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Entries in Twilight (14)

Friday
Feb182011

I Am Number Four

Movies made specifically for a teenage audience are easy to spot. These are the films that get PG-13 ratings not because the director’s vision just happened to fall into that area, but because nobody above the age of 15 would think what they are watching is any good. I Am Number Four is clearly one of those movies. It calls out to the youngest of the high school crowd who thinks a slow motion shot of someone back flipping a jet ski is cool. So if you’re a teenager, have at it, but everyone else would be better off watching something more enlightening.

Alex Pettyfer plays John, aka Number Four. Although he looks like your typical high schooler, he’s actually an alien from a planet called Lorien. After an evil race of creatures called the Mogadorians destroyed their home, he, along with eight others, travelled to Earth to escape. They are the only ones of their kind left, but the Mogadorians are on their way to take them out. The catch is they must be killed in order. Unfortunately, Number Three has just been killed and Number Four is next.

That’s as basic as a story can get. And it’s close to the stupidest. It’s a narrative of such little consequence that your pre-movie concession counter snack decision will hold more weight. I Am Number Four is an incredibly shallow film with a few snazzy effects and some flashy action scenes that may cause some to defend it, but those people would be looking past the plethora of problems that persist.

If there were to ever be one, definitive example of a film with a “hip” teenage build to it, I Am Number Four would be it. It tries so hard to be, like, you know, totally rad man, but it’s washed in clichés. Slow motion explosion walk-aways, the aforementioned water sporting, hot chicks on motorcycles and one random cliff diving scene beg the teen audience to latch onto it. Just in case that doesn’t work, however, it does everything it can to be angsty, even going so far as to include a soundtrack full of bad pop songs with lyrics about being “invisible.” Adding to that is the poorly developed and overly cheesy budding relationship between Number Four and Sarah (Dianna Agron), a photography obsessed girl who sees the beauty in everything, that would make the lovesick ninnies in Twilight gag.

This too-cool-for-school-yet-still-emotionally-distraught-over-everything tween attitude is, frankly, too much to bear, but I Am Number Four fails in more ways than just in its limited scope. It’s also one of the most shoddily produced movies I’ve seen in quite some time, featuring poor pacing and writing that makes spoof movies look cohesive. At times, there is so little feeling of an actual threat that random, unnecessary interjections of the Mogadorians shopping and humoring themselves by scaring little children seep their way in, seemingly to remind us that, yes, the movie will indeed be going somewhere at some point. But the fact that it takes so long to get there is what is so objectionable. Take, for example, Henri (Timothy Olyphant), Four’s warrior guardian, whose only job is to keep the kid safe at all costs. The possibilities for experimentation are endless, but the only major security measurement he takes is to ensure no pictures of Four end up online. These Mogadorians have mastered the ability to travel across vast expanses of space, but evidently rely solely on Google to get their information.

More problems persist in the sea of vapid idiocy that is I Am Number Four. My only fear is that I didn’t do a proper job of explaining just how awful it is, though that’s a feat with which I imagine many would struggle. Some movies are so bad they transcend a proper description. This is one them.

I Am Number Four receives 0.5/5

Wednesday
Aug182010

Vampires Suck

There’s a fine line a critic must walk when reviewing a movie. Acting and directing are important parts of film and a proper critique of those aspects is necessary, but I try not to get personal. While I’ve bashed a number of high profile stars, I try to do so within the context of the film I am analyzing. I have nothing against them as human beings. But when it comes to Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, the walking tumors behind some of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, including Epic Movie and Disaster Movie, I feel like it would be my duty to punch them in the wiener if I ever came into contact with them. They know damn well what they’re doing and their latest cinematic abortion comes in the form of Vampires Suck, a toxic, brain deadening succubus of a movie that will leave all but the most easily pleased moviegoers with a feeling of despair. If this is what comes off as entertainment these days, surely the end is near.

As expected, Vampires Suck spoofs vampire movies, though “spoof” isn’t really the right word because this isn’t one. This is merely mimicry of the Twilight franchise with farts. It does a better job of following its inspiration than Meet the Spartans or Disaster Movie, which couldn’t even do that, but spoofing Twilight and juvenilely replaying it out are two different things.

But I suppose the biggest problem is that the Twilight franchise practically spoofs itself. New Moon especially, which, by all accounts, is terrible, is so laden with laughs that it puts Vampires Suck to shame. The fact that this plague of a film couldn’t even upend New Moon is just sad.

All Friedberg and Seltzer do is state the obvious, observations that the rest of the world has already caught onto, but they just seem to be figuring out. Tired jokes about Jacob’s obligatory shirtlessness and the Team Edward/Team Jacob feud are all this thing has to offer. Ironically, Vampires Suck bashes Twilight for using its overemotional melodrama as an obvious ploy to grab viewers, as if they have the right to tell anyone they’re being obvious.

If a particular scene is lacking an easy target, these hack jobs get lost and desperately start to reference pop culture, including other movies irrelevant to the very nature of Vampires Suck. “Jersey Shore,” Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, The Black Eyed Peas, “Gossip Girl,” Dear John, Alice in Wonderland, even the Chris Brown/Rihanna beatings all make appearances in various forms.

In spite of all of this, there’s one positive aspect to Vampires Suck: its lead star Jenn Proske, who plays the Bella role. Whereas the other actors merely look similar to their actor counterparts, she perfectly imitates Kristen Stewart, matching her voice and mannerisms to a tee. In a film that harbored even the slightest bit of humor, she would have been fantastic and she deserves recognition, even if the rest of Vampires Suck does not.

The story flows along a similar path to the Twilight films, including the love triangle between the newly named Jacob Black and Edward Sullen (sullen—get it?!), but misses the spoof aspect by a mile. I guess the kindest thing I can say about Vampires Suck is that it lives up to its name. There are plenty of vampires and a whole lot of suck.

Vampires Suck 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

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

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