Friday, December 26, 2008

Week of December 26 thru January 1 (Mann)

What’s On At The Tropic
By Phil Mann

The Big News at the Tropic this week is VALKYRIE, the new true story about a plot to kill Hitler featuring Tom Cruise. This movie seems to have been developed by the same team that made the B1 stealth bomber. It has become so ordinary for movies to circulate at festivals and be promoted with press screening and previews that we are accustomed to trolling the internet for reviews before setting off to the theater. But not for Valkyrie. There have been very few pre-release screenings, and even those pre-viewers have been asked to hold back on publishing full reviews. The film has been shipped to the Tropic in locked containers, with a secret combination that won’t be revealed until the last minute.

Why? The movie has a lot going for it. In addition to Cruise, director Bryan Singer of X-Men and Superman Returns fame, and the rest of the cast is a A-list of British actors like Tom Wilkinson. So why the secrecy? Cynics say it’s because the distributor wants to catch an audience with an advertising blitz before the real word gets out. But I’ve now learned enough about the movie that I can say with assurance that it’s going to be popular in its own right. There are naysayers who complain that the movie doesn’t have enough character development or adequately explore the moral dimension of the assassination plot. It’s “only a great thriller,” they say. Well…. okay, I’ll take that Christmas present.

It’s not easy to build suspense when everyone knows the ending. But the intrigue of how the plotters found each other, how they planned to do it, and what eventually happened, keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. You can get your own seat-edge at 416 Eaton St. The Tropic got the secret combination in time to open Valkyrie on Christmas Day, and it’ll be running all week.

Meanwhile, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, continues its buffo run. There’s plenty of suspense in this one, too, as Jamal Malik, an orphaned Mumbai street-urchin vies to win $20 million rupees in an Indian TV quiz show. Here, too, we have a master director, Danny Boyle (Trainspotting), who knows how to build a story, to weave in action (even car chases), and also to create a character we can’t help but love. Frank Rich in the New York Times calls it “the perfect fairy tale for our hard times.”

Of course, you’ve got kids home over Christmas, so you’re looking for some child-friendly entertainment. Slumdog won’t do, because it’s got some nasty stuff and an R rating. Valkyrie, rated PG-13, would be a good bet for older kids, with a little history lesson as a bonus. But for the youngsters, there’s a special animated treat, AZUR AND ASMAR: THE PRINCES’ QUEST. This “impossibly gorgeous medieval fairytale adventure” ( and “dazzling feast of eye-popping animation” ( is a quest adventure story, as two childhood friends (one rich and one poor) seek to find and free a captive princess. Time for the little folk to find out there’s more to animation than Disney! Azur and Asmar runs at matinee times all week. And of course on Saturday the regular series of free kids movies shows at 12:30.

Need some entertainment for really old kids? How about Vannessa Redgrave in HOW ABOUT YOU? Ms. Redgrave and a couple of her peers are the naughty ones in a British “residential home” who teach their young caregiver a few things. You know, a toke or two is all it takes.

Happy Holidays! Here’s to a great 2009!

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[from Key West, the Newspaper -]

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