The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

9 07 2010

I suppose someone on this site had to review Eclipse, the third installment in the Twilight Saga.  So I guess that someone will be me.  Before I launch into what I thought of the film though, I would like to mention on a personal note that this summer is quickly becoming my summer of vampire reading and watching.  So far I have read and watched Interview with the Vampire and am looking forward to the rest of Anne Rice’s books, I’m on the last book of the Southern Vampire Mysteries (the Charlaine Harris series upon which HBO’s True Blood is based, which I intend to watch), just started in on Buffy the Vampire Slayer which I have never watched before, and am still looking for new material.  So if you have any suggestions for vampire books or movies old or new, please post them so I can check them out!

All right, back to business.  Let me refresh your memory: Bella Swan (Kristin Stewart) lives in Forks, WA and two boys are in love with her.  One is Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a vampire, and the other is Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), a werewolf.  Of course Edward and Jacob hate each other, both as a byproduct of their simultaneous vying for Bella’s affections which leads to intense jealousy and also the inherent species-versus-species hatred between vampires and werewolves.  While Bella struggles between the two, especially after Edward pops the big marriage question, a vampire named Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) gears up an army of fledgling vampires in Seattle to bring to Forks to destroy Bella in order to avenge her mate.

Phew, that’s a lot! The trailers certainly seem action-packed and enthralling, don’t they?  Well, looks can be deceiving, and that is certainly evident in Eclipse.  Director David Slade (Hard Candy and 30 Days of Night) seems to try very hard to put his own personal stamp on the film, but it becomes clear quickly that there are two essential problems that stand in his way of making Twilight a credible filmic venture: the apparent lifelessness of Stephanie Myer’s material, and the doubly apparent lifelessness of the leading love triangle, especially Kristin Stewart. 

Eclipse‘s plot goes full circle in the worst way; by the end of the movie we are right back where we started, still stuck in Forks with the same love triangle.  Sure, maybe there’s a few less vamps hanging around, but none of the important ones die.  And maybe Bella does agree to marry Edward (surprise surprise), but that doesn’t change the fact that she strings along both him and Jacob with her excruciating whining and manipulative ways right up to the very end and we’re still given no evidence that she intends to stop this behavior in the upcoming installment.  Like I mentioned, the trailers certainly beef up the violence and fight scenes present in the movie, but don’t let them trick you into thinking that their presence gives the plot more incident.

Now to the essential reason this movie sucked: the acting.  Taylor Lautner is the young, brash and hot-tempered werewolf; let’s face it, that’s not too challenging a role, yet he still manages to make it half-hearted.  The only thing not half-assed about Lautner’s performance is his muscles, really, which are front and center anytime he’s on screen.  Robert Pattinson’s role as the aged vampire trapped in a teenager’s body is more complicated I think.  He’s supposed to be about a hundred years old, so why does he act like a constipated 16-year-old throughout the whole movie? And then there’s Kristin Stewart.  It is my belief that any potential these movies had at being remotely good died the moment Kristin Stewart was cast.  She is a joyless black hole devoid of all personality, and she sucks the life out of every scene she’s in.  Sure that’s harsh, but it’s the truth.

I want to give Slade some credit:   There are moments in the film that are humorous in a self-referential way, and it does poke fun at itself every once in a while (none such humor can be found in the previous two movies, though it is sorely missed).  It’s amazing to me that he can go from Hard Candy to Eclipse, and I could tell he really was trying, but it just wasn’t enough and that’s how the cookie crumbles. Did I enjoy the movie?  Sure, I did.  But if you’re looking for quality, this is the wrong place to be searching.

My rating: 4/10

“Remember Me” – boy, will I

13 03 2010

*Slight spoilers unavoidable*

What is the most jaw-dropping and completely ludicrous twist you could have ever thought up to punctuate the end of a romantic melodrama?  I could have thought up any number of things, but the screenwriter for “Remember Me” easily takes the cake for the most insane “gotchya” moment ever.  And I have seen my share of twists. 

Robert Pattinson’s character in the film named Tyler is not very much unlike “Twilight”‘s Edward, meaning he is brooding, tortured, handsome, and romantic, but this time he’s a college student rather than a vampire.   He smokes too much, drinks too much, quotes Gandhi repeatedly, and is in constant conflict with his neglectful, high-profile father while struggling with the baggage of his lost brother.  It is only with his young sister that he is able to abandon being a moody-moodster.  Emilie de Ravin’s character, Ally, is a similarly tortured soul after having witnessed the murder of her mother first hand as a child and is left with her overprotective policeman father.  After a series of dramatic events Tyler and Ally of course get involved in a passionate but predictable romance.  Their acting feels whole-hearted but misses the mark (which is sadly unsurprising).

