Friday, February 6, 2009


Middle-aged men like me are not the audience for “Twilight”, so why did I go see it? Well, some friends saw it and their middle school daughter loved it and wanted to know if I saw it. So friendship overcame “Twilight” wariness and I went to the second-run theater in Naperville last night to finally check out “Twilight”..

I told myself to give it an honest chance. After all, I condescended to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” the first couple of seasons it was on without seeing it, and it’s now probably my all-time favorite television show. Maybe teenagers and vampires are a good mix, I thought, settling down to “Twilight.”

Wrong again. It wasn’t as bad as I thought, but it sure wasn’t very good.

I can see why females, especially young girls, would take to it. There’s romance, but no sex. The ultimate bad boy is actually a pretty good guy. He has super powers, and is immortal (though being perpetually 17 years old strikes me as damnation of the worst kind). Plus, he glistens with a diamond-like dust when exposed to extreme sunlight. The clothes are to die for and they listen to cool music. (The alternative rock songs on the soundtrack, however, will badly date the film).

But boy, does it take a long time to get going. There’s lots of mournful, soulful staring in this; I think the stares take up the entire first half of the movie.

I won’t go into too many of plot specifics. Suffice to say, “Twilight” details what happens when new girl Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) arrives from Arizona to live with her divorced dad in the town of Forks in the Pacific Northwest. She’s intrigued by the Cullens, a clan of brooding youngsters with perpetually pasty skin who don’t mingle with the other students. Bella and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson, whose hair gives the best performance in the movie), make goo goo eyes and find destiny with each other.

Bella and Edward stare mournfully each other. A lot. Not just a little but a lot.

Eventually she figures out that he’s a vampire. In fact, all the Cullens are vampires, but good vampires. They only hunt and kill animals, and must live apart from humans as much as possible so as not to succumb to their primal urges and attack them. But not all vampires are this generous. There’s a band of hungry, nomadic vampires in the area who are snacking on the human populace. This puts the Cullens on edge. Will the Cullens have to pack up and move on, or do they take care of the bad vampires? Will Edward have to leave Bella behind?

One of Bella’s first contacts in town is an Indian boy named Jacob, and there are hints that his people are a tribe of wolf-men who enjoy an uneasy alliance with the vampires.

For a two hour movie, not a lot occurs and the pacing could have been faster. Plus, I wish director Catherine Hardwicke had given voice lessons to the cast. Her young actors talk in that odd kind of hushed whisper, which is supposed to evoke great importance and seriousness. Actors should learn they can be serious and interesting and still talk above a whisper.

A little humor would have helped too. There’s a good line about eternal matriculating in high school, but the movie’s tone is awfully moribund.

I did enjoy the photography, which showcases the beauty of the Pacific Northwest in all its forested glory. Carter Burwell’s score is pretty weak, but there’s a nicely scored sequence where Edward flies Bella to the tree tops and they survey the surrounding area. But how I wish someone like John Barry had scored this. The movie needed a rich musical score to augment the romantic nature of the story. Could you imagine the themes from something like “Somewhere in Time” (1980) or “Out of Africa” (1985) playing as Edward and Bella soar through the trees? Heck, I’d even be swooning.

I wish author Stephanie Meyer had given her character a different name than Bella. Each time her name was mentioned I flashbacked to the greatest vampire of all, Bela Lugosi, and his hypnotic performance in “Dracula” (1930), one of the greatest cultural milestones of the 20th century. Sixty and 70 years later when your vampire impersonators speak with thick Hungarian accents, or your Count Chocula breakfast cereal spokesman speaks, they’re not imitating Dracula, they’re invoking Lugosi. See that picture? Now that’s a vampire, a true lord of the undead.

The sequel, “New Moon” is ready to go into production soon for release in late 2010. I was very excited when I saw the headlines about “New Moon” as I thought some smart studio was dusting off the venerable Sigmund Romberg/Oscar Hammerstein II operetta for another go around. M-G-M did it twice, once in 1930 with Grace Moore and Lawrence Tibbett and again in 1940 with Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. Everything else is being re-made these days, why not “New Moon”?

But alas, this “New Moon” is the next entry in the “Twilight” saga. I’m assuming that with a title like that, the Indian tribe of werewolves will become major players. The movie makers, however, would be smart to incorporate songs from the operetta into the film and make it a musical. Bella and Edward can serenade “Lover Come Back to Me” to each other in the tree tops and Edward could lead the Cullen clan in a rousing rendition of “Stout Hearted Men.” That sounds good enough to check out opening night.

