[In light of a recent LA Times article decrying the quality of films released this year (2009), I thought it interesting to see what began the year nearly 6 years ago]

…Saw several films in the past week. The first was “Bend It Like Beckham” – Gurinder Chadha’s charmingly pop market take on the FullMonty/Rocky/Breaking Away ethos. Parminder Nagra is both engaging, boyishly sensual, and intelligent in her lead portrayal of teenage Footballywood wannabe Jess Bhamrra. Keira Knightley, unhealthily skinny as she is (although her facial features look almost exactly like my high-school girlfriend!), is quite satisfactory as her counterpart, Jules Paxton. The script cleverly (and at times – thanks to Juliet Stevenson‘s great turn as Mrs. Paxton – hilariously!) helps us experience how Jules’ androgynous name is not the only outwardly confusing element in this relationship. All in all, small as this feature was, the experience was a well placed kick, and a guaranteed gooOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Underworld“, starring Kate Beckinsale in myriad tight-fitting leather costumes, was unfortunately offside. Watching this battle between Vampires and Werewolves, I was unaware for which side I was supposed to be cheering, although at the end there is a nicely subtle demonstration of reversal impression, when we realize the wolves are not the baddies they were apparently set up to be…but by then I didn’t give a rat’s arse, lycanthropic or not. Yes, it was nice to see Kate up on screen (see “tight-fitting leather costumes” comment above), but many pieces of paper do not a gripping novel make – and thus did first-time director Len Wiseman fail: the film – while visually striking (I expected no less from the Art Director on “Stargate” and “Independence Day”), was drained dry of compelling characters or rich soryline.

Last, but certainly not least, “Bug“.

Written by Matt Manfred, and directed by Manfredi and his “Crazy/Beautiful” partner, Phil Hay – this chain link fence of action and consequence is a hypnotic visual and mental stream of consciousness that would put James Joyce to test. Several great performances in one of the few truly ensemble features where the ensemble never actually meets, all adding up to a surrealist take on how life is never as simple, nor as insular as we might think…or wish.