Thursday, March 25, 2010

Week of March 26 thru April 1 (Mann)

What's on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

The Tropic is proud to bring you the new film from the great, though personally flawed, director Roman Polanski.

THE GHOST WRITER is a thriller, a political-mystery, set on Martha's Vineyard (but filmed in Germany --who knew they're closely related, at least in winter?). Pierce Brosnan is an ex-British Prime Minister (Tony Blair in all but name) living in seclusion on the Vineyard, writing an autobiography with the help of a ghost writer. He also has the help of a sexy assistant (Kim Cattrall, Samantha of Sex and City fame), but the writer mysteriously dies. Enter Ewan McGregor (Amelia, Angels and Demons, Deception) as his new "ghost," a guy best known for working with trashy celebs, and a bit out of his element -- especially when dark state secrets begin to appear.

The film has been called "neo-Hitchcock... an extraordinarily precise and well-made political thriller," by David Denby in the New Yorker. And the rest of the critics agree, giving it an 81% Rotten Tomatoes rating with accolades like "irresistible" (New York Times), "handsome, smooth and persuasive" (Roger Ebert), "brings an icy hand up your back" (Detroit News).

Seems like this week is the one for Massachusetts island-based thrillers. Also opening at the Tropic is Martin Scorsese's SHUTTER ISLAND starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo as investigators sent to solve the mystery of an escapee from a hospital for the criminally insane on an island in the Boston Harbor. Of course, there's no place scarier than a criminal nut house, and no American filmmaker more masterful than Scorsese. The Los Angeles Times calls it "a divinely dark and devious brain tease of a movie in the best noir tradition." "Not since Raging Bull has Mr. Scorsese so brazenly married brutality to beauty," adds the Wall Street Journal.

If I were a film teacher, I'd want my students to see and compare these two movies -- the ferry scenes with ominous music, the gray brooding landscapes, and the layered mystery stories. But as simple filmgoers we can just kick back and let them wash over and fascinate us.

FISH TANK is something quite different. Writer-Director Andrea Arnold is not an old master, like Polanski and Scorsese, but a rising newcomer, winner of a Best Short Film Academy Award in 2005 (The Wasp), and the BAFTA (British Oscar) Best British Film for Fish Tank. Fifteen-year-old Mia is a lost soul in a bleak housing project, alienated from classmates and, naturally, her mother. The plot gets thicker when her mother brings home an attractive boyfriend, and we begin to feel the sexual tension. No spoilers from me, but I have to say that Katie Jarvis as Mia is a striking new actor. Discovered by Ms. Arnold in the projects, and wholly untrained, watch for her to rise fast.

The Tropic's movie schedule is filled out with continuing runs of CRAZY HEART, THE HURT LOCKER, THE ROAD and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN.

Topping the Special Events calendar is a special screening of ONCE IN AFGHANISTAN, with by a live intro and Q & A with the Director Jill Vickers. She was part of a team of Peace Corps Volunteers who served in that country in 1969, giving smallpox vaccinations and successfully eradicating the disease, a proud and uplifting moment for America and the Peace Corps. The documentary tells the tale including interviews with seventeen of the participants. Come and meet Ms. Vickers (in person.. not Skype) and see her film. That's Sunday afternoon at 4:00pm.

Monday night brings SCARLET STREET to the Monday Murder Classics series. Legendary director Fritz Lang (M, Metropolis) directed this 1945 film, starring Edward G. Robinson as a mousey clerk seduced into a life of crime by an amoral Joan Bennett.

And Tuesday is Opera Night, with VIVA LA MAMA, in high def from La Scala. Jessica Pratt sings the role of Daria in this chaotic comic opera. It's relatively short (2 hrs) and full of fun. In Italian with English subtitles.

[from Key West, the newspaper -]

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