Notes from the Back Row 

Sure signs of summer

Remember the joy of being in Grade 4 and summer finally rolling around? You’d spend days aimlessly playing at the beach and making up new words like "Chawsome" (choice mixed with awesome). Well, summer took her time arriving this year but finally she’s upon us – small skirts, big lineups at the slurpee machine, and yet another Hollywood remake hoping to cash in on all the bored kiddies happy to be out of school.

This week it’s Richard Linklater’s take on the 1976 classic baseball flick, The Bad News Bears. Billy Bob Thornton stars as hard-drinking Coach Buttermaker who is talked into coaching a little league team by a woman lawyer whose class action suit has forced the league to accept all players regardless of ability.

Thornton brings the same dry, raunchy humour that made him shine in Bad Santa to the role and even though the story is essentially identical to the original, Billy Bob keeps us entertained – at one point advising a kid to lie to his father about winning, saying, "Lying’s, fine. This is America isn’t it?"

Director Linklater also gets a few good shots at overzealous sports parents who relive old glory through their children.

Unfortunately this film isn’t nearly as funny or engaging as Linklater’s last kiddie flick, School of Rock although the rebel kid on the dirt bike will surely make a whole new generation of young girls sweat and swoon. Basically Billy Bob Thornton saves this PG-13 movie. And that’s no surprise, I mean the guy did used to tap Angelina Jolie. Nobel Prize winners have achieved less.

From regurgitated kid’s movies to sphincter-clenching horror, The Devil’s Rejects will be one of the hits of the summer. Director Rob Zombie shocked and impressed movie fans with 2003’s House of 1000 Corpses and now he continues that story with a more straightforward, gory, and better film. Sheriff John Wydell is after the Firefly family because they killed his brother in the first film. Police raid the house of 1,000 corpses and capture Mama Firefly, but children Otis and Baby (played by Zombie’s wife, Sherri Moon) escape and embark on a terror driven bloodbath road trip to hell.

Rob Zombie is a huge horror fan (can you tell by his name?) and he’s fast becoming an adequate, if slightly sadistic, director. Great use of still frames punctuate the film and Zombie unwinds his grim tale as if Sam Peckinpah joined Charlie Manson to make a Bonnie and Clyde- style picture that’s more serious and depraved than Natural Born Killers .

While there’s plenty of talk about good versus evil and that sort of thing Zombie is not as concerned with God and redemption as he is with torture, violation and cool washed out visuals. It’s a ’70s horror film tribute full of classic B-grade actors and Zombie stitches it all together perfectly with a good old southern rock soundtrack. And Sherri Moon Zombie is the kind of shit-kicking psychopath that’s hard not to cheer for. She rules.

Suprisingly, so does the new Michael Bay film, The Island. Bay is usually wasting our time with visual fodder like Armageddon but here he teams up with Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johannson and delivers a pretty smart sci-fi/chase/explosion film that touches on George Orwell paranoia, timely human cloning arguments and Scarlett Johansson having sex for the first time. Not the greatest sci-fi ever made but pretty good for Michael Bay.

Even Grade 4 kids will know it’s summer when three movies in different genres can open simultaneously and all be worth the admission. And hey, while you’re in the theatre stop by SoMo for a bite and a couple drinks. That place is totally chawsome.

AT VILLAGE 8 July 22-28: Bad News Bears; The Island; Mr. & Mrs. Smith; War of the Worlds; Fantastic Four; Batman Begins; Madagascar; Wedding Crashers; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

AT RAINBOW THEATRE July 22-28: Cinderella Man.

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