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Notes from the back row

Mindless laughs and gasps galore

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I like stupid movies. I don’t need to question the meaning of life or ponder the complexities of the human condition every time I walk into the Village 8. Sometimes I just want to snap a couple one-hitters and see some shit blow up, or watch a bunch of hot chicks look hot.

Traditionally, the second last weekend of summer doesn’t make very much money so movie studios are releasing the flicks they’re not really sure what to do with — e.g. the stupidest movies of the summer. Unfortunately The Rocker, about an old hair metal reject who joins a teenage band, is only playing down in the city right now but fear not, the Village 8 is still bringing in mindless entertainment, cheap thrills, stupid laughs, and my favorite, Anna Faris.

Faris is a master of comedic timing and usually plays a ditzy blonde ( Lost in Translation, The Hot Chick) but her performances are always interesting, usually funny and I’ll go see a flick just because she’s in it. In The House Bunny , which she also produced with Happy Madison, Adam Sandler’s company, Anna plays Shelley Darlington, a 27-year-old Playboy bunny who gets kicked out of the Mansion and gets a job as the house mother of nerdy sorority Zeta Alpha Zeta. The Zeta girls, led by the superb Emma Stone ( Superbad, The Rocker) must sign new pledges in order to save their sorority. Can the Bunny teach the girls about shit like make-up and boys in time to make them cool and successful? Sure she can, and don’t be surprised if the teacher learns a thing or two as well. (Be even less surprised if what she learns is the classic movie lesson to Be Yourself, and It’s What Inside That Counts, etc, etc.)

Directed by Fred Wolf, who’s last film Strange Wilderness didn’t get a single good review in all of North America except from me, teams with the Legally Blonde writing team and showcases some of the better up-and-coming actresses including Kat Dennings (the daugher in The 40-Year-Old Virgin). The House Bunny looks really stupid and is a film almost strictly aimed at teenage girls – that’s why I’m stoked on it.

On the opposite end of the stupid spectrum, the testosterone end, is Death Race , also opening Friday. Perennial action star Jason Statham ( Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Crank) stars as a race car driver who is framed for murder and sent to badass Terminal Island prison, where the even more badass female warden (Joan Allen, killing it) runs televised, to-the-death car races. Staham has been set up and brought in to replace the masked, big-star racer of the show who just died. If he wins the race, he goes free — simple as that.

Loosely based on the 1975 Roger Corman classic Death Race 2000 , this flick is actually more reminiscent of The Running Man and is definitely aimed at teenage boys and those who like their violence simple and stupid. R-Rated, Death Race has all the ingredients — prison fights, guns, cars flying through the air, one-liners, a black guy with an attitude, an old guy who imbues wisdom, etc, etc. Director Paul W.S. Anderson, is not the best going, his Aliens Vs Predator was really disappointing but he gets it done here and delivers an action packed flick that’s the ride of your life… er, death.

DVDs of the week — Jason Statham in The Bank Job which is actually a really smart, old-school heist movie. The special features include a fantastic documentary on the real bank heist the film is based on. Also available is Smiley Face , a straight-to-DVD Anna Faris pothead movie that is really, really, really stupid. And therefore kinda rules.

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