Loosies


A ridiculously handsome man.

A ridiculously handsome man.

(2011) Dramedy (IFC) Peter Facinelli, Jaimie Alexander, Michael Madsen, Vincent Gallo, William Forsythe, Marianne Leone, Christy Carlson Romano, Joe Pantoliano, Eric Phillips, Tom DeNucci, Tom Paolino, Ara Boghigian, Anthony Paolucci, Glenn Ciano, Johnny Cicco, Stella Schnabel, Peter Berkot, Anne Mulhall, Sera Verde, Rebecca Forsythe. Directed by Michael Corrente

Sometimes people do the right things for all the wrong reasons. Just as often, people sometimes do the wrong things for the best of reasons. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter why you do things, just that you did them.

Bobby (Facinelli) is a handsome, charming kind of guy. He walks around New York in a suit all day, letting all and sundry know that he works on Wall Street as a broker. Actually, Bobby is a pickpocket and a damned good one. He snatches watches, cash, cell phones, the occasional police badge – whatever he can get his slick fingers on.

But things are changing in his life. Lucy (Alexander), the pretty and spunky bartender at his favorite tavern, is pregnant – and Bobby’s the baby daddy. What had been a one night stand turned into a life changing event. Bobby, at his core a decent sort of fellow, wants to do the right thing. He wants to marry Lucy and settle down into being a good husband, father and provider.

That’s not going to be easy. Bobby owes Jax (Gallo) a fairly hefty debt, the legacy of his gambling-addicted father and is struggling to pay it off. Lt. Nick Sullivan (Madsen), the cop whose badge Bobby stole, is absolutely pissed off about it and is pursuing Bobby with the ferocity and tenacity of a pit bull on meth. His mom Rita (Leone) has a new boyfriend, the jeweler Carl (Pantoliano) who has been known to exchange punches with Bobby. And Lucy doesn’t want to be the wife of a lowlife, nor her child to be raised by one.

This is meant to be a star-making vehicle for Facinelli who has labored in the shadows for much of his career. An engaging lead with star potential, he has been relegated mainly to supporting roles although when he’s gotten the opportunity to shine (as on the too-brief TV series Damages) he has generally made the most of it and he does so here.

Bobby is a thoroughly likable rapscallion and while his choice aren’t the best, they are generally the lesser of two or more evils. Facinelli imbues the character with a general charm, ensuring the audience will like the schlub even though they know he’s doing things that are less than kosher. Facinelli and Alexander make a believable couple; there are a lot of bumps in the road for their characters but one never doubts the genuine affection.

While this is a bit of a mash-up between a crime caper and a romantic comedy, I don’t really see anything fresh here from either genre. It’s a bit paint-by-numbers in a sense  that is elevated by the performance of its cast. Facinelli is engaging enough performer that you’ll want to spend an hour and a half with him without checking your watch. These days, that’s kind of a plus.

WHY RENT THIS: Facinelli is likable. Good chemistry with Alexander.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Doesn’t really offer up anything new.

FAMILY VALUES: There’s a bit of violence, some sexual content and some rough language.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The husband of Nikki Reed, who co-starred with Facinelli on the Twilight series, contributes three songs on the soundtrack with his band Grand Magnolias (his name is Paul McDonald of American Idol fame).

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $3,519 on an unreported production budget.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: New York, I Love You

FINAL RATING: 6/10

NEXT: X2

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Warm Bodies


Love is not only blind, it doesn't have much of a sense of smell either.

Love is not only blind, it doesn’t have much of a sense of smell either.

(2013) Zombie Romance (Summit) Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Analeigh Tipton, John Malkovich, Rob Corddry, Dave Franco, Cory Hardrict, Daniel Kindress-Kay, Vincent Leclerc, Clifford LeDuc-Vallancourt, Billie Calmeau, Adam Driscoll, Robert Reynolds, Christine Rodriguez, Debbie Wong. Directed by Jonathan Levine

Zombies are in these days with the success of The Walking Dead television show (one of the best things on television right now) and movies like Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later. For the most part we see those imperiled by the zombie apocalypse. But what are the zombies thinking?

A young man wanders around the airport, listlessly. He doesn’t work there; he’s been dead for some time but has been reanimated by forces unknown. He has some memory but can’t remember his name, other than that it starts with R. So R (Hoult) it is. His best friend (if you can call it that) is another shuffling undead flesh-eater whose name might have begun with M (Corddry).

