Friday, November 20, 2009

Hungry Like The Shapeshifter

The Plot: Ah the world of cinematic build ups, you've gotta love them. Time and time again we see their pattern;

1.) The leaked photos of the cast members doing, well...nothing much on set. But you get to see them and that's cool.

2.) The long awaited teaser trailer that has 30 seconds of, well...nothing much minus a few scenes and sound bites. But you get to see it and that's cool.

3.) The merchandising including calenders, action figures, posters all of which you end up buying with money you don't have.

4.) The medium sized teaser trailer that has a few more lines of dialog than it's predecessor. However this is the one that finally puts you into adrenaline overdrive. This is the trailer that makes you say "I'm SO f*ckin' there opening day man".

5.) The long trailer which makes you say "Now I'm really SO f*cking there opening day man".

6.) The interviews with cast members talking about how this film will break all the rules and stereotypes of anything like it.

The last one seems to be kind of ironic to me seeing the first five follow the same old sh*t principal of any so called potential blockbusters over the past 2o years. However, we just seem to fall right for these flicks like some high school crush don't we? Hell, I fell for it most recently with the Star Wars prequels, Cloverfield and The Dark Knight. All of those films ended up kind of sucking to be honest.

So where am I going with this? The newbie (as of this writing) in The Twilight Saga, New Moon, pretty much followed this pattern as well. I had just finished writing my review of Twilight (thanks for the positive feedback btw) and New Moon was around step number 4 in the hype process. The anticipation level was just starting to bubble over for the film. As step 5 and 6 were reached, you'd better bet it was a full out explosion of Twilight phenomenon. There was talk of how New Moon was going to be one of the biggest openings in cinematic history. People everywhere couldn't escape the images of Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson posing like they were on some cheesy romance novel. Hell even I saw the long trailer and thought, "that doesn't look all that bad".

So on the Friday it came out I was sent out on a mission by my wife to get advanced tickets for Saturday's showing. After obtaining the tickets, I perused the online reviews and skipped over the ones that were plastered with "OMG". ("OMG" overuse roughly relates to "annoying teen-tard" by the way.) Be that as it may, I dropped all notions early about it being possibly worst than the previous one. I mean how could anything be much worst? So, with tickets in hand we marched into the theater Saturday afternoon. Two hours later...I walked out saying to myself...

OMG...that was like totally not bad as the original...OMG. However, we have many bumps story and movie wise so I figured what the hell, lets do this Twilight Saga review thing again. Once again, sit back, try to enjoy and offer no Twi-tardation if you are a fan of the series.

We start the film with Bella and Edward hanging out in a field. Bella sees her grandmother over yonder and decides she should introduce her sparkly boyfriend. And yes, they bring out the sparkly thing in the first two minutes which made me shudder once again. Anyhow, Bella goes over and does an E.T. finger touch with her grandmother thus turning her into...well...her grandmother. Of course this is all part of an elaborate dream sequence she is having symbolizing how Eddie is staying the same while she ages. Makes sense too because she is turning the ripe old age Bella wakes up to her father giving her a gift and she mildly scolds him about how he shouldn't have. Jesus H. chick, take the damn gift and shut up.

Bella heads off to school and meets up with the human extras no one really cares about. They chat for a bit until Edward shows up. After walking in slow motion for what seems like half the movie, Edward wishes Bella a happy birthday. This is interrupted when Jacob arrives to wish Bella the same. Bella notes how jacked Jacob has become which of course is a foreshadow to an onslaught of topless Jacob shots later on. More on that later. Jacob gives her a dream catcher while Edward moodily sulks off to the side. IOW, Edward just acts like he normally does.

Once in school, they meet up with (in desperate in need of decaf blood) Alice and (get a new haircut or remove that dead animal on your head) Jasper. They invite Bella to the house later that evening for a good old fashioned vampire birthday celebration. Before that though, we need some way too convenient plot exposition for stuff that will happen later in the movie. Hence, a classroom viewing of Romeo And Juliet in which Bella and Edward end up in a deep (or at least the film tries) philosophical discussion about suicide. Edward introduces the Volturi which are like the Dons of vampire activity. They live in Italy where they enforce the loosey goosey vampire laws with the only real one being don't make a spectacle of yourself. Other than that they kind of hang out and eat tourists all day. Anyhow, they are the ones to see if a vampire wants to off themselves.

