Friday, May 29, 2009

Week of May 29 to June 4 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
By Phil Mann

Key West is a baseball hotbed. So is the Dominican Republic. So all you baseball fans will appreciate SUGAR, the story of a 19-year-old Dominican pitcher who is discovered by scouts and shipped off to Iowa for a run in the American minor leagues. SUGAR (the nickname of the lead character) is part baseball movie (“best baseball movie ever” and part human-interest look at the struggles of a youth in a foreign land (”authentic inside view of the immigrant experience” – Entertainment Weekly), but overall a great movie (“A film of rare intelligence, beauty and compassion.” Washington Post).

It’s another of those movies that you can see only at a theater like the Tropic. No stars, no hype, no full-page ads in all the newspapers, or television commercials. Just a great film. The writer-directors are Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, whose last effort, Half Nelson featuring Ryan Gosling as an inner-city schoolteacher, got an Oscar nomination and a half-dozen Independent Spirit nominations. They’re a team to watch.

Backing Sugar up, with a bit more star power, is LYMELIFE. Lyme disease is messing up lives in a suburban Long Island community, and Scott Bartlett (Rory Culkin) is a 15-year-old who has to deal with it, along with an unrequited love, a disaffected older brother who’s running away to the Army (Kieran Culkin), and a philandering father (Alec Baldwin) who’s screwing the mother (Cynthia Nixon) of Scott’s wanna-be girlfriend. Roger Ebert calls it “a tender, sometimes painful, sometimes blackly comic, story.”

Foreign-movie fans will love LEMON TREE, an Israeli film that captures one of those sad human dramas that lurks behind the political and military news that takes over the front pages. A Palestinian widow finds her lemon tree grove threatened when the Israeli Defense Minister moves in next door and wants to cut it down. (He thinks it will provide cover for terrorists.) But she fights back, with the unexpected support of the minister’s wife. Based on a true story, the New York Times calls it “a wrenching, richly layered feminist allegory, as well as a geopolitical one.”

If all this rare intelligence, tender and painful drama and richly layered allegory are too much for you, the Tropic has an alternative, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERVINE. See this prequel to the X-Men movies and find out how Wolverine got his healing powers and his retractable claws. See mutants, old and new. See Hugh Jackman’s muscles. See CGI, lots and lots of CGI!

The Saturday matinee revival program this week features Gregory Peck as a wounded hunter, and Ava Gardner and Susan Hayward as his lovers in Hemingway’s THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO (1952), and the Hitchcock in hi def movie TORN CURTAIN (1966) with Paul Newman and Julie Andrews as innocents drawn into a cold-war spy thriller.

The Monday night classic is THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER a retelling of the Faust legend set in 19th century New Hampshire. When Jabez Stone, the farmer who made the pact with the devil, finds his time is up, he hires the great lawyer Daniel Webster to save him, and a trial ensues with such luminaries as Benedict Arnold on the jury. In other words, it’s a uniquely American spin on the legend.

Save the date! Coming on June 26 at the Tropic, the MAMA-MIA Sing-A-Long. Full wedding dress optional!

Full info and schedules at
Comments, please, to

[from Key West, the newpaper]

Lymelife (Rhoades)

“Lymelife” Recalls Dysfunctional Family Life

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Sorry to tell you, but “Lymelife” is not about Key Lime pies.

Instead it’s about dysfunctional families on Long Island, NY, amidst an outbreak of Lyme Disease in the late ’70s.

The script was co-written by brothers Derick and Steven Martini, based on their memories of growing up in a suburban community just outside NYC. Derick also directed the film, while Steven composed the music and performed it with his band. A family affair.

I suppose one should use the term “family affair” cautiously, because the two families portrayed in this tragic, funny, and sad Valentine are beset by anger, illness, and infidelity.

Seen through the eyes of 15-year-old Scott (Rory Culkin, younger brother of “Home Alone” star Macaulay Culkin), we meet his parents (Alec Baldwin and Jill Hennessy), his older brother (real-life sib Kierin Culkin), and the neighbors. He has a thing for the girl next door (Emma Roberts), whose mother (Cynthia Nixon) is having a not-so-secret affair and whose father (Timothy Hutton) is battling Lyme Disease.

Scott’s workaholic dad and uptight mom are contemplating divorce, his combative older brother is home on leave from the war, and the girl next door seems to be interested in Scott after all those years of unresponsive proximity.

Yes, life is complex for young Scott … as it is for just about every teenage boy who has faced the crumbling American Dream.

