At the Movies With Jen Chaney
Friday, November 21, 2008; 12:30 PM
"Twilight," the movie based on Stephenie Meyer's first vampire novel, opens in theaters today. But will it satisfy the members of Team Edward and Team Jacob?
Jen Chaney, movies editor and DVD columnist for washingtonpost.com, attempted to answer that question during an online discussion Friday, Nov. 21 at 12:30 p.m. ET. In addition to talking "Twilight," she also discussed films hitting theaters this Thanksgiving and holiday season, the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases and more.
A transcript follows.
Chaney oversees movie coverage for washingtonpost.com and writes the Bonus Points DVD column, which appears every Tuesday on washingtonpost.com and each Friday in the Post's Weekend section. Along with her co-hort Liz Kelly, she also obsesses daily about the TV show "Lost."
Jen Chaney: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the vampire chat.
Oh, I kid. I expect some of you to ask about what is expected to be the weekend's big movie, "Twilight." But I also am game to talk about other holiday movies. Thanksgiving weekend is Wednesday, believe it or not, and since there is no chat next Friday, we can certainly discuss some of the options that await you ("Australia" and "Four Christmases" among them.)
Since I write about DVDs, I also encourages questions on that end of the spectrum, too. I have officially plunged into the world of Blu-ray and must say I am enjoying it immensely.
But enough about me. Let's talk movies, "Twilighters."
Jen Chaney: Oh my God! I know the chat hasn't even started yet, but I had to add this news I just spotted from today's Hollywood Reporter:
Rob Howard and Mitch Hurwitz have reportedly (finally) inked deals to adapt "AD" into a movie. I might cry from joy! All right, seriously, let's start the discussion.
Jen Chaney: That would be Ron Howard. Yeesh.
Washingotn, D.C.: The studio obviously didn't know what they had on their hands...Do you think Catherine Hardwicke was really the best choice for Director? And what do you think is the likelihood of them making a sequel?
washingtonpost.com: 'Twilight': A Tasty Bite Of Vampire Romance (Post, Nov. 20)
Jen Chaney: The likelihood of them making a sequel is approximately ... 101.9 percent. Summit Entertainment, the studio behind this first "Twilight," has already acquired the rights to some, if not all, of the other books in the series. So assuming this one does reasonably well, we should expect to see more. (This one absolutely invites a sequel.)
As far as Catherine Hardwicke goes, I understand why they chose. She has experience with edgy teen fare (see "Thirteen," "Lords of Dogtown") and she definitely has a young energy about her.
Personally, I thought the movie was a little shlocky in parts and nicely handled in others. It got better as it went on and we got to see a bit more of Pattinson's mischievous side. (I met him at Comic-Con and he definitely has a wry sense of humor. Would like to see more of that onscreen.) Anyone who loved the book will love it. Adults who don't know what the hell "Twilight" is will be completely befuddled.
Irvine, Calif.: Morning Jen. I love the chats! With all the talk of True Blood and Twilight I'm surprised the Swedish vampire flick Let the Right One In hasn't gotten more attention. Is it the subtitle factor? My fiance and I saw it after reading the favorable Newsweek review and we were bowled over. Hauntingly beautiful and disturbing. Have you seen it?
Jen Chaney: Thanks for this, Irvine.
I have not seen it but I also have heard very good things. I actually received a screener of it this week and am hoping to check it out in the coming days.
This is pretty much marathon season for movie-watching because of awards-voting, etc. Since my job also encompasses about 850 other things (welcome to the new world of journalism, kids), it's difficult to see everything I want to see. But I do plan to make some time for this one.
As far as why it hasn't gotten more attention, I think that's because it's a smaller film. The marketing push behind it is not as strong and it's showing on fewer theaters, so it's simply not reaching as many people. But word of mouth -- and the current vampire craze -- may certainly help.
Laurel, Md.: Happy Friday Jen!
I saw the trailer for "Valykrie" and I'm surprised to say I really want to see it. What's the buzz on Tom's new WWII movie?
washingtonpost.com: 'Valkyrie' Trailer (IMDb)
Jen Chaney: You know something? I thought the new trailer is pretty solid, too.
