April-May 2013 Movie Review (Foreign and Local Films)
Simon (James McAvoy), a fine art auctioneer, teams up with a criminal gang to steal a Goya painting worth millions of dollars, but after suffering a blow to the head during the heist he awakens to discover he has no memory of where he hid the painting. When physical threats and torture fail to produce answers, the gang’s leader Frank (Vincent Cassel) hires hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) to delve into the darkest recesses of Simon’s psyche. As Elizabeth begins to unravel Simon’s broken subconscious, the lines between truth, suggestion, and deceit begin to blur.
The movie just runs with this bizarre depiction of hypnotherapy, using it as a launchpad for a surreal dissection of one man’s memory. The best scenes of Trance flirt with a strange dream logic, overlapping memories as the characters struggle to reconstruct the events of that fateful day. That’s not to say “Trance” is a creampuff of a film. In fact, it is decidedly dark, shadowy stuff. Boyle is nothing if not a stylish director, after all, and he’s never been known to phone one in. But it’s also an art-heist film — a genre built entirely on the fun of watching an intricate plan unfold — and Boyle seems to delight in fooling his audience with head fakes and misdirection every chance he gets.
The film is forced to slow down to explain the implications of every twist, and the explanations aren’t very satisfying. All the style in the world can’t quite cover up the plot holes left by each new twist. Though it plays something like “Inception” lite, the result is a rare see-it-twice film — a movie in which the pieces all snap together so suddenly and so neatly that it begs for a repeat viewing so that one can fully appreciate the story’s complex architecture.
James McAvoy seems to have found a sense of danger within himself, and he uses it to great effect in this role. He occasionally reveals a certain instability that immediately ramps up the tension. Vincent Cassel oozes charm in what could have been a charmless role. And Rosario Dawson employs a vulnerable coldness that works fairly well for the character.
“Trance” won’t move you as much as “127 Hours” or “Slumdog Millionaire” did. This is definitely not an Important Movie, but it is entertaining. It can be a tough thing to get over, but one must acknowledge how fun the ride is while it lasts. At times, the movie feels like a smaller scale version of Inception, one that doesn’t take itself so seriously.
IN NOMINE MATRIS
In Nomine Matris is about the heat and passion of flamenco as a means of expressing ideas and emotions that words are insufficient to carry. Whenever the characters arrive at an impasse, they strap on their dancing shoes and pound the dark away.
The story of a young dance protege who seeks to land the principal part of a dance company about to embark on a tour. The film fuses dances and Spanish flamenco rhythms and steps. The conflict starts when Mara the lead character fell in love with the son of her mentor Enrique to a point that Mara got pregnant and still continue to pursue her career until the life of her baby got compromised.
Mara (Liza Diño) followed in the footsteps of her mother and became a flamenco dancer. She dreams of joining the ranks of a prestigious dance company run by the temperamental flamenco legend Mercedes (Clara Romana). She trains hard and gets the chance to take the principal part of the company’s touring show. But the opportunity comes with consequences, and it soon takes a toll on her personal life. As she fights to keep the top spot, she tries to juggle a budding romance with Mercedes’ son Enrique, a fracturing relationship with her mother, and a yearning to be acknowledged by her absent father.
There are moments that too easily recall the heightened emotional tack of a soap opera. It should be awful, but then the dance arrives. These magnificently choreographed dance sequences weave these narrative threads together in an impressive explosion of sound and movement. The production can’t quite keep up with the quality of the dance, the camerawork and production design often lacking the lushness that the movement suggests.
The movie benefits greatly from compelling performances from its female cast members. Liza Diño is strong in the central role, while Clara Romana and Tami Monsod shine in the wings especially Romana.
