Twilight’s contentious “Edward vs. Jacob” debate was finally settled at the close of 2009‘s New Moon the second episode of Stephenie Meyers’ supernatural teen harlequin saga when plaintive emo hottie Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) definitively rejected the advances of Taylor Lautner’s musclebound man-wolf in favor of Robert Pattinson’s brooding vampire.
Or so we thought. Twilight’s fateful love triangle is revived in earnest by Eclipse part three of the series and this time the implications are serious -- relatively speaking of course. Taking over the helm from New Moon director Chris Weitz is David Slade (30 Days of Night Hard Candy) who adds a hefty dose of action to Twilight’s trademark mix of soaring romance and manic melodrama making Eclipse the first film in the saga in which -- get this -- something actually happens.
Indeed action is a primary theme of Eclipse. Like most high school seniors Bella wants some; her pasty paramour Edward Cullen however remains stubbornly chaste and not just because the briefest exposure to his unbridled vampire lust would almost certainly kill his all-too-human sweetheart. You see chivalrous Edward hails “from a different era ” one in which the institution of marriage meant everything and a man took care to mount a proper courtship before marrying a girl nearly a century his junior. (He’s 109 years old.) He asks her to marry him; she agrees but only if he’ll turn her into a vampire first; he hesitates pondering the unalterable consequences; the matter is tabled and heavy petting resumes. (This exchange is repeated ad nauseam throughout the remainder of the film.)
The constant fawning and unwavering devotion from impossibly beautiful Edward aren’t enough to sate Bella’s thirst -- she needs validation like a vampire needs blood -- and so she uses the flimsiest of pretexts to re-insert herself into the life of Jacob Black the sensitive werewolf she previously shunned who dutifully plies her with his own declarations of undying love. (Jacob to his credit has developed enough game since we last saw him to qualify as a serious contender for Bella’s affections and is no longer the devoted doormat we saw in New Moon. He’s still a tool though.) Game on.
But Edward and Jacob aren’t the only ones with designs on Bella. (Seriously are there no other hot emo chicks in the greater Pacific Northwest?) A ginger-haired menace (Bryce Dallas Howard) has emerged one that will require Edward’s vampire clan and Jacob’s wolfpack tribe longtime enemies forever on the verge of a climactic battle (in which Bella will serve as the jeans-and-hoodie-clad Helen of Troy no doubt) to put aside their differences and unite against a common enemy. In order to ensure Bella’s safety Edward and Jacob must form an uneasy tag-team (no not that kind of tag team much as it would likely better serve to resolve matters) to keep Bella safe from harm.
With its amped-up action sharpened wit and darker horror flick-inspired atmospherics Eclipse boasts the broadest appeal of all the Twilight films thus far. But that doesn’t mean it’s good. Director Slade’s grasp of plot development borders on amateurish in this film; Eclipse often feels less like a movie than a weighty discourse on the pros and cons of vampiredom laid out in lengthy exhaustingly repetitive chunks of exposition and awkward campy flashbacks as just about every character in the film including Edward attempts to dissuade Bella from joining the ranks of the bloodsuckers.
But alas no force no matter how utterly rational its arguments will keep Bella from her destiny. Which obviously is Edward. Or is it? Eclipse goes to great pains to invent ways to perpetuate the film’s romantic rivalry inserting scenes like the one in which Bella on the verge of freezing to death in a tent high up in the mountains is saved when Jacob arrives to heroically spoon her body temperature back to its proper level. (Eclipse is being hyped as the first “guy-friendly” Twilight flick but no film which includes a climactic spooning scene can rightly claim such a distinction.) Edward meanwhile with his poor vampire circulation is powerless to help.
Who will win in the end? Will it be abs over eyes? Obviously it will take two more movies (at least!) to solve this kind of wrenching dilemma.
