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A Petaluma360 Blog

Cinema Toast

Gil Mansergh reviews new movies and videos

Bill Murray plays grumpy Walter Matthau type in St. Vincent

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Bill Murray is relaxing into old age playing a series of increasingly grumpy bachelors. In Theodore Melfi’s St. Vincent, he’s Vincent McKenna, living in a Brooklyn row house conveniently close to his bookie, his prostitute, his bar and the Belmont race track. Vincent’s life starts to change when a new, single-mom neighbor moves in next door with her 10-year-old son, Oliver. Due to a plot device, Vincent ends up babysitting Oliver, and he has him tag along while visiting the various dens of iniquity. Turns out, that as a Jewish kid, Oliver is having trouble fitting in at the Catholic school where his mother has enrolled him. You see, there’s all those saints to learn about, and the bullies on the schoolyard, and…. You get the drift. Not surprisingly, all this schmaltz takes a decidedly somber turn so Murray can adopt his earnest, “serious actor” face. So what if he keeps forgetting which accent he’s using or which leg has the limp, it’s Bill Murray! … Read More »

Rohmer’s A Summer’s Tale is best bet

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French filmmaker Eric Rohmer created this movie 22 years ago, but it is now in American theaters for the first time. It is a disarmingly simple tale of a young mathematics student on a beach vacation for the purpose of running into a girl who casually mentioned she may be headed that way. She is nowhere in sight, but the student/waitress is friendly, and she introduces her customer to a wildly sensual young woman—which is the moment the previously absent girl appears. It is a lyrical, poetic film, with no dialogue for long stretches broken up by casually intense conversations that may not lead anywhere. Rohmer once said he wanted to look at “thoughts rather than actions”, dealing “less with what people do than what is going on in their minds while they are doing it,” and that precisely defines A Summer’s Tale.… Read More »

Brosnan sells out, Iceland’s scenery is beautiful, and The One I Love is worth seeing.

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By appearing in this film, Pierce Brosnan has lost my respect as an actor (even more than his terrible singing in Mamma Mia). In November Man, the former James Bond plays an assassin brought out of retirement who shoots anyone who he thinks might be a threat(to him (or to the Russian defector he is trying to protect or to the street hot dog vendor—in short, anyone who comes into his line of vision). I use clips from James Bond films to show how women have become more and more victimized in movies over the past 50 years. No longer content to just show a gold-plated woman dead on a bed, in this film, director Roger Donaldson (and too many other filmmakers) include up-close-and-personal torture and rape scenes of unclothed female victims. Ugh!… Read More »

This Week is Aimed at Niche Audiences

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The gruesomely bloody stylized comic book of artful mayhem and madness in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, has prompted me to create a new warning acronym—WEP (Wear Ear Plugs). This is because the visuals of gouged out eyeballs and samurai sword decapitations are brutal enough, but the slurrshy, sliccy sound effects takes things over the top. Apparently created for a niche audience of nihilistic young men, the story is told in a series of chapter-like tales held together by the setting—a seedy, smoke-filled strip club. It’s been nine years since the first Sin City collaboration, and the technical aspects in this one are even better, but the blood-fueled story is decidedly not for everyone. NOTE: The MPAA has banned one poster for the film prominently featuring Eva Green’s breasts.… Read More »

The Giver is good, everything else is bleh!

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In the dystopian future of Lois Lowry’s mega-popular 1993 Newberry winning YA novel, The Giver, a teenagers’ position in society is determined by a Council of Elders. The book has millions of fans, and they should be pleased with the filmmakers’ reverence to the source material. Because he can see colors and other’s cannot, the young hero is chosen to be a Receiver of Memory. One of the perks that comes with this elite job, is getting to know a bearded, hermit-like wise man who shares what the world used to be like. The teens of this future, are saddled with the financial, social, scientific, political and environmental disasters created by greed, intransigence, and failed leadership. The parallels are obvious, and although it takes awhile, our teen hero does got to go on a physical quest as well as a metaphysical one.… Read More »

Dreary, less than Two pieces of Toast week

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I assume the filmmakers are trying to entrap an entirely new generation of fans for Nikelodeon’s quartet of carapaced mutants, but since the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cohort first appeared in 1984, aren’t they technically 40-something Mutant Ninja Turtles? No matter, the goal is raking in the box office dollars, and as a result, this TMNT is presented in 3-D (with what seems like 4-D sound levels). Every action scene is “larger-than-life,” and bombastic. But the film slows down to the speed of a non-mutant turtle in all the talking-heads sections. This is compounded by Megan Fox playing her female reporter role straight, as if trying to win an Oscar. Bad choice. Originally based upon the tabloid stories of turtle pets flushed down the New York sewers, this thing is a farce, and should be played that way. … Read More »

Linklater’s Boyhood, and Cahill’s I Origins are astounding in a great week for new movies

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Director Richard Linklater is famous for the “long tale.” His Before Sunrise trilogy followed the same couple for nearly two decades, and his Boyhood, charts another cast’s maturation over a dozen years. It opens with the young title character and his sister laying on the grass and staring off into space. Their divorced dad is chasing rainbows in far-away Alaska, and their now-single mom is left with all the real work. We go along for the ride as the family moves to Huston so mom can finish her degree, and her courtship and remarriage—not once, but twice. And through all this the boy and girl we first met all those years ago grow and develop and blossom into amazing human beings. Slow paced? Yes. Original? Decidedly Yes. Entertaining? Yes, in the casually-paced way of real life (even though it’s not).… Read More »

Philip Seymour Hoffman excellent in A Most Wanted Man, Zach Braff plays a Zach Braff-type in Wish I was Here

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A significant shift occurred in transforming John Le Carre’s novel, A Most Wanted Man, from the printed page to the screen. In the book, we know little about the young, super skinny, Chechen Muslim who suddenly appears on the streets of Hamburg, Germany. Tiny clues begin to emerge—he was smuggled to Germany by a circuitous route through various ports from Turkey to Scandinavia. He has the untainted certainty of a true believer. He is protected by an illegal immigrant family with their own fears of arrest and deportation, and he hires a female human rights attorney to guide his request for asylum through the system. In the film however, his furtive swim from the freighter, his guilt-fueled prowl through unfamiliar streets, and most especially, his saturnine face hidden inside a dark hoodie immediately makes the audience suspicious. The instantaneous labeling of this fellow as a “terrorist” by the Hamburg secret police only compounds the racial profiling. Philip Seymour Hoffman is exceptional (in what is reportedly his final starring role) playing the Anglo/German policeman, and the rest of the actors are at the the top of their form as well. Only problem is the one I mentioned at the start of this review. The guy in the book is a character who you learn about in bits and pieces—some accurate, some far from that. The book works better because of this ambiguity, and the film became more ordinary by short-cutting the characterization. … Read More »

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 »