Friday, September 21, 2012

Week of September 21 to 27 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Matthew McConaughey’s career has exploded over the last two years, with a series of edgy roles as a low-level criminal lawyer (The Lincoln Lawyer), a straight-arrow prosecutor (Bernie), and a smarmy male-strip-club owner (Magic Mike). But nothing can compare to his breakout performance as a rogue cop/hit man in KILLER JOE.

Chris Smith (Emille Hirsch – Into the Wild, Milk) has a brilliant plan to raise money to pay off a debt to drug dealers. Kill his mother – unloved and unwanted by everyone -- and collect on her life insurance. His naif sister Dottie (Juno Temple), his simple-minded father (Thomas Haden Church), and his evil-minded step-mother (Gina Gershon) all think it’s a great idea. And Killer Joe Cooper is happy to oblige for a fee and a little warm-bodied collateral.

Killer Joe got its start as an off-Broadway play by Tracy Letts, who went on to write the great August Osage County, which was presented here by the Waterfront Playhouse. Killer Joe exhibits the same wonderful combination of razor sharp dialogue and surprise plot twists, but with a humor that surges from merely black to downright morbid.

With Letts staying on hand as the screenwriter, Killer Joe strides onto the big screen without missing a beat. There’s no one to root for among this collection of worthless characters as they move from depravity to depravity in a series of “Oh, no” moments. But what a time you’ll have deciding who’s the worst.

“A hideously funny tabloid noir.” (Nick Pinkerton, Village Voice) “A rude, shit-kicking thriller that co-opts - and merrily defiles - a classic like Double Indemnity." (Scott Tobias, A.V. Club)

THE CAMPAIGN is for those who prefer their humor satirical. Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) is an entrenched Congressman who cares about nothing except reelection, whose campaign theme seems to be “round up the usual platitudes.” But the industrialist Motch Brothers (John Lithgow and Dan Ackroyd) decide they’d like to buy the seat to advance their interests, so they put up Marty Huggins (Zach Galifanakis), a local nonentity, and back him with plenty of money and a cutthroat campaign manager (Dylan McDermott).

What ensues is laugh-out-loud ludicrous, but not so much that we don’t recognize how close it is to things that really happen, from the influence of big money interests like the Motch (Koch?) guys, and the smarmy shifting of positions by the candidates. Laugh and cringe at the same time.

“Raucous in its send-ups of the moral, financial and sexual peccadilloes of the common political animal.” (Amy Biancolli, San Francisco Examiner) “Below-the-Beltway humor, stretching obvious targets to raunchy extremes.” (Steve Persall, Tampa Bay Times)

Enough already, you’ll be tired of laughing, and ready for SIDE BY SIDE an informative documentary look at the changes in film presentation over time, with an emphasis on the recent changeover to digital cinema. If you’ve been following the news, you’ll know that film distributors have been phasing out 35mm film, which they have to ship around in big canisters, in favor of a digital medium, which they can deliver on small hard drives. The implications are many, somewhat analogous to the change from vinyl records and tapes to CD’s to iPods. With Keanu Reeves as the moderator, and filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Danny Boyle, and George Lucas as the interviewees, we learn how this transition is taking place and what it means.

“It is worth a year of film school and at least 1,000 hours of DVD bonus commentary.” (A.O. Scott, New York Times). If you’d like a little local background, Shirrel Rhoades, film critic for Solares Hill, will be on hand for the Saturday matinee show to handle a Q and A.

Got kids? They’ll love ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT, the fourth in an animated series that has produced some of the highest grossing movies of all time. Manny the wooly mammoth, Scrat the sable toothed squirrel and the rest of the gang are trying to get home after being set adrift on an ice flow. Need to know more? Ask your ten-year-old.

ARBITRAGE and SLEEPWALK WITH ME are held over, and the John Hughes classic BREAKFAST CLUB is the Monday Night Classic.

Full schedules and info at or

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