"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1" (2011)

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (2011)
Directed by: Bill Condon
Running time: 117 minutes

This may come as a shock to those of you who are either close friends of mine or avid readers, but I actually really enjoy going to see the Twilight Saga movies. That isn’t to say that I enjoy the movies themselves, good god no, but I do enjoy the experience of going to see them. I rather enjoy listening to the weird tween girls talk about how much they want to elope with the wooden, fictional men of the series as it always gives me a bit of a chuckle. I openly like to discuss Stephanie Myer’s faults with my girlfriend while within ear shot of these tweens just to listen to their hushed rage afterwards. I believe that New Moon was my favourite film to see so far as I had two moments of triumph during the screening. One was when the group of teenage girls in the row behind me were exclaiming their saddness to each other while Edward was breaking up with Bella, whilst I was laughing histerically at how plain the whole thing was; and then Edward just abandoned Bella in a forest! Pure gold! The second triumph was when Jacob took his shirt off for the first time since he’d gotten all muscular and the same group of girls all got excited; but THEN the cinema was struck by lightning and the screen turned off and I burst out laughing at their disappointment! So anyway, bottom line is that watching these terrible films is enjoyable for me simply because that their level of terribleness is often laughable. And if laughing isn’t fun, then I don’t know what is.

Now I will throw up a spoiler warning here as I will probably talk about very significant events of the film. But I’m assuming you’ve all either seen the film, read the books or you really don’t give a crap so let’s get on with the show!

Now Showing this week is The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1, directed by Bill Condon. Eighteen year old clutz Bella Swan is getting married to creepy-stalker-fairy vampire Edward Cullen. Shortly afterwards, they embark on their honeymoon to Brazil and proceed to shag like rabbits and Bella gets pregnant because that’s what happens when you forsake your virginity. But the baby is part vampire and therefore Bella’s pansy human body cannot handle it and it is going to kill her. This stirs up issues in the truce between the Cullens and the cuddley bears werewolves as it means that a Cullen will have been responsible for the death of a human. And that’s really all there is to it.

The first thing that strikes me about this film (and all of the films in fact) is that it is really starting to show how quickly these films are being pumped out. They look rushed, with fairly basic camera work that often awkwardly shows events; along with crappy special effects. With a few possible exceptions, the special effects in the film are terrible. The werewolves don’t actually look like they are in the world we are witnessing, and they don’t seem to carry any weight with them; not to mention the fact that when they move even the slightest amount they blur like they’re running a million miles an hour! And there were many instances where the green screening of certain locations was awfully obvious. The swimming scenes in Brazil looked shocking, and I have no idea if they were filmed on location or not but if they were then that makes it even worse that an on location shoot can look like crappy green screening. It just seems so clear to me that these films are made fast, given they have a yearly or sometimes half yearly, release cycle. They aren’t made like Lord of the Rings where they spent four years filming the entire trilogy and then spent a year editing each one so that they were ready every Boxing Day. The Twilight films are made back to back, from scratch, between each film; pre-production, shooting, editing, the works; and god does it show.

Now, the acting. Dear god, the acting! I seriously think that Kristen Stewart has forgotten how to move the upper half of her face. Her eyebrows and forehead are more lifeless than the majority of central Australia, and it leaves all her “expressions” (if I can even dare to use that word to describe them) seeming strange and extremely forced. And I know she can act properly, I’ve seen her do it before in Panic Room back when she was maybe thirteen or fourteen; so I don’t know what has throw her back into the stone age of performance technique, but my lord does it make her irritating to watch. And the vampires…. It’s like I’m watching that soap opera that Dr. House likes to watch all the time in House. They are wooden, husky and mind-numbingly melodramatic. And given the entire film revolves around two young (physically, I know that Edward is one hundred and twenty years old or something) newly-weds recklessly getting pregnant and the social backlash as a result thereof, it feels like I’m watching an episode of Neighbours only the central characters have superpowers. And you’d think that that would make for an awesome episode of Neighbours, but it doesn’t! Taylor Lautner was alright though, he’s been the one character across these films that I can actually stand to watch.

