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.
David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
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.
Pouring $270 million into a trilogy made back-to-back shooting seemed like a risk when director Peter Jackson first embarked on his quest to film The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Filming began two years ago. On Wednesday, the wait for one of the year's most anticipated blockbusters-to-be came to an end as the first of the three films stormed into 3,359 theaters and 5,700 screens.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring earned $18.2 million in its first day, no doubt driven by a huge turnout by hardcore fans of the book. This is an early indication that New Line's costly investment in the adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic saga of sword and sorcery should pay off handsomely. The film did not break the opening day record of $28.5 million, which is held by Star Wars: Episode 1-The Phantom Menace, but enjoyed the third best Wednesday opening behind The Phantom Menace and Jurassic Park III ($19 million).
With the malls crammed with last-minute present seekers, the weekend before Christmas is not known for its record-setting box office. Hence The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring won't pose a serious challenge to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone recent record-breaking opening of $90 million.
Also, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring faces fierce competition from four new wide releases and a rush of Oscar contenders now hitting a handful of theaters. But The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring should still enjoy the largest December opening in history, an honor that currently belongs to Ocean's Eleven at $38.1 million.
Rolf Wittweg, New Line's worldwide president of marketing and distribution, predicts $60 million in five days. That seems an obtainable goal. And, at the end of the day, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring should surpass Rush Hour 2's $226.1 million total to become New Line's biggest grossing film.
Excellent reviews, and its Golden Globe nominations, also should allow The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring to dominate the box office through the remainder of the Christmas holidays and well into January. This is not a film that will make most of its money in two or three weekends-as did Harry Potter--but one that could enjoy a long and healthy life a la Titanic.
This means a mad scramble to claim the runner-up position.
The Majestic, with Jim Carrey as a 1950s blacklisted screenwriter suffering from a loss of memory, looks likely to trump Joe Somebody, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and How High.
The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont finally flees the unfriendly confines of prison for a small California town, whose residents mistake Carrey for a World War II hero believed to be killed in combat. Overly nostalgic, and definitely too long at around 2-1/2 hours, The Majestic should still strike a nerve given that it deals with a community grieving for its loved ones lost during wartime.
The Majestic finds Carrey in a subdued mood, and certainly looking for that elusive Oscar nomination. The onetime pet detective's had mixed success when tackling serious roles. The Truman Show earned $125.6 million in 1998, proof that audiences will flock to see Carrey even when he's not talking out of his posterior. His acclaimed turn as late comic Andy Kaufman, in Man on the Moon, was greeted with apathy and earned a humorless $34.5 million. The Majestic parallels The Truman Show in that both feature malleable protagonists shaped by the community their circumstances and environment. To this end, The Majestic should enjoy a Truman-like welcome.
Joe Somebody finds Tim Allen in a fighting mood as he takes on bullying co-worker Patrick Warburton. The family comedy marks Allen's third film directed by Home Improvement buddy John Pasquin, but tough competition and little buzz should make it their least successful.
Allen and Pasquin won over Christmas audiences in 1994 with The Santa Clause, which generated $144.8 million. Not bad considering that marked Allen's film debut. The two also work on Jungle 2 Jungle, a tedious remake of the French comedy Little Indian, Big City that somehow grossed $59.9 million in 1997. Joe Somebody should open closer to Galaxy Quest's mediocre $8.1 million opening than Jungle 2 Jungle's $12.8 million. However, good reviews for Galaxy Quest resulted in the Star Trek-inspired spoof setting a course for $71.1 million. Joe Somebody certainly isn't likely to generate that much interest, and should end up making a little more than Allen's holiday 1997 turkey, For Richer or Poorer, which made a poor $31.6 million.
Nickelodeon scored two big hits with movies based on its popular Rugrats series. Now it is the turn of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius to blast into theaters. The animated adventure arrives at a time when leading rivals Harry Potter and Monsters, Inc. are showing signs of fatigue. That bodes somewhat well for Jimmy Neutron's chances at success, but whether his adventure attracts as many parents as he saves in the films from aliens remains to be seen. Either way, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius will struggle to match the $27.3 million and $22.7 million openings posted by, respectively, The Rugrats Movie and Rugrats in Paris.
