Friday, January 24, 2014

Week of January 24 to January 30 (Rhoades)

Tropic Overview

Catch the Oscar Buzz at the Tropic Cinema

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Cooke Communications Film Critic

As the 86th Academy Awards of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science draws near, we are astounded by how many nominees have played at the Tropic Cinema. Does this mean the Tropic has been showing more “mainstream” films? Or that more “non-mainstream” films are getting award nods?

No matter. The point is, you can see all these great films at the Tropic.

This week we get the new Coen brothers offering, “Inside Llewyn Davis.” While I think it’s a flawed film, it’s one you’ve gotta see -- the story about the early days of folk music in Greenwich Village. Oscar Isaac sings his own song as the titular musician. He’s joined by Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, and Garrett Hedlund -- plus John Goodman as an irascible jazzman. Little White Lies says, “Cold exteriors and warm interiors combine in the Coen brothers’ rhapsodic portrait of a ‘60s folk singer.” 3AW calls it “beguiling, beautiful, funny and sad.” And The List dubs it a “portrayal of male neuroses and failure.”

What goes up must come down … even in space. That’s due to “Gravity,” as Sandra Bullock’s sci-fi adventure is titled. It could have been called “Lost In Space.” Bullock and George Clooney are stranded when their space station is hit by debris. Can they get back to earth? As New Yorker says, “Gravity is not a film of ideas, like Kubrick's techno-mystical 2001, but it's an overwhelming physical experience -- a challenge to the senses that engages every kind of dread.”

Another sci-fi delight is Spike Jonze’s “Her,” the romance between a young man and his computer OS. Joaquin Phoenix falls for the human-like voice in his smartphone (who happens to sound just like Scarlett Johansson). A profound contemplation about relationships. Detroit News sees it as “Delightfully entertaining, if slightly unnerving.” The Mercury says, “In Jonze's hands it is beautifully philosophical and heartfelt.” And Moviedex opines that the film “Poses some big, complex questions, about consciousness, free-will and the limits of human understanding.”

An insightful look at relationships -- the dynamics of a dysfunctional Oklahoma family -- is explored in “August: Osage County.” Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tracy Letts, we find Meryl Streep as the drug-addled matriarch at war with her three daughters follow their father’s suicide. Julia Roberts as the elder sibling match Streep scene for scene in this prairie fire of great acting. ReelViews says it’s “all about the acting.” And Commercial Appeal notes “The grande dame demiurge presiding over this Dust Bowl carnival of souls is, of course, La Streep, who channels the stoned fury of Liz Taylor in ‘Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ and the ghoulish glee of Bette Davis in ‘What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?’”

“The Wolf of Wall Street” makes Gordon Gekko look like a puppy dog. Leonardo DiCaprio approaches his title role as if greed is Gr-r-reat! Nonetheless you will see it as a cautionary tale despite director Martin Scorsese’s obvious glee. Passionate Moviegoer calls it “a modern operatic debauch that leaves its viewer is woozily addicted.” Los Angeles Times observes, “Man, does this movie have a savage bite.” And 2UE That Movie Show concludes, “Scorsese's mastery is undeniable.”

All of these films are up for Oscars in one category or another. Better go see them if you want to know what all the Oscar buzz is about.

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