Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Week of June 29 to July 5 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Are you a Wes Anderson fan? He’s famous for creating little worlds that are ostensibly real but oddly off kilter. In The Royal Tenenbaums it was an estranged family of child prodigies. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou dealt with a boatload of intrepid oceanographers. The Darjeeling Limited followed three brothers on a train across India. And of course his last film The Fantastic Mr. Fox was a stop-action animation with an incredible set of puppets.

In MOONRISE KINGDOM he turns his attention to a scout summer camp on a Maine-like island. This is not your usual Boy Scout operation, with a scoutmaster (Ed Norton) who smokes and drinks, and a group of campers who bring lethal weapons on a mission to find an unpopular colleague who has gone AWOL. The escaped 12-year-old camper is having a rendezvous with a local girl from the small island community. Although it’s chaste young love as only Anderson can imagine it, her parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) aren’t pleased, nor are the sheriff (Bruce Willis) and the child social-services officer (Tilda Swinton). But love will out.

“A thoroughly endearing journey, and one of the most enjoyable and touching movies to land in theaters so far this year.” (Mike Scott, New Orleans Times-Picayune) “It’s a movie about how we remember childhood, when confrontations with other kids seemed to have life-or-death stakes, grown-ups spoke about things we didn’t understand or care about, and it really was possible to run away and go on a wild adventure, as long as you brought the proper supplies.” (Rene Rodriquez, Miami Herald)

ELENA is a Russian thriller set in a grim post-Soviet Moscow. The title character is a frumpy former housekeeper, now long-suffering wife to a wealthy older man. When he falls ill and announces he is about to slash her share of his will, she has fateful choice. “A breakthrough movie after its own fashion, a mysterious existential thriller that's brilliantly acted and masterfully directed, without a second of wasted screen time.” (Andrew O’Hehir,

The documentary QUILL: THE LIFE OF A GUIDE DOG is irresistible. It follows a yellow lab from his selection as a puppy, through his life’s work as a service dog, to his old age. You’ll learn about the training, about the dogs, and even about the mixed virtues of their handicapped masters. “The exquisite live-action Quill: The Life of a Guide Dog may be the family film of the year.” (Rob Humanick, Slant Magazine)

MEN IN BLACK 3 in 3D completes the schedule of new films. With THE AVENGERS (also in 3D) held over this week, we’re in the midst of existential invasions. But not to worry the Men and the Supermen (and a Superwoman) have things under control. Take your choice of threat and team.
Monday night’s Road Trippin' Month Film Classic is THELMA AND LOUISE, Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis’s iconic female road movie. There’s also a road movie for kids this Saturday morning: CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG with Dick Van Dyke and his fabulous flying car.

Full schedules and info at

Quill (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway 
The Life of Quill, the Seeing-Eye Dog

If you wish to leave Captain America or India behind and take a trip to Tokyo, there is a new film by Yoichi Sai, based on the novel, "The Life of Quill, the Seeing-Eye Dog" by Ryohei Akimoto and Kengo Ishiguro. The film, based on a true story concerns Quill, a rebellious young Labrador puppy. It is evocatively photographed in rich pastel shades with tilting camera angles is suited for all ages, but its Disneyesque anthropomorphism, makes it almost more suited for young children. This would be fine and baransu no toreta (balanced) were it not for an odd despairing streak that runs throughout the film like a black thread. 

"Quill" is a thoughtful yet melancholic film that will have you smiling and crying in equal measure and perhaps this is the point.

Quill,  the puppy, is adorable. There is something in his chubby snub-nose face that suggests a Sumo wrestler. He is all fur and energy. We see him squirm and stretch and tumble on a mat and it is easy to attribute human qualities to this young one as he seems so ready for action. Right from the start, we know that Quill is different and because of a zooming and rapidly edited montage, showing various aspects of a house in Tokyo, we  witness the origin of a superhero here. This is no ordinary Labrador. This is Quill and he even has a natural-born hero's crest in the shape of a squirting ink pen to prove it.

Like all heroes, Quill has a dubious start, he doesn't follow much instruction; he wanders into the garden and gets bitten on the nose by a stinging black and red caterpillar. Quill becomes cross-eyed complete with flute sound effects and it is impossible not to laugh out loud.
But the film takes a bit of a dark turn when he goes off to a secondary training school and we witness the very sad moment when the young pup is wrenched away from his foster parents and placed in a barred pen. The food bowl slips from his paws and moves beyond his reach. There hasn't been a scene this sad since "Project Nim".

In school, he is under the care of an affable trainer. A bond develops. The trainer is eager to put Quill in employment but one wonders why, since the trainer is in such harmony with his furry pupil.

By chance, Quill is paired with Mr. Watanabe, (Kaoru Kobayashi) a sullen and emotionally impaired journalist. This gent is a real sourpuss. He makes no secret of disliking Quill and refuses to touch him. He brushes him harshly, almost making welts and steps on his paws, uncaring. Quill is undaunted and invariably wags his tail waiting with patience as he was taught. Over time, a friendship develops.

But otherwise Watanabe seems a thoroughly joyless character with no biped friends. Why on earth were they paired up in the first place?
This is one of life's great mysteries.

Quill also has a friendship of sorts with Watanabe's bratty son (Kazu Matsuda) who doesn't seem to do much except make weird faces and wear funny hats. The humans in the film with the exception of Kippei Shina as the trainer, are a bit uninteresting and unsympathetic. But I should remember that this film is from Yoichi Sai, whose earlier  "Blood and Bones" is about a mean and morally bankrupt  seafood merchant who brings nothing but sadness to all he touches.

It's a good thing that Quill is here and he embodies all the light you need. Children and dog lovers should take caution however. Some scenes make for a  Zen fusion of "Old Yeller" (1957) and are not for the easy tissue-reachers among us. 

Yet despite its occasional dwelling in despair, as if Lars von Trier had collaborated with Cesar Millan, "Quill" is a seductive film that illustrates a world that lives under the wagging sway of its wise canine teachers.
But fear not. The colorful affectionate artworks depicting Quill at the end credits are a refreshing green tea dessert that will dry your tears and lighten your heart.

Write Ian at

Elena (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


To watch Andrei Zvyagintsev's "Elena" is to see the best of Dostoevsky and mystery master James M. Cain on screen. This is a groundbreaking Sleeper of a film. It is an exercise in Minimalism that is pitch perfect. It demands your attention, but you will not be unrewarded.