Friday meets National Lampoon's Animal House in How High, with Redman and Method Man toking their way into Harvard University. The rappers display an easy charm in this uneven but occasionally funny throwback to the hazy days of Cheech & Chong.
Pairing Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg in The Wash didn't bring out too many fans of the influential rap superstars. That said, How High debuts in 1,266 theaters--almost twice as many as The Wash--and should attract plenty of stoners looking for a good time.
The arrival of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring won't stop Harry Potter from becoming the year's top grossing film within the next week. The apprentice wizard already has conjured up $255.9 million through Wednesday, and should give director Chris Columbus and distributor Warner Bros. a wonderful holiday gift on Christmas Day by surpassing Shrek's $267.6 million gross.
Monsters, Inc. continues to hold up admirably after seven weeks in theaters. Thank the Disney/Pixar adventure's newly attached faux outtakes for attracting repeat business. Monsters, Inc. now has $220 million through Wednesday.
Withering reviews and lousy word of mouth will see Vanilla Sky fall fast and hard this weekend. Director Cameron Crowe's muddled remake of Abre los ojos (Open Your Eyes) opened last weekend with $25 million--good, but far from great for star Tom Cruise-and continued to do brisk business through Wednesday. With $31.3 million already in the bank, Vanilla Sky looks set to follow a similar path as Cruise's 1999 disappointment Eyes Wide Shut. That psychological thriller, marking Stanley Kubrick's final directorial effort, opened with $21.7 million but ended up with a sleepy $55.6 million. Vanilla Sky will likely end up making more than Eyes Wide Shut, but fall far short of the $153.9 million that Jerry Maguire, the first collaboration between Cruise and Crowe, made in 1996. Indeed, Vanilla Sky dropped from first place from third place Wednesday, making way for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and Ocean's Eleven.
Director Steven Soderbergh continues his winning streak as Ocean's Eleven remains hot, hot, hot. The cool remake of the dreary Rat Pack heist yarn almost stole Vanilla Sky's thunder by earning $22 million in its second weekend. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon et al have stolen off with $78.5 million through Wednesday.
Spoofing Scream seems more profitable than poking fun at Save the Last Dance. Not Another Teen Movie, which ridicules high school dramas old and new, opened with a mild $12.6 million and has $15.3 million through Wednesday. Scary Movie managed to make $42.3 million in its opening weekend. Not Another Teen Movie is running even with Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, which opened in 1999 with $12.2 million and solicited a total $65.5 million. Dude, Where's My Car? opened the same time last year with $13.8 million but stalled at $46.7 million. Neither, though, faced direct competition during their respective Christmas runs. Not Another Teen Movie now must stare down How High this weekend.
The Christmas rush will doubtless see Shallow Hal ($67.3 million), Spy Game ($58.5 million) and Black Knight ($30.1 million) tumble out of the Top 10 this weekend. Black Knight remains a disappointment, especially as it marks Martin Lawrence's second consecutive flop following What's the Worst that Could Happen?. The fast fade expereinced by Pitt's Spy Game could have been avoided had it not knocked heads with his Ocean's Eleven and the similarly themed Behind Enemy Lines ($39.7 million).
If this weekend appears busy, wait until Christmas Day. The highly anticipated Ali, with Will Smith as the boxer formerly known as Cassius Clay, will take on surprised contender Kate & Leopold. Miramax moved the Meg Ryan-Hugh Jackman romantic comedy from Friday after assessing The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring's true potential.
Oscar hopefuls opening in limited release or beginning to expand include: A Beautiful Mind, with Russell Crowe portraying real-life mathematics genius John Nash; The Shipping News, Lasse Hallstrom's adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel; The Royal Tenenbaums, which earned an astounding $276,981 at only five theaters last weekend; and In the Bedroom, which continues to receive award after award from various critics group.