The Martini brother makes cameo appearances à la Hitchcock – Derick as a photographer and Steven as a taxi driver.

“Lymelife” is told with raw emotion, as if the Martini brothers spent their family inheritance on a movie to help them exorcize the demons of growing up … rather than paying for years of therapy.
[from Solares Hill]

Lemon Tree (Rhoades)

“Lemon Tree” Reflects Division in Middle East

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

“Lemon Tree” – a new film playing at the Tropic Cinema – ends with a rendition of that old song: “Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.”

However, the story might best be described as bittersweet. As one of the characters observes, “It appears that only American movies have a happy ending.”

Based on true events, this sub-titled film could’ve been called the War of the Lemons, for it tells us about a conflict of wills between a modest Palestinian woman and the Israeli Minister of Defense over lemons.

Seems the Defense Minister (played with steely determination by Doron Tavory) has built a lovely home near the West Bank border, with only a lemon grove separating him from his Arab neighbor, a widow named Salma Zidane (the part performed with great resolve by Hiam Abbass).

Salma reveres the lemon grove, planted by her father and nurtured by her late husband. But to the Minister it’s merely a security risk, trees that might allow Palestinian snipers to sneak close enough to the Minister’s house for a shot at him.

When chain-link fences go up, and the Palestinian woman can no longer tend her lemon trees, she hires a lawyer (Ali Saliman) to take the matter before the Israeli Supreme Court.
The situation triggers international publicity, the kind that has the Israeli Prime Minister hopping mad and makes the Minister of Defense all the more determined to chop down the trees.

Standing in the middle, as figuratively as the trees themselves, is the Defense Minister’s sad wife (Rona Lipaz-Michael). Trapped both in her new home and a passionless marriage, she seems to empathize with her beleaguered neighbor.

As the Minister is about to learn, you can win a battle and lose a war.

Although “Lemon Tree” (“Etz Limon” in Hebrew) met with lukewarm reviews in Israel, Hiam Abbass won the Israeli Film Academy’s Best Actress award for this film

Directed and co-written by Eran Riklis (The Syrian Bride, Cup Final), “Lemon Tree” is an allegory for the deadlock between Israel and Palestine. The message is simplistic: Despite people’s differences, things might turn out better if they could just talk to each other.
[from Solares Hill]

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Week of May 22-May 28 (Mann)

What's on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

What a busy week. Three new feature films, plus a smorgasbord of classics.

My favorite, because it's so close-to-home and yet other worldly, is TOKYO SONATA. A Japanese  executive loses his substantial job because it's cheaper for his boss to hire foreign workers. He's too ashamed to admit it to his wife, so he continues to go off to work every day, finding other work as a janitor. His wife finds out, but keeps the secret to hold the family together. Meanwhile his two sons are rebelling, with one sneaking off to piano lessons and the other trying to join the American army to fight in Iraq. It's serious, but it's comic, too, and ultimately uplifting. calls it “a work of tremendous passion, daring and delicacy,” while the Chicago Tribune says it's “a beautifully controlled oddball of a picture,” and the Boston Globe compares it to a David Lynch “farcical dystopia.” Now that's an interesting movie! It was a hit at last year's New York Film Festival.

IS ANYBODY THERE? is also about a man who has lost his way, but in a more ordinary context. Michael Caine is the Amazing Clarence, a magician whose skills have gone stale. He has moved into a retirement home, where he bonds with the owner's ten-year-old son and passes on his tricks, as his own life slips away. This one is also darkly comic, and a terrific vehicle for Sir Michael to demonstrate why we all love him. As Rolling Stone puts it: “Blending humor and heartbreak in a performance that makes a small movie a richly satisfying one, Caine truly is magic.” Yet, it's been much reported in the press that his wife cried when she saw the movie, probably because she saw where the future might be taking him (and all of us).

Maybe the Tropic's theme for this week is “men who have lost their way.” In THE SOLOIST Jamie Foxx is Nathaniel Ayers, a street musician whose skills are intact, but whose mind isn't. Robert Downey, Jr. plays L.A. Times reporter Steve Lopez in this true story of a journalist's attempt to go beyond the story to become his subject's keeper. It is “a moving tribute to friendship and the power of music” says USA Today.

 These three movies, along with the continuing run of Disney's EARTH, will be showing every day.