The buzz initially was terrible, primarily because it looked like a "Tom Cruise Does the Holocaust" movie. The studio has rejiggered its ad campaign. Now in the trailer, for example, you don't even see Cruise until you get well into it.
The winds have since shifted and buzz is much better. There are several other really strong actors in it in addition to Cruise (Kenneth Branagh, Terrence Stamp, Tom Wilkinson) and Bryan Singer, the director, isn't exactly a slouch. So I look forward to seeing this one, too.
Los Angeles, Calif.: Got "Milk"?
I think it's a lock for Sean Penn. Not just the nomination -- the Oscar.
washingtonpost.com: For Cleve Jones, 'Milk' Is a Promise Keptl (Post, Nov. 20)
Jen Chaney: I am seeing "Milk" next week -- missed an earlier screening -- but I have heard great things about Penn's performance (no surprise).
Honestly, though, I think it's premature to consider anyone a lock for Best Actor. There are several other potentially strong performances out there -- DiCaprio in "Revolutionary Road," Pitt in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," Frank Langella in "Frost/Nixon" -- so nothing is a done deal. And don't count out Mickey Rourke either.
I saw "The Wrestler" earlier this week, and he gives a really delicate, touching performance. The fact that his personal story -- completely falling from grace in Hollywood and making a major comeback -- is so compelling may only make Oscar voters more likely to stand in his corner.
All that said, I do look forward to seeing Penn. He's certainly among the actors at the top of the "for your consideration" list.
Washington, .C.: When you met Rob Pattinson, was his hair washed? Seriously, it's getting pretty gross-looking...
Jen Chaney: No! As a matter of fact, several of the reporters asked how he gets his hair to stick up just so. And he said it's because he goes for ages without washing it.
Somehow, I doubt the 12-year-old girls who worship him will mind.
On Happy-Go-Lucky: Like most Mike Leigh movies it was a series of vignettes in search of a story arc. They were wonderful vignettes though, I got a real feel how Londoners live. Eddie Marsan, who played En-ra-ha obsessed Scott, was wonderful. I knew Poppy in college. When you were in a good mood, she was fun to be around, but when you were in a bad mood her attempts to cheer you up made you want to club her.
washingtonpost.com: Happy-Go-Lucky (washingtonpost.com)
Jen Chaney: I need to catch up with "Happy Go Lucky." Another stop on my movie-watching marathon.
I can see your points. And I have known people like that, too. Definitely have wanted to club them at certain times. (Especially early in the morning. No one should be that happy before 9 a.m.)
Washington, D.C.: What do you think makes vampires so attractive to teens?
Jen Chaney: We asked this question to some of the fans at the "Twilight" promotion last week. (You can see the video here.)
Honestly, I don't think the reasons are anything new. Vampires are sexy and dangerous and a little edgy. And I think that makes for really appealing escapist fare, when handled right.
In "Twilight" in particular, Bella can't really get too physical with Edward. So that makes the story sexy and chaste at the same time, which is prefect for preteens.
Here's a question: Who is your favorite vampire? Personally, I have to vote for Kiefer Sutherland in "The Lost Boys." Man, I love that movie. Seriously, if it's on cable, forget it. I get sucked in by the Coreys and the sound of INXS every time.
Australia: What have you heard about this movie? I love Nicole Kidman so I am predisposed to see it.
Jen Chaney: The review of this one will run in next week's Post. But I can tell you that the film is neither a bomb (as some predicted) nor a masterpiece (as Oprah Winfrey insisted.) Seriously, could Oprah have shouted "WAS THAT A MOVIE?" more times during that episode. Uh, yeah, Oprah, it was a movie. Thanks for the breaking news.
Anyhoo, it's definitely beautiful to look at, which is what one expects from a Baz Luhrmann film. But it's also really schmaltzy, at certain points to a fault. I didn't hate it, but I didn't fall in love with it either.
And after "Moulin Rouge," one of my favorite movies of all time, I am always prepared to fall in love with a Luhrmann movie.
