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A Petaluma360 Blog

Cinema Toast

Gil Mansergh reviews new movies and videos

Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me is top notch. Le Weekend stinks

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In Le Weekend, A long-married and weary couple try to reignite the fires of youth by returning to their beloved Paris, only to find that penny-pinching boredom and recriminations are brought along with the luggage. The room is too cheap, the Parisians too French, their son is too needy (via cell phone) and everything seems destined to spiral into nothingness. Other critics will tell you to wait until Jeff Goldblum appears and perks everyone up, but with all the psychopathological destructiveness the audience has already had to witness, Goldblum’s appearance is too little too late.… Read More »

Noah is not the story we heard in Sunday School

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In Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, udiences learn that Methusela’s genetic heritage and snake-oil were instrumental motivators for an aging prophet named Noah to construct a boat/zoo crammed full with mating pairs of critters big and small. It is a desperate ecological rescue mission to repopulate the Earth when the water from the proverbial 40-days and 40-nights engulfs every other creature. We also learn that Biblical-era Canaan, was bothered by pesky, leather-armored warriors, Transformer-like, fallen angels, and teen-age lovers rebelling against their parents‘ traditions (and plumb-crazy pronouncements). At its core, the film remains a story of faith, trust, family and environmental awareness—it’s just hard to see this underneath all the special effects and computer-generated armies.… Read More »

The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Lunchbox and Muppets Most Wanted are great fun

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Director/screenwriter Wes Anderson may be the greatest living exponent of deadpan comedy. Think how Buster Keaton kept his unchanging expression even when buildings were crashing around his ears or trains were hurtling towards him at high speed. Now change that face to that of Bill Murray or Ralph Fiennes, and place it in a technicolor setting filed with improbable oddities, and you have The Grand Budapest Hotel. The plot device is the theft of a priceless Renaissance painting, the setting, a lavish hotel in the grand, old style with bellboys, elevator operators, a concierge par-excellence, and mustaches that are lavish. However, since this is Wes Anderson, underneath all the frenetic activity, ominous forces are at work.… Read More »

Girls in the Band is toe-tapping entertainment

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Anyone whos has watched Some Like It Hot knows about all-girl jazz bands (even if Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon are guys). In the 30’s and 40’s, jazz was a man’s world, and Judy Chaikin’s great documentary, The Girls In the Band, looks back at the talented females battling sexism with panache. Narrated by some of the surviving “girls” themselves, and filled with beautifully edited, black and white film clips from the era, this is how docs should be made—informative, vivid, alive, not shying away from controversy, and filled with toe-tapping music. Cool!… Read More »

Mr. Peabody and Sherman stars 7-year-old girl bully

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The biggest mistake in Mr. Peabody and Sherman, was to have seven-year-old Penny be such a bigoted bully. If there is any doubt about this, in the lunchroom scene, she becomes an evil bully on steroids —selecting Sherman as her victim, then throwing his tuna sandwich on the floor and taunting him to fetch it “like the dog that you are.”

The press notes explain that Penny has been added to the movie as “a character girls can identify with.” I guess this means they want girls to bond with a narcissistic, canine-phobic, bully. This “role model” goes on to trick Sherman into disobeying his father by showing her the wayback machine, and then can’t wait to become a child bride to a doomed King Tut.… Read More »

Mr. Peabody and Sherman is amusing, Stranger By the Lake is murderous

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Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

Films Opening 3/07/14

 

Mr. Peabody and Sherman (R)

Starring the voices of: Tye Burrell, Max Charles, Patrick Warburton, Stephen Colbert, Alison Janney, Mel Brooks, Stanley Tucci, Leslie Mann, Lake Bell

