Intense blockbusters for the Holidays

‘Twilight’, starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattison, follows a well-worn path where vampire movies are concerned. Sure, the cinematography is engaging and exhilarating, the lead characters are attractive and monotone, and look good in light makeup and grey screen wash, but isn’t that what we’ve come to expect?

Stewart plays Bella Swan, a 17-year-old high school student who moves in with her father (Billy Burke) after her mother remarries and decides to travel for a year. The school welcomes her with open arms and she instantly has a group of friends that include her in all that they do, as well as give her the low down on a particular group of students that attend the school, the Cullens.

Pattison plays Edward, the Cullen closest to Bella’s age, and has an instant reaction to Bella – good or bad, it isn’t really clear right away. But as the story unfolds we can tell he wants nothing more than to be near her, though he fights it. We soon find out he has a secret, and the story unfolds from there.

Stewart, who played Jodi Foster’s daughter in ‘Panic Room’ and Emile Hirsch’s love interest in ‘Into The Wild’, is quite beautiful and appropriately sullen in her role, and has some nice moments aside from the sometimes over dramatic dialogue that is given to her. Pattison fares quite the same. Some may remember him as Cedric Diggory in ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’. He is admittedly older here and has grown into his looks a bit, but doesn’t show the range he did in ‘Potter’. Sure, he’s handsome, brooding, has big hair and is softspoken, but it doesn’t go much further than that.

The supporting cast isn’t bad. No one stands out and all do an admirable job with what they are given to do, except Peter Facinelli who plays the head of the Cullen clan. Facinelli with bleach blonde dyed hair and over-the-top white face makeup, makes you wonder why his look and behavior hasn’t alerted someone to think there’s just something not quite right with the Cullen family.

The story moves along, and we pretty much guess what will happen, even if we haven’t read the books, and that’s ok. It’s a vampire movie. A stylized vampire movie with an attractive cast and it’s not bad, but it won’t be winning any Academy Awards as far as I am concerned.

‘Twilight’ was originally a novel written by Stephanie Meyer; Melissa Rosenberg wrote the screenplay and Catherine Hardwicke directed the film. Meyer wrote Twilight in 2005 and it became an instant hit. She followed that with three sequels selling over 17 million copies worldwide.

Should you see the film? Sure, just don’t pay full price for it. The theatre I went to offers a student discount on Thursdays ONLY, and the price for a matinee ticket was nine bucks.

‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ is much like ‘Twilight’ in the sense that it, too, follows a well-worn path where Holocaust films are concerned. However, this one is good and gives us a fresh perspective on the sad reality of what has happened in the past.

Pyjamas may not be the best holiday fare, but it sure should be an Oscar contender.

The film takes place in Nazi Germany. Director/screenwriter Mark Herman and novelist John Boyne show us the war through the bright and wide eyes of eight-year-old Bruno, played engagingly by Asa Butterfield.

For Bruno, life seems pretty easy and enjoyable – running home from school through the streets of Berlin with his school chums mimicking a fleet of flying planes – until his father, a Nazi officer, played by David Thewlis, uproots his mother (Vera Farmiga) and sister (Amber Beattie) and moves them out to the country.

Bruno, the forever eight-year-old, wants to do more than just sit at home with his tutor and play checkers by himself. So he goes out into his back yard and after walking for a while comes upon what he thinks is a farm. His discoveries lead him to see that there are many things wrong with this farm, which is a concentration camp. There, he befriends a boy his age named Shmuel played by Jack Scanlon. They continue their friendship through an electrified fence until Bruno realizes that he wants to help his friend.

Pyjamas is a rare, heartbreaking and harrowing film about the Holocaust and how the innocence of a young boy opens the eyes of those around him. The direction is flawless, and the haunting score by James Horner is beautiful. Thewlis turns in a chilling performance and Farmiga slowly and painfully discovers what her husband is doing, what they live next to and that her children are being exposed to something she can’t stop. Her performance will break your heart.

The last 15 minutes will leave you breathless and if you are like me, just sick to your stomach. It’s a wonderful film that shouldn’t be missed.

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Intense blockbusters for the Holidays