Saturday, January 31, 2015

Inherent Vice (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Inherent Vice

"Inherent Vice" by auteur Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master) and based on a Thomas Pynchon novel, seems to try too hard to be all things at once. While its scope is kaleidoscopic in keeping with the author's whirling prose, on film it feels noisy, loose and all over the place.

Joaquin Phoenix stars as Doc Sportello, a hippie private detective who spends his days rolling around in a horizontal position with a haze of pot smoke that hovers around him like a Cheech & Chong Peanuts cartoon. As a caricature or stereotype, he is quite compelling, speaking in an offhand stream-of consciousness mumble a bit like Marlon Brando. In a droopy hat and maroon shirt, Doc is a noodle in paisley, his legs and arms seeming to bend and sway like asparagus.

Doc is knocked into action by his ex-girl Shasta (Katherine Waterston) who tells him of a plot to derail real estate mogul Wolfmann (Eric Roberts) by institutionalizing him. The tycoon, for some reason is associating with neo-nazis, despite being jewish. While this is played for laughs, it isn't all that funny.

Doc agrees to check it out. The next day, he is approached by Tariq ( Michael K. Williams) a Black Guerrilla Family member who wants revenge on a Aryan Brotherhood bodyguard, one Glen Charlock (Christopher Allen Nelson).

Doc agrees to investigate that too.

Finding himself near a massage parlor, Doc ventures inside in the hope of finding a lead, after a masseuse emerges from the mural depicting the genitalia of a naked lady, our man mañana is knocked unconscious.

He wakes up next to the body of a mutilated Charlock.

What emerges is a kind of picaresque tale with lots of odd babble, quirky characters and silliness, and if that's your bag you'll have a good trip, but with so many pipes and cogs in such a big hallucinogenic wheel, fitting it all together proved too taxing an acid test, especially at two hours and thirty minutes.

Owen Wilson is a strung out rock musician who mumbles about Golden Fang, a heroin-smunggling ship. Josh Brolin plays Bigfoot, a cement faced rival detective. Reese Witherspoon is a district attorney girlfriend who despite some amorous talk doesn't seem to have much chemistry with Phoenix's slurred verbiage.

Last but not least, Martin Short is thrown in as a horny Dr Feelgood.

Every character does silly things without much motivation and while this would be appropriate matter in illustrating a psilocybin-stitched 70s, it feels slow and labored, akin to the Cheech Marin films in the 80's. Bigfoot eats an entire bowl of pot after demolishing an apartment door.

Such antics have a cold deja vu feel.

What the film does do well is its encapsulation of the 70s as a period. Everyone is socked in a heavy lethargy as the waxen face of Nixon, a scary cave-faced man is ubiquitous. The film's most comedic moments are the instances of Bigfoot's oral fixation and the idea that this harsh drill sergeant of a man is ruled by his dominatrix wife along with everyone referring to Doc as a poor or cute "little hippie" in the mode of an animated Robert Crumb comic.

"Inherent Vice" could be a cult film as the post modern decades go by with its madcap episodes that roll out of nowhere, but as a noir tale it feels too reminiscent of Carl Hiaasen to have some of the original pop and bang that it appears to aim for at its end.

Write Ian at

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Week of January 30 to February 5 (Rhoades)

Tropic Overview

Tropic Cinema Gets Literary With Its Lineup

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Film Critic, Cooke Communications

See the movie, read the book. That’s what I plan to do, since I’ve never read much by Thomas Pynchon. That’s also good advice with other book-based movies playing this week at the Tropic Cinema.

“Inherent Vice,” the new film opening at the Tropic, is adapted from Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 novel of the same name about an inept stoner detective. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, the story is as crazy and complex as he is. Trying to find a missing millionaire at the request of his old girlfriend, he encounters a plethora of loony characters. What’s more, this film got an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. The Guardian calls it “a delirious triumph: a stylish-squared meeting of creative minds, a swirl of hypnosis and symbiosis, with Pynchon's prose partly assigned to a narrating character and partly diversified into funky dialogue exchanges.” And The List describes it as “an anti-thriller, a loose, lunatic, sun-scorched noir that just keeps piling on the madness.”

Another form of literature is the fairytale. And with Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Into the Woods,” you get several storybooks worth -- Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, even Jack and the Beanstalk. As a bonus there’s Meryl Streep headlining as a witch trying to regain her beauty. 3AW says, “Disney's enthralling, enormously entertaining film version of Stephen Sondheim’s 1987 Broadway musical comedy is such a joy it makes you wonder what took them so long...” And Sky Movies observes, “It’s dark and it’s funny and it’s genuinely heartbreaking -- in a world where no one believes in happy ever after, this is the fairytale we need.”

“The Imitation Game” is based on a book titled “Alan Turing: The Enigma,” a biography about the British mathematician who helped crack the Nazi’s encryption code by inventing the computer (kinda). Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing, you’re in for a great performance. It also got an Oscar nod for Best Adapted Screenplay. notes that this is “enthralling history unveiled in this well-acted film.” And Monsters and Critics sees it as “a rich performance with the pathos and drama of a new age of technology set within the hardships of war.”

“Foxcather” is not based on a book, but its writers E. Max Frye and Dab Futterman have been nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. This is the bleak story about millionaire John du Pont murdering an Olympic wrestler. Steve Carell steps away from his usual comedy to show he’s also a magnificent dramatic actor. Orlando Weekly calls it “a powerfully gripping layer cake that explores the victims left to wither and die under the malignant, patriotic super-rich,” while The Popcorn Junkie sees it as “a conduit to examine the hubris of America, and the fallout of never living up to the potential of a greatness that may have never existed.”

Also we have “Selma,” the much-talked-about film depicting Martin Luther King, Jr.’s civil rights marches in hostile Alabama. David Oyelowo brilliantly captures the oratory powers of Dr. King in this powerful drama. John Hanlon Reviews says, “A cinematic masterpiece, this feature may be small in scope but it’s momentous in its ability to capture how complex and powerful the civil rights movement was.” And Us Weekly concludes, “Needless to say, Dr. King’s message has never been more relevant.”

I’ve heard people say movies are not as good as the books. That’s not always true.