Directed by: Rob Minkoff

Those of you who have been lucky enough to catch episodes of Jay Ward’s Rocky & Bullwinkle TV shows, already know that Mr. Peabody is a beagle who, in addition to being the smartest being on the planet, holds a Nobel Prize, two Olympic medals, and invented a time machine to help his adopted human son, Sherman, do better in his history lessons. This 3-D update has added a girl named Penny as Sherman’s classmate (and open up the viewing demographic by at least 51%), while the various items falling out of the rear end of the Trojan horse and the Egyptian Sphinx should amuse the boys in the audience. I heard a few comments from others that the voices of Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell)  and Sherman (Max Charles) are dry, and low key, but the original voices (Bill Scott and Walter Tetley) were done in the same style—adding a whimsical “zing” to the horrible pun which close each episode. It’s fine family fare, with only a few liberties taken with historical accuracy, and the voices of the larger-than-life figures like King Agememnon (Patrick Warburton), Leonardo deVinci (Stanley Tucci) and Albert Einstein (Mel Brooks), are over-the top funny.

3 and 1/2 pieces of enjoy this blast from the past toast 

 

Like Father, Like Son (NR)

Starring: Mashaharu Fukuyama, Ono Machiko, Keita Ninomiya

Directed by: Hirokazu Koreeda

We’ve seen the news stories about children accidentally switched at birth, and sent home with the “wrong” parents. Now imagine that your son is six-years-old when you hear of this mistake. One set of affluent parents has raised their child to be a success-focused high achiever sure to go to the best schools and career. The other family lives modestly but with boisterous humor and joy.  The parents struggle with what will be best for their sons—leave them as they are with the only parents they have known, or switch them back and immerse them in a dynamically different family ethic. The story is elegantly and movingly told reminding us that Japanese sensibilities may not be as different from ours as we thought.

3 pieces of moral dilemma toast

 

Tim’s Vermeer (NR)

Starring: Penn Gillette, Tim Jenison

Directed by: Raymond Joseph Teller

Inventor Tim Jenison has a theory about how the master Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer managed to include such light-infused detail into his works.  Jenison convinces his famous magician friends to create a documentary about his search for a scientific answer to this puzzle—one as the onscreen interviewer, the other behind the camera. The trio spend 1,825 days on the project, and create an ersatz Vermeer masterpiece in the process. Inevitably, parts of the documentary are like watching paint dry, but the personalities, the unexpected failures and the eventual successes make the trip worthwhile.

3 pieces of what makes a painting a masterpiece? toast 

 

300: Rise of an Empire (R)

Starring: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, David Wenham

Directed by: Noam Munro

I reveled in the technical wizardry, excellent acting, elegant word play and marvelous direction of the original 300, but although the blue-screen, CG technology has ben refined since then, the actors, words, and direction of this sequel are sometimes laughable in how far they miss the mark.

2 pieces of may have doomed the franchise toast

 

Stranger By the Lake (NR)

Starring: Pierre Deladonchamps, Patrick D’Assumcao, Cjristophe Pauou

Directed by: Alaine Guiraudie

This French murder mystery is filled with explicit nudity and scenes of casual, gay sex on a lakeside beach. Although the participants leave each evening, the camera never does, as we watch the parking lot slowly fill up, the men taking their carefully choreographed forays nearer or farther from potential partners, and the single-time or longer term pairings being made. One particular skinny dip changes everything, as the audience realizes the horseplay in the middle of the lake has turned into something deadly when only one man leaves the water. It is several days before those on the shore learn what has happened—and what it means to them personally.

