November 19, 2009

In the Name of Journalistic Integrity!

DEAR GOD!!! How do the teenage girls sit through that shit? It's the Friday before Thanksgiving, which means one thing. The new installment of the mediocrity celebrating franchise Twilight, New Moon has descended upon us, ready to steal our hard earned dollars and time. How bad is this movie? Let me tell it like this. There's a segment where the characters go to the cinema to see a bad action movie. A really bad action movie, to be precise, called Face Punch. Face Punch is a better movie then New Moon.
So, the story picks up sometime after where the first left off. Bella Swan is happily enjoying her pale-as-chalk, vampire boyfriend, Edward Cullen; is fitting in nicely at school; and is getting closer to her hella buff, Indian American friend, Jacob Black, who is also a werewolf, but more on that later. Life is going swimmingly, until Bella treats Edward's family to the pleasure of her company, and accidently cuts herself, causing Edward's brother to go apeshit and try to kill her. A very distraught Edward quickly gets out of town, all in the name of protecting her, causing Bella to fall into a depression so deep it borders on gratuitous. Jacob steps in to fill the niche, some familiar bloodsuckers return to cause trouble, and it all ties up nicely in a quaint little Italian village. Now, I'm sure the book told a good story; one filled with great character development and moved at a nice pace. Or, at least it would, if it was written by anyone other then Stephanie Meyer. Anyway, the plot in this movie moves at such a sluggish pace and takes absolutely no time to explore the characters in any sort of believable way that you begin to wonder if a daytime soap was condensed into movie form. Not good, in any sense of the word.
Performances are the same here as they were in the first, meaning, New Moon boasts some truly terrible performances. Kristen Stewart gives wooden a whole new meaning as Bella. Now, don't get me wrong, Kristen Stewart can be good. As proof of this, her work in Adventureland was simply sublime. I even was a little warm to her performance in Twilight. For New Moon she has taken a step back. She is worse in this movie then she was in the first! What the fuck? Everything she does is layered with such overbearing angst that I wanted to reach into the screen and choke the life out of her. It's so unrealistic. Now, I'm not a teenage girl... I don't think, but I'm pretty sure that most teenage girls are more down to earth then Bella, even if their boyfriends happen to be demonic bloodsucking fiends. Expect to see her on my worst of 2009 list in December. Robert Pattinson is back as Edward. He's barely in the movie, which is good, because he's still just as lifeless. Taylor Lautner's role as Jacob has been expanded exponentially, which is not a good thing. Of the three major roles, his is probably the best performed, but it is still a stinker. I understand why he went through all the trouble to buff up for this movie. His most interesting moments are when he's shirtless. He conveys zero emotion when he should be conveying tons. On the brighter side of things, New Moon introduces a few characters who are actually well performed, but woefully underused. Michael Sheen is a delight as the maliciously evil and powerful vampire Aro, and Dakota Fanning shows a side we've never seen from her as the sadistic Jane. Both of these characters, and a few others, only appear in the last 20 minutes of the film, which is such a crime. I would have loved to see a whole movie of them instead of the shit we're stuck with.
Now, you may be thinking, "Oh, New Moon is so bad, but how does it compare to Twilight?" Let me tell you. New Moon is actually better then Twilight! I know! Ridiculous, right? It's a mark of how abysmal the first one is that this drek actually qualifies as better. But, well, it is. First off, director Chris Weitz knows how to film an action scene. The few action scenes that are present are actually a bit exciting and well shot. The CGI is vastly improved over the last film; the wolves especially look very lifelike and manage to convey more emotion then their human counterparts. When your human actors are getting beat by CG wolves, it's probably time to call it a day. The main improvements are actually quite impressive. First off, there's some real, you know, color here. Everything is not as aggressively gray and emo looking. There are some wonderful hues of brown, yellow, and red. And, finally, the big thing, is that the vampires are actually scary in this one. Well, not all of them, but the ones that need to be are. Edi Gathegi and Rachelle Lefevre return as Laurent and Victoria, respectively. The, collective, 20 minutes that they are in the film are the most intense in the whole thing. And, I'm sorry, but Michael Sheen was positively terrifying as Aro. There is a greater effort to make the vampires seem more dangerous this time, and it does not go unappreciated. There is a short segment in the very end, where a vampire leads an unknowing group of humans, children included, into a room where they are to become the soulless bastards' next meal. The scene ends with the human's screams as the vampires have their way with them. This scene is only 30 seconds long, but it was what I wanted from the whole movie! I wanted intensity; I wanted high stakes. I did not want Pattinson and Lautner to spend 2 fucking hours coming up with different ways to tell Stewart that they love her, but that's what I got! How anyone could fall in love with this girl is beyond me. She's a whiney, little bitch! So, yes, there are vast improvements, but, they are so underutilized and poorly handled that I don't even know why I'm writing about them.
As with Twilight, what I'm saying here is going to jack to change your mind on this franchise. The teenage girl fans will love it. Everyone else will hate it's guts. I'm not giving my final verdict on the franchise just yet. The next one, Eclipse is supposed to ramp the action way up, and is being directed by David Slade, who gave us the wonderfully violent, disgustingly gory, and criminally dismissed 30 Days of Night, which is a good vampire film, in case anyone cares to know. Here's to hoping that he will say "Fuck you, tweens!" and bring some actual grit to this franchise, but I won't count on it.
Uggg! My god damn journalistic integrity will the be the death of me! D-

November 14, 2009

It's the End!!