Inherent Vice (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“Inherent Vice”
Is Hippy-Dippy
Pynchon Tale

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

A few years ago, while having lunch with Rick McArthur, I jokingly asked how I could get one of those McArthur Fellow genius awards. He drolly replied I had to be a genius.

I guess National Book Award-winning author Thomas Pynchon is a genius because he won a McArthur grant in 1988. Of course, by then he’d written “V,” “The Crying of Lot 49,” and “Gravity’s Rainbow.”

Pynchon didn’t get around to writing “Inherent Vice” until 2009. Not as serious as his earlier novels, it was described by The New York Times as “a simple shaggy-dog detective story.”

Now director Paul Thomas Anderson (“Magnolia,” “There Will Be Blood”) has turned it into a noirish movie starring that talented loony, Joaquin Phoenix. Anderson has worked with Phoenix before in “The Master.”

“Inherent Vice” is playing at the Tropic Cinema.

The title comes from a legal term for a product with a hidden defect in it. Maybe that describes the protagonist of the story, a doper detective called Larry “Doc” Sportello. He sure has a lot of defects, some not so hidden. A shaggy-haired Joaquin Phoenix inhabits the role like wearing a wrinkled suit.

Pynchon is known for his dense and complex novels. “Inherent Vice” fills that bill. It’s the tale about the likeable pothead private eye being hired to help thwart a plot to bilk a real estate mogul named Mickey Wolfmann out of his money by locking him away in a mental institution.

Most of the characters in this movie are certifiable enough to be locked away, but things get out of hand when Mickey Wolfmann (played by Eric Roberts) disappears.

Doc sets off on a picaresque journey to find him. In the process he encounters a black militant (Michael K. Williams), a white supremacist (Christopher Allen Nelson), a double-dealing prostitute (Hong Chau), his own sleazy lawyer (Benicio del Toro), a suspicious dentist (Martin Short), a dangerous hitman (Peter McRobbie), a guy with a swastika tattooed on his face (Kieth Jardine), a pretty assistant DA (Reese Witherspoon), and a pushy policeman known as “Bigfoot” (Josh Brolin).

Also our boy Doc gets hired by a woman to find her supposedly dead husband (Owen Wilson), comes across a drug-smuggling operation known as the Golden Fang, and reunites with his old girlfriend (Katherine Waterston) who has been Mickey Wolfmann’s mistress.

Didn’t I tell you Pynchon’s stories were complex?

Many moviegoers are finding this meandering, hippie-dippy storyline frustrating. But it is true to Pynchon’s tone.

Turns out, Doc’s old girlfriend is the “inherent vice” in the story. But that’s not really an important point.

Although Thomas Pynchon is renown for his reclusiveness (there are few existent photographs of him), it was rumored he was on the movie set “but that nobody knew it was him as he stayed in the corner.” Some claim he made a cameo appearance in the movie, but his name is not listed in the credits.

I looked for him throughout the film, but it was like trying to find Waldo without the red-striped shirt and toboggan. Hmm, maybe Rick McArthur was right not to give me one of those grants.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Foxcatcher (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Director Bennett Miller (Capote) gives his film "Foxcatcher" the appropriate brown and gray tones in telling the true life story of John E. du Pont, who was a noted ornithologist and wrestling coach and, who also grew increasingly erratic and paranoid with delusions.

As in Miller's previous "Moneyball" we are in the land of crisis and power. Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum, a gifted but struggling wrestler on a downswing), dining on junk food in a dark apartment with barely enough to sustain himself, gets a call from the office of a powerful family wanting to meet him to discuss his wrestling future. Mark has nothing to lose.

He is flown first class to the du Pont  mansion, the very same family that made their tremendous fortune in explosives and most recently, chemicals.

As if he were a watchful all-seeing gargoyle or strange bird, John du Pont (Steve Carell) abruptly appears behind Mark, without so much as a human footfall.

After several pointed questions, John says he wants America to have role models once again intending to personally coach Mark and his brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) to make the USA Olympic team and win gold. Mark agrees, swept up in the man's patriotic romanticism.

The partnership makes a noose.

Carell is wonderful in this role as the oddly soft-spoken yet harsh bird like presence who struts and frets like a pasty raven. His iconic nerdish persona as seen in many comedies has disappeared. Here he is a very scary and intimidating incarnation. Physically too, he is changed, transformed by an imposing forehead and a large hatchet handled nose. Thankfully, it is Carell's inner coldness that repels any ridicule the prosthetics may cause.

Channing Tatum also does his best although his face seems to invariably retain his oft-recognizable wide-eyed and stunned look. Even with the same facial vocabulary, he is duly convincing as the earnest and gullible athlete.

Ruffalo is well cast as Mark's more stable and caring brother, who might be less ambitious but who is also more mindful of fame's pitfalls.

The verve of "Foxcatcher" goes to Carell though, who gives some quirk and poetry to this true crime story of yet another rich man consumed by his ego. Throughout the film, Carell is an obscure and oppressive Mr. Magoo type, who rules his muscled roost with menace, despite his diminutive form.

Even though this is not a comedy by any means, there are some acid humor moments as the short and sunken-chested billionaire goes for the legs in a wrestling move and attempts to mount his man like a mouse on a lion. Such antics only make this creature more frightening; he is not a mouse, but an albino rat and he will stop at nothing to win and gain adulation.

The only trace of Steve Carell's smile is when he urges Channing Tatum to pronounce the word "philatelist" and "philanthropist" correctly. The smile that once belonged to Michael Scott in "The Office" is now property of a sad and covetous shark or bird of prey.

The final scenes of "Foxcatcher" will hit you square in the heart and while this all makes fitting trappings for the director, for Steve Carell, it is nearly off-putting and wonderfully confusing to see him as this strange controlling little man, driven to extremes by his mother.

Write Ian at

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Week of January 23 to January 30 (Rhoades)

Tropic Overview

Tropic Cinema A Leader In Oscar Race

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Film Critic, Cooke Communications

Between them, the four films playing at the Tropic Cinema this week have been nominated for 18 Oscars in the 2015 Academy Awards competition. Impressive, to say the least.