Valykrie: I've been waiting for this film FOREVER! But mostly because I think Eddie Izzard is the most amazing, underrated actor in the world. He's amazingly famous in the U.K., but he's not as well known here. People should check out his now canceled show, The Riches. Just my two cents.
Jen Chaney: I like Eddie Izzard, too, thanks for mentioning him.
I don't know, maybe "Valkyrie" will be the surprise hit of the season. Who knows? All I know is many of the films have been pretty lackluster so I am desperate for something to win over my heart.
Baltimore, Md.: I have read the Twilight books, and in the trailer, it seems like the dialogue was taken directly from the book. This is not a good thing.
Just how cheesy was the mooning, eye batting, and professions of love?
Jen Chaney: Well, the bits in the beginning where Edward is trying to resist Bella are just downright funny, especially if you haven't read the book and don't know why he seems to think the poor girl is revolting.
There is a moment where the two of them dance to Debussy, and that's genuinely lovely. The final scene is pretty, too. So some of it is sappy and gooey, for sure. But not nearly as over-the-top as the 450 pages Stephenie Meyer devotes to telling us how gooorgeous Edward is. (It's so what a young girl would do, though. My high school journal entries attest to this.)
One thing that disappointed me: Edward's sparkles. They clearly were lacking in the effects budget. When the audience finally sees them, the audience is like, "Oh. Great. Edward just took a bath in some glitter glue."
And the notion that people would find the Cullens freakish if they saw the sparkles is also a little silly. I'm like, come on. Your entire family looks like Robert Smith from The Cure. I think people have already noticed you're a little, um, different.
But now I'm just quibbling...
Vampires: Did you see South Park's vampires vs. goths episode this week? It was hysterical. The goth kids were mad that the vamp kids were stealing their style.
Jen Chaney: No, I didn't. That's hilarious. I'll have to catch a rerun.
Twilight-er: Hi Jen! I am going to see the movie tonight at 5 and have already read a lot of reviews. It seems like they are divided into two camps -- those critics who accept the premise of the book seem to like the movie, while those who don't pan it. Thoughts?
Jen Chaney: I think there is some validity to that two-camps notion.
I overheard a couple of critics -- not from the Post, two other folks -- just bashing the hell out of it. And it was clear neither of them had read the book. But my friend/colleague Tim, who sat next to me at the screening, was totally befuddled for the first 45 minutes or so. (He hadn't read the book.) But by the end, he was sort of digging it.
So I think it just depends on your open-mindedness and willingness to embrace the notion that Meyer is playing with the classic vampire stories. There's no garlic in "Twilight," people. This one follows some new rules.
Vampires: Can vegetarians be vampires? I know that cannibals don't eat clowns because they taste funny.
Jen Chaney: Cannibals are smart. Clowns totally taste funny. Bozo? Way too salty.
The word "vegetarian" is used tongue-in-cheek in "Twilight." The Cullens call themselves vegetarians because they dine on animals instead of human flesh.
True vegetarians would probably opt out of the vampire world, I'm thinking.
Bolt: Is it worth it? I love dogs so the previews make me smile and laugh but I often find myself disappointed by animated movies.
Jen Chaney: I actually haven't seen "Bolt," I'm afraid. (Saw four movies this week, but that wasn't on the agenda.)
I have heard it's just so-so. I am often disappointed by animated movies that aren't made by Pixar, so I relate to your trepidation.
You can always follow Rule No. 1 in the Jen Chaney Movie-Going Guide (which so doesn't exist, but work with me): When in doubt, go to a matinee.
If you're disappointed, at least you still have a few bucks left in your pocket.
Hurley Fan: Which holiday film release will best satisfy that desiccated part of my soul where Lost belongs?
Jen Chaney: Oh, bless you, Hurley Fan. I just got the season four DVD of "Lost." I am drawing on every ounce of willpower in my being to stay at work and not immediately rush home and dive into those extras. (Mmmm ... extra Sawyer....)
