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2 items from 2002

'Darkness' lights up Spain

16 October 2002 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

MADRID -- Jaume Balaguero's thriller Darkness has displaced Pedro Almodovar's Talk to Her as the Spanish film with the highest-grossing opening weekend in its home territory so far this year, raking in about €1.16 million ($1.14 million) in its first three days of release, on 276 prints. Much anticipated because of its $12 million budget and a rare presale to Miramax, Darkness is Balaguero's second feature after 1999's multiple award-winning Los Sin Nombre (The Nameless) and his first English-language film. Talk to Her grossed $971,187 in its first weekend. The opening of Darkness, however, trailed Alejandro Amenabar's ghost story The Others -- also presold to Miramax -- which opened last year with more than $3 million. Darkness, starring Anna Paquin, Lena Olin, Iain Glen and Fele Martinez, had its world premiere Oct. 3 at the Sitges International Film Festival of Catalonia. »

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Queen of the Damned

12 February 2002 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

This review was written for the theatrical release of "Queen of the Damned".

One of the most ambitious vampire movies since Warner Bros.' "Interview With the Vampire" and likewise adapted from best-selling author Anne Rice's series "The Vampire Chronicles", "Queen of the Damned" features the late singer-actress Aaliyah in the title role as a sexy, not-to-be-messed-with ancient who comes to life in turn-of-the-millennium America.

Directed with goth pizzazz and brains by Michael Rymer ("Perfume"), the film premiered Sunday at the closing night of the 2002 Hollywood Black Film Festival. Preceded that evening by a short tribute to Aaliyah Dana Haughton, who was posthumously awarded the fest's first Inspirational Spirit Award, the loud and entertaining "Queen" could rule the boxoffice when it opens Feb. 22.

While one watches her scenes in the latter half of the film with admiration for Aaliyah's charisma and team spirit (all those bloody-fanged smiles, the skimpy Egyptian costumes), there's a whiff of real sadness to a scenario that is preoccupied with the loneliness of the immortal undead. But it's also a little camp around the edges, and one doesn't have to be a Rice fan to follow the vampire histrionics, of which "Queen" has more than its share.

The heavy metal music-fueled blood fest actually centers on Rice's charismatic rebel vamp Lestat (Stuart Townsend of "About Adam") and a fetching investigator of the paranormal, Jessie (Marguerite Moreau of "Wet Hot American Summer"). With Aaliyah not appearing in full glory until 50 minutes into "Queen", the often-narrated story follows Jessie's learning about Lestat's past after he wakes up from a self-imposed slumber and becomes a major pop star.

Indeed, devilish Lestat calls himself a vampire and almost overtly goes about his natural routine, knowing that he will anger all the other vampires who strictly adhere to a code of silence. Thousands of years old and infamous for drinking rivers of blood, Akasha (Aaliyah) is the "mother" of all the vamps and has the ability to burn them (and mere mortals) into blobs of molten matter.

The plot and many characters of "Queen" get a bit complicated. But Jessie's fascination with New Orleans-based Lestat makes sense when it becomes clear that her aunt (Lena Olin) is a vampire. Vincent Perez is Marius, whom we see "make" Lestat in a period flashback and who keeps track of Akasha in statue form. There is much jumping around in time until awakened Akasha starts to show off her power, leading to a climactic rock concert in Death Valley that turns into a vampire slaughter.

The costumes -- Aaliyah is adorned in headdresses, shell skirts and gold-plated bodices -- and special effects are major elements in the film's most crowd-pleasing moments. With a blistering heavy rock soundtrack and several original songs by Jonathan Davis (lead singer of Korn) and Richard Gibbs that are performed by Lestat and his band, "Queen" is a change of pace for Rymer, and the widescreen production shows affection for the genre and some respect for the viewer.


Warner Bros.

In association with Village Roadshow Pictures

and NPV Entertainment

A Material production


Director: Michael Rymer

Screenwriters: Scott Abbott, Michael Petroni

Based on the novel by: Anne Rice

Producer: Jorge Saralegui

Executive producers: Su Armstrong, Andrew Mason, Bill Gerber, Bruce Berman

Director of photography: Ian Baker

Production designer: Graham "Grace" Walker

Editor: Danny Cooper

Costume designer: Angus Strathie

Visual effects supervisor: Gregory L. McMurry

Music: Richard Gibbs, Jonathan Davis

Casting: Kristy Sager, Greg Apps


Lestat: Stuart Townsend

Jessie: Marguerite Moreau

Queen Akasha: Aaliyah

Marius: Vincent Perez

Maharet: Lena Olin

David Talbot: Paul McGann

MPAA rating: R


Running time -- 101 minutes


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