After a scene where Edward recites part of Romeo and Juliet (while Shakespeare rolls over in his grave somewhere), we join up with the Cullens later that evening. Edward's clan all welcome Bella and provide her with presents. One of the presents end up causing a paper cut on Bella which throws Jasper into a blood frenzy. Edward protects Bella (by chucking her full force into a table with glass all over it) and the group do their best to restrain Jasper. Bella gets sliced by broken glass and Carlisle brings her aside to stitch her up. The two have a conversation about vampire life and how Edward feels his soul is damned. I guess that would partially explain his constant whinyness. Anyhow, Edward eventually brings Bella back home and the two part ways awkwardly.

Time goes by and Edward's clan seems to have been 86'd. This goes on for a bit until one day Edward shows up at Bella's place. He takes her out for a walk and proceeds to dump her in the middle of the forest because his clan is taking off. I figured that at this point, one viewing the film could take a bathroom break. I mean how long do break up scenes last usually? A minute or two? So I left, walked down the hall, relieved myself, washed my hands, stared at a few upcoming attraction posters and headed back. Five minutes later, they were still f*cking breaking up. Well luckily it was the tail end so I could skip all of the melodrama. However, I probably should have stopped for popcorn to avoid the whole of it.

Edward ends up leaving Bella for dead in the forest. However she is later rescued by a shirtless fellow named Sam who is part of Jacob's tribe. (More on him later.) Ok, at this point anyone with half a brain would probably say "ok screw Edward". I mean if a significant other, friend or even a family member left you in the middle of the woods you'd only want to see them again so you could rip their head off right? Well Miss Swan deals with her anger differently. She goes off the deep end rather quickly. She laments over losing Edward and her Cullen buddies. She stares out the window, apparently for several months, with a blank expression (not too odd for Bella) while dealing with nightmares in the evening. She sends Alice several undeliverable emails (you'd figure she'd take a hint after the first two bounced) and sits by herself at school.

"Bella, I'm sorry...but I locked the keys
inside the truck...we can't be together
because of things like this..."
Eventually she snaps out of it for a bit to go to a movie with one of her human friends. Ok hang in there because things are about to get ridiculous. While leaving from the theater, she spots some roughens one block over. This is when she sees a vision of Edward saying "keep walking". Um wait a second is that about? Is he hacking into her life or something? Or does Edward have the same powers as Jedis after they die? My wife later explained to me that she is only having visions of Edward in her mind. So lets see...we have a introverted female lead that is not only bipolar and poor in choosing boyfriends, she's also a raving schizophrenic. Christ, I'm so glad teenage girls reading this are looking up to her, I really am.

Bella quickly learns the only way to see Edward is to put her life in danger. Um, wouldn't a photo or video suffice? (EDIT: After reading this my wife informed me Edward stole all the pictures of himself so it would be like he never existed. IOW, Edward is a bigger prick than we thought.) She quickly obtains a few old motor bikes which she brings to her buddy Jacob. Jacob agrees to fix the bikes up and the two's friendship starts to blossom. Bella becomes more happier and the two seem to hit it off nicely. Jacob is a genuinely nice guy who keeps Bella out of trouble. And guess what...the two actually have on screen chemistry together. Where the hell did that come from in this movie series? So far it had been Bella and Edward acting like a couple of oak trees.

After fixing up the bikes, Bella takes off full force away from Jacob. Immediately she starts to see visions of Edward again until she falls off and scrapes her head on a rock. The little blood trickle prompts Jacob to remove his shirt thus prompting several older women in the crowd to scream in sensual delight. Hey don't get me wrong, the guy is cut but I found it disturbing how many older women cheered when he removed his shirt. If a dude shouted "she has a sweet ass" during a scene with Emma Watson in Harry Potter I'm sure they would have been kicked out of the theater rather brutally. Don't these women have kids almost the same age as Taylor Lautner?

Well moving aside the middle aged jail bait factor, just know from here on out Jacob has no problem keeping his shirt off. Oh and somewhere in between we get some exposition on Sam. Apparently he is like a high school coach who hangs out with young teenage men to feel cool again. But he does so in a mysterious manner for reasons not yet introduced. Sound kind of creepy at base level doesn't it? Moving forward, Bella agrees to go with one of her goofball human friends to a movie with Jacob in tow. Jacob starts to put the sweetness on Bella telling her what every girl wants to hear. Bella is still more or less stuck on Edward which puts Jacob into a rage. He threatens Bella's human friend and after this disappears for a bit.

