Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Week of August 27 to Sept. 2 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Back in 1938, a 74-year-old bachelor named Felix “Bush” Breazeale, from backwoods Roane County, Tennessee, threw himself a “funeral” party, complete with a commemorative sermon and festive music. The idea of a funeral for an undead character, who was once himself charged with murder, was so delightful the curious came from miles around, packing the highways and creating the biggest crowd in county history.

That’s all true. As the man says, “you can look it up.” The full text of the sermon is even on the Internet ( And from that story, first-time director Aaron Schneider has fashioned GET LOW, a delightful tale that makes us wonder whether we should all emulate Mr. Breazeale.

It often strikes me when I read obituaries in the paper (which I do avidly), that I wish I had known more about the person before it was too late for me to talk about it with him or her. It’s particularly a problem here in Key West, where so many come from elsewhere and are making a new life, some because of retirement, and some because they felt the need to go further along the road… until it ran out. I’ve never much liked the question “What do you do?” but Key West is the only place where I’ve been asked on first meeting someone, “What did you do?” That’s even more impertinent, and I’d never ask it myself. But still, I have to admit, I’d often like to know.

The incomparable Robert Duvall is Bush Breazeale (called Felix Bush in the movie) and the story is fleshed out with an old girlfriend played by Sissy Spacek. There’s a lot of mystery to old Bush, which gives the story its arc, and Duvall “is probably looking at another Oscar nomination.” (Wall St. Journal) You’ll enjoy it.
The setting of LA MISSION, the Latino-dominated Mission District of San Francisco, is quite a contrast, but the movie presents another story of a societal outlier. Che Rivera (Benjamin Bratt from Traffic and Law and Order) is a Chicano ex-con who achieves redemption and local fame as a builder of lowriders, only to lose it in a rage of homophobia when he learns that his only son is gay.

It was written and directed by Bratt’s brother, Peter. They both grew up in The Mission and their love for it comes through -- the life on the streets, the lowrider culture. It’s all beautifully photographed and the story is a moving one involving not only the well-developed characters of the father and son, but also the sharply-written role of an independent-minded woman who helps Che find his way (Erika Alexander). The film grabbed the Best Feature, Best Actor (Benjamin Bratt as Rivera) and Best Supporting Actor (Jeremy Ray Valdez as his son) prizes at last week’s Imagen Awards celebrating Latino culture. Don’t believe any contrary reviews.
My favorite film of the year, WINTER’S BONE continues its run for another week, as do INCEPTION, DINNER WITH SCHMUCKS, and COCO AND IGOR.

Comments, please to
[from Key West, the newspaper -]

La Mission (Rhoades)

“La Mission” Is Close to Home for Benjamin Bratt
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

On my last trip to San Francisco I saw a Chicano gang drive by in their low-rider cars, obviously objects of beauty and status. One was engineered to lurch up-and-down on its hydraulic springs like a mating bullfrog.
Yuppie me, I prefer a high-riding SUV, a vehicle that can clear any street debris.

Cultural differences.

You can get a glimpse into the Chicano world of California in “La Mission,” the indie film that’s now playing at the Tropic Cinema. In it, Benjamin Bratt (“Miss Congeniality,” “Love in the Time of Cholera”) stars as Che, a Hispanic ex-con who is both respected and feared by his peers.

Che and his Mission Boyz take pride in restoring junk cars, turning them into low-rider masterpieces. He’s trying to stay on the straight and narrow. After all, he has to watch out for his son Jesse (played by Jeremy Ray Valdez). But things go astray when he discovers a secret about his son, challenging the machismo code by which he’s lived.

I won’t reveal the film’s surprises, but it will play well in Key West. As Bratt puts it, “Here is a man through decades of a certain kind of behavior, he is a man of violence. He faced with a situation that he can’t punch his way out of ... He is forced to consider an alternative if he wants to keep his son in his life. That is potentially a road of non-violence, that’s the only thing that is going to lead to a path of redemption.”

The actor sums it up like this: “It is, in fact, a coming-of-age story, but not of the son, but the father.”

Written and directed by Peter Bratt (Benjamin’s brother), “La Mission” is a fairly conventional film well told.