New to the screens is “Foxcatcher,” up for 5 golden statuettes, including Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Writing - Original Screenplay, even Best Makeup and Hairstyling. This is a story of madness and murder, with no-longer-funnyman Steve Carell as John du Pont, the millionaire sports enthusiast who killed an Olympic wrestler. Sharing Steve Carell’s acting accolades is Mark Ruffalo as the wrester. The Times says, “A movie that appears to be about wrestling but in fact is a disturbing, testosterone-rich tour of the inadequacies of an American billionaire and his athletic protégé.” And Playboy Online adds, “Foxcatcher gets under your skin and stays there. It's easily one of the best things we've seen this year.”

Garnering 8 Academy Award nominations, “The Imitation Game” leads off with a Best Picture nod. Benedict Cumberbatch is up for Best Actor, starring as British mathematician Alan Turning, the man who helped break the Nazi’s Enigma code. Keira Knightley got a nod as Best Supporting Actress, along with nominations for Best Director, Best Writing - Adapted Screenplay, Best Production Design, Best Film Editing, and Best Music. The Standard calls it “impressive, particularly due to Cumberbatch and Knightley and the highs and lows of Turing's truly remarkable life.” And Consequence of Sound says, “Benedict Cumberbatch gives a superbly nuanced performance, imbuing Turing with just the right amount of strangeness to make him endearing but not treacly.”

“Into the Woods” claims 3 Oscar nods, from the predictable Best Supporting Actress nomination for Meryl Streep to Best Production Design and Best Costume Design. This Steven Sondheim musical is a fairy tale brought to life, intermingling Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Jack and the Beanstalk. Movie Talk opines, “Sondheim’s contrapuntal harmonies and intricate wordplay may not leave you humming but they are full of beauty and rueful wisdom.” And Daily Film Fix notes that it’s “a superior example of adapting the stage to the screen.”

“Selma” claims 2 Oscar nominations, Best Picture and Best Song (John Legend and Common). This is the docudrama about the Selma march organized by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Orlando Weekly says, “"Selma presents a multidimensional portrayal of Dr. King, flaws and all, and it makes us wonder how far we've actually come today.” And US Weekly concludes, “Needless to say, Dr. King's message has never been more relevant.”

Yes, by the numbers, Tropic Cinema is doing very well in the Oscars race!

Foxcatcher (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“Foxcatcher” Tells About
What Money Can’t Buy

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Here’s a true story to wrestle with: An odd and reclusive millionaire builds a 14,000-square-foot private training center for wrestlers in Pennsylvania. He recruits two brothers who are Olympic champions, inviting them to become part of his team and live on the 800-acre family estate. Later, in a fit of madness, he shoots one of the brothers to death.

You saw the aftermath on the six o’clock news -- more than 75 Philadelphia policemen laying siege for two days outside the mansion at Foxcatcher Farms while negotiating by telephone with John Eleuthère du Pont to surrender.

Yes, that du Pont family. E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (or DuPont as it is commonly known) remains one of the world’s largest chemical companies. It invented nylon, Mylar, Spandex, Teflon, neoprene, Tyvek, Freon, a number of genetically modified foods, synthetic paints, and such. Its $36-billion annual revenues make it the 8th largest chemical company.

As one of the heirs, John du Pont was worth about $200 million.

John was also a bit of a cuckoo. Maybe because of all the arranged marriages between cousins in the 19th Century, a way of keeping the wealth within the family. He was interested in birdwatching, stamp collecting, and seashells. An active philanthropist, he founded the Delaware Museum of Natural History.

John was also interested in sports, particularly wrestling. This in spite of his mother’s opinion that it was a “low” sport. He poured large sums into training Olympic wrestlers.

Two such wrestlers were Mark and David Schultz. Mark was an Olympic and two-time World champion freestyle wrestler. His older brother David was a seven-time World and Olympic medalist. For the most part, they lived on the du Pont estate. David coached upcoming wrestlers for du Pont’s showy Team Foxcatcher.

Then Mark left the estate. And David drew closer to his wife and children. Du Pont felt abandoned.

Nobody’s quite sure why John du Pont shot David Schultz. The millionaire said, “Do you have a problem with me?” before pulling the trigger.

Now there’s a new movie called “Foxcatcher.” It tells the story about those events that led up to John du Pont being found “guilty but mentally ill” and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He died there.

“Foxcatcher” is currently showing at Tropic Cinema. In it, Steve Carell portrays John du Pont. Channing Tatum is cast as Mark. And Mark Ruffalo plays David. Vanessa Redgrave is du Pont’s disapproving mum.

The movie is up for five Academy Awards. Bennett Miller (“Capote,” “Moneyball”) has been nominated as Best Director. Dan Futterman and E. Max Frye were listed for Best Writing -- Original Screenplay. The movie even got a nod for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. And Mark Ruffalo got a nomination as Best Supporting Actor.

But it’s oft-times comedian Steve Carell’s serious turn as John Eleuthère du Pont that you want to watch. He was nominated as Best Actor. While he may not win due to steep competition from Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game”) and Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”), not to mention Michael Keaton (“Birdman”) and Bradley Cooper (“American Sniper”), his is a career re-defining performance.

Carell captures the lurking madness of John du Pont with his chin-forward, squinty-eyed, shuffling-gait, and halting-speech persona. That, and a set of false teeth combined with a prosthetic nose. After watching the movie, Carell’s wife said, “I didn’t see you.”

“My wife was the best person to have said what she did because she knows me better than anyone,” chuckles Carell. “And I guess it’s a good thing too because that’s not who I want to be around the house. If she saw elements of that person sleeping in bed next to her, we might have a problem.”

You know Carell from his “40-Year-Old Virgin” movie and stint on “The Office.” He is very likeable. John du Pont was just the opposite, “arrogant, odd, socially inept … a man who repelled people.” And at his core dangerous.

Du Pont is said to be the richest American ever tried for murder. He was a man who thought he could buy anything and anyone. But when he couldn’t buy the Schultz brothers, he snapped.

As Steve Carell sums it up, “It’s always sad when someone wants something they’re just not capable of having.”

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Into the Woods (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Into the Woods

Fairy Tale entertainment is all the rage. Witness "Wicked" on Broadway about everyone's favorite greenie meanie from Oz. Then on ABC there is "Once Upon a Time" and "Grimm" not to mention the miniseries "Galavant" about bubbly fluff, bravado and damsels.

