The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1
Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart
Four vampire-themed young adult books by Stephenie Meyer have not just inspired any movie series, they have spawned a marketing juggernaut (the third movie, Eclipse, raked in over $300 million at the domestic box office alone). In fact, the movie franchise has proved so successful that Summit Entertainment has taken a cue from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, splitting this adaptation of the last Twilight book into two separate movies (the 2nd part bows on Nov. 16, 2012). Even Meyers’ latest novel, The Host, is being adapted into a movie by director Andrew Niccol for release in 2012â¦but first comes Breaking Dawn. In this first chapter of the PG-13-rated two-part conclusion to Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling series, mortal Bella (Stewart) and vampire Edward (Pattinson) consummate their love – unaware of the effects it will have on themselves and werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner). The Plus: The franchise. The Twi-hards, are fiercely devoted to Twilight stars Stewart (The Runaways), Pattinson (Water for Elephants) and Lautner (Abduction), but moreso the gazillion dollar-earning movie series. Still, the fact that Oscar-nominated director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) has inherited the directing reins from David Slade (30 Days of Night) speaks well for this chapter. The Minus: The scuttle. Splitting a novel into two parts proved to be a financial and creative win for Warner Brothers with Harry Potter, but Twilight following suit seems to be strictly a money-grubbing move. Sure, the Twi-hards will show up in droves, but what about the movies’ quality?
Happy Feet Two
Voices of Elijah Wood, Robin Williams
Though some moviegoers may have thought that Happy Feet was capitalizing on penguin fever when it shuffled to the box office in 2006, that particular feature length cartoon-come-musical comedy was green-lit before the mega-hit documentary March of the Penguins ever saw the light of day. Still, the doc beat the ‘toon to theaters by well over a year. This gives moviegoers an idea of how long it actually takes to animate one of these buggers, which kinda sorta explains why it’s taken nearly five years for the obligatory Happy Feet follow-up. In this PG-rated sequel to the blockbuster animated family musical, dancing penguin Mumbles (Wood) has a son who isn’t interested in hoofing it, but they must put aside their differences once the penguin nation gets trapped by ice. The Plus: The players. Wood (The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King), Williams (Old Dogs), Pink (Get Him to the Greek), Matt Damon (The Adjustment Bureau), Brad Pitt (Inglourious Basterds), Hank Azaria (The Smurfs), Sofia Vergara (ABC’s Modern Family) and Common (Date Night) are all providing their pipes. The Minus: The gamble. Once again, it’s been nearly five years since Happy Feet bowed and many a family franchise has sprung up in its wake (Cars, Kung Fu Panda). Did Warner Brothers miss its window of opportunity?
Henry Cavill, Luke Evans
Blessed with godly visuals but beset with lowly storytelling, 301, er, Immortals isn’t quite heavenly entertainment but it’s definitely not rock bottom either. Between the jaw-droppingly ace use of technology and decent handling of Greek mythology, the movie definitely one-ups Clash of the Titans, but that’s as empty an accolade as being crowned the world’s longest short film. Perhaps, the best compliment that can be paid to Immortals is that its great use of amazing style over nearly-inconsequential substance actually keeps 3D relevant. Why nearly inconsequential? Well, what’s expected to be fleshed out from a screenplay loosely based on a thinly-sketched myth other than not being as gods-awfully boring as Titans?
In this R-rated swords and sandals 3D actioner, a warrior named Theseus (Cavill) must lead the fight against ruthless King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) and his evil army to save all of mandkind.
Tarsem Singh directed two movies before Immortals (The Cell, The Fall) but his work as a music video director still shows. For the sake of eye-catching design and awe-striking aesthetics, this is a good thing indeed. Granted, the movie sometimes looks like underwear models re-enacting scenes from American Gladiator, but Singh’s showmanship truly pays off. From sets to costumes to performances (including solid turns by Rourke, Frieda Pinto, and future Superman Cavill), it’s all gorgeous window dressing, but the action through this window is quite engaging. Surprisingly violent, this actioner is more swords than sandals but this tale of titans won’t clash with moviegoers unless they’re looking for a godly amount of intellectual stimulation.Bottom line: The gods smile on this flick.
Jack and Jill
Adam Sandler, Katie Holmes
So ridiculously over the top that it’s abhorrent to both sexes, lowball drag comedy Jack and Jill is a drag from the word “no.” In low denominator comedies like Waterboy and Little Nicky, Adam Sandler pandered to kids-at-heart (Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore, for example, were in constant dorm room rotation during this reviewer’s college years).
Complete with a PG rating, Sandler’s latest amazingly goes straight for the youngest demographic themselves (hell, at least the baby voice makes sense for once), but it’s doubtful that adults will find any humor unless they still eat paste, wear a protective helmet, and ride the short bus to work. Complete with tired slapsticky antics that are more cartoonish than the looniest ‘toon, Sandler’s latest is so bad that it makes Click look like high art.
