Film Review “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn- Part II”

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner
Directed by: Bill Condon
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes
Summit Entertainment

Our Score: 2 out of 5 stars

It’s over. Finally. The epic vampire meets girl, girl meets vampire, wolf-boy takes his shirt off a lot adventures known as “The Twilight Saga” has reached its end with “Breaking Dawn: Part II.”

For those of you that may have missed the story: Bella (Stewart) is a high school girl living in a remote town in Washington state. One day she catches the attention of Edward Cullen (Pattinson), whose skin is pretty pale, even for someone living in the Pacific Northwest. Bella also has a friend, Jacob, (Lautner) who would like to be more than friends. Seems Edward is a vampire, Jacob a wolf and Bella confused. After four films and a lot of bad special effects, featuring characters running fast and turning into wolves, Bella and Edward are married and Bella has a bun in the oven. Because the baby is half vampire Bella has some complications during birth. In order to save her Edward turns Bella into a vampire. I’ve just save you 490 minutes of your life.

As “BD:II” begins, it’s been a few days since Bella gave birth. Still unsure if she can control her newfound blood lust, her family has kept her from seeing her baby daughter, named Renesmee. To ease her hunger Bella has taken to chasing down deer in the woods as well as well as other forest creatures. But what should be a happy time turns downright tragic when the Volturi, one of the lead groups of vampires, learns of Renesmee’s existence and believes, incorrectly, that the baby has been turned into a vampire the old fashioned way. Joined by vampires sympathetic to their cause, the Cullen clan gathers themselves for what could be one hell of a battle.

There are so many things wrong with this film that I’m not sure where to start. Actually, I do. What may have been an engrossing series of novels is really reduced to scene after scene after scene of bad clichés, including making sure that the vampires from Ireland have red hair and freckles. Too bad they couldn’t make them drunks as well. The special effects (moving along quickly, transforming into wolves) are horribly rendered. You would think for a film series that has grossed over a billion dollars that they could have found a decent special effects house by now. But the biggest problem is Renesmee. No, not her name (when Jacob calls the child “Nessie” Bella is outraged – “You nicknamed my daughter after the Loch Ness Monster?”). For reasons I haven’t yet figured out the production appears to have gone to a CGI baby and youngster to stand in for Renesmee. With its creepy facial features and dark eyes the baby looks nothing like her supposed mom and dad. As the child gets older her face begins to take on hard angles that makes her look like older but, again, computerized. I may not be a doctor but believe me there is no way that Stewart and Pattinson would ever produce a baby this ugly.

Finally, a word of warning to parents with younger children. Somehow this film managed to obtain a PG 13 rating despite featuring no less than a dozen incidents of people having their heads violently ripped off. Maybe the ratings board feels that vampires aren’t really people so it doesn’t matter what happens to them. Some of the younger girls in the screening I attended were visibly upset by the on screen images so use your judgement.

Anthony Daniels reflects on his role of C3PO in the “Star Wars” saga

Anthony Daniels is known best for playing the role of droid C3PO in the “Star Wars” franchise. He is only the actor to act in all the original six films and all the following spin-offs. Anthony recently attending “Star Wars Celebration VI” in Orlando, Florida and took out some time to chat with Media Mikes and reflecting on his role in the “Star Wars” universe.

Mike Gencarelli: How does it feel to be the only actor to act in all of the original six films?
Anthony Daniels: It is very odd, because many people know that I didn’t want to be in the first “Star Wars” film and refused to meet George (Lucas). It is really weird to be the only actor to work on the set of all six movies. Cause I never wanted to work on a low budget sci-fi movie. So the rest is history after “Episode IV”, as it then became, fans just took George’s little film to heart and they ran with it. Then we made another and another one. It was really hard work. After being dressed up in that suit, it wasn’t something you wanted to do a second time. Then after those three films, all of the other spin-off projects happened. Suddenly you realized after 37 years, you are immensely proud of you are apart of something that is completely phenomenal. It took being the narrator of “Star Wars: In Concert” for me to really get “Star Wars”. I narrated the whole show from “Episode I” through “Episode VI” with no jiggling about on a stage with a symphony orchestra with specially edited clips being displayed on this HUGE screen. I have done it 151 times now and I think I am finally getting it right. The thing I like most about the concert is that the audience is live and you can see the audiences excitement and affection for a tiny bit for me, a huge amount for John William’s music and an enormous about for George’s films. You don’t get that time of energy in the studio. So, I have lived long enough to go through a time when I thought that “I shouldn’t be doing “Star Wars” stuff anymore” to thinking “Wow, am I lucky”.