R’s life kind of sucks but then it kind of doesn’t. He collects things and puts them in the jumbo jet he’s converted into his home, a kind of zombie man-cave. He listens to old LPs on a turntable (where’s the power coming from for it?) and stares at little knick-knacks he picks up around the airport. Occasionally, he goes hunting for food with M.

There are zombies and then there are Bonies who are kind of like hardcore zombies who have given up. One day they just start tearing their own flesh off. They’re superstrong, super-aggressive and super-grouchy. There are a few humans left who live in a walled-off section of town. They are led by the military-stiff Grigio (Malkovich) whose daughter Julia (Palmer) and her boyfriend Perry (Franco) are leading a party of scavengers to get medical supplies for the survivors.

That’s where R’s hunting party finds them. The attack is brutal and the outcome inevitable. Perry is a big talker but not a great shot – and as you know from your zombie 101 that zombies can’t be killed with anything other than a head shot. Perry’s shot hits R in the chest which just pisses R off and he chooses Perry to be his brain snack.

When a zombie eats the brains of a victim, they are able to access the memories of that victim. R sees Perry’s memories of Julia and decides to save her, managing to smuggle her out and to the relative safety of his airplane. After an aborted escape attempt convinces her that it is terribly unsafe to go out of the plane, she agrees to stay with this most unusual zombie.

The presence of Julia is changing R rapidly. His vocabulary improves. He begins to have tender feelings towards Julia (although are they his own or a product of Perry’s memory? an intriguing question the movie doesn’t bother to pose) and there are physiological changes as well. What’s more, M and the other zombies are beginning to change as well.

The Bonies don’t like that one little bit and want to find R and stop this “cure” before it gets too far. Julia needs to get back home but her father and his fanatical soldiers would shoot R on sight (and it’s for damn sure that they’re better shots than Perry). What’s more Julia has developed some powerful feelings for R as well. Is this love as doomed as that of Romeo and Juliet?

It’s no secret that the story here is loosely based on the Shakespeare play with several characters referencing characters from the play (R=Romeo, Julia=Juliet, M=Mercutio, Perry=Paris etc.). That no doubt suits the audience that this is intended for just fine – the preteen/teen girls who adore Twilight and their moms. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that most of the target audience is only aware somewhat of the R&J connection and have had little contact with the original play itself if any.

One of the things that works really well here is the chemistry between Hoult and Palmer. Hoult, who as a young man has become a seasoned veteran of the movies (some of you might remember him as young Marcus in About a Boy), is rapidly turning into a star. This might be the film that propels him to the next level. Palmer, whose done several genre films targeted towards young adults (I Am Number Four and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice among them), plays a plucky independent sort that the young teen girls seem to flock to these days. She and Hoult make an attractive couple (even if one of the is rotting away).

There are some pretty funny moments, particularly with R’s inner monologue. There is also a nice sweetness here that while not going to get you running out to the nearest zombie apocalypse to find yourself a boyfriend, it will at least touch the teddy bear softness of your heart. The only real complaints I have about the movie are the CGI Bonies which are unconvincing (which is a rather charitable assessment) and several plot points that kind of get little play, like Julia’s reaction to the news that R ate her ex. Not something most girls are going to get past very quickly I would think.

Still, this isn’t a bad movie at all. In fact, it’s a pretty good one – much better than I thought it would be, wondering if the filmmakers would be pandering to that target audience (they do but they don’t – Levine and cohorts seem to be of the opinion that teen and preteen girls appreciate a good movie more than a mediocre one). It’s actually a movie that I wish more Twihards had gone to see – I think those pining away over the absence of Bella, Edward and Jacob might find this right up their alley.

REASONS TO GO: Endearing and funny when it needs to be. Nice chemistry with Hoult and Palmer.

REASONS TO STAY: CGI Bonies are weak. Glossed over some important plot points.

FAMILY VALUES:  As there are zombies, there are extensive scenes of zombies eating people as well as getting shot in the head, although the gore is relatively mild (think The Walking Dead). There’s a lot more bad language though.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The Nora character was part-Ethiopian with brown skin in the book but was changed to a Caucasian for the movie.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 2/19/13: Rotten Tomatoes: 78% positive reviews. Metacritic: 58/100; I’d say the reviews are slightly positive.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Fido

FINAL RATING: 7/10

NEXT: Amour

Jane Eyre (2011)


Jane Eyre

One thing you won't find much of in adaptations of Jane Eyre is smiles.

