Move over, Katniss — there's a new ass-kicking heroine in town. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, which opens on Wednesday, introduces Clary Fray: a 16-year-old New Yorker whose world is turned upside down when her mother is kidnapped and she realizes she is not just your average teenager (or "mundane," as humans are known to the group of half-angel, half-human demon hunters that she encounters).
In the young adult novel-turned-action adventure, Clary, played by Lily Collins, discovers that she is a Shadowhunter and that everything she thought she knew about her family and her own past is in fact not true. It is a bumpy crash course in all things supernatural. But despite the mystical themes, it's really a coming of age story, says Collins.
"[It's about] a young girl finding out that she is not who she thought she was and she goes through the confusion and the identity crisis that every young teenager goes through," Collins tells Hollywood.com. "She's on this quest to find her mom. It's a journey about self discovery and finding her voice."
"The fancy elements are just the frills on top," adds her onscreen love interest and fellow demon hunter Jamie Campbell Bower. "This is a study of what it means to be young, and what it means to be human and feeling out of place in a world that feels strange and new and exiting. I think that’s what people connect with more than the supernatural elements."
You can catch The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones in theaters now.
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There is something to be said for ambition. The sort of unabashed, no holds barred, balls to the wall energy that makes anything seem like a good idea. Though you'll cock your head at the results of this kind of caution-to-the-wind bravado, the all-inclusive "sure, why not?" attitude, you can't help but crack a smile for the purveyors of this spirit: the first grader who stuffs his class diorama with every figurine and pipe cleaner machination he can muster, the bird who lines its nest with candy wrappers and Fedex receipts, or the people who made the Mortal Instruments movie. They, quite possibly, are the mightiest knights of them all.
You don't have to wait too long for the crazy to kick up in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. We open on the most spacious apartment in the history of Brooklyn, where young Lily Collins is beginning to see mysterious symbols popping up everywhere, only the first sign of the fantastical journey set to take form. Mother Lena Headey, aided by her platonic friend Aidan Turner, plays the Dursley card and takes effort to deter any exploration of the ominous elements to befall her daughter. But as with every spunky mystic around her age, Collins cannot be restrained. She follows her heart and embarks on a quest, aided by her platonic friend Robert Sheehan, through every single conceivable element of modern fantasy.
The Harry Potter similarities continue when Collins is ushered into a demonic otherworld via New York City's equivalent of a murky train platform (an ecstasy-laden dance club), guided by New York City's equivalent of a haggard woodland giant (a perpetually shirtless goth ghost, played by Jamie Campbell Bower). Working her way up from glowing-eyed club druggers and pieces of living jewelry to demons, werewolves, witches, vampires, and interdimensional portals — tossed in one by one as we gradually abandon all devotion to any margins of logic — Collins engages in an adventure that seems entirely open to all possibilities. Or at least all possibilities that have proven vigilant at the box office in the past four years.
And as she engages, so do we. Not exactly in the way you engage with Harry Potter... more in the way you engage with the Harry Potter ride at Islands of Adventure. You'll embrace the likable and talented Collins just enough to forge the sort of relationship you want with a fantasy heroine. You'll find yourself rooting one way or the other in the love triangle between her, the Shirtless Shadowhunter (Campbell Bower), and her lovestruck pal Simon (Sheehan). You won't have to work too hard to understand most of the mystical facets tossed your way: you know the rules of vampires (no sunlight), of werewolves (they're dudes sometimes), of demons (they're bad). And when it does get confusing, like when teleportation bubbles and portal beams from the afterlife and curses and tarot cards and dreadlocks are tossed into the equation, you have the luxury of abandoning the puzzle. You're not asked to understand anything, just to accept it all.
Accept that all this madness can, does, and should occur within the malleable reality occupied by Collins and her ghastly friends. When it is revealed that classical musicians had a hand in these supernatural forays, accept it. When you're taken from wizards' palaces to Willy Wonkian wonderlands to the destitute streets of a haunted Manhattan post 3 AM, accept it. When genealogical revelations tie everything together in a bow so strange as to put the peculiarity of bat invasions, corpse armies, glowing hieroglyph tattoos, and memory erasing club promoters, accept it. If you can do all that, you'll find a comical thrill ride in this two hours of steadily accelerating madness, this Mulligan Stew of YA fiction. But if you're too hung up on logic, rules, world building, or any semblance of pacing, stick with Potter — Mortal Instruments is for the most adamant "sure, why not?"-ers only.
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If there's a cinematic alchemy award to be given this year director Bill Condon deserves to take it home after magically turning the tedious Twilight franchise into entertainment gold. 2011's Part 1 was a horror camp romp that turned the supernatural love triangle — the naval gazing trio of Bella Edward and Jacob — on its head. Breaking Dawn - Part 2 continues the madcap exploration of a world populated by vampires and werewolves mining even more comedy thrills and genuine character moments out of conceit than ever before. The film occasionally sidesteps back into Edward and Bella's meandering romance (an evident hurdle of author Stephenie Meyer's source material) but the duller moments are overshadowed by the movie's nimble pace and playful attitude. Breaking Dawn - Part 2 will elicit laughs aplenty — but thankfully they're all on purpose.
