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Entries in Taylor Lautner (6)

Thursday
Jul112013

Grown Ups 2

Critics of waterboarding say that its results are not conclusive and don’t prove guilt. This is due to an eventual degradation of the recipient’s willpower, to the point where they’re willing to say whatever the torturer wants to hear so they can gain a reprieve from their endless onslaught. It’s a criticism that can be levied at many torture tactics, but if that’s the desired effect, none are as potent as watching “Grown Ups 2.” Halfway through this thing, I was ready to admit guilt to any number of horrible atrocities, just so long as it meant the movie would end. Plainly put, this isn’t just the most unfunny comedy of the year. It’s one of the most unfunny comedies of all time.

While the first movie was certainly no gut buster, it at least had a script. It had a story for the characters to exist in and progress, even if minimally. Conversely, the sequel feels more like a sketch comedy show. It doesn’t have a story so much as it does a series of random encounters that put our characters in allegedly goofy situations. There are unconnected scenes that take place at a ballet recital where the beautiful, big breasted teacher overshadows the children on stage, a female aerobics class where the skeevy janitor pretends to be the instructor and gets the women to perform sexually suggestive maneuvers, a doctor’s office where the “hilarious” payoff results in the doctor pulling out a flask from behind his lab coat, a finale where the old timers face off against an invading frat led by a character IMDB refers to as “Frat Boy Andy” (Taylor Lautner) and more. Quite literally, none of these scenes have anything to do with each other.

Continuing in the tradition of such lowbrow comedies as pretty much any Adam Sandler movie in the last five or six years, “Grown Ups 2” is riddled with potty humor so misguided and poorly delivered that it does a disservice to the values of actual excrement. The very first joke in the movie involves a deer urinating in Lenny’s (Sandler) mouth and it’s all downhill from there. Simulated defecation while standing on a chocolate ice cream machine, actual defecation in a retail store toilet and “burp snarts” (when you start with a burp as a sneeze is coming out, which pushes out a subsequent fart) become the order of the day. And if you don’t find burp snarts funny the first time, you won’t the second time either. Or the third. Or fourth. Or fifth. Or when the film wraps itself up with one, the final joke in a movie so full of scatological humor like this that I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the pages of the completed script were accidentally used as toilet paper and the filmmakers couldn’t tell the difference.

When the film can’t find an organic (used in every sense of the word) way to include a pee or poo joke, “Grown Ups 2” reverts to slapstick humor. If your idea of a good time comes from watching people fall over, get hit with any number of odd assortments, accidentally spray pepper spray in their faces and have their crotch eaten by a deer, then this is the movie for you. In particular, Nick Swardson, playing a character imaginatively named Nick, exists solely to inflict harm upon. He takes so much abuse in this movie, I actually felt bad for him. His career has plummeted so far (if you can actually find a peak somewhere, that is), that he is relegated to a literal punching bag, the lowest point of a movie that already sinks so low it passes by the bottom of the barrel and digs a trench under it.

For every joke that delivers the mildest of chuckles (which would total, if my math is correct, one), there are about 150 that are so bad, they actually diminish your faith in humanity, especially if the crowd you’re watching this abomination with is actually laughing. Frankly, if this is what we find funny, there’s no hope for the future of American comedy. With a runtime of an hour and 40 minutes, “Grown Ups 2” is about an hour and 39 minutes too long and is an absolute embarrassment for all involved.

Grown Ups 2 receives an easy 0/5

Thursday
Nov152012

Breaking Dawn Part 2

When Twilight hit screens back in 2008, nobody was prepared for how successful it would be, the least of all its detractors who saw a silly pre-teen romantic triangle with ideas about love that would be equivalent to what a 12 year old girl would write in her journal. After four bad (arguably terrible) movies, including last year’s Breaking Dawn Part 1, which ended up at number three on my worst of the year list, saying expectations were low for its successor, Breaking Dawn Part 2, would be an understatement. As I watched it, though, something magical was happening. I was actually kind of liking it.

The other films in the franchise were full of annoying, overdramatic teenage angst, originating from a central character that spent too much time staring aimlessly out a window and moping around. Its ideas about love were childish, seemingly coming from people who thought they knew what love was, but had never truly experienced it. But Breaking Dawn Part 2 was different. Gone were the endless brooding and unbearable whininess. The film was still about love, but it wasn’t about a fantasy romantic love. It was about family love, parental love and the type of love that gives you the courage to fight and maybe even lay down your life for those you care about. With an everlasting marital bond between Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) finally coming to fruition and a child in the mix, the movie had substance and proved itself to be a thematically mature film, something that most certainly can’t be said for its predecessors.

