The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)


Trying to Walk and Chew Gum at the Same Time Again, Bella?

With the coming of each new Twilight movie, I tend to get really angry (for the reasons expressed in my previous 5,500 words and two reviews).  And each time a new one comes out I’m bombarded by the fans of the series with phrases like “This one was so much better than those two” and “This wasn’t nearly as bad.”  Before my reviews, I already knew that I hated Twilight and New Moon because I had already seen them.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m going into today’s movie fresh, though.  Yeah, I’ve never seen it, but the previous two movies pained me so much already, and I just don’t want to get hurt again.  But the show must go on, and so we jump into my review of the third movie in the series, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer, written for the screen by Melissa Rosenberg, directed by David Slade, and starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Bryce Dallas Howard, Xavier Samuel, Ashley Greene, Jackson Rathbone, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Billy Burke, Sarah Clarke, Dakota Fanning, Jodelle Ferland, Cameron Bright, Anna Kendrick, and Michael Welch.

Victoria has decided to change tactics at the same time as she’s changed actresses.  She’s now trying to start an army by turning Riley Biers (Xavier Samuel) into a vampire and having him create an army for her.  Also, she’s Bryce Dallas Howard now.  This army is intended to help her finally get her revenge on the vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) for killing her mate, James, in the first movie.  In order to get the proper type of revenge, she decides that killing Edward will not suffice, she will kill his girlfriend Isa”Bella” Swan (Kristen Stewart) first.  Back in the lame half of the story, Bella’s still bitching about Edward not making her a vampire yet, but simultaneously being resistant to agreeing to marry him.  She’s also dabbling in stringing along a wolf boy named Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner).  The Newborn vampire army is beginning to get unruly in Seattle and the Cullen’s – Dr. Carlisle Cullen (Peter Facinelli), Esme Cullen (Elizabeth Reaser), Alice (Ashley Greene), Emmett (Kellan Lutz), Rosalie (Nikki Reed), and Jasper (Jackson Rathbone) – are nervous that this will bring the attention of the Volturi, the powerful group of vampires that maintain the secrecy of the vampires.  Alice sees that the Newborn army are coming to Forks, so the Cullen’s form an uneasy alliance with the wolves to defend one stupid girl.

I will attempt to see if I can keep my vomiting to a low as I type the following sentence: Eclipse was not that bad.  Oh good, only threw up 4 times.  And I look fantastic now!  There’s a great dichotomy in this movie between the torturous scenes of mopey, stupid Bella dragging along two guys in their annoying, slow moving love triangle and the surprisingly appealing fight scenes between the vampires and the wolves.  Though they make attempts to explain Bella not wanting to get married, I still don’t buy it.  The movie starts with a conversation very similar to the one that ended the previous movie about Bella wanting Edward to turn her into a vampire so she could spend eternity with Edward, but she doesn’t want to get married to him.  I understand that your parents got a divorce and all, but you’re still being an idiot.  Yes, perhaps 2/3 of all marriages end in divorce, but I assure you that a great deal higher percentage of relationships end in break ups.  How about this: you decide if you want to spend eternity with this guy or not.  If you don’t want to, then there’s no fucking reason for you to be immortal!  Everyone in the movie also offers Bella pretty good arguments for why she should not become a vampire, and even why she should go with Jacob instead, but Bella’s too stupid for that.  Actually, Bella’s stupidity was lessened for this movie.  Her bitch quotient, however, was on the rise.  She seems slightly less stupid, which makes it that much worse that she’s knowingly stringing along two guys that are in love with her.  Bella also decides that it’s a good idea to drag Edward to sunny Florida, because that always works out for a vampire.  Nothing happened and there was barely any reason for him to even be there, so it was totally worth the risk.  I also found myself being very annoyed by the story that the wolf tribe tells about how their feud with the vampires began, mainly because it was all just a series of misunderstandings because everyone involved were jerks.  I support the idea of vampires killing people.  They’re just eating.  If it’s cool for us to eat cows and dogs (which it totally is), then I’m fine with them eating people.  That being said, a vampire was just having dinner and ate the wolf guy’s lady so he kills the vampire.  The vampire’s lady then gets pissed and kills a bunch of the Indians.  Then they kill her.  Sure, they’re BIG misunderstandings, but everyone should’ve just chilled out.  Thankfully, their only vaguely comprehensible feud is put on hold for this movie and it seems that it was coming to a halt at the end, so hopefully there will be one less stupid thing for me to be angry about in future movies.  That brings me back to Bella.  She tries to jump Edward’s bones in this movie, and that started to make me wonder whether or not a vampire would have to feed first to get the excess blood to fuel their … members.  Near the end of the movie, I started to think about something that started to make the entire purpose of this movie not make sense.  Why is Victoria even after Edward/Bella in the first place?  If she wants revenge for the death of James, shouldn’t she be going after Alice?  As I recall it, wasn’t Edward sucking on Bella’s wrist as Alice tore James’ head off?  Edward and Bella could easily be considered the reason that Alice killed James, but only as easily as one should consider James responsible for his own murder for randomly deciding that Bella was the one human in the world that he needed to eat.