Which brings me to my next point: jesus christ the vampires are pansies! They are even self acknowledged pansies. At one point the mother and father Cullens are planning to make a daring escape across werewolf territory and one of the other Cullens protests, to which the father responds: “it’s ok, Emmett will be with us,” Emmett being another one of the vampires. So it seems that the head Cullens, who may I remind you are super strong vampires who’s strength or agility will not decrease with age given that they are immortal, have to remind their family that one of their partiuclar sons is going with them in order to be convincing that they will be formidable in a confrontation. WHAT?! Why?! Your super strength isn’t something that is gained from extended exercise or training but is part of your genetic makeup! So the only reason I can think of for this need to prove their defensive capabilities is because they have actually realised what a bunch of sissies they are.

The film even tries to paint Edward as this being that is capable of horrible things and they fail miserably. He tells Bella about the things he’s done in the past, which was basically that he just killed and fed on lots of people who were murderers, and it’s pathetic. The encounters (I can’t actually bring myself to call them attacks or maulings, they are undeserving of that right) are so bland and non-violent, it’s horrendous. One moment there is a man stalking a woman; suddenly Edward has embraced the man without so much as a struggle and is sucking on his neck; Edward then drops the man to show he is standing there with nothing but a tiny trickle of blood protruding from his pretty mouth. It is just another attempt to make Edward, and the Twilight vampires in general, into something scary and it fails miserably. True Blood seems to be able to make the vampires be able to effortlessly maul people and somehow make it harsh and violent so there’s no excuse.

Do you know why everything about the Twilight vampires completely fails to make them scary? Because, above all else, Stephanie Myer has to make sure that Edward is still romantically appealing. She is so blinded by the fact that her story must still be romantic that she is unwilling to let her claws out. And what hurts me about this is that some of her ideas have been very original, but heaven  forbid do they actually make him scary because then the tween girlies/lonely housewives couldn’t vigorously swoon over the very thought of themselves being in Bella’s place. Let me give an example: I loved the idea that instead of the sun killing the vampires, it instead reveals them to others for what they really are. And if that transformation actually showed them looking their age in real time or at least changed their eyes and sharpened all their teeth into razorblades of death then that would have been an awesome change to traditional vampire mythology. But sadly, Edward still had to be pretty for the tweens/housewives so let’s make him look like every girls’ favourite thing shall we? A diamond.

Whoa, don’t get mad at me! I didn’t make these books/films, it’s their sexism not mine.

And this issue can be attributed to the scene I spoke of earlier. Edward could only have a trickle of blood from his lips as I’m sure that if his face and neck was coated in the blood and tendons of the man he just bit in the jugular vein while he is recovering from what would seem like an orgasmic release due to the blood lust, then he probably wouldn’t look very attractive anymore would he? And the biggest insult of it all is that after she’s done all this, Myer has, in one fell swoop, destoryed about two hundred years of vampire writing for both literature and film. Anything that contains PROPER vampires these days is only contained in works intended for adults such as True Blood (an R18+ show) or the Laura Caxton novels by David Wellington; but that doesn’t matter because us adults know better then to believe this Twilight junk is good. The youth of today however seem to believe that this is what vampires are and future generations will be taught that by these kids and slowly the vampire, one of the oldest monsters, will become something that is no longer feared but is instead the ideal boyfriend. I really hope I do not live to see that day.

There is something else that Stephanie Myer has ruined with this series other than vampires, something that is far more important: society. Forget the vampire part for a minute and just think about the fact that there are a lot of young girls who are actually falling in love with the fictional character of Edward Cullen. Does that not scare you? Well it should because that means that these girls believe that a man who has a lust to kill you, likes to stand outside your house at night and likes to silently enter your room and watch you while you sleep, is the kind of person who really loves you and is the right person to give your heart to. Now I ask you, in the real world, what kind of people fit that description? I would say serial killers, but if you think I am exaggerating too much then let me say this then: how about those kind of men you see in those crappy “COPS” shows that have been reported for domestic violence? Those backwards, unhinged and obsessive stalkers who smother women emotionally and when the women want to do something independantly they beat them? Those are the kind of men that these “Twi-hards” will think are appealing. And there goes the ideal reality of married couples growing old together because they will either get divorced or the creepy manic she married will have killed her by then.

