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.
Has it been a year already? Yes, yes it has. Because as I sit here tonight, my eardrums are ringing, my nostrils are filled with staged gun smoke, and my soul is covered in glitter. And that, young homies, can only mean one thing: The X Factor live shows have returned! Though host Steve Jones was nowhere to be found (I searched for hours), some old familiar X-Tropes had the crowd feeling right at home: L.A. Reid's chair-dancing, Pepsi cups, talented contestants returning from the dead. It was, as Britney Spears would say, amazing. (Drinking game alert: Every time Brit calls something amazing... well, you know what to do. Do it because I can't.)
After the show, Hollywood.com sat down with the contestants to chat about the show, and to say that some of them surprised us (well, me) would be an understatement. Jason Brock had plenty to say about gay rights and homophobia, while CeCe Frey and Jennel Garcia did NOT seem happy about the direction mentor Demi Lovato was taking them in. Also, this Jersey girl was pleased to find out that the lads of Emblem3 don't ONLY dig California girls. In fact, they said chicks from Jersey are "hot." (Someone Google if they're legal. I don't want to know.) Read what they had to say below:
Emblem3, on One Direction comparisons:
Keaton Stromberg: I can't wait to meet them [on Thursday's show]! I think they seem freakin' awesome.
Drew Chadwick: They seem like they know how to have a good time.
Wesley Stromberg: Yeah, they seem pretty cool, and I will ask them how this whole process worked for them. I'd love to.
Drew: I heard they know how to party! We've been cooped up in that mansion for weeks so we need to let loose!
On staying humble, despite being favorites:
Wesley: Constantly, everyone is reminding us to not let this get to our heads. We remind each other.
Drew: We're always keeping each other in check. It's really important. It's like the most important thing.
On their relationship status:
All: Single, we're single. Very single!
On only liking California girls, and their celeb crushes: Drew: We like all sorts of girls! Keaton: [My celeb crush] is Zooey Deschanel! I love her. Drew: Mine is Gandhi or Jack Johnson, either one. Wesley: I honestly don't have a celebrity crush, is that okay? Or actually I should say Demi? I might as well stir the pot! Diamond White, on her chances coming back: Diamond: It feels awesome being back, and just knowing that I got this second chance — I'm pretty much the Melanie Amaro of this season, so hopefully I end up the same place she did — winning.
On whether or not she saw her return coming: Diamond: I read on the Internet that Simon [Cowell] said there wasn’t going to be a wild card. And when I was in the competition, I thought the wild card — if there was one — was going to be Jillian [Jensen], because Jillian is amazing. So just knowing that I am the wild card this season kind of shocks me, because people believe in me. Jason Brock, on why Simon doesn't enjoy his act: Jason: First of all, I thought my performance was fabulous. A really good, heartfelt, solid performance that I actually thought would move the audience and the judges. But then, to my surprise, when was I finished singing and I stood there for the judges' feedback, I got a mixed reaction from Britney, I got a negative reaction from Demi, and I got a very negative reaction, mostly, from Simon... He said that I was dressed like a waiter at an Italian restaurant. He did say that he liked me, he just thought that I was being taken in the wrong direction, like Demi also had said. I've heard that two times now. But I'd really like to see what America thinks, because if America doesn't vote me in the bottom, than I think that Simon's opinion is wrong. If I see that America feels the same way, then I think that Simon might be on to something. But then again, maybe not. Something that I think about is gay performers, sometimes the way that we dress may not be as mainstream. It's a little too fabulous, or whatever.