 Added to that are the Special Events classics. If you want to escape the heat (or rain) on Saturday afternoon, you can catch the slapstick comedy MY FAVORITE BRUNETTE with Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour and Peter Lorre. or the deadly serious Hitchcock thriller REAR WINDOW with James Stewart and Grace Kelly. The Monday Night Classic, presented by Mary Sparaccio of local Paradise TV is PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK from Aussie director Peter Weir. This movie about the mysterious disappearance of several school girls on a summer excursion in 1900 is fraught with sinister Stephen-King-like undertones, and gained fame as Australia's “first international hit” when released in 1975. Perhaps it's because Vincent Canby in the New York Times called it “both spooky and sexy.”

Full info and schedules at
Comments, please, to
(from Key West, the newpaper -

Rear Window (Rhoades)

 Hitchcock Hi-Def Offers Audiences a New View

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

 Peggy Dow (mother of the Tropic Cinema’s new executive director Matthew Helmerich) likes to tell about her days as a Hollywood actress working with James Stewart in “Harvey.”

“Jimmy was just magical,” she recalls. “My heart didn’t stop racing until the movie was over. He was so generous with young actresses and actors. And he was so funny. He’d challenge us to kiss our elbow or touch our tongue to our nose – he could! He was a scream. He kept all of us upbeat.”

Jimmy Steward was a very versatile actor. He could be a befuddled guy who saw giant rabbits. A sharp lawyer defending a criminal in “Anatomy of a Murder.” A trombone-playing bandleader in “The Glenn Miller Story.” A buffoon in screwball comedies like “Pot o’ Gold.” A tough cowpoke in “The Naked Spur.” Or an honest man struggling with his faith in others in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

This is the same actor that Alfred Hitchcock cast in four of his suspense thrillers: “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” “Rope,” “Vertigo,” and “Rear Window.” Hitch knew that Stewart was an Everyman, an ordinary guy that audiences could identify with.

That empathy heightened the suspense, made the threats seem all the more real and personal.

You can see Jimmy Stewart in “Rear Window” next Saturday at the Tropic Cinema. However, this is a Hitchcock movie as you’ve never seen it before – shown for the first time on the big screen in high definition.

It’s one of 8 Hitchcock classics released under the rubric of “Hi-Def Hitch.” There are more coming to the Tropic on following Saturdays.

“Rear Window” (1954) was Hitch at his voyeuristic best. A photographer (Stewart) is laid up with a broken leg, and having nothing better to do watches the comings and goings of his neighbors across a courtyard. To the dismay of his socialite girlfriend (Grace Kelly) he witnesses what may have been a murder.

American Film Institute ranked “Rear Window” #3 of all-time great movies of the mystery genre.

The film was based on a short story by Cornell Woolrich titled “Murder from a Fixed Viewpoint.” The original had no love story and no additional neighbors for the photographer to spy on. These elements were created by Hitchcock and screenwriter John Michael Hayes.

Stewart and Kelly’s characters were said to be based on the real-life love affair of photographer Robert Capra and actress Ingrid Bergman. Others claim Hayes based Kelly’s character on his own wife who was a famous fashion model. Hitchcock said the character was based on Kelly herself.

Much has been written about Hitchcock’s dark psyche and his fetish attraction for “icy blondes.” Hitchcock said, “Blondes make the best victims. They’re like virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints.”

Blonde Grace Kelly appeared in three Hitchcock films: “Rear Window,” “Dial M for Murder,” and “To Catch a Thief” (where she met her future husband, Prince Rainier of Monaco).

Hitchcock enjoyed pushing the boundaries of what the censors would allow on screen. He frequently used sexual innuendo and imagery in his films. In “Rear Window” we see the newly married woman wearing a flesh-colored bodice; and Hitchcock originally wanted Miss Torso to be topless in one of her scenes.

Another common Hitchcock theme was male impotence. We see that in “Rear Window” in terms of the photographer being confined to a wheelchair.

Hitchcock’s films starring Jimmy Stewart tended to go deeper into “the psyche of human inefficiencies.” The clash of these disturbing qualities with the expected image of Stewart is what makes these films among Hitchcock’s very best.

(from Solares Hill)








Is Anybody There? (Rhoades)

Michael Caine Finds Magic In “Is Anybody There?”

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

I’m of that age when my friends and I are starting to think about how to care for our aging parents. My wife’s 88-year-old mother refuses to live with any of the children, or go into a retirement home. We worry.

Statistics show that many of us will spend more years taking care of our parents than we’ve spend taking care of our children. I learned this when I published a newsletter called The Eldercare Letter. As I said, I worry.

