Monthly Archives: November, 2012

Movie: Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012)

Rating: 1.5/5

For issues of fairness, I have to state early on that I’m not a Twilight fan, and the entire film franchise has been created such that it is supposed to appeal to the fans, and to the fans alone. I truly feel that even if I did not like this movie, their intent was not to make me like the movie. Breaking Dawn fails as a movie not only because it is bad, but because it commits the sin of not even being bad enough to be funny.

The storyline, which is more attributable to the book, is shockingly thin. There’s never a conflict that is not resolved in a very convenient, nonsensical way, so much so that while they kept adding more “shockers”, they never left any sort of impact on the viewer who knew that it would most likely get resolved in the cheapest way possible. Without spoiling it, the surprise ending was the worst violator. How they dealt with the genetics of Renesmee was almost as bad.

The entire Twilight concept of love being forever was taken to an even more nauseating extreme in this movie. While this is probably the message that they wanted to convey, it was difficult to sit through. Is love, or a romantic relationship, only perfect if it is forever, if somehow the two people involved are immortal and, as such, are immune to the complexities and hurdles of growing old with somebody? On another note, is it really fun to note that Bella’s strength does not come from someplace within her but from her becoming a vampire? Now, as a viewer, it is possible to like a movie without liking its message, as long as it goes with great storytelling. This movie, however, is so poorly told and so poorly paced that this maxim does not apply.

The directing was generally ok, although the horrific CGI really should never be seen in a big-budget film like this. Most people comment on the CGI done on the baby, but I found the slow-motion CGI of vamp-Bella running through the woods to be even more laughable. One of the most positive things about the movie was the score/soundtrack part. The worst, unfortunately, is the acting, particularly of the main characters. Taylor Lautner was supposed to act protective and sweet but ended up looking creepy and slightly pouty and petulant. Robert Pattinson kept the same facial expression the entire time – his doe-eyed, weepy impression of someone in love. If that was distracting, Kristen Stewart’s singular facial expression of absolute nothingness was irritating, as was her well-matched voice inflections.

Breaking Dawn Part II is a mess, from conceptualization to delivery. A sorry story can be salvaged sometimes by good production value and acting, but sadly Breaking Dawn falls short on all marks. Twilight fans should love it. But if you aren’t one, stay far away.

Movie: Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Rating: 3.5/5

I enjoyed Moonrise Kingdom mostly for its technical elements: the imagery, scenery, costumes and score were all probably the best I’ve seen in a film in the recent past. Watching the movie felt like watching an art piece unfold.

However, while the movie is beautifully made, I felt like the storyline let it down quite a bit. I’ve read a number of reviews talk about how the story reminds them of their childhood experiences of falling in love, feeling misunderstood, the need to escape among others. Maybe it’s a symptom of how different that experience is from anything I’ve ever experienced, but while I was engaged in the story, I had a bit of a hard time accepting both the more out-there elements and the more mundane ones.

The characters were mostly loveable but not explained enough. The story was fun but ended up dragging at certain points. I feel like the story came secondary to the imagery and, while the imagery was enjoyable, I would have preferred a tiny bit more on the story development.

Moonrise Kingdom is definitely a work of art and is an enjoyable movie to watch. However, while I could suspend my disbelief at most of the movie’s implausibility, some of it was distracting enough to bring down the otherwise good quality of the movie. I recommend it for anyone feeling nostalgic or romantic at that particular time or anyone that wants to become immersed in filmmaking rather than the plot of a story.

Movie: Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Rating: 5/5

Silver Linings Playbook is so good that, even if I had watched it at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, I still went on opening day in November. I also read the book by Matthew Quick last year, once I found out about the movie. While the movie deviates from the book in several, I believe, significant ways, it doesn’t do so in a way that makes the movie inferior to the book. In fact, I might even say that the changes may have been necessary to make the deeply-dark book into a dark-but-more-acceptable film.

Overall, just like in the book, the treatment of mental illness is quite uncomfortable. The juxtaposition of the diagnosed ill with the undiagnosed but equally “crazy” people around him is also uncomfortable. However, in both cases, the discomfort is realistic, meaningful and justified. One of the things I really liked about the movie is that you find yourself rooting for the characters, but the movie in no way tries to make you like them. In fact, the movie presents everyone probably in their worst light, and tells the viewer to take it or leave it. And yet the acting, directing and dialogue is so good that, a majority of viewers will choose to take it.

This movie also succeeds in being a dark and serious film about a dark and serious subject matter, but set in the context of a fun, sports/dance-oriented romantic comedy. David O. Russell did not even shift between the two. Instead, he masterfully is able to keep both elements alive at practically every part of the movie.

What also sells the movie is the superb acting from the leads and from the minor characters. Bradley Cooper plays Pat such that his schlocky optimism seems in character instead of put-on, and his illness, when not explicitly expressed, is still left bubbling somewhere close to the surface. It is a testament to her extreme talent and depth of understanding about her character that Jennifer Lawrence is able to make Tiffany, who on paper is probably the least likeable of characters, into the core of the movie and one that people root for. Robert de Niro plays a gambling addict who alternates seamlessly between loving his son and then allowing his superstitions to overtake this love. But it never seems strange – it just seems like an integral part of his character. It is rarely the case, but there was no weak link in the entire ensemble of characters.

Silver Linings Playbook is getting a lot of Oscar buzz, though that may change as more movies are released. After seeing the movie twice, it is definitely worth all of that and more. I would recommend this film to anyone who is allowed to see it (it’s R-rated in the US).  It is emotional, fun, sad, realistic and very well-created and well-acted. 

Movie: Arthur Christmas (2011)

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Rating: 5/5

Wanting some lighthearted, kiddie film, I rented Arthur Christmas from ITunes late one night. The reviews were extremely positive and it had some pretty well-known actors voicing the characters. Also, I felt like I needed to get into the Christmas spirit a little bit more.

While I wasn’t expecting too much from the movie, I was pleasantly surprised that the movie, while simplistic for obvious reasons, was a well thought-out, painstakingly created world that took no shortcuts, spent time ensuring solid characterization, and highlighted both harsh realities and heartwarming messages.

I enjoyed the concept of the institutionalization/militarization of the Christmas operation both aesthetically and as a critique of how the holidays have become this gluttony of consumption and of how we’ve complicated celebrations to the point that they become battles instead of what they normally are. I also enjoyed the dichotomy between Arthur, the main character, and the little girl he’s trying to get the present to. When Arthur tells Grandsanta why it’s so important not to forget even one little girl, the sense that he is also talking about himself as the clumsier, more disposable son of Santa, at least in his mind, is heartbreaking and enlightening. The movie also tackles the concept of technology versus tradition, and the way they masterfully answer the question without necessarily taking a side is appreciated.

While all of those are special, at the end of the day, Arthur Christmas works just as well as a lighthearted, fun look at Christmas for adults and kids alike. It would be a good one to rent and watch during the holidays.