(2011) Mystery (Focus) Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Judi Dench, Holliday Grainger, Sally Hawkins, Tamzin Merchant, Imogen Poots, Simon McBurney, Sophie Ward, Romy Settbon Moore, Harry Lloyd. Directed by Cary Fukunaga

Some stories withstand the test of time, striking a chord with readers over different eras with startling similarity. Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” is like that; as a mash-up of Gothic castles, bleak windswept moors, barely restrained eroticism and a Victorian-era morality tale that is surprisingly subversive it has spoken to feminine sensibilities in ways we men cannot comprehend fully. Let’s put it this way – it’s no accident that the brooding angst-y vampire of the Twilight series is named Edward.

There have been 28 different screen versions of the tale, dating back to silent movies and including broad stroked television mini-series to a classic version with Orson Welles as Edward Rochester and Joan Fontaine as the titular heroine. The question then becomes why make a new version at all.

Director Fukunaga, whose Sin Nombre was an acclaimed hit a couple of years ago, wanted to emphasize the Gothic elements of the novel and thus he does, making this less of a Harlequin Romance as some versions have been and much more of a character study. He even chooses to tell the story non-sequentially (the novel was chronologically told), beginning with Jane (Wasikowska) fleeing across the moors only to collapse, exhausted and suffering from exposure, and the door of St. John Rivers (Bell), a kindly pastor with two bubbly sisters (Grainger, Merchant).

From there we see Jane’s story; the cruelty suffered as a child at the hands of her aunt (Hawkins) after her parents pass away, leaving her orphaned. The hardships suffered at a school for girls, particularly at the hands of a sadistic and cruel vicar (McBurney) who runs the establishment. The placing of Jane as a governess of a naïve French child (Moore) at Thornhill, a gloomy mansion on the moors of England, whose household is run by the gossip-mongering Mrs. Fairfax (Dench) and presided by its master, Edward Rochester (Fassbender) whose shadow pervades the castle even in his absence. There Jane, described as a plain and simple girl, falls in love with Rochester and he with her, but dark secrets in Rochester’s past threaten to destroy them both.

I haven’t read the novel in probably thirty years, but it stays with me still. Some guys pooh-pooh it as a “girl’s book” but it is much more than that. Many of the elements that inspire and drive girls into womanhood can be found there. While strong female characters such as Jane might dissuade some boys from paying attention to the book, there is a great deal of insight into the female psyche to be found there. Don’t understand women? Read “Jane Eyre.”

The performances here are solid if unspectacular. Wasikowska, who has shown herself to be a capable actress in such movies as Alice in Wonderland (also playing a strong Victorian heroine from literature) and The Kids Are All Right, has the movie resting squarely on her shoulders and she carries it with surprising strength. I thought her a bit too pretty to play plain Jane, but she manages to look the part with the severe hairstyle of the era and plain clothing.

Fassbender, one of the best actors who you’ve never heard of (see his performances in Hunger and Inglourious Basterds if you don’t believe me), has a difficult role to fill in the enigmatic and brooding Edgar. The part has already had its ultimate portrayal by Welles, but to Fassbender’s credit he doesn’t try to mimic a previous performance and rather goes to accent elements of the character that haven’t been done often (to my knowledge anyway).

The art direction and the cinematography are two of the reasons to see this movie. It is well photographed, particularly the lonely vistas of the storm-swept moors. The interiors are well-appointed in the style of the period and you get a genuine idea of how the people of the time lived. The costumes are spot on, and when the action takes place at night, flickering candlelight appears to be the only illumination.

The movie does move slowly and modern audiences might have difficulty adjusting to the pace. Those who are used to the quick cut no-attention-span theater that is what most teens are used to will really have a lot of problems with losing focus during the movie. However, it is for certain worth checking out, if only for no other reason to acquaint yourself with one of the most brilliant novels of all time and to check out a story that resonates throughout history, influencing so much of literature all the way up to the “Twilight” series.

REASONS TO GO: Lushly photographed and well-acted. It is one of the most iconic novels of all-time and as close as many are ever going to get to reading it.

REASONS TO STAY: As befits a novel of that era, the pacing is majestic, sweeping and slightly overbearing.

FAMILY VALUES: There is the examination of a painting which depicts nudity and there’s also a very teensy bit of violence.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The Charlotte Bronte book was initially published in 1847 under the pen name “Currer Bell.”

