Notes from the back row 

The Day the Carts of Darkness Stood Still

Hot damn. Last weekend’s Whistler Film Festival was more fun than getting a pellet gun for Christmas and this season’s global warming-esque weather meant it was also the perfect time to stay inside for four days and watch as many flicks as possible. The eighth annual festival didn’t disappoint.

Stand out films include Murray Siple’s Carts of Darkness , a documentary about bin-raiding bottle collectors who race shopping carts down the hilly streets of North Vancouver at speeds of up to 60 km/h. Funnier than most “life on the streets” documentaries, Carts matches its humour with profound personal emotions and life philosophy, but it’s the joy and escape that comes from bombing down hills in a shopping cart that truly elevates the film. The idea of integrating fun, risk and trust with everyday life reminds the wheelchair-bound Siple of his old days as a snowboarder and this idea, along with the stunning last scene, elevates Carts of Darkness into a true classic. Buy it at the National Film Board website, www.nfb.ca .

Other pantshittingly awesome flicks included Pontypool , Bruce McDonald’s new take on the zombie genre that hits theatres in March, and Peoples’ Choice Winner RIP — A Remix Manifesto , another NFB production, that examines copyright issues and open sourcing, asking, “is pretty much everyone a criminal or do we have the right to be engaged and use our own culture?”

I also watched a guy lasso a reindeer by the three-foot-plus antlers and reel it in using his bare hands in Komi — A Journey Across the Arctic. Then the guy tamed the reindeer and convinced it to tow him around on his handmade wooden sleigh, Santa style. It’s an interesting world out there, and the Whistler Film Fest brings it to our doorstep.

“Klaatu barada nikto.” These now-legendary magic words were first uttered to save the world in 1951s The Day the Earth Stood Still, a Sci-Fi flick with a superb anti-nuclear spin. The remake, opening Friday at the Village 8, stars Keanu Reeves and could use a magic formula to salvage it. Keanu’s stiff acting doesn’t hurt the film (he plays an alien) as much as its inability to take a stance and explain why humanity is destroying the earth and must be wiped out. The special effects don’t get any better than what you see in the trailer and there’s not enough real action but The Day the Earth Stood Still does co-star Jennifer Connelly so it isn’t a total write-off. Will Smith’s kid Jaden stars in his second major role as well, a child star on the way up.

Dakota Fanning is hoping to ditch her cutesy child star persona in The Secret Life of Bees , the year’s latest chick flick also opening Friday. Based on the bestselling novel, the movie follows motherless whitey Fanning through the 1960s as she bonds with something like four African American Mother-figures and frolics in pools of super sentimental cheese. Still, Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys and Jennifer Hudson turn in strong performances and Fanning, with Lindsay Lohan-esque dark circles under her eyes, isn’t as annoying as usual either. I’m happy chick flicks like this get made, but I’m just as happy to skip them.

There’s an animated feature dropping this week as well, Delgo. I made it through fifteen seconds of the love-will-save-the-day trailer before I shut it off. The animation looks bad enough that anyone over five years old can clearly categorize it as C-rate. And why are we teaching 5 year olds about love anyhow? Shouldn’t we just be giving them pellet guns and sending them outside to play?

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