There’s not a whole lot of redeeming qualities to be found in the story.  All of those qualities lie in the action.  One can only assume that so many other, weaker-willed men than myself ended their lives because of the first two movies.  Having had enough blood on their hands, they must’ve added some action to this one so that there would be at least one thing to be enjoyed in these movies.  The action was pretty good.  I was charmed and entertained by even the training that Jasper leads in the middle of the movie.  Of course, I started getting confused by his back story.  Wasn’t he acting like a newborn in the first Twilight movie?  Yet he’s older than the other vampires in the Cullen clan (except Dr. Handsome McFadden and Wifey Whatsername).  I just figured out that he was not a “vegetarian vampire” as long as the other Cullens, but if I was confused they probably did a poor job of explaining things.  Also, I didn’t really give a shit, so there’s that possibility too.  Anyway, back to the training.  The fights were well done, and these scenes actually elevated Jasper to the second least hated person in these movies.  But then he gets Alice, so I still kinda hate him.  The real good stuff is at the end of the movie, when the Cullens and the wolves throw down old-school against the Newborns.  The setup to the fight made me wonder if these Newborns were Bella-level stupid because they never thought twice about the conspicuousness of the idea of Bella apparently skipping through the forest, flicking her blood at trees.  Maybe they’re dumb; I’m okay with that.  What I’m more than okay with is the epic beatdown they caught.  The good guys left relatively unscathed, and also left a pile of dead Newborns burning in their wake … I probably should’ve called them something other than Newborns there.  That makes that statement seemed like the Cullens battles a group of toddlers.  The fight was graphically appealing and they choreographed a great deal of cool, interesting ways to kill vampires.  The random wolf guy/Edward vs. Riley/Victoria battle was pretty solid as well.  I was a bit deflated by the ending of both battles, though.  In the Victoria battle, it’s a bunch of tense situations piling up on top of each other until … Edward bites her and tears her head off.  It was so anticlimactic that it even seemed as if the musical score stopped abruptly so that the band could look at each other and say “Was that it?”  Then Edward lights Victoria’s body on fire by throwing a Zippo at her, causing her to immediately burst completely into flames … and also to immediately regret deciding to wear her gasoline-soaked jacked to the battle that day.  The other battle deflated me because Dakota Fanning commanded the brick shithouse dude to kill the innocent little girl that had seen the error of her ways.  That’s a bitch move, Dakota.  I randomly decided that I liked that girl in her 5 minutes of total screen time.

The performances are what they are.  Coworker Ashley made the claim that Kristen Stewart’s acting improved in this movie.  Best I can assume, she thinks Kristen Stewart is Ashley Greene.  I still think Kristen Stewart is awful in this movie, and I still think Bella’s special power is retardation.  We still call them “special”, right?  As I said, she seemed SLIGHTLY less moronic in this movie, replacing stupidity with being an asshole.  She also mostly dresses like she’s in Pearl Jam.  I hope she likes Kurt Cobain so much she shoots herself in the face with a shotgun.  I still have next to no impression of either Robert Pattinson or Taylor Lautner.  Both of them kind of walk the line between shit and great.  I pay attention to Ashley Greene for being good and adorable, and I pay attention to Kristen Stewart to see if I can see the mark of the Beast on her scalp somewhere, but Pattinson and Lautner don’t really do anything either way.  I guess you can call that a push.  Pattinson did get to voice my interior monologue for most of this and the last move when he said “Does he own any shirts?” about Lautner, but he seemed to say it as if it was a bad thing.  NO!  Stop it, Robert!  (Critic Robert, not Vampire Robert)  I was vaguely interested in the conversation that Pattinson and Lautner had about Bella in the tent towards the end of the movie, and I liked the last line Lautner delivered to Bella when she visited him after his injury.  I also started liking Jackson Rathbone as Jasper a little more in this movie.  He had previously just been the creepy guy with the Jewfro, but he got to be a bit of a badass in this movie.  Bryce Dallas Howard took over for Rachelle Lefevre in this movie.  I understand that this movie required much more of a performance from the Victoria character and I kind of like BDH.