HOME OR THEATER: While the bleak vistas of the moors look gorgeous on the big screen, the intimacy of the main story is well-received on the home screen.

FINAL RATING: 6.5/10

TOMORROW: Saint Ralph

I, Vampire


             First of all, the movies are all bullshit. Especially those new ones. We don’t sparkle – ever – for one thing, and I don’t look anything like that boy. There’s nothing soulful about my kind; by definition, we’re soulless.

            We aren’t anything like Christopher Lee, either. And Stoker got everything all wrong, too. Flash all the crosses you want at us unless you’re a Jehovah’s Witness. Now those guys scare us; they just don’t take freakin’ no for an answer. Holy water doesn’t faze us and garlic doesn’t bother us except for one guy I knew who was allergic in life to the stuff; made him break out something awful.

            I’m a vampire, by the way. I figure you’d have guessed that by now. I’ve been one for about 75 years now. By my reckoning, that means I’ve been in a foul mood for…oh, about 75 years. My name is Harvey – yes, I know, like the fucking rabbit. I get that all the damn time; it was never funny. If Jimmy Stewart were still alive, I’d tear him a new one. As a matter of fact I was going to back in 1961, but cooler heads prevailed.

            I was 51 when I was Changed. I lived in New Orleans at the time; it was 1935 and I was drunk (as usual), walking home from a bar near the Quarter when I decided to take a piss in an alley. I often wonder what would have happened if I had been able to hold it that night; instead, I was grabbed from behind and felt a sharp pain in my neck; then I felt sleepy. I passed out in that alley.

            When I woke up, I felt strange. I chalked it up to the alcohol and stumbled back home. It was almost dawn; thank God it had been Friday. I slept well into Saturday afternoon. When I woke up, I felt this terrible pain in my stomach. I was also not alone.

            He was sitting in a chair, watching me as I woke up. He was thin, almost to the point of emaciation. He was immaculately groomed, but he had a crooked grin on his face. I would learn later on that he was considered quite a joker by our race although I didn’t know it at the time. Of course, I didn’t even know I was a new member of a different race either.

            In any case, he said “You’re probably feeling some awful pain in the stomach. Don’t be alarmed, that will pass. You are also wondering who I am. My name is Edgar. I’m a vampire.” At that point, I figured he was a nut case and I tried to get out of bed and away from him – he might be dangerous. My legs were like rubber and they weren’t working right. I fell flat on my ass on the floor. He guffawed. “I wouldn’t try to walk right now, brother. You have been reborn; your body is adjusting to its new situation.” I looked up with him and my confusion must have been apparent. He laughed again. “I have Changed you; made you one of our kind. One of my brothers has been unmade recently, so I needed to replace him; you happened to be handy.”

            I tried to get up again, but my arms and legs weren’t working properly. He smiled and walked over to where I lay on the floor. He grabbed the front of my pajamas with one hand and lifted me onto the bed as if he were lifting a candlestick or a paperweight. “No sense in leaving you on the floor; it’ll be hours before you can walk. Now be a good man and just lie still, all right? It will make this less time-consuming.” I let out a big sigh. There seemed to be nothing for it.

            He smiled. “Good choice. Now, let me tell you what’s happening to you. You are not dead; you don’t have to die to become one of the Fallen. That’s what we call ourselves, the Fallen, as in fallen from grace, fallen from the eyes of God. It’s a bit of an ironic joke, considering most of us don’t believe in God. It’s hard to when you are a walking, talking violation of all His laws.”          

            He made a dismissive gesture. “But I digress. You are becoming a vampire. Think of it as an incurable disease, like leprosy or polio. And that Bela Lugosi movie is all wrong. I’m sure you’ll have a thousand questions, so let’s just get to basics.

            “That pain you’re feeling is hunger. You’ll get it from time to time, but not nearly as often as you might think. The only thing that will relieve it fully is human blood. The blood of cattle or other mammals will relieve it for a short time, but not like human blood.” I felt queasy; for the first time I was beginning to believe him. You see, when he mentioned human blood I felt a craving, like you might for ice cream or steak. I spoke to him for the first time, in a weak voice; “I don’t…I can’t…”

            He smiled again. “You don’t have to kill anybody. The human body contains more blood than you can drink. Think about it; do you drink gallons of water, milk, wine? No and neither do we. We just need a pint or two and we’re right as rain and for weeks. The most voracious of us feeds no more than once a month.”

