Sunday, July 6, 2014

Week of July 4 to July 10 (Rhoades)

Tropic Overview

An Eclectic Lineup at the Tropic Cinema

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Film Critic, Cooke Communications

Canada’s such an interesting country. Lots of movies get made there because of the tax credits. That’s why New York City sometimes looks suspiciously like Toronto in films. Canada even has films made in French that require subtitles. So it’s not surprising that Canada has been known to do English-language remakes of its own Québécois  films.

Take “La grande seduction,” for instance. A sweet little Quebec-made film about a fishing village located on the north coast. It tells the story of a dried-up little town trying to bring in industry by having a resident doctor. But how to get one? Turns out this keeper has been remade in English, with the town relocated to Newfoundland. This redo is called (you guessed it) “The Grand Seduction.” Washington Post calls it “a fish-out-of-water fable set within a fabulously scenic backdrop, against which wholesome humor and a thoroughgoing humanist streak play out and intertwine with gentle, unforced ease.” And Reeling Reviews describes it as “Doc Hollywood” by way of “Local Hero.”

Another put-a-smile-on-your-face film is “Chef,” actor-director-producer Jon Favreau’s paean to haute cuisine. Still playing at the Tropic, it tells of a big-time chef (Favreau) who loses his job after a run-in with a food critic (Oliver Platt). sees it as “a perceptive crowd-pleaser that could satisfy both the brain and the tongue.” And Movie Talk finds it to be “a mouth-watering treat.”

“Obvious Child” is a different kind of rom-com, the story of a wannabe stand-up comic who gets preggers by a passing stranger. Here, the obvious child is her, not the unwanted fetus. Toronto Star says director Gillian Robespierre deserves “ high praise for tackling a story with such a difficult subject at its heart, with a combination of grace, humor and courage.” And Columbus Alive calls it the “obvious frontrunner for indie comedy of the year.”

For the kids (of all ages, as they say) you have “Maleficent,” the 3D retelling of Sleeping Beauty from the witch’s viewpoint. Angelina Jolie make a beautiful, not-so-evil, misunderstood queen. The Boston Herald asks, “Is there anyone better suited to playing an enchantress?” sees it as “a family-friendly Disney adventure.” And New Yorker notes that “it treads carefully, and all too kindly, in the footsteps of ‘Wicked’.”

Another fantasy outing is “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” the time-travel adventures of Marvel’s Wolverine superhero (Hugh Jackman). Leonard Maltin calls it “vibrant and entertaining.” While Denver Post observes, “Perhaps more than any other superhero franchise, X-Men captures the overlapping fantasies of being unique yet not alone, and of being a hero but also being saved.”

Another pulse-pounder is the re-release of “Jaws,” Steven Spielberg’s classic don’t-go-in-the-water tale about a Great White shark that wants to eat our three heroes (Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw). Village Voice terms it “a near Hitchcockian exercise in transference of guilt and making the audience pay for its illicit pleasures.” And Digital Spy sees it as “a masterclass in blockbuster entertainment -- a tense, exciting thriller that redefined contemporary cinema.”

For fans of teen romance, there’s “The Fault in Our Stars,” a tearjerker based on the bestselling book by John Green. The chemistry between the young lovers Hazel and Gus (Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort) is winning. New Yorker says, “The film dodges most of the pitfalls of clichéd cancer dramas with humor and natural warmth.” And Birmingham Post sums it up, “Our emotional responses feel like the human equivalent of thunder and lightning in a film anchored with the key line: ‘If you want the rainbow you have to deal with the rain’.”

And rounding out the slate is a documentary called “Citizen Koch,” the revealing portrait of those zillionaire Koch brothers who are funding the right-wing political agenda. St. Louis Post Dispatch tells us that “most of the movie is a backgrounder on the Citizens United case, in which a deeply divided Supreme Court opened the door to truckloads of campaign cash from tycoons and corporations.” Paste Magazine says, “The dark lessons this engrossing nonfiction film holds ... are terribly important ones.” And Boston Globe calls it “preaching to the choir.”

Whew! Quite an eclectic lineup of films this week at the Tropic.

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