Peter made his mark as a filmmaker with 1996’s “Follow Me Home,” a drama that explored the multicultural world of Chicanos, African Americans, and Native Americans. He was honored with a 2000 Rockefeller Foundation Film/Video/Multimedia Fellowship.

Benjamin and his brother are actually of Peruvian heritage, although they grew up in San Francisco. “It takes some kind of fortitude for someone like my mom to single-handedly raise five children, get them through college, and keep them out of jail,” he says, alluding to a path that could have been similar to his character Che’s.

“La Mission” refers to the Mission District neighborhood of San Francisco that reflects Benjamin and Peter’s home turf. Benjamin says the film honors the “neighborhood itself.” He explains, “We wanted to not only put the neighborhood, but the people in the neighborhood, in the foreground and focus the story on them. So really this is my brother and I’s effort to create a cinematic love letter to a neighborhood that is still near and dear to us, and we consider ourselves very much a part of.”

Benjamin Bratt has long been a champion of Chicanos and Native Americans. “One of the sayings that my character uses in the film is to ‘stay brown.’ He says it to everyone, even those who aren’t brown, which is what the real-life Che said to people. It means remember who you are and where you come from. And that’s my approach to life, personally, I never forget where I come from, and I am blessed everyday.”
[from Solares Hill]

Get Low (Rhoades)

“Get Low” Gets High Praise
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

You’ve read the story in Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer” about Tom and Huck attending their own funeral, right? Well, in “Get Low,” the dramedy film that’s playing at the Tropic Cinema, we see a Tennessee hermit throw his own rollicking funeral so he can enjoy it while he’s still alive.

Not a bad idea. Why should you miss all the fun? Especially when you’re the guest of honor.

The cast of “Get Low” is headlined by three aging legends – cranky ol’ Robert Duvall, knee-slapping funny Bill Murray, and classy country gal Sissy Spacek.

Duvall plays backwoods recluse Felix “Bush” Breazeale. Uncle Bush, as folks called him, has a shady reputation. Some say he’s committed murder. Others allege he’s in league with the devil. So you can imagine the consternation when he marches into town to ask the funeral director to conduct a pre-death funeral for him. Eulogies and all, he wants to know what folks will say about him while he’s still around.

Murray co-stars as Frank Quinn, the funeral director who believes the publicity will be good for business. Spacek takes the role of a local widow who figures in the mystery that surrounds Felix Breazeale. It all comes out at the funeral.

Robert Duvall’s performance is getting Oscar buzz. Both funny and serious, the film is about “loneliness, guilt, redemption, forgiveness, love, and human mortality.”

“Get Low” is loosely based on events that took place in Roane County, Tennessee, back in 1938. The Knoxville Courier interviewed some of the people who still remember Uncle Bush’s living funeral.
Eleanor “Pete” Quinn Barnes, the daughter of the funeral director, was 18 when it happened. “It (drew) an awful big crowd,” she recalls, “and it was awfully hot. It was more like a three-ring circus than a funeral. It was big.”

An estimated 8,000 folks attended Felix’s funeral. Traffic to Cave Creek Baptist Church was backed up for four miles.

“High-profile politicians and ministers showed up,” noted the Knoxville paper. “Choirs sang. It was almost like a picnic, complete with ice cream being served. One Roane County newspaper report says 10 guests fainted during the party – probably due to the heat and the large crowds, not because Breazeale was alive. Breazeale made no pretense he was dead. A skilled craftsman, he made his own coffin and sat beside it as mourners came up to speak with him.”

Rev. Charles E. Jackson said in his sermon, “This service is not a bad idea. Much good should come from a service divested of the usual tears and heartaches.”

The funeral made Uncle Bush a celebrity. On the 4th of July, he and his mule were guests of honor at a Harriman Independence Day party. Fliers invited people to “Come and Hear the Living Corpse.”

A Quinn family member developed the story for the screen. Nonetheless, local folks pick apart details of the movie. “Daddy never had a mustache in his life,” says 90-year-old Eleanor Barnes.

“The movie is 5 percent truth and 95 percent Hollywood embellishment,” observes the funeral director’s grandson, Larry Robinson. “Bill Murray had some entertaining lines, but my grandfather was very moralistic.”
In the movie Frank Quinn is portrayed as a lonely guy whose wife has left him. He’s childless and in need of money. But, in truth, Quinn had a happy marriage and two children.