Now, here on the big screen we have the opportunity to go "Into the Woods" with Rob Marshall's  film version of the James Lapine/ Stephen Sondheim musical production.

The production design, gloomy and barnacled, gives a nod to many New Yorker cartoons and children's books.

A struggling bread baker (James  Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) are wishing for a baby. Alas, they seem to be under a curse.

Along with this storyline there is Red RidingHood (Lillia Crawford) and a Wolf (Johnny Depp). There is a Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), a Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), a Jack (Daniel Huddlestone) and a beanstalk, along with one torpid female giant and two Colgate princes.

This is a lot to handle.

The main thrust of the tale concerns the baker and his wish to be a good father. Somehow, a very dynamic witch (Meryl Streep) appears on the scene in the wondrously elaborate manner of a Margaret Hamilton and offers the couple a deal.

In an Oz-like fashion, the two must purloin and obtain a red cape, a white cow, a slipper and a rope of golden hair.

With much fretting and this and that, the medley of characters go forth (where else) into the wooded dark areas of fairyland.

While some character sequences seem lackluster (Corden and Blunt feel a bit anemic, while Crawford's Ridinghood is generic and tepid) the film's shining star is Meryl Streep as a vain yet poignant witch, whose singular performance has eccentricity, nuance and charge. Her performance is one part Wicked Queen while the rest of her is a homeopathic hobgoblin and mother gone astray, while never leaving a bit of realism behind. Streep's amphetamine-angeled and wild-eyed witch is something to see. The Academy was right to nominate her and she alone is the gruesome glue that holds the story together.

Also amusing, albeit predictable in camp, is Depp's hairy one in grandmother's bedclothes.

The songs are pleasant and light, if not immediately catchy.

And when it gets sketchy midway, with all of the marching and slogging over the river and through the wet woods in the quest for charmed objects, a few irreverent jokes hit as if to wake us from a light drowse. Watch for the bronze and bare-chested Charmings.

If that doesn't get you, the witch will jab at you very entertainingly with her stand-alone long-nailed performance. As the blue sable one trailing a train of rats like a rodent-ruffled dress, Meryl Streep gives jazz and juice to what could have otherwise been a routine parade of Disney favorites.

Write Ian at

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Week of Jan. 16 to Jan. 22 (Rhoades)

Tropic Overview

A Musical Interlude Lightens Tropic Lineup

Reviewed  by Shirrel Rhoades
Film Critic, Cooke Communications

This week the Tropic is adding a little fairy tale magic and music to its holdovers of three more serious films.

Coming to Tropic screens is “Into the Woods,” Rob Marshall’s fantasy based on the Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical. In this Disney picture, you’ll find your old storybook friends – Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Giant, even a witch played by Meryl Streep. Philadelphia Inquirer calls it “a jolly mash-up of symbol-laden, signature once-upon-a-time tales about lust, envy, greed, and misguided pursuits of happiness.” And Daily Film Fix describes it as “a superior example of adapting the stage to the screen.”

Held over is “Selma,” the much-talked about depiction of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery. Drawing fire is how King’s relationship with President Lyndon Johnson is depicted. But whatever your opinion, you cannot turn your eyes away from David Oyelowo’s powerful performance as Dr. King. Seattle Times says, “History becomes breathtaking drama in ‘Selma’; there’s an urgent realism in the storytelling, as if we’re seeing this just in time. And indeed we are ...” Star Democrat offers, “Though these events occurred half a century ago, their power and relevance are undiminished.” And RedEye calls it, “A film of great power and integrity, fiercely attentive to the tipping point of progress and the difficult decisions that push it forward.”

Sticking around for another week is “The Imitation Game,” the much more dramatic story of Alan Turing, the British math whiz who helped crack the German’s Enigma code during WWII – while having a few secrets of his own. Benedict Cumberbatch is masterful in his portrayal of Turning. America Magazine says, “Cumberbatch brings his immense talent and intelligence -- and not too much glamour -- to the socially awkward, notoriously disheveled protagonist. And Daily Mail says, “Benedict Cumberbatch’s sensitive, moving performance is the film's beating heart, and the best reason to see it.”

Also staying over is “Wild,” the coming-to-terms-with-life film starring Reese Witherspoon as a woman who hikes the 1000-mile Pacific Crest Trail as she thinks back on her lost marriage, haunting mother, and where she went off-track. indieWire calls it “a first-rate advertisement for the purifying abilities of the great outdoors.” And Vanity Fair observes, “Witherspoon finds both a mature centeredness and a zen-like openness – it’s been a long time since we've seen her this fluidly expressive, this connected to good material.”

There you have it, three serious film bites with a side order of magic beans.

Hot Havana Nights (Rhoades)

One Night Only at Tropic Cinema: Thursday January 15

Ernest Hemingway Recalls Havana
Through Brian Gordon Sinclair

Exclusive report by Shirrel Rhoades

At first glance you’d think it was Ernest Hemingway up there on that stage, a large bearded man looking out past the audience as if sighting a big marlin from the deck of the Pilar. If you listen, you’ll be convinced it’s him as he shares stories about fishing, writing, women, drinking, and his adventurous life in Havana.

Who else could it be but Papa?

If you’re sitting a few rows back at the Tropic Cinema tonight it will be Brian Gordon Sinclair, a performer who has been described as “the foremost dramatic interpreter of Ernest Hemingway in the world today.”

“Hemingway’s HOT Havana” is a one-man show that captures the humor, excitement, and pathos in the great writer’s life. A champagne reception will be held at 7:30 p.m. with for Brian Gordon Sinclair’s performance starting at 8 p.m.

“HOT Havana” tells stories from the boisterous and bold life of Ernest Hemingway in Havana – including his adventures with pirates, watching baseball, battling with his typewriter, carousing with Ava Gardner, drinking daiquiris at La Floriditia, sinking German U-Boats, and winning the Nobel Prize.

“Ernest Hemingway opened a doorway that allowed me to discover the vibrant love of literature and people that is Cuba,” says Brian Gordon Sinclair. “He lived there for twenty years. His spirit is still there.”

