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Notes from the back row

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The DVD of the week is absolutely bonkers. You might have trouble finding a rental but you can buy the “Big Package” edition of Trapped in the Closet at Amazon.ca and while it certainly isn’t money well spent, I guarantee it will be one of the strangest purchases you will make this year.

Trapped… is a ridiculously melodramatic “hip-hopera” from the scrambled mind of successful R&B singer R. Kelly, the guy who seems to always be in trouble for his dealings with underage girls. Kelly wrote and sings the film’s story, which is about a guy named Sylvester who’s involved in a cacophony of incestuous and interlinked relationships with a variety of characters, including a midget/stripper named Big Man.

Kelly croons the lyrics over an identical beat (there is no chorus) for a couple of hours while actors perform the most literal adaptation of the words imaginable and there’s a cliffhanger every five minutes or so. The story is crazy complicated and at first it’s tough to discern if Kelly is serious or if he’s knowingly created the funniest movie ever. In the end it doesn’t matter — batshit crazy or pure genius, Kelly has created a new art form and it’s as intriguing as a car wreck: you just have to watch. Trapped in the Closet is also on YouTube.com if you don’t want to spring for the DVD.

From trapped in a closet to locked in a building, the Village 8 is opening Quarantine this Friday. It’s about a TV news crew that ends up inside an apartment building full of good citizens infected with a form of rabies that turns them into flesh-munching, bloodthirsty, rage zombies.

In an effort to control things, the Centre for Disease Control shows up and locks down the building. Even peaking out the window will get you shot by the National Guard. Jennifer Carpenter ( The Exorcism of Emily Rose) plays the reporter who, along with a band of survivors, must avoid being killed by the horrors inside the building while the authorities outside do their best to keep everyone contained and in danger.          

Think 28 Days Later meets The Blair Witch Project’s camerawork (all filmed by a participant of the action, the news cameraman) and you’re getting close. Quarantine is not totally original but still contains a few good frights and creepy moments, and the film puts forward decent themes on our recent mistrust of authorities and each other — e.g. regular people become the danger and the government will lie about everything.

Lying always makes good cinema, and so does paranoia and terror. Ridley Scott’s new flick Body of Lies , also opening Friday, has lots of all three. Leo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe star, although most of their interaction is via cellphone, as U.S. agents fighting the War on Terror — DiCaprio in the field and Crowe back home making all the big calls. Russell had to fatten up for the role, adding at least 20 pounds and learning a thick Yank accent.

Their plan is to out a dangerous terrorist cell by creating a fictional competing terrorist cell that seems to be an even larger threat. Based on the novel by American journalist David Ignatius, Body of Lies is decent, mainly due to the acting quality, but doesn’t really bring much new life to the spy/espionage thriller genre.

In other news, Keira Knightley is back for another costume-drama in The Duchess , one of those period pieces about rich aristocracy and the terrible lives they lead. While Knightley is, by all accounts, spot on with her portrayal, I just don’t get into these kinds of flicks. If you liked Pride and Prejudice you’ll be into this one too. Me, I’d rather get my stiff and sappy melodrama from R. Kelly.

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