Monday, April 4, 2011

Week of April 1 to April 7 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

The King of the Beasts must be the big cat du jour. Apple has named its newly upgraded operating system for Mac computers as “Lion.“ And there are two new movies about these magnificent animals coming to the screen.

The first of these is THE LAST LIONS. Filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert spent seven years living in Botswana's Okavango Delta, getting to know every one of the resident lions as family, while focusing expert nature cameras on them. Made with the support of the National Geographic, this movie takes up the story of one grouping, a lioness and her three cubs.

The male head of their pride is killed, and she retreats to an island in the Delta to raise the cubs on her own. It's difficult not to anthropomorphize the situation of this single mother, and the Jouberts don't even try. Using the magisterial voice of Jeremy Irons and almost miraculous cinematography, they have produced a documentary with narrative drive.

It's the story of Ma di Tau -- Mother of Lions in the local dialect – for whom “single motherhood doesn’t mean juggling family, work and PTA meetings: it means parking the tots in the bushes and then trying to take down a water buffalo the size of a jeep. “ (New York Times) They’ll become your family, too.
And get ready for DisneyNature’s African Cats, coming in a few weeks and featuring another pride of lions, plus a cheetah mom and her five cubs.

THE WAY BACK is also a stunning visual experience, from master director Peter Weir (Gallipoli, Master and Commander, The Truman Show, Picnic at Hanging Rock). Based on a true story, this narrative film follows four escapees from a Siberian gulag (played by Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, Colin Farrell and Dragos Bucur), and a woman they meet along the way (Saoirse Ronan - Atonement, The Lovely Bones), as they struggle across 4,000 miles of frozen tundra, desert and mountain to India. When one asks how they can cross the Himalayas which loom before them, the answer is the same as for the Gobi Desert and everything in between: Walk.

But what a walk. “Part The Great Escape and part Lawrence of Arabia, Weir's epic The Way Back is ambitious in scope, grand in vision and rich with examples of the resilience of the human spirit.” (New Orleans Times-Picayune) And don’t think it’s just acting. Verisimilitude comes at a price. News reports say that the actors needed medical attention after grueling takes while being assailed by 100 mile- per- hour blasts of chemical snow that burned their eyes.

These two films join holdovers THE LINCOLN LAWYER and CASINO JACK, giving you plenty of dramatic fare.

Monday night brings the opening of the April Movie Classics themed as a memorial tribute to Elizabeth Taylor. This week’s feature is the 1944 hit NATIONAL VELVET, with Liz as a twelve-year-old girl entered in England’s Grand National steeplechase and Mickey Rooney as the drifter and former jockey who coaches her. Get your tickets early. It’s a sure sell out.

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[from Key West, the newspaper -]

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