I could go on forever, but I think you’ve heard enough. I even had a whole sectioned planned on how these films further show how this whole series is an effort for Myer to push her religion (Mormonism) on a younger generation, but I’m gonna leave it there because you either already know that or you’re a Twilight fan who’s beyond saving. But who knows, maybe I’ll pull that and the many more complaints I had for when Breaking Dawn Part 2 comes out.

See you next time!

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"Midnight in Paris" (2011)

midnight-in-paris-posterMidnight in Paris (2011)
Directed by: Woody Allen
Running time: 94 minutes

It is always a rare pleasure to go to see a film in the cinemas and have no idea what you are about to see. In an age full of trailers, posters and internet film critics, we are always violently bombarded with information as to what we are spending our hard earned money on at the movies. We know when we are going to see a thriller in which the protagonists daughter has been kidnapped and held for ransom; we know that the spaceship the lead characters have found will contain no living crew members; and it can sometimes ruin the experience. When you know absolutely nothing about a film, you therefore have no expectations as to the events that will transpire before your very eyes. You have no idea what is going to happen, and that is something to be cherished as it leaves you completely open to the film’s narrative structure and your attention shall never waver so as to not lose the plot. However, I believe that perhaps having no prior knowledge of Midnight in Paris was to the film’s detriment rather than a positive thing.

Now Showing this week is Midnight in Paris, directed by Woody Allen. The film revolves around the character of Gil (Owen Wilson), a Hollywood screen writer who loathes his film work and is trying to write a novel, and his unsupportive fiance (Rachel McAdams) who are currently holidaying in Paris. Gil loves the city of Paris and has always wished he could visit Paris in the 1920s as he believes that was the city’s golden age, giving host to artists such as Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald and Pablo Picasso. One night, Gil is walking alone in the streets of Paris and miraculously travels back in time to the 1920s and meets all the artists that inspire him, leading him to ask for help in writing his book. As Gil goes to and from the past and the present, he develops a conflict of which era he wishes to stay in. I shall leave it there or else I would be explaining the entire film!

I rather enjoyed this film, for the most part because it reminded me that Owen Wilson is still a good actor even though lately his appearances have involved such terrible things as Hall Pass. Wilson’s Gil is interesting, existential and very likable as he develops throughout the course of the film as he gains confidence in himself as a writer. The rest of the cast are very talented as well; Rachel McAdams can really play a shrew of a fiance when she wants to! She was very cruel. Michael Sheen is delightful as an egotistical, charming academic; and Adrian Brody performs excellently as a surrealist French artist. One simply cannot fault the cast in this film.

I can, however, fault the exposition of the time travel in the film. My girlfriend describes me as the “Time Travel Nazi” as I am instantly turned off from a time travel story once the story goes against the logic of the specific time travel theory that it has established. Deja Vu is guilty of this, as it spent the entire film establishing that no matter what one does they cannot change the past, even going so far as to show the main character inciting events for his past self to experience, but then have him change the future anyway. Man that pissed me off! Sorry, I’m getting off track. In Midnight in Paris, the time travel is presented so badly that I actually missed the fact that Gil had traveled in time until he met Ernest Hemingway! And I only noticed that because my brain cottoned on to the fact that I know Hemingway is dead. I should backtrack a bit here; the way in which Gil is shown travelling through time is by him getting lost in Paris and being picked up by a bunch of people in an old fashioned car. They take him to a party where everyone is dressed in 1920s style clothing, which I assumed meant he had been taken to a costume party and marveled at the coincidence that the party theme was identical to Gil’s fantasies. But then Gil met Hemingway and I was confused, and my girlfriend must have noticed this confusion as she lent over and whispered to me that Gil had traveled in time. My response was something along the lines of: “when did that happen?!”

After I knew that time travel had taken place I figured I’d be able to sit back and understand everything that was going on; but then the film did it again! Gil was walking with a woman in the 1920s, then they go to a huge Moulin Rouge event with can-can girls and everything, when all of a sudden the woman drags Gil aside and says “let’s never go back to the 20s”. Again, my response was something along the lines of: “when did that happen?! You’re not in the 20s? When the hell are you?!” For a film where the whole use of time travel is a very pivotal part of the plot, some extra clarity would have been nice. I have heard from other people’s feedback that they struggled with the initial time jumps as well so this can’t be solely my issue. Perhaps I’m not cultured enough in the differences between Paris now and Paris 1920s.