Part 2 picks up immediately following the events of the first film Bella (Kristen Stewart) having been turned into a vampire by Edward (Robert Pattinson) to save her life after the torturous delivery of her half-human half-vampire child Renesmee. She awakes to discover super senses heightened agility increased strength… and a thirst for blood. One dead cougar later Bella and the gang are able to focus on the real troubles ahead: Renesmee is rapidly growing (think Jack) and vampiric overlords The Volturi perceive her a threat to vampiric secrecy. Knowing the Volturi will travel to Forks WA to kill the young girl (a 10-year-old just a month after being born) The Cullens amass an army of bloodsucking friends to end the oppression once and for all.
Packed with an absurd amount of backstory and mythology-twisting plot points (some vampires can shoot lightning now?) Condon and series screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg mine revel in the beefed up ensemble of Breaking Dawn - Part 2 and thanks to a wildly funny cast it never feels like pointless deviation. Along with the usual suspects Lee Pace adds swagger to the series as a grungy alt-rock vampire Noel Fisher appears as a hilarious over-the-top battle-ready Russian coven member and Michael Sheen returns has Volturi head honcho Aro and steels the show. Flamboyant diabolical and a steady stream of maniacal laughter Sheen owns Condon's high camp vision for Twilight and he lights up the screen. There are a few throw away nations of vampires — the oddly stereotypical Egyptian and Amazonians sects are there mostly there to off-set the extreme whiteness — but the actors involved bring liveliness to a franchise known for being soulless. Even Stewart Pattinson and Taylor Lautner give personal bests in this installment — a scene between Bella and her dad Charlie (Billy Burke) is genuinely heartfelt while Jacob's overprotective hero schtick finally lands.
Whereas Breaking Dawn - Part 1 stuck mostly to the personal story relying on the intimate moments as Bella and Edward took the big plunge into marriage and sex Part 2 paints with broader strokes and Condon has a ball. Delving into the history of the vampires and the vampire world outside Forks is Pandora's Box for the director. One scene where we learn why kids scare the heck of the Volturi captures a scope of medieval epics — along with the bloodshed. Twilight might be known for its sexual moments but Breaking Dawn - Part 2 will go down for its abundance of decapitations. The big set piece in the finale is something to behold both in the craftsmanship of the spectacle and in its bizarre nature.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 had the audience hooting hollering and even gasping as it twisted and turned to the final moments. There's little doubt that even the biggest naysayer of the franchise would do the same. No irony here: the conclusion of Twilight is a blast.
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
Bobby Garfield (David Morse) returns to his small hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend and remembers the fateful summer in 1960 when his whole world changed. The story flashes back to when 11-year-old Bobby (Anton Yelchin) and his best friends Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully-John (Will Rothhaar) capture the pure joy of youthfulness. When a mysterious stranger named Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins) moves upstairs and starts to pay attention to Bobby the boy suddenly realizes what's truly missing from his life--the love of a parent. Bobby's mother Liz (Hope Davis) is embittered by the death of Bobby's father and shows little compassion for her son's growing needs. Ted fills a void with the boy opening his eyes to the world around him and helps Bobby come to terms with his real feelings for Carol--and his mother. But Ted also has some deep dark secrets of his own and Bobby tries hard to stop danger from reaching the old man.
The performances make the film especially in the genuine camaraderie of the kids. Yelchin Boorem and Rothhaar never deliver a false move with an easiness that makes us believe we are simply watching three 11-year-old children grow up together. Yelchin in particular is able to get right to the heart of this young boy who misses his father and clings to the only adult who will listen. And his scenes with Boorem simply break your heart. (Davis) does an admirable job playing a part none too sympathetic. She manages to show a woman whose been beaten down but who does truly love her son in her own way. Morse too is one of those character actors you can plug in any movie and get a performance worth noting. In Hearts you want to see more of him. Of course the film shines brightest when Hopkins is on the screen. It may not be an Oscar-caliber performance but the actor is unparalleled in bringing a character to life--showing the subtleties of an old man looking for some peace in his life.
If you are expecting the Stephen King novel you may be disappointed. Screenwriter William Goldman and director Scott Hicks (Shine) deftly extracted the King formula of telling a story through a child's eye and explaining how the relationships formed as a child shaped the adult later. Hicks did an amazing job with his young actors especially Yelchin and Boorem. But where the novel continued into a supernatural theme explaining Brautigan's fear of being captured by "low men in yellow coats" (a reference to King's The Dark Tower series) the movie downplayed the mystical elements instead giving real explanations for Brautigan's man-on-the-run. That was the one problem with Hearts--we needed more danger. Introducing men from another dimension may not have been the way to go but had there been more tension the film would have resonated more especially when Bobby risked his own safety to save Ted.