Friday, May 21, 2010

Week of May 21 to May 27 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Its not usual for the Tropic to devote its main screen to a foreign film, but THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES has well-earned that right. Winner of this year’s Foreign Language Academy Award (and thirteen, yes 13, Argentine Oscars), this movie has everything that American audiences love: a brutal rape-murder, a sinister villain, a sexy female D.A., a quiet, methodical good guy, corrupt police officials, a dramatic CGI-enhanced chase scene, and tricky plot twists that leave you wondering where the story is going. No wonder; the Argentine director Juan José Campanella has honed his craft on American television, directing seventeen episodes of Law and Order and five of House, M.D.

Benjamin (Ricardo Darin) is a long-retired police investigator who is writing a novel about an unsolved murder that occurred twenty-five years earlier. The case has haunted him, and he hopes the novel will bring him closure. It doesn’t hurt that he also has an unfulfilled crush on his former boss Irene, whom he must visit to discuss the story. She’s the lovely Soledad Villamil, about whom I share Roger Ebert’s opinion: “she’s my idea of a woman.”

As the story unfolds, we move back and forth in time, back to the original events and forward to the current time, and we struggle along with Benjamin to figure out what really happened. The result, says David Denby in the New Yorker, is “a powerfully and richly imagined genre-busting work that successfully combines the utmost in romanticism and the utmost in realism.”

It’s headed for an All-American remake, maybe with Campanella as the director, but why wait? It’s a very visual movie, so the subtitled Spanish is hardly a problem, and you don’t want to miss Soledad Villamil.

On the other hand, if you really need to hear English, there’s KICK ASS, picked up by the Tropic under its summertime policy that seems to be based on the theme “into each life some brain must fail.” Chole Grace Moretz (the cute younger sister in 500 Days of Summer) is the eleven-year-old action hero Hit Girl who, with her father Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) wantonly kills bad guys in satirically over-the-top violence. They’re inspired by a hopeless nerd parading around in a lame Kick Ass costume (Aaron Johnson), who has achieved fame from a video that has gone viral.

Big Daddy is a Batman ripoff, right down to the Bruce Wayne voice, but the real ass-kicking is done by Hit Girl, the cutest little trash-talker you ever saw. You’ll either love or hate this R-rated gory goof of a superhero satire. There’s no middle ground on this one. (The rating seems to come from the fact that little Miss Sundown utters the “c” word. I don’t see any other reason, unless it’s all the murder and mayhem.)

Nic Cage has just been quoted as saying he eats only animals that have sex in a “dignified” way. Apparently that includes birds and fish, but not pigs. That’s a quote from real life, not this movie, but it would have fitted right in. Has he ever watched our chickens do it? Go Nic!

The very popular CITY ISLAND starring Andy Garcia is held over, as are THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, and THE JONES, all of which I’ve covered earlier.

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