Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for the week of 2/12/16

Where to Invade Next?  (PG-13) 

Directed By: Michael Moore

The iconoclastic documentarian Michael Moore is summoned to the Pentagon and given the task of “invading” other countries to “steal back” American-originated ideas that didn’t work in the U.S.A., but flourish on foreign soil. He travels to Italy to showcase the faces of Italians who “look like they just had sex,” and how they get five months of paid maternity leave. “In all the world, only Papua New Guinea and the U.S.A. don’t have paid maternity leaves,” Moore tells the audience. He compares the school lunches eaten by French children and those served (and mostly thrown away) in the U.S.A. In Norway, it’s the criminal justice and prison system. In Iceland, it’s how the majority of the businesses and banks and government jobs are held by women. In Portugal, it’s how the use and possession of small amounts of drugs isn’t a criminal offense, and so resources can be used to combat drug trafficking. While looking at the tuition free college education offered in Slovenia, Moore is invited to visit with the country’s justifiably proud President. Moore’s humorously presented point is that these different approaches work well elsewhere, and the U.S.A. could (and should) adapt this more “global” approach,—since what we are doing now isn’t really working that well.

3 pieces of a sincere but lighthearted Michael Moore toast 

Deadpool (R)

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller, Leslie Uggams

Directed By: Tim Miller

As I predicted, Quentin Tarantino’s twisted mixture of blood-soaked violence paired with warped, psychopathic humor and “ain’t I cool?” vibe has proliferated. The latest result is an R-rated, omnisexual, Marvel Comic Superhero with astounding powers of self-healing. This guy doesn’t think twice about escaping capture by sawing off his own hand with a Samurai sword since the hand will quickly regenerate itself. Aimed squarely at the adolescent male population who have recently passed the life marker of being 18-years-old, the real heroes in this film are the writers (if you have any doubts, the credits even tell you this). Carrying insider jokes to the max, the names of the screenwriters (who wrote Zombieland as well), aren’t listed because, of course, the “cool” guys in the audience already know who they are. The scenes of comic book action are well shot, but the majority of the movie is set on establishing the right “Attitude”—with a capital A. You know the type—the chip on your shoulder, couldn’t care less, guy who knows all the insider jokes, and spouts expletive-laced put downs about everything from the names Ikea gives its furniture to what it’s like to kiss guys, girls, and everything in between.

2 and 1/2 pieces of the expanding Marvel Universe toast 

Zoolander 2 (PG)

Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Farrell, Penelope Cruz, Kristen Wiig, Fred Armisen, Mila Javovich, Benedict Cumberbatch etc., etc., etc.

Directed By: Ben Stiller

This sequel appears to have been written by randomly scanning the names of Ben Stiller’s “closest friends” on a piece of paper and then scattering plotlets in between the names (a plotlet is a teeny-tiny bit of a plot). So if you are the type of person who buys a map promising to show you the homes of Hollywood stars, then this movie is perfect. For the rest of us, nothing seems to work. The freshness of the first film is gone and the Zoolander and Hansel characters are decades out of date—and not in a fond, remember when? way. The movie attempts to be “hip” by making fun of how dated these former fashion icons have become which only makes everything between the next cameo appearance feel creaky, and old and unfunny. The fact that Stiller directed himself only proves how difficult that is to do competently.

1 and 1/2 pieces of Ben Stiller grates like fingernails on a chalkboard toast

How to Be Single (R)

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Alison Brie, Rebel Wilson, Leslie Mann, Nicholas Braun

Directed By: Christian Ditter

Dakota Johnson plays a recent college grad who (instead of hooking up for sadistic sex with a billionaire), pals around with party-girl Rebel Wilson who teaches her the “live life to the max” philosophy of Manhattan singleness.Think of it as an updated Sex In the City at Christmastime, and you won’t be far wrong. The big difference is that that TV show had to stretch the one-night-stands to last over the months the series was broadcast. Without this logistical time constraint, the film tacks on a bar scene on St. Patrick’s Day to show the level of commitment the characters have to each other. Other than that, its just a meet someone, shack up, wake up, break up and start the cycle all over again with someone else.

2 and 1/2 pieces of highly fictionalized New York singlehood toast