MG: Tell us about working on the new series “Star Wars: Detours”?
AD: It is amazing. I had to keep that show a secret for about a year or so. Some of the scripts I recorded are absolutely hilarious. It was some much fun to do such a strange yet ridiculously humorous script with this character than talking about hyper-drive motivators which is very serious. So finally “Star Wars” is coming to a part of its life that people love it so much that you can poke fun, tease and humiliate in a friendly way. So there I am still being “C3PO, Human Cyborg Relations” (spoken in character) but allowing all sorts of variance to the storyline.

MG: When “Star Wars” has an event like “Star Wars Weekends” or “Star Wars Celebration” you are there; what do you enjoy most about still reflecting on these character after all these years?
AD: With an event like “Celebration”, you get to see all the people that love this. The word fan can be used rather rudely sometimes. I do not have a problem with fans, without them we wouldn’t have this “Star Wars” saga. Then you have the 501st, now the first time I saw then I thought “now that is a little weird, isn’t it?” Then I saw what I did, which was dressing up for a living…at least they do it for fun. They are such a phenomenal group of people literally around the world. They bring the movies off the screen to events. There is even a c3PO walking around this convention right now. It is such huge affection and I get to be a part of it.

MG: Since we are in FL, besides being in the films; how is it being immortalized in “Star Tours” at Hollywood Studios?
AD: Ok, there is the six movies, the radio series, the various cartoon series like “Droids and “Clone Wars”, there is the LEGO series, which I am about to record another movie for that this year, then of course there is “Star Tours”. We did that 20-something years ago and then came back to me about three years ago and said they were re-doing it. Tom Fitzgerald, the producer, told me all about the new story lines and that there was also another change they were making, which that C3PO was going to be the star. Well it was one of the toughest jobs that I have ever done. It took 2-3 days just recording the lines alone. Since they are all in high intensity, I was just exhausted. I literally spent the following day in bed literally from being exhausted. We also did some live filming for it also, so I was back in the suit for that. So then we get to go the ride and it was just “Wow”. For people that haven’t been on it, it has 54 variations, which is so clever. People ask “how can I get on stage in front of 25K people” and I saw I don’t know but I can. But then I do to Disney and ask how can you make things like that. They just saw it is kind of their jobs, so everyone has these jobs. So long after I am dead, that ride will be there will C3PO chirping away and being funny, bossy and silly still. And who knows maybe my foot print will also still be in front of the Chinese Theater (home of the “The Great Movie Ride”). Not long ago, I was in a deli in New York and they had the tin-man from “The Wizard of Oz” and I thought one day that would be me. The one thing about the business is that these characters are forever now and iconic. It is so big that you can’t compute it.

MG: What is your favorite character in the saga…and you can’t say C3PO?
AD: Well curiously [laughs], I have no problem saying that it is Darth Maul. He is a wonderful creation, whether it is that he was here and then left you wondering who was that strange creature. But I am sorry that Ray Park got chopped in half because not only was he was lovely guy but Darth Maul is just so purely evil that you can’t help but think “Oh that is kind of cute” [laughs]. You know Darth Vadar…Yeah Yeah Yeah. Boba Fett, no idea what that is about. There is nothing secret about Darth Maul. Well everyone has their favorites. Some people love Jar Jar Binks, the younger generation, who are usually under 10 years old. Some people like Ewoks for heaven sakes. [Note, Warwick Davis, who played Wicket the Ewok in “Return of the Jedi, was sitting right next to us during the interview]. Everyone has a following. So there we are. So it has recently occurring to me when I see 3-4 year old children in line in meet me and they are my future. In 10 years, they will be 15 and I will be….YEAHHHH. So it seems to be I see three generations and they younger generation is still going to be new to this series. What is lovely is that they are able to taker the whole of George’s sandbox and take it always into new directions.

 

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Blu-ray Review “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part I”

Directed by : Bill Condon
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Distributed by: Summit
Run Time: 117 minutes

Film: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1” is the second to last film in the series.  Some people will be rejoiced to have it end and some will be mortified when it is over.  This film is honestly hard to get through, but luckily the last 15 minutes are very cool.  I have a feeling that “Breaking Dawn – Part 2” might be pretty bad ass, now that all the romance is done.  I think that they could have kept “Breaking Dawn” as one movie but I am sure it is mostly for the fans..and to make more money.  This Blu-ray release is going to be a hit for Valentine’s Day, since it is getting released perfectly in time for its fans to enjoy Bella & Edward’s wedding and honeymoon during the holiday.  Die-hard fans will obviously eat up the romance but the casual fans might want to wait till “Part 2” comes around.

