Notes from the back row 

The sky is falling

Top scientists agree it’s pretty much just a matter of time until a pandemic or some sort of viral outbreak really tears human civilization a new shitter. In Hong Kong airport they even have an “infrared zone” where every person arriving is scanned to see if they have a fever. So it’s no wonder that virus and disease post-apocalyptic movies have been popping up with more and more frequency. This week, it’s Doomsday , which starts Friday at the Village 8.

Writer/Director Neil Marshall, fresh off his success with The Descent , takes a step in the wrong direction and borrows from a whole slew of flicks for this virus movie about a deadly viral breakout in the U.K. They contain it but Glasgow is quarantined for 25 years until one brave female soldier with a fake eye must lead a troop behind the walls to find the renegade leader of a society of punk-influenced savages in hopes of finding a cure for the ‘Reaper Virus,” which has started resurfacing in civilized London again.

Doomsday starts off like 28 Days Later and dips into Resident Evil terrain right away, then it shifts gears a bit and veers into Mad Max terrain with some Escape from New York and even Death Proof mixed in, among others. While this infuriates critics (and it’s true, the film is pure spectacle and hardly original) the fact remains that all the flicks Marshall is ripping off are pretty rad. So long as you don’t mind an almost total lack of characters, emotion and conceptual payoff Doomsday can entertain. Explosions, car chases, severed limbs and cannibalism can make a movie worth watching so long as you know what you’re in for.

Still, this flick is bad, and it seems held together with hair gel and a well-stocked DVD collection, but it’s technically solid and, considering the grim movie season we’ve seen so far in 2008, I suppose it’ll have to do.

Less sci-fi and more horror, Shutter, the latest Asian horror remake, also opens Friday. Based on a Thai film, Shutter stars Rachel Taylor (who played the way-too-good-looking-to-be-a computer hacker in Transformers) as a newlywed who moves to Tokyo and starts noticing ghosts in all the photos of her new home. There were no press screenings of this (usually a bad sign) but it looks creepy enough, kind of like a supernatural Lost in Translation . Plus I’ve often wondered about paranormal photography — will ghosts show up better on digital or film? What about Polaroid? I’m going into this one with low expectations, but I’m definitely going.

Drillbit Taylor , also dropping Friday, is the new Owen Wilson flick in which three standard-issue nerds are terrorized by a sociopath high school bully and hire homeless (and cheap) Drillbit for protection and self defense lessons. Hit or miss comedy ensues and in the end, the kids grow a pair and everyone learns a few things they never would have if they hadn’t met.

Producer Judd Apatow has been pushing a lot of underdog-nerd comedies on us lately and while most rule, this is not the best of the bunch. The good news — Drillbit is directed by Stephen Brill, the guy who made the underrated Adam Sandler classic Little Nicky , and Canadian comedy wizard Seth Rogen is credited as a co-writer.

In other news, there’s a poopload of good DVD’s out right now and you can bet your girlfriend wants you to rent Atonement before I Am Legend. I say get ‘em both, and stock up on Cadbury’s Mini Eggs – you never know when the next pandemic is gonna hit.


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