Skip to main content

You nicknamed my daughter after the Loch Ness Monster?


The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2
(2012)

The final finale of the Twilight saga, in which pig-boy Jacob tells Bella that, “No, it's not like that at all!” after she accuses him of being a paedo. But then she comes around to his viewpoint, doubtless displaying the kind of denial many parents did who let their kids spend time with Jimmy Savile or Gary Glitter during the ‘70s. It's lucky little Renesmee will be an adult by the age of seven, right? Right... Jacob even jokes that he should start calling Edward, “Dad”. And all the while they smile and smile.

Borrowing the trick of Harry Potter in splitting the last book in the series in two movies to make more cash (or to preserve the artistic integrity of the material, take your pick), both series have in common an action-lite part one and an epic face-off in part two. However, Twilight distinguishes itself with the usual mixture of dreadful acting, dialogue, sub-Dido songs and sluggishly banal but slightly surreal domesticity. Obviously a vampire soap opera shouldn't be dull, but this manages it for the first hour.

After Part 1's freakishly protracted disease movie, I feared the series had returned to the simply forgettable qualities of the second and third films. Sure, there were a few bright spots (Lee Pace enjoying himself as a sub-Spike vamp) and a touch of the altogether wrong with a horrifically odd CGI baby, but director Bill Condon finds himself mostly imprisoned within protracted canoodling between Edward and Bella. And clumsy voiceovers to cover the parts visual storytelling cannot reach. He tries all sorts of tricks to deflect attention, hitting the cutaways-to-nature button like an undiscerning Nic Roeg devotee. Often his choices are ultra-cheesy or just plain naff (vampire super-fast running, the slow motion love marathons of our super-sex-charged couple). And yet, what he is doing visually is always much more interesting than anything in the middle sequels, helped along by Guillermo Navaro’s lucid cinematography.

As for subtexts, who knows what the hell is going on, but it’s all ripe for analysis; what goes through Stephenie Meyer’s peculiar Mormon mind to come up with this stuff? There’s the aforementioned fixation of Jacob with a baby/child; it’s okay that he “imprinted” on her, it’s totally natural (that’s what they all say). Then there’s the now supervamp Bella, whom Edward constantly smiles over like in slightly sickly fashion; look how he empowered her and made her all she could possibly be (after nearly killing her)!

The acting is the usually mixture of wood and ham; Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattison have given perfectly respectable performances in other movies but barely register here. Taylor Lautner, of course, makes an impression for the entirely plankish reasons he usually does. You realise that some of his dialogue might be quite mockingly amusing if he wasn’t delivering it. But also that, if anyone with any range were playing Jacob, the ultra-creepy aspect of his child-bride obsession would be even more of an issue.

The rest of the cast range from model-type eye candy posing about with nary a line to speak, to a sprinkling of proper actors either looking out of place because they can act (Peter Facinelli, Billy Burke) or because they are so over-the-top (Michael Sheen). There are others, like Dakota Fanning, where you wonder that they took the gig since it certainly wasn’t for the challenge. And then there’s that sallow Jamie Campbell Bower managing to irritate as usual just by being there smirking, Edward Scissorhands clone Jackson Rathbone remaining as unnaturally immobile as ever and Ashley Greene proving she has the best hair stylist of the cast. There’s a Kurt Cobain look-a-like vampire too, but I’m not sure how intentional that was. Maggie Grace also shows up (I think I’d forgotten she was in Part 1), this time without Liam Neeson in tow.

Just as it looked like it would end as insipidly as it had continued, there’s a big scrap. The poster, surely one of the most appalling ever designed, suggested that the final confrontation wouldn’t be worth the wait. But hats-off to Condon for a highly impressive battle sequence in the last half (take note, action directors; good staging is everything, even if the stage looks like a big white fluffy stage). This is as full-on as 12-certificate decapitation-crazy movie can be, and I was cheering away as beloved characters were offed right left and centre.

And then... I knew it was too good to be true. Still, a whole extra star for the easily the most involving half hour since the first movie. There is also a fun moment where the increasingly pay cheque-orientated Michael Sheen emits a high-pitched laugh that must have sent most of this am-dram cast scurrying in alarm behind their acting coaches.

**1/2

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.

Split (2016)
(SPOILERS) M Night Shyamalan went from the toast of twist-based filmmaking to a one-trick pony to the object of abject ridicule in the space of only a couple of pictures: quite a feat. Along the way, I’ve managed to miss several of his pictures, including his last, The Visit, regarded as something of a re-locating of his footing in the low budget horror arena. Split continues that genre readjustment, another Blumhouse production, one that also manages to bridge the gap with the fare that made him famous. But it’s a thematically uneasy film, marrying shlock and serious subject matter in ways that don’t always quite gel.

