Notes from the back row 

Ho-ho-hum holiday offering

The Wrestler , starring Mickey Rourke as a washed up professional wrestler, has been collecting rave reviews and Oscar hype since the Toronto Film Festival way back in September. Directed by Darren Arnofsky ( Requiem for a Dream) this flick is being heralded as tender, gripping, and must-see, with ‘80s leading man Rourke getting nothing but praise for his “comeback” performance (although Rourke’s been back for years, check out Spun, Once a Upon a Time in Mexico, and Sin City if you think otherwise). The Wrestler is a gritty, morose look at fallen icons and a life of self-destruction, but with ‘80s hair metal and a few folding chairs to the face. This is a great film but you’ll have to brave the icy highway if you want to see it this week because it’s only in Vancouver.

Up here in Whistler, the always enjoyable Village 8 is opening Yes Man , starring Jim Carrey as a divorced sad-sack who doesn’t like his banking job or his life. Then he takes a positivist seminar and is convinced try opening up to the world by saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity. Yes, it’s a self-help movie.

Too bad, cause if Yes Man were a drug comedy, this concept could make for some good chuckles. As a PG-13 comedy though, the flick is just a mish-mash of episodic ‘Yes’ scenarios where Carey does predictable things like meet an similarly free-spirited woman (Zooey Deschanel) stop suicides, and give away lots of mortgages en route to finally appreciating the joy of being open to all life’s great possibilities (gag).

Carrey delivers a few laughs but is mostly restrained and comic relief from the supporting cast relies solely on Rhys Darby ( Flight of the Conchords) . All in all, Yes Man is more of an “I guess so” or a “Maybe.”

And maybe I expect too much from animated features but The Tale of Despereaux , the latest kid’s movie about an adventurer mouse, a rat, a sad princess and a bunch of soup, just doesn’t do it for me. The vocal cast is impressive — Dustin Hoffman, Emma Watson, Matthew Broderick (okay, not that impressive) — but the movie is as enjoyable as having a shower at a friend’s place and having to pick hair off the soap. The narration is preachy, the animation is weak (the mouse emotes solely by drooping his big stupid ears) and the tone and story are just plain boring. The Tale of Despereaux might appeal to really young kids but if you do get dragged out to this one, bring a pillow. This is the cinematic equivalent to drinking a full bottle of Nyquil.

Will Smith has a movie dropping this Friday as well. Seven Pounds is directed by the same cat that did The Pursuit of Happyness and co-stars Rosario Dawson, but other than that very little is known about it. Apparently Will is an IRS agent who suddenly gets the power to help people, or see the future, or shoot rainbows out his ass while making overly dramatic facial gestures. I really don’t know, there are no advance screenings and no internet hype for this one so take that as you will. Smith is a bankable star though, and director Gabrielle Muccino will likely deliver another stirring tale about the strength and potential of the human spirit and the value of helping others rather than one’s self and blah blah blah. I thought the holiday season was supposed to be full of good movies? Fear not, next week the Village 8 has The Curse of Benjamin Button, Marley and Me, and Smith’s buddy Tom Cruise hunting Hitler in Valkyrie. Nothing says Merry Christmas like a Hitler movie.

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