Saturday, April 21, 2012

Week of April 20 to April 26 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Where would you like to go this week?

How about a hippie commune? With WANDERLUST you could join Jennifer Anniston and Paul Rudd as they tune in, turn on and drop out from straight Manhattan life at a commune where money buys nothing, and love is free. Live out your fantasy, then go home, all in under two hours. “There's no way you won't be tickled. Wanderlust makes escapism an irresistible proposition.” (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone). “The movie renews your faith in communal comedy.” (David Edelstein, NPR)

Too soft? In THIN ICE you can accompany insurance salesman Gregg Kinnear into the winter Wisconsin wilds as he tries to con an elderly farmer (Alan Arkin). At first it’s just an unneeded policy that’s being sold, but when a felonious security system installer (Billy Crudup) comes on the scene, theft of a rare violin becomes the goal. “This is an icy cocktail of greed, betrayal and murder to be savored,” (Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star-Tribune) with a “devilishly ingenious screenplay” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times). The sister team of writer-directors, Jill and Karen Sprecher have a light touch that will make you think of the Coen Brothers, rather than Hitchcock.

Or if you want to avoid any levity, join Woody Harrelson as a bad cop in the mean streets of Los Angeles in RAMPART. The title refers to an L.A. precinct noted for the over-the-top brutality of its officers, and Woody has helped build that reputation. He has his own code however. With two ex-wife sisters (Cynthia Nixon and Anne Heche) and children by each, he’s a louse, but in a warped way he believes he has to hold the family together. Written by James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential), and directed by Oren Moverman (The Messenger). “With Mr. Harrelson, Mr. Moverman has created an antihero of epic proportions and indiscretions.” (John Anderson, Wall St. Journal) “Harrelson is an ideal actor for the role. Especially in tensely wound-up movies like this, he implies that he's looking at everything and then watching himself looking. His character, Dave Brown, has no moral center, but he has the survival instincts of a rat, and I say that with all due respect for rats.” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)

Another option is a dysfunctional New York high school in DETACHMENT. Adrien Brody is a substitute school teacher. He’s at the center of a cast of worn out souls – Marcia Gay Harden, Christina Hendricks, James Caan, Lucy Liu – all brought down by the educational wasteland they inhabit. He knows there is more. He tries to prove it. “Its sheer audacity grabs your attention.” (Stephen Holden, New York Times) “The movie works, and, though it cries out against so much, you sense that the one thing it does not cry is wolf.” (Anthony Lane, New Yorker)

And then there’s IN DARKNESS, which is easily the finest film of the group, but not easy to take. This Polish selection for the Best Foreign Language film Academy Award is based on a true story a sewer worker who hid Jews below the ground in the final year of the German occupation. “To give the highest recommendation to a Holocaust movie is to anticipate a certain resistance in the reader…. [But] In Darkness is an extraordinary movie, and somehow good art creates its own uplift.” (Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle) “The suspense here, derived from a true story, is excruciating and inspiring in equal measure.” (Joe Morgenstern, Wall St. Journal)

Full schedule and info at or

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