I don't know if there is a holiday film that is distinctly "Lost"-ian. Actually, I feel fairly confident that there is not.
But I can tell you this: if you just want to laugh and distract yourself from your "Lost" yearning for a while, I actually recommend "Four Christmases," which comes out Wednesday. I was thoroughly surprised. I expected it to be yet another yuletide stinker, but Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn (not to mention a host of really fine supporting actors) absolutely sell it.
Sunnydale, Calif.: In all the stories about "Twilight" I've seen -- including the Post's -- none of them have even mentioned "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," much less acknowledged what a total ripoff it is of Joss Whedon great TV series.
I mean, like, really: High school junior moves to new town with vampires, falls in love with one, suffers great teen angst over forbidden love, etc.
Of course, Buffy ends up sleeping with a couple of them and killing untold numbers, but the basic setup is strikingly similar. This kills my wife, a huge "Buffy" fan. Me too, of course.
No question, I guess, just a kvetch. Thanks for the chance to rant.
Jen Chaney: I can see that. In fact, just the other day I overheard someone saying "It's just like Buffy" in re: to "Twilight."
I think the difference -- and forgive me "Twilighters" -- is that Buffy is darker and works on a more sophisticated level than "Twilight" does. The basic premise may be similar, but execution seems radically different to me.
Moulin Rouge?: Your passion for Moulin Rouge intrigues me. Would you please explain why it has such appeal to you?
Jen Chaney: I get the feeling this person is secretly thinking, "Holy cow, how can you justify liking such a lame movie"?
I admire that you asked the question so politely. We need more manners on the Internet.
For starters, it's just delicious to look at. Secondly, I absolutely adore the music in it. I love how Luhrmann took pieces of modern pop music and played with them and turned them into opera. It's also fantastically edited -- I can't watch the "Roxanne" sequence without getting chills.
However, I also know people who hate all the quick cuts, can't stand all the over-the-top humor, find the love story preposterous and get motion sick when they watch it. I totally understand why they'd feel that way.
But I still love the film anyway, because I see it through my eyes. They're the only ones I've got, you know?
Annapolis, Md.: Sorry, Jen, but matinees here in Annapolis are now 8:00, 7:50 for children and seniors. So you will have at most $1.50 and maybe not even that in your pocket. However, if you go to a weekday matinee you will also have a much less crowded theater.
Jen Chaney: Hey, you can buy a lot with $1.50. Maybe even half a gallon of gas!
I often forget how expensive tickets have gotten because I so rarely pay for them, so thank you for calling me on that. (My father-in-law frequently reminds me how much it costs to go to the movies, though, so that helps to keep me in perspective.)
Allow me to amend Rule No. 1 of my non-existent movie guide and say, see a cheap matinee or wait for DVD/Blu-ray/OnDemand/download availability. A little better?
Twilight mom: My 17-year-old daughter has gotten into the Twilight series along with every other teenage girl in the world. She started telling me about the first book and all I could think of was Ann Rice...hello? It seems all the vampire traits in Twilight copy her vampire descriptions, except vampires and light. If this is the case I know Ann Rice isn't appropriate for teenagers but c'mon! This is blatant copying! Talk about lack of originality. I'd love my daughter to see Interview With the Vampire and tell her hey, it's not so different.
Jen Chaney: Another valid comparison, absolutely.
"Interview With a Vampire," as I recall, was not a great movie. So I say, tell your daughter about the copying, then have her watch "The Lost Boys." Come on, that's a masterpiece!
Morristown, N.J.: You made my day with the Arrested Development news! Our prayers are working!
My 2 cents: I liked the acting in Rachel Getting Married, but it's not what you'd call the "feel good movie of the year" Nothing wrong with drama, but with the economy the way it is, I'm not looking for heavy stories. That's why I'm an "AD" fanatic. I want to laugh!
Jen Chaney: Morristown, you are so coming with me to the "AD" movie. Can't wait!