In Nomine Matris captivating milleu. The fusion of Spanish and Filipino cultures is something not often seen in local cinema especially in the context of dance. A joyous celebration of womanhood and of a dance form which, even if foreign in origin, is perfectly suited to the Pinoy temperament. It helps a lot that the dance sequences themselves are mesmerizing. I don’t really know enough to tell the difference between good Flamenco dancing and bad Flamenco dancing, but I can tell you that it’s all quite impressive on screen. But within that framework of ridiculousness, within the soap operatic twists and turns, the dance emerges as the perfect solution.
THE BRIDE AND THE LOVER
The latest movie to try and replicate that film’s success is The Bride and the Lover, taking the same themes of adultery and wrapping it all up in campy ridiculousness.
Vivian Paredes (Lovi Poe), a real estate magnate, is getting married to car seller Phillip (Paulo Avelino). But Vivian decides to run away from the wedding after revealing to the public that Phillip is having an illicit affair with Sheila Montes (Jennylyn Mercado). Devastated, the three go on a trip to clear their heads. Days later, they come back to their lives with changed perceptions. Sheila woos Phillip, who agrees to marry her. Vivian, on the other hand, becomes liberated, and unravels a plan to take revenge.
The film appears to be smart enough to realize that the elements of the modern Filipino adultery movie are stupid. But it’s not smart enough to actually make anything of that. It still pretends that it all matters, the story careening wildly through scenes that require the audience to care about the characters. Camp is not unique to this movie either, since one could argue that those infidelity movies take their cue from camp: from the zippy quotable dialogue to the outrageous fashion. What makes this different is how the camp elements are so subdued as to not intoxicate or overpower the viewer.
The movie looks like a local teleserye, its visuals completely flat and lifeless. It’s kind of amazing just how bad this movie looks. There’s just so little effort put towards staging any of its scenes artistically, the production only exerting the bare minimum effort to craft its images. What doesn’t work is when the movie introduces dramatic moments that only serve as filler. The greatest offender is the scene after the much-talked about big fight, where Vivian’s mother, played by Carmi Martin, confronts her daughter about her behavior. The scene is unnecessary, since the movie could have ended on a high note after it ended on the fight scene.
Lovi Poe settles for ridiculous, making her dramatic scenes awkward and unconvincing. Jennylyn Mercado swings wildly between two extremes. Paolo Avelino, being the male in this adultery formula, doesn’t really factor much in the movie.
The same just can’t be said for The Bride and the Lover. It begins with tongue firmly in cheek, not believing in the worthiness of its own conceit.
From the producer of Paranormal Activity, Insidious, and Sinister comes Dark Skies: a supernatural thriller that follows a young family living in the suburbs. As husband and wife Daniel and Lacey Barret witness an escalating series of disturbing events involving their family, their safe and peaceful home quickly unravels. When it becomes clear that the Barret family is being targeted by an unimaginably terrifying and deadly force, Daniel and Lacey take matters in their own hands to solve the mystery of what is after their family.
Daniel and Lacy Barrett (Josh Hamilton and Keri Russell) live in the suburbs with their two kids, Jesse and Sam. The family is alarmed when they encounter a series of strange home invasions. When they don’t find any evidence of an actual break-in, they begin to suspect that their youngest son Sam is just acting out. But then it becomes clear that there is something else at play. As the various strange events start tearing the Barrett family apart, they come to believe that something otherworldly is messing with them.
I know that’s not very terrifying, but we go along with the familiar tricks of a suspense movie in the hope that this will eventually turn into The Amityville Horror, or Poltergeist, or Close Encounters. But it doesn’t. The plot fizzles out with a final twist that it’s impossible to care about. Laboriously established plot points are left dangling in mid-air. The film gets points for building a more interesting family dynamic than your usual horror movie.
Writer-director Scott Stewart can’t be bothered to enlighten us, and that’s why the film is, in the end, a baffling bore. The threat is vague and ill defined, their abilities varying from scene to scene, their actions illogical at best. The film tries to explain away the oddness, but to no avail. This all builds to a baffling climax that uses metaphysical nonsense to push things forward rather than stage a credible sequence of events.
