Notes from The Back Row 

An eclectic mix of new flicks

Golf, to me, has always been little more than an expensive walk where the most enjoyable parts, as with many upper class pursuits, occur somewhere between drinks number eight and 12. In Whistler, however, golf is as popular as the only whore in town on payday so I’m sure the good old Village 8 will be packed this Friday for the opening of Bill Paxton’s new feel-good golf flick The Greatest Game Ever Played .

Based on the true story of Francis Ouimet, a 20-year-old American underdog from the wrong side of town who beat all the rich people, including the great English golfers, and won the 1913 U.S. Open, scoring a point for all the po’ folk and teaching the world that chasing your dreams pays off once every hundred years or so.

By paralleling Ouimet with British pro Harry Vardon, a British golfer from the same era who rose from nothing to become a champ, Paxton delivers his themes of class struggle and dream-following with the subtlety of a seven iron to the face. Add in some overused CGI effects, a jumpy, jangled storyline pushing "out of nowhere" and "you don’t belong" ideas and a fast-talking, wise-beyond-his-11-years kid and you have an utterly wholesome film commenting on social conditions almost 100 years old. For a movie about a sport in which watching the grass grow is an exciting part, Paxton hasn’t done too poorly. But it’s such a family safe and Disney-fied account of what was actually a pretty compelling true story that you can’t help but wish The Greatest Game Ever Played had just a touch more balls.

Sticking with money and balls (footballs this time) Two for the Money , also opening this week, is a slick, fast-paced morality tale built around the billion-dollar-a-week world of sports gambling. Matthew McConaughey brings his southern fried, one-trick-pony acting talents to the role of a failed footballer stuck on a Vegas 1-900 betting predictions line. But he’s good at it and soon gets noticed by Al Pacino, who whisks him away to play with the big boys in NYC. Fame and fortune soon follow, as do problems.

Basically Two for the Money is a rehashing of 1997’s The Devil’s Advocat e in which Pacino also played a sinister teacher/father figure to the younger, more naive student/son (it was Keanu Reeves that time). While the arena is new, the characters and story are not, although Pacino saves the picture because he is one of the most watchable actors of our time and he’s done this role before. Director DJ Caruso hasn’t made a classic here but Two for the Money is an interesting look into sports gambling, although without Pacino’s efforts I’d be betting against it.

The hottest flick of the week, by far, is clay-mation masterpiece Wallace and Gromit-The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Absolutely hilarious and beautifully crafted, this film follows inventor Wallace and his dog Gromit (the brains behind the duo) as they hunt down a Were-Rabbit that’s plaguing a giant vegetable festival. Chock full of in-jokes and painstakingly awesome stop-motion animation, cult faves Wallace and Gromit’s first feature-length film is even better than Corpse Bride . So go see it now and bring the kids.

And finally, the winner of this week’s award for "Uh yeah. No thanks" is In Her Shoes , a cliché-ridden, role reversal, "Oh sister my sister" comedy/drama about how difficult it is to see who we really are. If you aren’t female you won’t like this movie, and even if you are you’d better be into clichés as well. In Her Shoes makes me want to puke on mine.

AT VILLAGE 8 Oct. 7-13: The Greatest Game Ever Played; In Her Shoes; Wallace and Grommit; Two For the Money; Into the Blue; Flight Plan; 40 Year Old Virgin; Lord of War; Corpse Bride; March of the Penguins. On Tuesday, Oct. 11 only: Mad Hot Ballroom (replacing Lord of War and 40 Year Old Virgin).


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