            He went back to his chair and sat down. “And that hooey about changing into bats? Forget about it. We don’t turn into mist and we don’t turn into wolves. There is nothing all that supernatural about us. As for fangs, your incisors will change somewhat, grow sharper but you won’t grow full-fledged fangs. Not noticeably, anyway.

            “You will grow stronger, unnaturally so. You will also be faster and have more endurance. However this stuff about living forever – forget it. Nothing is eternal, especially not us. We are much longer-lived than our human cousins, but we do die eventually. We call it being unmade; our bodies simply disintegrate. Our kind leave no remains.”

            He was wearing a greatcoat and from one of his pockets he pulled out a bottle. “Here, drink this it’ll help with the stomach pain.” The truth was, it was really growing truly unbearable. I reached out and grabbed it, pulled out the stopper and drank it greedily. It was red and thick and warm; it tasted delicious. “That’s calves blood; there’s a butcher nearby who does me favors from time to time.”

            He looked at me. “Incidentally, daylight bothers us. It doesn’t kill us, but our skin becomes very sensitive as do our eyes. Go out in daylight only with sunglasses, and heavily cloaked; you will get very intense sunburns with even just limited exposure. They are very painful and take days to get better. You won’t burst into flames or anything, but you’ll feel as if you had.

            “Stakes through the heart do kill us, but then they’d kill anybody. We are decidedly hard to kill and we heal quickly, although we do feel pain. We can only be killed by piercing our heart, or cutting off our heads. That damned Stoker got that right at least.

            “We’re really quite harmless, for the most part, but people feel uncomfortable around us, even if they are unaware of our condition.” He got up and stretched. “That’s pretty much it for now. Oh, and we don’t age. You will always stay as you are now. You might change your hair and your clothes but you will always look as you do now. Sorry about that.”

            So was I. I was 51 then, and back in those days that was pretty old. I had kept most of my hair but it was mostly grey, and I had the pot belly of a man my age – and the wrinkles to prove it. I was certainly not the Adonis most movie vampires are.

            He left then, and true to his word the pain had dissipated. A few hours later I was able to walk short distances; a few hours after that it was as if nothing had happened. Fool that I was, I thought I had dreamed everything and went out into the daylight. It was if someone had poured acid all over me; I only managed to go a few feet before I was screaming in agony. I ran back inside and pulled all the shades. I was in horrible pain for days.

            It did get better, but shortly after that the stomach pains began again. I felt like I was going crazy; I was never hungry and rarely drank anything, water or stronger beverages. I slept very little; mostly, I read voraciously. I had always loved to read.

            Once the pains began, I wondered what I was going to do. Fortunately, my doorbell rang for the first time in days. It was the middle of the night, and it was Edgar. “May I come in?” he said politely. I gestured, and he followed me inside. “Have any more calves’ blood?” I said in a husky voice. He smiled and said “No, not this time. I’m going to take you out hunting so that you are able to feed yourself. Something I forgot to mention; because I changed you, we are bonded. I can sense when you’re hungry; you will also be able to sense certain things about me. You’ll know when I’m unmade, for example. When you Change someone, you will also be able to sense things about them. You will also be responsible to train them, as I am you. I am like a parent, a mama goose teaching my gosling to be a gosling. From time to time I will check in on you but we will never be friends; it is not in the nature of our kind to befriend one another.”

            He took me out that night, over to a place by the river where the lighting was poor. Mist was rising from the Mississippi that night; it was just like the movies. We watched a night watchman at a warehouse making his rounds. Edgar whispered to me “That’s our prey. Now, watch what I do.”

            He moved silently alongside the warehouse; the man had no idea he was there. He walked into a guard shack and sat down to drink a cup of coffee. The radio was playing. It was a warm night, and I suspect the man had more than coffee in that cup. Edgar motioned to me to follow. I was like a whisper behind him. I could feel my hunger growing, and I was almost salivating. I looked in the glass of the guardhouse and noticed my reflection (yes, we cast reflection in mirrors too); my eyes were red and there were noticeable fangs. I looked at Edgar and saw he was the same. The watchman looked up at the moment and saw me. Edgar cursed and ran in, faster than I could see. He was on the watchman in a heartbeat, biting his throat.