Shyamalan has seized on a horror staple – nubile teenage girls in peril, prey to a psychotic antagonist – and, no doubt with the best intentions, attempted to warp it. But, in so doing, he has dragged in themes and threads from other, more meritable fare, with the consequence that, in the end, the conflicting positions rather subvert his attempts at subversion…

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

Must the duck be here?

The Favourite (2018)
(SPOILERS) In my review of The Killing of a Sacred Deer, I suggested The Favourite might be a Yorgos Lanthimos movie for those who don’t like Yorgos Lanthimos movies. At least, that’s what I’d heard. And certainly, it’s more accessible than either of his previous pictures, the first two thirds resembling a kind of Carry On Up the Greenaway, but despite these broader, more slapstick elements and abundant caustic humour, there’s a prevailing detachment on the part of the director, a distancing oversight that rather suggests he doesn’t feel very much for his subjects, no matter how much they emote, suffer or connive. Or pratfall.

Can you float through the air when you smell a delicious pie?

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
(SPOILERS) Ironically, given the source material, think I probably fell into the category of many who weren't overly disposed to give this big screen Spider-Man a go on the grounds that it was an animation. After all, if it wasn’t "good enough" for live-action, why should I give it my time? Not even Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's pedigree wholly persuaded me; they'd had their stumble of late, although admittedly in that live-action arena. As such, it was only the near-unanimous critics' approval that swayed me, suggesting I'd have been missing out. They – not always the most reliable arbiters of such populist fare, which made the vote of confidence all the more notable – were right. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not only a first-rate Spider-Man movie, it's a fresh, playful and (perhaps) surprisingly heartfelt origins story.

I'm a sort of travelling time expert.

Doctor Who Season 12 – Worst to Best
Season 12 isn’t the best season of Doctor Who by any means, but it’s rightly recognised as one of the most iconic, and it’s easily one of the most watchable. Not so much for its returning roster of monsters – arguably, only one of them is in finest of fettle – as its line-up of TARDIS crew members. Who may be fellow travellers, but they definitely aren’t “mates”. Thank goodness. Its popularity – and the small matters of it being the earliest season held in its entirety in original broadcast form, and being quite short – make it easy to see why it was picked for the first Blu-ray boxset.

I don’t think you will see President Pierce again.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
(SPOILERS) The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and other tall tales of the American frontier is the title of "the book" from which the Coen brothers' latest derives, and so announces itself as fiction up front as heavily as Fargo purported to be based on a true story. In the world of the portmanteau western – has there even been one before? – theme and content aren't really all that distinct from the more familiar horror collection, and as such, these six tales rely on sudden twists or reveals, most of them revolving around death. And inevitably with the anthology, some tall tales are stronger than other tall tales, the former dutifully taking up the slack.

You look like an angry lizard!

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
(SPOILERS) I can quite see a Queen fan begrudging this latest musical biopic for failing to adhere to the facts of their illustrious career – but then, what biopic does steer a straight and true course? – making it ironic that they're the main fuel for Bohemian Rhapsody's box office success. Most other criticisms – and they're legitimate, on the whole – fall away in the face of a hugely charismatic star turn from Rami Malek as the band's frontman. He's the difference between a standard-issue, episodic, join-the-dots narrative and one that occasionally touches greatness, and most importantly, carries emotional heft.

Whoever comes, I'll kill them. I'll kill them all.

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) There’s no guessing he’s back. John Wick’s return is most definite and demonstrable, in a sequel that does what sequels ought in all the right ways, upping the ante while never losing sight of the ingredients that made the original so formidable. John Wick: Chapter 2 finds the minimalist, stripped-back vehicle and character of the first instalment furnished with an elaborate colour palette and even more idiosyncrasies around the fringes, rather like Mad Max in that sense, and director Chad Stahleski (this time without the collaboration of David Leitch, but to no discernible deficit) ensures the action is filled to overflowing, but with an even stronger narrative drive that makes the most of changes of gear, scenery and motivation.

The result is a giddily hilarious, edge-of-the-seat thrill ride (don’t believe The New York Times review: it is not “altogether more solemn” I can only guess Jeannette Catsoulis didn’t revisit the original in the interven…

There's something wrong with the sky.

Hold the Dark (2018)
(SPOILERS) Hold the Dark, an adaptation of William Giraldi's 2014 novel, is big on atmosphere, as you'd expect from director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin, Green Room) and actor-now-director (I Don’t Want to Live in This World Anymore) pal Macon Blair (furnishing the screenplay and appearing in one scene), but contrastingly low on satisfying resolutions. Being wilfully oblique can be a winner if you’re entirely sure what you're trying to achieve, but the effect here is rather that it’s "for the sake of it" than purposeful.