In “Is Anybody There?” – the new British dramedy at the Tropic Cinema – you’ll get to examine the issue of aging from a closer perspective.

Sir Michael Caine (he was knighted after years of good and bad movies) plays an elderly magician, all out of card tricks, mind slipping a bit, who enters an old age home with all the unwillingness of a man being sentenced to a prison term.

He meets a 10-year-old boy who also lives in this family-run facility. An unlikely friendship develops between the cranky old performer and the boy surrounded by the dead and dying.

Young Bill Milner (“Son of Rambow”) is the guileless kid, obsessed with ghosts and the paranormal, interviewing the home’s residents with his tape recorder, determined to find proof of an afterlife.

Actually growing up in a retirement home, scriptwriter Peter Harness draws this story from his own experiences.

Not quite a golden years film or a coming-of-age story, it’s instead an oddball examination of both “growing up and growing old.”

(from Solares Hill)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Week of May 15 to May 21 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
By Phil Mann

Imagine yourself going back in time, to a music hall in Paris in the late 1930’s. That’s what director Christophe Barratier did to make his new movie, PARIS 36. Finding no suitable location for his period piece, he constructed an entire Parisien neighborhood on a set outside of Prague. The result is beautiful, with showstoppers that evoke Busby Berkeley, and scenes reminiscent of American in Paris and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The story is simple enough. Business is bad and the fascist capitalists want to close down the music hall. But three left-wing guys want to keep it open, and they find their secret weapon in the charming young Douce (Nora Arnezeder), an undiscovered actress (in real life and in the movie) who reminds many of Audrey Tatou with a voice.

Settle back and enjoy the music and the setting. As Roger Ebert notes, it’s the kind of movie that if it “had been made years ago, it would now be considered a classic.” The world is going to hell in a handbag, with the depression in full power and the Nazi invasion only a few years away. But people could still sing and dance. Now that’s a message for our time.

If that’s not enough inspiration, maybe yoga would help. With her documentary ENLIGHTEN UP! filmmaker Kate Churchill seeks to show how there’s nothing like yoga to revive the mind and body. Her strategy, take a neophyte subject (New York journalist and skeptic Nick Rosen) and follow him around the world to meet with yoga gurus of all stripe. I can’t give away the ending, but there is a story line… and it may not be what you expect.

The amazing Disney EARTH continues its run on the big Carper screen. The theater has been full of little kids most mornings, coming with their teachers to see special shows of this movie. I’ve heard some concern that the harshness of nature may be a little strong for them, but I say, hey, what do you think Bambi was about, or The Lion King? Disney, in its way, has always gone where no real family would want to go.

The classic revivals this week are the THE BIRDS at the Saturday matinee (part of the new Hitchcock in HD series), and the John Huston - Humphrey Bogart spy spoof BEAT THE DEVIL on Monday night. Called the first “camp” movie, Beat the Devil’s sharp comic dialogue was authored by Truman Capote, who was brought in as a script doctor when Huston decided to toss the original screenplay. With Gina Lollobrigida (as Bogey’s wife), Jennifer Jones, Robert Morley and Peter Lorre rounding out the cast, there’s more than enough reason to find yourself downtown on Monday to join this ragtag band of criminals in their seedy Italian locale.

And speaking of Italy, this week’s performance in the Great Operas of Europe series is GIULIO CESARE. This is a modern adaptation of the Handel opera Julius Cesar in Egypt, starring the young soprano Danielle de Niese as Cleopatra. The performance was shot in hi def at the Glyndebourne Festival, and called "strong, luxurious and exciting" by Paul Griffiths in the New York Times.

As always, full info and details at
Comments, please, to
[from Key West, the newspaper -]

Enlighten Up! (Rhoades0

“Enlighten Up!” Is Yoga Lesson

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

My son used to work in Fairfield, Iowa, where Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the onetime Beatles guru, established his worldwide headquarters on a former college campus. The town is divided between its regular inhabitants and the Ru’s (as the followers of the guru are called). Basic to this particular brand of transcendental meditation is the concept of yoga.

Yoga is a physical and mental discipline traditionally associated with meditative practices of Hindus and Buddhists. The Sanskrit word yoga has many meanings, from “to control” to “to unite.”

According to “Enlighten Up!” – the new documentary that’s playing at the Tropic Cinema – over 18-million Americans practice yoga. However, it’s a Baskin-Robbins variety that includes Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Hatha Yoga.

Choose your flavor.

