Variety is the Spice at Tropic Cinema
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Film Critic, Cooke Communications
Film Critic, Cooke Communications
From sci-fi to historic drama, from fairy tale to true crime, the Tropic screens are ablaze with variety this week.
Take the clash of science fiction with today’s science: We’ve seen the theme of androids and artificial intelligence in movies going back to 1927’s "Metropolis." Steven Spielberg addressed it straight-on in "A.I." and we encountered a really smart phone in "Her." Now we have "Ex Machina," a movie depicting an erotic encounter between man and machine. Here a computer programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) applies the Turing Test to Ava (Alicia Vikander), an android built by his Steve Job-like boss (Oscar Isaac). The Miami Herald tells us that director-writer Alex Garland’s "primary concern is his flesh-and-blood characters, even though they are not nearly as showy (or beautiful) as his main attraction, the vulnerable, delicate girl with a heart of steel and wires." And Denver Post calls it "a methodically absorbing sci-fi drama."
Turning to history, "Woman In Gold" gives us iron-willed Maria Altmann (Dame Helen Mirren), an Austrian woman determined to recover a Gustav Klimt painting of her dear aunt that was stolen by the Nazis. And with the help of her young attorney (Ryan Reynolds) she takes on the Austrian government. Grantland says, "Sometimes you know a movie is going to work in about the first three scenes. This one really works." Young Folks adds, "We will surely remember the beauty with which the past comes alive right before Maria’s eyes."
"While We’re Young" introduces us to two couples (Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts, Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) whose age differences may imply other differences as they become BFF’s … maybe. East Bay Express calls it "a routine middle-age-crazy sitcom for over-educated urbanites." But Winnipeg Free Press sees it as "a smart, observational comedy on the millennial iteration of the generation gap."
"True Story" is in fact based on a true story: A disgraced New York Times reporter (Jonah Hill) whose identify gets stolen by a charismatic murderer (James Franco). Paste Magazine says it "attempts to tackle issues of reportorial and moral integrity -- just how far someone will go to convince him or herself that the end justifies the means …" And Common Sense Media calls it a "gripping, disturbing drama based on real murders."
Another true story, "Desert Dancer" tells of Iranian choreographer Afshin Ghaffarian (played by Reece Ritchie) who defied social custom to join an underground dance troupe in Tehran. Chicago Sun-Times notes, "director Richard Raymond keeps the story moving …" And Blu-ray.com says, "Unsurprisingly, dancing is the highlight …"
Back in fantasy land, Disney presents a live-action version of "Cinderella," the classic fairy tale of a young woman (Lily James) hoping her prince will save her from scullery drudgery and a wicked stepmother (Cate Blanchett). 3AW declares, "Disney’s first-class, straight-faced, irony-free, live-action remake of its own 1950 animated classic is a delightful explosion of color, costumes, virtue and snarling . . . a truly beautiful film." And The Arts Desk observes, "Cate Blanchett steals her stepdaughter Cinders’s show."
What great choices!