At the start, we are in a palatial apartment in Russia. Elena (Nadezhda Markina) lives with her stingy husband Vladimir (Andrey Smimov), who won't budge an inch in the support of Elena's slacker son Sergy (Alexey Rozin). Elena is shy and reserved and both Vladimir and Elena spend most of their time onscreen walking in and out of rooms. Each one resides in a comfortable prison, barely talking to the other despite the abundance of space.

Meanwhile across town, lazy shlub  Sergy moans that he doesn't have enough money to send his apathetic son Sasha (Igor Ogurtsov) to college. Sergy entertains sending him to the military. They live in a dim smoky  closet apartment with little option or outlet. To make matters worse, there is also a newborn in the family.

This impending dilemma eats away at Elena who plays the Martyr against  her husband's iron will. Nadezhda Markina is wonderful in her role and her shy reserve and inner manipulation is reminiscent of Janet Leigh in Hitchcock's "Psycho". To watch Markina is to see subtlety and fear in action, together with the reptilian rage of class warfare. 
The apprehension is further enhanced by a marvelous, if familiar score by the inimitable Phillip Glass. Not since the legendary Bernard Hermann has there been a composer who illustrates our age of anxiety so well with his deep thrumming violin strokes and repetitions. 
Despite the resonance of violence, you won't find much blood on walnut floors spilled here. "Elena" is built on the LEGO blocks of a Limbic system that slowly runs out of control, but only just slightly. Secrets are kept in empty rooms that have barely been disturbed.
When Elena burns Vladimir's notes in the kitchen, we fully witness the domestic fires of Hell.
There is something of the ghost of Roman Polanski here, given that Nature rolls on without a care. Indeed, the poetics of "Elena" will pass you by in a whisper, if you opt to miss it. But please don't. The word "pregnant" is just as threatening here as it is in "Rosemary's Baby". This film, like Phillip Glass' score escalates to a sharp, fearful mood that is not easy to dismiss.

Write Ian at

Moonrise Kingdom (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway 

Moonrise Kingdom

Here we have another quirky comedy from the Wizard of the Warped, Wes Anderson, who has brought us such dry inflected silliness as "Rushmore", "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" and the visually exuberant "The Fantastic Mr. Fox". 

In this latest outing Anderson nostalgically encapsulates the events of young love. The candy striped colors and saturations of  green create a kind of Looney Toons version of valentines. There is much colorful voyeurism of cranky gray adults, shown as paper-thin matchsticks, fretting and ogling our apple cheeked young lovers as they scamper about from room to room. Say what you want about Anderson the Obscure, the cinematography has never been more vibrant than here. "Moonrise Kingdom" is a fast moving graphic novel as imagined by Tintin creator Herge, in the style of a whimsical "Rear Window".

Young Suzy (Kara Hayward) starts a pen pal affair with Sam (Jared Gilman) and they agree to flee the shackles of childhood rules and begin a tryst.

"Moonrise Kingdom" would not be so startling were it not for its richness of color and detail or its quirky spunk that will charm your heart with all the gentle irreverence of an old Addams Family episode. Sam and Suzy are prepared for everything before it actually happens, be it the wrath of weather or parents. Sam is a young geeky Gauguin as he paints his young lover on the rocks, while Suzy for her part is an Olive Oyl anarchist fused with a pint sized Anais Nin.  Actor Bill Murray as Suzy's dad shuffles about in a bemused fashion with an ax, invariably rubbing gray sleep from his eyes while Frances McDormand struts about like a mad hen. 
Edward Norton plays the Type A scoutmaster who leads the search. Norton portrays his role a bit like The Man with the Yellow Hat from "Curious George". He also has a bit of Agent Cooper in him, from "Twin Peaks" as he constantly seeks out clues to locate the young Bohemians who are wise beyond their years. 

Some of the Cupid's tale is a bit predictable here---we know we can expect a big storm---but that doesn't matter. We are watching a unique picaresque tale ala "The Little Rascals" with a French existential twist and it will beguile your eyes. It has the flavor of a Pop-Up book by Kierkegaard, yet it is never highbrow. Its philosophy is cute rather than elitist.
Tilda Swinton, always offbeat, does a good turn as the Kafkaesque figurehead Social Services. She is completely coated in imperial blue.

In the film nothing is superfluous, every color and object is labeled with quirk and intention. The action is lively, sweet and lightly subversive. Anderson's oeuvre is to show children as adults and vice versa. In doing this, Anderson never panders or stoops to conquer. Yet the film's most potent wonder is that it adds up to more than its ingredients and remains accessible to all. This inclusion, despite its precocious alphabet-boxing when most everything looks like an Advent calendar, is the film's best Moonrise Surprise.

Write Ian at

Moonrise Kingdom (Rhoades)

Wes Anderson Takes You
To “Moonrise Kingdom”

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Focus Features arranged a special showing of Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” for children’s author Judy Blume. She invited me and fellow reviewer Ian Brockway to join her. “Why do they want me to see this film?” she fretted as we gathered in the Tropic’s Taylor Theater. After it was over, Judy said, “Oh, I get it. The movie was about children.”
And magically so.
The story takes place on a mythical New England island where two youngsters have disappeared, setting off a search led by the local police chief and a scout troop.
The two tweens – bespectacled Sam (Jared Gilman) who smokes a pipe and prim Suzy (Kara Heywood) who reads adventure books – had met the year before at a church play and became pen pals. Wise in ways found only in Wes Anderson films, the youngsters decide to elope, setting off across the island toward a secluded spot, a pretty cove they name Moonrise Kingdom.
Their disappearance raises an alarm.
With a bad storm approaching, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) organizes a search party. Led by a straight-arrow scoutmaster (Edward Norton), the local troop joins in, more like a bloodthirsty posse than a rescue team.
Being that Sam’s adopted, his folks decide they don’t want him back. Suzy’s lawyer parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) pause in their dysfunctional marriage to worry about their missing daughter. They consider her a “Very Troubled Child,” as evidenced by a book she has found.
In their escape attempt, the kids are assisted by larcenous Cousin Ben (Jason Schwartzman) and are threatened by a follow-the-rules Social Services lady (Tilda Swinton) who wants to put Sam into “protective custody.” But the police chief sees it differently.
A couple of star-crossed love stories, storms, floods, lightning bolts from on high – you will be hooked like a fish in the gentle waters of “Moonrise Kingdom.”
The film is narrated (sort of) by a grizzled fisherman known as the Narrator (Bob Balaban), who shares island history, weather reports, and sightseeing tips.
“Moonrise Kingdom” is typical of Wes Anderson films (“The Royal Tenenbaums,” “The Darjeeling Limited”) – peopled with odd characters and off-kilter situations. Set in 1965, it’s almost like a childhood memory. A faded dreamscape. An offbeat coming-of-age love story.
“Moonrise Kingdom” is currently enchanting audiences at the Tropic Cinema.
Some moviegoers complain that Wes Anderson’s films are “not realistic” and “precious.” Others see them as “mannered” and “utter uncompromising stylishness.” Fans describe them as “amazing,” “distinctive,” and “wondrous.”
“I want to try not to repeat myself,” says Anderson. “But then I seem to do it continuously in my films. It’s not something I make any effort to do. I just want to make films that are personal, but interesting to an audience. I feel I get criticized for style over substance.”
Written by Anderson and his frequent collaborator Roman Coppola, this film is both familiar and different. Their first period piece, but yet one where the characters transcend the ordinary. It’s a minor masterpiece.