Filmmaker Kate Churchill became a devotee to yoga, finding its exercises and meditations transforming. Accepting the idea that the practice of yoga can transform anybody, she decided to make a documentary about it. Recruiting a young skeptic named Nick Rosen, she and her crew followed the 29-year-old New Yorker around the world to meet with – and learn from – such notable practitioners as B.K.S. Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, Norman Allen, Sharon Gannon, David Life, Gurmukh, Dharma Mitra, Cyndi Lee, Alan Finger, Rodney Yee, Beryl Bender Birch, Shyamdas, Diamond Dallas Page, and many others.

Among them Kate and Nick found “celebrity yogis, true believers, kooks, and world-renowned gurus.”

Along the way they also discovered that yoga is a multi-billion business.

Kate’s plans go awry as Nick’s expected conversion meets some resistance. But that’s the nature of a documentary, recording events rather than following a script.

“When I’m twisting myself into a pretzel, I’m thinking what the hell’s the connection between this and enlightenment – nothing!” Nick concludes at one point.

Kate counters, “Do you think there’s still room there or have you written it off?”
“I want facts which I can testify for my own satisfaction, that’s what I’m looking for,” says Nick.
He adds, “This isn’t for me a religious quest. I think what would really matter is if it gave me something else.”

“Most people are misguided about yoga,” says one guru in the film.

As such, “Enlighten Up!” is a fascinating journey – showing the positive results of this healthful discipline while facing up to some of the downsides.

With several yoga studios here in Key West – and numerous friends who practice one or another forms of yoga – this should be a popular and enlightening film.
[from Solares Hill]

Paris 36 (Rhoades)

“Paris 36” Is Song-and-Dance Memoir

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Back when the Atlantic Shores was more than a memory, I saw “Moulin Rouge” there, that surreal Nicole Kidman - Ewan McGregor musical about a Parisian nightclub.

“Paris 36” (original French title: “Faubourg 36”) – the musical drama that’s playing at the Tropic Cinema – reminded me a bit of that … and a half-dozen other movies.

Pigoil (Gerard Jugnot) and his friends work at Chansonia, a down-on-its-luck music hall in a quaint suburb of Paris. There’s Jacky (Kad Merad), known as The Prince of Impressionists, despite his audience-groaning attempts at sounding like a duck or a frog. And Milou (Clovis Cornillac), the young firebrand stagehand who didn’t serve in the Red Army as he claims. And Douce (Nora Arnezeder), the beautiful young chanteuse that men are attracted to like flies to honey. Even the reclusive Radio Man (Pierre Richard), a mysterious character who is drawn out of his self-induced musical seclusion by events. And Galapiat (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu), the Fascist property owner who’s induced by Douce’s beauty to let this striking troupe of performers take over the failing music hall.

It’s mindful of “Hear My Song“ without the magical realism. Or “Mrs. Henderson Presents” without the wartime setting. Or “Le Crime de Monsieur Lange” without a printing house backdrop. Or a “Cinema Paridiso” that’s about live musical theater.

At its simplest, “Paris 36” is a tragic love triangle that leads to saving the Chansonia music hall. But the subplots add loving texture: Pigoil trying to reconnect with Jojo, his accordion-playing son. The long-forgotten collaboration between Monsieur TFS and Douce’s mother. Jacky’s transition from bad jokester to successful song-and-dance man. And the political backdrop of the SOC Fascists who oppose the striking Communists.

Although set in 1936’s pre-WWII Paris, this is more a musical than a period piece. Many of the Busby Berkeley-like numbers are performed by the cast itself. The songs are bouncy, even if the translations have that odd Parisian emotional disconnect.

This subtitled musical drama was written and directed by Christophe Barratier, whose parents were theater performers. As he said of his previous film “The Chorus” (“Les Choristes”): “My film is autobiographical, but I was more comfortable setting it in the past, so it became a universal fairy tale.”

But it’s really a fairy tale with a political twist. 1936 was the year of the Popular Front in France, when factory occupations by workers spread across the country like a red tide.

Yes, Barratier’s story is a tad derivative and stereotypical. But you’ll be promised a happy ending with this feel-good movie that one viewer described as “Paris By the Numbers.” Musical numbers, that is.
[from Solares Hill]

Friday, May 8, 2009

Week of May 8 to May 14 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
By Phil Mann

Disney’s EARTH follows three animal families: polar bears, elephants and humpback whales through a year of their lives, full of births, babies and brio. I rarely say this about movies at the Tropic, which tend toward the R ratings, but the G-rated EARTH is a movie that you’ve got to see with your kids. With its emphasis on cubs and calves, and the overwhelming nature-wide pull of parenting, they’ll look up to you in a new way.