Built from comic book auteur Frank Miller’s (Sin City) rock solid foundations 300 is based on his vision on the 1962 film The 300 Spartans filtered through the same tough-as-nails pulp sensibility that populates most of his comics work. Leaving such leaden wannabe sword-and-sandal epics like Troy and Alexander in the historical dust 300 reworks the real-life legendary tale of the Battle of Thermopylae in which a battalion of 300 elite Spartan soldiers heroically hold the line to protect ancient Greece from the invading Persian hordes. The story focuses on the Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) who must not only lead his small cadre of troops--each one honored since childhood into a razor-sharp battle-relishing warrior—into a battle they are unlikely to survive but he must also fight for the fate of Greece and its democratic ideals. As the bizarre seemingly endless marauding legions of the tyrant Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) descend upon the Hot Gates—a narrow passageway into Greece that Leonidas’ miniscule band can most ably defend—the soldiers take up arms without the usual post-modern anti-war hand-wringing that most war epics indulge in. These soldiers are both bred for battle and fighting a good fight and the film focuses squarely on the highly charged action. Meanwhile in a new plotline created specifically for the movie his equally noble and faithful queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) takes up arms in a more symbolic way as she also tries to keep democracy alive by taking on the political warlords of Sparta to secure relief for her husband’s troops. Butler has become a familiar and welcome on-screen presence in such films as The Phantom of the Opera and Reign of Fire but there has been little on his mainstream movie resume to suggest the kind of bravura fire he brings to the role of Leonidas. This is the stuff of an actor announcing himself to the audience in a major way akin to Daniel Craig’s star-making turn as James Bond. In a big bold performance that could have gone awry in any number of ways Butler plays even the highest pitched notes like a concerto perfectly capturing the king’s bravado bombast cunning compassion and passion each step of the way. Headey is his ideal match imbuing the queen with more steel and nobility in a handful of scenes than most actresses can summon to carry entire films. Fans of Lost and Brazilian cinema will be hard-pressed to even recognize Santoro whose earnest pretty handsomeness is radically transformed into Xerxes’ exotic borderline freakish form personifying a terrifying yet seductive force of corruption and evil that spreads like a cancer across the earth. And don’t forget to add in the most impressive array of rock-hard abs on cinematic display since well ever (think Brad Pitt in Troy times 300). Even bolstered by canny casting choices and their washboard stomachs helmer Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead) is the true undisputable star of 300 establishing himself firmly as a director whose work demands to be watched. With a kinetic sensibility that’s akin to Quentin Tarantino and John Woo and using CGI technology to its utmost effects both subtle and dynamic Snyder creates a compelling fully formed world that the audience is eager to explore. Snyder doesn’t literally match Miller’s signature artwork as meticulously as director Robert Rodriguez did with Sin City. Instead Snyder captures Miller’s essence be it raw brutality majestic size and scope the exotic and otherworldly carnal physicality or hideous deformity--even seemingly antiquated and potentially off-putting techniques like the repeated use of slow-motion are put to fresh effect making every blow and cut seem crucial. Yet even in the visual glorification of some of the most bloody and violent conflicts ever put to film Snyder infuses the tale—which ultimately is one big glorious testosterone-soaked fight sequence—with the sense of honor and sacrifice which characterizes the most noble of war efforts. Yes war can be hell but this is a case where some like it hot.
Halle Berry stars as Dr. Miranda Grey a well liked and respected psychotherapist happily married to the beloved head of the psychiatric ward at an old damp women's penitentiary (Charles S. Dutton). One stormy night taking a detour on her drive home she's involved in a terrifying encounter with a young girl that causes her car to go off the road and the impact of the crash knocks Miranda out cold. She wakes up on the wrong side of a Plexiglas cell door in the very prison where she and her husband work (apparently this the only prison in the state) to find her husband's been killed and she is the prime suspect in his gruesome murder. With no memory of the past few days she is confined alongside her former patients like the Satan-paranoid Chloe (Penelope Cruz) and scrutinized by her once-flirtatious coworker Dr. Graham (Robert Downey Jr.). Miranda insists she didn't kill her husband but quickly starts to doubt her own sanity when a violent force from the not-so-sweet hereafter turns her into a Spirit World conduit. Meanwhile the good doctor wants desperately to prove her sane and innocent even as unseen forces bizarre sightings and bad lines get in the way.
You can practically see Berry's slight shoulders hunching under the weight of this oppressive wet flapdoodle of a psycho-mystic mystery that has The Ring written all over it. Berry gets the baffled/terrified/uncontrollable prisoner thing right says "Shit!" a lot and gets plenty of screen time to flesh out her character (no not THAT kind of flesh; she's drenched in the shower and submerged in the swimming pool but Berry never once pulls a Swordfish). Still cute after years of hard living Downey Jr. as Miranda's skeptical doctor ably smarms his way in and out of scenes in which he says little but raises much doubt about his true motivations--just one of several intriguing concepts abandoned in the face of a progressively trite storyline and escalating hoo-haw. Where it all just goes wrong--so so wrong--is in Cruz's greasy raving crackbird who shrieks lines like "He opened me like a flower of paaaain!" while trying to convince Miranda the Devil rapes her nightly in her cell.
Auteur Mathieu Kassovitz admirably sets the stage for a spooky thriller in the massive turn-of-the-century St. Vincent-de-Paul Prison an abandoned maximum-security facility near Montreal that serves as his women's prison. The setting is the only part of the film that holds any interest--it almost develops a life of its own which is more than can be said of the characters. Though Kassovitz resorts to Horror 101 (flickering lights suddenly appearing figures things that go bump in the night) these elements inspire dread and trigger a jolt regardless. So if the setting is suitably hair-raising the first few scenes effectively suck you in and the acting is passable what's the problem? Screenwriter Sebastian Gutierrez's script that's what. After an auspicious start the film drowns in nonsense and plot holes the size of which rival Michael Jackson's legal troubles until finally sinking like a stone with a truly pedestrian and ridiculous finale that unravels any interesting question raised in the two hours prior followed by a real howler of a denouement. "I don't believe in ghosts but they believe in me " says Miranda. Sorry we don't believe a bit of Gothika.
