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Entries in New Moon (3)

Thursday
Aug222013

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

With the “Twilight” franchise having finally and mercifully come to an end, it’s no surprise that Hollywood is eager to find something to take its place. The latest tween movie based on an existing novel with multiple entries in its canon is this week’s “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.” While it could be argued that this first movie is somewhat of a gamble, the series has six books under its belt and if it proves to be a success, it could be the next lucrative, never ending franchise we’ll be forced to sit through every year until it ultimately dies. “Harry Potter” and “The Hunger Games” notwithstanding, most tween novel adaptations are poorly made and fail at the box office, rarely resulting in a sequel. If we’re lucky, this one will fail too and our cinemas will be saved from further ridiculous, overemotional melodramas.

The story follows Clary (Lily Collins), a pretty young girl whose best friend in the world, Simon (Robert Sheehan), is secretly crushing on her. One night, while out at a club, she witnesses a murder. However, the murderer soon catches up with her and explains that it was hardly a murder at all. His name is Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) and he’s actually a Shadow Hunter, a person who hunts and kills demons of all kinds. She soon finds out that her mother, Jocelyn (Lena Headey), is also a Shadow Hunter, but she finds it out too late and is unable to protect her when she is kidnapped by a gang looking for a mystical cup that they believe is in her possession. Along with the help of Jace, Clary sets out to find the cup and get her mother back.

Naturally, a love triangle ensues, as is seemingly common with these types of things. Simon is in love with Clary, but Clary and Jace eventually hit it off, which leads to Simon witnessing them kissing, Clary making excuses and Jace storming off in a fit of rage, bemoaning that she is “dismissing their love,” partly due to the excuse and partly because she won’t invite him into her bed after a single kiss. What a swell guy. This is, quite literally, “Twilight” all over again, though the movie doesn’t seem to want to admit it. At one point, after Clary hurts herself and is bleeding slightly, she even mocks the franchise by commenting, “Is this the part where you start tearing off pieces of clothing to bind my wounds?” This is no doubt a reference to “New Moon” when Jacob hilariously and egregiously rips off his entire shirt to tend to Bella’s minor scrape.

While these moments are nevertheless amusing, they’re offset by lines of dialogue mere minutes later, lines that read like one of those idiotic words-of-wisdom memes so many wannabe prophets post on Facebook day after day, things along the lines of “The rune to fix a broken heart is the most painful one.” So while it creates some initial goodwill with some self-aware quips, it quickly becomes ignorant of just how closely it resembles the very things it mocks. In a nutshell, the film points out the flaws of something like “Twilight” while succumbing to the exact same problems, never aspiring to become anything better.

If it had a story worth caring about, these tween clichés would be easy to look past, but the script is an absolute mess. While the central story is certainly lacking, it’s in its side stories that the film truly drops the ball, never fully concluding any of them despite their initial set-ups. At one point, Simon is kidnapped by vampires and bitten, Clary finding the bite wounds shortly after rescuing him, but the film never follows up on this, nor does it use it as a precursor for what could come in any potential sequels. Similarly, it alludes to the homosexuality of another Shadow Hunter named Alec (Kevin Zegers), an intriguing plot turn that could mix up the usual love triangle romance we’ve become so accustomed to, but once it’s brought up, it’s quickly dropped and never resurfaces. It’s like the screenwriter, this movie being her first cinematic endeavor, had some good ideas (no doubt derived from the source material), but then forgot about them as she wrote on.

If there’s one thing “City of Bones” does well, it is its art direction. This is not a bad looking movie and, in particular, its costumes and make-up are nothing short of fantastic. The design of this fantasy world set amidst a modern day New York City is top notch, springing to life before our very eyes. Yet the movie itself is still a gigantic mess. Although darker and more action packed than many tween movies, it never compliments its admittedly palpable suspense with a satisfying payoff and a mid-movie Star Wars-esque pseudo-twist leads to some of the most awkward moments and dialogue exchanges one can imagine. “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” may hope to become a franchise (and with an already planned sequel in the pipeline, it could become a reality), but it’s going to have to try much harder than this to justify it.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones receives 1/5

Wednesday
Jun302010

Eclipse

It’s safe to say that The Twilight Saga has become a cultural phenomenon. The film series has emerged as one of the most successful ever created, breaking box office records and garnering a massive amount of fans in the process. Too bad popularity doesn’t define quality. The third installment in the franchise, Eclipse, is easily the best. With that said, it’s still not good.

The movie begins where New Moon left off. The love triangle between human Bella (Kristen Stewart), vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) and werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner) rages on. Bella and Edward are in love and she desires to be changed into a vampire, but Edward refuses unless one condition is met: she must marry him. Otherwise, he wants her to remain human and keep her soul intact. Jacob also loves her and has a feeling she loves him back, but won’t admit it. He and his kind are also in a feud with Edward and his family, each thinking the other one is dangerous, but when Bella’s life is put on the line, they bond together to protect her despite their conflicting emotions.

I’ll say this for Eclipse. It tries. Due to Edward and Bella being separated throughout the majority of the film, New Moon was too overcome with its annoying teenage angst and lustful brooding to say anything relevant. Here they are together and seemingly happy. She wants to be changed into a vampire, but is trying to cope with the idea of losing her family. She is weighing the value of love and what type of consequences she will face should she get her wish. The movie asks how important love is and how far you’ll go to be with someone else.

