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Entries in Twilight (14)

Friday
Sep282012

Hotel Transylvania

Hotel Transylvania may pretend to be something other than an Adam Sandler movie, but make no mistake, it is an Adam Sandler movie from beginning to end. It stars all of his usual movie pals and has the same obnoxious toilet humor he always seems so drawn to. If you haven’t liked his other recent films, there’s really no reason you’ll enjoy this, but I’ll give it one thing. At least it doesn’t hide under the guise of adulthood. The immature humor and forced messages are still here, but at least they fit the targeted audience. Aimed largely at children, the film stresses the importance of accepting others regardless of their differences and if lowest common denominator humor is the only way to get that point across to the little ones, then I guess it succeeds.

Dracula (Adam Sandler) is an overprotective father. His daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), wants nothing more than to see the world, but he insists leaving will only bring her harm because the humans she’ll run into are evil. To protect her, he has built a giant mansion (that doubles as a hotel) far away from humankind and protected on all sides by haunted forests, zombie graveyards and more. Only monsters, ghouls and goblins can get in and boy, do they. Mavis is about to turn 118 and monsters from all over flood in to celebrate. There’s Frankenstein (Kevin James), Wayne the werewolf (Steve Buscemi), his wife Wanda (Molly Shannon), Griffin the Invisible Man (David Spade), Quasimodo (Jon Lovitz) and many more. However, a human named Jonathan (Andy Samberg) has somehow infiltrated Dracula’s hotel. His presence threatens to ruin both his daughter’s party and the hotel’s patronage, given that he promised security from those awful human beings.

If Adam Sandler’s movies could be judged solely by how few poop and fart jokes they contain, then Hotel Transylvania would be his best in quite some time. It has, I don’t know, probably less than ten (and at least four in the first ten minutes) in the entire movie, which may be some sort of record for the man who is seemingly obsessed with all kinds of bodily fluids and secretions. Luckily, the movie has more merits than its reduction of poop jokes (in comparison). It may have a simple premise like many of Sandler’s other movies, but the idea of bringing classic monster movie creatures together into one building allows for more creativity than the one-joke idea of slapping a wig and some make-up on Sandler and trying to pass him off as his own sister.

Hotel Transylvania, though hardly visionary, at least manages to make good with its source material, in particular evoking memories of “fire bad” from the Frankenstein monster (which is more a reference to a Frankenstein spoof on Saturday Night Live than the actual Frankenstein movies themselves) and having fun with the whole idea of the Invisible Man, like the question on everybody’s mind: if you put your hand in the Invisible Man’s mouth, would it disappear? Further fun includes pantsing the Invisible Man, which exposes his invisible genitals, and a Twilight reference (“Is this how we’re represented?” asks Dracula) that’s bound to make the more cultured movie fans chuckle.

But aside from those humorous moments that spoof classic monster movies, there isn’t much here for adults. Hotel Transylvania is a kids movie through and through. It’s one of the more tolerable ones, mind you, and it teaches a valuable lesson that is too often ignored in a world full of hate: none of us are monsters and we all deserve love and respect. You could do a whole lot worse this weekend than taking your kid to see it, but despite its good intentions, it feels too much like mild spoof when it should be intelligent parody to be recommendable.

Hotel Transylvania receives 2/5

Friday
Jul272012

Step Up Revolution

Critics often decry awards shows like the MTV Movie Awards and the People’s Choice Awards because experts don’t pick them. The people do and they tend to confuse their personal preference with actual quality. Many nominees, and therefore winners, skew towards films that are popular, but not necessarily good. The Twilight franchise’s sweep of the MTV Movie Awards over the last few years is a good indication of this problem. Some would argue that critics are simply acting self-righteous, as if they have the final say on what’s good and what isn’t, but when the movie going public has supported the Step Up franchise enough to extend it to four movies, can we really consider their opinions valid? The latest installment, Step Up Revolution, is more or less on equal ground as its predecessor, Step Up 3D, but that was so bad, it easily nabbed a spot on my list of the worst films of 2010, so that should put into perspective just how bad this thing is.

The loose story (“loose” in the sense that I’m not even sure it qualifies as one) follows a ragtag group of dancers, nicknamed the Mob, as they flash mob various parts of Miami and record it in the hopes of reaching ten million channel hits on YouTube before anyone else, which would net them all $100,000. They quickly realize that money isn’t everything, though, when a business mogul strikes a deal to begin a billion dollar development project down a destitute strip in Miami that just so happens to be where the Mob lives. Their dance routines quickly transition from performance art to protest art and with the help of Emily (Kathryn McCormick), the dance loving daughter of the evil business mogul, they aim to claim their streets.

And everyone knows the only way to spark change in the world is through the power of dance. Never mind the fact that the Mob is holding up traffic, illegally infiltrating businesses, interrupting private parties and press conferences and all around disturbing the peace. These kids need to express themselves. It’s best not to ask how they’re able to do all this without someone noticing, especially given that many of these places are well stocked on guards, or how they know the layout of these places, including the exact arrangement of their interiors, well enough to choreograph their moves on and around them. Logic is not this series’ strong suit.