The March of the Penguins back in August 2005 was one of the Tropic’s most popular movies ever. With EARTH, the theater is aiming to serve that same audience. The perfect family outing. By the way, this one’s got penguin’s too, but not in the starring roles.

Also in a departure from their usual fare, the Tropic is picking up the blockbuster political thriller STATE OF PLAY from its opening run at the Regal mall-plex. Russell Crowe is a star investigative reporter solving, among other things, the murder of a Congressional researcher. She was having an affair with her boss – so what else is new – and a giant corporation’s stolen briefcase is also part of the mix. A scruffy Crowe gets Rachel McAdams (Mean Girls, Married Life) for a sidekick, and Helen Mirren for his tough city room editor, so all the pieces are set for a battle between the forces of good and evil. STATE OF PLAY has been called “refreshingly grownup” (Salon) and “an absolutely riveting state-of-the-art ‘big conspiracy’ thriller” (Charlotte Observer). Along with EARTH, it’s part of the Tropic’s regular summer series. The theme seems to be: summertime and the viewin’ is easy.

But don’t think they’ve gone all soft on you. The George digital theater continues to put the emphasis on art and foreign film.

Winner of best documentary awards at festivals from Big Sky to Woodstock, IN A DREAM is the documentary story of Isaiah Zagar, an eccentric artist who has devoted himself to covering 40,000 square feet of Philadelphia with his unique mosaics. It “abounds in visual pleasure” affirms the New York Times, but it also plumbs the depth of Zagar’s relationship with his wife and the difficulties of holding together a family dominated by such a man.

JUST ANOTHER LOVE STORY is a noir thriller from Denmark, nominated for ten and winner of two awards at the Danish Oscars. The hero, Jonas, is a happily married a crime scene photographer until a series of events slides him into a double life with amnesiac Julia, who thinks he is her fiancé. The premise may be a bit hard to believe, but once you go with it, you’re in for a great and frightening thrill ride. “An affecting, mordant comedy about male midlife crisis in its most extreme form,” says

And there are three classic movies this week: Alfred Hitchcock’s VERTIGO and the famous noir mystery D.O.A. for Saturday matinees, and Fellini’s AMARCORD on Monday night.

As they are fond of saying, the films are always hot at the cool Tropic.

Full schedules and info at
Comments, please, to

Just Another Love Story (Rhoades)

“Just Another Love Story” Plays Mix-’Em and Match-’Em

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

There was a recent news report about a young woman who was in a coma following a van crash that killed her four friends. Parents were told that their daughter survived, while others received word that their children were dead.

However, there was a mix-up of identities between one of the victims and the girl in the coma.
You can imagine the confusion when she woke up.

There’s a new Danish film at the Tropic Cinema that tells a similar tale – but with a twist of its own. “Just Another Love Story” (“Kærlighed på film”) is anything but.

Jonas (Anders W. Berthelsen) lives a mundane existence as a family man saddled with a wife and two kids. But his life takes an intriguing turn when he’s inadvertently involved in a car accident with a woman named Julia (Rebecka Hemse). Feeling guilty that she suffered head injuries, he goes to visit her in the hospital – with bizarre consequence. Suffering a memory loss, she mistakes Jonas for Sebastian (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), her cool new boyfriend who was supposed to be flying in from abroad to visit her.

What would you do if your life was a drag?

Well, our guy Jonas decides to go along with the mistaken identity and pass himself off as her boyfriend. After all, that’s the crux of this mix-’em and match-’em movie plot.
This film has overtones of the Sandra Bullock romantic comedy “While You Were Sleeping.”

However, this is more of a thriller than a comedy.

Described as “Hitchcock meets Bergman,” the film takes on a sinister tone when the real Sebastian shows up.

Writer and director Ole Bornedal milks it for all it’s worth, this tale of a man assuming a brand new identity by posing as an amnesiac’s boyfriend. Yet, reality must eventually intrude and as Bornedal puts it, “One day the truth comes knocking at the door.”

My wife is particularly fond of movies where someone assumes an all-new identity. “American Success Company,” “American Dreamer,” “Desperately Seeking Susan,” and “Don’t Tell Her It’s Me” are among her favorites.