Sinclair should know. He frequently visits Havana and Hemingway’s nearby home called Finca Vigia (“Lookout Farm”). He recently helped organize a children’s baseball team in San Francisco de Paula named after Hemingway’s son, the Gigi All-Stars.

“When I meet the people of Cuba, as a writer and performer of Hemingway, I can feel it. His spirit exists in the people, in their hearts. Now he has moved into legend. In Havana, in Holguin and in Santiago, I have had the pleasure of sharing that legend. I have portrayed Hemingway at the 50th Anniversary of the meeting of Fidel Castro and Ernest Hemingway. They met at an international fishing tournament organized by Hemingway and where Fidel won the trophy for catching the most fish.”

The press asked if he really believed that Fidel had caught the most fish in the 1960 tournament. “I told them that Hemingway had watched closely and that he had a damn fine pair of binoculars. He would never award the silver trophy to anyone who had cheated.”

Brian Gordon Sinclair is internationally known for his six chronological plays that comprise his “Hemingway On Stage: The Road to Freedom” series.

“HOT Havana,” however, is a separate stand-alone show, a series of excerpts from those six original plays. It was first performed in 2005 on the rooftop of Havana’s El Pacifico restaurant. Since then, Sinclair has taken the show around the world, traveling from Tromso, Norway, to Stratford-upon-Avon, sharing his monologue at numerous major literature festivals.

Lorian Hemingway, granddaughter of the great writer, has said Brian Gordon Sinclair’s one-man show “rivals the work of Hal Holbrook in ‘Mark Twain Tonight!’” Others compare him to James Whitmore in “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!”

Sinclair has been praised for having an “uncanny talent for putting himself deeply into the character.” Recently he was appointed an Honorary Papa of the Hemingway Look-Alike Society.

Not surprising, he has won the Sir Tyrone Guthrie Award for Acting at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, the Finca Vigia Award of Distinction from Museo Hemingway, and the Canadian Studies Award of Distinction at University of Holguin in Cuba.

On stage he’s portrayed characters ranging from Dutch painter Vincent Van Gough to Irish patriot Patrick Pearse, but it’s his Hemingway monologues that define his talent. The Oak Park Ernest Hemingway Foundation has called his performance “mesmerizing.” And Valerie Hemingway, daughter-in-law and former secretary of Ernest Hemingway, noted, “Indeed, Brian succeeded in capturing, what I would call the spirit and essence of Ernest Hemingway.”

“Hemingway On Stage” is primarily a fund-raising venture, having produced over $50,000 in charitable donations. Recipients have included the Key West Art & Historical Society, the Hemingway Look-alike Society Scholarship Fund and Museo Hemingway in Cuba. And “Hemingway’s HOT Havana” has raised thousands of dollars for Cuban hurricane relief.

Thursday night’s performance goes to support the non-profit Tropic Cinema. A big gesture for a bigger-than-life man.

Into the Woods (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“Into the Woods” Is Fantasy That Deals With Reality

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Dr. Bruno Bettelheim (author of “The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales”) once sat me down and explained how fairy tales help prepare children for adulthood. He used many of Grimm’s Fairy Tales as examples.

Now Disney is trying to do the same thing with its new musical fantasy, “Into the Woods.”

Having made its own cinematic version of “Cinderella,” “Rapunzel,” and other children’s stories, the Mouse House is now putting your favorite fairy tales into a blender and giving you a smoothie.

Actually, “Into the Woods” started out as a Broadway musical by Stephen Sondheim (“A little Night Music”). Director Rob Marshall (“Chicago”) took the idea of turning it into a film to the folks at Disney – and knowing something well suited for their magic kingdom they readily agreed.

“Into the Woods” is now playing at Tropic Cinema.

The plot is simple: Taking a page from mythologist Joseph Campbell, we have a young couple (James Corden and Emily Blunt) setting out on a journey into the woods in order to break a witch’s spell that renders them childless. Along the way they meet up with an array of your favorite fairy tale characters.

They include Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), Jack and the Giant (David Huddlestone and Frances de la Tour), Little Red Riding Hood (Lila Crawford) and the Wolf (yes, a furry Johnny Depp). The witch (a green-skinned Meryl Streep) is lurking about, casting her spells too.

The music by Sondheim is hummable, some 50 cuts on the soundtrack. He wrote two new songs for the movie.

Broadway fans may be upset that the story has been Disneyized (for example, Rapunzel does not die in the movie version).

Sondheim is philosophical about it. “Censorship is part of our puritanical ethics,” he observes. “There has to be a point at which you don't compromise anymore, but that may mean that you won’t get anyone to sell your painting or perform your musical. You have to deal with reality.”

Funny to be talking about reality when discussing a fairy tale fantasies.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Ian's Must See Ten from 2014 (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Ten films Not to Miss in 2014

This was a year for existential character studies. The films this year took us diverse trips, from the outer reaches of space in "Interstellar" to the confines of a luxury car seen in "Locke." The best word to describe the year in cinema would be diversity. Here is my somewhat unorthodox "ten not to miss" list for 2014.

10. Selma- tense, thoughtful and episodic, here is Martin Luther King Jr. as a human person with all of his muscle and compassionate melody. David Oyeleyo's voice alone will bring shivers. Not to be missed.

9. Citizenfour---an arresting portrait of Edward Snowden. He remains this generation's romantic revolutionary, upsetting the status quo and highlighting our errors and our overreaches as a political species.

8. Lucy- a popcorn film in the best sense of the word and unapologetically light, this film doesn't make much sense but the direction of Luc Besson gives the action a speed and a color that makes it all potent and intoxicating. Think of it as a cinematic highball, or a sourball candy that dances and hovers on the eyes. Yes, this is a guilty pop art pleasure, and Scarlett Johansson helps create an all too watchable narcotic that you just might feel awkward about the next morning.

7. Only Lovers Left Alive--- fiercely unique, quirky and imaginative. Jim Jarmusch's vampire film captures the lonely essence of a   nightwalker more vividly than any other film I have seen while still paying homage to Hammer Films kitsch. Stay up all night if you must, but see this film.

