Friday, March 11, 2011

Week of March 11 to March 17 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

You know Ed Helms from The Hangover (and The Office and The Daily Show). He’s now at the Tropic in CEDAR RAPIDS, as Tim Lippe, a na├»ve, earnest insurance salesman on his first trip out of his tiny home town to the big city. That’s not Las Vegas this time, but in this movie, as one character says, “What happens in Cedar Rapids, stays in Cedar Rapids,” so get ready for Hangover-style humor.

Tim is not a kid, but he lives in his childhood home, and his only romantic relationship is a dalliance with his former 7th grade teacher (Sigourney Weaver). A plane trip and a stay at a hotel with an atrium swimming pool and a hovering prostitute is almost more than his system can bear. He’s there for an insurance convention, sharing a room with two agents from more cosmopolitan places: the first African-American he’s ever met (Isiah Whitlock Jr. from The Wire) and a wild, womanizing guy (John C. Reilly). Add a party-animal woman (Ann Heche) and you’ve got the setup.

It’s “a sweet comedy with a dirty mind” (Roger Ebert), “makes you laugh-often and out loud” (Wall St. Journal). But my favorite insight comes from Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle: “fair and refreshing and almost makes you want to visit Iowa.” Those Frisco guys really know how to hand out a compliment. Check it out for an exuberant evening that’s out of the Tropic’s ordinary.

THE ILLUSIONIST is also an unusual treat, an Oscar-nominated animation using the classic technique of hand-drawn cels. If you were as delighted as I was with The Triplets of Belleville (which the Film Society showed at the San Carlos before opening the Tropic), you’ve been anxiously awaiting writer-director-animator-composer Sylvain Chomet’s follow up. For The Illusionist he’s drawn on a story by the French comic genius Jacques Tati about a traditional stage magician whose act is becoming outdated. But the movie, like Triplets, is all Chomet, from his incredible artistic style to his sprightly score. And the humor of Tati and Triplets continues to captivate in this “handcrafted jewel of a movie” (Boston Globe). It’s animation for adults, but fun for the kids, too, who might welcome visuals that are more akin to the picture books they love than Pixar pixels. Just a tad of warning, it’s rated PG because of smoking, which of course is natural to the characters. Bah, humbug.

Coming up on Saturday night is another show from the Fly Fishing Film Tour, hosted by local guide Will Benson. The goal of the Tour is “to inspire film makers to create new cutting edge films to both entertain and educate outdoor enthusiasts.” They’ve put together an amazing reel of what they impolitely call “fish porn,” meaning, I suppose, footage to excite those for whom fishing is as sexy as, well, sex. That’s probably half the population of Key West, so get your tickets early, at the Tropic box office or website. Check out http://www.flyfishingfilmtour.com for more info.

Monday’s Classic is GASLIGHT. Nominated for six Oscars, and winner of the Best Actress award for Incredible Ingrid, it’s got an all-star cast with Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotton, and Angela Lansbury backing Ms. Bergman. This is classic film noir, with foggy London streets and a thriller plot that will keep you on the edge.

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