By this time, the film is genuinely unsettling, albeit in a way that’s never truly, deeply chilling. It works its way to a satisfying enough conclusion, even allowing for one fairly ridiculous inconsistency: Despite the fact that whoever (or whatever) is terrorizing this family initially seems to be able to walk through walls, there are several scenes where it appears, for some unexplained reason, to prefer conventional doors. The characters lose dimension as they revert to type: one becomes a believer, and the other a skeptic. A rich thread of teenage ennui and awkwardness devolves into an underdeveloped streak of rebellion. And the tension that emerges from their neighbor’s growing discomfort is pretty much just dropped. Though the acting is competent, the lazy writing counteracts whatever craft was put into the performances.
As “Dark Skies” builds to its modest climax, the malevolent supernatural force actually has to resort to removing wood screws from the barricades that the family has erected over their windows. Oh well. It’s nice to know there are some things you can pick up at Home Depot that will, at the very least, slow down your nightmares. The film presents a couple of interesting wrinkles outside of the alien nonsense, building a fuller, more detailed portrait of this one family than one would generally expect.
Mild-mannered businessman Sandy Patterson travels from Denver to Miami to confront the deceptively harmless-looking woman who has been living it up after stealing Sandy’s identity.
Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) is a mild-mannered in-house accountant for a financial firm. After toiling for years, he finally gets a break when his co-workers offer him an executive position at a new firm they’re opening up. But there’s a hitch: his identity is stolen, and soon his name becomes associated with outlandish purchases and drug deals. Informed that clearing all this up could take a year, Sandy decides to travel to Florida to find the thief and bring him or her to justice. He manages to nab Diana (Melissa McCarthy), but now he has to drive her back to Denver, evading all sorts of misfits along the way.
We’re expected to swallow the film’s thesis, which is that he is the one with most to learn, for his terrible fault is — wait for it — being judgmental! This weird example of La-la-land liberalism was the only notion in the movie that made me laugh, but I don’t think it was meant to. As in Adam Sandler movies, most of the so-called humour is ugly violence. One running ‘gag’ has the heroine punching male victims in the throat; this is meant to be hilarious, even though it’s potentially fatal. Projectile vomiting is, needless to say, laugh-out-loud funny, as is nauseatingly foul language and the leading lady having casual, adulterous sex in a crummy motel with an equally overweight cowboy. Everyone involved seems to have taste failure and galloping stupidity, made worse by attention deficit disorder.
The story undergoes great contrivances in order to get to the main action, constructing a gross vision of the world so full of incompetent people that the best option for dealing with identity theft is basically vigilante justice. And the film does all this just to end up at a rote comedic formula: the odd couple road movie. The movie even makes space for a couple of villainous chasers just to fit within that mold, largely to the detriment of the main narrative.
Jason Bateman has perfected the pathos of the put-upon everyman, dealing with unimaginable crises with equal parts horror and resignation. And Melissa McCarthy is capable of much more than the big, wild, slapsticky comedic set pieces that she has become known for. In the few moments she’s give to stretch, she manages to give this film a touch of actual heart.
Road movies with foes turning into buddies can be enjoyable. The late eighties produced Something Wild, Planes Trains And Automobiles and Midnight Run. Identity Thief is lazy, reprehensible and an all-time low for everyone involved, except of course the writer of The Hangover Part II. But heart is low on the list of priorities of Identity Thief, as it is in most Hollywood movies these days. It prefers to stick to the broad marketable elements most easily conveyed in short trailers.
ONE PIECE FILM: Z
After manga creator Eiichiro Oda’s story contribution on “One Piece Film: Strong World” (2009), he’s back once again via “One Piece Film: Z”, this time, to oversee the overall production of the twelfth feature film from his long-running and fastest-selling manga in Japan – One Piece. The movie which revolves around the main antagonist, “Z” (also known as “Black Arm Zephyr”) and dubbed as the strongest opponent yet is non-canonical, meaning to say, this is a stand-alone story arc so everyone who hasn’t been following the manga journey can have a grasp of the story and will need not to worry.
