Notes from the Back Row 

Ghosts, cancer and Anna Faris

I'll see anything that stars Naomi Watts, especially if it's a dark and creepy ghost-house thriller like Dreamhouse , opening Friday. There were no pre-screenings for this one (the best horrors never show too much too early) but it looks like a psychological tour-de force about a dude (Daniel Craig) who moves his lovely wife (Rachel Weisz) and two girls into a nice house that just happens to be the scene of a grisly historical murder. Naomi plays the helpful neighbour and perhaps the only one who can shed light on this mindbender. It's only rated PG-13 but Dreamhouse looks pretty freaky and a perfect way to lead into Halloween. It's October, it's pissing rain, bring on the fear.

Speaking of, Anna Faris is a fearless actress with some of the best comic timing in the game but her latest, What's Your Number, promises to be another one of those desperate-girl-looking-for-love-while-not-noticing-it-right-under-her-nose-the-whole-time RomCom disasters that generally make me want to pour vinegar into my urethra and then smash myself in the face with a ball peen hammer enough times that I can swallow, then shit out, my own teeth. I'm sure Anna is the best thing in this stinking toothy pile of a movie but I'll never know until it comes on TV one night and I'm too tired/lazy/comatose to change it. What's Your Number looks about as much fun as dick cancer.

I shouldn't joke because cancer isn't really all that funny (except maybe in Fubar 1 & 2) but a cancer movie called 50/50 opens this Friday and there are some good laughs to be had, along with some realistic drama, some bromance, some romance and a nice dose of youth vs. mortality. 50/50 is a well-rounded flick, a perfect date movie, and ultimately one worth checking out.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Adam, a clean-living 27-year-old suddenly diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and given a 50/50 chance of survival. Seth Rogen stars as his almost-too-supportive best friend Kyle who relentlessly looks on the bright side and tries to use the cancer to help get his buddy high and/or laid. Anna Kendrick plays the deadpan love interest and Angelica Huston steals the show as the worried mother.

Shot in Vancouver, directed by Jonathan Levine ( The Wackness) and loosely based on the true-life battles of writer Will Reiser, 50/50 works for the most part because it tackles a sombre subject with both comedy and empathy but rides the line between the two with grace and wit.

Certainly there are a few bumps (and a lot of typecasting) but it doesn't matter because Gordon-Levitt carries the show, the characters are well-rounded and the subject matter is truly engaging. Cancer will probably get us all one day so may as well enjoy a few laughs at its expense while we can.

There are plenty of laughs, or at least good chuckles in Tucker and Dale vs. Evil , a comedic spoof on the traditional Chainsaw Massacre / Wrong Turn horror set-up of horny college kids vs. hillbillies. Delivered as a comedy of errors and miscommunications, the hillbillies are actually the good guys this time around and the kids, with their prejudices and assumptions, assume the evil role. It's a cute twist and nice addition to the spoof genre (more Shaan of the Dead than Scary Movie ) but Tucker and Dale also delivers wit, craftsmanship and tons of good gore. Interestingly, this one is Canadian-made but seems to only be screening in the U.S. and on American On-Demand services. Try to find it online because it's the Download of the Week.




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