This lack of coherent time travel is not a deal breaker, I did enjoy the film. But the lack of coherence was jarring and left me a little aggravated. In a nutshell, the film had the potential to be a great film and it left me thinking it was a good film. If you’re in the mood for something art-house before the cinemas become over crowded by vampire-loving cretins when Breaking Dawn Part 1 releases this coming week, then I recommend you see it.

See you next time for the review of the aforementioned Breaking Dawn Part 1. That review is sure to be a thumping good read!

"In Time" (2011)

in-time-posterIn Time (2011)
Directed by: Andrew Niccol
Running time: 109 minutes

Now Showing this week is In Time, directed by Andrew Niccol of Gattaca (1997) fame. Justin Timberlake proves once again that he can act as he portrays Will Salas, a man who lives with his mother and who are both struggling to get by financially. However, they both live in the future (the exact year isn’t specified but one can assume it’s at least a century from now) and the global currency is Time. The “ageing gene” (that’s all the explanation we’re given!) has been abolished and as a result no one ages past the age of twenty-five. But logically, if everyone was to live forever then global resources would dry up very quickly; so to fix this problem money has been replaced with Time and the rich may live forever with centuries on their “clocks” whilst the poor only have mere hours or even minutes on theirs’. When Will meets a suicidal man with a thousand years on his clock, the man generously gives Will all his Time so as to end his life. Will sees this as a gift and wishes to treat his mother to everything she’s always wanted, but (spoiler alert!) sadly he doesn’t reach her in time (that’s the name of the movie!) and her clock runs out, resulting in her death. Out of revenge, Will sets out to fight the Time system. That’s the basic premise, any more would spoil too much.

If it’s one thing I can give Andrew Niccol credit for, it’s that he sure can create some awesome future societies. Both in In Time and Gattaca he has successfully created these amazing worlds that are so different to our own, with their own colloquial sayings and habits etc. but yet comment on our actual world so well. The colloquialisms in In Time were very enjoyable; phrases such as “she timed out” and “that will be three weeks, please” were quite cool. The fact that the poor do everything very quickly and that they run everywhere whilst the rich are very slow at doing things as they have the time to do so was an excellent touch. The film really introduces us to that world very effectively; it never wastes any time and we fully understand the class system as well as the value of different measures of time. That in of itself is a very enjoyable experience of this film.

Unfortunately, however, the rest of the developments in the film are just as quick. Everything just moves along so quickly, too quickly. It doesn’t seem that way at first as we are absorbing a lot of information about this future reality; but once the character developing moments start to happen they develop the characters ridiculously quickly. Spoiler alert again, but when Will’s mother dies there is the cliched him screaming at the sky while holding her body, but then in the next scene it’s like it never happened! He mentions her timing out at one point but there was no grieving or anything for the loss of her. And when Will meets the love interest character Sylvia after winning seven hundred years off her father in a poker game, she says to him bitterly “hello Mr. Salas, congratulations on taking so many years off my father’s life.” But five minutes later she’s totally up for skinny dipping! Um…what? I know this is the future and social interaction may be different but there must still be a basic human drive of grievance for the loss of a parent or for enough self respect to not be mixing signals so badly as to skinny dip with the man you chastised for shortening your father’s life? Maybe it’s just me.

The film does kind of hit the audience over the head with it’s message that human kind is not meant to live forever and that the price of immortality is too high. I thought that the film was going to take a different approach when the villain had a speech about the fact that every human accepts that the system of life means that the less fortunate will inevitably die young but that they themselves will be the special one who will actually live forever. That was such an interesting analysis of the human condition, but then Will retorts with a self righteous speech that “no one should live forever if even one person has to die”. And while what Will says is true, the villain’s speech was more of a pulling-no-punches critique of humanity.

All of this aside, In Time is a good film. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it wasn’t the analytically, insightful film that I was hoping for. But the film’s originality is very enjoyable and I’d recommend you check it out. And as long as you can handle all the “time” puns, you will probably feel the same!

See you next time!