Thursday, August 13, 2015

Week of August 14 - 20 (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

Eight -- Count ‘em -- Movies On Four Tropic Screens
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Film critic, Cooke Communication

How do they do it, squeeze eight movies onto four screens? Needless to say, Tropic Cinema is a master at juggling showings. And not a single double feature, although one could do a movie marathon if stamina allowed.

New this week is “Testament of Youth,” the WWI memoir of British author Vera Brittain. Starring Alicia Vikander (“Ex Machina”), the film traces the war experiences of Vera and her Oxford University friends. It’s considered one of the “finest true-life accounts of the war.” Montreal Gazette calls it “a powerful story of the lunacy of war and its devastating consequences, but also one that refuses to dwell in despair and seeks to impart a message of hope - no matter how futile that dream has become.” And Daily Telegraph warns, “Don't expect to come away from this beautiful and impactful film unshaken.”

For a more modern drama -- or is it a comedy? -- you’ll want to catch “Tangerine,” the tale of a transgender hooker out to wreak havoc on her unfaithful boyfriend. Taking place on a Christmas Eve at Hollywood’s Donut Time eatery, Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and her pal, Alexandra (Mya Taylor) are looking to put some hurt on Chester and his new gal. Arizona Republic says, “Rodriguez and Taylor are terrific. Their confidence is infectious, yet they never let us forget the challenges their lives offer.” And Larsenonfilm notes that the iPhone-filmed movie “has humor, tawdriness and a strange, persistent beauty.”

Another kind of relationship is put under the microscope in “Trainwreck,” the new Amy Schumer comedy about a commitment-phobic magazine writer who meets Mr. Right (Bill Hader, in this case). The laughs come from examining that love-‘em-and-leave-‘em attitude from a female viewpoint. Total Film says, “Amy Schumer is a force to be reckoned with.” And ABC Radio observes, “Schumer has balanced her naturally subversive sense of humor with the demands of true ruthless commercialism.”

Speaking of relationships, there’s Woody Allen’s “Irrational Man,” another of those older-man-younger-woman tales so close to the filmmaker’s own life. Here a college philosophy prof (Joaquin Phoenix) has great sex with one of his students (Emma Stone) after he decides to murder a stranger. Guess nobody told him Viagra was less risky. Capital Times crows, “Beautifully shot and more narratively disciplined than some of Allen's later films, it shows there's life in the old dog yet.” However, the Advocate sees it as “more for Woody Allen completists than general audiences.”

Jake Gyllenhaal is still duking it out in “Southpaw,” the boxing comeback story. You’ll have a ringside seat to a great performance from muscled-up Jake. Cambridge Day agrees: “Gyllenhaal, who clearly relished getting into tip-top shape (he's ripped and shirtless throughout) for the project, gives it his thespian all.” And Urban Cinefile adds, “With the story’s emotional heart as compelling as its bloody fight sequences, ‘Southpaw’ is a powerhouse of a film.”

Action of another kind is found in “Jurassic World,” another installment in the Jurassic Park series about rampaging dinosaurs. This time it's a genetically modified beast that seems intent on devouring visitors to the island theme park. Desert News calls it “a fun summer ride.” And Cinefantastique proclaims, “Jurassic World turns out to be the most enjoyable blockbuster in recent memory.”

Want a good giggle? Try “Minions,” the animated movie about those bumbling yellow henchmen you met in “Despicable Me.” Looking for a villain to serve, they latch onto Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock) at a baddie convention in Orlando. Starburst calls it “almost complete nonsense, but it's good natured, enjoyable nonsense nonetheless.” And Globe and Mail describes it as “a visual sugar rush for the preschool set.”

Ready for a dose of grim reality? Try “Cartel Land,” a documentary about the vigilantes who fight the Mexican drug cartels. The film focuses on Tim “Nailer” Foley, the leader of Arizona Border Recon, among other gun-toting do-gooders. One Guys Opinion tells us, “Vigilantism on both sides of the Mexican-U.S. line is the subject of Mathhew Heineman’s powerful but curiously diffuse documentary.” Boston Globe says, “Even if it leaves you wanting more, ‘Cartel Land’ deserves to be seen.” And New York Magazine calls it “one of the year’s most important documentaries ...”

Eight films -- dramas to comedies, animation to documentaries -- all of them gotta-see movies.

No comments: