Movie Review: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II (2012)

November 19, 2012 in Best Of, Movie Reviews, Reviews

The world must really be coming to an end soon because — I can’t believe I am saying this– Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part II is GOOD.

How the Hogwarts is this possible? I have followed the films from the very beginning and read 2 of the 4 books (the first and third), primarily out of curiosity, and all they have done is bewilder because, let’s face it, they’re crap.

But inexplicably, this final film somehow manages to be by far the best of the lot and is a rewarding conclusion to an otherwise lackluster series.

The love story between Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and vampire beau Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) picks up from the end of the last film, where Bella was finally turned into a bloodsucker after dying during childbirth. For the first part of the film, we get to see the world in her new red eyes as she learns to deal with her newfound powers and desires. Oh, and there’s of course also her freakish hybrid baby daughter, Renesme (what the hell?) who is growing up so quick she belongs at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.

But things aren’t all roses in Bella’s world. There’s finding a way to tell her father (Billy Burke) without really telling him anything. And there’s the Volturi, led by Michael Sheen and Stewart’s bandmate from The Runaways, Dakota Fanning, the vampire’s version of the Vatican, who are also evil and abuse kids. The Volturi (I’m assuming its plural for the “Voltura”) say baby vampires can’t be controlled and must be destroyed, but they aren’t the best listeners. Blah blah blah; get ready for an epic battle.

It’s actually the same formula that the Twilight films have followed since the second film, where the majority of the running time is spent waiting and training for some all out vampire fight. The big difference this time is that the dreaded and embarrassing love triangle between the lovebirds and Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) is finally broken, so we no longer have to be subjected to that cruel and unusual punishment.

There is also a whole heap of new characters from all over the world.  They may be forgettable, horrible and unoriginal stereotypes — but at least they each have awesome powers that will make you feel like you’re watching an episode of Heroes (back when it was still a good show).

You’d think they would have figured it out by now, but unfortunately, the special effects did not improve. The werewolves still look kinda weird, though nothing could compare to whatever they did with the baby, who was the most terrifying thing I’ve seen since Pennywise from Stephen King’s It. Was it really that hard to find a real baby for the role?

Despite all its problems, for the first time ever, the storytelling in Twilight is efficient (it’s a “compact” 116 minutes when recent trends suggested it could have been 146), the performances even and the action exciting. Granted, the are still moments of cringe that will make even the strongest bellies prone to violent bouts of projectile vomiting, but having put up with it for the first 4 films already I had become surprisingly immune. I trust there are others in the same boat.

As a vampire, Kristen Stewart gets to do a little more than heavy breathing and looking anxious this time, at last displaying a little of the range she’s capable of. Taylor Lautner remains relatively strong, although Robert Pattinson still has that “this is all so stupid” look plastered across his face for most of the movie. Michael Sheen makes the most of a ridiculous role that would probably would have completely failed if it went to a lesser actor, and actresses like Dakota Fanning and Maggie Grace seemed happy to just be part of the fun.

If you’ve followed the saga from the beginning as I have, you might find Breaking Dawn Part II to be a grand finale that delivers. There are pretty vampires and buffed werewolves, very good guys and extremely bad guys, wry humour and decapitations; and there’s love — a whole lotta love. Unlike the previous films in the franchise, there is not a dull moment in this one, as director Bill Condon (who captained Breaking Dawn Part I) appears to have finally figured out how to make things work. Better late than never, I suppose.

4 stars out of 5!

PS: By the way, there is a really — and I mean REALLY — cheap shot in this film. I won’t spoil it by saying what and when, but it’s quite typical of author Stephenie Meyer and the entire series. Let’s just say there were a lot of audible groans, and none louder than mine.

Movie Review: Fright Night (2D) (2011)

September 26, 2011 in Movie Reviews, Reviews

The original 1985 Fright Night was one of the first movies I can remember watching as a child (a disturbing fact in itself).  My uncle had borrowed the video from the local store and ‘forgot’ to return it, and when the video store went bust (because of people like my uncle), Fright Night became part of the family video collection.

And so I had mixed feelings when I heard that they were doing a remake, and that it was going to be in “I can’t take anymore” 3D.  One of the reasons I was optimistic was because of the awesome cast — Anton Yelchin (there’s something about this kid that I love) was going to play the teenage protagonist Charley Brewster (previously played by William Ragsdale), Toni Collette was going to play his mother, and Colin Farrell (previously Chris Sarandon) was going to be Jerry, the vampire next door.

But on the other hand, a remake is a remake, and remakes seldom hold a candle to the original.

Fortunately, this particular remake was pretty good, primarily because it does not slavishly follow the original (from what I can remember).  The characters are the same and the plot (a teenager suspects the charming next door neighbour is a vampire) largely follows the same trajectory, but the progression, the minor plot points and the overall feel are rather different.

Like the original, one thing this Fright Night remake does extremely well is finding the right balance between horror and comedy.  The horror bits are genuinely scary without relying on cheap shots and the comedy bits are actually quite funny.  It pays homage to the original (Chris Sarandon even makes a cameo appearance) but director Craig Gillespie (who is going to be at the helm of the upcoming Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) clearly had his own vision for this film.

I’m not sure if it’s because of my affection for the original, Anton Yelchin or the fact that the vampires in this film are the evil bloodsuckers they’re meant to be — nothing like those corny Twilight and True Blood romantics — that I found Fright Night to be one of the more pleasant surprises of 2011.

3.75 stars out of 5!

PS: By the way, I had to make quite a trek to find this film in 2D, as almost all cinemas in my area were showing this film exclusively in 3D.  I’m sure it prevented it from losing a half star from my rating.  Sadly, I think the 3D exclusivity is turning a lot of audiences away from this film, which is why it hasn’t stuck around for very long.  When will these 3D money grabbers learn?

