Thursday, September 27, 2012

Week of Sept. 28 to October 4 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Following on the heels of the reformist documentary Waiting for Superman, we have WON’T BACK DOWN, the true(ish) story of a couple of superwomen who fight to take over and improve a public school. The bad guys are the established structure, the school board, the school leadership and the union. The producers insist that it’s not an anti-union movie, but rather an “anti-complacency, anti-status quo, pro-parent” one.

In any event, putting politics aside, it’s a powerful, emotional story carried by Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Dark Knight, Hysteria), as the mother of a third grader with reading problems, and Viola Davis (The Help) as a teacher who cares. Together, and with the help of a Parent Trigger Law, they take on the establishment.

If you’d like to meet the new Monroe County School Superintendent Mark Porter, he’ll be introducing the six o’clock show on Friday.

The popular movie genre of bashing financial tycoons adds another title with COSMOPOLIS. Like Arbitrage (which opened last week, and is held over) we witness a “master of the universe” as his world crumbles around him. But unlike Richard Gere, who presents himself as a dedicated family man and pillar of the community in Arbitrage, we now have Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame as a strange, reptilian figure. Most of the movie takes place in his lavishly equipped white stretch limousine, as it struggles through traffic and a series of encounters on his way to a traditional, old fashioned barber shop, while his massive bet against the Chinese yuan is collapsing.

Director David Cronenberg (The Fly, Eastern Promises, A Dangerous Method) is known for his unusual, challenging films. This one is based on a Don DiLillo novel, which it generally follows, “but not everything is necessarily the same as DeLillo’s book. And that makes the film, as a series of discussions about inter-related money-minded contradictions, insanely rich and maddeningly complex.” (Simon Abrams, The Playlist) “Diamond-hard and dazzlingly brilliant…” (Budd Wilkins, Slant Magazine)

Have you ever been embarrassed by a sibling? Do you know someone who has? If you’ve missed that little pleasure in life, UNION SQUARE will fill the gap. Lucy (Mia Sorvino) is a loud, overdressed, clubbing party girl from the Bronx. Her sister Jenny (Tammy Blanchard) is a low key, organic foods guru, engaged to a very handsome, very fit, very quiet, and very WASPy guy. They live a mess-free life in a very clean, meat-free apartment… until Lucy arrives, unannounced, with a dog (who jumps on the white sofa). I’m reminded of a story a friend of mine tells on herself about the time she stayed with her sister: “Joyce,” the sister said, while asking her to leave, “you take up too much space.”

But behind the façades there’s a person and a history that the acting talents of Sorvino (Oscar-winner from Mighty Aphrodite) and Blanchard (Emmy-winner for Life With Judy Garland) bring to the surface. “A lively, nervous energy and an expansive sympathy for the mismatched women at its heart.” (A.O. Scott, New York Times) “Looks deeper to find the common humanity of its characters. This, Union Square seems to say, is the real ‘reality.’” (Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic)

takes us back to the early years of the last century, and to a story that reminds us of how much the world has changed for young women. Patricia (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) is a beautiful 18-year-old who is helping her widowed father raise her five sisters. Her father wants her to marry a local colleague. But enter a rich, dashing aviator. Need I say more?

It’s the directorial debut for famed French actor Daniel Auteuil, and based on a novel by Marcel Pagnol, beautifully filmed in Provence. The English-language trailer is hard to find, so here’s a link. Take a look; you’ll be hooked -

“Marks a return to old-school French moviemaking, the kind of classically well-made endeavor that unrolls before us like a beloved tapestry.” (Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times)For lovers of classical French cinema, and I am one, this earthy throwback is a whiff of lavender borne by the bracing winds of the mistral.” (Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer)

The new October theme for Monday Night Classics is Creature Feature. This week it’s THEM a 1954 horror story about giant ants mutated by A-bomb testing. Bring your Raid!

Full schedules and info at or

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