Notes from the back row 

The way the cookie crumbles.

Some movies are really original and fresh, but there’s always been a Hollywood trend of cookie-cutter movies and sequels hoping to cash in on a good idea again and again and again.

This week exemplifies the point. Coming to the Village 8 we have Along Came Polly the Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy where the dork gets the girl in the end. Director John Hamburg co-wrote Zoolander and Meet the Parents so this should be pretty funny, especially if you like Ben Stiller who, once again, is the play-it-safe loser type who finally takes a risk.

This time, after a honeymoon disaster that ends his marriage before it really starts, Stiller decides to call up a girl he’s liked forever, Polly, a waitress played by Aniston who seems to almost always play a waitress. It’s very Something about Mary -ish, only forget the stupid little yappy dog, it’s been done. Aniston’s Polly keeps a blind ferret as a pet, original eh?

Formulaic bathroom humour is a sure thing for Stiller but instead of embarrassingly zipping up his rig at the cute girl’s house, this time he clogs the toilet, wipes his ass with a hand towel, floods the bathroom and uses one of those womanly lufa-sponge-Body-Shop-shower scrub things as a plunger. With strong minor characters like the gross buddy and hard-nosed boss, Along Came Polly is simple and funny, yet awfully familiar.

Also opening is Torque , which is basically The Fast and the Furious on motorbikes. Wait, wasn’t that Biker Boyz ? Beats me, I didn’t waste time or money on that either. Produced by the same guy that produced Fast and the Furious and starring Ice Cube and Matt Schulze, Torque is about… forget it. It’s about bikes and three hot chicks in leather and crime and action and stunts, just like all the speedy bike/car movies we’ve seen lately.

One saving grace might be the fact that Director Joseph Kahn, who’s been directing music videos for everyone from Brittany to the Geto Boyz for the past 12 years, has a strong urban visual style and knowingly pokes fun at the fact that his movie is basically a simple clone.

Even reality, or at least movies based on reality, is being rehashed these days. Calendar Girls , the true story of a group of late-middle-aged British housewives who pose nude for a charity calendar, starts Friday as well. Sure it’s gutsy, good-natured and probably pretty funny, but Calendar Girls is awfully reminiscent of another naked English comedy, the also reality-based The Full Monty. I’m sure this movie could charm the pants off my Grandma (she doesn’t get out much) but unless you’re a big fan of the English (incidentally, the world’s worst tippers), I’d skip it.

Go see Big Fish instead. It’s touching, quirky and fun with a solid life message about the relationship of fiction and fact.

The Rainbow Theatre’s playing Paycheck twice nightly, for all three of you who think Ben Affleck’s an action star.

Cookie-Cutter DVDs of the week are Bring it on Again and American Wedding which has a good segment on shaving your genitals, something we all should be doing routinely.

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