The Watcher watches Chuck get Whipped

Chuck and Buck

Directed by Miguel Arteta.
Starring Mike White, Chris Weitz, Lupe Ontiveros and Paul Weitz. Currently playing at The Screening Room.

The disturbing stories of those less ‘normal’ than us are always fodder for entertainment. Whether it’s the crazy intertwined lives of P.T. Anderson characters, or the exploits of serial killers, people like watching how the socially inept live their lives.

The characters in director Miguel Arteta’s (Star Maps) Chuck and Buck are definitely not ‘normal.’ There’s Buck (Mike White), a child trapped in a warped adult’s body, and his childhood friend Chuck (Chris Weitz), who moved away and became ‘successful’ as a record company executive.

The script was written by White, who incidentally also writes for Dawson’s Creek and is responsible for the Zack Morris vehicle Dead Man on Campus. Do not hold this against him. Chuck and Buck is a poignant story of two people who both want different things- Buck wants to replace the love of his recently dead mother, and Chuck wants to forget his geeky friend and past to concentrate on his impending marriage and L.A. lifestyle. The nuances of these two characters and their past is what makes the story interesting. Buck continuously refers to those “games they used to play,” and you’re left wondering just what those games entailed, since he makes a pass at Chuck at his mother’s funeral. Chuck, who now goes by Charlie, rejects him and storms out. Buck moves to LA and begins stalking Chuck while writing a play about their childhood, which will reveal all.

The performances of White (who reminds one of Ron Howard on Valium) and Weitz (who is kind of Christopher Reeve-ish) are pertinent to this film. White’s awkward, bumbling twitchiness plays off Weitz’s pompous, embarrassed straight guy in a way that makes you feel for both. There are no explosions, no bimbos and no buff guys trying to save the world in Chuck and Buck.

It is exactly the type of movie that leaves you feeling refreshed and glad for the break from the Hollywood scene. It’s well-written, aptly directed and worth watching.

—Alicia Cox

Whipped

Directed by Peter M. Cohen.
Starring Amanda Peet, Brian Van Holt, Zorie Barber, and Jonathan Abrahams. Currently playing at The Screening Room

Whipped left a bad taste in my mouth. The worst thing about this movie is not that the genuinely funny moments are few and far between but that the sexist and homophobic demeanor of the characters are treated as normal (“C’mon, I’m a guy”).

Every Sunday morning, three single friends and a pathetic married hanger-on have breakfast to discuss the previous week’s ‘scams.’ Zeke, (Zorie Barber) the ‘enigmatic’ writer who, throughout many points in the movie, lapses into homophobic outbursts. Brad (Brian Van Holt) is a Wall Street type who boasts of a girl who gave him a blow job for five hours. “She’d suck a taxi driver through immigration,” he says. Jonathan (Jonathan Abrahams) masturbates a lot and has had sex with only nine women.

What I did not like about this movie is that, even when these characters reveal their true selves to Mia (Amanda Peet), she accepts them and continues to see them. She accepts their homophobia and sexism. When Zeke uses the word ‘fag,’ she does not challenge him. When Jonathan is caught with pornography (an issue of “Juggs,” which, significantly, concentrates only on large breasts) she reveals that her ex-boyfriend used to make pornographic films of her for their own private enjoyment.

It’s a common complaint of women that men who sleep around are glorified for their sexual prowess, but women who engage in similar behaviour are regarded in a harsher light.

What the writer/director of this movie is really saying is that for women to be equal to men, they have to take on masculine traits. So ostensibly, with its egalitarian message, Whipped is sympathetic to this aspect of the male/female dichotomy.

Unlike other ‘guys on the make’ movies like Swingers, Whipped fails to even cast the men in a sympathetic light. Try to ignore this movie’s existence.

—Haig Balian

The Watcher

Directed by Joe Charbanic.
Starring James Spader, Keanu Reeves, and Marisa Tomei.

Currently playing at Capitol 7 Theatres and Gardiners Road Cinemas.

The Watcher is not the first film to feature piercing screams, costly explosions, heart-racing nightmares, an all-knowing psychiatrist, and serial-killer phone-tag. Despite this lack of creativity, The Watcher is, surprisingly, watchable, especially since the serial killer in question is the strangely-talented Keanu Reeves.

The storyline is stereotypical enough; a serial killer, infamous for his gruesome piano-wire murders of young girls, assumes the role of ‘jilted lover’ when the agent assigned to his case bottoms out and relocates. The agent is portrayed by the talented Spader, who, in this movie, seems to possess a repertoire of three expressions, all of which are varying degrees of perplexity.

No suitable explanation is provided for anything about Reeves’ character, most obviously the psychology behind his terrifying method of torture; this is often the most compelling aspect of a psychological thriller, if not the most necessary.

Reeves’ propensity for absurdist behaviour, as well as his predisposition for black leather, saves the movie. Though not as sleek as Neo in The Matrix, or as uninspiring as his forgettable role in The Replacements, Reeves is a unique feature in an otherwise unchallenging cinematic breath mint.

The Watcher, however, is not asking you to be challenged, let alone think. In fact, it does the thinking for you; it assumes that you know all you need to know to enjoy Keanu in black leather, and that what you don’t know, doesn’t really matter. And it doesn’t.

—Sabrina Mehra

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