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Notes from the back row

Bros before Geddy

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I hate the band Rush. I guess the drummer was okay but Geddy Lee looks like a newly castrated weasel and he sings about the same. I don't care if they're Canadian, I'll take Chilliwack over Rush any day.

Paul Rudd's character in I Love You, Man , however, has no such qualms. Rudd plays Peter Klaven, a straight-and-narrow L.A. real estate agent who's about as exciting as unbuttered toast. For him, Rush is as cool as the other side of the pillow.

Although Peter has a fiancé that's near-perfect (she won't blow him anymore) he doesn't have any friends and therefore nobody to be his best man at the wedding. So Pete's gay brother (apparently not good enough to be the best man) advises him to go on man-dates and meet friends. Hilarity ensues.

Eventually Pete hooks up with Sydney Fife (Jason Segel) a freeloading, Rush-loving slob who lives the bachelor's dream. Sydney turns out to be the one and most of this odd-couple bro-mantic comedy is little more than an excuse for these two talented actors to take the "bros before Ho's" theme and run with it. Oral sex jokes never get old - or do they?

I Love You, Man is not rocket science. The story line is tacked on as an afterthought - although it is refreshing to see the romantic comedy formula twisted back on itself, because in this one the hero has to start taking drugs, loosening up and shirking responsibility in order to better himself. All in all it's a decent flick that almost totally hinges on the Rudd-Segel chemistry. It kind of gets weaker as it goes but considering director John Hamburg's last film was Along Came Polly , it ain't that bad. Other than Rush my main beef is that the all-star secondary cast is criminally underused. With Andy Samberg, J.K. Simmons, Jaime Pressley, Jon Favreau, and a couple Human Giant alumni, only Favreau is given enough space to really perform.

Speaking of performing, Julia Roberts and Clive Owen re-team this week in Duplicity , a romantic-spy-heist flick that falls a bit short considering the actors involved. Remember that break-up scene in Closer where Clive rips into Julia, calling her a "F*cked up slag" with such venom and hatred that you almost stop breathing? There is none of that kind of emotion in this flick. Rather, Tony Gilroy's second film (he made Michael Clayton ) is a rapid fire, snap delivery banter-fest between its two stars, who play ex-government spies retired to the corporate espionage world who must juggle career loyalties with their relationship ones. Clive Owen gives a better performance than The International and ol' jawbridge mouth glances and smirks her way through it well enough (although there are a couple annoying in-jokes designed to remind us that Julia is SUCH a huge star). Duplicity is a time traveling, globetrotting, con game of a flick that has wit and style, swagger even, but it's all a bit too cutesy and trite. Which, I suppose, is what many people look for in a date movie.

But if you like 'em with a few more explosions, the always-dependable Nic Cage stars in Knowing , about a professor who finds a pattern predicting world disasters in a grade-schooler's time capsule submission. There are no pre-screenings for this one but the trailer makes it look like there might be a lot of running and shouting. Right on.

Or if you're the kind of person who likes swab tests, pouring vinegar in your eyes, or Rush albums, check out The Reader, starring a totally naked, partly pedophilic Kate Winslet in the most painfully boring movie ever nominated for an Oscar. Blaaaggghhhh.

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