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Notes from the back row

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No sign of Be Kind, Rewind, it looks like the release date got pushed to Feb. 22. Not usually a good sign but perhaps they’re hoping to bank on Sundance Film Fest hype. Regardless, here at home, due to the release of the Oscar Nominees, the good old Village 8 is bringing back some doozy flicks for our viewing pleasure.

Remember how disappointed you were with yourself when you missed No Country For Old Men? Well the formidable Coen Bros flick (count ‘em eight Oscar nods) is back in Whistler, as are other nominees — The Kite Runner, Atonement, and the Daniel Day Lewis showpiece There Will be Blood.

They’re all good, but let’s move along and get into the newest end-of-the-world movie Cloverfield. The tense (and unrevealing) trailer has been all over the internet for months and the film, produced by Lost creator J.J. Abrams, dropped last week.

Cloverfield, a Blair Witch -meets-9/11-meets- Godzilla picture, is about Rob, a New York City urbanite about to move to Japan and a lofty position in an unnamed company. His buddies throw a goodbye party and some hot chicks even show up – bonus. Then a big alien/reptile/amphibian/pissed-off creature pops up and starts laying waste to the city.

Amidst the quite-recognizable scenes of the city crumbling to the ground our ‘heroes’ attempt to rescue another hot chick who Rob slept with and loves. She’s trapped in a wrecked building across town and, needless to say, people die along the way — although you were never that sold on most of the characters anyhow so it’s kind of hard to care.

The kicker is that the entire film is seen through the lens of a handicam, held by an extremely poor cameraman named Hud who stars in the film interviewing the partiers while trying to pick up the girl of his dreams. When the giant lizard/alien poop hits the fan, Hud becomes our eyes as the disaster unfolds just ahead of the heroics.

This ‘first person shooter’ POV is even more shaky than Blair Witch was and will certainly turn many viewers off, but the verité style does pull you in and add mayhem to the action even if the lull scenes seem a bit contrived and draw attention to the gimmick.

If you’re looking for a biting critique of YouTube culture and how our sense of realism is linked to the media you won’t find much of it here, and, as a monster movie, there’s not much of payoff though the parasite/spiders are cool, the beheaded Statue of Liberty is a nice image (although it’s already been used on the poster of John Carpenter’s Escape From New York) and at the end of the day Abrams and director Matt Reeves can take credit for the fact that they tried something different (sort of). For a 73-minute end-of-the-world flick, they didn’t do too poorly.

Don’t miss the still-playing Juno , a whip-snap teenage pregnancy flick made in Vancouver and starring Halifax girl Ellen Page (whose title character is not only up there with classics like Napolean, Spicoli, and Wynnona Ryder in Heathers, but also earned her an Oscar nod for best actress). Of course, for many entertainment junkies (and people who like shooting perfectly good minutes in the head by eating potato chips and watching three-hour awards shows) the big question is – Will the Oscars even happen? The Hollywood writers strike, still looming, threatens to shut it down. My personal Hollywood source (yes I do have one) tells me the strike is supposed to end soon so perhaps the show will go on and the writers can all get back to pumping out remakes, sequels and comic book adaptations.

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