Breaking Dawn Part 2 Review (Paolo Kagaoan)

Breaking Dawn Part 2 Poster

Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012)

Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Elizabeth Reaser, Ashley Greene, Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Dakota Fanning, Michael Sheen, Mackenzie Foy, Peter Facinelli, Billy Burke, Jackson Rathbone, Maggie Grace and Jamie Campbell Bower

Directed by Bill Condon

Nadia Sue Sandhu and I have endured The Twilight Saga or The Kristen Stewart Lip Quiver Saga in one drunken night. Or no, I’ll admit it, I actually enjoyed the movies for different qualities other than the ones you judge real good movies on. That said, I can’t speak on her behalf. Anyway, since we already watched all of those movies we might as well watch Breaking Dawn Part 2.

Stewart doesn’t necessarily sustain an energy throughout the movie. And she still doesn’t know what to do with her mouth, a part of her face that she lost control of ever since she signed on to starring in this saga. But, and I realize that I might be judging her by lowered standards, she does make for a convincing mother. She also knows how to be campy. Watch that animated face throughout the film. This is especially true when telling Jacob that he stinks, inhabiting the xenophobia that ‘vampires’ – read: white people – have against ‘werewolves’ – read: Natives or people of colour. Although I will say that this movie’s main plot arc of ‘Bella and Edward’s (Pattinson) Daughter Reneesme (Foy) Is Not An Immortal Child World Tour’ takes away a lot of the racism and criticisms of racism against the movie.

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN-PART 2

To flashback from the previous installments of the saga, the only reason the Cullens are alive is because the Volturi think that Bella has turned into a vampire. Now they think that both vampires have conceived an immortal child although Reneesme is just a half-breed. An immortal child, in the Twilight Saga Universe, is a child by two vampires and thus have powers so uncontrollable that he or she can raze a village with a tantrum. Those children and the coven who conceive them have to be burned by the Volturi for their mistakes, a fate the Cullens want to avoid.

Breaking Dawn Part 2_1

Back to Stewart’s campiness. Waking up as a vampire makes her a capable stand-in for the audience who, just like her, is taking in all the movie’s stimuli like a high person, slithering like Catwoman in the movie’s Northwestern woods. She knows how to do angry, dragging Jacob out of the house and yelling at him for ‘imprinting’ Renesmee and nicknaming her after the Loch Ness Monster. There’s also a scene when she has convinces her father (Burke) that she’s the slouchy human instead while equally convincing us that she’s the well-postured, quick-footed super-vampire that she has become. Her latest infidelity scandal makes us think twice about her former shy tomboyish self, and she’s playing along with this new persona both in life and in the movie. And when she’s not having these glorious moments, the cast have theirs as their characters, some more diluted than others, prepare for an epic battle with the most ridiculous twist ending.

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ChickFlicking: In Tha Biz – “The Incredible Case of Kristen Stewart’s Diminishing Prospects” (Nadia Sandhu)

Enough with the gender studies essays on Kristen Stewart, I beg of you. There has been no escaping the latest brouhaha as reports surfaced that Kristen Stewart will not be appearing in Universal’s next Snow White and the Huntsman installment, and that Rupert Sanders most probably will direct.

While the temptation here is to erroneously conflate Kristen’s so-called predicament with Meg Ryan’s own career death spiral (I’m looking at you Lainey), let’s not draw attention away from the key fact. This is not about actors and actresses, or even directors at all – it’s about money. Show BUSINESS. That means producers and distributors call the shots, however bizarrely counter-intuitive those calls may be.

If we follow the money, we find that the producing team behind Snow White and the Huntsman, Roth Films, not only delivered that box office hit for Universal, but were also behind Alice in Wonderland for Disney and are currently shepherding two major tent poles for the rival studio (Oz the Great and Powerful and Malificent). They are the flavour of the month so to speak, so much so that Universal has acquired another property for them, and they in turn are standing by their director. Why is anyone’s guess because the guy is a total hack. Nevertheless, there it is. Rupert Sanders will direct the newly acquired “90 Church” and probably the newly front burnered Huntsman spin off (my money is on a prequel). Check out the non-denial by Universal. They are following the surer path and hedging their bets by spinning off Chris Hemsworth and the Huntsman, at least until the returns come in for Breaking Dawn Part 2.

Now on to K-Stew. Her box office appeal has always been questionable. I know I certainly didn’t go to see SWATH (review) because Kristen Stewart was in it, and judging from audience reaction I wasn’t the only one who got dooped into seeing the film inspite of her presence by a fantastically dark and old school Burtonesque trailer.

So while the film made over $400 million at the box office, we really don’t know how much of that success was based on the Twilight Army showing up in force, or because of doops like me. What we do know is Twilight fans don’t usually turn up for any of their purported fave actors in non-Twilight films, Kristen Stewart included.  We also know that Kristen Stewart has blood on her hands for brutally killing the fantasy imaginings of Twilight fans, forcing those crazies to face the harsh light of reality – Edward and Bella do not exist in real life and are not living happily ever after.

