The Night Out: The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009), or Werewolves Give Me A Wetty

22 11 2009

Well, time doesn’t really fly when you’re writing reviews and watching movies every day. Sometimes it’s excruciatingly drawn out. But every now and then, things creep up on you that you weren’t exactly prepared for. Around 11 months ago, I wrote my first review on here, a sample to test out the format of what would one day be my writing style for this very site. The review was for Twilight, everyone’s favorite female-orgasm-inducing fantasy romance. I found it to be a little naive, a little poorly conceived, and overall a bit disappointing. But, at the end of that test review, I stated very plainly that I would give the next film a chance, because I felt the seeds that were sown in the first film had the potential to blossom into something approaching a solid franchise. Case closed, game over, see you next time, and sayonara were my thoughts on the matter, and I was content to wait for the next film without talking or thinking about it. I, however, was about the only person on the planet who wanted to wait for any more Twilight discussions. Next thing I know, the entire world is talking about this franchise non-stop, waiting with a slack jaw and throbbing genitals for more; all my entertainment magazines were gearing up for New Moon fever, every female around me was picking sides on which of the leading men were hotter, and even the bookstore I work at suddenly became a souvenir shop for any merchandise that tried to fit a picture of Robert Pattinson’s pained face on it.

It’s all been a bit much, and now, almost a year later, we get the sequel that everyone’s been waiting for, New Moon, the continuation of Bella and Edward’s awkward ETERNAL LOVE. Problem is, it feels like I just saw the damn original, and I honestly wasn’t up for another 90 minutes of questioning a love that was supposed to be forever. Up until the lights went down, I was honestly a little bummed out about seeing it, and probably looked like a bit of a Glum Gus to Bren. But as soon as I saw the first trailer attached to this mega-ultra-super blockbuster, it suddenly occurred to me that I needed to get with the program; I had an obligation to be objective, no matter how much I was loathe to be. I needed to just calm down and get to movie watching for the sake of any modicum of integrity I’ve garnered over the past 11 months. And it also hit me that I was hanging out on my day off with the girl of my dreams watching a movie in a nice, clean theater, so I really didn’t have a whole lot to complain about as far as my condition went. So, completely serious, what did I think of the movie, all bullshit aside? Well…

Okay, I really, really don’t want to have to set up this movie, because I think just about everyone on Earth as of this reading is aware of what Twilight is about; human girl in love with vampire guy, vampire guy in love but with misgivings about the nature of their unconventional relationship, other vampires and humans shake their heads trying to sort out their dumb, cow-eyed love for one another. Well, New Moon is the same thing, rinse and repeat, but adding werewolves into the list of people shaking their heads at Edward and Bella. Edward still has misgivings, which are made manifest after a mishap at Bella’s birthday party involving a hungry vampire and a, no joke, paper cut (!!!) causes Edward to leave Bella in order to keep his crazy vampire lifestyle from hurting her. Bella does what any normal person would do after getting dumped and completely shuts down for a few months. She is lost in a sea of immature emotions, and has nowhere to turn after Edward leaves. The only way she can even picture him is when she does something reckless, so she starts becoming an adrenaline junkie. Meanwhile, she also starts hanging out with Native American beefcake Jacob, her childhood friend, and a romance develops between the two of them that won’t go anywhere because Bella’s hung up on that damned vampire. So this keeps going back and forth for quite some time, with little interludes involving the vengeful vampire Victoria from the first film trying to kill Bella and Jacob protecting her with his obviously alluded-to lycanthropy, dancing a futile dance around their doomed love until news gets out that Edward is planning to kill himself in the most garish way possible after getting a false vision from his sister that Bella has died. Bella must travel to Italy to prevent this outlandish suicide, but will  will it be too late?

