Friday, December 5, 2008

Bloodless and Hot-Blooded

Stephanie Meyer’s popular books are oh-so-obvious explorations of teenage emotional and sexual awakenings and entanglements masquerading as modern day vampire/goth tales. Twilight, the first movie adapted from her works, is helmed by a near perfect interpreter, Catherine Hardwicke, the high priestess of hardcore emo teenarama flicks (Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown, The Nativity Story), and she directs this purple (and red) passion play with an over-the-top panache, camera constantly boring into her pretty subjects’ liquid eyes, chiseled features and porcelain skin with a heightened yet understated urgency. Sadly, the blank cast and the warmed-over plot drag down Hardwicke’s attempts at fashioning a swirling, volcanic mood piece. Worse, at times the movie approaches kitsch and becomes outright laughable. Don’t worry, bad reviews or any simple gauging of artistic merit won’t stop the teen swarm from crowding the theaters, this one is a surefire box office success despite the fact that there ain’t really no blood on the tracks.
True Blood ,Alan Ball’s HBO follow-up to his much praised Six Feet Under never attempted to stretch either boundaries or genre restrictions as HBO entrees are supposed to. Instead it put together a smashing cast, and a sassy mix of drollery, fantasy, and pure soap operatics and it wound up as a wildly appealing potboiler, dishing out both its reveals and its less-than-subtle vamps-as-outsiders parables with a spunky vibrancy. Anna Paquin’s Sookie Stackhouse is an inspired creation, just short of cartoonishness, with her over baked Southern accent and eye-twinkling combo of innocence and sexiness. Stephen Moyer is the appropriately smoldering main vampire and Sookie love interest (whose Civil war courtliness is yet another bit of underplayed humor), while Ryan Kwanten as Sookie’s bro nearly steals every episode as the wide-eyed himbo usually running around in his underwear, neatly balanced by Nelsen Ellis as the wry and worldly short order cook, Rutina Wesley as the constantly up-in-arms gal pal, Sam Trammel as the guy-with-the-secret club owner, and Alexander Skarsgard, as the wholly Nordic kingpin vamp, and old reliable William Sanderson as the seen-it-all Sheriff. He show’s setting, tiny Bon Temps, Louisiana, is an ideal backdrop for this likably twisted mainstream fantasy soap, a perfect meeting place for artificial blood drinking vampires, snub-nosed little southern smarty’s, mealy-mouthed Cajuns, beer-sopping good ol’ boys, shape-shifters, fake voodoo priestesses, and a big batch of gotta-have-‘em small town hypocrites, all of them bubbling around this neat dramedy of misfits.

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