Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Week of December 20 to December 26 (Rhoades)

Tropic Overview

Tropic Cinema Offers Respite from Holiday Stress

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Film Critic, Cooke Communications

Stop right there and take a deep breath. Watching a movie or two is the perfect antidote for the stress of the Christmas season.

New this week to the Tropic Cinema is “Saving Mr. Banks,” the mostly true story about how affable Walt Disney came to acquire the rights to “Mary Poppins” from uptight Brit author P.L. Travers. Apparently, it took a lot of tea and cookies … not to mention money. Tom Hanks makes a good Uncle Walt and Emma Thomson plays the starchy children’s writer. Leonard Maltin sees this as “a charming and heartwarming piece of entertainment, highlighted by a handful of superior performances.” Lyles Movie Files calls it “an audience-pleasing, if incomplete look behind the Walt Disney empire’s curtain.” And Cinema Sight says it’s “an engaging film that sugarcoats Disney history as only Disney itself can.

Meanwhile “Nebraska” continues its journey at the Tropic. Bruce Dern stars as a Montana farmer who thinks he’s won a million dollars in a mail-order sweepstakes, so he convinces his son to go with him to Nebraska to collect the cash. Dunno if money’s the root of all evil, but it certainly screws up one family’s life in this Alexander Payne dramedy. Boston Globe calls it “a desolate comedy-drama about fathers, sons, life's highways and missed off-ramps.” And the Tri-City Herald says it’s “the year's best movie ... period.

“The Book Thief” continues to examine war through the eyes of a young German girl. She learns the meaning of hope and freedom while learning to read. And then there’s the Jewish boy hiding in her stepparent’s house… TheMocieReport.com concludes that “it is the wisdom of restraint that makes the film as touching and haunting as it ends up being.” And Detroit News says the movie “may not be perfect, but it may steal your heart.”

“Dallas Buyers Club” gives us a lean, mean Matthew McConaughey as an HIV-positive Texan who starts a workaround organization for buying drugs. Having shucked his old rom-com image, McConaughey is becoming the go-to guy for gritty down-and-out performances. Newsday says, “A solid biopic is made transcendent by McConaughey, who shed nearly 50 pounds and deserves to gain an Oscar for his ferocious, funny performance.” And FromTheBalcony.com describes it as “a biography about a man going through a very new, very scary disease and his will to help others.”

“Philomena” rounds out this week’s films, the story of an Irish woman searching for the son she gave away to the nuns 50 years ago. A disgraced journalist assists her in this seemingly foolhardy quest. Both Dame Judi Dench and Steve Coogan give great performances as they examine the meaning of forgiveness and belief. Associated Press observes that “both actors find complexity and depth.” And Washington Post says, “This clever, wrenching, profound story underscores the tenacity of faith in the face of unfathomable cruelty.”

Plenty to keep you entertained when you’re not undertaking the hassle of holiday shopping.

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