Friday, November 18, 2011

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 - 1 star

I didn't hate the first 3 Twilight movies. I wouldn't say I enjoyed them, but they were starting to grow on me. Despite the bad writing, bad acting, horrible special effects, and soap opera quality the characters were starting to grow on me a little. I was hoping this 4th movie in the series would be interesting. I was wrong.

Nothing happens in this movie. Ok, a few things happen, but it feels like they took 45 minutes of material and stretched it out to 2 hours. When the last Harry Potter book was split into 2 movies, it made sense. That book had a ton of plot and it wouldn't have worked in one movie. The Twilight producers realized they could do the same thing and make a lot more money. The problem is the book doesn't have the plot to sustain 2 movies. At least it seems that way from this first part.

Spoiler alert. If you haven't read the books and want to remain spoiler free, stop reading. I'm going to give the plot away.

In this movie, Edward and Bella get married. Then they go on their honeymoon. Bella gets pregnant and they return to Edward's house. Jacob is concerned about Bella while the rest of his tribe / pack are worried that Bella's baby will be a threat to everyone. Bella has the baby. The end.

That's about it. The wedding takes a half hour and everyone just stands around looking sullen and earnest. The bad dialogue is delivered like the actors are hung over. There is maybe 3 minutes of humor while Bella's friends and family are giving toasts. Anna Kendrick shows up for maybe 5 minutes and livens things up. Bella's dad is more entertaining in 30 seconds here than he has been in any of the previous movies.

Then they go on their honeymoon. This takes another half an hour. They consummate their marriage and his lovemaking is so violent that they bust up the room. When Edward sees bruises on Bella's arm the next morning, he decides they can't have sex again. Bella is sad.

All this time, they never cut away to anyone else. No subplot involving Jacob. Nothing about the Volturi (the royal family of vampires). In the trailer, we see the Volturi getting an invitation to Bella's wedding. What about that? They were the most interesting aspect of these movies, because they introduced some real menace and danger. Plus Michael Sheen plays the leader, and he is great in everything.

In New Moon the characters met up with the Volturi, and from what I can remember, there was talk about killing Bella because she was a threat. Are they still interested in what goes on with her? Do they know Edward and Bella got married? No mention of them in this movie, except for one scene where Bella sees them in a dream.

Hopefully Part 2 will be better, but unless you are a die hard Twilight fan, there is no reason to see this movie.

Like Crazy - 2 1/2 stars

Like Crazy is about extremely long distance relationships. Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones play Jacob and Anna. They meet while going to college in Los Angeles. She leaves a note on his car letting him know that she is interested in him, and she ends the note with a disclaimer that she is not a psycho. So that is their "meet cute" moment.

Jacob is from LA, but Anna is from the UK, and she is on a student visa which means she has to go back home after the semester is over. But they have fallen in love and she doesn't want to go. She stays a couple of extra months, which violates the terms of her student visa. She finally does go home and when she tries to come back to the US to see Jacob, she is denied entry. Apparently neither of them thought it would be a good idea to look into what the consequences are of violating a visa.

So the movie consists of them trying to talk to each other on the phone and not succeeding very well. I had a hard time buying this. There is a time difference, but if they were as in love as the movie says they are, I would think they would be able to schedule times to talk to each other. The movie also has a lot of musical montages, which means they couldn't think of another way to explain what the characters were going through. Falling in love? Musical montage showing them happy together. Separated by an ocean? Musical montage showing them going about their separate lives and looking sad.

There are several times when the movie kind of jumps ahead, and it is jarring. One moment they are texting about how much they miss each other, the next moment 2 months have passed and Jacob has a new girlfriend named Sam (Jennifer Lawrence from Winter's Bone). Sometimes it seems like Jacob is keeping his relationship with Anna a secret from Sam, but other times it seems like Sam knows what is going on. The movie doesn't really explain this well.

The movie could have been great. The performances are good and this is potentially a good concept for a tragic love story. The problem is it felt like scenes were missing. It left me with way too many questions. If they were so in love, they could have tried a little harder to make it work.

We Were Here - didn't see

We Were Here is a documentary about the early days of the AIDS crisis. I've heard nothing but good things about it. I'm hoping to see it soon. Until then, if you saw it let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

Happy Feet Two - didn't see

I wasn't able to see Happy Feet Two (I didn't see the first one either). If you saw it, let me know what you think in the comments.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Martha Marcy May Marlene - 1 1/2 stars

This movie would have made a great short film. But as a feature, it was too boring and it left me with too many questions.

At the start of the movie, we meet Marcy May (Elizabeth Olsen). She is living in some kind of commune in an isolated farm house. She sneaks away in the early morning hours and goes to a fast food restaurant. Is this a cult? Is she escaping? If so, why is she allowed to get away so easily?

She calls her sister, who has not heard from her in 2 years. She tells her sister that she was with a boyfriend and just lost track of time. She also says she got rid of her cell phone and never bothered to get a new one.

We find out that her real name is Martha. She lives with her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and brother-in-law Ted (Hugh Dancy) and tries to adjust to normal life. Through flashbacks we learn about what life was like in the commune, which was actually a cult. She has a hard time breaking some of the habits she developed with the cult. She doesn't realize that it isn't ok to go skinnydipping at the lake behind their house. She doesn't understand that she can't just walk into Lucy's bedroom and lay on the bed while Lucy and Ted have sex.

