Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for the week of 8/21/15

Kahlil Gibran’s the Prophet (PG)

Starring the voices of: Selma Hayak, Liam Neeson, John Krasinski, Quvenzhane Wallis

Directed By: Various

A select group of master animators and name-brand actors have come together to create a retelling of Kahill Gibran’s epic trilogy, The Prophet.  Ostensibly a tale of an imprisoned poet and his wife and daughter, the books’ lush lyrics and sensual imagery have captivated readers for generations —including the talented people involved in the creation of this movie. The end result depends upon your individual reactions to the sights and sounds on screen—profound and enlightened to many, spiritual and transformational to others, and beautiful and evocative to all but the most jaded.

3 and 1/2 pieces of lyrical and poetic inspiration toast

American Ultra (R)

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Tony Hale, Greg Leguizamo, Bill Pullman

Directed By: Nima Nourizadeh

During the Cold War, Americans’ paranoia level was raised by tales of Russian “sleeper agents” disguised as our next-door neighbors while waiting for the signal that would unleash their evil plans. Flash forward to today, there the Soviet threat has been replaced by the fear of a Big Brother government collecting data on its complacent citizenry. The result is a tale of a stoned, small-town slacker who has been programmed by the CIA to be “activated” as a highly trained ninja when “The Agency” sends a signal. Problem is, with all the modern technology available, the flesh-and-blood “sleepers” have become redundant, and need to be terminated. Seems simple enough, but the CIA seems to have forgotten how they trained this sleeper to “survive at all costs” using anything (and everything) as a lethal weapon. The result is a film that starts out like it’s directed by Kevin Smith (Clerks), and ends up like its made by a committee of B-grade action-movie directors.

2 pieces of crazy, mixed-up slacker/spy movie that loses our interest  toast 

The End of the Tour (R)

Starring: Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg, Anna Chlumsky, Joan Cusak

Directed By: James Ponsoldt

David Foster Wallace was a writer and teacher who hung himself in his garage. Respected by the literati, this is the fictionalized account of an interview with Wallace by a fledgling Rolling Stone reporter. Over four days, Wallace remains guarded, so the discussions revolve around his two dogs, his addiction to junk food and TV, and his attempt to  “come off like I really don’t want to appear in Rolling Stone when I really do.” Underneath it all, is a reporter doing his job by recording and observing Wallace’s talent and the struggle with the inner demons that would eventually consume him.

3 pieces of a four-day-long interview fueled by junk food and jaunts to all-night restaurants toast 

 

Hitman: Agent 47 (R)

Starring: Rupert Friend, Hannah Ware, Zachary Quinto, Ciarin Hinds

Directed By: Aleksander Bach

It would be too easy to see the robotic, single-minded secret agent in this film as the counterpoint to the stoned, slacker, secret agent in American Ultra, but don’t bother. The “McGuffun” is the search for a missing scientist with the “key” to reprograming the “Hitmen.” Not only does “The Syndicate” want the guy, but his abandoned daughter is searching for him too. Problem is, the improbabilities and multiplicities of the plot devices thrown at us quickly pile up like the debris left from a tsunami so that everything is a jumbled mess. To top it off, we really don’t like Agent 47 at all.

1 and 1/2 pieces of cold, colder, coldest and lacking in empathy as well toast 

Sinister 2 (R)

Starring: James Ransome, Shannyn Sossamon, Lea Coco, Robert Sloan, Dartanian Sloan

Directed By: Ciaran Foy

As a student researcher, I assisted Stanford’s Eleanor Maccoby in a psychology project measuring the effect watching a violent incident on television would have on how children played with their toys. The results showed that almost all boys and girls imitated the violent behaviors.The hypocritical film Sinister 2 cloaks its tale of ghosts and demons and snuff films as a morality tale about the sinister effects watching horror movies and violence in the home has on kids.

Gil doesn’t screen slasher films.