            The watchman slumped, his eyes growing glassy before they closed. He looked as if he had been drugged. Edgar remained there for a few moments and I heard a distinct slurping sound, then he released. He beckoned me over. “Only use your upper teeth. Don’t grab with the lower teeth; you’ll find you have fangs there as well, and the bite of those fangs will Change him. Just use your upper fangs; you’ll find it natural as eating. Once they are inside his neck, you’ll feel blood flowing into your mouth. Simply swallow until you feel your pain lessening. It shouldn’t take long, just a few moments. Once the pain is gone, disengage. Never take too much; you can kill, and killing draws attention to us.”

            He motioned to the unconscious watchman and I bent over him. The hunger pains were fierce indeed, and I sank my upper teeth into his neck, taking care to avoid biting him with my lower. In moments I felt his warm, sticky blood in my throat, and it was as creamy as a milkshake. I sucked as if at a mother’s breast, and within moments the pain began to fade and disappear completely. I took a few more sucks, but I noticed Edgar shaking his head and then he tapped me on the shoulder. “Enough,” was all he said. Somewhat reluctantly, I disengaged my fangs, the salty taste still in my mouth. I licked my lips; I felt utterly at peace with the world.

            I frowned. “He saw me, didn’t he?” Edgar nodded. “Only for a moment, though. He will wake up in an hour or two with a bit of a headache feeling as if he had the flu. He’ll finish his shift, go home and take the next day off. After that, he’ll be fine; his body will replenish the blood he just lost. As for the sight of you, he’ll chalk that up to the whiskey in his coffee. I’ve used this man as prey before for new Fallen; even if they’re clumsy enough to allow themselves to be seen, as you were, he’s always been prone to hallucinations. He’ll just believe he saw another one.”

             He walked me back to my small home. “It is important,” he said for once not grinning, “that the humans never see you feeding. The sight of it is terrifying to them. They believe our kind to be myths; when they find out differently, they get absolutely crazy. We are few and they are many; should they declare war on us, even though we are stronger and faster, their numbers would eventually wear us down. We would be annihilated as a race. You must learn to use your speed and be silent when you hunt. Exsanguinating your prey also calls attention to us. If you are discovered, we will not aid you. If anything, we may help the humans exerminate you.”  We had arrived at my door and he stopped for a moment and looked at me hard. “Keep to yourself. Make no human friends, at least not for long. In ten years, sell your home and move away; tell your neighbors only that you are retiring to the south of France, Florida or wherever you think they’ll believe. People who remain the same age for forty, fifty years also garner suspicion. There are those among the Fallen who are charged with keeping our existence secret from the humans. Do not attract their attention; they will destroy you utterly and without mercy.”

            We went our separate ways after that. I rarely saw him but from time to time he’d pop by, still grinning that crooked grin. We would have a meal together, talk about what we were doing. Edgar had been in his 30s when he was Changed, and had liked to paint. He still did, and some of his artwork was amazing – but then he’d had two centuries to practice.

            Money was never a problem for us. I had some savings, but I discovered shortly after Edgar left me a deposit had been made in my account; I was a millionaire. When I asked him about it later, he smiled and just said “We take care of our own.”

            As time went by I discovered a few things about the Fallen. Whatever our condition was, it also heightened our creative senses as well. We all became successful at whatever endeavor captured our fancy. Some were great financiers, others poets and painters. Myself, I became a novelist; I wrote several best-sellers under a pen name, many of which became movies. After thirty or forty years, I arranged for my alter ego to pass away and began writing more under a different pen name. I also had some luck at the stock market. The millions I made from my writing turned into tens and then hundreds of millions.

            I now live a life of luxury. I visit New Orleans from time to time, but I live in the South of France now. I have Changed several men and women; I discovered that each of the Fallen must Change their fair share, to keep the race alive. Of course, recruiting by normal means is impossible; there are rules, after all.

            For one thing, we cannot Change children or babies. Their systems can’t handle the shock. We don’t Change the young and foolish; their arrogance can compromise the secret of our existence. It is for that reason we authorized those books and those movies. Yes, their authors are Fallen too.

            It’s not a terrible life, but it is a life of solitude. We can’t make lifelong friends with humans; once they notice we don’t age, they either fear us or they want to be like us, but those who long for immortality tend to make poor vampires. For one thing, we are not immortal. One day, I will be unmade just as naturally as normal humans die. I was Changed because one other among us was unmade and when Edgar himself was Unmade back in 2003, I Changed a young woman to replace him. She, like me, became a writer of some repute.