“I know they have to change things to make for a more interesting story,” says a grandson of Frank Quinn.
Uncle Bush enjoyed his funeral. “This will be my only funeral,” he said. “It was the finest sermon I ever heard, and when I die there won’t be another one.”

True to his word, when Felix “Bush” Breazeale died five years later, his second service a quiet affair, barely noted.
[from Solares Hill]

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Week of August 20 to August 26 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Tropic fans learned about the early life of famed designer Coco Chanel last fall from the biopic Coco Before Chanel, which told of her rise from abandonment in an orphanage to the elevated levels of haute couture. By 1920 she was a grand dame with her own villa in the country, to which she invited the great composer Igor Stravinsky, who had been forced to flee Russia after the revolution.

Igor was happy to come, bringing along his sick wife and four children. But the juxtaposition of the self-made woman who revolutionized fashion and the tradition-breaking composer who had shocked the world with his Rite of Spring, could only wind up one way. It’s all there in COCO CHANEL AND IGOR STRAVINSKY, which “offers two hours of luxury and loveliness, music and art, and a bit of sexually charged madness, too.” (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Well, what do you know? INCEPTION has found its way to the Tropic. I’ve already given you my take on it – hokum – but don’t take my word for it. There’s no doubt that the movie is a cult favorite, still registering among the top topics on Twitter six weeks after its opening, generating more interest than the floods in Pakistan, the California gay marriage case, or the Ground Zero mosque.

The Twitter comments are revealing. “Epically awesome,” gushes one fan, as if mere awe is not enough. An obsessed geek has written a detailed program using almost 2,000 lines of obscure computer code “to replicate the sequence of the movie.” (If you’re interested , it’s at To me, that’s epically awesome. And no less a light than my favorite Roger Ebert affirms “It is wholly original, cut from new cloth, and yet structured with action movie basics so it feels like it makes more sense than (quite possibly) it does.”

So, what the heck. You should see it to find out for yourself. In case you don’t already know, Inception is an action-adventure, sci-fi, love story involving Leo DiCaprio’s quest to screw with the brain of a powerful industrialist by entering his dream, within a dream, within a dream.

It’ll be at the Tropic all week splitting a screen with the animated feature DESPICABLE ME, in which the multi-talented Steve Carrell voices the evil hero Gru, who plans to steal the moon. Aimed at the under-twelve set, this is “an enjoyable blend of sweetness and silliness, with loads of giggles and just enough dark-edged humor to keep the adult companions interested,” says

Don’t be shocked when you see the theater lobby. The curved yellow wall and condiment counter are gone, temporarily replaced by a folding table. Not to worry. The theaters are untouched and will continue to function on all cylinders during the renovation. But the lobby is about to be transformed with an expanded food service area and a separated cozy lounge. The long-time dream of creating a place for meeting before and after movies, and encouraging a sense of community around the films, is about to get a major boost.

Full info and schedules at
Comments, please, to

Coco and Igor (Rhoades)

“Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky” Make Music (and Perfume) Together
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

The old song may have been about Love Potion No. 9, but my mother always wore Chanel No. 5. It was a fashionable scent, a whiff of Paris for the everyday woman.

“Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky” is a film about the affair between the French fashionista who invented her namesake perfume in 1920 and the famed Russian pianist and composer. It’s currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.

Based on the fictional book by Chris Greenhalgh (who also wrote the screenplay), the film was shot in both French/Russian and English language versions by director Jan Kounen.

Surprisingly, the House of Chanel and its chief designer Karl Lagerfeld cooperated with the film’s production, granting access to Coco Chanel’s private papers and to her apartment at 31 rue Canbon in Paris. Maybe they liked this romanticized image of their founder over “Coco Avant Chanel,” a competing film starring Audrey Tautou.

The seeds of this liaison between the couturiere and the composer were planted in 1913 when Coco attended the premiere performance of Stravinsky’s “The Rites of Spring,” a dissonant composition that caused a riot among the audience. She was awed by the avant-garde music and its scandalous choreography.
Seven years later, her business a success but mourning the death of her lover, she invites Stravinsky along with his consumptive wife and four children to live in her villa after he flees the Russian Revolution. There Coco and Igor begin an affair, spurring both onward to greater success. His compositions develop a more liberated style and she invents her perfume.

