Friday, July 11, 2014

Week of July 11 to July 17 (Rhoades)

Tropic Overview

Musicals, Rom-Coms, and S&M -- What More Could the Tropic Offer?

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Film Critic, Cooke Communications

On my iPhone I have some of my favorite music. Among the various albums you’ll find “Once,” the soundtrack from that same-named movie directed by John Carney, bassist with the Irish rock band The Flames. Well, he’s done it again, this time a bigger-budget musical called “Begin Again.” It stars Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo as a new songwriting team that comes together after her old beau dumps her. Time Out says, “What makes it special is that it’s not another romance about finding a man. It’s about finding your people, about being a bit lost in your twenties.”

“Venus In Fur” is a different kind of love story, based on the erotic novel by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. An actress named Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner) audits for a part about a dominatrix, one she seems born to play. Los Angeles Times describes it as “a whip-smart dissection of gender politics via some teasing S&M.” And New Yorker observes, “Ever the alchemist, Roman Polanski continues his quest for the process whereby theatre is transmuted and reforged into film.”

“Chinese Puzzle” is well named. In it, a middle-aged Asian guy moves to New York to be near his children … only to discover that life is puzzling. tells us, “French filmmaker Cedric Klapisch keeps the tone light and the serious themes just under the surface as he revisits the lively characters from ‘The Spanish Apartment’ (2002) and ‘Russian Dolls’ (2005).” And Movie Talk observes that “the farcical episodes have a fizzy zest.”

“Chef” continues to showcase the talents of Jon Favreau as a high-profile chef who winds up driving a taco truck after getting fired from a classy L.A. eatery. Redemption comes with a new chance at life, replete with a second chance at fatherhood. Minneapolis Star Tribune says, “It’s a refreshing change of pace from typical summer fare, a story not framed around the skeleton of an old TV series or designed as a tie-in to Hasbro toys.” And Times (UK) calls it “a foodie-gasm of a film.”

“Maleficent” is the Snow White fairy tale retold from the viewpoint of a misunderstood enchantress. With Angelina Jolie in the title role, I think we can come up with a little empathy. says it “remains surprisingly faithful to the original while recreating the title character.” And Irish Independent observes that “it’s a spectacular thing, the sets and shots matching Jolie’s remarkable face.”

“Jersey Boys” is a musical biopic about Frankie Valli and the Four Season. You’ll love the songs, but you’ve gotta admit it’s a surprising offering from jazz aficionado Clint Eastwood. Leonard Maltin describes it as “a rags-to-riches tale with glimpses behind the scenes of the music business.” And Crikey notes that when the film “hits its stride it reveals a lightness of touch uncharacteristic of Eastwood’s oeuvre.”

Angelina Jolie telling fairy tales; Clint Eastwood doing doo-wop; Roman Polanski offering sexual tension; John Carney delivering a tuneful Keira Knightley -- movies always surprise us.

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