Monday, October 1, 2012

A Little Long in the Tooth

It's October, which means it's release time for the scary stuff.  Over the next four weeks, cartoon scares will jostle for theater room with suspense and slashers.  Some will be aimed at kids, others at near adults.  The first of these hit this week and, in the spirit of the Halloween sacrifice, I gave up a perfectly good afternoon to see it for you.

Hotel Transylvania isn't a bad movie; it's just that it isn't much of anything.  It wants to be - oh, how it wants to be! - and it has a heartfelt message about fathers wanting to protect their children and how that urge can cause great conflict with a teenage daughter who yearns to stretch her wings.  Literally in this case - the father and daughter are vampires who do that whole "turn into a bat" thing.  The basic premise is intriguing - Dracula is raising his daughter by himself, since his beloved Martha was killed in a fire set by humans.  He wants to shelter his little darling and he's built a fantastic hotel for monsters to be that bunker against humanity.  There's some interesting vocal talent here - heck, I think Steve Buscemi is one of the most under-rated actors out there - and there are a few sly winks at other films in the paranormal pantheon (I especially liked the Twilight nod) but overall, the movie feels flabby.  Not awful, just not ambitious.  Rather blah and I hate it when I find my attention wandering during a movie.  Then again, it's one of the only Adam Sandler movies where I haven't wanted to stab out my own eyes, so there's something.

Still - this one's a rental.

As a monster movie, Hotel Transylvania references so many classics - Wolfman, Frankenstein (and his Bride), the Mummy, the Invisible Man, skeletons, zombies, oh, my! - that it's a perfect spot to mention something else.

If you consider yourself a movie fan (and really - who doesn't?), do yourself a favor and go buy Jennifer Garlen's new book Beyond Casablanca.  In this book, accomplished movie critic Garlen first lists ten classic "must sees" that top nearly everyone's list - Casablanca, Wizard of Oz,  It's a Wonderful Life, and so on.  But the book itself is, as the title indicates, about going beyond those films to discover other classics that you might have missed.  Nothing in the book was produced after 1959 - she's discussing true classics that have stood the test of cinematic time here - and I guarantee you'll find something to trip your trigger.  It doesn't matter if you prefer romcom, action, Westerns, film noir, musicals, or whatever - Garlen's got you covered.

For about the cost of a ticket to Hotel Transylvania and a popcorn/drink combo, you can have something more lasting and, I'll argue, more useful.

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