Hot chicks kicking butt 

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Awards season is when you get a lot of people talking about the "art" of film and saying things like "it brought me to tears." Which is great — movies are probably the most important art form now (who reads anymore?) and we need stories that make us think, question, reflect and learn probably now more than ever. But entertainment is an easier mass-sell than epiphany so get ready for a week of broken noses, spin kicks and hot chicks with guns. No complaints here.

This week indie-master Steven Soderberg (Contagion, Traffic, Oceans 11) takes a stab at the rogue-spy/ass-kicker subgenre as Haywire opens at the Whistler Village 8 and Garibaldi 5.

Rookie actress Gina Carano, a mixed-marital arts fighter with the looks of a MAXIM cover model, stars as a double-crossed secret agent who's out for answers and revenge, one fistfight at a time. She's like Jason Bourne with a swimsuit model's body and the fighting prowess of Ong Bak.

What sets Haywire above the rest however, is that Soderberg directs the poop out of it and stacks his supporting cast with thespianic zingers like Michael Fassbender, Ewen McGregor, Michael Douglas, Bill Paxton, Antonio Banderas and, er, Channing Tatum. The plot is good enough that it supports the main part of the film — the balls-out, knuckle-driving, fight-ballet action. I guess people will talk about gender roles because Carano ultimately destroys everything in her path (she also takes some brutal beatings (and apparently did most of her own stunts), but whatever that means this is mostly just fast, fun, gritty entertainment. Revenge makes for good storytelling and even if Haywire won't change your life you gotta admit it probably would if you were 15 years old. Soderberg is no fool — his action movie is 93 minutes, rated R, and Carano is smokin'.

Underworld Awakening also opens in both Whistle-town and Squambodia. And while there were no pre-screenings available this one is notable because it features the return of leather-clad vamp-ninja Kate Beckinsale in what looks to be a choreographed cacophony of futuristic throwing stars, flame throwers, high-kicks, broken necks and maybe some werewolves. This one is also rated-R and runs 88 minutes. It doesn't look quite as on-point as Haywire but I'd suggest seeing both films back-to-back anyhow — we don't get that many hot-chicks-with-guns double whammies anymore so take advantage while you can. Plus, the local theatres could use some love.

The Village 8 is also opening Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, a film that was probably meant to be Oscar-bait (Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks star) but then ended up sucking. Based on a novel about a friendless, precocious 9-year-old kid who travels (alone) across New York City in an attempt to solve a mystery abut his dead dad, director Stephen Daldry (The Hours, Billy Elliot) succeeds only in giving us a protagonist that annoys the piss out of any sane person watching. What a little prick smartypants! Literary success doesn't always translate to the grim realities of film and this one is sappy. Skip it unless you're old, bored or wish you could spend two hours with that yappy kid from Jerry McGuire.

The download of the week is The Artist, a silent French film about Hollywood's 1927 switch to "talkies." It's a foreign love letter to cinema that just cleaned up at the Golden Globes. If you think a silent movie sounds as much fun as a root canal then opt for Moneyball, a true-life sports underdog movie with lasting ramifications that changed professional team sports forever. No chicks, no guns, but still a solid watch.

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