Bella is rather distraught over Jacob leaving her and eventually catches up with his half naked ass during a rain storm. She notes Jacob had cut his hair and donned a tattoo. Bella also finds out he is now hanging out with Sam's mysterious group. Jacob give Bella the Edward treatment and the two part ways for a bit. Some more stuff happens, nothing of real interest until Bella comes face to face with bad vampire Laurent from the first story. Edward appears via vampire satellite again to guide her through the conversation. Apparently Laurent's female counterpart Victoria is still PMSing about the Cullens offing her boyfriend. She wants to kill Bella to return the favor. Laurent almost takes out Bella but fortunately for her a group of giant wolves chase him away. One of them in particular makes eyes with Bella. Gee I wonder who that is.

"Bella, I can take my shirt off if you want,
no...ok...well...are you sure you don't want
me to take my shirt off...because I can..."

Jacob and Bella have some more c*ck tease interaction until one day Bella decides to pay Jacob a visit at his house. During the visit she comes face to face with Sam and his buddies. She decks one of them which prompts him to turn into a wolf. Unfortunately before the wolf can rip her moody little throat out, Jacob arrives in wolf form to wrassle the other wolf away. I should note that every time the wolves change they go through a pair of shorts. Think Incredible Hulk transformation but only with a more loose waistline. That and more shrinkage when you get back to normal.

So while those two do their wolf thing, Bella is taken to Sam's pad to meet his scarred fiance Emily. Emily is kind of like a mom to the wolf pack and feeds them Alpo when needed or something. Bella eventually gets the low down later from Jacob what the wolf thing is about. Apparently not a lot of guys in the tribe have that power but those that do protect the innocent from vampires. And of course they all live in the same god*mn area which I really had to bend to believe. I mean do all the monsters in the world converge on WA? Sigh...moving on. Although they off vampires like Laurent, they have a peace treaty with the Cullens. Where were these guys in the first story while Laurent and his friends were killing people? Apparently not in the imagination of Stephanie Myers just yet.

A few scenes later, Victoria causes a bit of trouble inadvertently giving a heart attack to a member of Jacob's tribe. She gets chased out of Dodge but Bella decides that Jacob doesn't have enough to worry about. She plummets herself off a cliff into deep ocean water to see Edward again. Jacob, who should at this point should have let her drown, rescues her once again and brings her home. Once there, Jacob almost gets to first base before realizing there is a vampire near by. It turns out its Alice who decided it was time for the Cullens to enter the plot again. Christ, just when the movie was starting to gain credibility acting wise.

Jacob and Alice have a moody interaction but he allows her to talk to Bella. Alice informs her that she had visions of Bella jumping off a cliff. Thus, she thought Bella was trying to kill herself. Ok...have to stop here for a minute. Alice is a bit like Orko from He-Man. They both have decent powers and can be helpful at times but for the most part are immense f*ck ups. Alice apparently conveyed this vision to Edward who was rather disturbed by it.

Jacob comes back in briefly and puts one last move on Bella. Before getting a piece finally, the phone rings and he informs the person on the other end of the line Charlie is out planning a funeral. Who is on the other end of the line? that sh*t you undead just though it was brilliant of Jacob to do that. Sorry to sound like a chick there. Well Alice lets Bella know about this and how Edward plans to go to Volturi with a death wish. Bella, once again being a girl we can "look up to", leaves her father to go to Italy with Alice.

Once in Italy, the girls steal a car (oh for Christ's sakes really?) and take off to Volterra which is home to the Volturi. While driving Alice has visions of Edward exposing himself (in a PG-13 manner that is) at noon to the common public thus bringing about his doom. The girls slice through the crowds and some drawn out slow motion acting takes place. Eventually Bella is able to stop Edward who finally admits he can't ever leave her again. However, there is a small matter to handle with the Volturi.

Everybody gets taken in and they are greated by Volturi leader Aro. Following the "evil councils for dummies" textbook word for word, the Volturi has just about everything you'd expect. Aro is the eccentric fellow who blathers on while pausing uncomfortably between words. You have Marcus who fits the bored to tears council member stereotype that just wants to go home. Then theres Caius who is the good looking one who sits around looking devious. Mix that with the diabolical yet innocent looking girl named Jane (Dakota Fanning, where the hell have you been young lady) and a few enforcers then is your evil vampire council.

Edward is pretty much forgiven but the Volturi insists that Bella be off'd. Edward doesn't take kindly to this and gets into a room shattering fight with one of the enforcers. Not surprisingly, Edward gets his ass handed to him but before the Volturi can kill Bella, Alice pipes in. She says that she had a vision of Bella becoming a vampire one day. She shares this vision with Aro who apparently can share her vision. In a bit I found absolutely ridiculous, we see Alice's vision of Edward and Bella running through the forest looking like Hansel And Gretel. Bella is very much sparkly like Edward. The Volturi pretty much say, "ah fuggedaboutit" and send them packing. Weak man...very weak.