But back at the villa, tension is reaching a breaking point.

French actress Anna Mouglalis (“Merci pour le chocolat”) shines as Coco. Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen (“Casino Royale”) is quite effective as Igor. And Russian actress Yelena Morozova (“Circumstances”) successfully fills the role of the wronged wife.

Gabriel Bonheur “Coco” Chanel was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Important People of the Century. And so was Igor Stravinsky. A pairing that paid dividends.

“Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky” was the closing film at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.

But the real winner is Anna Mouglalis. Back in 2002 she was chosen by Karl Lagerfeld to represent the House of Chanel. Still modeling for Chanel today, she’s about as close to Coco as you can come.
[from Solares Hill]

Inception (Rhoades)

“Inception” Isn’t Sweet DreamsReviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

The CIA has conducted some far-out experiments in the past. The Stargate Project spent $20 million testing remote viewing, the ability to “see” things from afar. (Remember George Clooney’s comedy, “The Men Who Stare at Goats”?) And back in the ’50s it began experimenting with lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) on live subjects under its Project MKULTRA. We know about nationwide wiretapping programs. And the KUBARK manual was developed to outline “coercive counterintelligence interrogation of resistant sources" using such techniques as waterboarding and sleep deprivation. Yes, brainwashing.

Goodness knows what other classified shenanigans our government has backed.

“Inception” – the new sci-fi thriller at the Tropic Cinema – tells the story of a program designed to spy on people’s dreams.

In “Inception,” Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Departed,” “Shutter Island”) is sort of a human incubus, invading targets’ dreams to seduce secrets from them. Spying at its psychological utmost.

Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) is a thief hired to steal into subjects’ minds while they sleep, becoming a covert part of their dream. It seems so real, nobody knows they’re dreaming. You see, during the dream state, the mind is at its most vulnerable.

Rather than the CIA, Dom works for a large corporation. It’s the privatization of spying. But his role in commercialized espionage has turned him into a fugitive, and his only hope of getting his life back is one last foray into the subconscious, this time not to steal an idea but to plant one.

Ellen Page (“Juno,” “X-Men: The Last Stand”), Marion Cotillard (“La Vin en Rose,” “Nine”), Ken Watanabe (“The Last Samurai,” “Memoirs of a Geisha”), Tom Berenger (“Sniper,” “Someone to Watch Over Me”), and Michael Caine (“Harry Brown,” “The Dark Knight”) are along for this mind-bending journey.

Directed by Christopher Nolan (“Memento,” “Batman Begins”), the special effects are, uh, mind blowing. You’ll be mesmerized by scenes of the dream-like world crumbling and warping around our protagonist. What did movies do before CGI?

This what’s-real-and-what’s-not story is gripping. Think: “The Matrix.”

“You can’t use people as laboratories,” said Jonathan D. Moreno, a professor of medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania. But in the movies, you can.
[from Solares Hill]

Despicable Me (Rhoades)

“Despicable Me” Is Quite Lovable

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Gotta admit I love that self-deprecating title, “Despicable Me.” It’s a tale about the World’s #2 supervillain, a penguin-nosed ne’er-do-well named Gru (voiced by “40-Year-Old Virgin” Steve Carell). This dastardly guy – he pops the balloons of little children, among other misdeeds – is only number two so he must try harder.

His nemesis is the World’s #1 supervillain, Vector (Jason Segel of TV’s “How I Met Your Mother”).

As we learn, there’s an outcry in Egypt because the Great Pyramid of Giza has gone missing, replaced by a giant inflatable replica. Other countries are rushing to protect their national landmarks.

Is it the work of Gru? There are rumors that he and his Corn Pop minions next plan to steal the moon. Talk about a total eclipse!

Steve Carell is in his best “Office” boss mode as he has fun with this inept evildoer role.

Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, and Elsie Fisher do the voices of the three orphaned girls who see Gru as a prospective dad, an ambition that gets in the way of the supervillain’s own world domination ambitions. Drat!

If the other voices in this computer-animated cartoon sound familiar, they are. Julie Andrews as Gru’s mom, Russell Brand as Dr. Nefario, Danny McBride as Fred, Will Arnett as Mr. Perkins, and Ken Jeong as a scientist. Plus Dave Foley weighs in as the President.