            The truth about our kind is that we are just as human as you are in many ways; I feel a sense of responsibility to put down the truth about us. This manuscript I am sealing in a vault hidden to all but one whom I trust; one day, he will find it and publish it. Chances are, nobody will believe it.

            Your skepticism is our greatest protection. Indeed, vampires dwell among you, in greater numbers than you can imagine. We are no danger to you; we rarely kill humans unless we have to. It is in our best interest not to. Even though we are many, your numbers are vast compared to ours. If you chose to seek us out and hunt us down, we would be exterminated, and that would be sad; so many of the greatest people in history have actually been vampires.

            Oh and the sunlight thing? One of the Fallen figured out how to make a sunscreen that protects us. We can walk in daylight openly now, thanks to our chemist friend.

            Don’t worry though. If we come to you in the night, you won’t even notice that we’re there. We’ll just take a little sip and then be gone. You might feel like the flu is coming on the next morning but nothing more. We’re no more harmful to you than that breakfast cereal guy that’s supposed to be a vampire. Eat enough of that cereal and you’ll have far more problems than any vampire would ever cause you. Just a word of advice; if you think our way of life is attractive think again.

            I have spent 75 years as a middle aged overweight man. I have arthritis in my elbows and knees. I have a bad back and allergies to bumble bees and pollen.  I wake up every morning in pain, and the pain never abates; I am perpetually 51 years old with the aches and pains of a 51 year old man. I haven’t enjoyed the taste of food, other than what I drink to sustain myself, in all those years. I have read many books, surfed the internet and watched television. Most of the time I’m bored.

            They don’t tell you about that in the movies, nor in the books. They don’t tell you that you have few friendships and rarely talk to people. Oh, we can text and e-mail just like you can, but the inclination just isn’t there. I miss people, but when I talk to them, I find myself loathing them. You don’t have the same kinds of experience – you can’t possibly relate. As for the Fallen, we don’t associate with one another much. We are prone to feuds that can be spectacularly violent, so the less we interact with one another the better it is for our own kind. We’re like predators in the wild; we each stick to our own territory and we are not pack animals, association with wolves be damned.

            Damned is an understatement. It’s tedious and painful our existence, punctuated by occasional moments of creative satisfaction but are those moments worth the cost? I would give it all away to fall in love again; I was a widower when I died, my Mary having died in childbirth some 25 years before I Changed, and although I hadn’t found another woman to take her place, I had my share of female companions over the years and I miss that. Then again, the Fallen don’t love; we don’t have the capacity for it. We ache for it, we long for it but we cannot have it. Perhaps that is the greatest cruelty of all. Centuries of lovelessness; I’m sure you won’t find that in any young adult novel. Then again, reality is so much more painful than fiction.

Twilight


Twilight

Can it really be young love if one of them is 114 years old?

(Summit) Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Cam Gigandet, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Ashley Greene, Taylor Lautner. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke

We are all of us searching for something but none more than teenagers. Teenagers aren’t only looking to find love and acceptance, but also define who they are. When we find those answers, it’s usually the gateway into adulthood but sometimes those answers cost.

Bella Swan (Stewart) has had a difficult time of things. Her parents are divorced, her mom in Arizona having remarried a baseball player. Bella, a sensible sort, goes to live with her father (Burke), the Sheriff in the tiny western Washington town of Forks, Washington (a real place, by the way). As the new kid in a small school, Bella is big news and is fussed over by her new classmates both studly and dorky. She tries to fit in with her new friends but she notices a group of pale kids who hang out amongst themselves. This, she is told, is the Cullen clan, a group of foster kids being cared for by Dr. Carlisle Cullen (Facinelli), the town physician. They live in possibly the coolest home in Western Washington on the edge of town. One, in particular, nabs Bella’s interest; the smoldering, sexy Edward (Pattinson) who stares at her like his eyes have been glued to her.

Bella’s dad is being kept busy by a series of animal attacks in the area that have resulted in the deaths of several people, but he has time to have his friends Billy Black and his handsome son Jacob (Lautner) over. The long-haired native American Jacob hits it off with Bella and the two become friends.

