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The vampire genre receives a boost from this heartfelt, sensational little story that revolves around a couple of preteens. Lonely Oskar (Hedebrant), is pretending to stand up to the school bully when the 12-year-old’s fantasy is witnessed by Eli (Leandersson), also 12. She’s Oskar’s new neighbor, and seemingly the only person capable of understanding his feelings. The pair strike up an deep friendship that sees them both through thick and thin, even after Oskar learns Eli is a vampire. Adapted from a novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, director Tomas Alfredson spent an entire year casting these young actors and his efforts pay off. Originally recorded in Swedish, seamless English dubbing frees the viewer to appreciate the frozen landscapes as well as Oskar’s compulsion to pursue his first love. Though violence is depicted, the pair’s evolving friendship and the experience of their journey, enthralls. DVD and Blu-Ray features: deleted scenes, behind the scenes, photo gallery, theatrical poster gallery, DD 5.1 or 2.0 Swedish or dubbed English language tracks, English or Spanish subtitles, widescreen.
“Twilight Series” author Stephenie Meyer and film director Catherine Hardwicke, understand the nature of youthful longing. Set against the rain-drenched forests of Fork, Wash., Bella’s steamy emotions merge with the area’s omnipresent mist. Having recently arrived to live with her father, Bella (Stewart) declines a request to be interviewed for the high school paper with, “No Thanks, I’m more the suffer-in-silence type.” She joins a group of smart kids, but holds herself apart until Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) strides into frame. Soon, he and Bella are all furtive glances and sighs. After saving Bella’s life using his super-strength, Edward avoids her questions. She brushes his hand — it’s ice cold! Finally, Bella figures out he’s a (gulp!) vampire. He runs and leaps with the speed and power of a big cat. She is entranced. While Edward and his family subsist on animal blood, a trio of gypsy vampires seek to make Bella their next victim. Hardwicke’s camera circles and circles her star-crossed lovers to convey their intense longing. Young girls swoon for this self-sacrificing hero while identifying with the love-struck, but independent-minded heroine. Expect much sighing and many sequels.
The Punisher, adapted from a Marvel comic book, is scripted as a vigilante hero. Ex-FBI Agent, Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson), spends most of his time maintaining a plentiful collection of weapons and using them. Castle wants revenge against the mob for executing his wife and kids. He gets it by mowing down the Mafia one clan at a time. His kills wallpaper one wall in the basement office of the only cop (Dash Mihok) working the case — and they threaten the adjacent blank walls. Next on Frank’s hit-list are Billy Russoti (Dominic West) and his brother, Loony Bin Jim (Doug Hutchison). When he isn’t busy preening in the mirror, narcissistic Billy mistreats everyone. His confrontation with Frank leaves Billy’s face mangled, and short a big bag of cash. Castle vows to protect Angela and her daughter (Julie Benz and Stephanie Janusauskas), the widow and child left behind when Frank accidentally shoots an undercover FBI agent in the skirmish. Billy takes the widow and her daughter hostage, forcing Frank to battle gangs guarding the apartment house where they hostages are being held. Ray Stevenson, cast as a featured character on HBO’s “Rome,” is asked to play Frank as a sulking killer. Directed by kickboxing champ Lexi Alexander, the ultra-violent, R-Rated spectacle is a splatter-fest for hardcore fanboys. Let no one else be punished.