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A Petaluma360 Blog

Cinema Toast

Gil Mansergh reviews new movies and videos

With nothing above 1/2 piece of toast, this is the worst week since Cinema Toast began

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Since the filmmakers recycle their movie plots, I can do the same with this review. Here’s what I wrote for my 1-piece-of-toast review for the original Planes: “The folks at Pixar/Disney have been lured by the “dark side” into churning out mediocre animated fare for the sole purpose of merchandising toy tie-ins… It has the feel of an assembly-line project slated for airing on the Disney Channel, but they are charging theater prices. Ditto to all the above for the mega-studio’s Planes: Fire and Rescue. The only difference is that our hero now strives to become a firefighter, but only after he burns down his own airfield by accident. Yes, you read that plot device correctly. Seems just wanting to protect forests and homes isn’t enough motivation. John Lassiter, you are a disappointment in your Hollywood gig. … Read More »

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes boffo, Roger Ebert bio Life Itself moving

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Perhaps you didn’t know that when Caesar, the former laboratory ape, escaped across the Golden Gate Bridge with some of his fellow primates, they set up house in beautiful Muir Woods. In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, we learn that the apes developed language and social structures, capture and ride horses, shoot rifles, and and create a Golden Rule: “Ape not kill ape.” Many will view the standoff between the oppressed primates (pick yourself a side for which is the more oppressed), as an allegorical treatise on conflict past and present, but I suggest you disregard the predictable plot points, and revel in the marvels of motion capture technology as the apes swing through the branches of the towering redwoods in one our North Bay wonderlands.… Read More »

Satirical sci-fi train flick Snowpiercer best bet

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17-years-ago, global warming catapulted the Earth into a frozen wasteland. In the satirical sci-fii film Snowpiercer, the only survivors exist in a hermetically sealed fusion-powered train that (like a shark), must keep moving or die. The first class passengers are the elite onepercenters who had the money and connections to procure a comfortable space onboard. The “tail-enders” are the unwashed proletariat surviving on the trickle-down largesse of their Fascistic “betters.” They are on the train essentially by accident, but also because the ones in front need to periodically replenish their ranks of servants and objects of hedonistic excesses. When some minions from The Front head back to take measurements on Tail-Ender children and select two to “upgrade,” a revolt begins. But this is only the latest in a series of takeover attempts, and The Front’s thugs have developed bloodier and bloodiest defenses.… Read More »

Josef Mengele in Argentina tale The German Doctor is creepy

Before seeing Lucia Puenzo’s The German Doctor, it is important to understand that the notorious Nazi physician Josef Mengele performed medical experiments in Auschwitz concentration camp on live subjects. His unscientific “experiments” focused on twins, dwarfs, and people who have two different-colored eyes. His stated goal was to “better understand heredity,” and possibly transform people into the “Aryan ideal.” Almost all of his subjects died, either from the experiment, or, in the case of twins, were killed to perform comparative autopsies with their siblings. Surviving eyewitnesses describe Mengele as being “kindly” toward his young subjects, offering them candy and small gifts before they became human guinea pigs. This same man escaped to Argentina after WWII, and this fictionalized story provides one possibility of how he evaded capture and befriended the short-statured, 12-year-old daughter of his landlords. Presented from the point-of-view of the girl, the story is creepy to say the least.… Read More »

Dreary week with nothing above 2 pieces of toast

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I am doubly disappointed whenever I look forward to a film that ends up being a bomb. Make that “quintettely” disappointed for The Jersey Boys. The quintette is Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and the story of the Italian American singer “with a voice like Sinatra’s” became a smash hit on Broadway (and San Francisco). The film makes you wonder how this could have happened—not how Frankie Valli et al became famous, but how their story would win a Tony. The overly familiar refrain, (kids from working class backgrounds make it big and then fight among each other over the fame), seems dull, and the songs, (Walk Like a Man, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Sheree, Oh, What a Night, etc.), fall flat. I put the blame squarely on the shoulders of director Clint Eastwood.… Read More »

22 Jump Street avoids sequel trap but How to Train Your Dragon 2 doesn’t

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It is doubtful that when threatened by a “madman without any conscience or pity” that any of my Viking ancestors ever said “Let’s go find him and change his mind,” but that is exactly what the now one-legged Hiccup says in How to Train Your Dragon 2. There’s lots of great animation, lots of dragons acting like puppies and other familiar pets, lots of sight-gags, and lots of missed opportunities for one liners. The result is entertaining enough, but perhaps a little too heavy on the “can’t we all just get along even if we are differently-abled?” morality message.… Read More »

Tom Cruise dies over and over in sci-fi flick Edge of Tomorrow

Although the Edge of Tomorrow sounds like it should be a TV soap opera, it offers something much better—Tom Cruise dying a million ways. (Well, not that many, but I just hadda write it that way ‘cause, ya-know…). Think of Cruise as Wile E. Coyote in a futuristic war version of Groundhog Day. Since the film was released on the 50th anniversary of D-Day, the future space alien invasion has bogged down on the Normandy coast where Cruise and his fellow exoskeleton wearing comrades must storm the beaches. But over and over again, Cruise’s character is swallowed up by an ink-blot-like baddie and dies. Somehow, he must learn to fight better to survive. Improbable? Think of this as a video game where the gamer learns which dead end alleys, fire swamps, and gator filled streams to avoid the next time they play the game. … Read More »

Maleficent not Magnificent, A Million Ways to Die In the West not that funny

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Maleficent is the latest of Disney’s animated films to be rebooted using live actors instead of pixels. This time, it is the back story of the villainess who cast the spell on Sleeping Beauty back in 1959. In the same mode of Broadway’s Wicked, (and even the recent Disney film, Frozen) an historically “evil”, “bad,” “wicked,” or “icy” queen, princess, witch or fairy, has been misunderstood by generations, and is really a sweet little girl who wants to be loved. Angelina Jolie has a fine time playing Maleficent as Lara Croft, but the characters around her are cartoonish in their simplicity. Princess Aurora is cloyingly sweet, the love interest, Stefan seems to only have one note (love-struck when young, angry when he’s a grown up), and compared to the immaculately coifed, dressed to the nines, tongue-in-her-cheek Angelina Jolie, the others are quite boring.… Read More »

X-Men: Days of Future Past, Chef, The Immigrant and Palo Alto are all good

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In X-Men: Days of Future Past, the ostensible reason our favorite mutants are sent back from a Terminator-style future to the 1970‘s disco-era is to stop a short-statured mad scientist from inventing the killer robots in the first place. The real reason however, is that some of the actors playing the X-Men are getting a tad old for this kind of whiz-bang action adventure, and this allows other, more agile beings, to be cast as their younger selves. It’s handled with aplomb, and sly wit and some of the special effects are worth the price of admission all by themselves. In fact, this is one movie where the extra cost for 3-D is worth it.… Read More »

Godzilla is back, Belle looks at 18th Century England through different eyes

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In the new Godzilla, Bryan Cranston plays the nuclear plant manager who first notices the seismic anomalies that will eventually fry Tokyo. He spends the next fifteen years tying to unmask “the coverup conspiracy.” Flash forward a generation, and the arrival of Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms (MUTO) bent on destroying photogenic cities like San Francisco. Problem is, when Godzilla eventually arrives, I for one, missed the Japanese guy wearing lizard trousers kicking his way through an obvious model of downtown Tokyo. Instead, we have a typical Hollywood blockbuster ending with a Godzillion pyrotechnical effects while trampling on any feelings of empathy we may have developed with certain characters.… Read More »