I wouldn't say "Rachel" is a feel-good movie either, no. But there are moments that are so honest and lovely that, at certain moments, it really did make me feel good. I love some of the people at that rehearsal dinner. I love Bill Irwin, who plays Rachel's dad. I was just really moved by it, in ways that made me sad and happy for the characters. But even the notion of being emotionally moved by a film -- which has been a rarity for me this year so far -- is something that makes me happy, if that makes sense.
Anyway, sorry you didn't like it more. Hopefully the onscreen story of Buster and George Michael will make up for it.
Hey, what should the title of the "Arrested Development" movie be? Here's my suggestion: "Funke." That's it: Just "Funke." (I can't make an umlaut but you all know who I am referring to.)
re: favorite vampire: Spike. No question about it.
Jen Chaney: Nice. I am sure you are not the only Spike lover in the house.
Alexanria, Va.: Interview with the Vampire, while not great, was enjoyable. The only Tom Cruise performance I ever liked, and the young Kirsten Dunst was truly wonderful Queen of the Damned, however, was truly horrendously bad.
Jen Chaney: Ah, memory coming back. Dunst was good, you're right. I remember not liking Cruise in it, though.
I can name several performances of his I liked much better: "Magnolia," "Jerry Maguire," "Risky Business," Oprah....
Luhrmann con't: I saw Moulin Rouge on the night they gave away promotional tickets, and the number of people streaming from the theater mid-movie was shocking. I enjoyed it, but my personal fave is Strictly Ballroom. More people should know about this gem, so thank you for allowing me some time at the podium.
Jen Chaney: Strictly Ballroom is a gem, so you are right to mention it, too.
And in the interest of being Luhrmann completists, what the heck, let's mention his version of "Romeo and Juliet," which I also really like.
"Lost" fans, can you remember which cast member starred in that film? You have 15 seconds to answer correctly. The winner gets a copy of my imaginary Guide to Movie-going!
$1.50: Hey, that'll buy you a gallon of gas here in the Midwest!
Jen Chaney: See? I told you matinees can help you save.
Depending on how cheap you are, that's also a holiday gift for a loved one.
Falls Church, Va.: Anne Rice not appropriate for teens? I think I read all her books in middle school. Give the kid The Vampire Lestat, stat!
Jen Chaney: I think she meant the movie specifically. But yeah, a 17-year-old could probably handle it.
Washington, D.C.: Did you ever see last year's movie "Starting Out in the Evening"? Would that be eligible for this year's Oscars or was it over looked last year? I'm blanking on the timing. I can't believe it would be completely overlooked.
Jen Chaney: No, another one I seriously have been meaning to see for over a year now. (Honestly, the screener is still in my possession.)
It was eligible last year, won some smaller notices, but no Oscar nods. I think Langella may fare better this year with "Frost/Nixon."
Alexandria, Va.: About Doubt: while I love a lot of movies based on plays, many of them get judged harshly for feeling stagebound and not being "cinematic" enough, whatever exactly that means. With some a powerful, yet very theatrical play, do you know if they were able to cinematize it enough for mainstream audiences?
Jen Chaney: I don't know for sure because I haven't seen it yet. I see it next week.
I am encouraged that John Patrick Shanley, who wrote the play, is involved because he also has a film background. Granted, his only other directorial effort was "Joe Versus the Volcano" but he's written screenplays (including another of my faves, "Moonstruck") and he knows that world at least.
For the record, I think anything dialogue driven -- whether it was a play before or not -- has the potential to be "uncinematic." It's simply a question of the director's vision and how he or she handles the material. I have high hopes for this one, so we shall see!
LOST: Michael, of course!
Jen Chaney: Bingo! You win ... nothing but my respect.
Which is worth about $1.50.
I'll take a couple more questions and then wrap up since we're running overtime.
Irvine, Calif.: Michael was in R and Y. He was Mercucio I think! A curse on both your houses!
Jen Chaney: Yup, and he was Mercutio, so extra points for remembering that.
How freaking intense was DiCaprio in that movie? I remember seeing it in the theater behind two teenage girls who kept dreamily saying, "He's soooo cute." And that was before "Titanic," mind you.