In this PG-rated so-called comedy, a Los Angeles family man (Sandler) and his wife (Holmes) are forced to deal with his abrasively obnoxious sister from the Bronx (also Sandler) who comes for a visit during Thanksgivingâ¦but won’t seem to leave.
Ironically, Sandler made fun of such lowbrow notches on his cinematic bedpost in the in-on-the-joke dramedy Funny People, aping flicks like Jack and Jill with hilariously fake, but undeniably possible titles, like Merman and Redo. This drag-queen pantomime would’ve been the funniest faux movie…if it weren’t sadly unfurling before moviegoers’ eyes as an all-too-real comedy of horrors. What’s worse, he brings a host of cameoing stars down into this unfunny abyss with him (poor Al Pacino must’ve lost a bet to Robert Little Fockers’ De Niro). Bottom line: Jacked and jilted.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Josh Lucas
A Gee Whiz history lesson about a G-Man by an Old G director, J. Edgar teeters between average and incomplete on its H’wood exams. In this R-rated bio-pic, the life and secrets of longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (DiCaprio) are explored – including his hard-nosed investigations into Lindbergh (Lucas), RFK, Martin Luther King, and Richard Nixon. For a director once known for demonstrating very little style, Clint Eastwood sure colors in the dark edges of this carousel slideshow with some noirish verve. Aside from strong performances, it proves to be this occasionally bland film’s best talking point, which crams the subject-rewriting-history device of Chaplin and behind-closed-doors-psychological-unraveling angle of Nixon into the filmstrip simplicity of HBO’s Truman. When Dustin Lance Black’s script investigates Hoover’s association with longtime ‘friend’ Clyde Tolson (Arnie Hammer), however, J. gets really interesting. Bottom line: B-Grade detective.
Paranormal Activity 3
Katie Featherston, Sprague Graydon
Scared straight-laced after a real pair-a-thrillers, the tired and formulaic Paranormal Activity 3 just can’t seem to reheat cold leftovers. In this R-rated documentary-style psychological thriller, young sisters Katie and Kristi encounter an invisible force that’s haunting their home. Despite making the somewhat promising decision to angle this go-round as an ’80s-set prequel, the scare-making gets kept to a minimum by a ghost called redundancy. Yes, filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Catfish) one-up the fear factor and build onto the story of two haunted sisters by adding a Mr. Howdy called
Toby and a so-so twist at the end, but it’s all just Deja Boo. If Paranormal Activity 2 was a copy of the scary original, then this second deuce is sadly just a copycat. Bottom line: Pair-a-nuts to you.
Puss in Boots
Voices of Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek
Pussed to the breaking point, a Shrek supporting player just doesn’t have enough claws to milk ogre-sized entertainment value. In this PG-rated animated comedy, criminal mastermind Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) and fellow bandit Kitty Softpaws (Hayek) convince Puss (Banderas) to steal the goose that lays the golden eggs. Though far from the nearly purr-fect bar that Dreamworks has raised for itself over the last few years, Puss in Boots definitely has more laughs than hairballs. There’s a reason why this swashbuckling Latin lover who just happens to be a saucer-eyed tabby cat was a second-tier character in the last three family flicks that preceded this spin-off-come-prequel. By the time Shrek 4 rolled around, this character’s 9 lives had just about been used up. Here, thanks to some witty backup, he barely ekes out a 10th. Bottom line: Pussy deplore.
Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller
Madoffing out like a bandit, slick old school caper Tower Heist pleasingly steals away with a decent mix of excitement and laughs. In this PG-13-rated caper comedy, a group of working stiffs (Murphy, Stiller, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Michael Pena, Gabourey Sidibe) find out that they’ve all fallen victim to a greedy businessman’s (Alan Alda) Ponzi Scheme, so they plan to rob his high-rise condo. Here, with an ace ensemble cast and crackling script, director Brett Ratner crafts a sort of Blue Collar Ocean’s Eleven that’s – though far from great – solidly well made and played. It helps that Murphy is back to doing what he does best – foul-mouthed, motor-mouthed comedy. Between him, Stiller and the rest operating like a well-oiled crew pulling a crack bank job, the whipsmart, wit-smarmy script lams away some laughs. Bottom line: Penthouse view, studio laughs.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas
John Cho, Kal Penn
Making up for their last bad trip, Harold & Kumar ring in a holiday tale that’s lewd, crude, and often hilariously blue. In this R-rated third installment of the stoner comedy series, Cho and Penn return for some yuletide hi-jinks involving a burnt-down prize Christmas tree and ill-advised journey to cover their tracks. Though rightly savaged by critics, Escape from Guantanamo Bay made a tidy profit, which thankfully paved the way for this oftentimes offensive but funny early stocking stuffer. As both a send-up and, strangely-loving embrace of light-hearted seasonal romps, this stoned-cool duo light up a buncha laughs well worth the price of admission. What’s more, director Todd Strauss-Schulson makes wittily winning use of 3D technology. Granted, this is not a 7-course holiday feast, but it’s an enjoyable, albeit laced, slice of fruitcake. Bottom line: You’ll smoke your eyes outâ¦chuckling.