Notes from the back row 

Ben Affleck should retire

Everybody knows Ben Affleck sucks. Even the puppets in Team America: World Police make fun of him. One puppet sings a love song entitled, "I love you more than Pearl Harbor sucked " and Affleck, the star, is lambasted more than once.

And now, proving that puppets know more than some of the people calling the shots in Hollywood, Affleck takes wasting our time to new and almost unimaginable heights with Surviving Christmas , which opens Friday Oct. 22 at the good old Village 8 Cinemas.

Proving without a doubt that huffing glue is the newest craze to hit Hollywood screenwriters, the plot of Christmas is as follows. A rich lonely loser (Affleck) goes back to his childhood home for Christmas and pays the family of strangers living there to pretend they’re his family and to do Christmas-y things with him. Preposterous, I know. Affleck, because he’s so useless and painful to be around, annoys the piss out of his rented family and then falls for their cute daughter when she comes home for the holidays. Then at the end a bit of Christmas cheer is crammed down our throats and everyone leaves the theatre wishing they could pool enough money together to hire a hitman and systematically kill the director, the writers, and most of all, Ben Affleck himself.

Surviving Christmas actually has a decent supporting cast. James Gandofini (Tony Soprano) and Catherine O’Hara play the parents and super-hot Christina Applegate is the sister. But this better-than-average support is not enough to salvage an unfunny, half-assed Christmas movie that for some unknown reason is being released in October. Ben Affleck sucks and Surviving Christmas is about as much fun as an STD swab test at the walk-in clinic. Christmas in October, what a joke. Everyone knows it’s horror movie season.

And this week’s horror offering, also opening at the Village 8, is The Grudge the newest American remake of a popular Japanese horror film. (Hey it worked for 2002’s The Ring.) In The Grudge , Sarah Michelle Gellar (TV’s Buffy) plays an American College girl who accompanies her boyfriend to Tokyo and ends up babysitting a crazy old person in a haunted house inhabited by creepy-looking ghosts who are extremely pissed off at anyone who isn’t dead. Hence, the grudge. Directed by Takeshi Shimizu (who did the original Japanese film) and produced by Sam Raimi ( Evil Dead, Spider-Man) this movie is decent but doesn’t quite live up to its potential. For one, it’s rated PG-13, which means it’s a bit tame for true horror fans, with most of the scariest parts probably being left out. And secondly, The Grudge portrays its characters as almost total idiots who make the stupidest choices and, at times, seem unable to see ghosts that are almost right in front of their faces. It’s the kind of movie that makes you want to yell at the screen. But, it’s got some creepy shots and is well-paced. Japanese directors tend to take their time and build suspense well and Shimizu’s numerous shots of people taking forever to walk down a hallway are proof of this. With a convoluted timeline and decent scare factor, The Grudge isn’t amazing, but at least it’s a horror movie and doesn’t star Ben Affleck. So it’s got two things going for it. The horror DVD of the week is the new Dawn of the Dead remake starring Canadian Actress Sarah Polley ( Go, The Sweet Hereafter. ) It’s a zombie movie so you can’t help but like it and it comes out on DVD Oct. 26. Get it.

Locally, this is a sweet time of year for movie fans. HorrorFest at Millennium Place on Oct. 30. Local film night at HUB Internet Café on Tuesday, The Whistler Film Festival is just around the corner (early December) and now is when all the local kids release their skiing and snowboarding action movies to get us stoked for the upcoming season. These premieres are always a good place to see and be seen whilst getting really drunk with the "athletes" in the films. The snowboard movies are generally a better time. Local snowboarders are a bit more relaxed than our skiers, who tend to act like a bunch of American college kids when it comes to handling their alcohol. I guess they’re probably just embarrassed because they look so stupid sliding rails. Who knows, or cares really? But I imagine if Ben Affleck were in town, you’d probably find him at a ski premiere, face down in a pile of his own puke, wondering why his career is going "switch." It’d be his best work in years.

At Village 8 Oct. 22-28: The Grudge; Surviving Christmas; Shall We Dance; Friday Night Lights; Taxi; Ladder 49; The Forgotten; Shark Tale; Team America.

At Rainbow Theatre Oct. 22-28: Collateral.

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