Saturday, November 3, 2012

Week of November 2 to November 8 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Take Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell as a couple of two-bit dognappers. Put them together with their buddy Colin Farrell, who’s an alcoholic screenwriter struggling to complete a script titled SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS, that becomes a movie within a movie, sort of. Add Woody Harrelson as a tattooed, blinged and demented crime boss whose beloved shih tzu has been napped. Throw in Harry Dean Stanton as a crazed Quaker, Tom Waits as a serial killer who stalks serial killers, and a few other characters. Put them all in the hands of writer/director Martin McDonagh.

Filmgoers know McDonagh from his rollicking, Academy Award nominated comedy about hit men gone awry, In Bruges. Theatergoers know him from a string of unbelievably dark comedies on Broadway, from The Beauty Queen of Leenane to A Behanding in Spokane. This guy can write! And now he’s come under the influence of Quentin Tarantino, Charlie Kaufman and Sam Peckinpah. You get the idea. Endless clever, witty dialogue; a plot that cycles around on itself; and spoofs of Hollywood clichés from gangsters to cowboys. Just sit back and enjoy it.

“Consistently surprising, Seven Psychopaths ultimately plays like a combination of Quentin Tarantino's self-aware, savvy ultraviolence and Charlie Kaufman's reflexive head trips. And that potentially awkward combo goes down like a chocolate-vanilla swirl cone, only with more guns.” (Marc Mohan, Portland Oregonian)
“It's a devilishly smart film that not only sends up the hipster crime genre, but also makes a powerful statement about violence -- in a brilliantly satirical way.” (Claudia Puig, USA Today)

When I first saw SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN (at a film festival last summer), I fired off a note to Matthew and Scot at the Tropic saying it had been a religious experience … and I don’t believe in religion. This is an astounding true story of an American folk singer who was almost unknown here but was a cult hero in South Africa, and the quest of a curious Capetowner to discover what had become of this lost artist. “All music docs are not created equal. Yes, some are formulaic. But some are beautiful, some are singular, some are marvels of storytelling. And some, like Searching for Sugar Man, are all three.” (Mike Scott, New Orleans Times Picayune) Do yourself a favor and See it. It might just restore a little faith in the goodness of mankind.

Another documentary about good men is STEP UP TO THE PLATE, which introduces us to Michel Bras, founder of a Michelin three-star restaurant in the south of France, and his son Sébastien, who is taking over the reins. It’s about their quest for perfection and attention to detail, not only in the food itself but in the presentation. You may not know this, but the standard Army guide to mess hall inspectors demands that they include a criterion called “garnish” in their ratings -- in other words, “presentation.” Even the military knows that the eye, like the nose and the mouth, are organs of eating pleasure, and the Bras père et fils are masters of all.

The food they produce is beautiful to the point of resembling a still life….But Step Up To The Plate is as much about the passing along of a legacy as it is about cooking.” (Alison Willmore, A.V. Club)
“What resonates here are two men, two good men, whose lives have a paradoxically simple and complex bond beyond their profession.” (David DeWitt, New York Times)

If your attention span is challenged, check out STARS IN SHORTS, which is exactly what its name implies, a collection of short films featuring movie stars. Colin Firth is an apartment dweller bothering his upstairs neighbor Keira Knightley. Judi Dench tries her hand at Internet dating. Lily Tomlin gets stuck leading a funeral procession without any idea of where it’s going. And so on. Seven shorts for as many stars.

Special Event of the week is Late Night at the Tropic, a return appearance of multi-talented Tom Judson, whose Canned Ham delighted Tropic audiences last year. He’s bringing a new show NATURE BOY – SONGS OF EARTH AND SKY straight from the 54 Below lounge in Times Square, featuring music that incorporates “natural elements of the universe,” including tunes by The Beatles, Claude Debussy and Lionel Hampton. One show only, at 10:00pm on Saturday.

Alert! Tickets for the Key West Film Festival (Nov. 30-Dec. 2) are now available. Check out for info on movies and links to buy tix. If you’re interested in a block of tix, use the form at this link:, and bring it to the Tropic:

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