Sam and Suzy longed for an adventure of their own. They got it. And you can share it, this trek into the fantastical world of Wes Anderson.

Quill (Rhoades)

“Quill” – a Dog Movie
For Grown-ups

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

My friend Karen Prince sometimes nurtures guide dogs before turning them over for training. It’s almost like being a surrogate mother, caring for a youngster then giving that child up to its future.
“Quill: The Life of a Guide Dog” is the story of a yellow Labrador Retriever puppy who has been chosen to be a guide dog for the blind. This Japanese film is structured like a documentary, introducing the litter of five, watching Quill join a married couple who are “puppy walkers,” then after a year going off to a training center, and then accompanying a cranky blind journalist named Mitsuru Watanabe to become his “eyes.”
Health complications interrupt Quill’s service, eventually turning him into a demonstration dog at the training center. We follow Quill from birth to his death at the age of 12 (people years). Sad, but not quite in the “Old Yeller” vein.
If you’re a dog lover – and who isn’t? – you will enjoy this love poem to a service dog. It’s showing this week at the Tropic Cinema.
The blind journalist is played by Kaoru Kobayashi, winner as Best Actor at the 30th Yokohama Film Festival. Four different-age dogs stand in as Quill, although a lab named Rafi portrays him throughout most of the film.
Director Yoichi Sai is said to have based this on a true story. It will make you tear up. As someone who lived with a wonderful yellow lab for years, I can attest to that.

Men in Black 3 (Rhoades)

“Men In Black”
Makes Timely Return

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

When I was publisher of Marvel Comics, I signed a writer named Lowell Cunningham to a contract. He had written a comic book titled “Men In Black,” an entertaining little tale with a somewhat paranoid science-fiction theme. It was being made into a movie.
Turns out, Marvel had bought Malibu, the comic book company that had bought Aircel, the company that had published Cunningham’s original comic, so it fell to me to fly out to Hollywood (Culver City, to be exact) and approve the rough cut of the movie. And that’s how I came to be hanging out with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.
At a party after the screening, you could quickly spot the difference in their styles. Jones surrounded by older women, chatting with them in an easy-going manner. Smith mobbed by younger women, him gesticulating wildly and laughing as he told a funny story.
As you remember, they played Agents K and J – two members of MIB, the secret organization that keeps extraterrestrial aliens in check. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld (“Get Shorty,” “Wild Wild West”), this sci-fi comedy was followed by a sequel “Men In Black II” in which Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith reprised their roles.
Now ten years later, we have “Men In Black 3.” It’s currently making contact with earthlings at the Tropic Cinema.
Barry Sonnenfeld again directs. And Will Smith is back in full force. Tommy Lee Jones has a diminished role, for this time out he’s lost in a time-travel plotline. You see, Agent J (Smith) must travel back to 1969 to prevent an alien criminal from assassinating Agent K (Jones) and changing history.
So when Agent J does his Back-to-the-Future thing, he encounters a younger version of K (none other than Josh Brolin, doing an outrageous, spot-on Tommy Lee Jones imitation). Brushing off his Texas twang (last used in “W.” while playing George W. Bush), Brolin practically steals the show.
The modern-day agent and the blast-from-the-past agent team up to take on Boris (the alien villain played by Jermaine Clement). Emma Thompson is head of MIB and Alice Eve is her younger self. Lady Gaga has a cameo role, but then we always suspected she was an alien.
No need for a Spoiler Alert: You can assume Agent J saves Agent K because there’s talk about filming “Men In Black 4.” Director Sonnenfeld jokes, “For ‘Men In Black 4,’ Will is out and his son Jaden Smith is in.”
Although the script for “MIB3” (as the title is stylized) was written by Etan Cohen (“Tropic Thunder,” TV’s “Beavis and Butthead”), it’s still credited as being “Based on the Malibu Comic by Lowell Cunningham.”
Shucks, on the first film I forced them to add the Marvel Comics logo instead of Malibu’s. “It’s too late to add it,” they told me during post-production. “Don’t you need my approval on the finished film?” I countered. “Yes,” the Columbia exec answered cautiously. “How much money have you got in the film so far?” I continued. “About $150 million.” “Call me after you’ve added the Marvel logo and I’ll give you my approval to release the film,” I said. The exec called back within the hour.
“You’re the real man in black,” laughed Lowell, referring to the ever-present black garb that I wore at Marvel. “You kept those aliens at the studio in check.”

Monday, June 25, 2012

Week of June 22 to June 28 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Does reality bother you? It’s so boooorrrring, isn’t it? Quotidian problems, like noisy neighbors and boats parked on the street. Wouldn’t it be nice to have something more meaningful to worry about, like Planet Earth being threatened by a Norse god who is harnessing trans-nuclear power to destroy it. Oh yes, and you’ll get half a dozen Superheroes to help you out. Time for THE AVENGERS …. in the Tropic’s marvelous 3D.