Chris Hemsworth has also not actually opened a film by himself per se, since Thor was a success that Marvel Fans built, but his star is undeniably on the rise.  He has proven charismatic and capable. Let’s be honest, he was also the only watchable actor in the mess that was SWATH (don’t even get me started on the histrionics by Charlize).

So it really comes down to a tale of two leads – one who may be on the wane, and one who is clearly in the ascendant, and a director who is in good with producers who make money for the studio.

Make no mistake, it was precisely because an overrated actress was shoved down the throats of non-Twilight fans by a sycophantic media that people have taken a bit of satisfaction in her “fall” from grace.  The media projected the hubris and her own snotty attitude helped the process along, until the stage was set for the current pile on.  This is NOT a simple black/white feminist issue.  Move on people, you are making me feel sorry for the girl and we can’t have that.

Also, can we maybe stop giving the talentless Mr. Sanders so much ink until he does something to prove he isn’t a blip on the radar? Geez Louise.

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Snow White and the Huntsman Review (Kirk Haviland)

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Starring Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Sam Claflin and Bob Hoskins

Written by Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossien Amini

Directed by Rupert Sanders

2012’s second reinvention of the classic Snow White tale, Snow White and the Huntsman, arrives in theaters this week hoping it can knock Will Smith out of the top slot. The movie unabashedly borrows from a multitude of sources, a more apt title may be Snow White and the Neverending Story of the Fellowship of the Chronicles of Narnia, but this is not necessarily something to be reviled as it produces a movie much better than my expectations.

We start with a Hemsworth narrated prologue in which we hear the origins of this version’s Snow White character. Snow White is a princess whose mother has passed away while she was still a child. Her father, the King, is then tricked into marrying the villainous Ravenna (Theron) who immediately betrays the King and assumes the throne with the help of her brother. The young Snow attempts to flee with the help of her childhood friend Matthew and his father, only to be thwarted. After years of imprisonment, the older Snow White (Stewart) is recognized by the legendary mirror on the wall as being the fairest of them all and the cause of Ravenna’s downfall. It’s when she is to be delivered to the Queen for execution that Snow manages an escape. Ravenna forces the Huntsman (Hemsworth) to go after her and he reluctantly agrees though he has no love for the queen.  The Huntsman quickly discovers where Snow White is but becomes her protector, not her executioner. En route to one of her Father’s supporters, Matthew’s father, Snow encounters many including the Dwarves (Hoskins and a litany of English actors I will not ruin the surprise of here), Fairies, a mystical Elk and many more. The group, as she is now joined by the Elves in her journey, are pursued relentlessly by a group led by Ravenna’s brother Finn (Sam Spruell) and a group of followers including the also now grown Matthew (Claflin). The film continues through the Apple betrayal, a much different source this time around, all the way to final battle sequence for the kingdom at the end.

Snow White and the Huntsman succeeds in delivering the fun, popcorn munching experience that last month’s Battleship so clearly failed in doing. Charlize Theron is completely over the top here and enjoying every minute of it. She manages to bring gravitas to the role and her ultimate conclusion is very satisfying. Kristen Stewart manages to do nothing different than any of the Twilight pics, but even though she is playing the titular role in the film, her dialogue is kept to a minimum. She does deliver one the most underwhelming and lacklustre ‘rousing battle speech’ sequences in film history, but ultimately her performance is not poor enough to ruin the experience. Hemsworth does some fine work here and is on quite a roll right now with Cabin in the Woods and Avengers already out this year (and both of those are clearly superior to this, see the links for reviews). His Huntsman actually carries some emotional impact that a lesser actor cast for mere looks would have completely lost in translation. The dwarves are a fun reveal and almost all are recognizable faces.

I mentioned before that the film borrows freely from other films, like having identical shots to The Fellowship’s trek through identical locations from the first Lord of the Rings film and a “dark woods” sequence that plays out very similar to the Swamp of Sorrows from Neverending Story. In fact the environmental impact from Ravenna’s rule is reminiscent of both films, with Ravenna pacing in here castle reminiscent of Saruman in his tower. That said the effects in this are solid, one sequence involving a Troll I thought was especially effective, and the fact that the film avoids one of those uber sappy sequences with Snow and one of her protectors that films like these almost always includes works for me a great deal.

Ultimately you could do a lot worse in your Cineplex this weekend, Snow White and the Huntsman is a recommend, not a strong recommend, but a recommend none the less.

Till Next Time,

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HOT DOCS 2012 – Glow: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (Paolo Kagaoan casts a fictional version of Glow)

Hot Docs 2012 (Toronto)

Paolo here. Kirk and I keep seeing the same movies, which is going to be a problem unless we do doubleheaders all the time during the festival.