It’s really a trade-off. While it seems that the franchise has learned from a few of their previous mistakes, they seem proudly intent on keeping others like framed folk art on the wall. While I do applaud the series for making the incredibly brave speculation that maybe, just MAYBE Bella could have rushed too soon into something she wasn’t prepared for, as is exemplified by her immature handling of Edward’s departure, they’re not exactly condemning it, and they might just be all for it. Their relationship is shallow, baseless, and all-too stuffy and literary, especially for something that’s supposed to last forever, which makes it even more of a shame that childhood friend Jacob is even involved, because the kind of love they have is real and natural. Instead, he’s needlessly tangled up in this for the purpose of some half-hearted werewolf-vampire-human love triangle that is definitely isosceles in nature, ensuring that Jacob gets the tiny surface and is therefore doomed to being strung along the rest of the franchise.

And I’m not too sure I like the new vision of the saga. I think one of the things the original got right was the scope of the story. It really loses a lot of the romantic steam when it becomes bombastic and epic instead of the indie sensibility the first film maintained. This story doesn’t need to be Harry Potter and The Magical Vampire’s Chemically Unbalanced Bitch Girlfriend (coming soon); it just needs to be about people from two, and now three, different worlds and how they try to love one another in the tumult of their lives. Things get more complicated when they start to add more fight scenes and million-dollar special effects. Leave some of those out if you want it to be a more cohesive and streamlined experience; or add those, but maybe take away some of the ludicrous lingering ab shots that dot the landscape of this vampire romance from start to finish.

And the actors have stayed the same from the original; they’ve neither advanced or devolved, although when one considers that they really never took a break from filming this break-neck saga, maybe I shouldn’t expect them to. Kristen Stewart is Bella, the “main character” of this saga who has the “unenviable” task of choosing to live forever with a hot guy or live life as a human with a hot guy. Choices, choices. She has a distracting affectation that forces her to act with her mouth open, and it gets to be a problem when I’m expecting her to say something and it just ends up being her bottom lip taking a breather. Other than that, I don’t like her character, but she’s not bad as a young actress. Robert Pattinson is pretty much the same from before. Remember that time he got really emotional in the first and broke your heart? Oh, that’s right, I forgot; he never really emotes. Ever. Well, good thing he’s an actor, right? The most he does as Edward Cullen is look mildly annoyed with himself and everyone around him, though I probably would be if I was a vampire who was constantly doting on a human like Bella “I’ll String You Along As Long As It’s Convenient For Me” Swan. The real standout is Taylor Lautner, who plays the boy next door, Jacob. While I hate the guy personally (Bren is Team Jacob…), I don’t think he did half bad here. He was a real teenager here, which is striking when Kristen Stewart is trying to be an adult and Robert Pattinson is playing a guy born at the turn of the century. He even has a little bit of an arc, much to my surprise. If you’re going to watch this and pay as close attention to the acting as I had to as a critic, your best bet is to drown everyone out and focus on the lesser of three mediocrities.

I’m not doing New Moon any favors by reviewing it, I’m sure, and this review probably won’t be attracting any more people to the site considering who my readership consists of, so it’s a case of strange bedfellows, me reviewing this film. But, much like the romance between a vampire and a human, it just happened, so what can you do besides either go with it or bury the evidence? I would go so far as to say that this is a better movie than the original, but I don’t know what exactly it’s doing better. It’s marginally better looking, the soundtrack is better, and there’s a character here to root for, unlike the fatalistic first film, where everyhing was DESTINY. I don’t really like new director Chris Weitz’s vision for the franchise or what it means for the core story of the romance, and I really don’t like how both the characters and the people that portray them are ponies with but one trick between them. But I’d say it is a little better. I’ll bite one more time, and will probably watch the third one next year when it comes out, because I still think they can do something with this series. But from what I’ve heard of the later book installments, I’m not exactly what you’d call hopeful. As it stands, I give New Moon 4 1/2 isosceles love triangles out of 10.

Tomorrow I watch Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind! Until then!

