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Notes from the back row

Sex and muscles, to the Max

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I read somewhere that muscle cars are the ultimate juvenile male metaphor, where the stick shift controls the whole badass machine. And the ass-kicking-est muscle car of them all has to be the 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge, which is front and centre in the new out-there, raunchy, cock-driven teenage movie Sex Drive , opening Friday at the Village 8.

Ian is an 18-year-old virgin that spends too much time on the internet and works as a mascot for a suburban Chicago mall donut-shop — a loser by even the most generous teen movie standards. He meets Ms. Tasty, a Tennessee hottie, online and she agrees to screw him, or at least she agrees to screw his online identity — a Photoshopped bodybuilder who claims to drive the fabled ’69 Judge which he doesn’t technically own.

Ian’s flubby buddy, who slays it with the ladies due to his overstated Herculean confidence, talks him into stealing his brother’s prized car and along with Felicia, Ian’s best friend-girl, they peel off on a roadtrip full of weird sexual situations and literal bathroom humour, topped with a nice love lesson. And it’s actually pretty awesome, if you’re the kind of person who thinks 14-inch rubber penises are funny (and really, how can they not be?).

First time director Sean Anders pulls this off, partially through solid acting. Seth Green as an Amish auto mechanic, wise beyond his stereotype, steals most scenes. Sex Drive is no Superbad , but it’s not that super bad either. And if you’re a bit immature, male, and can remember who Jean Claude Van Dam is, it’s actually pretty good.

Keeping with the teenage boy demographic, the Village 8 is bringing in the hyper-action film Max Payne starring Mark Wahlberg. Director John Moore ( Behind Enemy Lines, The Omen remake) delivers a moody shoot-em-up set in a world that’s half fantasy, half grim reality and totally style-driven. Expect a lot of fancy set décor, slow motion jump-shooting, and people yelling at each other in the pouring rain. Wahlberg is decent, and leggy co-star Olga Kurylenko give us a taste of what to expect from her in the new Bond flick Quantum of Solace which opens next month. Mila Kunis also gives a great, if short, performance. Kunis, who was awesome in Forgetting Sarah Marshall , totally flips the script with this and goes in an entirely different direction. She’s an actress to keep an eye on.

It’s getting to the point where making a movie based on a video game character is comparable to doing one about a comic book character — the built-in fan base is huge, and fanatical. Mark Wahlberg keeps saying he was impressed with the script of Max Payne , a revenge flick, but more likely it was the paycheck. Honestly though, you don’t walk into a video-game movie looking for a discourse on character, not even Angelina Jolie can pull that off in the Tomb Raider movies. Instead, you go in looking for the three F’s — Firepower, Flesh (both bullet-ridden and supple female varieties) and ‘F#ck yeah!’ Does Max Payne deliver? Sure. It’s forgettable, but fun to watch.

The last new flick this week is the Canadian-made Passchendaele , directed by Paul Gross ( Men with Brooms.) It’s a love-story/drama set in1917 WWI and the brutally savage trench battles on the plains of Belgium — a conflict that killed over 5,000 Canadians and wounded more than twice that many. Gross has crafted a war picture that doesn’t glamorize or sensationalize the story but rather focuses on old-time values like valor, patriotism and true love in dark and desperate times. A film like this will register with the older audiences but I think it will be even more valuable for younger viewers, those accustomed to televised wars, internet porn and video games could use a bit of the somber history lesson Passchendaele offers. War blows.

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