Once back in WA, Bella finds her boyfriend's back and her bad dreams have stopped. She talks to the Cullens who all but a few vote that she be changed into a vampire. Um, why take a a vote, didn't Alice pretty much confirm that? Oh wait, this is Alice we're talking about, never mind. Edward isn't thrilled (surprise, surprise) but agrees that someday it will be done. As the two are driving one day, they come across Jacob who is rather PO'd. Edward thanks him for saving Bella but Jacob reminds him that no human will be bit under their treaty. This gives way to a brief wolf vs vampire showdown which leads nowhere. Bella comes between them and wolf Jacob sadly trots off into the forest while Edward asks Bella to marry him thus ending the film.

Going into this film, I imagine the makers had it rough thanks to the debacle the last one ended up being. So let me begin with the good. Where the first movie proved to be a bit goofy in the special effects category, this one improved ten fold. Of course that is more or less thanks to a bigger budget and a director who apparently has a clue. That and finally there is a sense of danger in the film because the villain department is generously expanded. This was a huge Achilles heal in the first film and I'm glad they improved upon it.

Unfortunately though, Stewart and Pattinson continue their tradition of forced, epically bad on screen chemistry that goes absolutely nowhere. Add that to the fact that Edward and Bella's lengthy romantic book courtship was apparently shred into a ten minute wrap up in the first film and they are doomed as a couple. As a non-reader, I simply can't buy into these two even liking each other not to mention wanting to lay their lives on the line for one another. This causes a domino effect which makes me, as the viewer, resent Bella. This is bad because isn't this her story? Shouldn't we care about her well being? Why should I give a crap about what happens to her as a character? Bella chooses a guy who doesn't even seem that thrilled to be dating her over a guy who pretty much would do anything for her.

And yes, the above paragraph is the basis for the whole "Team Jacob" or "Team Edward" camps out there. Maybe it comes down to "what type of person are you"? Would you take the rich playboy with money galore or the rugged next door type boy who lives meagerly. And I should point out, Bella ending up with Edward is a judgement based on the story writer's decisions and not the filmmaker's.

Regardless of what "team" you're on or what it all means in symbolism, it doesn't erase the fact it makes for a bad vibe on film. If I am to like the Bella/Edward thing, give me a reason to have faith in their relationship. I'm sure they do so in the book. Edward just comes off as a whiny d*ckhead on film once again and Bella just seems to be screwing with Jacob's emotions making them BOTH unlikeable. If Bella has a reason to dis Jacob, show me and don't assume I'll buy anything without an explanation. Of course a majority of the audience is going to hate your lead character if she breaks a nice guy's heart. Quite frankly Jacob, aside a little anger management, comes across as a genuinely likable guy...almost the perfect guy at that. Plus there is 100x more chemistry between Lautner and Stewart. It just doesn't make sense to me at all.

Getting back to the film itself, lets talk about the music department. It seemed at times the music overpowered the scenes which bothered me. Granted the soundtrack was a vast improvement from the first however, everything seemed to have music. Plus the music always seem to accompany the painful to watch slow motion shots making them even cornier. Some scenes would have been so much better if there was no music and a bit of silence.

Acting wise, as mentioned above, was pot luck. Lautner plays Jacob in a charming manner and seems to bring out the best of his supporting cast. However, pretty much everyone in the Cullen camp, minus Carlisle, seem to be green acting wise thus bringing the movie down. The movie as a whole just becomes more enjoyable without them around. I did find humor in the human friends Bella had and they provided an interesting parallel of how normal life is a bit boring. Hence why Bella is drawn to more of the odd types within the story. Overall, I'd have to say that a good percentage of the cast improved since their last endeavor.

So the future of the film series is undoubtedly going to be a successful. That and the majority of the book fans will probably dig future film endeavors. That's if the film makers hopefully continue to understand that this is a love story. Director Christ Weitz seems to have gotten this aspect while making this film. However, for me personally one viewing is more than enough. I still don't feel a connection with the series that would make me want to watch these films over and over again. However from what my wife tells me, the plot line gets even more B-tastic with time. Stay tuned...

You're A Grand Old A-Hole
(the A-holes of the film get their moment)

The Volturi

You'll want them to kill you after Aro
takes fifteen minutes to get out one


Well at least now they are busy making
death threats and not baseball game

Overall Grade

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