Honestly, I was not looking forward to this. These next few weeks are going to be particularly hellish in terms of the movies I have to see. Before I get to experience Avatar, I have to contend with a slew of stinkers, including New Moon, Old Dogs, and Armored. But, to start off, I saw movie that, while terrible, is so fun that anything less then a recommendation would be cruelty. 2012, the latest tryst by Roland Emmerich in his fetish for destroying the Earth, is loud, obnoxious, poorly written, badly acted, and certifiably nuts. But, I don't care! This movie is so ridiculous, so over the top, so bat-shit insane that it puts all other disaster movies, past, present, and future, to shame! Don't say I didn't warn you; you may never want to see another disaster movie again.
So, it's the year 2012, and this movie is going under the assumption that the Mayans were correct in their prediction of the end of days instead of the bumbling idiots that they really were. The sun, and bear with me here; this is a little ridiculous, is emitting an exorbitant of neutrinos, which are, in turn, rapidly melting the core of the earth. This causes the plates to start to violently shift, causing all kinds of fun devastation and death! Los Angeles sinks into the Pacific Ocean, a tidal wave utilizes the John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier to bitch slap the White House, and Yellowstone National Park explodes! Contending with all this chaos is Jackson Curtis, a failed writer turned limo driver, who reads the signs, rents a plane, and attempts to get his estranged family to China, where the world's governments are secretly building massive ships to preserve civilization. Very Noah's Ark. The story, penned by director Roland Emmerich, is the exact same thing we've come to expect from him. Ruined relationships are healed amid the end of the world. We saw an ex husband and wife reconcile amid an alien invasion in Independence Day, old flames reconnect whilst a giant lizard rampages around New York in Godzilla, and a father and son forge a greater relationship during the onset of a new ice age in The Day After Tomorrow. Mr. Emmerich is a one trick pony in every sense of the term, but, his movies make tons of money. Go with what works, I guess.
It always boggles my mind, but how does Emmerich always get such talented actors in his movies. Everyone knows what a schlock meister he is, so why do big name stars always work with him. Here, we get John Cusack, doing a fairly decent job as the horribly unlucky and unrealistically brave Jackson, Amanda Peet, looking unhealthily thin as his estranged wife, Chiwetel Ejiofor as the President's chief science officer who discovers the whole mess, Oliver Platt as a world class douchebag of a Chief of Staff, Danny Glover as the President who gets crushed by an aircraft carrier (sorry to give that away), and an under utilized Thandie Newton as his daughter. Emmerich usually gets marginally good performances out of his actors, and 2012 is no exception. They pale in comparison to other performances by more gifted artists, but, for the quality of the material they have to work with, it's not terrible. Cusack especially stands out as a shining spot. His comic time, and chemistry with the actors playing his children is great, and put to great use amid all this mayhem. It is a little ridiculous how he turns into Jason Bourne in a tux throughout most of this film, but he keeps a straight face, and manages to keep us interested.
So, let's move on to the real player here, Mr. Emmerich. I'll be honest. I've been a bit unfair to him over the years. Sure his movies suffer from underdeveloped characters, dumb plots, and present science as iffy as four month old orange juice. But, they are fun! Really fun! Come on! You can't tell me you didn't crack at least one smile when Will Smith owned an entire alien civilization. That was friggin' awesome! 2012 is in the same category as his other movies. It's a fucking great ride! Emmerich even changes things up a little bit, and doesn't destroy New York. Well, he does, but we don't see it. He instead acts a bit more tasteful with his destruction, as when we see Hawaii melt thanks to a massive eruption of all the volcanoes in the area. We only a see airborne shot. He doesn't get close, leaving us to imagine what's happening, which makes it a lot more foreboding. Indeed, many parts of this movie are much darker then what we've come to expect from him, as when a man talks to his granddaughter on the phone and is an audible witness to her demise. It's those little things that hint at a maturation of the director, though that isn't likely. Also, the special effects are spectacular.
There are a slew problems, however. There always are. First off, the pacing. It takes a good 45 minutes to get to the disaster porn, and then it's a non stop roller coaster of destruction and death for a good hour and ten. Then, the movie just falls flat, opting for a Poseidon Adventure retread for a finale. The ending is so anticlimatic, I wanted to scream! Also, Emmerich's love of destroying monuments hamstrings him a little. There's a scene at the Vatican, where thousands of people are praying. Emmerich could have just shown this scene, and then moved on to the rest of the story, but oh no, he has to bring all of St. Peter's Basilica down on the worshippers. It's completely unnecessary and projects an unwelcome grim feeling on the audience. And, finally, the biggest problem with this movie is the tone. There are countless scenes where we are witness to terrible things happening. I think this the first Roland Emmerich film that is ok with showing the deaths of children. We see many little kids get crushed by falling debris, fall into bottomless pits, or get engulfed by massive tsunami's. Throughout most of the movie, the tone is pretty grim. And then there's the ending, which is all happy and shit. The ending sees the main characters looking out onto the new world, bathed in sunlight and happy. They just completely forget about the 5.9 billion other people that just died! Emmerich's other movies have suffered from this same problem. The man just doesn't learn!
But, when it comes down to it, 2012 is not trying to send a message or anything like that. It's just a popcorn movie, and a good one at that. It is the mother of all disaster films. It's pretty terrible on a subjective level, but, God Damn, is it fun! B