For every single thing we learn about Martha's life inside the cult, there are 5 things we don't learn. I'm fine with a movie leaving some things to our imagination and not spelling everything out, but this was just too much. We see the scene where she first meets the cult's leader, Patrick (John Hawkes), but we don't see the events leading up to it. Why was she interested in joining the cult in the first place? Did she know it was a cult? If not, what did she think went on there?

We get fragments of ideas about what they believe, but not enough. We learn that they engage in some criminal activity, but the movie doesn't show us the point in that. Do they hate wealthy home owners, or are they just trying to steal stuff?

The scenes with Martha living with Lucy and Ted are very effective. Martha admits that her mind is so messed up that she doesn't know what actually happened and what was a dream. There are a couple of scenes where she expresses her philosophy and argues with Ted and Lucy, but we don't get enough information to understand where that comes from.

I had a hard time believing that Ted and Lucy would put up with her for so long. They accept her story that she was living with a boyfriend, and they never demand more information. By the time she starts exhibiting such strange behaviour, I think they should have told her to come clean or she has to leave. They do eventually get to the point where they think Martha needs therapy, but I think it takes them way too long to get there.

I think the movie has some great ideas, but it needed a rewrite or two to actually make it entertaining. It was a chore to sit through, and I saw several walkouts at the screening I attended.

Mozart's Sister - did not see

I was not able to see this movie before it was released. If you saw it, let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

Immortals - not screened

Immortals is the latest movie from Tarsem Singh. It's only his 3rd movie, after The Cell (2000) and The Fall (2006). I didn't like either of those movies. While they looked incredible, they bored me to tears. The trailer to Immortals does not give me any indication that I will like it any more than his previous movies.

The movie was not screened for critics in Salt Lake, so I was not able to see it. Did you see Immortals? Let me know what you thought of it in the comments section.

J. Edgar - 3 stars

The latest movie from director Clint Eastwood is about J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI from 1935 - 1972. Hoover is played by Leonardo DiCaprio, in what may be his best performance.

The movie takes place towards the end of his life as he is dictating his life story to various assistants. Through flashbacks we see the events that shaped his life. We learn about his domineering mother (Judy Dench), who he lived with until her death. We learn about his relationship with Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), his closest companion. We also meet his faithful secretary Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts), who sticks with him his entire career despite the awkwardness of their first date when he proposed marriage.

At its heart, the movie is a tragedy. The movie suggests that Hoover was gay and homophobic. He was in love with Tolson, but would never admit it, even to himself. Tolson was also in love with Hoover, but he seemed to know and understand the nature of their relationship, and no matter how painful it was, he put up with it. Better to be in his life as a friend then not in his life at all.

The movie also shows Hoover's relationship with the presidents over the years. Each time a new president was elected, he would meet with them to let them know who he was and make sure they were in awe of his power. He also wasn't afraid to blackmail them. He would show the president a file containing some incriminating photos, always claiming something like "We were looking for communists. We never expected to see something like this. Now, how can I help you?" He tried to make it seem like it wasn't blackmail, and all he wanted to do was notify the president that this evidence was out there. He would do whatever he could to protect the secret he had uncovered, but he also reminded them that he had a copy in his private files.

The movie is a little slow moving at times, but I was never bored. I was fascinated with the character. He is an easy man to hate, but the movie also made him a real flesh and blood person, and while I wouldn't say I understood him, I at least understood where he was coming from. The old age makeup isn't entirely convincing, but the performances helped me to overlook the makeup.

Jack and Jill - 2 stars

This is a terrible movie, but I have to admit that I laughed a lot.

Adam Sandler plays both Jack and his twin sister, Jill. Jill comes to stay with Jack and his family for the holidays, and Jack hates every minute she is there. Jill is in incredibly obnoxious character. In fact she is so obnoxious that it's hard to believe her as a character at all.

No human who has ever lived is this dumb and clueless. She answers her cell phone during a movie and speaks at full volume. She whispers offensive things at a dinner party that the entire table can hear. She drives a jetski in a swimming pool. The character exists so Adam Sandler can play a woman. If you have heard his comedy CDs, you will recognize the voice he is doing. It's also reminiscent of the shopping mall girl he used to play on SNL, along with David Spade and Chris Farley. Spade shows up in the movie (also playing a woman), and oh how I wished Chris Farley were still alive.

Al Pacino is in the movie, playing himself. The story is about how Sandler's character, who runs an ad agency, is trying to get Pacino to appear in a Dunkin Donuts commercial. Pacino is having some kind of nervous breakdown in the movie, and he develops a strange attraction to Jill.

The Pacino stuff is pretty funny. My favorite scene involved Pacino answering his cell phone during a play, where he is the star. Pacino does a good job in the movie, but my heart sank at the end when we see the commercial he does for Dunkin Donuts. He basically craps on his entire legacy during a 2 minute musical number where he quotes his most famous lines. For shame.

The most annoying thing in the movie for me was the twins' language. Jack and Jill speak to each other in a language only they can understand, and it's so annoying it made my teeth hurt.

So the movie is as bad as the trailer suggested, but there are laughs to be found. Oh, and like all Happy Madison productions, there is fart and poop humor in the movie too. Enjoy!