Notes from the back row 

Angelina saves summer

Angelina Jolie isn’t the best actress in the world (I’m giving that title to Cate Blanchett these days, due in part to her performance in that Bob Dylan movie I’m Not There) but there is no one I’d rather watch on the silver screen. Angelina is, of course, this era’s biggest celebrity — that perfect mix of talent, lips, worldly compassion, intelligence, sex appeal and grit — but what makes her different from past Hollywood icons like Marilyn Monroe or Jean Harlow is that Angie isn’t afraid to get her hands bloody and blow some shit up. Miss Jolie is back in kick-ass mode this week in Wanted , opening Friday, certainly the best action flick of the summer thus far.

Based on a comic book by the always-excellent Mark Miller, Wanted stars James McAvoy in another great fantasy of empowerment scenario. McAvoy is Wes, a total pussy office drone with a hag boss, a slut girlfriend who’s getting nailed by his (not-so) best friend and, to top it off, he suffers from panic attacks. Luckily, his father used to be a super-secret assassin and before long foxy Angelina shows up and brings him into the fold of the Fraternity, a group of mysterious assassins who have been around for 1,000 years, murdering evil-doers and letting the ends justify the means — “kill one, save a thousand.”

The Fraternity is headed by Morgan Freeman who finally gets to drop some Samuel Jackson-sized “F” bombs and who also helps Wes realize his genetic killing potential and ability to shoot curveball bullets. Pretty soon Wes is restoring balance to the universe and realizing that ultimate power can corrupt as well.

First off, Angelina Jolie could make an art film about unloading a pick-up truck full of newborn puppies with a pitchfork and tossing them into an oven and I’d still call it the best movie of the summer, so yeah, this is a biased review, but Wanted is actually pretty epic. Russian director Timur Bekmambetov brings fresh ideas and a love for slow-mo ridiculousness to the action genre and creates the kind of fun, fast, R-rated action film we’ve been waiting for since The Matrix. Bekmambetov made waves internationally with his Russian vampire/sci-fi flicks NightWatch and DayWatch and here, in his first American film, he proves that the hype was real — this guy is no joke.

Neither is James McAvoy, whom my supermodel girlfriend says, “is really cute even though the ending of Atonement was total shit.” James pulls off the action hero much the same way Robert Downey Jr. pulled off Iron Man , by taking it seriously. The acting, stunts, camerawork and ideas in Wanted are a non-stop assault of awesomeness, and even though I was wishing for a bigger role Angelina is in fine, fine form – looking sassy, contorting into all sorts of nifty poses and just proving why she’s the most watchable woman in the history of history.

Also opening at the Village 8 is Short Circuit 6 . Oh wait, that’s just what it looks like. Actually the film is called Wall-E , which isn’t a new way to take ecstasy (like shelfing) but is, in fact, an animated Disney/Pixar flick that might be a perfect way to get your kid into sci-fi. Earth is literally a garbage dump, mankind is fat and useless and this little robot might save the planet. Or he might not, but he will fall in love. It’s simple, basic and ideal for kids.

Will Smith’s anti-superhero movie Hancock opens Tuesday night. Smith has repeatedly stated he “owns” the July long weekend but I got news for the Fresh Prince – It’s Angelina’s world, boy. The rest of us just live here.


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