And, for the curious ladies out there, if I had to pick between Jacob or Edward, I’d go Jacob all the way. But if I could choose any man in the saga, I would definitely go with Charlie, Bella’s dad. That’s right, I went there…

PSA: The Messengers (2007), or Play The BOO! Scare Drinking Game

30 10 2009

Well, folks, time again for another scary movie that in my 2 week long series of Halloween-themed movies that I am tentatively calling MOVIES THAT MAKE ME WANT TO HAVE A STRONGER BLADDER SO I DON’T HAVE TO WRAP MY COUCH IN PLASTIC! Today we have a movie that will scare nobody, but might just piss you off enough to give you serious stress-related maladies. It’s your standard “family moves into a house that has a shady history of paranormal activity” a la The Amityville Horror, but feels the need to sweeten the pot with a whole lot of GOTCHA! scares that I’m starting to think are structurally designed to piss me off. It’s really, truly generic, and I don’t think anyone would even remember this movie if it wasn’t for the insertion of Kristen “Eternal Love, Kinda” Stewart, aka Bella from Twilight.

Well, guess what? We’re going on a cinematic road trip to North Dakota! Now, don’t hang yourselves just yet. It’s the struggles of a family trying to eke out a living  from a sunflower farm, and the usual blasé strain a cross-country move on a family. The father is struggling to make this floundering venture work, and the kids don’t understand why they had to move and leave their friends behind, and the wife is having a hard time dealing with it, yadda yadda yadda. Anyway, GHOSTS!!! There are ghosts in the house, and at first only the children can sense it, the young mute son Ben, and the teenage daughter Jess. Odd events around the house, along with unexplainable stains on the wall and terrifying (AND LOUD!) noises mark their arrival, as well as the arrival of a strange guest to their house. His name is John, and he is just some guy who has offered to help the father with the day-to-day of the sunflower business. There’s something not right about him, and there’s something not right with the house, but as usual, parents just don’t understand, and they don’t believe daughter Jess when she tells them that something is up. It’s up to her to unravel the mystery surrounding this boring North Dakota house and the man who says he’s just nobody but is indeed probably somebody. but can she find out in time, or will the ghosts make their presence known more forcefully next time they appear?

Can it get any more bland? I might as well have watched some Cream-of-Wheat whirl around in a microwave for 90 minutes. This was a severe waste of my time, and I feel slightly poorer for having watched it. With a twist ending you could see coming a mile out into the sunflower fields and a concept that has been fucked to the ground, The Messengers has made a fool out of me not once, but TWICE in my life. I watched this once it came out on DVD a while back, and was severely disappointed with what I found. Now, I’m back to review it, and, surprisingly enough, I don’t find it to be very salvageable. The Pang brothers, directors of both Bangkok Dangerous and Bangkok Dangerous, can scratch out horror on their list of genres that they mistakenly alter based on the audience they’re shooting for. Their Asian films are good enough, but when they get to the States they have this distorted view of what we want that translates roughly to, how do you say it in English, uh, BOO! It’s annoying, and I’d really appreciate itif they stopped changing their style to accommodate us filthy Americans.

The cast is basic, bare-bones, and that’s a shame considering the names they generated. I didn’t expect much from McDermott, who seems more comfortable on TV than he does on the silver screen. There’s not much to say about his character, the father; I guess I believe that he loves his family, which is some kind of vague compliment. Penelope Ann Miller visits the set every now and then as the doting mother, and, well, she tries. John Corbett and Kristen Stewart are the only two break-outs here, because they’re actually trying. John Corbett plays John (no relation), the worker who has something he’s not telling everyone. He starts out so friendly, but his intensity slowly ratchets up as the movie progresses and makes the film bearable. And I won’t pick on Kristen too much, because she actually puts forth a lot of effort here. She’s not a virtuoso or anything, but I appreciated the fact that she took the part seriously and made the character believable in her petulance, as well as sketching her own shady past with a few broad brushstrokes.

And there’s not a whole lot more to say. The Messengers is a movie to avoid unless you’re just a horror movie fanatic who can’t get enough of them. And even then, we’re talking bottom of the barrel here; you can surely find some good ones you haven’t seen yet if you look hard enough. It’s not very imaginative, it’s not very skillfully executed, and, with the exception of a few moments, its much less frightening as much as it is infuriating in its insistence for scares. Don’t go see this film, I promise you won’t be missing out. I give The Messengers 3 filthy Americans out of 10. Boo.

Tomorrow’s Halloween! I picked the best horror film I could think of for this very special occasion! Tomorrow you and I BOTH need to watch Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht starring Klaus Kinski! I’ll tell you why tomorrow!