Joss Whedon's delicious ode to the Marvel universe boasts clarity, conviction and characters who live and breathe. There are moments of genuine pathos, genuine humor, genuine surprise. As much as the film adheres to the strictures of the standard comic-book movie, it also pops with a knowing, loving, Whedon-world jokiness that keeps everything barreling along.” (Amy Biancolli, San Francisco Chronicle) “Comic-Con nerds will have multiple orgasms.” (David Edelstein, New York Magazine)

Back in the real world we have POLISSE, a drama about the Paris police Child Protection Unit that could be a hand-held camera documentary. The cops are deeply, almost unprofessionally invested in their cases, and when they interrogate a perp, it’s almost a verbal gang rape. The plot is loose, more the story of these cops than of a particular case.
It’s from the police procedural genre, but like nothing you’ve seen on TV. “It’s raw where, say, ‘SVU’ is slick. It’s personal where ‘CSI’ is histrionically forensic. It’s funny where ‘NCIS’ can be labored…. I might see a better movie in the next few months, but I’m not sure how.” (Wesley Morris, Boston Globe)

LOST BOHEMIA is a real documentary, the story of the artists who occupied studios atop Carnegie Hall for decades, until they were ousted in the name of cultural progress. You had a glimpse of it last year in the documentary about New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham, who was one of the dispossessed. The 165 studios were amazing sunlit domains, provided by Andrew Carnegie as part of a grand plan to create an artists' community along with his great concert hall, and the inhabitants were equally amazing. It’s sad to witness the hopelessly out-of-touch efforts of Carnegie Hall to relocate them. I’m reminded, in a small way, of recent actions by the landlord at the Armory on White Street pressuring The Studios of Key West, which fortunately had a better outcome.

Hold overs include fun films for everyone: THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, plus BERNIE, HYSTERIA and DARK SHADOWS.

Lots coming on the Special Event front.

On Friday, the Key West Modern Dance Film Fest, presents A NEW DANCE FOR AMERICA:The Choreography, Teachings and Legacy of Doris Humphrey.

On Saturday morning at 10:30am the Kids Saturday Movie Club presents, BABE (1995). Only a buck for all kids and accompanying adults.

Sunday brings the Ballet in Cinema Series: RAYMONDA, live from the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow at 11:00am, with an evening encore at 7:00pm. Starring Svetlana Zakharova, “Queen of it all …., more beautiful than ever, more serene in command of the dance, more beguiling in playing her role – she smiles, and the world is well lost – and more absolutely a prima ballerina than any other dancer I know at the moment.” (The Financial Times)

While the balletomanes are otherwise occupied down in The George Digital Theater, the main screen in the Carper will be rocking with SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, Hosted by Frankie Key West with a Disco Costume Contest, raffles and more. It’s not just a movie; it’s an event. That’s Sunday, starting at 8:00pm.

And on Monday, it’s REVENGE OF THE NERDS (1984), this week’s Lovable Losers Classic.

Polisse (Rhoades)

“Polisse” Is French
Special Victims Unit

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

A few years ago I sat in a tiny New York bistro with then-executive director Matthew Penn and watched the filming of an episode of TV’s “Law & Order.” The police procedural details were accurate, but the human drama was foremost.
That’s true of a French film titled “Polisse,” winner of the Jury Prize at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and nominated for 13 César Awards. Following intertwined cases of the Child Protection Unit of the Parisian police, it will remind you of a French “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”
This cop team faces traumatizing cases of child endangerment and exploitation, assignments that take a toll on their personal lives. Third-time director Maïwenn Le Besco also wrote this gritty look at a Paris tourists never see. What’s more, she stars as one of the cops.
This energetic docudrama has a fine ensemble cast. Karin Viard (“Haut les coeurs!”), Marina Foïs (“22 Bullets”), Nicolas Duvauchelle (“You Better Be Good to Me”), Emmanuelle Bercot (“Right Now”), and Frédéric Pierrot (“Tell Me I'm Dreaming”), among others. Rapper-actor Joeystarr (“Le Bal des actrices”) is particularly impressive as a hotheaded, idealistic cop who doesn’t like what he sees.
The story is one that’s uncomfortable at times, with its theme of crimes against children. Much of it is seen through the lens of a photographer assigned to cover the unit.
Director Maïwenn (she dropped the use of her last name in a dispute with her actor parents) says she got the idea for “Polisse” while watching a documentary about the Child Protection Unit on TV. So she got permission to join the police for ride-alongs. All the cases in the movie are based on what she witnessed riding with the unit, or on older cases they told her about.
Filmed in the streets of Paris, “Polisse” has more in common with “Law & Order” than it would like to admit.

Lost Bohemia (Rhoades)

“Lost Bohemia”
Preserved on Film

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice – or so the old joke goes. But this documentary about the artist studios that used to crown the famous concert hall is pretty serious, a look at how office spaces managed to displace the 165 historic studios.
Carnegie Hall was built in 1891. Four years later studios were added on top. These studios had been inhabited for over 100 years by painters, sculptors, photographers, writers, musicians, dancers, actors and acting teachers, and a concert pianist who played with Duke Ellington.
Photographer Josef Birdman Astor was a newcomer, having resided there only 20-some years. When he realized that oldtimers were dying off and big business was forcing others out, he began documenting this lost Bohemia. Knocking on doors, he began filming his neighbors one by one. “Our secret world,” he called it.
Isadora Duncan had lived here. Rudolf Nureyev practiced in one of the rooms. Enrico Caruso recorded his first record here. The Actors Club was frequented by Mark Twain. Paddy Chayefsky and Norman Mailer wrote in these garrets. Judy Garland could be seen singing on the roof. Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando studied acting at Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio. Ginger Rodgers came by all the time. Robert Redford and Joanne Woodward and Edwin G. Robinson had studios atop Carnegie Hall. Bob Fosse practiced his dance moves here. Photographer Bill Cunningham maintained a studio. The list goes on and on and on.
No two alike, the studios contained ballet barres, pianos, easels, racks of costumes, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, a massive pipe organ – “chockablock with history.” But it was still a building with steam pipes and peeling paint, arched doorways, endless hallways, fire doors, checkered parquet floors, cast-iron staircases, and skylights. Prime real estate in the center of New York City.
In 1960, developers wanted to tear down Carnegie Hall and erect a red skyscraper. Violinist Isaac Stern led a public campaign against demolition. Finally, the city bought the building for $5 million and designated it as a landmark. A 60-floor Carnegie Hall Tower was built next to the hall on the same block.
In 2001, proposed renovation again threatened the tenants. Creating a music education center was the excuse. Eviction notices were tacked to the doors. Desperate, the tenants took to the streets in protest. They appealed to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, citing Andrew Carnegie’s original charter as a moral imperative for the studios’ existence.
However, no one listened. They lost in Supreme Court. They lost in Civil Court. And eventually the machinery of big business ground them into dust. In 2010, the last holdout tenant was forced to leave the affordable studios.
 “Lost Bohemia” – currently playing at the Tropic Cinema – is a poignant portrait of a lost historic landmark ... the people … the talents … the eccentricities … the dreams.
The Carnegie Hall Corporation declined to be interviewed for this film.