Or at least it would like to think so. Eclipse wants to be more adult, but it’s weighed down by a script with dialogue that feels like it was written by a high school girl who thinks she knows what love is, but really doesn’t. While New Moon felt like an overemotional soap opera, Eclipse is more like a teen drama that correlates love with cheesy idyllic descriptions that seem to be ripped from the diary of a newly broken hearted 14 year old.

The rest of the film is largely the same as its predecessors, only slightly better. It’s a bit darker, most likely due to director David Slade’s experience with more disturbing material like 30 Days of Night and the terrific Hard Candy, yet he still introduces characters through ridiculous, laughable shots that feel more like fan service to show off the hunks in the picture than actual filmmaking. The action is better, again due to Slade’s past experiences, but its violence is toned down to fit its PG-13 rating and its CGI effects, particularly on the werewolves, look awful. The acting still stinks and, better still, the upper nudity of the male body is still exploited to gratuitous effect.

The only true enjoyment to be had in the Twilight films comes from listening to and watching the audience reaction to what happens onscreen. I find it hard to take this tripe seriously, but you’d think the oxygen was being sucked out of the room hearing the gasps from its adoring fans. When somebody got hurt, they shrieked in fear and when somebody gave a speech on love, regardless of how inane and manufactured it may have been, they cried. It almost makes me wonder what they would do if they actually saw a movie that was worthy of those emotions.

Now, I have no problem with the female population latching onto this series. The men have their Rambos and the women have their Twilights, but it’s time to step out from the clouds and look at these movies for what they truly are. If you liked the first two, I suspect you’ll enjoy this one, but liking something and arguing it as quality are two different things. Eclipse may be a step in the right direction for the franchise, but at this point, I fear “good” is an adjective that will never be used to describe it.

Eclipse receives 2/5

Monday
Jan112010

Daybreakers

There was a time when vampires used to be the epitome of cool. There was a time when Blade ruled the box office with its hard R rating, providing plenty of action and blood for fans. There was a time when vampires weren't reduced to frilly angst ridden teenagers entwined in a romantic love triangle with a self-pitying high school girl and shirtless werewolf. I remember those times. Oh, how I miss them. Vampires used to be scary, stalkers of the night out for the blood of unsuspecting humans. Now they sparkle when they walk in the sun. Thankfully, nay, blessedly, Daybreakers is here to set things straight. While it may be coming at an unfortunate time, in the wake of those silly Twilight movies, it's nevertheless a riotous good time.

The year is 2019. Due to a single bat with a strange virus, a plague of vampirism has spread across the world like a wildfire. Now, less than five percent of the population is human. Everybody else has turned into a demon of the night, but things still run as usual. They still go to work, drink coffee (with blood instead of cream) and drive and the television politics still rage on. The only difference is that they do it all at night and the political arguments are about the extermination of the human race. During the day, the world is one giant ghost town, which proves to be a perfect opportunity for the last remaining humans to venture outside in search of other humans. Edward (not to be confused with that pale skinned, love sick ninny), played by Ethan Hawke, a vampire himself, runs into a group of them one day on his way home from work. Although they threaten to kill him, he has no desire to feed on them and helps them instead. He's one of those human-hugging types. Hippie.

He does this despite a global shortage of blood. In fact, in another few weeks, the last remaining human harvests will dry up and the vampires will all go mad feeding on each other, which will increase the rate of their deterioration until they all finally die. However, those humans have found a cure for vampirism thanks to a former vampire called Elvis, played by Willem Dafoe, and they enlist Edward in their attempt to save not only themselves, but the whole world.

Not since 2000's Shadow of the Vampire, which also starred Willem Dafoe, have I seen such a unique vampire movie. Finally a film comes along that dares to switch up the tried and true formula. It takes the basic concept of vampires feeding on humans and flips it around. What if there were no humans left to feed on? The premise is intriguing and an interesting commentary on our dwindling resources with our growing population. Who knew a bloody horror flick could be so smart?

But then again, it's not like I had my brain tuned to "think" when I sat down to watch Daybreakers. All I really wanted was a slickly done vampire movie with humor and gore and that's what I got. After watching Twilight and New Moon, where the only pain inflicted on anyone was purely on an emotional level, it was nice to see some pain transcend to the physical realm. This thing gets red with some excellent moments I didn't see coming, including a hilarious vampire combustion that had me cackling with glee.

What I came out of Daybreakers surprised about, however, was that the film was actually made well. A horror movie not screened for critics being released in the theatrical dump month of January? There's no way it could be good, right? Wrong. The Spierig brothers, the directors, whose only other feature length film was the 2003 straight-to-DVD horror/comedy Undead (which was pretty damn awesome if you ask me), showcase some skill here. Whereas Undead was fun, but amateur, Daybreakers promises better things to come in the duo's future. It's slyly directed and the little attention to details makes for a pleasurable experience.

Even more impressive is that they wrote the picture as well, toning down their jocular tone from Undead to make a more mature horror/drama. With the sole exception of Willem Dafoe's character, who spouts some really dumb one-liners that feel out of place in an otherwise rock solid picture, the writing is spectacular. It doesn't explain everything, but it doesn't need to. It's not about how it happens. It's merely about what happens and why. Though I fear putting these two films side by side may confuse the levels of their quality, this film is like The Road in that it's more of a warning than anything else. It intends not to show the causes of certain situations, but rather create an allegory revolving around them that can be related to real life.

Now, Daybreakers is no Oscar contender like The Road, but not every movie has to be some amazing display of filmmaking to be entertaining. Despite combining quality acting with a clever script and skillful direction, this is really nothing more than a fun romp at the movies. Given the quality of films usually released in this month, what more could you ask for?

Daybreakers receives 4/5