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Notes from the back row

Snake orgies and poetry on film



When it comes right down to it, almost everyone is scared of at least one of these three things: sharks, spiders or snakes. That’s just the way it is – spiders are creepy, silent, evil bastards that watch you with their thousand eyes then slink onto you when you’re not looking to bite/poison you and squirt their disgusting egg sacks under your skin, which later turn into irritated boils that eventually spurt millions more of the little buggers into the world.

Sharks aren’t quite as subtle but they’re big, indiscriminate and ruthless, and have no problem chewing the hell out of you for fun. Plus you never know when or where they’ll strike.

And snakes, well snakes are just greasy. Slithering to and fro with their forked tongues and their beady, evil eyes. Just itching for a chance to bite you and pump you full of poison, or wrap their scaly coils around you until all life is crushed out.

These three beasts have been scaring the beejesus out of people since the beginning of time, and while there hasn’t been a good spider movie since 1955’s Tarantula , and Open Water (now playing) isn’t as freaky as it could be, the snake is poised for a comeback this Friday with the opening of Anacondas: The Search for the Blood Orchid.

Anacondas is about a group of scientists who rent a very dilapidated boat ("She ain’t pretty, but she puts out.") to search the jungle for a lost flower, the juice of which is supposed to prolong human life, fountain-of-youth style. Director Dwight H. Little ( Halloween 4) decides to get totally inventive and takes the boat over, you guessed it, a waterfall that somehow was totally unexpected. (Is Apocalypse Now the only movie featuring a boat and a river and no waterfall? I think it is.) After the boat crashes, our team of scientists encounter a writhing mass of huge, mean anacondas in the height of mating season. Instead of running like hell after the first death, they wisely decide to stick it out and keep searching because, you know, they’re "so close!"

I realize it sounds a lot like 1997’s Anaconda, where J-lo, Ice Cube and Jon Voight (who should get an Oscar just for being Angelina Jolie’s dad) crashed their boat on a river while trying find a lost tribe and all got eaten by a giant anaconda. However, this time there are more giant snakes and no big-name actors. The fact that no one got to see advance screenings of this kind of indicates the distribution company knows it sucks and doesn’t want the critics to let the truth out. But hey, I’m kind of stoked on it. Rated PG-13 Anacondas definitely won’t change your life but giant snakes eating idiots doesn’t sound that bad to me. It’s glossier and scarier than Open Water , which ended up being just small sharks eating fools.

Speaking of fools, you’ll be one if you don’t go see Hero , the latest and greatest martial arts/historical epic starring Jet Li. Yes, of course the fight scenes are incredible, in my opinion better than Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon . More importantly though, this film is shot with such attention to colour and motion it seems like an impressionist painting come to life.

Hero is set in China around 300 BC, when the land is changing from a group of kingdoms into one nation unified under the Qin Dynasty. The story goes like this: A nameless warrior (named Nameless), having defeated the three assassins most dangerous to the throne, is summoned by the King of Qin to explain how he did it. The story is told three times from three different perspectives, gaining meaning and importance with each retelling until, finally, the truth unfolds.

It’s a simple tale, but the fight sequences are so surreally perfect and the use of colour is perhaps the best I’ve seen in any movie. Director Zhang Yimou, a well-known dramatic master in Asia, gives us an astonishing piece of film art, poetry really, disguised as a kung-fu flick.

Completed in 2002, Miramax was just sitting on Hero and it took Quentin Tarantino hounding them for over a year before they finally released it. About time, I say.

Speaking of time, it’s time for me to take a holiday so for the next two weeks you’ve got a very capable guest columnist, with a new perspective of her own.

Till then, "Check ya later."

At Village 8 Aug. 27-Sept. 2: Anacondas: Hunt for the Blood Orchid; Hero; Open Water; Princess Diaries 2; Without a Paddle; Exorcist: The Beginning; Going the Distance; Bourne Supremacy; Collateral.

At Rainbow Theatre Aug. 27-Sept. 2: I Robot.

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