Friday, December 11, 2009

Week of Dec. 11 to Dec. 17 (Mann)

What's on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Okay, sport fans, your time has come. For the first time in living memory, the Tropic is opening two new sports movies in one week. Awesome. Suit up and leave the sports bars behind, I'd say. These are both football movies, America's favorite!

Except, darn it, we're talking about armor-less football --rugby and soccer , so you'll have to expand your horizons somewhat. But the timeless, sport-transcending subjects remain the same.

INVICTUS is the latest from that most American of directors, Clint Eastwood, but the setting is South Africa in 1995, just as Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) is elected as the first President in the now apartheid-free country. Looking for a healing symbol that might unite the nation, he seizes on the Springboks, the national rugby team beloved by whites and despised by blacks when it was a symbol of white supremacy. But if he can make it a symbol of triumphant unity.....

The key is the Afrikaner team captain Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon). He must be converted to the cause, and, more difficult, to make it work against the hated, and usually victorious, New Zealand squad, for the World Cup. It's a down-under donnybrook, with the spirit of a new nation hanging in the balance.

It's all a true story. When I told a local South African friend the movie was coming, he went teary, telling how he had sat rapt at the TV as the final match unfolded.

Did I say "irresistible?" You don't have to be South African to be captivated.

THE DAMNED UNITED is not so uplifting. Another true story, this one based on the legendary downfall of a storied soccer manager. When Brian Clough (Michael Sheen) moved up from successfully manging a minor league team to the same job at top level United Leeds, he went from being a victorious leader to being a one man wrecking crew. His brief tenure at United is still infamously known to UK fans as "the 44-days."

Sheen, whose last two roles have been as the TV interviewer David Frost (Frost/Nixon) and Prime Minister Tony Blair (The Queen) again manages to marvelously inhabit his role.

Don't worry that the movie's sport is soccer, says, "If you simply start watching it without prejudice you'll have a ridiculously good time."

35 SHOTS OF RUM has nothing to do with sport. Rather it is one of those small gems that can make French films such treasures. From director Claire Denis (Chocolat), it's the story of Lionel, a French-African metro train driver and his college-student daughter Josephine, who share an apartment. The movie takes us into a world of middle class housing and life that is worlds apart from the elegance that so often dominates French filmmaking.

Lionel and Josephine lead a comfortable middle-class existence, but life is not simple, as each attempts to develop a relationship outside the home, leading to tension within. The pacing is French, but this is a film to savor, with fully-developed, fascinating characters.You'll be sorry to see them fade away just because the movie is over.

Rounding out the feature film program are continuing runs of the DiNiro vehicle EVERYBODY'S FINE, and the incredibly popular PIRATE RADIO, going into its fourth rocking week.

And there are three Christmas treats to celebrate the season.

-- Each afternoon all week long, there's a special matinee of Disney's new animated A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

-- On Sunday only, at 1:00pm, you can catch an encore performance of the classic NUTCRACKER performed at the Mariinsky Theater in Russia.

-- On Monday evening, the weekly classic movie is the romantic comedy CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT (1945) starring Barbara Stanwyck and Sydney Greenstreet.

Fa, la, la, and get ready for Fantastic Mr. Fox and Precious, both coming for the holiday season.

[from Key West, the newspaper]

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