The Avengers (Rhoades)

Marvel’s “Avengers”
Assemble On Big Screen

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Avengers Assemble! Those are the words that call the famous superhero team to action in the pages of Marvel Comics. I ought to know. I used to be the publisher of Marvel Comics. In fact, I brought the Avengers back into the fold after their Heroes Reborn sojourn in the ’90s when the series had been farmed out to another comic book company.
Now “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” are assembling in a blockbuster movie, simply titled “The Avengers.” It’s currently play at the Tropic Cinema.
While members of this superheroes team have shifted over the years, this movie version unites the lead characters from Marvel’s recent movies: Iron Man (played by the remarkable Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), and Thor (Chris Helmsworth). Also included are The Hulk (this time with Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson).
Here we have Loki (well played by Tom Hiddleston) as the villain. As I noted in my book “Comic Books: How the Industry Works,” “At Marvel, we acknowledged that a superhero was only as good as the villain he faced.” And IGN ranks Loki as the “8th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time.”
Loki is the adoptive brother of Thor. “I think by the time Loki shows up,” says Hiddleston, “he’s seen a few things and has bigger things in mind than just his brother and Asgard...” Like conquering Earth with the help of a Chitauri army.
The plot – like with comic books – is simple: a battle between good and evil. Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. assembles a team of super humans to help save the Earth from Loki’s army. Note: If you’ve stayed through the end credits of recent Marvel movies to watch the added-on snippets, you’ve seen Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) recruit them one-by-one.
As Nick Fury explains it, “And there came a day, a day unlike any other ... when Earth’s mightiest heroes found themselves united against a common threat ... to fight the foes no single superhero could withstand ... on that day, The Avengers were born.”
This is the big one, the movie that brings all the cinematic storylines together (not to mention the stars). It’s a technique borrowed from the comic books, where each separate issue takes place serially within the “Marvel Universe,” leading up to a Big Event.
Marvel stalwarts Stan Lee and Jack Kirby get credit for creating the Avengers back in 1963. Truth is, then-publisher Martin Goodman borrowed the idea from his rival, DC Comics.
The late Michael Silberkleit of Archie Comics told me the story: “They would play golf and find out what each other was doing. Everybody copied everybody else. Martin Goodman would go back to the office from the golf course with another idea.”
One of them was to copy DC’s success with a comic book about a teaming of superheroes, the Justice League of America.
Disney bought Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion a couple of years ago. The mouseketeers wanted some “boys” fare to match their princess lineup for girls. Thus, “The Avengers is the first Marvel film to be distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.
“The Avengers” is directed by Josh Whedon (the comic book fanboy who created TV’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly”). The film is greatly influenced by the early 1960s Avengers comics. A big fan of the Avengers while growing up, he liked the family-like aspects of the team: “In those comics these people shouldn’t be in the same room let alone on the same team – and that is the definition of family.”
During the filming Chris Evans (who plays Captain America) wanted to meet with fellow actor Clark Gregg (he plays Agent Phil Coulson). So he sent a text message to Gregg that simply said, “Assemble.” The actor says this is the favorite text message he’s ever received.
Nick Fury has a variation on that theme in “The Avengers.” He says to the team, “Gentlemen, you’re up!”

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Lost Bohemia (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Lost Bohemia

In Josef Birdman Astor's "Lost Bohemia,"  a new documentary, we once again visit the wonderful bestiary of artists who took their rightful roost atop Gotham City's Carnegie Hall. These grand Divas, marvelous maestros and picaresque painters lived in harmonious discontent and became denizens of our culture, guardians of a sort---and even curmudgeonly gargoyles---perched atop apartments. Together these eccentric tenants perform an invaluable service in transmitting a history rich in imagination to New York and beyond. 

In this film we see a couple of Carnegie residents that appeared in an earlier Bill Cunningham documentary: Bill himself, as feckless as ever wearing his trademark blue ensemble ( a sweater this time) as he gives updates on fellow tenants to the film's director. "Okay kid!" Cunningham shouts as he walks away. The exclamation may well be a cheer for himself as much as it is a sign of parting for Astor.

In addition to Cunningham there is also the iconic resident Editta Sherman, photographer and friend of Andy Warhol. She is here in all her bedraggled beauty with her trademark lopsided wig, thankfully as zany and free as when she was first seen in "Bill Cunningham: New York"

In contrast to that film, however, the events that follow here are conspiratorial and menacing. We learn of an invisible poet who never ventures out of his apartment and records messages on his neighbor's answering machine. His raspy voice, thick with loss, soon grows suspicious. He warns of an administration takeover but no one on camera has been known to see him.

The thirty tenants shown on film are individualized fauna complete with their own skill and theatricality. At home in their skylight apartments they are unique flowering engines that rev up and bloom. Not since Warhol's Factory has there seemed such a camaraderie of spirit and mind.  These artists are working with their hands, a rare thing in this automatic age. Indeed these people seem to carry a blaze of the Exotic within them.

The apartments themselves are spectacularly appointed deep within an earth of clutter and a lifetime of memories. They rise in dreamy puffs to take shape in Oriental fans that both illustrate and contain each artists engine of mind. Invariably hemmed in with satins and silks from the ornate to  the profane, the studio apartments are Faberge eggs encapsulating a remembered time and place when artists and dancers sat, talked and ate together and dancing meant mixing with people, going out or seeing art in motion.

But all is not well in Bohemia. The tenants are under siege. One by one, like marked birds they receive evictions. Rather then put the screws on them all at once The Carnegie Board chooses to apply a bureaucratic pressure thru red tape and forms if the aged tenants petition to stay.  

