Thursday, January 18, 2018

"BREAKING DAWN, PART II" (2012) Review

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"BREAKING DAWN, PART II" (2012) Review

Nearly eight years ago, Warner Brothers had made the decision to split the movie adaptation of Stephanie Meyers' last "Twilight Saga" novel - "Breaking Dawn" - into two films; following its example of the two adaptations for the last "Harry Potter"novel. The first film, "BREAKING DAWN, PART I", was released a year ago. Instead of waiting six months, the studio decided to wait a year for the second half of the tale, "BREAKING DAWN, PART II"

"BREAKING DAWN, PART II" picked up where the latter film left off - with Bella Swann's transformation into a vampire, following the difficult birth of her and Edward Cullen's daughter. The movie's first ten to fifteen minutes focused on Bella becoming acquainted with her new state and abilities. She eventually learns that her best friend and wolf shapeshifter, Jacob Black has "imprinted" on hers and Edward's new daughter, Renesmee Carlie Cullen. In other words, Jacob has found his soulmate in Bella's daughter - whether he proves to be her protector, a lover, or an older sibling. At the moment, Jacob seemed to be serving as Renesmee's protector and much older friend. Bella first reacted with hostility at the idea of Jacob imprinting on her daughter, but she eventually resolved herself to the situation. But a more important situation has developed with Renesmee. The Cullen/Swan offspring has begun aging rapidly. Even worse, a fellow vampire named Irina Denali spots Renesmee playing in the woods with Bella and Jacob and comes to the conclusion that the young girl might be an immortal - a vampire sired from a child. She reports her assumptions to the Volturi, who become determined to destroy Renesmee. Creating child vampires goes against their law, due to the former's unpredictable nature. Aro, leader of the Volturi, also longs to destroy the Cullens; due to their large size and the psychic abilities that many of them possess. Bella, Edward and the Cullens are forced to seek allies from other vampire covens around the world to help them protect Renesmee from the Volturi. And Jacob recruits his fellow wolf shapeshifters from the La Push pack to assist in the Cullens' battle.

A part of me is astounded that the film franchise for the "Twilight" Saga has finally come to an end with this film. Another part of me is relieved. To be honest, I have never been a die hard fan of the series. And of the five movies, I have managed to like at least two of them - "ECLIPSE" and surprisingly, "BREAKING DAWN, PART II". You heard it first. I actually liked "BREAKING DAWN, PART II". I did not love it. And I was not initially thrilled by Bella's initial transformation into a vampire. But for some reason, her transformation and the birth of her daughter attained a few achievements in the franchise. One, Bella's character transformed from a passive and love-obsessed teenager to a self-assured and mature young woman (or vampire), who proved she could ruthless when protecting her daughter. For the first time in the series, the Bella/Edward romance actually became bearable. I believe this was due to the change in Edward's nature, as well. He stopped being a brooding and controlling boyfriend and began treating Bella as an equal partner in their relationship. And the tiresome love triangle between Bella, Edward and Jacob finally came to an end, due to Renesmee's birth. Jacob came to accept Bella and Edward's romance and began focusing his attention upon their daughter. Thankfully, Jacob's feelings for Renesmee did not produce any "ick factor" within me. I believe this is due to Jacob's attitude toward her as some kind of goddaughter or younger sister. Renesmee seemed to regard him as some kind of loving big brother. And even more ironically, both Taylor Lautner and child actress Mackenzie Foy managed to click on-screen.

Before one accuses me of loving this film, I assure you that I do not. Yes, I liked it. But it had problems that prevented it from becoming a favorite of mine. Being part of the "Twilight" Saga did not help. I found the scene featuring Bella arm wrestling with Emmett Cullen rather childish and a waste of time. In Stephanie Meyers' novel, Charlie Swan learned about Jacob's status as a wolf shape shifter and suspected that Bella and the Cullens are not quite human, but he was never informed that she had transformed into a vampire. However, screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg made matters slightly worse by not even conveying Charlie's suspicions of the recent inhuman nature of his daughter. I found that rather sloppy. Also, there were moments when I found the Cullens and Jacob's interactions with their vampire allies resembling a "happening" from the Age of Aquarius. I had this fear that sooner or later, they would form a circle by holding hands and sing "Kumbaya". Those moments were most nauseating. Hell, I enjoyed the Bella/Edward sex scene more than those moments.

But despite these unpleasant moments in the film, I still enjoyed "BREAKING DAWN, PART II". Dear God, I cannot believe I said that. But I liked it. Aside from the more positive portrayals of Bella and Edward's characters and Jacob's relationship with Renesmee, there were other aspects of the movie I liked. Michael Sheen was deliciously over-the-top as the Voltari's leader, Aro. Billy Burke's portrayal of Charlie Swan was entertaining as ever. Due to the improvement over Bella and Edward's personalities, I was able to enjoy Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson's performances a lot more than I did in the previous movies. Taylor Lautner was great, as always. Maggie Grace was very effective as Irina Denali, the embittered vampire who erroneously assumed that Renesmee was an under aged vampire. Both Lee Pace and Rami Malek provided a great deal of the movie's humor as two of the vampires who become among the Cullens' vampiric allies. 