Sometimes I wonder who she is.
[from Solares Hill]

Earth (Rhoades)

Disney’s “Earth” Is a Family Affair

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

The new Disney nature documentary called “Earth” is being released on Earth Day 2009. But given its focus on three animal mothers, you might think of “Earth” as a Mother’s Day movie.
Narrated by James Earl Jones, you’ll meet an Animal Crackers array: Migrating flocks of geese, bears on ice floes, seals doing underwater gymnastics, belly-sliding penguins, stampeding goats, bouncing baby ducklings, mincing monkeys, and lapping lions – just about everything short of ten lords a-leaping.

Covering one year in the life of the creatures who share our planet, you will follow the adventures of three families of polar bears, elephants, and humpback whales.

The cinematography is eye candy, so dazzling you don’t dare blink. There are so many how-did-they-get-that? shots that you’ll barely believe your eyes. It reminds me of those old Disney True-Life Adventures, except this time shot in Hi-Def with all the technological tricks of modern-day filmmaking.

Directed by Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield, the same team who gave us the Emmy-winning “Planet Earth” BBC series, this is the first in a new line of Disneynature films.

However, “Earth” is more than a nature film. It’s a celebration of life on this planet.
[from Solares Hill]

Friday, May 1, 2009

Week of May 1 to May 7 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
By Phil Mann

It’s time to have a good time at the Tropic.

THE GREAT BUCK HOWARD stars Colin Hanks as Troy Gable, the somewhat clueless assistant to a faded Vegas “mentalist” magician (think Amazing Kreskin) who gives the movie its title. Hanks is the son of Sir Tom, and you may recognize him as the priest who secretly lusts for Peggy Olson in TV’s award-sweeping Mad Men. But it’s John Malkovitch in the title role who owns the movie.

This doesn’t pretend to be a great film, just a good time. As we segue into summer, it’s time for some light fare, and Buck Howard provides it. As USA Today says, it’s “a nostalgic, easygoing Capra-esque comedy that should appeal to both youthful and older audiences.” The love interest – a movie like this has to have one – is Emily Blunt, who also happens to be the co-star of the very popular SUNSHINE CLEANING being held over for a third week on the Tropic screens. Don’t worry, Ms. Blunt’s relationship is with young Troy, not with the old magician. She’s the publicist who’s trying to help Troy revive Buck’s career.

Just think, an awesome magic show wrapped up in a comedy. Two for one.

SHALL WE KISS? is the new comedy from Emmanuel Mouret, who has been called a French Woody Allen. Like Mr. Allen, M. Mouret stars in the film, as a dork who asks his best, and married, woman friend to gin up his libido. With its charming characters, easy-going dialogue, and a plausibly absurdist premise, it’s easy to see the Allen-esque parallel. Should they or shouldn’t they…. I can’t give the answer away except to say you’ll be surprised. Guess you’ll just have to come and share the fun while you find out.

As usual, the Tropic’s program is rounded out with a provocative mix of revival films. For Saturday matinee the new Alfred Hitchcock in hi def series continues with TOPAZ, starring John Forsythe and Philippe Noiret, a spy thriller with a missiles in Cuba theme. If you’re lusting for bigger stars, how about Elizabeth Taylor, Van Johnson and Walter Pidgeon. They star in the other Saturday matinee flick, THE LAST TIME I SAW PARIS. Set just after World War II, and based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, Babylon Revisited, the movie also features Eva Gabor. Nostalgia fans, take your choice.

The Monday Night Classic surely deserves the label this week. It’s Francois Truffaut’s first film, THE 400 BLOWS. This emotionally gripping story of a troubled adolescent, somewhat based on Truffaut’s own life, is credited with launching the French New Wave in 1959. The New York Times reviewer, Bosley Crowther was prescient in observing that the film “brilliantly and strikingly reveals the explosion of a fresh creative talent in the directorial field.” Not to be missed.

And the next afternoon brings the last of this season’s superb TUESDAY’S WITH ART series, this week featuring the Swiss artist Roman Signer. The film is the delightful “Signer’s Suitcase: on the road with Roman Signer,” and the discussion as always will be led by Deborah Goldman and Joel Blair. Thanks to them, and to Mike Dively for his sponsorship of this series.

Full schedules and info at
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[from Key West, the Newspaper]

Two Lovers (Rhoades)

Joaquin Phoenix’s Split Personalities

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

How many of you caught Joaquin Phoenix’s bizarre appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman? You can watch it on YouTube if you missed it. Ben Stiller even parodied it on the Academy Awards telecast.

