Notes from the back row 

In praise of Sandra Bullock

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Hands up, who’s sick and tired of Sandra Bullock? A question like that makes me wish I had a couple extra arms. Has she ever done anything decent? Barely. Speed was okay but as an actress you’ve got serious problems when your best picture is a 12-year-old Keanu Reeves vehicle. After wasting film and time with such drivel as The Net, Practical Magic and Two if By Sea Bullock apparently retired a few years back but she’s been creeping up ever since. Yes, she was okay in last year’s Capote picture Infamous and she did star in Oscar-winner Crash but certainly wasn’t a standout in that either, kind of sucked actually.

Well, good old Sandra is back this week with her second time-travel picture in a row (remember the crappy Lake House ?) In Premonition , also crappy but opening this Friday at the good old Village 8, Bullock stars (in the loosest sense of the word) as Linda, a happy housewife living the routine life with a couple kids and husband. The “inciting incident” as they used to teach in writing school, occurs when she gets a call and learns her husband has been killed in a car crash. That makes for a rough day but when she wakes up the next morning said husband is alive and well and drinking coffee in the kitchen. Must have been a dream right? Nope, the next day he’s dead again. It seems Linda can time-travel when she sleeps and her life becomes a confused series of puzzling events revealing that her once-perfect life may have been all an illusion.

Now, toss in a sinister doctor, a script full of logic gaps, some lightning and a dead crow (which means nothing to the movie) and try not to laugh out loud at the ending, which chocks it all up to some weird unexplained cosmic religious, force-of-fate-and-nature malarkey.

Sandra Bullock can’t take all the blame though — the script is almost Shamayalan-esque in its aimless crappiness and the direction, by Mennan Yapo (whoever that is?), ain’t much better. The movie poster is pretty neat looking but that’s about the only positive thing I can say about Bullock or this disastrous web of confusion she has weaved for us. I had a feeling Premonition would suck and, lo and behold, it does.

Sticking with webs, Spider-Man 3 is set to drop on May 4 and will apparently be the final one to star Tobey Maguire, but if you need some webslinging right away, Charlotte’s Web plays at the Village 8 this week and EB White’s classic 1952 kids novel is downright superb, especially if you’re of the age where you still poo your pants.

That younger demographic will love the tale of a runt piglet saved at birth (by Dakota Fanning) and his friendship with a not-too-creepy spider who fights (in a spidery way) to keep him from becoming a Christmas meal. Seamless CGI and big-talent voices including Robert Redford as a horse, Steve Buscemi as a rat plus John Cleese, Oprah, and others, make for a delightful kids’ flick that grown folk can handle as well. Julia Roberts voices Charlotte, the benevolent spider, which is kind of funny because when I think Julia Roberts, I see “horse,” but she does a good job anyhow. Roberts threatened to “retire” last year as well but after being spanked on Broadway she seems to be Bullock-ing her way back into film, except with decent movies.

Speaking of decent, the Village 8 is re-screening Blood Diamond, Happy Feet, and Pan’s Labyrinth — all great flicks, and well worth seeing, all Bullock-free.

AT VILLAGE 8 March 16-22: Premonition;  Happy Feet; Charlotte’s Web; Pan’s Labyrinth; Wild Hogs; 300; Number 23; Zodiac; Blood Diamond; Music and Lyrics; Breach.

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