Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Week of May 7 to May 13 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Hollywood loves a high concept movie. It’s the way the system works, with hotshots pitching ideas to busy executives. The simpler the concept, the pithier the presentation, the more likely it is to get a reaction.

Try to explain a layered family story that develops complex characters in a sentence or two. Not so easy. Then try “Marketing firm assembles fake family, and moves them into a suburb where they can surreptitiously hype products.” Then add,”Demi Moore and David Duchovny are the leads.”

Bingo! Meet THE JONESES opening at the Tropic today (May 7).

But a pitch isn’t a movie. I had a friend who was a pitchmaster. He made a good living in L.A. getting projects into development, but nothing ever made it to the screen. The real creative challenge comes in figuring out what to do with the concept -- how to create a story that holds the audience, maybe charms them, or entertains them, or compels them, or terrifies them, or whatever.

Writer-director Derrick Borte has done a pretty good job with The Jones. It’s a little off-putting at first to see how perfect that Jones’ family is – mother Demi (Kate Jones), father David (Steve Jones), and a teen-age son and daughter, each beautiful and charismatic. But of course that’s the premise. It’s a marketer’s dream assemblage of folks with whom you’d like to keep up.
As you may know, Duchovny has had some personal problems of the Tiger Woods genre, too much sex with too many women, while being married to merely one. Seeing him turn on the charm in The Joneses, it’s not difficult to see why the women lined up.

But, getting back to the movie, he’s the good guy, somewhat conflicted about what they’re doing. And she’s the cold, all business, “it’s just a job” counterpoint. The movie has a message, I suppose, that we’re all too much into things, but that’s so obvious it’s hardly important. Why the movie works is that it doesn’t take that message too seriously. At heart, it’s a traditional romantic comedy. Will the real Kate and Steve please stand up, and work it out?

If you’re up for something light, you’ll enjoy finding out. And hang on for the after-credits. There’s a final joke.

Held over from last week are THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, GREENBERG, DATE NIGHT, and OCEANS. It’s been fun stopping by the theater in the morning and see hordes of little tykes oooing and aaahing at the aquatic marvels in Oceans. It’s unlikely that any of these will be held over for another week, so be advised.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to be in the loop for the latest bulletins and special announcements from the Tropic, it might be worth it to sign up for Facebook or Twitter feeds. You can find “Tropic Cinema” on Facebook or “tropiccinema” on Twitter.

Facebook is a bit more of a commitment to a social network, with people chasing you to be their “friends,” and elaborate personal pages. Twitter is simpler and more low-key. Just 140 character bulletins. Take your choice. The Tropic is going to start a free ticket contest on both networks. I’ll let you know more soon. But meanwhile, sign up and get your account at or

[from Key West, the newspaper -]

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