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Notes from the back row

An "A" for Easy A

What I like most about high school movies is they are kinda like actually going to high school, but with no tests, no detention, and after 90 minutes or so you get a happy-ever-after ending (usually revolving around prom) that distracts from the shitty reality that life will never again be that simple.

Easy A stars my favourite up-and-comer Emma Stone as a less-than-popular high schooler who lies to her best friend about losing "her v-card" (virginity) and when the entire school finds out she rolls with it, fake-screwing all kinds of nerds, dorks and gays in order to boost their social status too - because everyone knows it's way better to be perceived as a slut than a liar.

Riffing on that old book, The Scarlet Letter but then dismissing it just as quickly, Easy A is more Clueless than Mean Girls but it does have some snappy humour and lots of great digs at the bible-thumping Jesus freaks (even though Stone's character Olive is something of a saviour who takes on the sins of others and redeems them).

The second half of Easy A falters a bit, like most comedies these days, and although Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson nail it as the cool parents, the film ultimately belongs to Emma Stone. Stone has that perfect mix of hot-yet-approachable, and a voice that could do Playboy Satellite Radio if her film career ever fizzles. Which it won't, because she's awesome.

Ben Affleck is not awesome, at least he wasn't back when he kept making those crapfest romantic comedies. These days he is directing and even I have to admit Gone Baby Gone was really good. Old Bennifer is back at it again this week with The Town, his second stab behind the camera-another gritty crime story set in Boston, and another success.

Affleck stars as the honourable thief looking for an exit and he doesn't suck. Plus he's surrounded himself with talent like Jeremy Renner ( The Hurt Locker) as the crazy best friend and Blake Lively ( Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 1&2) as the sometimes-girlfriend. Ben seems to be a director able to work with actors and get their best.

The Town is an action-heist-love story-crime flick in the tradition of the old pulpy James Cagney films of the '30s and '40s. It's classic storytelling - not as subdued and cerebral as Gone Baby Gone but certainly worth checking out.

Devil looks like it is worth checking out. It's a claustrophobic horror film about a group of strangers trapped in an elevator and one of them is the devil. Sounds awesome right? Except there were no pre-screenings available for anyone (always a bad sign) and while it is directed by the dudes who made Quarantine it's also produced by M. Knight Shamalayan (really bad sign). So all I can really say about this one is go and expect to walk out disappointed. M. Knight is garbage, but at least he isn't directing so this has a chance. But I wouldn't bet on it.

The last film opening at the good old Village 8 this week is Alpha and Omega , an animated romantic adventure flick about wolves on the road. Dennis Hopper has voice work in this, one of his last roles, but otherwise it looks like pretty standard kiddie fair.

The DVD of the week is Wall Street with Michael Douglas. The "Greed is Good" attitude has never been more apparent than these last few years and Wall Street 2 , directed by Oliver Stone, opens next week.