Saturday, October 13, 2012

Week of October 12 to October 18 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

The plot thickens this week. While THE MASTER and THE IMPOSTER are held over to work their enigmatic ways, LOOPER now weighs in to really befuddle us.

Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a “Looper,” a hit-man with an odd role. He kills people teleported back, via a time travel device, from 30 years in the future. It’s a modern method of disposing of bodies, a big step up from Tony Soprano’s cement boots three miles offshore. But then Joe’s future self (Bruce Willis) shows up in his sights. If young Joe doesn’t kill old Joe, his bosses will kill him, so he’s ready to do the deed and get himself thirty more years of life. Old Joe is in a bit of a dilemma defending himself – even though he’s Bruce Fucking Willis – because knocking off his nemesis would mean knocking off himself. Also, to complicate the plot, there’s a five-year-old with the ability to cause earthquakes and levitate people and furniture. Old Joe wants to kill him because he thinks the kid’s gang murdered his wife in the future, but Young Joe wants to save him, because he’s got a soft spot for the kid’s mother (Emily Blunt).

 “Pounding action, elegant style, steady-state suspense, marvelous acting and, despite that droll pooh-poohing every now and then, haunting explorations of youth, age and personal destiny. It's a lot to claim for a sci-fi thriller, but I was blown away by Rian Johnson's Looper.” (Joe Morgenstern, Wall St. Journal) If this appeals to you, you know what to do.

 You may not ever face a situation where you have to kill your alter ego, but most of us have all had to face situations where we are uncomfortable with things that duty calls upon us to do. COMPLIANCE is based on an actual reported case, or more correctly, a series of cases in which a manager of a fast food restaurant was tricked into doing repulsive things to an employee by a villainous prank caller.

In the movie, Sandra (Ann Dowd) is the manager of ChickWich. On a busy Friday night, she gets a call from the police telling her that one of her clerks is suspected of a theft. You’ll watch with growing discomfort and even horror as things progress on from a strip search, as Sandra complies with the instructions of the caller.

With a slow, relentless buildup focused on sexual humiliation, Compliance intensifies the requests put on Sandra, and eventually other employees, to behave immorally in the name of cooperation.” (Lisa Schwartzbaum, Entertainment Weekly) “Provides insight into large and frightening events, like the voluntary participation of civilians in the terrible crimes of the last century.” (David Denby, The New Yorker)

In RUBY SPARKS, the blocked young writer Calvin (Paul Dano – There Will Be Blood, Little Miss Sunshine) finds that the character in his new novel Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan – It’s Complicated, Revolutionary Road) has come to life in his kitchen. All writers will tell you that they become enamored of their characters, and that these typescript people grow as they are written and often guide the writer in unanticipated directions. When asked by a reader a question like “Why did Marjorie do that?” a writer often responds more in the vein of “Because she wanted to,” than “because that’s what I decided to have her do.”

The multi-talented Ms. Kazan, who is also a playwright and screenwriter, has taken that notion and breathed life into it, via a script and a wonderful performance, made all the more real because Dano is also her real-life partner. Author Calvin struggles with the joys and dilemmas of having a girlfriend whom he can shape and define, while character Ruby struggles to define herself.
“A sleek, beautifully written and acted romantic comedy that glides down to earth in a gently satisfying soft landing.” (Stephen Holden, New York Times)

“Hits that sweet emotional spot much in the same way Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind does. While you are at once charmed by the whimsy and romance, there’s still a gut punch of emotional rawness….” (Katie Walsh, The Playlist)

For lighter fare, the Pixar classic FINDING NEMO is now back in 3D. The fish are coming right at you, glub, glub. “A genuinely funny and touching film that, in less than a decade, has established itself as a timeless classic.” (Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger)

Extra treat this week is the Monday Movie Classic, HOUSE OF WAX, the grim tale of Vincent Price’s macabre trumping of Madame Tussauds. (no 3D, I’m sorry to say)

On Thursday, Reef Relief returns with another installment of its WILD AND SCENIC FILM FESTIVAL, this time with the theme Climate of Change.       

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