Rating for “Twilight”: Two stars.


Anonymous said...

An actual photo of the Dolton theater during the daylight....not artistic rendering...looks to be near the end of its run, shortly before the nightclub conversion...BTW, the building has been completely torn down..heard it had structural problems and wasn't worth the sad that unworthy structures(non-historical sites)inevitably see the wrecking ball......

BTW, I highly recommend the 3-D
"Coraline", playing at the two local digital theaters in Naperville(Seven bridges and nap 16)......not only is it the best 3-D ever, but one of Tim Burton's better efforts, which is saying a lot.....I can't stop raving about how enjoyable, imaginative, and mind-blowing the movie is.......

BTW, If you see and like it, toss out a blog entry about it, if you wouldn't mind!


Re Twilight, funny how the vampire motifs get recycled over the generations....remember those awful
British camp Peter Cushing vampire flicks?

Dolton Theater(sorry, this will be a common point of reference if I reply on here! LOL!)....had a rather bizarre dracula send-up ala
Cushing called "Brides of Frankenstein" around '73....

Funny thing is, we never really knew or cared if the movies were current....far as we knew it was a current release...funny to later see on IMDB that it was made in 1960......

I wonder if you remember when another Cushing vehicle, "Tales from the Crypt", played at the DT around '72? Again, this was a kids matinee, with a husband getting his head cut off with an ax whilst reading the newspaper, a blind man
walking through a maze of razor blades...etc.......

Funny, while the LANS theater was showing antiseptic disney trash,
DT was offering up blood and gore at 1 in the afternoon....God love that place!

Kevin Deany said...

Scott: I defintely plan on seeing "Coraline", but it may take a few weeks. I'll try to remember to blog on it when I see it.

Well, I have to disagree you but I think those Hammer vampire flicks starring Peter Cushing are pretty great. "Horror of Dracula" (1958) is one of the greatest horror films ever and while the series eventually declined, it must be admitted that something like "Dracula A.D. 1972", aka Dracula in swinging London, makes a great party movie.

Yep, "Tales from the Crypt" (1972) played at the Dolton. I'm not positive, but I think it was paired with "The Abominable Dr. Phibes" (1971) starring Vincent Price. I wish I could say for certain. I remember many double features from the Dolton, but am hazy on that one.

Another Amicus-produced anthology I saw at the Dolton was "The House that Dripped Blood" (1971) and its possible that paired with Phibes. Dripped Blood had Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in the cast; it's one of the best anthologies Amicus ever made.

I do remember seeing a Filipino horor flick called "Twilight People" (1972), a Dr. Moreau rip off, and maybe that paired with Tales.

You had to love the Dolton, they even played Filipino horror movies.

You're a little wrong in your remembering of "Tales from the Crypt", which is a fabulous movie by the way. A husband doesn't get his head chopped off with an axe but gets smacked in the head with a fireplace poker (on Christmas Eve no less.)

It's not a blind man walking through the razor blades, but the cruel manager of an institute for the blind in a bizarre revenge plot hatched by the instiute's blind residents.

Thanks for the facebook line to the Dolton Theater. It's nice to see we're not the only ones with such fun memories.

Here's two more. The Dolton was having a kiddie matinee double feature of "Tarzan and the Great River" and "Blackbeard's Ghost." That would have been around 1968 or 1969, and I would have been about six or seven.

Now on our block, we had a ton of kids, well over 50 in the kingergarten through high school ages. It was decided to check this out, and pretty much the entire block went. Our parents organized a fleet of about 12-15 cars that transported all of us to the theater. Two older girls in the fifth grade agreed to chaperone us. I think our group took up several rows of the Dolton, but we all had a fabulous time. Four hours later our parents picked us up.

The first time I went to the Dolton without my family was when my buddy Sean and I saw on a Sunday afternoon in 1971, Charlton Heston in "The Omega Man" and Richard Harris in "Man in the Wilderness." My dad dropped us off and picked us up after the second movie. I'm sure our parents didn't think a thing of dropping off two nine year olds by themselves at the local theater for an afternoon.

Any parents that tried that today would likely be arrested, for child abuse and abondnment, and I'm not joking.

Dees Stribling said...

Lilly, as you'd imagine, is taken with Twilight, seeing it with her mother and a friend recently. I skipped it. She's also reading the book. I'm not planning on reading it. I have been annoying her with my bad impressions of Legosi, however. I ask, "Does Edward ever say, I vant to suck your blood!" ?

