Notes from the Back Row 

Where’s The Beef? Suburbia

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Polish your knobs, wipe off your lenses and push those record buttons — the 72-Hour Filmmaker Showdown is back. That’s right, this weekend Whistler will be overrun with aspiring filmmakers, all tripped out on caffeine, diet pills, LSD or whatever it takes to stay awake for three days and produce a five-minute movie that may or may not make it into Tuesday’s Finals. Careers can be made on this event alone and, despite some dubious judging decisions last year, the Filmmaker Showdown never disappoints and truly is one of the best nights of the year for fans of the silver screen. It all happens on Tuesday, April 17 th at the conference centre, and it always sells out.

If you’d rather get your kicks from Hollywood the Village 8 is opening Disturbia on Friday. Directed by DJ Caruso (The Salton Sea, Taking Lives) Disturbia mixes the traditional window-to-window voyeurism of Hitchcock’s Rear Window with the camera/technology aspect of Antonioni’s Blow up and tosses in a bit of the girl-next-door dynamics of American Beauty just to keep things interesting. Hot young actor Shia LaBeouf stars as a fairly normal teen who, while mourning the death of his father (in a killer car crash scene) ends up punching his teacher in the face and getting sentenced to house arrest, complete with the electronic ankle bracelet. After mom (Carrie-Anne Moss) takes away his video games, LaBeouf starts spying on his suburban neighbours — kids, cheating husbands, the hot-ass girl next door, and the creepy dude who may or may not be a serial killer.

While the story/plot are fairly predictable and rehashed, Caruso, together with a strong cast, manages to milk a pretty decent suspense thriller out of Disturbia. The voyeurism aspect is updated well with technology — video cameras, cellphones, garage door openers and the radio anklet are all utilized well, especially the sounds they make, to add tension and a general claustrophobic mood. While the spying is treated as a game turned deadly rather than a punishable invasion of people’s privacy (a la Rear Window) the film entertains and makes a few casual comments on the perceptions of a safe suburbia. Despite the PG-13ness of it all and the predictability, with all the electronics, unco-operative adults and teacher punching I could see myself being 13 years old and really getting into Disturbia . A hot wet girl-next-door doesn’t hurt either and despite the fact that his last name roughly translates into “The Beef,” Shia LaBeouf carries this one well enough to build positive hype for the upcoming Transformers movie, in which he also stars.

Speaking of stars, there are two ‘”Best Actress” Oscar winners with films showing at the Village 8 this week. First, Hillary Swank stoops as a pragmatic miracle-refuting atheist investigating the 10 biblical plagues on her way down to hell, or at least Louisiana, in the technically-sound-but-actually-pretty-shitty The Reaping .

And second, incredibly good looking Halle Berry takes another stab at the thriller genre, techno thriller this time, with Perfect Stranger, a deceit and duplicity story about a woman who takes on not one but two new identities (one of them online) to get into the life of an advertising exec (Bruce Willis) who, she believes, murdered her friend. A morality tale about human duality, Perfect Strangers wants us to ponder who we really are and who we pretend to be when we know others are watching. And how far will we go to keep a secret? It starts strong and slowly peters out into contrived ridiculousness and even though it’s rated R I think I like Disturbia better.

AT VILLAGE 8 April 13-19: Perfect Strangers; Disturbia; Blades of Glory; Meet the Robinsons; Are We Done yet; Grindhouse; TMNT; The Reaping; Firehouse Dog; Shooter .

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