I think I’ve officially written more kind words about Twilight than I’ve ever said out loud or even though before.  I gave them nearly an entire paragraph of niceties!  I’m as shocked as you are.  Would I say this is a good movie?  Not at all.  Would I recommend you see it?  Nope.  But, it’s the best Twilight movie by far, and if you get dragged to this one by a lady with low standards for movies (also known as “A Twilight Fan”), you can rest assured that there are a couple of good action scenes in this movie; you just need to wait for them a bit.  The story has not improved much, and only a couple of lines of dialogue were clever.  The action is pretty fantastic, but the bulk of the movie is still the worst example of romantic crap you can find.  I have not gotten myself excited to watch the next movie for any reason other than I get to be done with Twilight until November afterwards.  This movie has taken the fraction of watchable hours in the total Twilight series to about 1/6, so I’m not getting my hopes up just yet.  We’ll find out tomorrow.  The Twilight Saga: Eclipse gets “I punched a werewolf in the face” out of “One more thing.  Never turn your back on your enemy.”

Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!

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50/50 (2011)


I’m Peeing Right Now

I have said that I’m not big on drama before, but I’m definitely a big fan of comedies.  I just prefer a movie that will make me feel better to one that will make me feel worse.  So when I started hearing about today’s movie, I didn’t know whether or not I should actually see it.  It’s a comedy, sure.  But it’s also a pretty heavy drama, and one that’s pretty real and something most people can relate to.  I’ve never been put in the position of dealing with someone with a life threatening disease and I hope to keep it that way, but I can still understand the idea of it.  And that’s exactly what this movie is about.  I didn’t know if I wanted to see it or not, but I did because my roommate made me do it.  So let’s see how it went in my review of 50/50, written by Will Reiser (and based loosely on his life), directed by Jonathan Levine, and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Anjelica Huston, Serge Houde, Bryce Dallas Howard, Matt Frewer, Philip Baker Hall, and Andrew Airlie.

Adam Lerner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) lives with his girlfriend, Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard), and works with his long-time friend Kyle (Seth Rogen), who hates Rachael.  Adam starts feeling strange pains in his back and, when he visits the doctor (Andrew Airlie), finds out the pain is caused by a rare cancer in his spine.  He must start chemotherapy right away.  He tells Kyle, who brushes it off, saying Adam’s going to beat this, no problem.  He tells Rachael, who says she’ll be there for him.  He then tells his mother, Diane (Anjelica Huston), who immediately says she’s going to move in and take care of him, but Adam doesn’t allow it because she’s already taking care of his father (Serge Houde), who is suffering from Alzheimer’s.  He also reluctantly starts going to a therapist, Katie McCay (Anna Kendrick), who is taking him as her third patient.  While undergoing chemo, he befriends two old guys, Alan (Philip Baker Hall) and Mitch (Matt Frewer).  The rest of the movie is about Adam dealing with his situation and trying to beat his disease.

This is such a fucking good movie!  There were just as many laugh out loud moments as there were really emotion ones.  I am not ashamed at all to confess to you that I cried during this movie.  I cried even though my roommate was sitting right next to me watching it and I was desperately trying to out-man him.  (It’s okay, that little bitch cried more than me, so I win).  The story is great and instantly real, even if it’s not something you’ve personally dealt with, because the story gives you time to get really close to these people so you feel for everyone.  As much as it’s super real and touching, it’s also really funny.  You never really know what you’re going to feel next.  The best thing about the movie (which could be both a comment on the writing and the performances) is how realistically the people react to the news.  I feel pretty confident that my mom would spaz out and become overbearing like Anjelica Huston did.  I also feel like I would totally react like Seth Rogen did, making jokes and acting like the other person shouldn’t worry about it because they’re totally going to beat it.  I can even understand the Rachael situation.  You know from the start that this relationship may not be going so well, and the news that Adam has cancer would just make you stick with it even if you wouldn’t normally because of how shitty you’d feel for leaving him.  Even though you find out Adam has cancer really early on, the movie doesn’t take it too seriously until around the middle.  That’s when it starts pulling you back and forth violently between emotions.  Seth Rogen says something funny, then Rachael cheats on Adam.  Then more funny stuff, then more sad stuff.  This movie is too good to ruin, but there’s a really sad part in the middle that comes out of nowhere that made my chest feel like my heart literally dropped in my chest.  It wasn’t until the very end that the realism of the drama hit me so hard that the tears started coming.  The stuff at the end was almost too real and caused my brain to insert myself and my nearly-lifetime friend (the crying little bitch) into the roles of Rogen and Levitt, but it was just as sad and real on either side of it.  Whether I had the cancer, or I had to be the friend and he had cancer, it hit me too hard either way and I couldn’t help it.  I cried.  Man Cred gone.  Thankfully, there wasn’t much Man Cred to begin with.  Also thankfully, the movie doesn’t leave you hanging.  The ending is uplifting so that I wouldn’t have to leave it bummed out.