The first movie we saw together is Glow: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, about an all-female wrestling league of the same name that ran in between 1986-1990 and had short-lived revivals afterwards. Kirk’s review is also on the site and out respect for him I’ll forfeit mine. Although I’ll say that the movie has too conventional of a structure and its ‘feminist’ self-projections are kind of wonky for me, but I smiled and laughed more at this movie than any of the ones I’ve seen this year. And more importantly, it’s one of the few docs that can be source material for a feature film.

This idea came to me when the doc put its focus on Mt. Fiji and I kept thinking about Gabourey Sidibe, not just because of the size issue. Mt. Fiji as a character would be interesting to play, having the jovial, lovable quality despite of her toughness in the ring. She’s also had her share of health troubles after GLOW’s short run, which can make for some captivating drama.

What about the rest of the roles? Yes, GLOW fans, those wrestlers are irreplaceable. Many of the GLOW girls were healthy, Carrie Otis/Tia Carrere types with a Joan Jett/Jem doll kind of attitude. Exoticism and diverse body types are missing in the actress pool today. But here are some suggestions.

For the good girls:

Tina Ferrari (Her real name, never revealed on the doc, is Lisa Moretti . She also became WWE Champion ‘Ivory’. She apparently was the focus of GLOW’s second season) – Lyndsy Fonseca. She’s known more as Bob Saget’s daughter in How I Met Your Mother but she was also in Hot Tub Time Machine, where she fearlessly climbed on John Cusack and then stabbed him with a fork. For training, that’s not bad.

Americana – Alison Brie. She shares the spotlight with the ensemble cast in Mad Men. This season her character Trudy is becoming more comfortable as a suburban housewife. She already gives hints of what she might become when she gets older. This will be helpful in any project with plots involving long time spans, if the movie chooses to show both the 80’s and the GLOW girls on present day.

Babe the Farmer’s Daughter – Hayden Panettiere. The actress has to be rewarded by being the best part of the hot mess known as Scream 4, and that reward should mean more work.

For the bad girls, whose personalities often had to do with fictionalized countries of origin:

Godiva (She actually made an appearance after our screening and still looks like the way she was in the 80’s) – Jennifer Lawrence. She proved that she can do a fake British accent in The Hunger Games, which is important because Godiva wasn’t really British. Besides, the other thing she proved in The Hunger Games was kicking ass.

Matilda the Hun (Who was often matched against Mt. Fiji) – Samantha Morton. Morton often plays vulnerable types but she showed her bad side in that scene in The Messenger where she tries to scare off men who were trying to recruit her son into the military. It might not be a bad idea to see another side of this actress.

Colonel Ninotchka (A bad girl who sometimes turns good) – Oksana Akinshina. Most of the accents in GLOW were fake (I was also thinking about blonde Emma Stone when I saw her) but what about casting a real Russian for a Russian role? You might know her in the Bourne series but her presence in Hipsters is impeachable and she can no longer be Russia’s cinematic secret.

Hollywood and VineChrista B. Allen and Emily Vancamp. Allen played young Jennifer Garner twice. The  first time she did it was in 13 Going on 30 as a young girl in 1987, in her short scenes embodying what it’s like to be young in the 80’s. And I included her Revenge co-star Vancamp because I’m boring.

Heavy Metal Sisters/ Chainsaw and SpikeKristen Stewart and Alison Brie. Both have been punks and rebels before, Stewart playing Joan Jett and Brie as Woody Harrelson’s troubled yet wise daughter in the underrated Rampart. And yes, guys, when she gives a crap, Kristen Stewart can act, okay?

Little Egypt – Nasim Pedrad. She finds different ways to play a whack job every week in Saturday Night Live, so why can’t Kristen Wiig’s heir apparent jump start her career with a movie like this?

Dementia – Mae Whitman. Tough girl cred: The fourth evil ex in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

Palestina – Alia Shawkat. Tough girl cred: Playing bassist in The Runaways.

And for the characters ‘behind the scenes:’

GLOW co-founder Jackie Stallone (yes, Sly Stallone’s mother owned a wrestling league) – Barbara Hershey. She was intimidating enough as Natalie Portman’s mother in Black Swan but what about being a coach to more young women?

Mondo Guerrero, brother of Eddie and part of the Guerrero family of wrestlers. He trained the girls the proper wrestling moves and taught them how to evince pain. – Edgar Ramirez.

Tony Cimber, son of Jayne Mansfield, brother of Mariska Hargitay, director of the GLOW episodes who Mt. Fiji had a crush on – Emile Hirsch. Where has this guy been?

GLOW co-founder and President David MacLane – Vincent Kartheiser. That smarmy smile of his can only be described as perfect.

Seriously, think about a cast of 18-35 actresses, both known and unknown, beating each other up and occasionally performing politically incorrect sketches and rapping. It’s the worst idea ever but it’s also going to be awesome.

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