On being pigeonholed as the gay performer: Jason: I don't mind being the gay performer. I'm totally comfortable with that. In fact, I love it. But, I just wonder if that's what it is that [Simon] doesn't like... I'm proud to be a representative of the gay community, and I do like taking that role. I have things I want to fight for, too, like marriage equality. That's so important to me. Obama was just elected, that is also so important to me, mainly because of that issue. Because I have a boyfriend who lives in Japan, and if we don't have marriage equality, we can never get married and be together, on a federal level. It has to be federal in order for that to happen. People don't realize that, so that's something I'd like to talk about, too. CeCe Frey, on her song choice: CeCe: I thought it really was fitting. Was it the original arrangement I wanted to do? No. I came up with a different arrangement at first, and it was vetoed. In this competition, there is a team around me that knows a lot more about this stuff than I do, so I'm doing my best to take direction. Maybe I'm trying too hard to please the people around me, and not myself. InTENsity survivor Arin Ray, on his relationship status: Arin: No girlfriend right now, but that could be in the works… you never know. There's a lot of beautiful women on this show. On keeping up with Season 1 contestants:
Arin: I talk to pretty much everybody. I hung out with Melanie [Amaro] the other day. I talk to Marcus [Canty] and Astro. [Marcus is] doing really good. His EP is actually coming out Jan. 22, so I can't wait to hear that. My boy Astro, he's doing really good, he's like a brother to me. And Rachel Crow, that girl is doing big things. I still talk to the members of InTENsity, every day. They're 100 percent behind me in everything that I'm doing, and it's cool to see that support. Jennel Garcia, on negative feedback: Jennel: No one has really said anything bad about my voice, just my appearance. Some people love my hair, and some people hate it. I hated it at first... I'll admit it, I hated it a lot. I wanted to hide in a corner! People are [also] saying, "You look fat in that!" ... But I am not going to have people bring me down! I am not here to be the skinny kid. I am Puerto Rican. I will never be tiny. On her new "Demi" hair: Jennel: Before the show I wanted to cut my hair, and I have had bangs before. I wanted to bring them back, but then I noticed that Demi brought hers back. People tell me I look like Demi — I don't think I do. So I don't need to look like her more. But then she cut my hair in bangs! I knew people were going to say I looked like her. But she is beautiful, so I don't care. Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna [PHOTO CREDIT: FOX] MORE: 'The X Factor' Recap: Who Lived? Who Died? 'X Factor': Khloe Kardashian Odom, Mario Lopez Announced as Hosts ‘X Factor’ Scoop: Simon Cowell Compares Eliminated Diamond White to Jennifer Hudson From Our Partners: Kim Kardashian: ‘I’ve Lost 10 lbs’ (Celebuzz) ’Twilight’ Stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson Hop on Private Jet in Matching Outfits (PHOTOS) (Celebuzz)
Do the Bourne movies make any sense? Enough. The first three films — The Bourne Identity Supremacy and Ultimatum — throw in just enough detail into the covert ops babble and high-speed action that by the end Jason Bourne comes out an emotional character with an evident mission. That's where Bourne Legacy drops the ball. A "sidequel" to the original trilogy Legacy follows super soldier Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) as he runs jumps and shoots his way out of the hands of his government captors. The film is identical to its predecessors; political intrigue chase scenes morally ambiguous CIA agents monitoring their man-on-the-run from a computer-filled HQ — a Bourne movie through and through. But Legacy has to dig deeper to find new ground to cover introducing elements of sci-fi into the equation. The result is surprisingly limp and even more incomprehensible.
Damon's Bourne spent three blockbusters uncovering his past erased by the assassin training program Treadstone. Renner's Alex Cross has a similar do-or-die mission: after Bourne's antics send Washington into a tizzy Cross' own training program Outcome is terminated. Unlike Bourne Cross is enhanced by "chems" (essentially steroid drugs) that keep him alive and kicking ass. When Outcome is ended Cross goes rogue to stay alive and find more pills.
Steeped heavily in the plot lines of the established mythology Bourne Legacy jumps back and forth between Cross and the clean up job of the movie's big bad (Edward Norton) and his elite squad of suits. The movie balances a lot of moving parts but the adventure never feels sprawling or all that exciting. Actress Rachel Weisz vibrant in nearly every role she takes on plays a chemist who is key to Cross' chemical woes. The two are forced into partnership Weisz limited to screaming cowering and sneaking past the occasional airport x-ray machine while her partner aggressively fistfights his way through any hurdle in his path. Renner is equally underserved. Cross is tailored to the actor's strengths — a darker more aggressive character than Damon's Bourne but with one out of every five of the character's lines being "CHEMS!" shouted at the top of his lungs Renner never has the time or the material to develop him.
Writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton Duplicity and the screenwriter of the previous three movies) is a master of dense language but his style choices can't breath life into the 21st century epic speak. In the film's necessary car chase Gilroy mimics the loose camera style of Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass without fully embracing it. The wishy washy approach sucks the life out of large-scale set pieces. The final 30 minutes of Bourne Legacy is a shaky cam naysayer's worst nightmare.
The Bourne Legacy demonstrates potential without ever kicking into high gear. One scene when Gilroy finally slows down and unleashes absolute terror on screen is striking. Unfortunately the moment doesn't involve our hero and its implications never explained. That sums up Legacy; by the film's conclusion it only feels like the first hour has played out. The movie crawls — which would be much more forgivable if the intense banter between its large ensemble carried weight. Instead Legacy packs the thrills of an airport thriller: sporadically entertaining and instantly forgettable.
In a screen adaptation of the Philip Roth novella The Dying Animal this highly charged sexual drama comes to the fore as its central character wraps himself around a dangerous life-changing relationship. David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley) is an engaging very successful professor whose personal life he closely controls--never letting commitment get in the way and keeping the women in his life at arm’s distance. Although he can go on The Charlie Rose Show and charm with the best of them his emotional needs have remained hidden to him--that is until a gorgeous young student Consuela Castillo (Penelope Cruz) enters his classroom and rocks his tightly monitored world. Suddenly everything he thought he knew about his own human nature and longings are thrown out the window. He becomes obsessively involved with the much younger Consuela--SO obsessive in fact that his jealousy and possessiveness take their toll and eventually drive her away. Drowning his sorrows in other personal matters he will discover that this relationship is not quite over and the woman who haunts his dreams is going to come back into his life with an urgency neither one could possibly have imagined. Kingsley an Oscar winner over a quarter of a century ago for Gandhi has perhaps his richest role since then as professor Kepesh a man overwhelmed by desire he never knew he was capable of. It’s certainly unusual and definitely refreshing to see an actor who is just hitting retirement age get such a full-bodied and sexual role. Let’s face it Kingsley is no Brad Pitt but he certainly represents a group of men who are still in the game and even just discovering their full romantic potential in the autumn of life. Of course what red blooded American male wouldn’t fall hook line and sinker for the rapturous Cruz. Her Consuela is a woman in complete charge of her being--until events out of her control bring out the vulnerability. Without revealing plot spoilers there are two distinct parts to this complicated and fascinating performance and Cruz effortlessly nails both. The supporting cast is also top notch with Patricia Clarkson a particular standout as Carolyn the professor’s long-time lover who finds her mutually convenient affair threatened for the first time. There’s also Dennis Hopper as a distinguished poet and David’s good friend; Deborah Harry as Hopper’s long-suffering wife; and Peter Sarsgaard as the prof’s distant son are all fine in the exceptionally well-cast film. Spanish director Isabel Coixet (My Life Without Me) brings an intimacy and strong woman’s touch to a story that might have had a different spin if directed by a man. After all how many Hollywood films have we seen with 60 and 70 year-old male stars cast opposite much younger actresses that fail to examine the irony of those pairings? This relationship is shown warts and all in a much more emotionally complicated way than most films dare. Emphasis on Clarkson’s spurned lover also adds a nice touch and we can completely empathize with this smart sexually alive woman whose main sin is her age similarity with the man she has slept with hassle free for over 20 years. A major studio would never touch a story like this that deals with the sexual proclivities of mature adults unless it had something to do with Batman and Catwoman. We can thank Coixet’s sharply detailed work behind the camera particularly in intimate bedroom conversations and a smart adaptation by Nicholas Meyer which gets right to the heart of Roth’s ultimately heartbreaking story. Those expecting something along the raunchy lines of the aging author’s Portnoy’s Complaint will be in for a surprise with this independently made contemplative beautifully crafted and acted romantic drama. Finally a film for grown ups.