Monday, December 17, 2012

Week of Dec. 14 to Dec. 20 (Rhoades)

“Anna Karenina” and “Lincoln”
Lead “Must See” Lineup at Tropic

By Shirrel Rhoades

You hear about some movies being described as “must see.” That’s certainly true of this week’s lineup at the Tropic Cinema.
Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” had been called the “greatest novel ever written.” And British director Joe Wright’s stage-set adaptation of it, starring Keira Knightley, is not to be missed. This stylized presentation is dazzling, the fine performances and mobile camera drawing you breathlessly into this story of love and betrayal in 19th century Tsarist Russia.
There’s more, lots more.
Central to the American experience is “Lincoln,” Steven Spielberg’s highly anticipated movie about the 16th President of the United States. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Honest Abe, the film focuses on the last few months of Lincoln’s life when he uses a former rival, Secretary of State William H. Seward, to help twist arms and bribe politicians into passing the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. Political machinations that remind you of today’s hardball lawmakers.
Also in the “must see” category is “Cloud Atlas,” the sprawling time warp of a movie that casts Tom Hanks, Haile Berry, Jim Broadbent, Susan Sarandon, and others in multiple roles as it explores the karma that connects lives, past and future. Andy and Lana Wachowski, those mind-bending directors who gave us the “Matrix” movies, have teamed with German filmmaker Tom Tykwer to bring this sprawling sci-fi fantasy to the screen. Maybe you won’t understand it, but you definitely will not forget it.
And you can’t overlook “Argo,” Ben Affleck’s telling of the so-called Canadian Caper, the real-life rescue of six American diplomats trapped in Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis.  Here, a CIA exfiltrator poses as a Hollywood producer making a sci-fi film to get them out, a daring cat-and-mouse game that will have you on the edge of your seat even if you know the ending.
Also Edward Burns brings us “The Fitzgerald Family Christmas,” another of his brilliant dysfunctional Irish-American family dramas. When Burns isn’t acting in mainstream features and TV shows, he cranks out insightful indie films (you’ll certainly remember his “Brothers Mulligan”) that ring true. In this one, the Fitzgerald clan anxiously awaits spending the holidays with the dear ol’ dad who walked out on them 20 years ago.
Topping the off the Tropic’s lineup is “The Flat,’ a documentary about how the death of a grandmother sets a Jewish man off in search of his family’s past. But Nazi murderers and strange friendships make him think twice about shaking the family tree.
“Must see” or “Wanna see,” you make the distinction. But if you’re like me, you’re going to be spending a lot of time at the Tropic this week.

Shirrel Rhoades is taking over this weekly column for his old friend Phil Mann. Phil (the pen name of a local cinephile) has decided to sit back and watch movies without taking notes for a change.

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