Saturday, October 8, 2011

Week of October 6 to October 13 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Women rock this week at the Tropic.

Rachel Weisz turns tough girl in THE WHISTLEBLOWER with a performance reminiscent of Julia Roberts’ in Erin Brockovich. This time however the problem is not water pollution but human trafficking. Weisz plays a cop from Nebraska who takes a job with the UN in Bosnia, her primary goal being to make enough money to afford a nasty custody fight with her ex-husband. But she’s dedicated to the job and is horrified by the white slavery trafficking in young women that she finds. The deeper she digs, the more she discovers about corruption and cynicism in high places that support the activity.

Though this movie is based on a true story, it’s no hand-wringer, do-gooder documentary, but rather “a relentless and frightening thriller” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times), “a grisly, authentic, meticulously researched, pulse-quickening political chiller” (Rex Reed, New York Observer).

In CONTAGION, the tale of a virus that tries to wipe out humanity, women are on both sides. Gwnyeth Paltrow is the primary disease vector, while Kate Winslet and Jennifer Ehle are the lead scientists trying to fight it. With all the sci fi thrillers about giant monsters and aliens threatening us, it’s unnerving to realize that the microscopic menace of an airborne virus is more real and more devastating. “Serious, precise, frightening, emotionally enveloping.” (David Denby, New Yorker), “the most believable zombie movie ever made.” (Forrest Wickman, Slate) Bring your Purell.

Anna Faris, in WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER faces a somewhat less daunting challenge, that of finding a mate. But she’s the star here, and the guys who are offered up to her are pretty unappealing. For all the drama of movies like The Whistleblower and Contagion, Faris’ problem is the existential threat most women face. So give it a chance. Held over for a second week.

THE HELP is all about female heroes. Emma Roberts is a young white writer challenging the segregationist establishment in 1960’s Jackson, Mississippi, while Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer are the black maids who risk everything to help tell their story. This surprise hit of the summer is held over for another week.

The female in TURTLE:THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY lacks some of the charm of these other women, but she’s just as bold and brave in her own way, traversing the Atlantic from Florida to Africa and back, always at great risk, just to complete the cycle of motherhood. This movie, also held over, “promises more excitement than you might suspect could be packed into a story about loggerhead turtles.” (Stephen Holden, New York Times)

And then there’s ESMERALDA, live from the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, the harrowing tale of a young woman who marries a prisoner to save him from execution, and eventually faces execution herself.

As I say, women rock!

Just so we don’t forget those folks who hold up the other half of the sky, two very guy-centric films round out the schedule. You might not be surprised to learn that they’re both about fast cars.

DRIVE features Ryan Gosling as a movie stunt driver by day, and a crime getaway wheelman by night. “This is no antic-frantic affair; instead, it's a cerebral game of stop-and-go, hide-and-seek, as the director behind the camera handles things exactly like the guy behind the wheel - with a stylish mixture of cold calculation and cool aplomb.” (Rick Groen, Toronto Globe and Mail) “Fresh and vital and astonishingly intense…. I was buzzing when I left the theater. I'm buzzing still.” (Christopher Orr, The Atlantic)

SENNA is the biopic of Aryton Senna, the Brazilian Formula One racing champion. He was three times the champion over his ten year career from 1984 to 1994, and always a charismatic figure, with signature come-from-behind wins. Unlike most documentaries, this one is not full of talking heads. The story is told through narration, but the camera is almost always on the track, full of thrilling archival footage, much of it from in-car cameras giving a driver’s-eye view of the race. “With such supercharged material under the hood, a magnetic man behind the wheel and a nimble director manning the pits, Senna is simply the greatest sports film I have ever seen.” (Joe Williams, St. Louis Post Dispatch)

P.S. Mark your calendars for Thursday, Oct. 13. It’s the Wild and Scenic Film Festival, a benefit show for Reef Relief.

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