Los Angeles, Calif.: Thank you Sunnydale! I am continually amazed at the lack of "Buffy" references in re "Twilight." One has to respect Stephanie Meyer's marketing savvy -- she definitely got the memo on the "renovate, don't innovate" guide to success. The tweener fans of "Twilight" are too young to remember "Buffy," so she's drawing them with the exact same themes of forbidden love and safely chaste sexual longing.
Jen Chaney: I have to say, I kind of admire Meyer. She wrote the first "Twilight" in three months' time, while taking care of three kids, found a publisher two or three months later and now she's a millionaire. If only every writer had it so easy.
A couple more and then, seriously, gotta roll...
DC 20005: The Boy in Striped Pajamas -- this is not a PG-13! The intensity level, and ending, are overwhelming.
BTW, I thought it was an excellent movie, but not one for teens. Also, I disagree with John Anderson's characterization of it as using the Holocaust for entertainment. As that time slips further into the past, we need to be reminded of what happened, in hopes that it will never happen again. By humanizing what did happen for those who were not around or were not personally involved with the Holocaust, this film helps enormously towards to do that.
washingtonpost.com: The Conflicted Perpetrator (Post, Nov. 7)
Jen Chaney: I haven't seen this, but a friend of mine expressed the same concern about the intensity. Given its themes, I definitely don't think it's for kids, even if the main character is a young boy.
Boulder, Colo.: Hi Jen, I totally get your Moulin Rouge affection. I did not want to see that move but a friend made me and I absolutely got sucked in and fell in love with it. Hard to explain.
Also, if you want cheap movies I recommend going to an AMC theater -- all movies before noon are $5 on the weekends and holidays.
Jen Chaney: You don't work for AMC, do you? I'll assume you don't and say thanks for the tip. My father-in-law will be most appreciative.
"Moulin Rouge" rules. Glad you thought so, too. I mean, the medley Kidman and McGregor sing on top of the elephant? Come on, movies don't get much more gorgeous than that.
Ok, ONE more. You guys are so much fun, it's hard to stop chatting!
Los Angeles, Calif.: With all this vampire talk I think it's time to look at the classics again: Bela Lugosi as "Dracula" AND the Spanish version made at the same time on the same sets, "Horror of Dracula" with the great Christopher Lee, and Roman Polanski's "The Fearless Vampire Killers" with Sharon Tate. What say you?
Jen Chaney: Absolutely. And let's not forget "Nosferatu" or the great film about that film, "Shadow of the Vampire." I couldn't look at Willem Dafoe for a while after seeing that film.
Actually, sometimes I still can't.
Arlington, Va.: With this likely being the last movie chat before the holiday, can I give a quick plug for the best (and now that I think of it, the ONLY!) Thanksgiving movie out there -- "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles," starring Steve Martin and the late great John Candy.
Comedic road movie notwithstanding, John Candy's character really shows us in the final few scenes what thankfulness truly means.
Jen Chaney: AFI is showing "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" next weekend, actually. A perfect time to revisit. I frequently shout "You're going the wrong way!" to people while I'm driving. You know, just for kicks.
For the record, though, it's not the only Thanksgiving movie. "Pieces of April" is another one. So is "Home for the Holidays," the Holly Hunter movie. But "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" is probably the best known one, for sure.
Harrisburg, PA: Ditto "Lost Boys"
JCVD actually looks funny- I saw the teaser on YouTube it seems like over a year ago. I too am an avowed AD fan, but that movie (if indeed it gets rolling) is not going to make a dime, unless we go Titanic on the sucker and go like 10 times
Jen Chaney: Well, hell. Let's go "Titanic." Together, we can make this happen. They put freaking "Family Guy" back on the air because of fan demands. Let's put our money where our Funkes are!
Wow, I love saying the name Funke. Try it: Funke, funke, funke. Fun, right?
OK, I have to sign off now. Thanks so much for all of your great comments and questions, and my apologies to those of you I didn't get to address this time around.
I may do a chat in the coming weeks that focuses on DVD gift options, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, enjoy "Twilight" and your Thanksgiving celebrations.
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