Thursday, September 23, 2010

Week of September 24 to September 30 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Take a good look at the time schedule before heading down to the theater.

The Peggy Dow Theater is splitting its screen between THE EXPENDABLES and THE EXTRA MAN. The former is a rock ‘em, sock ‘em Sylvester Stallone written/directed story, with such as former Ultimate Fighting Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture (his real name) and Chinese martial arts Gold Medalist Jet Li helping Sly and his cameo buddies Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger as a team of mercenaries saving the world from guys like Wrestlemania star Stone Cold Steve Austin. Are you getting the picture?

Nothing could be further from Kevin Kline as THE EXTRA MAN. He’s a walker. Well, maybe not entirely different, because I guess you could say that he’s a kind of a mercenary, too, but a foppish one, saving rich women from loneliness. His buddy is a former prep-school English teacher (Paul Dano), bent on becoming a great novelist, but somewhat distracted by a penchant for donning women’s undergarments. (Why isn’t he named Randy Couture?) The two wind up sharing an apartment on New York’s upper-east side, with Kline trying to teach the naïve young Dano the ways of the world. Can’t get to New York this fall, this “whimsical, screwball ode to urban eccentricity” (New York Times) is a quick and easy visit.

The star of the week though is the splendid MAO’S LAST DANCER from the fine Australian director Bruce Beresford (Tender Mercies, Driving Miss Daisy). It's based on the autobiography of Chinese ballet dancer / political defector Cunxin Li, played by Chi Cao, himself a principal dancer with the Birmingham Royal Ballet. The extended ballet excerpts are a visual and musical treat, especially when seen on the Tropic’s big main screen, and the history that unfolds with the story adds a powerful dimension. Cunxin Li was plucked from a remote village by Mao’s talent scouts and made to become a dancer in service of the revolution. Yet when he finally grew to love his art, and a beautiful blonde ballerina, his personal revolt left the Chinese one behind.

Another story of a potential “defector” is CAIRO TIME. In this case it’s indie favorite Patricia Clarkson (Pieces of April, The Station Agent, Vicky Cristina Barcelona) in her first starring role. She’s an American wife stranded in Cairo alone when her UN-official husband gets stuck in Gaza and can’t get to her. He’s not in danger, but she is, until an Egyptian friend of his offers to show her around. He’s charming, he’s kind, and she’s appreciative. “Great to see Cairo depicted relatively accurately in the film and not overly-romanticized,” enthused the reviewer in Cairo 360 magazine. So come for the scenery, and enjoy the story.

To round out the program, EAT PRAY LOVE with Julia Roberts and the Spanish-made, but English-language, historical drama AGORA with Rachel Weisz are both held over.

Plenty to see.

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[from Key West, the newspaper -]

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