above Amy’s mental and physical health. The ride is rough, but the archival footage of the singer as a little girl and young star almost make it palatable—almost.

3 pieces of no-stone-unturned documentary  toast 

Minions (PG)

Starring the voices of: Pierre Coffin, Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan, Geoffrey Rush, Steve Carrell

Directed By: Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda

Most of us know the minions as the short-statured, yellow-hued sidekicks of Gru in the two Despicable Me films. In answer to an avalanche of requests for an “origin story” about the guys who speak in indecipherable bursts of consonants and vowels, we have Minions. Geoffrey Rush takes the David Attenborough role to voice-over how these critters emerged from the prehistoric sea for the sole purpose of serving various evil masters starting with T-Rex and evolving over time to serve Dracula (and presumably, Gru). After a leaderless century or two in Antarctica, three of the critters ( Stuart, Kevin and Bob) sail north to attend Villain-Con on a quest for a suitable master to slavishly serve. The first half of the film works well, but the second half stakes its humor on a series of set-pieces that go on too long and end with a disappointing pay off. In short, what starts as a really entertaining and original film ends up as another assembly-line cartoon.

2 and 1/2 pieces of only the first half really works toast 

Infinitely Polar Bear (R)

Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Imogene Wolodarsky

Directed By: Maya Forbes

This tale of growing up in the 70’s with an often institutionalized manic-depressive father is well acted, but difficult to watch. Although the manic scenes are the most cinematic, real life isn’t all “lets ride a bike in our underwear” for the two daughters. The morbid, moody, downside of the disease threatens the family’s very existence as it insidiously engulfs their future.

3 pieces of textbook bi-polar disorder toast

Self/Less (PG-13)

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Natalie Martinez, Matthew Goode, Ben Kingsley, Victor Garber

Directed By: Tarsem Singh

Although fans of TV’s The Simpsons already know that gazillionaires (aka Mr. Burns) can buy the means to “live forever,” Self/Less posits that if science knows how to transfer the mind and personality of an old and dying individual into the body of a young and vital being, then there is a vast conspiracy afoot to keep this secret from any one not in the top 1% of the top 1%. This transfer of mind from one body to another is not new (John Frankenheimer’s 1966 film Seconds and even James Whale’s 1931 classic, Frankenstein are examples), but what what director Alan Taylor does is make the story as fresh as tomorrow’s headlines.

2 and 1/2 pieces of deja vu toast

The Gallows (R)

Starring: Cassidy Gifford, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos

Directed By: Travis Cluff, Chris Lofing

The cheap, schlocky,”found footage” schtick stolen from the Blair Witch Project is used yet again to lure paying audiences into a scream fest. This time, it’s the reprise of a high school historical play where an onstage gallows serves as a reminder of the tragic accident way back in 1993 that killed a young actor. Flash forward to today, where those old enough to remember should really have put a stop to the production before it began. But, of course, if they did, there wouldn’t be a film and the world would lament another lame rip-off.

Gil doesn’t screen found-footage, scream-fest films