The Straw Hat Pirates are continuing their journey in the New World when they find a man floating in the ocean. They decide to help him out, bringing him onboard their ship and treating his injuries. But it turns out that this man is Z, the leader of a renegade Marine faction dedicated to wiping out all pirates by any means possible. Z and his crew attack the Straw Hats, and the pirates barely escape with their lives. Licking his wounds, Captain Monkey D. Luffy vows revenge on Z. He and his crew investigate, soon discovering a grand plot that could destroy the entire New World.
The opening fight scenes between Z and Kizaru set the mood of the whole movie and I kind of hoped that it won’t disappoint me until the very end because some movies tend to have this rich and amazing opening scenes but the story-telling dwindles and got lost along the way. While I found the cherry blossoms party screen time a bit long, I think it’s necessary to show to the new audiences how close are they to each other and as a group – and also to validate Luffy’s action towards the end of the movie.
The main narrative itself is just okay, the story struggling to build drama out of a makeshift history for a completely new character. The attempt is valiant, but the movie doesn’t really have enough time to give that arc the weight it needs. The film simply stays true to what it does best: deliver crazy fights featuring really interesting characters.
As for the other characters like Nami, Robin, Brook and Chopper, they are basically there for the comic relief while Sanji, Zoro and Luffy had their moments on their respective climactic battles. On the animation part – it’s technically flawless, the camera angles, and the fight scenes; as expected from Toei. They did a really good job back there and you’ll immediately notice it on the opening scene, the texture, and the tone, kudos to the art director of this movie.
One Piece Film: Z doesn’t completely hold together as a narrative. We don’t really get to see what changes Luffy makes as he tries to overcome the villain. And there’s a middle chunk that just feels like idle wheel spinning. But the movie makes all of it fun to watch, the characters lively and funny, and the animation gorgeous. The last few minutes where Z fights to his death and eventually came to his senses is just tear-jerking while showing a series of flashback from his childhood, where he plays the role of “Hero of Justice Z” – his own creation of a super hero. It’s a bitter-sweet but a fitting ending to bring closure to Z’s character.
AT ANY PRICE
In the competitive world of modern agriculture, ambitious HENRY WHIPPLE (Dennis Quaid) wants his rebellious son DEAN (Zac Efron) to help expand his family’s farming empire. However, Dean has his sights set on becoming a professional race car driver. When a high-stakes investigation into their business is exposed, father and son are pushed into an unexpected crisis that threatens the family’s entire livelihood.
The movie subverts that image, looking a little deeper into what modern farming has become. It has largely been taken over by corporate interests, and the landowners find themselves having to kowtow to these large conglomerates. It is a brutal, competitive business, and the farmers are told that they must expand and grow in order to survive.
The immigrant characters in his three prior films show the spirit of individuals, who have it more difficult than those born here but are willing to make sacrifices for a good life in America. This film marks a bit of shift, as the characters are white American farmers with a history in Iowa, who face the struggle of maintaining what they have in a corporate economy. Their “sacrifices,” both material and moral, come from being worried about what will happen if they lose everything, including their “American Dream.”
It goes wide in its exploration of the pressures put upon Henry, and the doubt that creeps in as he digs himself into a deeper hole. It doesn’t lay blame on any single entity for the characters’ difficult plight. Dennis Quaid is great in the lead role, finding the right mix of outward smarm and inward vulnerability that defines this particular character. Zac Efron remains a bit of an enigma, but he shows indications of genuine growth. Strong supporting turns from Clancy Brown and Kim Dickens and Maika Monroe help flesh out this world.
There is a complexity to the narrative and ambiguity to the film that many big budget movies shy away from incorporating into their plots. It presents no answer to the dilemmas plaguing families in America like the Whipples. However, that is where it derives its power. It shies away from romanticizing the farmers and instead holds up a mirror to tell a human story that reflects what is happening to farmers in the heartland of America today. In this movie, he reveals the idea of a “real America,” to be a complete fiction. Those great, lionized men of the Earth are just as subject to the corrupting influence of money and power, and much of what they do now has little to do with tradition.
