Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
New Releases For the Week of 3/10/17
Kong: Skull Island (PG-13)
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly, Tian Jing, Thomas Mann, Corey Hawkins
Director: Jordan Vogt Roberts
Mixing iconic images from both Jurassic Park and Apocalypse Now, in Kong: Skull Island, helicopters with teams of soldiers, scientists and journalists onboard fly towards a lush jungle island. Suddenly, an immense ape reaches up and swats the whirlybirds out of the sky and we are thrust into King Kong. The filmmakers and FX artists dutifully provide all of the giant ape tropes from Merian C. Cooper’s 1933 original: blond beauty bonds with hairy beast; cold-blooded dinosaurs battle warm-blooded primate; scientists and photographers continue recording facts and data in the face of certain death; etc. etc.. And then there are the homages to Francis Ford Coppola’s take on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness with the aforementioned helicopter arrival, soldiers silhouetted against a bright orange sunset, and a shell-shocked Army Colonel who goes ape himself when confronted with an unbeatable enemy. Despite the fact that there are enough characters to sink this tiny little island, this is an impressive piece of popcorn entertainment—made even better if you recognize the dozens of film references scattered throughout.
3 and 1/2 pieces of Willis O’Brien would approve toast
Starring: Adam Driver, Glosshifteh Farahani, Barry Shabka Henley, Method Man
Directed by: Jim Jarmusch
Indie favorite Jim Jarmusch simply shows us the singular life of a Paterson, N.J. busdriver named Paterson who likes to eavesdrop on his passengers’ conversations when he isn’t composing poems in his head. His loving wife’s days are marked by shapes and patterns and brief, but all-encompassing fads—cupcakes and polka dots one day, country music and stripes the next. She believes her husband is a great poet but that he lacks “drive.” He supports his wife and her passing fancies, and counters that “driving” is his life’s work, and doesn’t feel the need to for a brass plaque set in some sidewalk. He is content to honor his hometown by recalling the accomplishments of its other native sons like poet Allan Ginsberg, comedian Lou Costello and boxer Hurricane Carter. With the possible exception of Marvin the bulldog, Paterson avoids Jarmusch’s trade-mark absurdist humor to present a sincere and lyrical tale of two oddballs supporting each’s dreams with love and affection.
3 and 1/2 pieces of tenderness and love toast
My Life as a Zucchini (PG-13)
Starring: Nick Offerman, Will Forte, Ellen Page. Amy Sedaris,
Directors: Claude Barras
When the list of nominated animated features was announced at the Oscars ceremony, I doubt many people had seen or heard of Claude Barras’ stop-motion film, Zucchini. You should make time to rectify this error. The name of the 10-year-old orphan boy in the title has been changed from it’s original French (Courgette), and English speaking voices have been added, but otherwise, it’s the same poignant Swiss story. Suddenly orphaned by an accident on the attic stairs, the big-headed, blue-haired lad is befriended by policeman who kindly takes him to an orphanage. Five other children have been abandoned by their drunk or drug using, abusive or molesting, thieving or murdering parents. The kids form their own family unit that supports each other in the “we can solve this by working together,” mode. Drawing strength from the group, the individual children move forward from the tragic events that shaped their early lives, to face the world in a life-affirming, positive and quite charming manner.
3 and 1/2 pieces of delightful but dark tale loaded with childhood “triggers” toast
Starring: The feral cats of Istanbul
Director: Ceydia Torun
Homeless cats have owned the streets of Istanbul for centuries, and to to the doumentarian who was born here, they are as omnipresent as the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya and the Topkapi Palace. Ceydia Torun’s task was simple yet mind-boggling. Capture on film the daily life of numerous felines involved in their daily rituals as they not only survive, but flourish in this ancient cityscape. The result is a workman-like, Animal Plant-style film that utilizes GPS and modern mini-cams to spy on various cats. The resulting scenes are mildly interesting, but with millions of Facebook posts featuring cats and their behaviors, these feline personalities all seem to coalesce into an overwhelming feeling of “haven’t we already seen this?”
2 pieces of mildly interesting toast
The Ottoman Lieutenant (R)
Starring: Hera Hilmar, Michiel Huisman, Josh Hartnett, Ben Kingsley
Directors: Joseph Ruben
Relying on the sound and fury from battles fought during the the fall of the Ottoman Empire (AKA the Armenian genocide), this melodrama focuses on an American nurse (with an Icelandic accent no less), who ignores everyone else’s advice and travels to Turkey to tend to the injured around the start of WW1. A love triangle forms between the nurse, her Muslim military escort and the American doctor who seems to have been yanked directly from the “dull-hero” mold of the early Disney movies. With little historical reference, the biggest improbability is the nod to 2017 sensibilities when the Muslim lieutenant reveals he doesn’t enjoy slaughtering these “poor, misguided” Armenians, but must follow orders and does so anyway.
2 pieces of melodrama instead of historical drama toast