Friday, March 14, 2014

Week of March 14 to March 20 (Rhoades)

Tropic Overview

From Literary Themes to Slavery to Middle Eastern Dramas --
Tropic Cinema Has It All

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Film Critic, Cooke Communications

Don’t think of it as literary history -- although it is that. “The Invisible Woman” is about a woman’s making do with an older man’s infatuation with her. The film just happens to be about Nelly Ternan, mistress of British novelist Charles Dickens. This not-quite-a-romance stars Felicity Jones and Ralph Fiennes as the couple. Newsday poses the question, “Why did this bright, vivacious, intellectually engaged girl willingly lock herself up in a wealthy man's seraglio?” adds, “This is not a film about the good-hearted Christmas-loving Dickens.”

Also new to the screens is “Omar,” a Palestinian thriller about a young baker (Adam Bakri) forced to play informant to the Israelis. His girlfriend (Leem Lubany) is suspicious, as is his buddies. How do you play both ends against the middle and come out alive? Flick Filosopher says, “Palestine's official submission for the Best Foreign Language Oscar is terse, tense suspense drama, and less overtly political than you might expect.”

Another new film is “The Past,” a French offering about an Iranian man (Ali Mosaffa) meeting his estranged wife (Bérénice Bejo) in Paris to finalize their divorce. A tangle of relationships (Tahar Rahim  and Pauline Burlet) complicate matters. Orlando Weekly notes that “this knotty family drama never feels false.” And FILMINK calls it “a beautifully acted and cleverly constructed drama.”

Still playing is “12 Years a Slave,” this year’s Oscar winner as Best Picture. It’s the harrowing story of a free black man captured into slavery in 1841. Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as the slave in question and Lupita Nyong'o picked up an Oscar for her supporting role. Time Out observes, “The cumulative emotional effect is devastating: the final scenes are as angry, as memorable, as overwhelming as anything modern cinema has to offer.” And Dallas Morning News concludes, “Every scene of 12 Years a Slave, and almost every shot, conveys some penetrating truth about America's original sin.”

You can still catch “Dallas Buyers Club,” the film that snagged Matthew McConaughey an Academy Award as Best Actor. Here’s the story of rodeo cowboy Ron Woodroof, who dealt with his HIV diagnosis by figuring out away to circumvent the medical system. Jared Leno won a Best Support Actor statuette too. 3AW calls it “an uplifting story of undying hope and unlikely heroism.” And declares it to be “pitch perfect.”

“Monuments Men” is George Clooney’s telling a little-known WWII story, about soldiers tasked with recovering art works stolen by the Nazis. Minneapolis star Tribune describes it as “a sturdy, old-school, big-scale Greatest Generation war movie.” And Christian Science Monitor says, “It's like an over-the-hill gang variant on The Dirty Dozen.”

Rounding out the lineup is “The Wind Rises,” an animated Japanese film about the guy who invented all those warplanes. No subtitles, it voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt, among other notable actors. calls it “a work of immense mystery and strangeness, loaded with unforgettable images, spectacular sweeps of color and nested, hidden meanings.” And Creative spirit concludes that it “isn't a film about war but a valentine to the creative spirit.”

Seven films on four screens. A good week at the Tropic.

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