Currently playing at the Tropic Cinema, this Universal release is brought to us by the producers of “Ice Age” and “Horton Hears a Who.”

It’s fun having such a despicable “hero.” But never fear, evil does not triumph. Despite Gru’s secret headquarters beneath a bleak house with a dead lawn, and a battle-ready arsenal of shrink rays, freeze rays, and vehicles suitable for attack on for land and air, he keeps falling short in his plan.

As the film’s theme song says, he’s “having a bad, bad day.”
[from Solares Hill]

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Week of August 13 to August 19 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Ready for something serious… and seriously good?

WINTER’S BONE is the kind of movie that transports you into a hidden world, and sticks with you long after you leave the theater. The world is the southern Missouri Ozark mountains, home of a fiercely independent, self-sufficient culture -- a raw, rough, ragged place, where life’s guideline is “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

It’s far removed from the world of suburban Washington where writer-director Debra Granik grew up, the daughter of government officials, but she’s managed to create a film so true that, despite its unflinching portrayal of a harsh land, has won the hearts of local residents and played to sell-out crowds at area multiplexes. The film has become a phenomenon, the rare independent movie that is drawing audiences in rural America, not just big city art houses. In some ways that’s a higher compliment than the Grand Jury Prize and Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award that Winter’s Bone won at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

The story is a tough one. Seventeen-year-old Ree Dolly is in charge of and responsible for her two young siblings and a depressed, withdrawn mother. Her absent father is due in court to face charges of cooking “crank” (methamphetamine), but he has disappeared. With the family homestead posted as his bail bond, Ree must find him -- or his dead body, or lose the only thing that enables the family to survive.

There are two keys to the film’s success. The first is filmmaker Granik’s devotion to the place and people of the story. She spent years meeting with local residents, winning their trust, and drawing on them for locations and for talent. Ree’s six-year-old sister is played by a local girl whose own home is the principal set. For a telling scene with an Army recruiter, when Ree tries to volunteer thinking she’ll score a $40,000 bonus, Granik relied upon an actual recruiter who improvised some of his lines. She insisted on filming in the Ozarks and shooting it with a tone and palette that captured the feel of that backwoods region. When you’re watching the movie, you’re there.

The other key is Jennifer Lawrence, the amazing young actress who plays Ree Dolly. She is on screen in virtually every shot. From Kentucky herself, Lawrence seems native to the role, so that you believe her when she tells the bail bondsman she knows she can find her father because “I’m a Dolly bred and buttered.” Yet she was rejected for the role at first because they thought she was too pretty. Managing to get a second audition, she flew from L.A. to New York on the red-eye, and showed up looking haggard enough for the part.

Lawrence is almost guaranteed an Oscar nomination. Hollywood has discovered her, she’s on the cover of W Magazine, and now she’s shooting a couple of big budget horror and sci-fi films. You might not get such a chance to observe her raw acting talent again. Do yourself a favor and see it now.

Rounding out this week’s schedule are holdovers of three popular summer hits: DINNER WITH SCHUMCKS, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, and THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE.

Comments, please, to
[from Key West, the Newspaper -]

Winter's Bone (Rhoades)

“Winter’s Bone” Chills and Thrills
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Back when in college I lived in a tin-oven house trailer on campus, a veritable sweatbox. So during the hot summer months I went to see lots of movies just to partake of the theater’s air conditioning.

Here it is August, and if you’re dreading the heat just go see “Winter’s Bone,” the chilling new indie film that’s currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.

Based on the 2006 book by Daniel Woodrell, the story takes place in the wintry Ozark Mountains, a bleak landscape that defines the hardscrabble existence of 17-year-old Ree Dolly. Although still a child in years, she’s the most grown-up person in her hillbilly family. When her meth-producing dad jumps bail, she sets out to find him, for he has put up their home as bond. This journey takes her through a snowy countryside filled with hardened criminals and harrowing encounters. She must unravel the mystery of her fugitive father’s disappearance or else lose all.

