Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Week of April 6 to April 12 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

It’s time for some fun at the Tropic.

JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME, is a “sweet, surprising comedy” (Joe Williams, St. Louis Post Dispatch). Jeff (Jason Segel – Bad Teacher, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) is a slacker. Though a grown man, he doesn’t merely live at his mother’s, he is embedded there, in the basement, on a couch. But then one day, he goes forth, to the hardware store to buy some glue for his mother (Susan Sarandon) and all hell breaks loose, for him, and for his tight-assed brother (Ed Helms – Hangover, Cedar Rapids) who seems to care about nothing other than buying a Porche which he can’t afford.

“The unassuming, dryly funny, often ramshackle Jeff, Who Lives at Home — the latest from director brothers Jay and Mark Duplass — seems unlikely to be as emotionally rich as it is. Both Jeff and the film have a way of sneaking up on you.” (Ian Buckwalter, NPR)

“It is small, it is smart, it is quirky… But it also is a deceptive film -- and wonderfully so.” (Mike Scott, New Orleans Times-Picayune)

W./E. is the ticket if you don’t like schlubby slackers. How about elegant, upscale ones. Isn’t that what the legendary Duke and Duchess of Windsor were? After all, he quit a pretty big job (King of England) to just hang with his girl and go to parties. Writer/Director Madonna tells their story in W./E.(which alludes to the shorthand by which Wallis and Edward were known.)You might think of this film as the prequel to last year’s hit The King’s Speech. The stuttering Bertie, who stepped into his brother’s role, makes a brief appearance as we delve into the backstory of his good fortune.

Madonna, who has long been fascinated by Wallis Warfield Simpson’s vault to fame, has taken an interesting approach to the narrative. The story is told through flashbacks, as a young, unhappily married Manhattan woman, Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish- Bright Star), explores her namesake’s history at high-end auction houses and museums. Andrea Riseborough (Maid in Dagenham) and James D’Arcy (Master and Commander) capture W. and E. perfectly, and the portrayal of their lush, vacuous life is gorgeously depicted on screen, with an enchanting soundtrack.

W.E. is all about shameless visual pleasure,…. a world of impossibly rich reds, impeccably coiffed hairdos, mirrored dressers filled with luscious Chanel makeup, irresistibly polished Martini shakers, five-billion-thread count Pratesi bed sheets…. Madonna handles this film like a masterful aesthetician.” (Diego Costa, Slant Magazine)

If the story is a bit empty, well, weren’t their lives.

The lives of CHICO & RITA are quite a contrast. He’s a jazz pianist and she’s a singer, both Cuban, living in the wild, licentious Havana before Castro. When they get together, the music and love are so hot you’ll be reassured that the Tropic has sprinklers, just in case. This unique film was nominated for Best Animated Feature. It lost out to the blockbuster kids film Rango. No surprise. Chico & Rita is not for kids. It’s blessedly free of cute anthropomorphized creatures. And it’s a lot sexier than an NC-17 rated movie like Shame.

“A dazzling and delightful work of modernist animation, a classic movie romance and a hip-swinging, finger-popping tale of musical revolution,…. I’m here to tell you that the niche for “Chico & Rita” includes you, if you are interested in music or art or movies or love.” (Andrew O’Hehir,

“This is definitely animation for grown-ups — its look is voluptuous, sexy and sultry; its Latin-inflected Dizzy Gillespie sound is seductive.” (Betsy Sharkey, L.A. Times)

Quite a different musical mood is captured in CAROL CHANNING: LARGER THAN LIFE, a documentary about the famed musical star. Full of archival footage from the day, and contemporary interviews with Carol herself (now 91 and full of spunk), plus others including Marge Champion, Phyllis Diller, Tippi Hedren, and Tyne Daly

“A terrifically entertaining, smartly constructed trip down memory lane with one of the American stage's most legendary troupers.” (Gary Goldstein, L.A. Times)

This week’s Monday Classic is Woody Allen’s THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO (1985), in which Mia Farrow mixes with a movie character (Jeff Daniels) who steps off screen into her life. It’s a mix of fantasy and reality that Woody brought to perfection in last year’s Midnight in Paris.

Full schedules and info at or

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