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Notes from back row

Life and death



It’s life and death this week at the Village 8 and, just to shake things up, let’s start with the death. Kevin Costner, who is known for making utter crap ( Waterword) or baseball flicks ( Bull Durham, Field of Dreams) comes out of left field this week with a smart and shadowy B-movie serial murderer picture called Mr. Brooks — and he totally kills it.

Director Bruce Evans (the last thing he did was 1992’s Kuffs) has crafted a superbly dark and twisted crime thriller that plays on guilty pleasures and the fascination/desensitization of violence, while still keeping the viewers keenly interested in what’s happening on the screen.

Costner plays Mr. Earl Brooks, a wealthy and prominent Portland business and family man who, along with his alter-ego/imaginary friend Marshall (William Hurt) is also an evil and methodical serial killer known as “the thumbprint killer.” Brooks, through prayer and AA meetings, has managed to curb his murderous instincts for over two years, but when he falls off the wagon he falls off hard — home invading and murdering a young couple while they screw.

Unfortunately for Brooks/Marshall, a neighbourhood peeping tom named Smith (Dane Cook) happens to not only witness the murders but photograph them as well. Rather than go to the cops (more on them later) Smith blackmails Mr. Brooks into taking him along for the next murder.

Sure, it all sounds kind of dumb but the Costner/Hurt dynamic is creepy, tense and a bit unsettling as the thrill of the kill starts to seep into even the viewer’s mind. The worst part of the film revolves around the steely detective who takes her thrills from hunting Brooks down. Demi Moore does a decent job in the role but her character’s backstory and plotline add little to the film, less even than the bad-seed daughter, played by Danielle Panabaker.

But all in all, a tight flick with a great sense of timing, that can make the old neck hairs reach for the sky.

On the life end of things, as in Pro Life, we have Knocked Up , an R-rated, odd-couple comedy from Judd Apatow ( 40-Year-Old Virgin.) Based on the highbrow premise of, “How much would it suck to end up pregnant after a one-night stand with someone who’s completely opposite from you?” Knocked Up stars Seth Rogen as the quintessential slacking, weed-smoking Canadian who drunkenly hooks up with the ambitious, urbanite hipstress Katherine Heigl and, due to condom application issues/miscommunication, ends up impregnating her.

This is a date movie and a romantic comedy but Apatow fills it with plenty of crass humour, lewd dialogue, real-world character issues and some snappy one-liners (always funny when your gynecologist tells you that you look like your sister). Of course, as a date movie, the main characters must overcome hurdles, argue and reconcile in the end, but Knocked Up , for the most part, balances these “meaningful” scenes with comedy, primarily from Rogen and his scene stealing slacker buddies who are entrepreneurs working (half-assedly) on their celebrity porn website.

Although almost a half hour too long, Knocked Up is very relatable for the 20s and 30s crowd, the same people dealing with the responsibility of growing up, having kids, and doing the right thing. Luckily Apatow, who also wrote the film, adds enough dirty humour to keep those boring parts at bay and he’s crafted the first comedy hit of the summer. His stance that men are idiots/children who must be tamed by women has pissed off some of the more sophisticated film critics but hey, that’s life. Life up here, anyhow.

At Village 8 June 1-7: Knocked Up; Mr. Brooks; The Condemned; Shrek 3; Pirates of the Caribbean 3; Spiderman 3.