The tenants get actor John Turturro on their side but to no avail. Eccentric dancer Star Szarek, accomplished in her own right, is forced to dance covertly on the stairwell. The charter set forth by Andrew Carnegie to protect the artists' dwellings is ruled to be invalid.

This film is painful to watch as each aged resident, some living there for over fifty years witnesses their studio become destroyed into a faceless cubicle.   Worse yet, not one resident is given a credible reason for these sudden and abrupt renovations.

Editta Sherman according to the film was the last to vacate. She had vowed to stay along with the pianist Don Shirley.

I see the two of them on opposite ends of the hall, blinking their own optical and auditory music together--- two satellites of love, tinkling and snapping.
Mayor Bloomberg is silent in collusion and one wishes in vain for Batman.

Write Ian at

The Avengers (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Avengers

Finally, a superhero film that makes your hands (and eyes)  feel  smudged with a soiled joy as if you were touching an actual comic book just off the presses. The film is "The Avengers" directed by the television impresario Joss Whedon and  filmed in smoothly textured 3D. "The Avengers" is a joy in color and adrenalin, proving the perfect anodyne for a struggling day, stormy weather, lost love or whatever mortal pitfall may be heaped upon you. 

The plot is as old as the Ancients: Good Vs Evil. It's the tried and true Marvel Manichaeism we've all come to expect, revere and root for---an artifact of infinite power is stolen by a Luciferic fallen angel and the battle lines are drawn. But rather than overweigh the story with one battle scene after another, Whedon handles the story with humor, heart and a richness of character that has so much leap and verve that it almost reaches a kind of poetry within its glossy hyperactive frames. This is how a superhero comic should feel in the eyes. And you even feel it in your chest.

Of course we have Tony Stark, (Robert Downey Jr) Captain America (Chris Evans) and Thor ( Chris Hemsworth).  Iron Man Stark is wonderfully sarcastic as a svelte and dapper playboy in a quasi-Art Deco iron suit while Captain America is an Ultra enhanced blonde beach boy from the 1940s with baby blue eyes. That's a given. The real surprise is Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) as "The Hulk". Ruffalo as Banner is a revelation here. Ruffalo's Banner is tormented and concerned at times, but oddly non-plussed. His past fits of anger leave him disheveled and self deprecating. There is something existential and innocent here and Ruffalo's role has a real  emotional core.  There are lots of opportunities for Ruffalo to smirk, but his smirks are sad and carry angst. Banner is not just rage in green and his portrayal is a graceful mixture of Pop Art and poetic remorse. Within The Hulk, a weariness of waiting exists.

The skill of "The Avengers" is in letting its superheroes and demigods drive the action forward. This is a large comprehensive film that is far reaching in scope and probably the only superhero film I have seen where the characters really are as they appear, larger than life with genuine fun, quirk, majesty and menace.
I'll admit that The Hulk and Iron Man have all the best lines (not to mention the Loki rag doll scene) but there is nothing like the sight of Captain America to inflame your patriotic heart as he stands up for a senior citizen or last but not least, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to excite our latent dominatrix desires. 

The real sorcery of "The Avengers" is its ability to portray its characters with a pathos that contains a comic edge as pointed as an Ultra fine Sharpie. Despite their Gamma Gametes and a lot of  Tesseractan testosterone, these exotic beings are indeed human. In holding the earth and the realms of Asgard in balance, they stumble and smile with a know- it- all sarcasm just like us. To err is human, but to err in the air with a Million Trillion Gazillion smashes and crashes with punches and punch-lines to rival Dan Ackroyd or Walter Matthau is Super. 

Write Ian at

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Week of June 15 to June 21 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

HYSTERIA is hysterical. Director Tanya Wexler and the husband-wife writer team of Stephen and Jonah Lisa Dyer have spun a satirical rom-com out of the story of one Joseph Mortimer Granville, the Victorian inventor of the mechanical vibrator. The movie opens with an on screen message assuring us that it’s a true story… “Really.” Which we need to hear, because the plot that unrolls is so off-the-wall that we would otherwise think it is fantasy. Respectable doctors who built successful practices around massaging women to a happy finish, as cure for female “hysteria”? Really? Well yes. I ran home and looked it up. Guess those Victorians were more progressive than we thought.

Dr. Granville (Hugh Dancy -- The Jane Austen Book Club, Adam) He thinks he’s in love with Emily (Felicity Jones – Like Crazy, The Tempest), the strait-laced daughter of his patron. But her sister Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal – The Dark Knight, Secretary), a radical social reformer and feminist cannot be ignored. It’s a rom-com, so you can guess where these characters are going, but the vibrator is a MacGuffin to be reckoned with.

In MONSIEUR LAZHAR a substitute teacher is hired to replace a woman who hung herself in the classroom. While the suicide is the backdrop of this Quebec film, the movie is more about Lazhar, an Algerian immigrant who does not fully understand the customs of his new country. Tap a student who misbehaves? No, no. Ne touchez pas. But he is a good man, and the kids respond to that.

What makes the film enthralling is the wisdom and grace with which it addresses the twin subjects of grief and healing, and the quiet beauty of Mohamed Fellag's performance in the title role.” (Joe Morgenstern, Wall St. Journal) “Nélisse, with her tough, Courtney Love puss, and Néron's portrayal of a boy's well-defended torment are extraordinary, as is the film's realization of the small, temporary world that surrounds them. Hitting upon that kind of specificity - of a moment and its emotion - makes for strong memories and a really great movie.” (Michelle Orange, Village Voice) Nominated for Best Foreign Film Academy Award this year.

The regular film schedule is rounded out with holdovers of the very popular THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, BERNIE and DARK SHADOWS.

The Summer of Fun series continues with the Saturday morning $1 Kids Club (no membership needed, and kids can bring adults for the same price) and the Monday Night’s Loveable Losers classics. For kids this week, it’s LITTLE RASCALS, the 1994 update of the old Our Gang comedies, bringing back Spanky and Alfalfa. For adults on Monday, it’s the great CADDYSHACK with Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield and Bill Murray. Stay off the golf course.

Wednesday brings the first film presentation from the Summer 2012 Modern Dance Festival. THE MEN WHO DANCED is a documentary about Ted Shawn and the founding of Jacob’s Pillow.
Some future tips for your summer calendar: On Sunday night, June 24, SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER comes to the Tropic with a special screening, Disco Costume Contest, Boogie Contest and Night Fever Raffle, all hosted by Frankie KeyWest. Tickets on sale now, $15.