At long last, the Twilight franchise had found its place. Its tone even managed to get it right. Despite some hit and miss dramatic moments, it took itself decidedly less serious, playing up certain scenes as goofy, fun and humorous. It was finally embracing its own absurdity. Even better, things were actually happening. It wasn’t stuck in this will-she-or-won’t-she stalemate its franchise brethren succumbed to. Bella had a clear goal, finally something on her mind other than cuddling with Edward, and she was going to do everything she could to stop the evil Volturi vampires from killing her baby. This meant gathering up any vampire that would be willing to fight alongside her and Edward. Locations changed, characters were introduced and meaning was created. By the time the big climactic battle rolled around, I was hooked and the fight itself, though bogged down by some bad CGI, was exciting and tense. With only 10 or 15 minutes left to go, Breaking Dawn Part 2 was looking to be a legitimately good, wholly recommendable movie.

And then that twist happens, that twist that fans have been speculating over ever since Jacob himself, Taylor Lautner, spilled the beans on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno a few weeks ago. The twist, which I obviously won’t spoil, falls into one of the most hated narrative tricks in all of cinema. It’s a twist that takes everything that had previously happened in the movie and makes it moot, the film’s entire reason for being flies out the window. Here was a movie that had managed to take a franchise that had been practically dead in the water since the beginning and reinvigorate it. It was giving it an unexpectedly worthy send-off that it, after four poor installments in a row, didn’t even necessarily deserve, but then it tacks on one of the worst, most pandering endings to cap off a major franchise I’ve ever seen.

All of a sudden, that legitimately good, wholly recommendable movie transitioned to borderline terrible. I could have done without the embarrassing final scene, which is essentially the equivalent of a music video montage of the previous movies, but such thankful fan service wouldn’t have been enough to derail it. Instead, it all goes back to that twist. Despite some narrative blunders and some unintentional laughs, Breaking Dawn Part 2 was working. For the first time ever, this franchise was earning its fanbase. It was so close to being good, so close to recovering, even if only slightly, from its past failures, but it let that possibility slip through its fingers. Thinking back on it, it was a disappointment, to be sure, but I suppose such a moronic misstep shouldn’t have been a big surprise. It was a Twilight movie, after all.

Breaking Dawn Part 2 receives 1.5/5

Friday
Nov182011

Breaking Dawn Part 1

The Twilight series is as perplexing a series that has ever come out, not thematically or narratively, but in its popularity. Grown adults, people who should have had the life experience to realize how ridiculous the franchise’s portrayals of love are, flock to the theater with each outing and debate over whether Bella (Kristen Stewart) should end up with Edward (Robert Pattinson) or Jacob (Taylor Lautner). To eavesdrop on one of those debates is simultaneously amusing and sad. One can’t help but laugh at such a trivial conversation, but great romances with true-to-life takes on love are released every year and most are ignored by the general public, yet this tripe rakes in hundreds of millions of dollars. In a society where love is commercialized, I suppose it’s not surprising. We’ve bastardized it, packaged it up and sold it not to the highest bidder, but the youngest, and it has gotten to the point where children are beginning to feel insignificant without the perfect mate by their side; a dangerous notion. It’s fitting then that a movie that begins with talk of putting away childish things would have such a childish outlook on love.

Bella has agreed to marry Edward. As the movie begins, the wedding is approaching. Jacob is none too happy, but he is trying to cope with the news regardless. Though seemingly hesitant, the two follow through on their commitment and while on their honeymoon on a remote island off the shore of Rio de Janeiro, Edward impregnates Bella. Because it’s not a normal human child, she immediately begins showing signs of pregnancy, but she can’t nourish it or herself. It begins to kill her. Back home, they are stuck in Edward’s house with his family. The alpha male in Jacob’s group has learned of Bella’s pregnancy and plans on killing her and the vampire baby, but Jacob refuses to let Bella die and reluctantly joins forces with Edward to protect her.

As one reviewer in the UK suggested, Breaking Dawn Part 1 delivers on the drama and emotional highs we’ve come to expect from the series. In a sense, he’s right, if by drama he means melodrama and the emotion he’s talking about is laughter. With a human/vampire/werewolf love triangle, a half human-half vampire baby and a plot turn that can only be described as bestiality mixed with pedophilia, this is nothing more than a freak show narrative and one can’t help but laugh it. The movie takes itself so seriously, but the soapy acting and stone cold delivery of overly simplistic dialogue is contradictory to its desired tone, managing to provide more laughs a minute than any comedy to be released this year.

In a way, it’s almost kind of enjoyable—laughing is always fun—and those laughs are heightened by downright terrible acting from everyone involved. Pattinson, through movies like Remember Me and Water for Elephants, has proven that he has acting chops, but a performance is only as good as its material and he has nothing to work with here. Lautner, on the other hand, has never proven himself and only strengthens the argument that he’s one of the worst actors working today. He has a pretty face, tight abs, a gorgeous smile and close to no talent. In September’s incompetent thriller, Abduction, he walked into scenes so awkwardly, it looked like he was in the middle of a battle with a particularly itchy hemorrhoid. The same can be said here.