Edward and Bella are assigned to be lab partners and despite Bella’s attraction to Edward, she is disturbed to discover that he feels quite the opposite about her, asking to transfer out of the biology class altogether. However, once they begin talking, a deep attraction begins to blossom. This is heightened when he saves Bella’s life by stopping an out of control truck from squashing her in the school parking lot, despite not being anywhere near her when the truck began its skid.

Suspicious at secrets Edward is apparently hiding, Bella does some research aided by stories told by her friend Jacob. She soon suspects that Edward might be a creature not unlike a vampire, which Edward eventually confesses that he is. However, vampires aren’t anything like how we’ve seen them in the movies; they don’t fear crosses or garlic and they are quite capable of being out in sunlight; however direct sunlight causes their skin to sparkle and annoying bells to ring. The sparkle announces that they aren’t human, but it might be those twinkling bells that make the Cullens unwilling to venture into the light.

Each of the Cullens (who don’t feed on human blood – they feed on animal blood instead, considering themselves kind of like vegetarians) has a different and unique power; Alice (Greene) can foretell the future for example. There are other vampires who prey on humans and their leader James (Gigandet) has his sights set on Bella, so Bella’s in danger but worse yet the prom is coming up and you thought your high school prom had drama…

Of course this is based on the staggeringly popular young adult fiction series by Stephenie Meyer which has sold about a gigillion books, mostly to teenaged and pre-teen girls but also to a surprising number of their mothers. I’ve heard the books described as “Harlequin Romances for teens written by Stephen King” which may be a bit harsh. Nonetheless, there is an element of truth to it.

First and foremost, understand that this isn’t a traditional vampire movie and it isn’t a traditional teen drama movie either. It’s not even a traditional romance. What it actually turns out to be is elements of all three genres wrapped up into a neat little package. While many critics (and film fanboys) openly sneer at the franchise, I actually found myself admiring it a little bit for trying something different than the traditional vampire movie with quivering virgins, buckets of blood and flaming vampires. There is actually very little gore or sex here. I also found myself giving the author marks for at least creating her own vampire mythology.

This movie was always going to live and die on the attractiveness of the leads and Stewart and Pattinson have all that they need. I seriously doubt this movie would have been anything near as popular without Pattinson as Edward; he is absolute catnip to teenaged girls, handsome and brooding and gentle all at once, yet fiercely protective. He is the ultimate boyfriend, and I don’t doubt that every teenaged girl who sees this will be holding up their boyfriends and potential boyfriends up in comparison to this guy, which is going to make for a lot of disappointed teenagers.

Stewart, who was one of the best things about Into the Wild has a very girl-next-door kind of look to her. She is meant to be strong, smart and kind – someone teenaged girls are meant to want to be like. Da Queen found it amusing that with all the romantic drama going on in this girl’s life she never once snapped at her parents but this is a fantasy after all.

This is a nice-looking movie that makes ample use of the Pacific Northwest scenery to create an overall tone. However, the movie had a pretty light budget (given that tiny Summit Entertainment was making it) and some of the special effects seem a little chintzy. I suspect that given its overwhelming box office success, future installments will have better-looking SFX than this.

In some ways, reviews for movies like this are superfluous; their target audience is going to see them over and over again regardless of what any critic says. For the rest of us it’s adequate entertainment and not nearly as bad as some have made it out to be. Keep in mind it is geared towards teens in a big way and that anyone my age – heck, anyone over thirty – aren’t going to relate to it as closely as those under thirty. That’s okay too; in some ways I’m quite glad I’m well past relating to these kinds of movies. Still, if you have a teenaged daughter or want to know more about what teenaged girls are thinking, here is your opportunity to get some insight. Oh, and the soundtrack is surprisingly amazing as well.

WHY RENT THIS: This is an entirely new mythology for vampires. Pattinson and Stewart make an attractive couple. The beauty of the Pacific Northwest plays an integral element in the movie.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The teen soap opera elements may make this a difficult pill to swallow for vampire film fans. The special effects don’t hold up against other modern films.

FAMILY VALUES: A little violence and teen sex make this suitable for teens and tweens; the movie may not be suitable for smaller sorts.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: When the release date of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was pushed out to July 2009, Summit moved Twilight into that desirable pre-Thanksgiving weekend spot.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There is a trio of music videos, as well as footage of the cast’s appearance at Comic-Con. Be prepared to hear a whole lot of teenaged girls screaming.

FINAL RATING: 5/10 (but if you’re a teenaged/pre-teen girl or their mom, 10/10)

TOMORROW: Gran Torino