Wearing a bushy Hasidic beard, Phoenix mumbled his way through the Letterman interview like a man on heavy drugs. Ol’ Dave concluded the one-sided session by saying, “Joaquin, I’m sorry you couldn’t be here tonight.”

This from a guy who had been nominated for an Oscar as Best Actor for his portrayal of Johnny Cash in “Walk the Line.” You’d think he could have convincingly played the part of a guest on a TV talk show.

Goes to prove the dichotomy between actors and the roles they play. We see them on-screen as articulate characters, but in real life they have no script to follow.

Despite his awkward personal persona, Joaquin is arguably one of our finest young actors. Remember him in “Gladiator,” “Hotel Rwanda,” and “We Own the Night.”
He gives a subtle – albeit downer – performance in “Two Lovers,” the drama that’s still playing at the Tropic Cinema.

“Two Lovers” introduces us to a depressed young man (Phoenix) who lives with his parents and works in their Brighton Beach dry cleaning business. Mom and Dad would like to see him marry a nice Jewish girl (Vinessa Shaw), but he has an eye for the pretty blonde shiksa (Gwyneth Paltrow) who lives in the apartment across the way. As it turns out, being embroiled in a dead-end affair with a married man, the girl of his dreams is more screwed up than he is … if that’s possible.

Written and directed by James Gray (“Little Odessa”), this is a bleak drama with a predictable ending. Even so, it’s an acerbic character study that’s worth the 110 minutes of your attention.
Isabella Rosellini plays the all-seeing Jewish mother who worries about her son. Moni Moshonov is the father who would like to merge dry cleaning concerns through a convenient marriage.

Joaquin Phoenix lets you see inside his psyche, like an Amazing Transparent Man. But in the end, there’s not much inside the Jewish dry cleaner who longs for what he cannot have.
He and Gwyneth Paltrow play well against each other. But the characters’ self-defeating actions make me want to call them “Two Losers” rather than “Two Lovers.”
[from Solares Hill]

Great Buck Howard (Rhoades)

“Great Buck Howard” Pulls Cinematic Rabbit Out of Hat

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

I took up magic in the third grade. It was fun to mystify my friends. Not so hard when you had a $39.95 kit comprised of trick playing cards, a two-headed quarter, cups and disappearing ball, and connecting metal rings.

By high school I had mastered the rudiments of hypnotism. Nobody was able to beat the female bus driver at arm wrestling, until I used hypnotic techniques to freeze her hand to the table.
The power of suggestion.

You’ll see a stage hypnotist at work in “The Great Buck Howard,” the John Malkovich comedy that’s playing at the Tropic Cinema.

Buck Howard (Malkovich in a bad hairpiece) is a washed-up mentalist, no longer invited on the Tonight Show. But he goes from small town gig to small town gig bragging about his 61 past appearances back when Johnny Carson was host. Each new venue is greeted with pseudo-enthusiasm (“I love this town!”) that belies the rut of his professional life.

But what if …

This magical comeback comedy is seen through the eyes of a law-school dropout (Colin Hanks – yes, Tom’s son). Looking for an entry into show business, the boy signs on as personal assistant to this belligerent has-been magician.

The boy’s father (Tom Hanks in a bit of stunt casting) isn’t happy with his son’s new career.
However, with the help of a plucky publicist (Emily Blunt), plus a stroke of luck, ol’ Buck lands back in the limelight. Delivering a few lessons in life along the way.

Malkovich’s character is loosely based on the Amazing Kreskin, the popular ’70s performer. Turns out, writer-director Sean McGinly worked briefly as the road manager for Kreskin.
George Joseph Kresge, Jr. says he was inspired to become a mentalist by reading Mandrake the Magician comic strips as a kid. Known for his mental powers, Kreskin allowed audiences to hide his paycheck after each performance. He’s only failed to find it nine times in his entire career.
Not looking for a big paycheck, Tom Hanks produced “The Great Buck Howard” as a nice acting platform for his son.

Conan O’Brien, Jon Stewart, Martha Stewart, along with Regis Philbin and Kelly Rippa, make appearances as themselves. Even magician David Blaine shows up for a little legerdemain.
But it’s Malkovich’s over-the-top performance that renders this movie charming. An oddball actor, he’s like acquiring a taste for anchovies. Strange things go on inside his head. As you’ll discover in “The Great Buck Howard.”

Abracadabra, you’re inside John Malkovich.
[from Solares Hill]