The performances were fantastic all the way around.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt was so real that I couldn’t help but put myself in his shoes from the very beginning.  He handled cancer in the exact same way I think I would.  He just shut himself off from it, told the people he had to tell, and just kind of hoped he wouldn’t have to talk about it anymore.  Near the end of the movie, when he had a breakdown about it, it cemented that this was exactly what I’d do.  I’d have a tough, “I don’t care about this” facade up, but something would cause me to crack and scream really loudly in a car.  Seth Rogen was better than I’ve ever seen him before.  Yeah, he plays it very similar to most of his other performances, but we find out towards the end that he’s actually thinking a lot more about it than he’s letting on.  The scene between him and Levitt in the car before the surgery near the end of the movie is what finally cracked me.  Anna Kendrick was also amazing.  I’d only seen her in Twilight and (briefly) in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World before this movie, so I had little idea that the girl could act.  She was just really awkward and adorable, but trying too hard to put on a professional demeanor for her patient so they would let her help.  I can relate to that need to prove yourself to a patient/customer so that they’ll listen to you.  The introduction to her character was one of the funniest parts in the movie, but she was also involved in some of the more emotional scenes.  Anjelica Huston made me think a lot about my mom, and Levitt kind of being a distant son made me contemplate on my distance as a son.  I probably won’t change, but I thought about it.  Bryce Dallas Howard performed her role very well, but I hope she takes on a likeable character soon.  The last two movies I’ve seen her in made me hate her, but she also seems so likeable that I don’t want to hate her.  Either way, the way she played her character in this movie actually kind of made me understand her reasoning behind doing something shitty.  I didn’t approve of the characters actions, but Howard made me understand it.  Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer did not have a lot of screen time in the movie, but the scenes were very memorable because one of their scenes was so freaking heavy that I’m still a little bummed out about it.

50/50 was the definition of an “emotional roller-coaster” to me.  So much funny mixed seamlessly into moments so heavy that this movie became either the fourth or fifth movie that was ever able to make me cry.  It lifts you up with some great comedy and laugh out loud moments, and plummets you back to earth with super heavy, super real moments, then goes right back up again.  All of the performances in this movie are the best that I’ve seen out of any of the actors.  Don’t let the drama scare you off, you’ll leave this movie feeling uplifted if you have a pulse.  Check this movie out ASAP.  I’m buying it immediately, and I really can’t foresee someone not liking this.  50/50 gets “I bet you’d be a good girlfriend” out of “I look like Voldemort.”

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The Help (2011)


You is Kind. You is Smart. And You Really Want to Be More Important Than You Probably is.

I was not excited to watch today’s movie, and not just for fear of how many racist/sexist jokes I might make. I liked who I knew in the cast, had been told really good things about other people in the cast, but I have gone on record in saying that I am not a fan of dramas. I don’t know why I would want to pay money to go somewhere and feel bad for myself. And to make that worse, why would I pay money to have a movie make me feel bad for being white? And that’s exactly what I expected out of The Help. Either that, or a movie about how liberated and progressive Emma Stone is, and how she should be praised as a superhero for black people. Either way, I didn’t want to do that. So when my coworker, Samrizon, suggested that I watch and review this movie, I said okay. ‘Cause that’s how I do, people! The Help was an adaptation of a novel by Kathryn Stockett, written and directed for screen by Tate Taylor, and stars Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia L. Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain, Allison Janney, Mary Steenburgen, Aunjanue Ellis, Sissy Spacek, Ahna O’Reilly, and Cicely Tyson. Let’s find out how many times I yelled “Go on, Soul Sister!” during this movie.

Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone) has just moved back home after graduating, and takes up employment with a “homemaker hints” column in the local newspaper. She goes to the maid, Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis), for advice for the column, but this is short lived as Aibileen’s boss, Elizabeth Leefolt (Ahna O’Reilly), thinks it’s getting in the way of Aibileen’s work. Meanwhile, another white woman named Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) is a dirty, racist bitch. She fires her maid, Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer), for using her white people toilet with Minny’s black booty, just ’cause there was a hurricane going on outside and Minny didn’t want to go out there to use the outdoors, black people toilet. Publisher Elain Stein (Mary Steenburgen) gives Skeeter the idea that she should write something she cares about that no one wants to talk about. That gives Skeeter the idea to interview all of the black maids and put their stories into a book that she can take credit for, but the maids argue her down to not giving anyone credit for it and just telling the stories.