The entire film is overwrought with expected dramatic occurence after expected dramatic occurence until finally at the very end the most dramatic and most surprising moment of all happens.  “Remember Me” was shaping up to be a mediocre movie, not horrible but ironically un-memorable, until the very end when a simple phrase written on a chalkboard changes the entire theme and direction of the film.  Out of nowhere “Remember Me” crosses into highly offensive territory and completely undoes any narrative value it had begun to possess.  The twist is so jaw-dropping, in fact, that I cannot even decide if it makes or breaks the movie.  My big question is this: which came first — the ending or the beginning?  How the hell did they put those two things together?  I won’t say what happens; I think that it is totally worth everyone’s time to watch the movie in a state of un-awareness to get the full effect of its absurdity. 

My rating: 6.5/10

True Blood: Season 1

2 01 2010

With Twilight winding its way through the hearts of thousands and the movie Daybreakers coming out next week, I am surprised I had yet to watch the HBO show True Blood, yet another installment in the vampire craze right now.  Vampires have always been an exciting and seductive character in fiction throughout history, but today they seem sexier than ever.  If you think though that Twilight is too PG for yor taste (Where is all the blood, anyway?) and if you think that the Twilight vamps are a bit too ridiculous (They can go out in the daytime? Instead of disintergrating in the sun they glitter?), than True Blood is for you.  It makes a lot of similar plot parallels as Twilight, but in a much more believable, bloody, sexy and thrilling way (It harkens more to the recent Korean vampire movie Thirst intensity.). 

True Blood is based on a series of novels by Charlaine Harris titled The Southern Vampire Mysteries (I have not read the books, but now I want to).  The story is set in a fictional Louisiana town called Bon Temps.  In the world of the show, vampires have the ability to co-exist peacefully with humans due to the development of synthetic blood, but some humans still regard vampires as dangerous creatures who have the capability to kill humans easily and the desire to do so for pleasure. 

In the midst of political and religious turmoil due to the fact that vampires have just recently made public their existence, telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) fall in love.   Similarly to Twilight, True Blood‘s biggest failing for me is the fact that the main love story’s characters are just about the least convincing.  That isn’t to say that the characters aren’t well acted (as much as I dislike Paquin, she does fine in this series).  I just feel like there is no chemistry.   

Bill and Sookie

Aside from them though, pretty much everything else about True Blood is fantastic.  The side characters are quirky and interesting, and the growing religious tensions and Christian fanatacism against vampires is revealing itself to be very promising.  Murder, drug addiction, sex, exorcisms, telepathy, deception, vampires, shapeshifters: What more could you want? 

Just give it a chance.  I give True Blood an 8/10.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon

26 11 2009

New Moon, the second installment of the Twilight movies.  Where to begin?

I would like to preface this review with a few things.  First off, I have read all four of the Twilight books.  Secondly: although I think that Stephanie Meyers technically can’t write for shit, I think that her ideas in Twilight have the potential for something that could be both hugely entertaining and actually a good story.  Thirdly, I think that the directors responsible for the reincarnation of her story into these movies could take advantage of said potential and make Twilight great.  Lastly, any movie that can do as well as New Moon did in the box office while not aiming for the preteen/teenage boy demographic (the largest in Hollywood) is quite alright by me.

The movie New Moon is worlds better than the first Twilight film but therefore does not maintain some of that b-movie quality that I learned to love about the first installment.  That being said, here are the reasons why I think it is better than the first movie:  visually it is cleaner and more convincing.  The makeup for the vampires is more believable and the CG for the werewolves is actually quite good.  Whereas the first movie followed the book faithfully and stuck to one shittily filmed action sequence, New Moon upped the number of action sequences (most of which did not go down in the book) and made them actually look good.  The increased budget as a result of the first movie’s success is the reason behind both these things, and also (I think) a more critical eye from the director (Chris Weitz).  Following in the footsteps of its predecessor, New Moon has an excellent soundtrack made up of such artists as Thom Yorke of Radiohead, Grizzly Bear, Bon Iver, and St. Vincent.  Its music had a lot to do with the quality of the movie, especially during a certain werewolf/vampire chase sequence.  Finally, the acting.  Despite the fact that in the broad scheme of things the acting in New Moon is by far not great, to me the most important comparison to make is to the first movie (because let’s face it, if you couldn’t sit through the first one you’re not going to sit through the second one).  Compared to the first movie,  New Moon should be in the Oscars: in that case, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner both deserve lead acting awards, and Robert Pattinson and Anna Kendrick should win for supporting roles.

Beyond all of the technical aspects there is a love/hate relationship that I have with Twilight and simply can’t escape, which absolutely has everything to do with its content that I find myself simultaneously tickled by and filled with loathing for.  With filming for the third movie already completed and its release just around the corner, I am very excited and I believe that my enthusiasm will last through the fourth and final movie.  I’m guilty of being invested in these movies, and I’m sure that if you gave it a chance you would be too. 

My rating: 5/10*

*This rating fluxuates.  On my good days it shoots to 8 and on my bad days drops to 2.