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Notes from the back row

Love and zombies



The bad news - Whip It, the Drew Barrymore-directed chick roller derby movie starring Ellen Page is not coming to Whistler this week. Which is too bad because I did some research and did you know there were three badass chick roller derby movies released in 1972 alone? One starring Raquel Welch (One Million Years B.C.) and another starring Playboy's Miss November 1969 Claudia Jennings, whose real name was the much porn-ier sounding Mimi Chesterson. There's a lot to learn about roller derby movies but we'll save that for another day.

The good news - the Village 8 is opening a couple of bangers this week, starting with the latest zombie comedy Zombieland. The film's tagline is "Nut up or shut up" and it delivers a near-perfect mix of violence, humour, gory deaths and even a bit of sweet romance.

First-time director Reuben Fleischer proves he has a good sense of timing with this fast-paced stompfest but it's really the acting that elevates this flick, as the plot - band of misfits heads for California, killing zombies along the way - is secondary. Woody Harrelson knocks one out the park as Tallahasse, a Snake Plissken-esque tough guy (see Escape From New York) who just really loves killing zombies and devouring a certain snack food. Jesse Eisenberg (Adventureland) slips into his usual sincere-neurotic-social-outcast role but he wields a shotgun well enough to avoid the sameness that has plagued Michael Cera's (Juno) career. Emma Stone (Superbad, House Bunny) and Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) turn up as a couple of shifty scam artists in lesser roles who join in on the fun. Emma Stone is still my favourite up-and-coming actress (more talent than Megan Fox and almost as hot). Add in a fantastic cameo from a deadpan comedy legend and you have a character driven zombie tour de force that shouldn't be missed.

Set in the near future (like next month - a theatre marquee advertises Roland Emmerich's 2012 in the background) Zombieland doesn't provide any new takes on zombie mythology but you'll be having so much fun you won't even care. If watching a zombie puke up its gory, dead stomach contents is your idea of awesome then this is one of the best flicks of the year in any genre.

In the romance genre, Marc Webb's 500 Days of Summer is finally opening here. It's been out since early July and has already hit the Drive-In circuit, but better late than never because this smart, dynamically put together post-breakup rom-com is honest, intelligent and really well crafted. (It's also a tiny bit emo and slightly pussyish at points but most of the time it really sings.) Zooey Deschanel and Joesph Gordon-Levitt perfectly enact both the good and bad sides of infatuation.

What makes the film is how relatable it is. The joyful feeling of pure bliss when you're walking home the morning after nailing someone you're really into and you want to start high-fiving strangers on the street? That's in there. The crushing sadness when your boyfriend desperately tries to replicate something that once made you laugh and shiver but this time it doesn't work? Also in there. These are real moments captured perfectly and there are literally dozens of them throughout the flick. For a non-love story 500 Days of Summer is a perfect date movie with one of the best endings of the year.

Also opening at the Village 8, Ricky Gervais' latest, The Invention of Lying, about an alternate universe where everyone tells the truth, until one day one guy doesn't. Smart premise. Hugely talented cast. PG-13. Your parents will love it.

Not as much as your dad probably loved Miss November 1969, but that's a hard act to top.