Friday, January 1, 2010

Week of Jan. 1 to Jan. 7 (Mann)

What's on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

The Tropic is humming this week, and with the demand, four of the movies are being held over.

Topping the list is the Oscar-bound UP IN THE AIR. It's the feel good movie of the week, with enough of an edge to make you think and talk afterward. Director Jason Reitman, whose first two films were Thank You For Smoking and the crossover megahit Juno, has nailed it again with this story of a corporate hatchetman. George Clooney is the star, but the two female supporting actors, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick are perfect foils for his soulless character.

Clint Eastwood's INVICTUS, is an appropriately "joy to the world" film, set at the moment when Nelson Mandela did his best to convert formerly-apartheid South Africa into a One Human Family nation. Morgan Freeman (as Mandela) and Matt Damon (as captain of the national rugby team) are the odd-couple duo who make this happen.

PRECIOUS is one of those special films, not easy to categorize. It's raw, honest and totally original. And it's one of the most talked about movies of the year. First-time actor Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe is an African-American teen seemingly without any basis for hope, who nonetheless finds some.

LA DANSE is the newest documentary from the legendary Frederick Wiseman. Starting with Titicut Follies (filmed in a state hospital for the criminally insane) Wiseman has most often pointed his camera at unappealing aspects of life (the welfare system, intensive care, juvenile justice, domestic violence), but this time he has turned to one of the most beautiful subjects on earth, the Paris Ballet. Join him backstage as the they prepare and present their breathtaking work.

Joining these is RED CLIFF, a sweeping epic set in Third Century China. With a budget of $80 million spent in China it is, in the sense of real value, the most expensive movie ever made. Full of scenes with thousands of extras and modern CGI effects, Red Cliff has become the Titanic of Chinese cinema, breaking all box-office records there. Director John Woo grew up in Hong Kong but he earned his chops in Hollywood, doing such big budget features as Mission Impossible II with Tom Cruise. There is talk that the Chinese government lured him back to help launch a "Chinawood" film industry that can compete with Hollywood and Bollywood, with Red Cliff as the opening wedge. Meanwhile, Woo is scheduled to receive the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at this year's Venice Film Festival. Seems like another smart move by China.

Special Events fill out the week.

Saturday's Free Kids Matinee has a big hit this week: ICE AGE 2. The ice is melting, Scrat and his buddies have to get out of the flooding valley, and Manny the woolly mammoth has a girlfriend. Fun and FREE for all kids and accompanying adults.

Craig Wanous's Monday Night Classic is a dilly, THE SMALLEST SHOW ON EARTH. A young couple inherit a rundown cinema with a dotty old staff including Peter Sellers and Margaret Rutherford. You can imagine the rest.

Mark you calendars now for the official opening of the new Peggy Dow Theater (screening room #4 at the Tropic). There are fund-raising events on Friday, Jan. 15, featuring the 1950's movie star Miss Peggy Dow herself. And then on Saturday, Jan. 16, a bevy of Peggy's movies will show all day, free and open to the public.

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