Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for the week of 1/22/16

Anomalisa (R)

Starring the voices of: David Thewles, Tom Noonan, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Directed By: Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson

Based on his radio play, where the characters are only seen in listeners’ minds, Charlie Kaufman has pushed the envelope a little bit further with Anomalisa. In the movie version, Barbie-sized silicon puppets are animated in the same stop-motion process used in The Nightmare Before Christmas, Chicken Run, and Boxtrolls. The result is quite distinctive—especially since like all of Kaufman’s screenplays, what you see and hear may be different with each viewing. Essentially it is about a melancholy writer who hears a voice in the hotel hallway that’s astoundingly different from all the others in the movie. Knocking on door after door, he finally meets the woman with that voice, and invites her back to his own room—with all that implies. Whether this movie is down-to-Earth or fanciful, sad or hopeful, unrealistic or true-to-life is in the mindset of each viewer. In short, this is a film to see, talk about with others, and see again.

3 and 1/2 pieces of Charlie Kaufman reality re-defined toast 

The Fifth Wave (PG-13)

Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz. Nick Robinson, Ron Livingston, Alex Rice, Maria Bello, Liev Schreiber

Directed By: J. Blakeson

Every grown up in this film is mean-spirited, evil or clueless so it’s bound to be a hit with the teen demographic. The female selected to save humanity goes to a party, chugs some beers, falls for a hunky guy (or two) and then goes home to sing her little brother a lullaby. Morning arrives with a gigantic spaceship floating above the Earth. In no time, “The Others” disable all electronics, slaughter millions with tsunamis and hurricanes, and infect the Earth with deadly viruses. Given a gun by her father, the screenplay dictates the girl has to trek a thousand miles to a safe harbor.  It’s kill or be killed along the trail, and it’s fortunate she bumps into a handsome guy who has a SEAL medic’s’ skill set and a sweet smile. Predictable groundwork is set for at least two more movies in the series.

2 pieces of derivative, post-apocalypse-teen toast

In Jackson Heights (PG-13)

Directed By: Fredrick Wiseman

I’ll continue my Watch Movies Like a Film Critic series at the Sebastopol Center For the Arts on February 21st by focusing on documentaries, and Fredrick Wiseman’s newest movie would fit perfectly into what I call “Fly-On-the Wall” docs. Wiseman has been making films the same way for a half-century—he picks a subject, spends weeks, months or years filming seemingly unrelated people, places, and things, and then assembles them in such a manner that audiences immerse themselves in the Gestalt of it all. He has done this with subjects as diverse as a mental institution (Titicut Follies), a ballet company (La Danse), ICBM silos (Missile) and a University (At Berkeley). This time, Wiseman focuses on the Queen’s neighborhood of Jackson Heights, which proclaims itself “the most diverse community in the country.” The result is astounding—with everyone who watches it seeing and hearing different things.

3 pieces of the sum-is-grander-than the parts documentary toast

The Boy (PG-13)

Starring: Lauren Cohen, Rupert Evans

Directed By: William Brent Bell

In this by-the-numbers pseudo thriller, a young woman is hired to be the nanny for a life-sized doll that the “parents” treat like a real child. After the parents commit suicide, the nanny keeps working and uncovers some “startling secrets.” Press notes say the flick is expected to earn at least $10 million, ten times its production budget and therefore “worthwhile.”

1 and 1/2 pieces of where’s Chuckie when we need him toast

Dirty Grandpa (R)

Starring: Robert DeNiro, Zac Efron, Aubrey Plaza, Zoey Deutch

Directed By: Dan Mazer

Lionsgate’s uncertainty over the success of this film is indicated by the 5 different release dates “leaked” to the press. Richard Roeper has already labelled it “the worst movie of the year,” (which may be a tad premature since it’s still January). Whatever the date, this one is a “BOMB.” The story involves a hunky dude who, a week before his wedding,  is coerced into driving his foul-mouthed grandfather to the spring break activities in Daytona Beach. Bare breasts, bad beer, frat boys, sorority girls, karaoke, incontinence and projectile vomiting are interspersed between the lame jokes and 4-letter expletives.

1 piece of who the Hell thought this would be funny? toast