This movie is thoroughly okay. I think it’s probably the story that held me back the most. I mean, we had a good arrangement going and Skeeter had to go and muck it all up. Okay, that’s not what I meant. It just all seemed a little obvious, and I wasn’t able to connect to it. I know that things were shitty for black people back in the 50’s or 60’s, but I wasn’t there and I wasn’t black so I can’t connect. I could connect with white males, sure, but there were barely any in this movie. All this being the case, I couldn’t judge my feelings about what was happening in the movie from experience. Judging it from today’s standards and all of the white people are pretty on the nose in their depictions, and the situations all seem a bit melodramatic. There’s the white girl that is super progressive for her time and regards the black people as equals or better, there’s the white girl who is openly and aggressively racist, there’s the old mother who seems to have found the error of her ways in her old age, and the old mother who loves her maid but is too afraid to be different in order to defend her. There’s also a good deal of Breakfast Club-style archetypes in this movie with Howard as the leader of the popular club, Stone as the artsy quasi-outcast, and Jessica Chastain as the girl that’s an outcast because she’s with the queen bee’s ex-boyfriend. It does have a good message, but one that is nowhere near as powerful today as it would have been back then. Not that racism is gone today or anything, but most people going to see this movie probably don’t have experience dealing with racism on that level. Then again, I’m a white guy, so what do I know? If I was writing this review in the 60’s, I would only be seeing status quo and not racism, and I would be worshiped as a God because I owned a computer and had the internet.

There were a couple of things that didn’t make any sense to me in this movie. First off, why put a shot of a good lookin woman like Emma Stone in her underwear if you’re gonna make her wear that gross, period-correct underwear. Underwear was gross back in the day. There’s also a scene where Emma Stone’s mother, Allison Janney, wakes Emma up and her reaction is so weird that it threw me off. She yelled “No” as she was waking up in a way that seemed more like her mom was killing a puppy in front of her than just her not wanting to wake up yet. There was a major storyline going on in the movie about Bryce Dallas Howard hating Jessica Chastain, but I never really understood why. They mentioned that Howard thought Chastain had been fucking Howard’s boyfriend while they were still dating, but her reaction seemed a little much for something that wasn’t actually happening. There’s also a part in the movie where Minnie gets back at Hilly by feeding her a pie with her shit in it. That’s real. Howard was such a bitch in the movie that my problem clearly isn’t the fact that she ate shit, but how much sugar would it take to make a pie not only edible with shit in it, but Howard seemed to think it was delicious!

The performances in the movie range from pretty good to fantastic. Emma Stone was pretty good, and had a couple good moments based around her maid Constantine (Cicely Tyson), who had raised her more than her mother, but was recently fired by her mother. The rest of the time she was fine, but not spellbinding. Viola Davis was almost always spellbinding. I don’t know that I’ve seen her in a movie before, but she was good as shit. When she told the story about her son to Skeeter, it was heartbreaking. I hated Bryce Dallas Howard’s guts throughout the movie, but it’s not a negative for her because that’s the reaction you’re supposed to have to that character. She’s always got this happy, nice facade up, but underneath she’s a snooty, hateful bitch. She’s not so much a racist, but only because she seems to be shitty to everyone. I guess she does kick it up a notch for black people. Octavia Spencer was good, but I don’t recall any parts where she really caught my attention except in the scenes where she interacted with Jessica Chastain. I liked their relationship a lot. Chastain’s character was probably the second white person who wasn’t a racist in the movie, not because she was taking a stand like Emma Stone, but because she just seemed too innocent, as if she just wasn’t aware of the fact that she was supposed to be racist. Sissy Spacek was as good as she always is, but she didn’t have many emotional scenes. She actually worked mostly as comic relief in this movie. She was losing her memory, but having fun with it. And I totally believe Spacek as Howard’s mother. Them’s good casting.

The Help is a fine movie that just doesn’t connect with this shut-in white guy. The story’s fine but perhaps a bit obvious, with characters that are well-performed but written a little heavy with the archetypes. I got this movie from a RedBox and I feel satisfied with the experience for a dollar. I think you will be too. And if you have to wait for it to arrive from Netflix, probably the same. I can’t say that I like this movie enough to run out and buy it, but if I see it on sale, maybe. The Help gets “Fried chicken just tend to make you feel better about life” out of “That’s a quote from the movie. Don’t call me a racist!”

Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!