If your tastes are more sedate, the South Florida Symphony will bring its Summer Chamber series to the Tropic stage on Wednesday, July 11, with a
Dvořák and Mozart concert. Tickets available soon.

Full schedules and info at or

Hysteria (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


"Hysteria" is a charming drawing room romantic comedy of sorts based on the life of Dr. Mortimer Granville, known for his invention of Granville's Hammer or the vibrator. It is a period piece with plenty of bouncy back and forth banter. Despite its time and place of darkness, leeches and mud, it is as Orientalist and colorful as an Oscar Wilde comedy and given its risqué  subject matter, it will give you light tickles if not irreverent jolts. 

If the camera were in other inexperienced hands, the subject might be maudlin or overly silly but Tanya Wexler treats the birth of the vibrator as it were,  in a very matter of fact tone with an equality of humor and history. You can imagine how the Farrelly brothers would treat such subject matter here.

Hugh Dancy stars as Dr. Granville who lives as a bachelor with Lord St. John-Smythe played by Rupert Everett. Lord St. John-Smythe with his leering eyebrows and sarcastic tone set against the backdrop of his drawing room filled with odd galvanic devices, resembles Dorian Gray's Basil and Victor Frankenstein. The film would be a hit with these two characters alone but there is more. Enter Charlotte Dalrymple (Maggie Gyllenhaal) as an impetuous champion of the poor and women's  rights. She is a red-haired fireball, fighting with Wollstonecraft wiles. Charlotte does not suffer charlatans gladly, medical or otherwise.

Hard up for work, Granville approaches the quasi-Freudian Dr. Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce) who believes in paroxysms to cure restlessness, anxiety or almost anything. Dr. Granville is in the chips. Then he sprains his hand. And a legend---the vibrator---which resembles a large metal box is born. 

Seeing is better than believing and Wexler does it. The characters possess a quirk and whimsy that is not all trivial buzz. We have some ample bawdy jokes here provided by Molly the Lolly (Sheridan Smith). 

It is Maggie Gyllenhaal however that moves the film forward and gives it a meaningful anchor regarding women's civil rights beyond any sexual silliness.

"Hysteria" is actually three films in one. First, it is a sex comedy, then its a dramatic period piece all tied up into a Wilde Wollstonecraftic romantic comedy. All three elements are enjoyable and stand on their own, but  every aspect hums better together and you never get distracted by the shifts in tone. 

I'll admit that it glosses over its subject a bit. I never really got a sense of Doctor Dalrymple despite the fact that he was personally prudish and I wondered what made him unique other than the fact that he hired an inventively daring doctor. 

But this is only a feather of a reservation. 

"Hysteria" ultimately succeeds by subverting the genre of the romantic comedy. It delivers much historical charge to an unconventional and ticklish subject, mostly through the force of Maggie Gyllenhaal who delivers genuine information with bouyant verve and passion. This film is a strong delight that will pique your interest while it generously and sometimes blushingly informs.

Write Ian at

Monsieur Lazhar (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Monsieur Lazhar

"Monsieur Lazhar"  is an alternately warm and existential character study with no easy resolution. Rather than present itself as a "feelgood" film, it simply lets the characters evolve without pat endings. The slice of life approach is refreshing and novel and it goes worlds beyond other dramas that feel the need for melodramatic and syrupy conclusions.

The main setting of the film is a Montreal school and the drama within. We are introduced to a couple of precocious children: Simon (Emilien Neron) and Alice (Sophie Nelisse). Both Alice and Simon are friends with a mercurial chemistry. Alice has a knack for sensing both the charm and the nihilism of things and Simon is a voyeuristic shutterbug, slightly passive yet nervous with creative uges. Both are wise beyond their years. 

One morning when Simon goes to get milk, the two see something that no child or adult should ever see, the sight of their teacher who committed suicide by hanging herself in the classroom. The school is in shock. 

M. Bashir Lazhar, (Mohamed Said Fellag) a former Algerian cafe owner, applies for the position.

What follows is a semi-Kafkaesque character study focusing on M. Lazhar and his drive to reach and comfort his students in their grief. A highlight of the film is the spotlight on the kids themselves as they are portrayed without embellishment or hyperbole. There is Victor (Vincent Millard) who is lethargic, spunky and nonchalant. And also Marie- Frederique (Marie- Eve Beauregard) who is a junior authoritarian. The exchanges with the students are lively and sharp and seem to contain the best repartee of "The Little Rascals" or the film "Stand by Me" (1986). Although the ensemble cast is wonderful as a whole, it is Sophie Nelisse as Alice and Emilien Neron as Simon that shine both  singularly and together. Through them we see childhood and loss as it really is, an element of dark magic---irreverent, mysterious, comical, crushing and always hard to define. Alice does indeed seem in a Wonderland filled with wolves and fables. One gets the feeling that she is willing to call on the dark arts of sorcery to solve the riddles of grief. With her rosebud smile and pale snowflake complexion, she seems a young Ophelia--halfway between Sartre and Sesame Street.

This mystery is coupled with Lazhar's predicament of being a refugee, forced to seek asylum due to terrorist threats while the school seems to look for any shortcoming to fire him. Lazhar can't even dance with his students due to suspicion of molestation. Moreover, the otherness of being an asylum seeker is with him like an unwanted reflection. 

Monsieur Lazhar is not a totally comforting film, nor a depressing one. It shows both kids and adults as they are, both can be petty and conniving or driven to uplift the human spirit. By the end of the film, Lazhar emerges as the biggest kid of all, in the best sense of the word. The one hug in the film is like an enveloping exclamation point that welcomes both the imagination of a childhood and its sadnesses.

