ir.gif

Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant

Posted on February 23, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Vampires are everywhere these days. There are the Romeo and Juliet-style stories of Twilight and the steamier True Blood as well as the love triangle of the CW’s Vampire Diaries. And now there is “Cirque Du Freak,” based on the best-selling series of YA novels by Darren Shan, who shares his name with the title character.

I think it is because in this open-minded and permissive era it is hard to find a reason to keep an ordinary romantic couple apart. In the old days, parental disapproval, not having enough money, or societies’ strictures could fuel an entire movie until the happily-ever after ending. But these days it is difficult to create narrative tension to keep a couple separate for 10 minutes, much less two hours. That may be great for society, but it is tough on story-tellers. And so in order to get transgressive, a bit of cross-species romance seasoned with the risk of death and the prospect of an unleashed id can make a story very captivating.

Teenager Darren Shan (Chris Massoglia) feels that his life is just fine. He gets good grades. Kids at school like him. His parents are proud of him. He has a life-long best friend named Steve (Josh Hutcherson of “Bridge to Terabithia”), who is restless and unhappy.

Darren does not want to admit that he also has his restless moments and is not always comfortable being what Steve calls “perfect boy.” Darren wants to make sure we understand that he is no longer close to a former friend who has become “a freak,” meaning that he does not dress like an ad for a soft drink. He is not sure that he will be satisfied with what his parents tell him is “the path to a happy, productive life: College! Job! Family! And one day, if you’re lucky, you’ll be yelling at a teenager of your own.”

And there’s Darren’s lifelong fascination with spiders, not studying them, more communing with them. Steve is obsessed with vampires and dreams of becoming one himself. They pick up a mysterious flier about a freak show and sneak out to see it. When Darren steals a poisonous spider and it bites Steve, Darren agrees to give up his life as a human to become the vampire’s assistant in exchange for the antidote.

It makes some changes to the story in the book series but it is true to the tone — a nice combination of teenage angst and outrageous grotesquery, with the implicit recognition that sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference. Massoglia and Hutcherson come across as bland at times, but then they are sharing the screen with a snake-boy and a lady who not only has a beard but is the mesmerizing Salma Hayek. The story can be exposition-heavy as it lays the foundation for the next episodes in the series by starting up a war between two vampire factions. But it benefits from small details around the edges that attest to the fully-realized world of the novels. It balances the scary moments with humor. And it has good guy and bad guy vampires, a rock music-loving snake boy (Patrick Fugit, one of the film’s highlights), a woman whose limbs regenerate, a super-tall guy who kind of looks like Edgar Allen Poe, and a world of freaks that knows how to make the Cirque feel like home.

Related Tags:

 

Based on a book Fantasy Horror

‘New Moon’ Update from Director Chris Weitz

Posted on July 18, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Lucky Jen Yamato of Rotten Tomatoes got to interview the director of “New Moon,” Chris Weitz, taking over from Catherine Hardwicke. Some highlights:

“Our aim was to make look like what it says they look like in the book, and not to be too fancy about it,” Weitz explained. “You know, it was very important to Stephenie that, for instance, the werewolves transform very quickly and that they look like wolves, that we not have this kind of magical, Lon Chaney-esque long transformations, and I think the reason behind that is to give a sense of their reality.”

“I think that was important for the Volturi as well; they’re not levitating above the ground, they’re not surrounded by mystical auras, they are creatures who actually exist and they’re very specific, they’re very stylish, they’re very elegant, they’re very dangerous. Essentially, it’s really faithful to the book.”

***

“I suppose…my favorite scene, because it is the high point of the movie, when Bella goes to try to stop Edward from killing himself. We had a thousand extras in this medieval town square in a hill town in Tuscany, in the most beautiful country on earth, and it was such an extraordinary opportunity to get to work there. It was also kind of surreal, because every Twilight fan who could make it from all over continental Europe and further, had gone by hook or by crook to Montepulciano and booked a hotel room — sometimes at the very hotel which the cast and crew were staying.”

Check out the full review for much more!

Related Tags:

 

Trailers, Previews, and Clips

Twilight

Posted on March 17, 2009 at 8:00 am

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some violence and a scene of sensuality
Profanity: Some teenage language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Adults drink beer
Violence/ Scariness: Vampire violence, grisly images, characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: November 21, 2008

It is in no way disrespectful to this movie to say that I enjoyed the audience reaction as much as I enjoyed what was on the screen. In a theater filled with fans who had patiently waited for over an hour, it was possible to hear some lines softly recited along with the characters, some squeals of joy at seeing favorite moments depicted, and, in a few quiet scenes, some happily sad sniffs.

“Twilight,” the first in the Stephanie Meyer series of books about a high school romance where the boy happens to be a vampire, has become “Twilight” the movie and it has been brought to life with respectful diligence for the source material and a warm understanding of its characters and target audience. Catherine Hardwicke has developed something of a speciality in stories about teenagers with “13,” “The Nativity Story,” and “The Lords of Dogtown,” and one of the pleasures of the film is the way she shows us the rhythms of teenage interaction.

Bella (a perfectly cast Kristen Stewart) has left sunny Phoenix for the rainiest town in America, Forks, Washington, to live with her father. The students at her new school welcome her warmly but the boy who dazzles her is handsome Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). At first, he seems to dislike her, but it turns out that he has just been trying to hide from her and from himself how much he is attracted to her.

These days, it is increasingly difficult to find a reason for a couple not to get together so fast there is no time for a story to happen and Meyer specifically created Edward and Bella with a permanent dilemma to give her characters and her readers some breathing room to explore the relationship. Part of the appeal of the story is an almost-Victorian sense of repression, sacrifice, and longing, all so sincerely depicted it just might single-handedly bring back the swoon. Young girls can enjoy this story because of Bella’s sense of power — loving her so devotedly all but un-mans a creature designed to be “the world’s most dangerous predator.” Edward has the attributes of the adolescent ideal for romance since before the days of “Romeo and Juliet,” “Wuthering Heights” and “Titanic” — unconditional love, parental disapproval, and ultimate impossibility.

The film falters a little in the portrayal of the vampires, who seem, even by fantasy standards, unnaturally pasty-faced, and some of the special effects are a little cheesy. It’s hard to make someone super-fast without looking cartoony. But it benefits from some deft and easy humor and sly twists on both vampire lore (let’s just say that mirrors and sunlight are different for these vampires than for the traditional Bram Stoker variety, with subtle hints to crosses and garlic) and high school (giving it up on prom night takes on a new meaning). Hardwicke, originally a production designer, also lets the settings help tell the story, from the lush greens of the opening shots to the Cullen’s sun-filled home. But the movie belongs to Bella and Edward and Stewart and Pattinson show us a tenderness and devotion that makes them one of this year’s most romantic couples.

Related Tags:

 

Based on a book DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Romance
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik