Tropic Cinema Offers Up Eight Diverse Films
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Once again Tropic Cinema squeezes eight films onto its four screens, an amazing feat of prestidigitation that delivers twice the movies we might otherwise expect. And what variety -- animated comedy to heist film, surreal slapstick to historical drama, intellectual fare to spy story, sci-fi adventure to documentary fun!
“The Secret Life of Pets” is a big winner with audiences -- no doubt dog owners. This delightful animated comedy follows a pair of pooches (voiced by Louis C.K. and Eric Stonestreet) who get lost in New York while their owner is away at work. Mishaps follow. But all ends well for our doggies. The Atlantic says, “There’s something quietly therapeutic about spending 90 minutes with some nutty, heroic furballs on a hero's journey with very low stakes.” And Newark Star-Ledger tells us, “The big chase scenes and action-movie adventures are fine. But what delights here are the small details of what happens once we close the door -- the standard poodle who throws a heavy-metal party, or the dachshund who gets massages.”
“Now You See Me 2” is the sequel to that same-name heist tale, the one where a group of magicians rob a Paris bank from a stage in Vegas. This time around the Four Horsemen (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, and Lizzy Caplan with an assist from Mark Ruffalo) take on a mad techie genius (Daniel Radcliffe) in a science vs. slight-of-hand thriller. Globe and Mail says it’s “just as cheerfully outlandish as the caper flick’s precursor, with the acceptance of fancy tricks and misdirection twists dependent on an audience’s love of a good hoodwink.” And The Shiznit concurs that “it’s corny and it’s predictable but there’s an underlying charm that almost blindsides you, and its embrace of its ridiculousness is a definite improvement on its predecessor.” And Reel Film Reviews calls it “...a singularly conceived and executed piece of work.”
“Swiss Army Man” also stars Daniel Radcliffe, here playing a dead guy who washes up on the beach. Paul Dano is the half-crazed castaway who finds the body that seems to come to life in this surreal romp. As NUVO Newsweekly puts it, “You can laugh, wince, and squirm at ‘Swiss Army Man.’ You can harvest the small truths, enjoy the lyrical moments... And when somebody asks you if you’ve seen any good movies lately, boy, will you have an interesting answer.”
Like a page from history, “Free State of Jones” features Matthew McConaughey as a Confederate deserter who fought to free the slaves in Jones County, Mississippi. Toronto Star sums up the 2 1/2-hour movie with the simple words, “A Civil War rebellion becomes an enervating movie by director Gary Ross.” Sacramento News & Review adds, “It’s a true story, with political and racial ramifications well into the 20th Century, and McConaughey and Mbatha-Raw are ideally cast.”
Another biopic, “Genius” recounts the turbulent relationship between writer Thomas Wolfe and Max Perkins, the famed Scribner’s editor who also shepherded the works of Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Boston Globe calls it “An intriguing study of the personalities and torturous process behind some of the early 20th Century’s great writing.” And Ex-Press.com expounds, “Using his trademark ability to blend dour disdain with puppy-eyed sympathy, Colin Firth forms an evenly weighted narrative footing as Perkins, while Jude Law indulges every thespian fiber in his body to push out pain and inspiration as Wolfe.”
“Our Kind of Traitor” is a spy story based on the John Le Carré novel about a British couple caught between the Russian Mafia and the duplicitous MI6. Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris are cast as the pair who try to help a Russian money launderer defect, only to wind up with bad people shooting at them as they hide out in the Swiss Alps. Movie Notion describes it as a “sharply played and nicely realized Carré adaptation.” And RogerEbert.com finds it to be “a handsome and often absorbing picture.”
“Independence Day: Resurgence” is also a sequel, picking up the sci-fi story twenty years later when aliens have returned to destroy the Earth. Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, and Judd Hirsch reprise their original roles, but Will Smith sat this one out. Reforma says, “It delivers what it promises: no plot, but great special effects and destruction.” And Digital Spy adds, “It’s silly, it's ridiculous, it’s over the top. And it’s a perfect piece of '90s nostalgia.”
And let’s not overlook the new documentary titled “Tickled,” journalist/ filmmaker David Farrier’s foray into a feather tickling competition. You can’t help but laugh. MLive proclaims, “The old cliché about truth being stranger than fiction rarely feels so apt.” Minneapolis Star Tribune adds, “Not quite answering every question it asks, ‘Tickled’ still opens a dangerous ‘can of worms’ of stranger-than-fiction journalism.” And Detroit News sums it up: “The film is an investigative thriller that unravels the deep web of lies, threats and deceit that festers in the dark corners of the Internet, and shows how online behavior can have damaging, real-world implications.”
There you have ‘em -- eight films on four screens. A magician’s act in itself.