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Notes from the back row

Dogs and date movies

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Everyone knows how much I love dogs. They are, after all, man’s best friend (I’ve noticed lonely lesbians really like dogs too, go figure.) So we’re all pretty stoked about Disney’s new sleddog flick Eight Below , opening this week at the Village 8.

Sure it’s a Disney movie so the warning signs go up right away but director Frank Marshall (who worked on all three Indiana Jones flicks) does a bang-up job of keeping Eight Below separated from most of Disney’s fuzzy animal crap. First of all, the dogs don’t talk, and, while they do have cutesy names like Maya and Max, they don’t act like humans hardly at all. Shooting with a more documentary style Marshall’s dogs all have individual personalities but they still come across as, well, dogs.

The story, based on truth, follows an Antarctic dogsled guide, played by Paul Walker ( Into the Blue), and his eight dogs who bravely save a scientist’s life and are rewarded by being left chained outside camp while all the humans are evacuated due to an oncoming storm. Frostbitten Walker is assured by pilot/love interest Katie (Moon Bloodgood) that she’ll make a return trip for the eight heroes. Of course, weather doesn’t permit that and no one else seems to care much about the stranded puppies so they break their chains and head out on a most excellent adventure full of fright, emotion, perseverance and playful doginess. Shot mainly on the Pemberton ice cap, Eight Below is a perfect kids’ movie – not panderingly stupid, beautifully shot, and gosh darn if there isn’t a moral lesson in there too. The dogs truly steal show and this is a feel-good movie for kids and adults alike. Dog lovers especially.

Speaking of lovers, Valentine’s Day isn’t so far behind us that "two of the writers from Scary Movie " won’t try to sucker in romantic couples with Date Movie , an infantile film parodying almost every popular romantic comedy of the past few years. While sticking to the Scary Movie mold of pushing the jokes and movie references way too far the film does contain a few inevitable chuckles. But unless you and your date are either very bored, so in love you don’t even watch the movie, or really, really twisted on some sort of so-new-it’s-not-even-illegal-yet drug Date Movie is really just a renter.

Also opening this week is Freedomland , a new thriller/mystery chock full of clichés, racial tension, snappy-yet-preachy dialogue and confusing narrative tangents. Starring Samuel L Jackson (the L stands for Leroy, by the way) who is a hip cop trying to track down the kidnapped son of Julianne Moore (who ruled in Boogie Nights ), a recovered drug addict who claims her boy was taken by black carjackers. The pigs close off the black part of town, inciting anger and insults, and a creepy parent group headed by Edie Falco comes in to confuse matters while getting to the bottom of things. Toss in an abandoned scary orphanage wherein plenty of bad shit used to go down and Freedomland , while being a bit garbled and crammed full of too much talking and not enough action, is still not a total failure. Worth seeing, just not waiting in line for.

Speaking of waiting, as in waiting tables, a super-funny, incredibly Whistler-pertinent movie came out on DVD last week and if you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, you gotta check it out. Waiting is a finely crafted look at one night of serving food. The characters are all hilarious and it’s amazing to see that restaurant life is pretty much identical all over North America. Waiting is so true to life it’s practically a documentary on serving food. DVD of the week.

AT VILLAGE 8 Feb. 19-25: Underworld Evolution; Pink Panther; Matador; Brokeback Mountain; Firewall, Freedomland; Curious George; Date Movie, Eight Below.

AT RAINBOW THEATRE Feb. 19-25: Memoirs of a Geisha

Feb. 23 LUNA presents Japanese Movie

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