6. St. Vincent--- One of Bill Murray's best films to date. Heartfelt poignant and feel good to a fault, this story will have you cheering.

5. Boyhood--- deeply conceptual and moving. A genuine one of a kind experimental film, richly detailing not only the life of a boy into adulthood but an entire space in time.

4. Whiplash---gutsy, melancholy and poetic this film captures the artistic struggle with its intimate portrait of a young drummer. Miles Teller is terrific.

3. Big Eyes: I am a sucker for Tim Burton's films and this story makes a wonderful 60s period piece for him. Fittingly affectionate and Gothic with Burton's Tell Tale Hearts in all the right places, the film also gives Margaret Keane her deserved place of Pop honor.

2. Force Majuere---acidic, bleak and funny. This film plays like a film version of Albert Camus with random jarring events happening when you least expect it. Uncompromising with an abundance of shocks.

1. Locke-- a one man experience that flies in the face of conventional film. A thoughtful and darkly comic example of a modern existence that is anoxic and without patience. A must see!

Call me an award season outlier if you wish, but character studies ruled the day. See you at The Tropic!

Write Ian at

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Selma (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Ava DuVernay's "Selma" has a catchy current trailer. We have Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) intoning "What happens when a man stands up and says enough is enough?" combined with a rap beat. This  question and its rhythmic cadence has been in my head for weeks.

Now the time has come and not a moment too soon. Mr. Oyelowo gives a near transformative performance as the legendary Dr. King, and his incarnation is all the more tactile and sensory because it is delivered without bombast, dramatic ostentation or luxury.

Further, it is a credit to director DuVernay that she dispenses with any preamble or exhibition. Rather we are propelled, or more to the point, thrust into the action, that is the execrable event of the 16th Street Baptist church bombing in Alabama in 1963. This one singular scene is shocking, percussive and heart wrenching, detailing the horror as four black girls disappear under a field of rubble.

We often see Dr. King under a silent strain, alone with his notebook.

He knows what he has to do.

In short, impressionistic vignettes, King tries to enlist the help of President Johnson ( Tom Wilkinson) to give black people the right to vote. Johnson is standoffish and full of platitudes. At least in this film, LBJ could care less about voting rights. To this administration, the cause ala mode is poverty.

His yearnings fall on deaf ears.

King is left worried and pensive. The fog of fear and a deep claustrophobia, an iris of grey cement, is visible in his eye.

For several nights, the Nobel Laureate gets death threats while his wife Coretta (Carmen Ejogo) suspects him of adultery.

During a courthouse voters rights sit-in, the angry cat-eye glasses of suburban wives narrow and sliver in hate.

As the coils of tension almost metastasize with the President (who is privately shown as prejudiced and pandering, if not an unabashed racist) Coretta visits with Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch) who says he is through with militancy. As Malcolm X once belittled Dr. King as an Uncle Tom, this does not help matters.

Through work in his journal, King gets an answer: a march from Selma to Montgomery.

So begins one of the most upsetting periods of our 20th century history and this film. Six hundred marchers joined SNCC members. They were promptly and savagely attacked by billy clubs and tear gas. This first protest is known as Bloody Sunday. While these scenes pummel the eye in sad flurries, they are necessary. Here is the depressing ugliness of racism laid bare as fat pink faces raise heavy sticks to hit and batter without mercy. DuVernay doesn't pull away.

The voice of reason is King working alone under a sculpture of Gandhi on his desk, tireless, tense and thoughtful as he ponders on resistance. Yet all is not pathos and gloom. There is a light to Oyelowo and a joy in getting things right, as there no doubt was to King himself. In several scenes, we see the icon eager and energized, young in fire and spirit. This is important. We see King as Martin, relaxed and inspired. Such moments are delivered with simplicity as if we are the camera's cohorts.

Oyelowo's performance is ultimately soft and fully nuanced, expressed in a delicacy of expression, akin to handwriting. The actor holds back, frets and gives in a sudden full roar of what should be and was once said.

The highest credit to"Selma" is that given this larger than life figure, a civil rights legend and a honorable meme (whose life should have been chronicled years earlier)  this person is offered in all of his fiery charismatic weight and gentle bearing.

In David Oyelowo, we feel the man.

Write Ian at

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Week of January 9 to January 15 (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

Tropic Focus On True Stories With This Week’s Selections

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Film Critic, Cooke Communications

This week Tropic Cinema has narrowed its focus down to a handful of must-see films. All of them are based on true stories.

New to Tropic screens is “Selma,” the much-talked about depiction of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery. Drawing fire is how King’s relationship with President Lyndon Johnson is depicted. But whatever your opinion, you cannot turn your eyes away from David Oyelowo’s powerful performance as Dr. King. Seattle Times says, “History becomes breathtaking drama in ‘Selma’; there’s an urgent realism in the storytelling, as if we’re seeing this just in time. And indeed we are ...” Star Democrat offers, “Though these events occurred half a century ago, their power and relevance are undiminished.” And RedEye calls it, “A film of great power and integrity, fiercely attentive to the tipping point of progress and the difficult decisions that push it forward.”

Another powerful performance comes with “The Imitation Game,” the story of how British mathematician Alan Turing built a machine – the first computer, it turns out – to break the Nazi’s Enigma code. Benedict Cumberbatch will amaze you with his tour de force portrayal of a man with secrets. The Daily Mail says, “Cumberbatch’s sensitive, moving performance is the film's beating heart, and the best reason to see it.” The Standard opines, “impressive, particularly due to Cumberbatch…” And Monsters and Critics describes it as “a rich performance with the pathos and drama of a new age of technology set within the hardships of war.”

Another thought-provoking film is “Wild,” Reese Witherspoon’s proof that she’s more than another legally blonde actress. Here she plays Cheryl Strayed, a woman who decides to walk the 1000-mile Pacific Crest Trail as a way of exorcising her personal demons. HitFix says, “Witherspoon does really uncompromising work here, playing Cheryl without any hesitancy or any fear or any ego.” And Minneapolis star Tribune sums it up, “What do you do when your heroine is tough but emotionally hurt, bright but glib, grown but immature? Make a film about her that is both painful and uplifting.”