The movie's pièce de résistance proved to be the final battle between the Cullens' army of vampires and wolf shapeshifters and the Voltari's army. I have to hand it to director Bill Condon. He really outdid himself in this sequence. I found it even more impressive than director David Slade's handling of the protagonists' battle with Victoria's army of newborn vampires in 2010's "ECLIPSE". This sequence was enhanced by the plot twist that marked the end of the battle. It was a twist that struck me as well handled by both Condon and Rosenberg. In fact, I believe they did a better job of this sequence than Stephanie Meyer did in her novel.

Like I said . . . a part of me is happy that the "Twilight" film franchise has finally come to an end. I no longer have to face being coerced by my relatives in viewing any of these movies at the theater. However, another part of me is also relieved that franchise ended on a positive note. To my utter surprise, I found "BREAKING DAWN, PART II" to be rather entertaining, despite its flaws. More importantly, the movie featured an improvement on the characterizations of the two leading characters - Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. And the movie ended with a well written and well shot action sequence that provided a surprisingly effective plot twist. All I can say is . . . good job.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Ranking of Movies Seen During Summer 2017



Usually I would list my ten favorite summer movies of any particular year. However, since I had only watched ten new releases during the summer of 2017. Due to the limited number, I decided to rank the films that I saw: 


RANKING OF MOVIES SEEN DURING SUMMER 2017



1. "Dunkirk" - Christopher Nolan wrote and directed this acclaimed look at the British Expeditionary Force’s evacuation from Dunkirk, France in 1940. Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy and Mark Rylance starred.





2. "Wonder Woman" - Gal Gadot starred in this movie about the D.C. Comics’ heroine Wonder Woman and her experiences during World War I. Patty Jenkins directed.





3. "Detroit" - Kathryn Biegelow directed this harrowing look at the Algiers Motel incident during Detroit’s 1967 12th Street Riot. John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith and Anthony Mackie starred.





4. "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" - Johnny Depp returned as Jack Sparrow in this fifth entry in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" film franchise. Directed by Espen Sanberg and Joachim Rønning, the movie co-starred Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario.





5. "Baby Driver" - Edgar Wright wrote and directed this tale about a young Atlanta getaway driver and music lover who is forced to work for a kingpin in order to settle a debt. Ansel Elgort, Lily James and Kevin Spacey starred.





6. "The Hitman’s Bodyguard" - Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson starred in this comedy action-thriller about a bodyguard who hired to protect a hitman who has to testify at the International Criminal Court. Patrick Hughes directed.





7. "King Arthur and the Legend of the Sword" - Guy Ritchie directed this new spin on the King Arthur legend and the monarch’s conflict against his treasonous uncle. Charlie Hunnam and Jude Law starred.





8. "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" - Luc Besson wrote and directed this adaptation of Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières’ science fiction comics series "Valérian and Laureline". The movie starred Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne.





9. "Spider-Man: Homecoming" - Tom Holland starred as Spider-Man aka Peter Parker in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)’s first solo film featuring the web slinger. Jon Watts directed.





10. "Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2" - James Gunn wrote and directed this followup to the 2014 hit “Guardians of the Galaxy” for the MCU. Chris Pratt, Zoë Saldana and Kurt Russell starred.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Ten Favorite Movie Musicals



Below is a list of my ten favorite movie musicals . . . so far: 


TOP TEN FAVORITE MOVIE MUSICALS



1. "Mary Poppins" (1964) - Oscar winner Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke starred in Walt Disney's Oscar winning adaptation of P.L. Travers' literary series about a magical English nanny. Robert Stevenson directed.





2. "Singin' in the Rain" (1952) - Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds starred in this musical classic about Hollywood's transition from silent films to talkies. Kelly co-directed with Stanley Donen.





3. "Hello Dolly!" (1969) - Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau starred in this colorful adaptation of David Merrick's 1964 Broadway hit musical about a matchmaker in late 19th century New York. Gene Kelly directed.





4. "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" (1971) - Angela Landsbury and David Tomlinson starred in this entertaining adaptation of Mary Norton's novels about a woman studying to become a witch, who takes in three London children evacuated to the country during World War II. Robert Stevenson directed.





5. "Grease" (1978) - John Travolta and Olivia Newton-Johns starred in this adaptation of Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey's 1971 Broadway play about the lives of high-school students during their senior year in the late 1950s. Randal Kleiser directed.





6. "42nd Street" (1933) - Lloyd Bacon directed this musical about the preparation of a Broadway musical during the Great Depression. Warner Baxter, Bebe Daniels, Ruby Keeler and George Brent starred.





7. "Dreamgirls" (2006) - Bill Condon wrote and directed this adaptation of the 1981 Broadway musical about the travails of a female singing group from Detroit during the 1960s and 1970s. Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Oscar nominee Eddie Murphy and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson starred.





8. "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" (1967) - Robert Morse starred in this hilarious adaptation of the 1961 Broadway musical about an ambitious New York window washer using a "how-to" book to rise up the corporate ladder of a wicket company. David Swift wrote and directed the film.





9. "1776" (1972) - William Daniels, Howard Da Silva and Ken Howard starred in this entertaining adaptation of the 1969 Broadway musical about the creation and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Peter H. Hunt directed.





10. "The Gay Divorcee" (1934) - Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers starred in this adaptation of the 1932 Broadway musical, "The Gay Divorce" about an American woman who mistakes a song-and-dance man as the professional correspondent, who had been hired to help her get a divorce. Mark Sandrich directed.