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Notes from the Back Row

New takes on old genres

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Sometimes, dear readers, a good thing gets so played out its founders and prime supporters jump ship and turn their backs on that what they once loved. Trucker hats for instance, are no longer cool and some old timers have even started dismissing our quiet mountain town as "sold out" or "not what it used to be."

This behaviour happens all the time, even in the world of movie making. For example, with the resurgent popularity of horror films (recent remakes of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Amityville Horror, House of Wax, Grudge, etc,) master of horror Wes Craven ( Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream) has decided to move into the realm of psychological thrillers with his latest PG-13 offering Red Eye, which opens Friday at the good old Village 8 cinemas.

Although it sounds like a Whistler-made documentary, Red Eye is actually about hotel manager Lisa’s (Rachel McAdams) late-night airplane flight that goes straight to shit forcing her to either a: allow her father to die, b: allow the U.S. Deputy of Homeland security (who’s checking in to her hotel with his family in the morning) to be assassinated, or 3: save the day by suddenly learning all kinds of fighting techniques and defeating established terrorist mercenaries from some uncertain, unidentified, Middle Eastern country (Hollywood sees no need to differentiate them over there).

Anyhow, Craven does his best to keep the film tense and creepy. Using repetition and minutia details like delayed flights, sudden bumps on take-off, or sketchy looking travellers, he attempts to tap into the general fears of flying as well as the claustrophobic feeling of a plane and the overall airport paranoia that pervades these War On Terrorism times.

Cillian Murphy ( Batman Begins) does a decent job as Jackson Rippner, Lisa’s in-flight seat-mate and "manager" of the whole assassination plot, so that the first and second half of the movie are actually pretty gripping. Although Craven wracks our nerves a bit the film’s last third falls too deeply into "action" territory with a couple boring chase scenes that ruin it the way Michael Bay’s 45-minute chase scene killed The Island.

Since everyone’s remaking horrors these days you can’t blame Wes Craven for wanting to switch it up a bit and he does a decent job, but all in all his thriller is little more than a Visine-soaked horror flick. Red Eye isn’t quite bloodshot enough for me.

Speaking of giving up, how about romantic comedies. Generally they’re trite, predictable and pander to horny middle-aged women and deranged schoolgirls with a desire for emotional closure. This week the romantic comedy rears its head again with director Judd Apatow’s 40-Year Old Virgin . And it’s not all bad.

40-Year Old Virgin stars brilliant Steve Carral as an overly cautious loser who has given up on the idea of ever nailing anything except a long three-pointer in his NBA videogame. His "buddies," each with their own problems, find out he’s never done the deed and decide to help by setting him up with sluts "for practice." He fails repeatedly, falls for a nice older woman, but is shy about his problem and then it’s a sing song ending wrought with moral messages about the friendships that define us and the experiences that touch us like we’ve never been touched before.

I know, it sounds about as much fun as playing footsies with a parapalegic, but the characters are funny and well defined. It’s rated R, and the film builds to an out-there, quirky ending. 40-Year Old Virgin is one of the better romantic comedies I’ve seen in a while. Probably ever since they stopped being cool, which coincidentally coincides with the first time I saw one.

Too bad Craven didn’t take a crack at this genre – 40-Year Old Virgin Massacre would have rocked.

AT VILLAGE 8 Aug. 19-25: Valiant; Red Eye; 40-Year-Old Virgin; Wedding Crashers; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Dukes of Hazzard; Skeleton Key; Four Brothers; March of the Penguins; Deuce Bigalow.

AT RAINBOW THEATRE Aug. 19-25: The Island.

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