Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for the week of 10/23/15

Steve Jobs (R)

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Seth Rogan, Kate Winslet, Katherine Waterston, Jeff Daniels

Directed By: Danny Boyle

Instead of investing Steve Jobs with sainthood, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and director Danny Boyle selected to utilize three Apple product launches to reveal the dynamic tensions behind-the-scenes. The result is as classic as the Apple logo—uber-perfectionist Steve Jobs recruits creative nerds to design and develop machines with a built-in WOW! factor. Jobs’ constant bickering and niggling others is perfect for the Sorkinesque dialogue audiences learned to love on TV’s The West Wing and The Newsroom.  Of course the fact that Jobs considered himself a modern-day Julius Caesar surrounded by spies and assassins makes things easier. In one interchange, Apple’s inventor and programmer Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogan) asks Jobs (Michael Fassbender) “What do you do?” The answer, of course, is complicated by the eyes of the beholder. The same is true of this film.

3 pieces of a a Silicon Valley morality play toast 

Goodnight Mommy (R)

Starring: Susanne Wuest, Lukas Schwarz Thorsteinsson, Elias Shwarz

Directed By: Severin Fiala, Veronica Franz

It is high summer in a secluded forest home where a mother with her face wrapped in gauze after surgery peers through the blinds at her twin sons playing in the fields and lake. The pervasive sense of calm hints of a sudden change to come, and the filmmakers don’t disappoint us. The basement is stocked with enough frozen food to last for years, the mom never goes into town, the boys fill an aquarium with over-sized bugs, and the mother-son conversations reveal that one twin is her favorite. But since they are dopplegangers, maybe her favorite isn’t the one she thinks he is? Clues mount, dysfunctions are laid bare, and the audience is captured by the certainty that something is coming.

3 pieces of cleverly plotted and paced toast 

Breathe (NR)

Starring: Josephine Japy, Lou de Laage, Isabelle Carre

Directed By: Melanie Laurent

A pair of French girls are BFFs until a brief vacation transforms their relationship into tormentor and victim. This Mean Girls on steroids may be spoken in the language of love (double-meaning intended) but there is something pathological about it.

2 pieces of even in French, it’s still bullying toast

Jem and The Holograms (PG)

Starring: Josephine Japy, Lou de Laage, Isabelle Carre

Directed By: Melanie Laurent

I’ve never seen the animated 1980’s TV show that prompted this live-action remake. Aimed squarely at the tween audience, it’s all about girl-power in the form of an all-female rock band with the ability to forecast the future. It’s been updated (sort of) to a “present day” where You-Tube videos can launch a moderately talented, overly-made-up garage band into the instant stardom of a million downloads. Except, the plot is still stuck in the 80’s where the band’s future is threatened by a record company’s suit-wearing executives. Cognitive dissonance abounds for anyone in the audience old enough to understand this anomaly.

1 and 1/2 pieces of time-warped in a bad way toast

Woodlawn (PG)

Starring: Sean Astin, Nic Bishop, Caleb Castille Sherri Shepard, Jon Voight

Directed By: John and Andrew Erwin

Despite the title, this film has nothing to do with cemeteries, Instead, it’s a “Christian Drama” set during the desegregation era where a self-labelled sports chaplain turns an Alabama football team into “winners” by convincing them to embrace Jesus Christ as their savior. The fact that the actor who played Samwise Ganji in the Lord of the Rings epics is the pastor is disconcerting to say the least, but things really become odd when Midnight Cowboy’s Jon Voight turns up to play the legendary football icon Bear Bryant. Whenever things slow down (or speed up or even just coast along) the musical score evokes clouds broken by brilliant shafts of light!

2 and 1/2 pieces of at least give the Erwin brothers credit for good production values toast

The Last Witch Hunter (PG-13)

Starring: Vin Diesel, Elijah Wood, Michael Caine, Rose Leslie

Directed By: Breck Eisner

Hopefully, this film will live up to its title and protect us by not making another film like this one. The story involves Vin Diesel as an 800-year-old European witch hunter who was cursed by a tree swarming with bees. Flash forward to present-day New York where female organic gardeners are targeted as witches by this now bald guy because they practice soil-based fertility rites. Really. The director is the son of Michael Eisner, the disgraced Disney CEO, the cast is littered with A-list actors who should have known better and the story relies on odd props like a maraschino cherry laced with poison. Pardon me, but is it logical that organic farmer types would utilize brine-bleached cherries dyed red with artificial colorings and soaked in refined sugar instead of a fresh-off-the-tree apple for their poison delivery system?

1 and 1/2 pieces of too schizoid to be camp toast

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimensions (R)

Starring: Chris J. Murray, Brit Shaw, Ivy George

Directed By: Giulio Ricciarelli

The most innovative thing about the sixth of the found-videotape, Paranormal Activity series is that it will have the lowest box office of the lot. Theater chains are refusing to book the film because it will be made available for home viewing only six weeks from today. Don’t believe the trailers proclaiming “Every secret will be revealed,” they aren’t.

Gil doesn’t screen “found-films” with a high bodycount