Finally we have “Big Eyes,” director Tim Burton’s wonky tale about Walter and Margaret Keane, the painters behind those big-eyed waif-like paintings of the ‘60s. Christoph Waltz is the overhyping hubby and Amy Adams is the underrated talent in this satiric true story. Austin Chronicle says, “Waltz may play Walter as a mincing gadabout and Lothario whose real talent lies in self-promotion, but it’s Adams’ Margaret and her dawning realization of her own inner strength that holds the film aloft.” Charlotte Observer notes, “Burton has always paid tribute to artistic misfits in his movies, from self-deluded film auteur Ed Wood to blade-fingered sculptor Edward Scissorhands. But I don’t think he’s made a film with such contempt for everyone in it, except the main character.” And Times UK concludes, “It’s not the kind of performance that screams for attention. No showboating physical transformation or wrenching psychological endurance test. She barely even raises her voice. But as the artist Margaret Keane, Amy Adams is quietly extraordinary.”

“Breathtaking.” “Impressive.” “Uncompromising.” “Extraordinary.” Yes, all four of these films should be on your moviegoing list this week.

Selma (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

How True
Does “Selma”
Need to Be?

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

With Academy Awards season coming up, cinematic contenders are starting to campaign for an Oscar nod. And that brings out the detractors who want to sink the competition.

It often exhibits itself as a challenge to a film’s accuracy. You saw it with “Hurricane,” “A Beautiful Mind,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” and “The Butler.” This year the gun-sights are on “Selma” and “The Imitation Game.”

Each of the above films were vulnerable to attack – justified or not – because they are biopics based on real events.

In the case of “Selma,” the story of the 1965 civil rights marches that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led in Selma, Alabama, the claim is that the film does not give President Lyndon Baines Johnson enough credit for supporting King’s efforts. After all, Johnson had made great strides by passing the Civil Rights Act, right?

“Selma” – now playing at the Tropic Cinema – depicts LBJ as something of an obstructionist to Dr. King’s historic protest.

Mark Updegrove, director of the LBJ Library, objects to the film’s characterization of the 36th President of the United States. “Why does the film’s mis-characterization matter?” he posed the question. “Because at a time when racial tension is once again high, from Ferguson to Brooklyn, it does no good to bastardize one of the most hallowed chapters in the Civil Rights Movement by suggesting that the President himself stood in the way of progress.”

This backlash was echoed by Joseph A Califano, Jr., Johnson’s top assistant for domestic affairs from 1965-1969. Califano says, “Contrary to the portrait painted by ‘Selma,’ Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr. were partners in this effort. Johnson was enthusiastic about voting rights and the President urged King to find a place like Selma and lead a major demonstration.”

Not all of LBJ’s former colleagues agree. For example, Bill Moyers, who was Johnson’s press secretary in the mid ‘60s, remembers it differently.

Paramount, the studio that’s releasing “Selma,” is trying to be diplomatic. They point out that this is a movie told from Martin Luther King’s point of view, not LBJ’s.

The film’s director Ava DuVernay is the first black woman to win a Best Director nomination from the Golden Globes. “The notion that Selma was LBJ’s idea is jaw dropping and offensive to SNCC, SCLC and black citizens who made it so,” she responds.

Sometimes history is a matter of interpretation. This is the first movie ever to feature Dr. King as the subject of a lead role in a theatrical film.

One must also decide just how accurate a movie should be. After all, this is a biopic, not a documentary.

What’s the difference, you might ask, between the two? A biopic is a biographical film that dramatizes the life of an actual person or people. A documentary is a movie that provides a factual record or report.

Dramatizes is the key word here.

Take a closer look at some the classic biopics: The Story of Alexander Graham Bell” (1939) with Don Ameche played it fast and loose with historical details. And “Young Tom Edison” (1940) with Mickey Rooney took its share of liberties with the facts. So did “Edison, The Man” (1940) with Spencer Tracy.

Oliver Stone’s “JFK” (1991) altered details and combined characters for storytelling purposes. Stone described it as a “counter-myth” to offset the Warren Commission’s “fictional-myth.” Whatever you position on this, the film “JFK” undeniably had a great social impact.  It brought about the formation of the U.S. Assassination Records Review Board.

This kind of film is sometimes referred to as a pseudo-documentary, a film that looks something like a documentary but isn’t.

So how should you react to “Selma”? Go see it. This is a powerful movie that reminds us about a seminal moment in American history. It’s sure to provoke differing viewpoints, but nobody can deny that the three 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting right marches affected the course of US history.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Shirrel Rhoades Top Ten for 2014

Top Ten Movies of 2014

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Yes, it’s that time of year when movie critics compile their list of the Top Ten Movies of the Year. Amazing how different the lists are from movie maven to movie maven. Which just goes to prove how personal and diverse movies are.

Here is my personal list of the Top Ten movies I saw in 2014:
10. “Birdman” – An audacious almost-single-shot film where art imitates life with Michael Keaton portraying as a former superhero movie star trying to prove his self-worth by doing some serious acting.

9. “Citizenfour” – A remarkable documentary about whistleblower Edward Snowden that scoops the news as he tells why he choose to expose the NSA’s secret surveillance.

8. “Edge of Tomorrow” – I know it’s hard to believe but this futuristic, sci-fi time-travel space opera starring Tom Cruise is on my list. Don’t let the dopey name fool you.

7. “Guardians of the Galaxy” – Ditto for this Marvel comic book blockbuster about a superhero team you probably never heard of. Told with wit and great SFX.

6. “Only Lovers Left Alive” – Who would expect Jim Jarmusch to give us a bleak vampire tale perfectly cast with pale Tom Hiddleston and wan Tilda Swinton?

5. “Selma” – You’ll get the message about racial equality in this spot-on, sometimes-painful–to-watch recreation of the March on Selma, Alabama.

4. “Boyhood” – Richard Linklater spent twelve years filming this story about a boy growing up. His patience is rewarded with this insightful drama about the offspring of a Texas family.

3. “Gone Girl” – Don’t care what you say, I liked this taut thriller about a husband suspected of murdering his missing wife. Ben Affleck has redeemed himself for that bad movie with J-Lo.

