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Notes From the Back Row

The third dimension



By now we should be used to Hollywood remaking old movies and recycling old stories, characters and ideas. Well get ready for the return of the 3D feature, only this time it's digital (and better). In fact, with ten 3D features slated to hit the big screen between now and December some Hollywood executives are claiming this is the future of cinema. The shitty part is the digital 3D projector costs about $25,000 U.S. so we don't have one in Whistler yet.

Perhaps it's just a fad, like the first round of 3D back in the early 1950s when the novelty of watching B-horror flicks like Creature from the Black Lagoon, Phantom of the Rue Morgue, or Catwomen of the Moon had people flocking to the theatres and leaving, mostly, disappointed.

3D was little more than a gimmick, but it made a comeback in the late '60s coinciding with the blossoming drug culture and 1970 heralded the release of The Stewardesses, the first 3D porn. The rest of the 70s were mostly 2D but those nifty red and blue glasses came back around in the '80s - who remembers those 3D documentaries at Expo 86? I remember they were nowhere near as exciting as Jaws 3D, or Friday the 13th part 3D.

The prevailing problem over all those years was that the actual 3-D wasn't very good. The effects in Robert Rodriguez's mid-'90s Sharkboy and LavaGirl or Spy Kids 3D were not much better than those in the black lagoon, forty years earlier.

These days, digital 3D provides a far superior product. The new glasses look like Ray Bans, the effects are crisper and the 3D looks natural. It still seems to work a bit better in animated flicks (less focus issues) and this week Dreamworks releases Monsters vs. Aliens, an entertaining homage to all those classic B-Horror and Sci-Fi flicks of the '50s. The Village 8 will screen it in 2D but kids will still want to check it out.

Reese Witherspoon voices Susan, a chick who is hit by an asteroid on her wedding day and grows to be 49 feet 11 inches tall. The government captures her, renames her Ginormica, and tosses her into a secret lair with all the other monstrous freaks they've accumulated - direct knock-offs of The Blob, Black Lagoon, Mothra and The Fly. When Aliens attack the president enlists these good-natured monsters to help save the world. Cue the kiddie action where nobody actually dies.

Dreamworks plays it safe (again) taking few risks while going light on narrative and heavy on filmic references and in-jokes. There is plenty of homage but it would have been nice to see at least one totally new monster character somewhere in there. The female empowerment theme is great, Ginormica is an ass-kicker, but it takes a little too long to get there (Susan whines her way through much of the movie) and it also leaves the other monsters standing around with not much to do. All in all a good kids' flick but it's gonna be totally forgotten by May 29 when Pixar enters the 3D arena with Up, probably the best animated flick of the year.

While 3D and horror movies have a long and glorious tradition (especially for third sequels) The Haunting in Connecticut, also opening this week, is just straight up 2D. It's also a straight up rip-off of Amityville Horror but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Even derivative ghosts are freaky and this one takes things a few steps further. So go see it so anyhow and spend lots of money at the concession - the Village 8 needs to buy that 3D projector before Angelina Jolie releases a 3D movie.