IRON MAN 3
When Tony Stark’s world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, he starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution.
A mysterious terrorist known only as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) has been bombing US targets, killing hundreds of people in the process. When his former bodyguard gets caught in one of these bombings, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) decides to take matters into his own hands, issuing a personal challenge to the Mandarin. This leads to his home being attacked, leaving most of his support structure destroyed. Stripped of most of his technology and stuck in the middle of nowhere, Stark must rely on his wits to unravel the mystery behind his foe.
The good news is Iron Man 3 is better than Iron Man 2. The bad news is it still can’t live up to the excellence of the first movie. It features some of the best moments of the trilogy, but it does feel a bit like a missed opportunity. There is so much good material in here – almost too much – that the story barrels along like a learner driver, hanging on for dear life and only just keeping things under control as it swerves wildly through traffic, jumping a few kerbs along the way.
The movie is on a much larger scale than the films of that era, but it still mostly dials down to a more personal level. It tugs on an intriguing thread that has Stark basically suffering post-traumatic stress disorder following the gargantuan events of The Avengers. It’s a nice little humanistic accent that offsets some of the bigger silliness that goes on in the main thread. The level of comedy that has been a consistent triumph of the series is certainly here, although the film does tend to the wacky end of the humour spectrum a few times.
Well, there are plot issues that are difficult to discuss without giving away spoilers, but one example is the government’s efforts to find The Mandarin appear to have been non-existent until the story called for them, yet Stark can find him when he needs to. The involvement of certain characters is also questionable, while the finale’s wrap-up of everything is way, way too neat to the point of ridiculousness. There are other leaps made and it’s hard to tell after one viewing whether the script is being subtle or asking the audience to fill in a few too many gaps.
The director plays to his strengths, offering his plenty of room to quip while still keeping the pathos of the character clear in the foreground. As usual, he finds ample support from the other members of the cast. Gwyneth Paltrow continues to be excellent as Pepper Potts, and Don Cheadle has great rapport with Downey. Guy Pearce continues his growth into a full-on character actor, and Ben Kingsley delivers a surprisingly fun turn.
Iron Man 3 set out to be fun, and it thoroughly accomplishes that goal. It found new ways to be fun within the superhero context, balancing the larger scale with smaller moments of personal exploration. Having said all that, the more I think this film, the more I like it. The initial feeling walking out of the cinema was one of mild disappointment.
KATAS: GUSTO MO BA NG PRUTAS
Katas: Gusto mo ban g Prutas pretty much continues in this vein, padding out its short runtime with lots and lots of filler, delivering no information in the process.
Anton (Ace Toledo) moves to a quiet neighborhood to take his cousin Arman’s place working as a house helper. The virile young man proves to be a great temptation for many of the house’s residents, including his boss Lara (KC Miller), Lara’s best friend Cindy, and even Lara’s father. On his part, Anton is happy to receive all that attention and affection. He’s soon carrying our sexual relationships with multiple partners. But soon enough the truth emerges, and Anton gets caught between family issues.
This subset of our cinema has developed a very rigid former, with all the same elements being played out with only minor variations. The runtime is just over an hour, but majority of it seems to be made up of b-roll. Aside from the ridiculously long opening credits sequence, the film offers up a plethora of time-stretching nonsense.
The film might have been better off sticking to the puerile connotation of the title. Production values are awful, with dimly lit scenes and inconsistent sound. Katas: Gusto Mo Ba Ng Prutas doesn’t even try, resigning itself to its own gross irrelevance. It seems to exist only to reach the minimum length required for a feature film, filling the time between sex scenes with as much meaninglessness as can be committed to the medium.