Write Ian at

Monsieur Lazhar (Rhoades)

Monsieur Lazhar”
Explores Immigrant

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

It’s always interesting to watch a book or play get transferred to the big screen. Case in point is “Monsieur Lazhar,” a Canadian French-language film based on a play titled “Bashir Lazhar” by Évelyne de la Chenelière.
Bashir Lazhar” was a one-character stage production, while the movie version lists more than two dozen roles.
For the film, Algerian comedian Mohamed Saïd Fellag takes on the title role as an immigrant hired to replace an elementary schoolteacher who has committed suicide. Recovering from a personal tragedy of his own, Monsieur Lazhar seeks to know his students in spite of their cultural differences. As the students cope with their teacher’s suicide, Lazhar must cope with the fiery death of his family, murdered because of his wife’s book exposing corruption in Algeria.
Think of it as a foreign-language “Goodbye Mr. Chips” or “Mr. Holland’s Opus” or “Dead Poets Society” – one of those noble teacher films. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 97% rating.
At its heart, “Monsieur Lazhar” – currently playing at the Tropic Cinema – is a powerful portrait of the immigrant experience.
Although playwright Évelyne de la Chenelière had never been a teacher or an immigrant, she wrote the story because “I wanted to challenge myself by writing something that was very far from my life and what I knew.”
Directed by Philippe Falardeau, “Monsieur Lazhar” was nominated as Best Foreign Language Film in the 2012 Academy Awards. It was produced by the same company (micro_scope) that gave us the previous year’s Oscar-contender, “Incendies.”
Asked if the film was true to her play, de la Chenelière replied: “Absolutely. And yet Philippe Falardeau took all the freedom he needed to make it his own work.”
She worked closely with Falardeau on the movie’s script. “It was a long process,” she said. “When Philippe first wrote all his versions, I would read them.”
Also being an actress, Évelyne de la Chenelière benefited from Falardeau’s expanding her one-character play into a multi-character screenplay. She appears in the film as the mother of a student.

Hysteria (Rhoades)

“Hysteria” Offers
A Night In With the Girls

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

“There there, dear.” Up until now I thought that was the way to deal with women when they were upset. But Victorian physicians had a much different method for treating nervousness, insomnia, exhaustion, depression, cramps, and sexual frustration.
That’s what the movie of that same name – “Hysteria” – is about. It’s currently holding office hours at the Tropic Cinema.
In it, young Dr. Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) joins the practice of older Dr. Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce), a physician who specializes in treating women for various forms of hysteria. . In those days the treatment consisted mainly of “genital manipulation.” That is, bringing them to orgasm.
Turns out, Dr. Granville is very good at these hand jobs. His clientele grows.
But how can he keep up? These treatments are very strenuous on his hand. Mrs. Palmer and her five daughters can’t keep up.
Fortunately, he knows a guy named Lord Edmund St. John-Smythe (Rupert Everett) who has invented a mechanical device, kind of an electrical fan, which might automate this procedure.
Yes, this is the story of the invention of the vibrator.
As a matter of record, Joseph Mortimer Granville filed the first patent for an electromechanical vibrator (described as “Granville's Hammer”) in about 1883. According to historians he used it for muscular disorders rather than as a treatment for hysteria. But let’s not quibble. No need to let dusty academicians get in the way of a good story.
Back to the film, when Dr. Granville is not petting the kitty he befriends Emily Dalrymple (Felicity Jones) and falls for her sister Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal).
A nice Victorian tale. A love story.
As a medical footnote, the American Psychiatric Association discontinued use of the term “hysteria” in 1952.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Week of June 8 to June 14 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Brit Marling is a force to be reckoned with. Brainy, blonde and beautiful, this 29-year-old aspiring actress decided that she’d rather write her own roles than depend on auditions. Her first two scripts were made into movies – starring her, and were selected for the Sundance Film Festival and picked up by Fox Searchlight Pictures, the most prestigious indie distributor around. Two films in one year. The odds of having even one film see that success are a couple of thousand to one.

The first movie, Another Earth, a sci-fi story about a mirror planet where everything down to the individual inhabitants is exactly the same as Earth, showed at the Tropic last year. Now we have the SOUND OF MY VOICE. Marling plays Maggie, a cult leader who claims to be (or maybe is) from the year 2054. She has a group of followers under her spell, and even draws in an investigative reporter who thinks he’s going to expose her. She is brilliant at it, a mesmerizing figure, showing powers in the movie that she seems to have exerted over Sundance and Fox Searchlight in real life.

“A contemplative sci-fi thriller. The unfolding story is consistently disturbing, probing the human desire to believe…” (Claudia Puig, USA Today) “There's no arguing, though—and who would want to?—Ms. Marling's extraordinary gift for taking the camera and weaving a spell.” (Joe Morgenstern, Wall St. Journal)

If this interests you, Fox Searchlight has taken the unusual step of putting the first twelve minutes of the movie online. Just log onto to see it.

is another female actor’s tour de force. Here it’s Rachel Weisz as a woman caught up in a life-enabling/life-destroying love affair. The movie, based on a Terrence Ratigan play, is set in the 1950’s. Hestor Collyer has a good, very proper marriage to an older man, a judge (Simon Russell Beale), until she meets a young former WWII fighter pilot (Tom Hiddleston). She knows what she should do, what everyone tells her she should do (in 1950), but….

The lust-lorn woman bitten has been a theme over the past year. We had Tilda Swinton in I Am Love, leaving her rich and powerful husband for a boy chef. We had Kristin Scott-Thomas in Leaving, quitting her powerful architect husband for a grimy ex-con. But, with its roots in the work of a master dramatist, The Deep Blue Sea may well be the finest take on the theme yet.

t's riveting from beginning to end, because virtually at every moment, someone's entire life is in the balance…” (Mick La Salle, San Francisco Chronicle) “It is about the fate of untameable, irrational desire in a world that does not seem to have a place for it.” (A.O. Scott, New York Times)

This week’s respite from such serious matters is the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp vampire spoof DARK SHADOWS. Johnny is a vampire from the 18th Century, plunked down in Maine in 1972. He doesn’t understand cars or TV, but he sure can wreak havoc, and show us a good time. “
It's a great time at the movies and a wickedly clever cinematic treat.” (Box Office Magazine)


On Friday night, the film program of Gay Pride Fest closes with THE ADONIS FACTOR and FAGBUG, and an interview (via Skype) with San Francisco filmmaker David Weissman, director of The Cockettes.

This Saturday morning (at 10:30) marks the debut of the new KIDS SATURDAY MOVIE CLUB. Great movies with tickets only $1, for all kids and their accompanying adults. The debut film is NANNY MCPHEE, with Emma Thompson as the magical nanny who tames Colin Firth’s horde of rapscallions. And for icing on the cake, there’ll be a drawing for a free bike. Now, that’s a deal.

Full schedules and info at or