Thursday, September 24, 2015

Week of Sept. 25 - Oct. 1 (Rhoades)

Tropic Overview

Half-Dozen Films Deliver Messages at the Tropic
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Film Critic, Key West Citizen

Chess games, life lessons, overcoming adversity -- there are messages imbedded in this week’s films at Tropic Cinema. You can take them to heart. Or just sit back and enjoy the stories.

“Pawn Sacrifice” returns us to the 1972 World Chess Championship, a Cold War battle between American genius Bobby Fischer and Russian grandmaster Boris Spassky. Fischer won. Tobey Maguire delivers a believable portrait of Fischer, an oddball fighting an even bigger bout with mental illness. New York Magazine says, “The suspense of ‘Pawn Sacrifice’ is getting Fischer sane enough
so that he can sit down across from his opponent and focus.” And Chicago Sun-Times calls it “an enthralling piece of mainstream entertainment that captures the essence of Fischer's mad genius, perfectly recreates the tenor of the times, and works as a legit sports movie about the great game of chess.”

Comedian Lily Tomlin gets serious (kinda) in “Grandma,” where she’s a cranky old lady taking her pregnant unmarried granddaughter under her wing. Seattle Times calls it, “short, tart, yet
unexpectedly sweet.” And Miami Herald says, “Tomlin is a wonder, the embodiment of a woman who isn’t at all melancholy or remorseful as she slides into her golden years.”

“Learning to Drive” puts Patricia Clarkson behind the wheel in this lessons-to-be-learned dramedy. Here, a distraught woman is taking driving lesson from an Indian cabbie (Sir Ben Kingsley) as both sort out their lives. Philadelphia Inquirer says, “It’s a small, artfully crafted thing, but it resonates in
big ways.” And Detroit News notes that it’s “precisely the sort of adult-themed, intelligent and heartfelt film it wants to be, with Clarkson and Kingsley wonderfully on point.”

 “A Walk in the Woods” gives us Robert Redford and Nick Nolte on foot, retelling the funny story of two old duffers who decide to hike the Appalachian Trail. “Like the book upon which it's based, Robert Redford's latest is a film of small but continual pleasures -- an amiable amble that's almost
impossible to dislike,” says Daily Mirror. And America Magazine tells us the film “has a redemptive tone, a gentle lesson about aging and limitations and never giving up despite any required climb, uphill or otherwise.”

You don’t have to ask the unPC question -- what N.W.A. stands for? “Straight Outta Compton” will tell you. This biopic traces the rise of the famous hip hop musical group from the downtrodden neighborhood of Compton, California, to worldwide success. ABC Radio Brisbane says, “To someone unfamiliar with the American rap scene, ‘Straight Outta Compton’ will provide an
absorbing look at a group of flawed, yet wonderfully talented artists.” 3AW comments, “An amusing hook to the story is how it goes from being about the music to being about the music business.” And The Popcorn Junkie sums it up, “History is written by victorious billionaire rappers.”

“Stonewall” recreates the 1969 riots that kicked off the gay rights movement in New York City. Centered around the Stonewall Inn, the film takes literary license in telling the story through a fictional character called Danny Winters (played by Jeremy Irvine). Hollywood Reporter says, “Not
the most imaginative or politically trenchant retelling, but entertaining and at times quite moving.” And Guardian concludes, “Director Roland Emmerich, who put his own money into making the film, should be cheered for giving it a shot.”

All in all, an interesting collection of “message” films. But each with an intriguing story behind it.

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