Katas by the way, is justified by having Lara constantly eating ponkan oranges. She’s even eating them during one of the sex scenes. This could be seen as some sort of metaphor or symbol, but that would be an excessively dumb metaphor or symbol.
Another trash in a can…
Coming Soon is just in the shape of a film, but it’s hollow through and through. There are characters, and there are situations and settings, but somehow the movie is unable to combine into what is traditionally known as a plot. And though movies can sometimes survive without a plot, this isn’t one of them.
The film follows the exploits of a group of young friends. Monica (Andi Eigenmann) is a social heiress with issues with her mother. Her boyfriend Darwin (Dominic Roco) is a depressive computer programmer with a tricky relationship with his unstable father. Sikyu (Boy 2 Quizon) can’t keep a relationship together, and thus keeps getting thrown out of apartments. Dana (Carla Humphries) wants to be a star, but is constantly being rejected. Nacho (Cholo Barretto) fends off various unwanted advances while secretly pining for someone in the group. The six get into various misadventures as they come to decide one night that the world is ending.
A lot of things end up happening, but little of it has the characters exerting any kind of effort. It’s hard to build empathy for characters when they’re so passive. At one point, they all decide that they’re going to put up a restaurant. It is barely mentioned again in the movie until it’s just suddenly up and running. The film is skipping all the scenes that tend to make stories interesting. For the most part, the audience is simply told that conflict has been dealt with, the movie never actually bothering to show these problems being addressed. In place of all that, the movie offers up a collection of scenes that basically add up to nothing.
Dominic Roco comes off as a complete enigma, despite his general expressiveness. Carla Humphries doesn’t get any time to turn her character into anything more than a dumb caricature. And the actors who are actually given time aren’t able to do much with it. Andi Eigenmann narrating the story and filling all the details the really should make up the bulk of this film.
Coming Soon has so much potential story, but so little of it makes it up on screen.
Two incidents cause a chain of events that will rock Magiliw. One day an old aristocratic couple from Magiliw finds an abandoned baby boy and decided to nurture him. Their daughter, a corporate lawyer based in Manila adopted the abandoned baby boy. Later on, trouble ensues after the mayor found out that the baby boy is his illegitimate child. The other incident involves a local OB-gyne who was sent to jail for prescribing contraceptives to the women of Magiliw. Not long enough, the doctor meets the corporate lawyer and together they fought against the mayor.
The film certainly doesn’t lack incident. There’s a lot going on, between illicit affairs, abuse of power, familial conflict, major career decisions, medical missions and the two major plot threads. A lot of it is pretty interesting. The film just has trouble putting it all together. The plot flies off into every direction, never lingering long enough to really understand the characters. It basically forces an ending, ignoring all the dangling threads left by two acts worth of setup, jumping ahead and cheating through all the drama. The film is so eager to make its points that it almost completely disregards the demands of its narrative.
Bayang Magiliw may not be Portes’ best film but its simple take on life in this particular rural area, framed to life to take a stand on an important issue for every Filipino, women in particular. Though it lacks the glamour of a commercial film (unless you find a naked Wendell Ramos running, glamorous). Ramos plays the said straw man, and he gives the role plenty of momentum, if not quite depth. Giselle Toengi feels a tad artificial in her scenes, but she does get her emotions across. Arnold Reyes delivers a fair performance that only suffers as the film trundles into romantic territory.
Sometimes the director was not too sure where the movie was going. The supposedly satiric comedy is limited, and not too funny. In fact, there were more dramatic scenes than funny. There were even sexy scenes oddly inserted. The good intention was obviously there, but the finished product was uneven. It doesn’t end up telling much of a story, the film ending practically by default, with every issue magically swept away by the end credits.