If you follow “The Twilight Saga”, this is the movie that you are really waiting for the marriage of Bella and Edward and of course Bella possibly turning into a vampire.  Basically the whole film is just one long honeymoon scene followed by Bella’s pregnancy.  The birth of their child might not be as simple as it sounds as it will break the treaty with the werewolves. The Cullen’s with the help of Jacob will need to protect Bella from the werewolf pack.  But will Bella even survive this supernatural pregnancy? But of course if you read the book you know the answer to this. Also be sure to stick around through the credits to see a sneak peak in the Volturi’s role for “Part 2”.

The Blu-ray presentation is fantastic overall with its video which looks sharp especially during the battle scene at the end. The sound is honestly the best part though of the film boasting its superb 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, very impressive.  The bonus features are packed and will definitely satisfy the most hard core fans.  Firstly you are able to jump immediately to your favorite scenes.  There is the Bella and Edward’s Wedding Video, which is for major fans only.  There is a great audio commentary with director Bill Condon, he really seems to be an actor’s directory and really enjoys the filming experience.  There is a super in depth 6-part “Making Of” series which takes you individually into every aspect of the film from each character to the film’s production.  It is very interesting even for non-fans.

Film Review “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn- Part 1”

Starring:  Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner
Directed by:  Bill Condon
Rated:  PG 13
Running time:  1 hour 57 mins
Summit Entertainment

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

It would be easy to dismiss the “Twilight” film series as nothing more than a series of chick-flicks with a few monsters thrown in for the guys.  But that would do the films a great injustice.  Yes, they ARE a series of chick-flicks with a few monsters thrown in, but when you get past the romance you have a pretty interesting story.

As the opening credits end, we are met by Jacob (Lautner), angrily running off.  Seems the mailman has brought him an invite to the wedding of the season in rustic Forks, Washington.  Jacob’s best friend, Bella (Stewart) is to be wed to tan-deprived Edward (Pattinson) and he’s not very happy with the news.  Edward himself is reluctant.  Not that he doesn’t love Bella.  It’s just that, for them to have children, it would help if she, too, became a vampire.  Despite several bad omens telling her “no,” Bella and Edward walk down the aisle, then head off on the honeymoon of a lifetime.  (I guess you could say an “after” life time).  But love is not a guarantee of happiness.

The fourth film in the popular series (with a final film coming next year), “TBD-1” is smartly directed by Bill Condon (“Gods and Monsters,” “Dreamgirls”) in a straight forward manner that keeps the film from bogging down in its last act.  Helping keep the film moving is the outstanding camera work of cinematographer Guillermo Navarro, who has shot some of Guillermo del Toro’s best work.  The story should be familiar to “Twilight” fans.  Not having read the books I don’t know if this last chapter could have been told in one film.  The final 30 mins are padded with constant shots of a weakened Bella, her swollen belly and intermittent glances from Edward and Jacob.

The cast have obviously become comfortable in their roles, yet are strong enough to not appear lazy.  With not a lot to do towards the end of the film but look worried, Pattinson and Lautner could have easily dialed their performances in.  That they didn’t is a testament to Condon’s direction.  Stewart gets the lion’s share of the dramatics here.  Carrying a demon child can’t be healthy for anyone, but it really takes its toll on Bella.  Highest marks to the make up people who turned the vibrant Stewart into a sickly, emaciated martyr-to-be.  Both male leads are also comfortable in their skins, though it would be nice if Lautner didn’t squint so much.  Speaking of skins, I’m not sure what the over/under was in Vegas but it takes approximately eight seconds into the film before Lautner takes his shirt off.  The supporting cast earns their pay.  It is their story that is the most interesting, especially the blood-sucking Cullen Family.  Perhaps after the next film the producers can focus attention on them and give them their own movie.  Peter Facinelli is strong as the patriarch of the family.  In a recent interview I did with him I commented on how much I always thought he resembled Tom Cruise.  Here, with his coloring and hair, he had me thinking of another vampire: Lestat from “Interview With the Vampire.” And I mean that comparison in a positive way.

The biggest disappointment to me were the visual effects used to create Jacob and his pack when they roam the woods as wolves.  They move very herky/jerky, not gracefully as they should.  It’s like the producers hired the guys that did the dogs on the top of the building in “Ghostbusters” to create the beasts.  If the comments from the fans around me are to be believed, the screenplay is very true to the book.  If you’ve read the books you are aware of the problems Bella deals with while with child.  Parents may want to think twice about bringing their younger Twi-hards or at least anticipate covering their eyes.  And please hang around during the end credits for a quick hint of “Breaking Dawn – Part 2.”