Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for the week of 9/04/15

Meru (R)

Starring: Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, Reenan Ozturk

Directed By: Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

After scaling Mt. Everest in 1923, Sir Edmund Hilary answered the “Why” question with the most famous three words in mountain-climbing: “Because it’s there.” Despite his statement, it is difficult for me to understand the motivation driving men to repeatedly put their lives at risk and needlessly struggle to climb to the top of a snow-capped peak. The three climbers in Meru follow Hickson’s famous adage: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again,” and return to scale the “shark fin” 21,000 feet up in the Himalayas because they failed on their attempt three years earlier. Since they provide onscreen commentary about this second attempt, we know they survive. But their oft-repeated joke of an answer, “for the view,” to the question “Why” doesn’t even attempt a rational explanation. Audiences see the same spectacular vistas from the comfort of their theater seats so vividly, that those with various fears and phobias may be “triggered” by some of the scenes.

3 pieces of “simply because it’s there” toast 

A Walk In the Woods (R)

Starring: Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Emma Thompson, Mary Steenburgen

Directed By: Ken Kwapis

Based on humorist Bill Bryson’s 1998 “what I did last summer” memoir, two movie stars hike the Appalachian Trail  from Georgia to Maine as a buddy comedy adventure. Its reminiscent of all the other older guys go camping movies and has the required scenes of tents collapsing, fishing stream dunkings, wildlife encounters, grumbled conversations and fire-side appreciation for the wonders of nature at the end of a long day. Nolte has the most interesting character to play—a 60’s revolutionary who has never had a job and has lost the battle against junk food and alcohol. In contrast, Redford plays the sedate, introspective writer who is taking the hike as a way to “find himself.” Aimed squarely at the Baby Boomers who worried like a parent about Reese Witherspoon’s character in Wild, it might calm our fears to learn that the actors walked the walk, but spent the nights in comfy hotels with hot tubs.

3 pieces of camping buddies toast

Phoenix (PG-13)

Starring: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehfield, Nina Kuzendorf, Michael Maertens

Directed By: Christian Petzold

A survivor of the Nazi death camps whose face was mutilated by the gunshots meant to kill her, used to sing jazz in Berlin’s nightclubs. After reconstructive surgery gives her a new face, she begins searching for her piano-playing husband, the same man who turned her into the Gestapo because she is Jewish. She finds a man who looks like her husband, but who insists he is not. The complexities of “surviving” are explored through these two people and those around them in a riveting, and mysterious manner, ending, of course, with a song.

3 and 1/2 pieces of an individual’s story with broad themes toast 

Steve Jobs: The Man In the Machine (R)

Directed By: Alex Gibney

Arriving in theaters the same day that headlines label Steve Jobs as the prime culprit in “price fixing” high-tech salaries, this documentary shows how Jobs’ quest for perfection disguised a despotic megalomaniac. His former partner Steve “The Woz” Wozniak reveals how Jobs would lie how much they were being paid so Jobs could pocket the lion’s share of their earnings. We learn that despite (or because of) being put up for adoption, he claimed he was not the father of his daughter and when presented with DNA evidence, he paid her $500 a month at the same time his net worth was over $300 million. In other words, Jobs was not a nice guy.

3 pieces of documentary unmasking toast

The Transporter Refueled (PG-13)

Starring: Ed Skrein, Ray Stevenson, Gabrielle Wright, Loan Chabonal

Directed By: Camille Delamarre

They must have used toxic sludge to refuel this film that should never have been made. It uses flashbacks with a muddled sense of time to reveal how the character originally played by Jason Statham got into transporting people for pay. If you care, it involves the Russian mob using machine-gun diplomacy to take over prostitution on the Cote de Azure. As a result, bullets, blood and scantily clad ladies are everywhere while the film studiously maintains its PG-13 rating to allow young teen boys to buy tickets. Everyone involved should be ashamed. This film is so bad, those kids are wasting their money.

1/2 pieces of unwatchable because it’s so sloppily made toast