Ralph Fiennes plays a grown man haunted by his childhood in David Cronenberg’s stylized psychological drama Spider. Upon his release from a mental institution, Spider (Fiennes) takes up residence in a halfway house. Paranoid, quiet, and forever making notes, Spider spends much of the film remembering scenes from his youth, specifically a horrific event from his childhood that occurred after he came to believe that his father (Gabriel Byrne) was having an affair on his mother (Miranda Richardson). The psychological terror builds to a climax that challenges how much the viewer can believe Spider’s recollections of the event. Bradley Hall plays Spider as a boy, and Richardson portrays many different women who come into contact with Spider. Spider was screened in competition at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.
This movie does neither. It plays at some depth by introducing the idea that Jason and his wife don’t get along very well, and that it’s straining his relationship with his daughter. But that’s all just lip service, and it doesn’t really factor into the later parts of the film.
With schizophrenia playing loose and easy with his memories, we see Spider watching from the sidelines as his mind replays clips from his childhood. He’s like an unseen specter observing himself as a youth as the child he was interacts with his father, his beloved mother and the drunken hussy his cheating father brought into their home. As these scenes play out, Spider’s confused recollections of his relationship with his parents, and their relationship with each other, make the audience into voyeurs alongside the adult Spider. When the memories begin to reveal a different story than Spider has hung on to for decades, he is powerless to halt the progress of his dementia as the memories lead him toward a further break with reality.
As one might expect, the acting isn’t very good. But that’s just as much tradition as anything else at this point. Patrick Muldoon makes a very bland central character, the actor unable to work up enough definition to make him stand out from the extras. Christa Campbell is terribly wooden as his wife. She puts up a genuinely terrible performance, the emotion simply unable to surface on her face.
The film doesn’t spend enough time on what the title promises: spiders. There is still room for dumb, schlocky movies in our cinemas, movies that take straightforward joy from the silliest of premises. With nights still long and plenty of opportunity for a good popcorn-muncher to succeed, “Spiders” should do nicely for a simple, basic monster movie to step in and entertain.
Goody (Silverstone) and Stacy (Krysten Ritter) are addicted to the night life, clubbing, hooking up and always looking for the next thrill, all the while keeping a big a secret-they happen to be modern-day vampires. But even with lifetimes of dating experience behind them, the duo realizes they still have a lot to learn about love when Stacy unexpectedly falls for the son of a vampire hunter, and Goody runs into the man of her dreams from decades earlier. With their destinies at stake, the girls are faced with a difficult choice; give up their eternal youth for a chance at love, or continue to live their uncomplicated fabulously single lives forever.
The film’s most persistent running joke is that people are always on their mobile devices. It moves from setting to setting, filling the background with people tapping away on their cell phones and tablets. The movie isn’t really all that invested in its main plot. It mostly lets it linger in the background, with many of the details left to develop off screen. It doesn’t make for the most exciting movie experience, but it does play to Heckerling’s strengths as a director.
Aging is probably the real theme here, but it’s approached sidelong and has no punch. Still, only the nostalgia has any real conviction. “Nosferatu” (not ‘Twilight’),Jimmy Cagney, silent movies, 1960s radicals: Ms. Heckerling’s fondness for these things seems more real than her interest in silly vamp stories. Alicia Silverstone and Krysten Ritter have fine chemistry together, despite the generational difference. But the real fun here comes from the supporting players. In a cast where everyone is playing it broad, Sigourney Weaver still takes the cake with her downright goofy turn. The great Richard Lewis makes a rare appearance and lends the film his peculiar brand of neurosis. Wallace Shawn proves yet again that any cast can benefit from his particular delivery. And Malcolm McDowell is all warmth wrapped up in a silly accent. Small turns from Justin Kirk and Todd Barry only add flavor to an already inviting stew.
Despite the finely assembled cast, there’s just not much to this comedy besides being a vehicle for nostalgia and reminding viewers how aging can be a bitter process. Heckerling does amusingly poke fun at the way everyone is so techno-dependent now (a lounge singer even checks her smartphone during her performance), but everything from the story to the special effects are thin and silly.
Vamps is mostly harmless and silly, getting by on old but mostly pleasant jokes about modern life.