Notes from the Back Row 

Cannes you dig it?

The Cannes Film Fest is happening right now in the south of France and from what I hear about the dress code on those beaches, we all wish we were there. The big film event so far is The Tree of Life , from director Terrence Malick ( The Thin Red Line , Badlands ).

Apparently, it's a bit too cerebral for some audiences (there were some boos at the press screening) but The Tree of Life tackles big ideas about life and existence, and stars Brad Pitt as a tough-love father in the 1950s. We all know Brad doesn't make shitty films, and Malick is a real cinema artist, so keep an eye out for this one, it's supposed to come out over here later this month. Sean Penn also stars in a minor role.

Another flick getting a lot of press at Cannes is The Artist by French director Michel Hazanavicius. It's a silent film, shot in black and white, with a square aspect ratio (a.k.a. really old school) and while those details will cost the film most of its North American audience real cinema lovers should check it out because how often do we get to see any filmmaker take a risk these days?

The Artist , set in late-20s Hollywood, is about a Douglas Fairbanks-esque silent film star whose career begins to slide with the advent of "the Talkies." The French have always had a special appreciation for classic American Cinema and this one hits all the marks. Word on the beach is The Artist is the front-runner for the prestigious Palme D'Or but we'll see how well it does over here-it's a French movie but you don't need subtitles.

Maybe that will help with timid North American viewers. Of course, Cannes isn't all pomp, circumstance and topless broads. They do show Hollywood fare and last week they screened Pirates of the Caribbean 4 - On Stranger Tides , which opens at the Village 8 this Friday.

Johnny Depp is back as Captain Jack Sparrow and this time the loveable rogue is racing/searching to find the fountain of youth while bouncing around the ships of his old chum/enemy Barbossa (who's turned and is working with the English) and Blackbeard, the pirate other pirates are afraid of.

The good news is Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly are gone, their love story is replaced by a dude and a thirsty mermaid. Luckily, Jack gets to flirt with Penelope, an old flame who may or may not be Blackbeard's daughter, and there are a couple big action set-pieces in there too.

This one is 2:08 long, the shortest of all the Pirate flicks, and sure, it drags a bit. Director Rob Marshall ( Chicago , Nine ) has never done action before and it shows. You'd think "choppy" editing might work in a sword fight scene but not here. Pirates 4 is probably the worst of the bunch but it still delivers up to anyone's realistic expectations. Keith Richards and Judi Dench have cameos and Depp does his thing. And much like the best way to kick off summer movie season, Penelope Cruz is smokin'.

That's pretty much it for new flicks so the DVD download of the week is 1964s Bande a Part ( Band of Outsiders ) by Jean-Luc Godard. It's a love story, a bromance, a mystery, a thriller and a comedy. It also stars Anna Karina and contains cinema's coolest dance sequence (shot without music).

On the other end of the spectrum, Leighton Meester and Minka Kelly star in The Roommate , a really bad movie with incredibly hot chicks. It's also out on DVD/download.


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