Kevin Deany said...

Dees: Feel free to bring Lilly over sometime and I'll show her some Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee moments, a far cry from Edward's mooning. Where's Buffy when you need her the most?

Anonymous said...

I'm beginning to tap into a new font of appreciation for Cushing/Lee and company...Just saw
"The Gorgon", and loved the camp serious.....they give the caliber of British west end stage acting to any pedestrian plot......also, as you mentioned per 'Twilight', every generation redefined its movie cultural memes....vampires no exception......Hitchcock was another that brought high caliber acting to horror themes(think The Birds, Psycho, Frenzy)....
Per Tales of the Crypt, keep in mind I haven't seen that one since I was 7, but you are right.....and how wonderful to see psychotic blind folk get their just revenge..
Tarantino would have liked that....
Per Twilight People, I DID see that in '72 at the Dolton, and I was trying to remember that title for years....I did a great imitation of Primo, the Ape man, and had that nickname for about a year because of it....I notice Pam Grier was in that.....interesting..
remember when the movie version of the "Journey into Time" came to the Dolton? The one on Garfield Goose, when the kids went back to dinosaur days? That was a packed house of kids...........perhaps you also were at the "Japanese monster all-star movie", "Destroy all Monsters", with Godzilla, Baby Godzilla(smoke rings), Mothra, and friends.......

Look at this poster for a good laugh...

Kevin Deany said...

Scott: I don't remember seeing "Journey into Time" at the Dolton, but I do remember watching it on Garfield Goose.

I do defintley remember seeing "Destroy All Monsters" in the late 1960s at a kid's matinee at the Dolton, but I had prevously seen it a few week's previously at a matinee at the Lans.

My poor dad, who had the patience of a saint, took me there after much begging and pleading on my part. He couldn't have cared less about Japanese monster movies, but he was a good sport about it.

I do distinctly remember getting a box of miniature jaw breakers from the concession stand at the Lans and after the show was over I still had half a box left. That was very rare in those days. But when you have Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, etc. all ganging up to fight Ghidra - let me tell you, that's the height of a drama for an eight-year-old. No time to go rustling inside a candy box that afternoon.

Anonymous said...

you must have a photographic memory
of your's great to hear someone elses detailed recollections, for those of us that don't have that recall....most of us would have had similar circumstances anyway...
Regarding all the monsters ganging up on Ghidra, I have to wonder what moral authority the other monsters had in colluding against
the same. After all, all those monsters created mega-havoc against humans in the past...Godzilla especially....but in "Destroy all monsters" he becomes almost a saint, with progeny helping him in his exploits
(baby-smoke rings)......Almost like a criminal cartel ganging up against another family, ala Godfather/Sopranos.....

Re Lans theater....they had a peculiar policy, in that only G-rated films were allowed to play there. The reason was, Lansing was largely Dutch Reformed, re all the dutch churches, farm stands, and
veg truck farms(deJong bros.)in the
area. Short of having no theater, a compromise was made in that Lans would only show g-rated, kid-centered movies.....every disney live and animated movie played at the lans multiple times, including the awful Tim Conway vehicles, perhaps the worse movies ever made.
Keep in mind that the "Apple Dumpling gang" would have been the bast by far in that genre. The Dis
flicks with conway soloing were such trickle that they made the solo Don Knotts vehicles look like Scorsece/Coppola............

Kevin Deany said...

Now that you mention it, I do recall that the Lans showed family-oriented movies, but the PG rated film would occasionally slip through.

I have strong recollections of my dad and I going to the Lans on a Saturday night to see "Tales from the Crypt" (1972) which was PG.

Maybe the theater owners previewed it first before booking it, as there's nothing objectionable about it. It's actually a very moral film. Characters that perform evil deeds are punished in the worst way possible. Church leaders must have loved it, what with its strong message, albeit with a supernatural tone.

But yeah, it was mainly Disney or family fare. I think the "Tom Sawyer" (1973) musical was seeminlgly held over for eons.

I do remember my dad and brother gonig to the Lans to see "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad" circa 1973, and that was G-rated.

I saw reissues of "Song of the South" and "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" at the Lans too.

They must have changed their policy at the end, because the last time I was there was in 1980 to see "The Awakening", a horror flick about an ancient Egypt curse with Charlton Heston and Susannah York. It was rated R, but I don't think a more milder rated R picture was ever made. Pretty dull too, if memory serves.