Saturday, December 13, 2008


Drama, Romance, Thriller and Teen

November 21st, 2008

Rated PG-13 for some violence and a scene of sensuality.


Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Cam Gigandet, and Nikki Reed


I am not now nor have I ever been a 13-year-old girl, but "Twilight" made me wish I could be, at least for a couple of hours, the better to appreciate a movie that has been targeted to that demographic with the delicious specificity of a laser weapon. In case there are no teens in your immediate vicinity, "Twilight" is based on the book by Stephenie Meyer, the first of a quartet that has sold 25 million copies worldwide and been translated into 37 languages. Meyer is not exactly a great literary stylist but she has come up with one heck of a romantic concept. But let her 17-year-old heroine, Bella Swan, beloved of Edward Cullen, tell you all about it: "About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him, and I didn't know how dominant that part might be, that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him." As romance fans know, love needs obstacles to hold our interest, and in this egalitarian age, obstacles are hard to come by. The Oscar-winning "Ghost" of several years back had one lover living, the other deceased, and "Twilight's" notion that he's undead and she's not is just as good, maybe better. Connecting this to the extreme emotions of the young teenage world, where every moment is a crisis and the chaste romance of passionate soul mates is more attractive than dubious sexual shenanigans, was the masterstroke that created a phenomenon.

It's very much to the credit of director Catherine Hardwicke and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg that "Twilight" the movie really gets this. This film succeeds, likely unreservedly for teens and in a classic guilty pleasure kind of way for adults, because it treats high school emotions with unwavering, uncompromising seriousness. Much as you may not want to, you have to acknowledge what's been accomplished here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Four Christmases

Who’s In It: Reese Witherspoon, Vince Vaughn, Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Jon Voight, Jon Favreau, Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakam, Tim McGraw, Kristin Chenoweth

The Basics: You’ve seen the billboard. Reese and Vince wake up in a grimy underground torture chamber to find themselves bound in giant red ribbon. Then the Saw guy makes them decide which one of them has to cannibalize the other in order to teach themselves the true meaning of Christmas. Okay, lie. That’s just the movie I wish I’d watched instead of this one where they have to visit their wacky divorced parents for the holidays.

What’s The Deal: Christmas movies are easy. All they have to be is adequately bland to keep on cashing in on TV every year until you’re old. And then that familiarity breeds a kind of weird mindwashing where people start calling everything a “holiday classic” and then eventually, Idiocracy-style, we’re all just watching flatulent buttocks do nothing but fart “Jingle Bells” for 90 minutes. Actually that would have been more fun than this movie, too.

Guess What Else You Don’t Need To Spend 10 Bucks For, 10 Bucks You Could Spend On About 3% Of A Really Decent Present For Someone You Actually Love: A scene where Jon Voight intones, “Family is the most important thing.” Seriously. Just when whatever minor laughs this movie delivers have finally been stomped on by the slowly creeping intrusion of comedy-killing heartwarmth, someone has the nerve to drag that one out. Because you didn’t know already that family was important, did you? DID YOU? Hollywood is so selfless when it comes to doling out important divorce-preventing wisdom. We should all be grateful.

The Almost-Save: Jon Favreau and relative newcomer Katy Mixon as the white-trash brother and sister-in-law who crush everybody at a game of Taboo. You can pretty much bail after that and go sneak into something else. You know what’s funny? Role Models. Go see that instead.

Or, If You Must See A Christmas-Themed Film About Families Who Don’t Get Along: Try A Christmas Tale (now playing in select big-city arthouses with highly readable subtitles) or just go Netflix The Ref again.