2. “The Imitation Game” – Benedict Cumberbatch mesmerizes us with his portrayal of Alan Turing, the British mathematician who cracked the Nazi’s Enigma code, inventing the computer in the process. Who cares that he was gay? Well. His country did.

1. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” -- Maybe Wes Anderson is an acquired taste, but give me more. His stylized tale about the concierge of a decadent European hotel features Ralph Fiennes and his nearly unrecognizable repertoire of character actors, giving us a magical movie to equal “Moonrise Kingdom.”

These are the ten movies I applauded during 2014. Did I overlook one of your picks?

Week of January 2 to January 8 (Rhoades)

Tropic Overview

Tropic Cinema Knows When to Hold ‘Em…

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Film Critic, Cooke Communications

Tropic Cinema is holding over all its films this week, each worthy your taking time to catch it, if you haven’t already.

Still playing is “The Imitation Game,” one of the Top Ten Movies of 2014 on my list. Here Benedict Cumberbatch gives a spot-on performance as Alan Turing, the British math whiz who cracked the German’s Enigma code during WWII. Chicago Sun says, “This film’s overall success hangs on Cumberbatch and what is, to date, his finest performance on the big screen.” And Creative Loafing calls it, “A vibrant work that refuses to be relegated to the status of just another Brit biopic appearing in the thick of awards season.”

Also still here is “Wild,” an insightful film about a woman hiking the thousand-mile Pacific Coast, bringing along all her memories as she treks on. Laramie Movie Scope observes, “This is a fine performance by Witherspoon, further stretching her range as an actress.” And Philadelphia Inquirer adds, “A moving (literally and figuratively) experience, a road movie where the road is a trail that sometimes disappears into the trees, or takes a turn onto a jagged precipice.”

“The Theory of Everything” may prove that British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking has a grasp about the nature of Black Holes, but does he understand the nature of love? This biopic tells his romance with his first wife just as his Lou Gehrig disease sets in. Richard Roeper calls it, “A well-made, well-acted but unexceptional film about one of the most exceptional figures of the last half-century.” And opines that “Eddie Redmayne's committed performance captures his subject with thrilling conviction.”

“Big Eyes” is wacky director Tim Burton’s take on Walter Keane, the artist behind all those paintings of kids with big eyes. But it turns out, his wife Margaret was the real artist. Arizona Republic notes, “The story is just so downright weird that the film can't help but be compelling.” And Leonard Maltin says, “Amy Adams adds another excellent performance to her formidable résumé, with an equally impressive show by Christoph Waltz who plays her bellicose husband with panache and a chilling edge.

And you’ll want to see it just so you can talk about it -- “The Interview” carries on its silliness about two doofuses (Seth Rogan and James Franco) trying to assassinate the Glorious Leader of North Korea. This is the film that brought Sony Pictures to its knees and changed Hollywood forever. says, “’The Interview’ may be caught up in turmoil -- considering how smart it is about how dumb we can be when pop culture meets politics, that’s pretty funny -- but it's also a funny, risky and well-done comedy far ahead of most of its studio peers.” And Peter Travers of Rolling Stone concludes, “It’s stupid. It’s in bad taste. It’s impossible. I know all that. But Rogen’s instinct to try anything for giggles and sticking it to dictatorial assholes is worth fighting for. Screw Kim if he can’t take a joke.”

The Interview - Take Two (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“The Interview” Proves
Everybody’s a Critic

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Sure, Kim Jong-un is the 31-year-old despot who controls the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. And maybe he did have his uncle ripped to death by wild dogs. He’s also threatened the United States with a pre-emptive nuclear attack. But I’ve gotta admit, the guy does have good taste in movies.

At least that’s my theory as to why he targeted Sony Pictures with his computer hackers, a sophisticated cyber-warfare cell called Bureau 121.

Yes, “The Interview” is a pretty lame movie.

By now, everybody knows its plot: A self-absorbed TV star and his producer pal (James Franco and Seth Rogan) are recruited by the CIA to assassinate Kim Jong-un when he invites them to North Korea to do an interview.

Taking a page from the CIA’s historical failed attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, their handlers (Lizzy Caplan and Reese Alexander) give them a poison guaranteed to take out Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) with a handshake.

There’s funny repartee as the boys try to clarify what the CIA agents mean when they say they want them to “take him out.”

“For drinks?”

“Like to dinner?”

“On the town”

Most of the plot (written by Rogan and Daily Show writer Dan Sterling) concerns smarmy Dave Skylark (Franco) changing his mind about killing Kim Jong-un after being manipulated by the Supreme Leader. The crafty dictator plays basketball with Skylark, takes him for a ride in a tank, sings Katy Perry songs, trots out naked Korean babes, even gives him a puppy.

But in the end (do we need a spoiler alert?) the boys manage to shoot down Kim Jong-un’s helicopter, causing his head to melt in a horrendous ball of fire, as they make their escape in the tank.

North Korea described the film as an “act of war.” And after being threatened by the Pyongyang government’s hackers, Sony switched “The Interview” from a national rollout to a limited release to 331 small theaters. The Tropic Cinema was selected as one of two theaters showing the film in the state of Florida. Sony also made the movie available online via YouTube, Xbox Video and Google Play.

Key West moviegoers had mixed reactions. Many told me they attended the movie out of curiosity or in support of free speech, with their comments falling into two opinions: “I had such low expectations, I was pleasantly surprised.”   And “I’m glad I went, but I doubt I’ll ever go see another Seth Rogan movie.”

Yes, definitely blame Seth Rogan for what you liked and didn’t like. He conceived the movie, co-wrote it, co-produced it, and co-directed it. As well as co-starring in it. The film features his expected fifth-grade-level potty humor.

Rogan and Franco were joined by enough real-life media types --Brian Williams, Seth Miller, and Bill Maher -- to give the film a certain sense of verisimilitude. The media send-up was complete with Eminem coming out as gay, Rob Lowe admitting he’s bald, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt making a nutty appearance in a series of television interview parodies.

Rogan plays his trademarked self. Franco outrageously overacts. And Randall Park nails his part as the Supreme Leader, actually honeydicking you into caring for him.

But, as we know, everybody thinks he’s a movie critic. And the real Kim Jong-un is no exception. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a team of hackers at my disposal.