Movie Review: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

July 2, 2010 in Movie Reviews

Twilight hype continues to rage around the world with the release of the third film in the “Saga” — Eclipse.  I just went to see it with my sister who is visiting from out of town.  She’s not a Twilight “fan” per se, but she was excited.  I on the other hand, having read the book at the beginning of the year, was a little more ambivalent about the whole thing, but still wanted to see it.

Well, the third instalment of Twilight fever was a bit of a “meh” affair.  It picks up where the second film left off, with Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) in blissful love with her vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), and neglecting her werewolf best friend Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), who has a hopeless crush on her.  But all is not well because people are dying under mysterious circumstances in Seattle and it appears Bella is the ultimate target.  Who could it be?  Trust me, it’s bleedingly obvious.

Director David Slade (who directed the impressive 30 Days of Night and the excellent Hard Candy) probably did all he could with this one.  While it contained the most climatic dramatic and action sequences of the series thus far, Eclipse had me yawning and laughing (at the unintentional humour) more regularly than I should have.

The novel version of Eclipse is referred to by many Twilight fans as the best of the Saga, though I personally thought it was very long and not much happened until the very end.  Plus that Bella is really annoying!  So to be honest I thought the movie was better than the book because it only took up 2 hours as opposed to a couple of weeks and still managed to essentially cover all the main points of the novel.

By now we’re all familiar with the core characters and their traits, so we don’t find out anything new about them.  What we have is more of the same old from the last two films (sexual tension and corny dialogue), but even more dramatic and intense.

Bella continues to be torn between two “men” who love her and can’t decide what she wants to do with her life.  I’ve been a fan of Kristen Stewart since Into the Wild, but there’s no denying that she was irritating in this one.  Her acting was better (she showed more range than that singular “I’ve got something stuck in my throat” expression) but it didn’t make Bella a more sympathetic character.  There were many whispers of “slut” throughout the cinema during a couple of scenes!

Rob Patz’s Edward Cullen takes a bit of a back seat in this one, even though he has more screen time than in New Moon.  He is still disgustingly sweet and overprotective, but he felt strangely hollow.  It may have something to do with the constant strain on his face and in his voice.  Give the poor guy some metamucil.

Again, it’s up to Taylor Lautner’s Jacob Black and his ripped bod to save the show.  Lautner has some horribly melodramatic lines, but to his credit, he manages to pull most them off without generating laughter.  He’s the only central character out of the three to develop any sort of connection with me.

The returning cast (such as Billy Burke, Anna Kendrick, Dakota Fanning, Ashley Greene and Kellan Lutz etc) do a solid job with their smaller roles, and it was good to find out the back stories of some of the vampires and werewolves through flashbacks.  However, the casting of Bryce Dallas Howard as the villain Victoria was a terrible choice to replace Rachelle Lefevre.  She has the same long red curls but has zero menace.  A real disappointment considering what a fantastic actress she is.

To sum it all up, Eclipse is a passable effort for the third film of a blockbuster franchise.  Nothing about it is great, but I can’t exactly point to anything that was done too badly.  It gives fans what they want — which is more mushy stuff between the three leads, plus more vampire/werewolf action — but it’s unlikely to turn non-fans into new fans of the Saga.

3 stars out of 5

PS: It was interesting to see several characters sporting Justin Bieber haircuts.

Movie Review: Daybreakers (2010)

February 27, 2010 in Movie Reviews

Of all the vampire movies in recent years, Daybreakers has one of the most original and interesting premises.  2019.  The tables have turned and vampires are now in the majority.  Humans are hunted down and farmed for blood.  [Sorry, I couldn’t think of a way to explain the premise without giving those parts away]

Anyway, it’s a great idea, and everything about Daybreakers points towards a classic.  From the dark, cold colour scheme to some of the coolest futuristic inventions (for the vampire folk), old school action and car chases, sickening blood and gore, frightening creatures and Willem Dafoe, Daybreakers should have been a classic.

But it’s not.

And no, it’s not Ethan Hawke’s fault!  I like Hawke and I think he’s a suitable lead for this film.  He’s got that brooding, intellectual demeanor with an ample dose of wimpiness – but with hero potential, of course.  So no, it’s not Hawke.  He’s fine.

So is female lead Claudia Karvan and her Aussie/Kiwi co-stars Sam Neill, Vince Colosimo and Isabel Lucas.

So perhaps the problem lies with the fact that Daybreakers is not very memorable.  None of the characters are particularly interesting or stand out.  Willem Dafoe is supposed to be that guy, but he doesn’t quite get there.  There’s no dialogue that audiences are likely to remember or recite.  And apart from an early encounter, there’s not a lot of scares, and while there is nothing wrong with the action, it is actually rather pedestrian in comparison to the top notch action thrillers.

Having said all that, I did like the film.  It was one of those “it’s pretty good, but could have been so much more” type movies.  It kept me interested and intrigued, with a couple of twists thrown in for good measure.  At just 98 minutes, it made me wish for once the film was at least 20 minutes longer.  Maybe it’s the relatively low budget (by today’s standards) of only $20 million and a restricted vision that held it back from being great.

Argh.

3.5 stars out of 5!

True Blood vs The Vampire Diaries

February 10, 2010 in Best Of, Entertainment

Looks like a musical, doesn't it?

Thanks to Twilight, vampire books and TV series are everywhere now (well, they’ve always been around, but are finally being noticed).

I recently finished watching Season 2 of HBO’s True Blood, and I am up-to-date with Season 1 of CW’s The Vampire Diaries (13 eps).  So which is better?

(to read the verdict, click on ‘more…’)

Read the rest of this entry →

 
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