Jennifer Lawrence gives a standout performance as Ree. No wonder this moving drama won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Lawrence set out on her own journey at the age of 14, traveling to New York City to become an actress. Starring in Guillermo Arriaga’s “The Burning Plain” opposite Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger, she won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for best young emerging actor/actress at the 2008 Venice Film Festival.

Being from the South was an advantage for Lawrence when it came to “Winter’s Bone.” Director Debra Granik says, “It helped on the audition so much because many of the young women had struggled with the accent and the dialect, and Jen had an ear for it. She did not have use her psychic energy, her resources, to actually say a sentence. She wanted the role, she made that known, so that’s always a huge thing. She had read it and had taken it to heart and really felt like she could commit. And she did.”

When Granik first read Daniel Woodrell’s novel, she was taken with the central character. Ree was “a protagonist that I had been waiting for,” she says.

While drawn to the girl’s strength and grit, Granik was equally drawn to Ree’s world – “a troubled, tight-knit community deep in the Ozarks.”

The film was shot in southern Missouri, a region of “rolling hills and gravelly soil.”

“If we were going to attempt this, we knew it had to be there,” says Granik. “It had to have local people populating the film visually. There is no chance that this film would come to life in any way that would be close to the book unless we did it there.”

Music was an important ingredient for this Missouri setting. The soundtrack includes “The Missouri Waltz,” “High on a Mountain,” and “Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies,” among other traditional folk songs.
“Winter is always the setting when you show that the stakes are very high because survival is just that much harder,” says Granik. “Everything is happening on a more dire basis. Your hunger, your cold, what it takes to take care of two small kids in winter.”

The film is haunting, yet strangely uplifting.

Your teeth may chatter. But not from the air conditioning.
[from Solares Hill]

Monday, August 9, 2010

Week of August 6 to August 12 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

The Tropic is living up to its sultry name right now. Not the temperature in the theaters, which remains as cool as ever, but the hot, hot selection of movies. DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS is the #2 movie overall at the national box office. THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT is the #1 independent movie in America (#12 overall), and THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE is the top foreign film (#18 overall).

Of course it’s a long way from #2 ($23.5 million gross 2,911 theaters), to #12 ($3.5 million in 847 theaters), to #18 ($542 thousand in 174 theaters), but that’s the great thing about having a local independent theater. You get a choice, not just what Hollywood pumps into the malls of America.

Since I’m a devotee of character and story, I’d recommend The Kids, which also manages to pull off a good deal of comic relief as it tells the story of a sperm-donee family gone somewhat awry.

Anyhow, all three of these movies are being held over, with a couple of popular, more kid-oriented choices added to the mix. Opening this week and splitting the screen in the Taylor Cinematheque are THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE and THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE. The former features Nicolas Cage as a sorcerer defending Manhattan from an evil genius with the help of a young apprentice. Just right for your under ten boys. The latter is, of course, the latest – and everyone seems to think bestest – of the Twilight saga. Just right for anyone who loves vampires, Robert Pattinson or Taylor Lautner. If you don’t know who they are, don’t bother.

For all the older groupies, the best shot is the Monday Night Cult Movie Classic, this week featuring MONTY PYTHON’S LIFE OF BRIAN, from 1979. How do we categorize this movie about the baby born in a stable in Bethlehem next to you-know-who? Religious farce for anyone who doesn’t take life too seriously?

Since I’ve still got space, can I be permitted a rant? The #1 box office movie, edging out Dinner For Schmucks, is Inception, which is drawing raves from almost all quarters. Not here.

Anyone who has ever tried to write a screenplay knows that dream sequences are cheats. Like life, a dream sequence doesn’t have to make sense or relate to anything, and when it’s over, it doesn’t matter unless you want to say it does. Well, the “plot” of Inception is a dream within a dream within a dream. So anything and everything can happen. And it does, but mostly it’s car chases and video game shooter sequences. Oh yeah, and some fancy CGI. Meanwhile, the overarching notion driving the story is that the hero (Leo DiCaprio) has devised a high tech, sci fi way to get into people’s minds and plant ideas. WFT? Who needs sci fi? Did you ever hear of advertising and PR? The best example of planting an idea in people’s minds is the way the Warner Brothers machine has gotten people to think this is a great film.

Oh, damn, now you’re going to want to go and see the movie. Hey Dennis and Rhonda: Don’t print the last two paragraphs.

