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Notes from the back row

Grade 10 girls and Ray Charles

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Maybe I’m a hick, or a tad uncultured, but Broadway musicals have never really done it for me. Not on the stage and especially not on the silver screen. Sure, I remember a time when the easiest way to get in a Grade 10 girl’s pants was just buys some tickets to see CATS in Vancouver and convince her to stay with you at your uncle’s place. Perhaps things are still like that, I wouldn’t know, having given up on Grade 10 girls somewhere around 1999. In any case, the stage musical is rearing its ugly head again with Phantom of The Opera , director Joel Schumacher’s ( Phone Booth, The Lost Boys) take on the longest running show on Broadway.

Now I don’t mind a movie musical at all – Team America-World Police, South Park: The Movie, Moulin Rouge even Earth Girls Are Easy are all true classics. But I am not keen on cheap romanticism, crappy song lyrics, or hairdos and costumes prancing around pretending to be characters. This is a movie for fans of Harlequin Romance, Danielle Steel, Teen Cosmo and crap like that. For a stage play, Phantom of the Opera is pretty strong cinematically – solid art direction and camera work at least make this adaptation look pretty good. But like you learned in Grade 10, looks ain’t everything, she’s got to either put out or make you think and laugh. This crapfest does neither.

If you really must see a new release this week I guess Boogeyman , opening Friday at the Village 8, would be top choice. It’s a horror movie about a guy who must return home to face his fears and the Boogeyman that killed his father. Sounds a lot like Darkness Falls, which was a solid "renter," but this film is rated PG-13 and you have to be pretty innovative to scare me with a PG-13 film in this day and age. I think the wise moviegoer would check out Best Picture contenders Sideways or Million Dollar Baby or the ultra-hilarious, totally awesome Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou , which is one of the year’s funniest films and stars Bill Murray, who has been ruling for as long as I can remember. Also, Ocean’s 12 is playing at the Rainbow Theatre and since I almost never plug them this alone means it’s worth checking out.

Really though, if you want to keep up on your Oscar hype, go to the video store and rent Ray , the Ray Charles biopic (short for biography-picture) that came out on DVD last Tuesday. Up for seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Ray is a remarkable movie simply for the music alone. Ray Charles was a genius and his music is outstanding, this we know. Perhaps you didn’t know that he was born with sight and lost his vision at age seven. Or that he was a hard-hitting heroin junkie and womanizer. Or that he was one of the first big-time musicians to walk away from a gig because it was segregated. All this and more is revealed in Ray – and it is a stirring and emotional film about a man who lived much of his life isolated and misunderstood. As Ray says himself in the film, "Every time I walk out that door, I walk out alone and in the dark."

While it is a tad tame on the heroin part, Ray is a solid film about a great man and Jamie Foxx will probably win Best Actor for his portrayal. The DVD contains an extended scenes version (which I recommend you skip) and some really good extra features, including footage of Ray Charles (he died last year) himself. A solid afternoon on the couch, with or without a Grade 10 girl.

AT VILLAGE 8 Feb. 4-10: Phantom of the Opera; The Wedding Date; Boogeyman; In Good Company; Life Aquatic; Hide and Seek; Sideways; Million Dollar Baby; Meet the Fockers.

AT RAINBOW THEATRE Feb. 4-10: Ocean’s 12.

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