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‘Twilight’ a Smash Hit Without Sex or Violence
November 24, 2008

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

Once again Hollywood and the mainstream film critics are getting slapped upside the head.

With over $70 million in box office receipts, the No. 1 movie in North America is Summit Entertainment’s teen vampire flick, “Twilight.” Among other things, it’s the biggest opening ever for a female director (Catherine Hardwicke).

Mainstream critics gave the film mixed reviews, with many horrified at the lack of big-screen sex and violence.

In a piece titled “The Love That Dare Not Bare Its Fangs,” The New York Times displayed trademark snarky disdain for the film. Critic Manohla Dargis went after Stephenie Meyer (a Mormon who penned the book from which “Twilight” was adapted) with condescending sarcasm.

“If Ms. Meyer has made the vampire story safe for her readers (and their parents) — the sole real menace comes from a half-baked subplot involving some swaggering vampires who like their steak saignant and human — it’s only because she suggests that there actually is something worse than death, especially for teenagers: sex,” the Times critic sneered.

“Twilight” is a box office phenomenon in spite of the critics. On the day of the movie’s release, the Fandango Web site reported sales of five tickets per second.

Summit has already signaled the birth of a new franchise and announced a sequel called “New Moon.” It’s a clean little secret: A movie with a compelling story and interesting characters minus the sex and violence can still be a hit with teens.

Cruise's "Valkyrie" Runs Into Snags

A film that may be on shakier box office ground is an upcoming Tom Cruise flick.

The mega-star has already experienced loads of financial success as an actor. But his yet to be released Oscar chasing film, “Valkyrie,” may be in a bit of trouble.

The movie has been tagged by key marketing and distribution execs in Hollywood with the nickname “The Eye Patch Movie.”

Sources have been whispering concerns about how audiences are going to react to the images of Cruise in trailers and posters.

Unlike the “Mission Impossible” roles Cruise has been associated with, in “Valkyrie” the actor is depicted wearing a Nazi uniform and sporting an eye patch.

Bryan Singer, who directed “The Usual Suspects” and “X-Men,” has had his hands full with controversies. The German government initially turned down a film shoot request because of Cruise's devotion to Scientology; the movie has been plagued with release date delays; and United Artists has altered publicity for the project from a war flick to a thriller.

The film’s premise, however, is intriguing in that it tells the true story of a group of officers who planned the assassination of Adolf Hitler.

Its Oscar qualifying release date is set for Dec. 26.

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