Comments, please, to
[from Key West, the newspaper --]

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (Rhoades)

“Twilight” Offers A Total Eclipse

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Dear Abby: I am a teenage girl, torn between two really cool guys. One is a 100-year-old vampire; the other’s a hairy werewolf. Whom should I choose?

That’s the question posed by “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” the latest in those popular films based on the romance novels by Stephenie Meyer.

If you’re a hormonal female between the ages of 12 and 52, you already know the story because you’ve read the books and seen the first two movies. What started out as “Romeo and Juliet with fangs” has, uh, transformed into a love triangle between three distinct species of high schoolers: the James Dean-ish outsider, the bare-chested jock, and the mopey, angst-ridden girl.

These are personified by Robert Pattinson (vampire), Taylor Lautner (werewolf), and Kristen Steward (love interest).

Ah, if teenage dating were so literal.

Edward Cullen (Pattinson) says, “Isabella Swan, I promise to love you every moment of forever.” Because vampires exist forever.

Jacob Black (Lautner) challenges him, “You have to consider the idea that I might be better for her than you are?” Because werewolves are as loyal as lap dogs.

Bella (Stewart) demurs, “You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into.” Because girls are … girls.
“The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” is currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.

In this latest offering we discover that there’s been a new spate of mysterious killings around Seattle. Is it the work of a deranged murderer? Vicious animals? Vampires? Werewolves? (Yes, the grunge capital of the US is a dangerous place.)

But what do these deaths have to do with Bella Swann? Can it be the revenge that a vampire named Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) seeks against Edward Cullen for killing her mate? Because in Victoria’s monstrous eye-for-an-eye world, she wants to destroy the very thing that Edward loves most, Bella.

And when bad vampires are pitted against good vampires will Bella’s werewolf pal Jacob join the battle? Why not, when he can at the same time win favor with the girl he loves and do his favorite thing: kill vampires.
Ah, teen lust. Make that, teen blood lust.
[from Solares Hill}

Sorcerer's Apprentice (Rhoades)

“Sorcerer’s Apprentice” Without Mickey Mouse
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

No, this is not that segment from “Fantasia” where Mickey Mouse is an out-of-control sorcerer’s apprentice. Instead, this is a live-action adventure film, starring Nicolas Cage as a sorcerer and Jay Baruchel as his erstwhile apprentice, that’s based on that 1940 Disney animation.

A new version of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is not such an offbeat idea. After all, Disney has created Broadway stage productions based on its cartoony movies (“The Lion King”), icecapades based on its characters (“Disney on Ice”), and epic movies based on its amusement park rides (“Pirates of the Caribbean”). So why not a live-action film based on a segment of an animated musical fantasy?

Heck, the original “Fantasia” segment itself was based on Goethe’s 1797 poem “Der Zauberlehrling.”
In this latest rendition, a modern-day sorcerer named Balthazar Blake (Cage) trains a reluctant college student in the black arts in order to do battle with the forces of darkness.

Alfred Molina plays an evil magician named Maxim Horvath. Monica Bellucci is Veronica, a sorceress who is Balthazar’s long-lost love. And Toby Kebbell is a celebrity illusionist who joins the bad guys.
Set in present-day Manhattan, Nicolas Cage looks like a demented Gene Wilder standing there in Times Square gesticulating magically to call forth the film’s special effects.

Online bloggers weigh in on Cage’s appearance:
Katnight6 comments, “I was thinking that some costume designer must like Harry Dresden from the Dresden File because his outfit really reminds me of Harry’s.”
Swiddel responds, “Being that his production company is the one that produced The Dresden Files, this makes sense!”
Bikegeek17 says, “That’s funny; I thought he looked like Tim Burton.”
JTheGoblinKing sets matters straight. “Nicholas Cage is a huge fan of The Dresden Files novels. He was executive producer for the TV series and when Syfy refused to continue the show... well, Nic took matters into his own hands. Guess who produced this film?”

True. In addition to Jerry Bruckheimer, there are seven executive producers, one of whom is Nic Cage.
“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is doing its magic reappearance at the Tropic Cinema.

And why not? The “Harry Potter” movies have made witches and wizards quite popular. Disney is merely capitalizing on a theme that it did first.
[from Solares Hill]