Saturday, October 6, 2012

Week of October 5 to October 11 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

We’ve got two kinds of poseurs dominating the Tropic screens this week.

THE MASTER is the leader of a cult known as The Cause, somewhat modeled on Scientology. He’s the slick, impeccably dressed, and charismatic Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Dodd has a following among the rich and powerful that verges on adoration, especially from women. We don’t learn how he has gotten to this point because we come upon him in his full glory, conducting a wedding for his daughter on a magnificent yacht while cruising from California to the East Coast via the Panama Canal.

The movie is not about The Cause, but about Dodd’s relationship with Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), a traumatized WWII veteran and drifter who has snuck aboard the yacht. Rather than have him locked up, or thrown off, Dodd embraces this seething, loose cannon, presumably to tame him and bring him into the fold. Other characters flit through the movie -- Amy Adams as Dodd’s wife, Laura Dern as a devoted follower -- but the core is the battle between an irrational cult and an irrational individual.

It’s already on everyone’s short list for Best Picture. See it while you can.

“We should bow to The Master, because it gives us so much to revere, starting with the image that opens the film and recurs right up to the end-the turbid, blue-white wake of a ship. There goes the past, receding and not always redeemable, and here comes the future, waiting to churn us up.” (Anthony Lane, The New Yorker)

“This is an almost apocalyptic tale of thwarted emotion - love cut short - set in a pitiless land of delusions.” (Andrew O’Hehir,

THE IMPOSTER is not trying to start a cult, just fool a couple of people, into thinking he is their missing child. This is a documentary, a true story… not just “based on” one. In 1994, thirteen-year-old Nicholas Barclay disappeared from his home in San Antonio. Three years later a boy turned up in Spain who claimed to be the missing child. But he was really a 23-year-old French Algerian named Frederic Bourdin, who couldn’t speak English without an accent.

The tale of how this came about, how Frederic succeeded, is a remarkable insight into human nature, into how people will believe that which they desperately want to believe, against all evidence. Guys like Bourdin, who is interviewed in the movie, know how to work that, as do cult leaders like The Master… and politicians.

“An extremely well-crafted documentary that, for sheer intensity and thrills, is far more entertaining than most fiction films…. One of the best films of the year.” (Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

“Creepier than Catfish and as cinematic as Man On Wire, this is an unnerving story immaculately told and a strong contender for documentary of the year...” (Matt Glasby, Total Film)

And then there’s DREDD 3D. He’s judge, jury, and executioner in this hyperactive, boldly imaginative comic book hero (and heroine) adventure. Can any one man really be that? Well, if you’re in a post-apocalyptic future where the world is controlled by an evil woman, and the only good is Judge Dredd and his female rookie protégé Judge Anderson, maybe so. Anyhow, the film is a visual trip, especially in 3D, drawing praise even from those who aren’t necessarily into this art form.

“What's exceptional is the orchestration of color, form, light and dark (lots of dark), 3-D technology and digital effects into a look that amounts to a vision.” (Joe Morgenstern, Wall St. Journal)

“Absolutely, 100% kickass.” (Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle)

But I’ve left the best for last. CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER is a sprightly rom-com from a new young talent. Rashida Jones is the writer, and stars as Celeste, the almost-ex-wife and still best buddy of Jesse (Andy Samberg – Saturday Night Live). It’s another in a recent string of films that are seemingly torn from the pages of real life, with slightly quirky characters coping with their own personal relationship dilemmas – My Sister’s Sister, Take This Waltz. In this case, it’s the difficulty of separating from someone you love, but who doesn’t really fulfill you. Sound serious? It’s not, because Jones is a skilled comic writer, and both she and Samberg know how to play the lines. But it does have bite and heart. Don’t miss it.

“How delightfully funny Jones is… Celeste and Jesse are endearing even when they do unsympathetic things.” (Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Unlike most rom-coms, Celeste and Jesse Forever delves into the complicated heart of relationships, exposes some painful truths and allows melancholy to co-exist alongside breezy humor.” (Claudia Puig, USA Today)

More info and full schedules at or

1 comment:

Zack Mandell said...

I am looking forward to getting out to see "The Master". It looks like a good film and would keep you sucked into it.