Watching Breaking Dawn Part 1 is like a reminder of what it was like back in grade school. It only alludes to difficult subject matters (despite an explicit romance scene), treating sex the same way a 12 year old boy treats a dirty word, as if the utterance of the word would make the romantically immature characters snicker. It wants to be grown up, but it’s too embarrassed to even say “sex,” much less explore it in a thoughtful manner. This is a movie that literally has nothing going for it and its abrupt ending brought on by the story being split into two parts, similar to the way the last Harry Potter films were handled, only adds to the frustration. Just like Harry Potter, this doesn’t provide a climax, but the difference is that Harry Potter gave us something to care about and look forward to. The ending of Breaking Dawn Part 1 serves only as a depressing reminder that a Part 2 is on the way.

Breaking Dawn Part 1 receives 0/5

Friday
Sep232011

Abduction

Abduction is a movie that knows its audience. With Taylor Lautner in the lead role, it does everything it can to be what can only be described as an action-fueled Twilight. The problem is if you’re catering to the Twilight demographic, you’re not aiming very high. The surprise, however, comes from how utterly incompetent, atrociously stupid and highly unbelievable it is, even when compared to Twilight. And if you’re unfortunate enough to have sat through all three of those, just imagine what’s in store for you here.

Lautner plays Nathan, a mild mannered high school kid who is crushing on the pretty young Karen, played by Lily Collins, and as luck would have it, he is partnered with her on a school project. While researching one night at his house, they stumble on a missing persons website where they find a picture of a child that looks suspiciously like him. After some digging, they realize it is him, so they contact an administrator of the site. What they don’t know is that it’s a mock site created by Kozlow, played by Michael Nyqvist, who has been searching for him for many years and now that he knows his location, the chase is on.

The story goes to great lengths to be interesting and delves deeper than what I’ve detailed above. There are undercover agents posing as parents, a mystery involving Nathan’s actual parents and a journey to uncover what his significance to Kozlow and the US government is. It’s a silly tale built for the tween crowd who have never been properly introduced to a proper thriller before, but its idiocy isn’t its problem. Any story can be told well if the foundation around it is solid, but Abduction is so poorly put together, it makes director Uwe Boll look like a masterful craftsman.

For starters, it must be said that Taylor Lautner, an all around mediocre actor who is wildly inconsistent from scene to scene, is not a leading man. Depending on what he’s doing, he can either look like a veteran or a nervous first time performer. Lautner is a martial arts expert, taking up the craft at an early age, and he works best when he’s punching something. He brings forth an unexpected ferocity to the action scenes. If not for his boyishly good looks, he might even be intimidating. He’s dependable on that level and in an action thriller, that counts for something, but his inability to develop his character, build emotion or create an authentic chemistry with his co-star only goes to show how lousy he can be. He and Collins feel distant in the film, despite spending much of it side by side. No romantic tension is ever built, which makes a random, steamy and aggressively uncomfortable make-out scene in the middle feel forced into place. Lautner simply doesn’t pull this roll off. He may have a voice that is calm and commanding, but his mannerisms are stiff and awkward. He walks into certain scenes like he’s in the middle of a battle with a particularly itchy hemorrhoid.

Of course, if you’ve seen the Twilight films, you know he’s not in this for his talent. He’s in it for the way he looks with his shirt off (and if you don’t know what that looks like, you will within five minutes of watching this film). His lousiness shouldn’t come as a surprise, but you might be taken aback by the amateurish editing that can’t even sync up the action onscreen with the appropriate sound effects, like in one scene where Nathan turns his head to watch a car drive off, despite the noticeable delay of the vrooming engine. It’s a laughable mistake, something that should have been corrected in Editing 101. The rest of the film fares a tad better, though it is perhaps a bit too fast paced for its own good. The fistfights are edited together so choppily, if certain shots were any shorter, they’d be subliminal.

Rounding out this disaster are some of the worst and most distracting extras I’ve ever seen in a movie, though to be fair, they were unpaid. The finale of the film takes place at the Pittsburgh Pirates stadium and the scenes were shot during an actual game with an unsuspecting crowd. Although good in theory—that packed stadium gives some credence to an otherwise ludicrous film—the final product speaks to its failure. The people in the crowd, stunned that Taylor Lautner is being filmed only a few feet away from them, begin to stare, point and take pictures. It’s hard to fault them (besides, they weren’t obligated to act normally), but it’s easy to criticize director John Singleton for not realizing the challenges of shooting such a scene in such a setting.

Abduction is bad, and that’s putting it mildly. Never mind that it clearly doesn’t know the definition of the word “abduction,” the film simply lacks efficiency in front of and behind the camera. The story is hokey and the acting is weak. Similar to how Twilight effectively ruined vampires, Abduction effectively downgrades the action thriller genre. It takes it to a dumbed down, preteen level and it will only be enjoyed by those who are less interested in good filmmaking techniques and more interested in once again seeing Taylor Lautner’s impeccable abs. I can’t say I’m one of those people.

Abduction receives 0.5/5

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