Notes from the back row 

Good Banks, Bad Banks

For all those confused by last week’s column – Elizabeth Banks is not my ex-wife. Although that would be pretty awesome since she is one of the year’s hottest actresses, having already laid down solid performances in Definitely Maybe , W., and Zack and Miri . This week she brings her obvious charms and classic Hollywood beauty to Role Models, a lowbrow comedy that comes out of nowhere but manages to be one of the more enjoyable of the year.

What makes it good? Besides Banks, this profanity-riddled gem stars Paul Rudd, Stiffler, McLovin, and Jane Lynch (who steals all her scenes). Writer/director David Wain ( Wet Hot American Summer) has no desire to emotionally entangle us in his tale of two grown misfits stuck with community service as Big Brothers to a pair of quirky kids.

It’s the classic men-who-act-like-children-hang-out-with-real-children-and-learn-to-grow-up storyline we’ve all seen before, but with none of the sappy lessons or moral guidelines. Rather, Wain’s script (co-written with Rudd) and his fine cast deliver horn-dog dick, drug and boob jokes mixed in with swearing and live action role-playing Dungeons and Dragons style. It’s weird and shallow and kind of stupid but it works, partly because of the actors (even the kids) and partly because things like educating the coffee shop barista on the true meaning of ‘Venti’ is inherently funny, as is a grown man explaining to a pre-teen what KISS song “Love Gun” is really about. It opens Friday at the Village 8.

For all the kids out there, Madagascar 2 also opens Friday and this is one of those rare times when the sequel is even better than the original. The original voice cast, headed by Ben Stiller, is back and this time the animals construct a makeshift flying machine to fly back to New York but end up on the African savannah instead where they meet tourists, hunters and other animals just like them. Animation is rich, colourful and strong, and although the story bites The Lion King a tiny bit, it’s still fun, funny, and pretty darn good.

The other good news out of the Village 8 is that, starting November 9, they’re offering Weekday Matinees for $9.50 ($9 for Club Shred) and in this day and age any deal is a good deal.

Speaking of the economy and the state of all things financial, now is probably a good time to freeze your credit card inside a block of ice and push it to the back of the freezer. And if you don’t believe me just check out the DVD of the week.

Maxed Out is an American film about banks and credit card companies that stalk middle and low-income families and college students in hopes of ruining their lives with fees and interest rates as soon as the first payment is missed. The film, directed by James Scurlock, watches more like a high school educational movie than a typical documentary — lots of talking heads and interviews, and even some old school edu-film footage — but it’s incredibly engaging nonetheless. Probably because it’s so heartbreaking and scary as hell.

Like when credit card companies admit their favorite new customers are people fresh out of bankruptcy “because they can’t file for bankruptcy again and you know they have a taste for debt,” or when a college girl kills herself to escape the bills she’s accumulated and the companies continue to send pre-approved’ applications in her name to her grieving mother for the next seven years. Watch this movie – big banks are the greasiest entities on earth.

And don’t forget — the new Bond film drops next week, and it could be the movie event of the year.

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