There’s a moment in the movie when mob leader Sean (Ryan Guzman), the love interest of Emily, speaks about why he dances. He says it’s because he feels invisible to the city. He wants to speak up and say, “Look at me world. I’m here.” Then he turns to Emily and asks if that sounds lame. The easy answer is yes, not to mention pathetic and whiny. But in a movie that prominently features the long since clichéd plot of stopping an evil businessman from pushing people out of their shops and homes to build on them, what should we expect?

Step Up Revolution isn’t about all that. It’s just a thin plot device to make an excuse to have a great deal of dance numbers, most of which are no more interesting than your generic shoot-out in an action movie. You can throw dance moves in front of me all you want, but doing so isn’t enough to make your movie fun. Similar to Step Up 3D, which delighted for a few minutes at least with a snazzy Fred Astaire-esque dance number, this movie has brief moments of entertainment, mainly in the backend of the film. One clever moment comes with the use of trampolines as one dancer falls screaming off of a shipping container only to bounce back up, seemingly defying gravity to the spectators looking on (again, it’s better not to ask how they managed to build a trampoline into the roof of the shipping container itself—just go with it), but this is only a small positive in a movie washed with horrible acting (also like the last film, the actors were chosen on their dancing skills rather than their ability to emote), a harebrained story, forced conflict and a far too neat and speedy resolution. To make matters worse, the movie completely contradicts itself at the end. The story stresses the importance of expressing yourself and sparking change in people; money’s importance is depreciated. But when the Mob is offered a deal with Nike, they jump at the chance to throw away their values (“Where do I sign?” one dancer responds—just another example in a long line of hackneyed dialogue).

I could probably double the length of what I’ve already written if I desired to point out every little flaw in the entire movie—there are dozens more I could go in depth on—but that’s a frivolous endeavor. People know what they’re getting themselves into when they go see a Step Up movie, but let’s remember this. Personal preference does not equate to actual quality. Regardless of whether or not people like it, Step Up Revolution is a bad movie.

Step Up Revolution receives 0.5/5

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

Friday
Mar112011

Red Riding Hood

From the director of Twilight, the writer of Orphan and the actress from Letters to Juliet and Dear John comes Red Riding Hood, a disaster that somehow manages to be worse than all of those movies. It’s like the most mediocre talent in Hollywood got together one day and said, “Let’s make something awful, something that is far worse than anything we’ve ever been involved in.” How else could you explain its final outcome?

Red Riding Hood is a retelling of the classic fairy tale about a little girl who ventures through the woods to deliver food to her sick grandmother. Except it’s nothing like that. Instead, it’s an adult take on the story (“adult” in the sense that there are adults in it, not that it is in any way mature or interesting to those who aren’t 13 year old girls).

It takes place in an ambiguous time period where arranged marriages still exist and bars are still called “taverns,” except all the characters use modern grammar and speak in modern dialects, which totally makes sense. Amanda Seyfried plays Valerie, a young adult who is in love with Peter, played by Shiloh Fernandez. Ever since they were little children, they’ve had an affinity for each other, but now that they are older, they are being torn apart because Valerie’s parents have arranged for her to marry Henry, played by Max Irons. Meanwhile (and more importantly), a werewolf has been terrorizing their little village, so they have summoned Father Solomon, played by Gary Oldman, to find it and kill it. But as they soon learn, the werewolf is someone who lives among them.

Red Riding Hood does nearly everything wrong. From the smallest problems to the biggest, one can’t help but stare at the screen in awe, strangely intrigued by just how unbelievably terrible the movie is. You watch it the same way you would watch a burning building. It’s a terrible sight, but morbid curiosity makes it so hard to look away. Essentially, the film revolves around a love triangle and a werewolf, familiar territory for anyone who has ever experienced Twilight, which this movie closely resembles, minus the vampires. There are longing stares, awkward love scenes and cliché dialogue that consists of gems like, “If you love her, you’ll let her go.”

While it sometimes feels like the story of the werewolf ripping people to shreds takes a back seat to the uninteresting romance, the film never misses the opportunity to throw out in-your-face clues to the werewolf’s identity, all of which are meant to throw you off track. Aside from the quick cuts to close-up shots of characters looking suspicious whenever the werewolf is mentioned, the film uses none-too-subtle dialogue like “I could eat you up” that is so brazenly obvious it actually comes off as kind of desperate. By the time they have Seyfried recite the classic “what big [blank] you have” lines, you’ll be clutching your sides, unable to breath from hysterical fits of laughter.

Despite all that, one can’t help but feel bad for Gary Oldman, who is forced to recite some of the stupidest lines of his career. With such an impressive filmography, he deserves better, though you do get the feeling that he’s enjoying hamming it up onscreen, which makes his scenes a little easier to watch than the rest of the film. In a way, they work similar to the “ugly girl” effect. When they’re surrounded by garbage, they look pretty good in comparison.

Red Riding Hood receives 1/5