Notes from the back row 

"Meh" at the movies

Hot chicks sell movies. And although she isn’t quite Angelina-calibre I will still see anything starring Scarlett Johansson (even The Nanny Diaries) which is why I was initially stoked on Frank Miller’s The Spirit — which also features Eva Mendes, Sarah Paulson, Jamie King and Paz Vega. It’s a hot-chick-athon and it opens this Friday at the Village 8.

Unfortuantely, hot chicks are the only thing The Spirit has going for it. Frank Miller (who was a writer on Robocop 2 but is much better known for Sin City and 300 , adaptations of his popular comic books) makes his solo directing debut here and while some of the monochromatic visuals are interesting the rest of the flick fails miserably.

The Spirit is an ex-cop who dies and comes back as some sort of immortal. Sworn to protect Central City, he mostly just swoops around, narrating directly to the camera and messing with various dames. Sam Jackson bug-eyes his way through the role of arch nemesis The Octopus (despite having only 4 limbs). Certain action sequences of The Spirit are pretty cool and the chicks are all hot but the dialogue is so poorly over-dramafied (over-dramafigated?) and the plot is so scrambled it needs to be spoon-fed by bad guys pacing about and clarifying what is supposed to be going on through dialogue. While The Spirit , and the women therein, will certainly look better on the big screen, this is a renter at best.

More cute women hit the screen in Bride Wars in which Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson play best friends attempting to ruin each other’s weddings because they happen to be booked for the same date. Hathaway’s last flick, Rachel Getting Married is an exception but generally I like to stay away from any sort of wedding movie, and here’s why:

Muriel’s Wedding — sucked. My Best Friend’s Wedding — sucked even more. The Wedding Planner — J Lo and McConaughey, still sucked. 27 Dresses — give me a break. My Big Fat Greek Wedding — kill me now. Four Weddings and a Funeral — makes me wish the funeral was my own. The Wedding Singer — Okay, this one was decent, as was Father of the Bride but consider those the exceptions that prove the rule. Wedding movies are not for me, and could they be any more predictable? There’s no press screenings of Bride Wars but I can tell you right now they hug it out at the end. What a load of crap.

If I’m starting to sound like a grouchy old man just check out Gran Torino , also opening Friday, in which Clint Eastwood plays a really crotchety Korean War Vet named Walt Kowalski who’s just lost his wife and isn’t all that happy with the immigrant families moving into his old neighbourhood. Walt is a rough, tough, elderly-Dirty-Harry kind of guy who has no problem dropping racist lingo into his everyday conversation as he literally growls his way through the early part of the film.

When a young Korean boy gets caught attempting to steal Walt’s prized 1972 Gran Torino things begin to change. The boy must work off his debt to Walt and wouldn’t you know it, they both learn some new things by the (surprising) final act.

Gran Torino , which Clint also directed, is a slow and steady drama, and a bit heavy-handed at times but it’s still a well-crafted movie about racial tolerance, where a hard-nosed conservative like Walt can realize “I have more in common with these gooks than I do with my own family.” The hot chick factor is low but Eastwood’s last movie was Changeling , which starred Angelina, so Clint gets a pass.

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