3 pieces of cruising at a gay, nude beach toast

 

NEW DVD RELEASES

12 Years a Slave (R)

Starring: Chiwetel Eljifor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lupita Nyong’o

Directed by: Steve McQueen

You can’t watch director Steve McQueen’s Best Picture Oscar winner12 Years a Slave without feeling strong emotions.  Chiwetel Eljifor  plays a free-born New Yorker in the 1800s who is “legally” put in chains and sent to work at a New Orleans plantation. He ends up being owned by a sadistic master (Michael Fassbender), who lusts after one of the young cotton pickers (Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o). The immediacy of the situations, the gut-wrenching injustice of enslaving other human beings, and the complexities of emotions of everyone involved is masterfully presented.
4 pieces of  astounding, gut-wrenching toast 
 
 

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (PG-13)

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks

Directed by: Francis Lawrence

President Snow orders a decidedly different Hunger Game to eliminate the rebellious threat posed by Katnis Everdeen’s celebrity-status popularity—a game where our favorite bow-and-arrow weilding Amazon competes in a battle to the death with other recent “winners.” 1/3 fashion show, 1/3 poli-sci  lesson, 1/3 a playbook of media manipulation, the eventual battles on a jungle island look remarkably like a kill-or-be-killed version of TV’s Survivor.  In the end, it’a all a set-up for the finale (which will be divided into two movies for even more box office bucks).

3 pieces of more precise and manipulative (both onscreen and off) than the original toast 

 

Grandmaster (PG-13)

Starring: Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi, Zhang Jin, Chang Chen

Directed By: Wong Kar Wai

If you know who Bruce Lee was, you may know that he learned his martial arts techniques from the legendary Grandmaster, Yip Man (aka Ip Man).  This is an artfully told biography of Yip Man’s resolution of the centuries-old battle between the martial arts style of Northern China and Southern China. A bit of feminism is thrown in when the Grandmaster of the North is forced by chauvinist traditions to pass his mantle to a hot-headed male instead of a much better fighter who happens to be the Grandmaster’s own daughter. Beautifully shot with some truly astounding scenes of power, skill and finesse, my only criticism is the skip-over of the historical excesses of China’s Cultural Revolution.

3  pieces of spade, pin, and sheath hand positions toast

The Square astounds, Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises confounds

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It would be interesting to look back in fifty years and see if the so-called “Arab Spring” has any lasting effects. Jehane Noujaime’s superb documentary, The Square, chronicles the revolutionary events that occurred in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in the Spring of 2011. Shockingly real, and visceral, this doc was shot on the streets in the middle of the emotional fervor, murderous reprisals, and clear-eyed determination of the actual participants. It is their faces, their voices, their blood we see—and feel.… Read More »

Gloria explores mature sexuality

Chilean-born actress Paulina Garcia won Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival for playing the title role in Gloria. The story is about a drab 58-year-old divorcee decides to live life over after she meets an amusement park owner at a seniors dance. Their time together is passionate, intensely sexual and not without a taste of reality as each person’s obligations to their families begins to intrude. … Read More »

Vampire Academy and The Past are good in a week cluttered with remakes

It certainly can’t hurt that one of the stars of Vampire Academy is from TV’s mega-hit comedy, Modern Family—especially when ads for the movie are shown during the TV show. If you imagine that the undead from Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s high school attend a creepy private academy modeled on Harry Potter’s Hogwarts, and add a bit of Mean Girls snarkiness and Twilight cross-species romance, you’ve got the idea. Played and directed with a sense of humor and lightness, this is the first of several proposed films in the series based on Richelle Mead’s bestselling books.… Read More »

The Lego Movie is good, Monuments Men disappoints

I was just at the big Lego store outside Disneyland, and was amazed what creative minds can do with “children’s” building blocks (and astounded by the prices like $400 for an out-of-stock Simpsons house and $800 for a Star Wars space ship). Relegated to bit parts in other films (Time Bandits, Toy Story, etc.), in The Lego Movie, the little bits of plastic finally get a chance to be movie stars. Animated with a Looney Tunes sensibility by the folks who did the first Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, those multi-colored, molded plastic, toy bricks come to life in a a fun-filled romp. All the classic fairy tale ingredients are included (blind wizard, unlikely hero, female ninja, evil villain, dastardly henchmen, etc.) but imaginations run wild as both plastic bricks and storyline are assembled and re-assembled in countless different realities. … Read More »