August 13, 2003 11:22am EST
Top Story: Montreal Film Fest Short on Hollywood Pics
The 27th annual Montreal World Film Festival, which runs from Aug. 27 to Sept. 7, unveiled a slate rich in art-house and fringe movies but short on Hollywood studio films. This year's festival will pay tribute to Martin Scorsese, but besides the American filmmaker, officials declined to name the list of actors and directors expected at the festival. According to Reuters, festival president Serge Losique told a crowded news conference Tuesday, "Judge by the quality of the films. The names mean nothing." This year's festival features the newly created Cinema of the Americas, which will showcase 10 features including Salma Hayek's feature directorial debut The Maldonado Miracle; Michael Pressman's Frankie and Johnny Are Married; Mark Rucker's Die Mommie Die; and Jim Hershleder's shot-on-video Ash Tuesday. The festival will kick off with the French-Canadian movie Gas Bar Blues, directed by Louis Belanger, and close with Les Marins Perdus, one of the last films by the late French actress Marie Trintignant, who was allegedly killed her boyfriend, French rock star Bertrand Cantat, earlier this month. The festival, which overlaps with almost all of the Venice fest and the first weekend of the Toronto fest following a divisive date change, will present 439 movies from 68 countries, with 115 as world premieres.
Would You Eat There?
Rocco DiSpirito's new Italian eatery, which is the subject of NBC's reality series The Restaurant, has been cited by the health department for "evidence of live flies" and greasy spoons during an unplanned health department inspection July 29, the AP reports. The show follows restaurateur DiSpirito and his staff through the trials and tribulations of opening a Manhattan restaurant. The restaurant was also cited for having three "moist wiping" cloths "soiled with old food particles and not stored in sanitizing solution." The citation also said an employee toilet facility wasn't equipped with the required "self-closing door." A hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 22.
Boston Radio Station Plans "I Survived Gigli" Bash
Boston radio station WBCN will be giving away "I survived Gigli" T-shirts to moviegoers left in their seats when the lights come up after the final screening of the Ben Affleck/Jennifer Lopez film at a Boston theater this Thursday, Reuters reports. "We're doing this because the movie's been such a bomb," WBCN's creative services director Chachi Loprete told Reuters Tuesday. The station will be giving away free tickets to 130 "lucky" listeners before Gigli vanishes from U.S. movie theaters following miserable ticket sales. The film cost $55 million to make and brought in less than $6 million during its first 10 days at the box office.
Robert Conrad Denies Drunk Driving
Actor Robert Conrad, best known for his roles in the TV series Baa Baa, Black Sheep and The Wild Wild West, pleaded innocent Tuesday to two felony counts of driving under the influence of alcohol, The Associated Press reports. His blood-alcohol level was 0.22 percent when he crashed head-on into another vehicle, injuring the driver, on March 31 near the Sierra foothills town of Arnold, about 100 miles southeast of Sacramento, Calif. A judge ordered the actor not to drink alcohol and said he was not to drive his vehicle more than 6 miles from his Bear Valley home. A preliminary hearing has been set for Nov. 18.
NBC Reruns Gregory Hines' Law & Order Episode
NBC will rerun an episode of its hit series Law & Order Wednesday night in which late actor Gregory Hines guest starred as a Johnny Cochran-like lawyer. Hines died on Saturday from cancer. "We are all saddened by the loss of Gregory Hines, one of the most versatile performers of his generation," the show's executive producer Dick Wolf said. "This episode showcases his often unheralded talent as a dramatic actor. He overwhelms the courtroom with his energy and sharp wit and is a very potent force opposite (show star) Sam Waterston." The episode, one of Hines' last TV performances, first aired March 26.
More Christina Aguilera /Justin Timberlake Shows Postponed
Promoters of the Christina Aguilera /Justin Timberlake tour postponed three more concerts, scheduled for Monday in Albany, N.Y., Wednesday in East Rutherford, and Thursday in Hartford, Conn., after three stagehands were injured Saturday when a lighting grid above the stage at Boardwalk Hall collapsed. "All I can say is that it's under investigation. It's much too early to know what happened," said James Evans, president of Mountain Productions, which assembled and installed the grid. "There's a laundry list of things that could have gone wrong. I can't even guess." The postponements have been confirmed but no plans to reschedule the shows have been announced.
Snoop Dogg Sued For Girls Gone Wild Video
Two Louisiana women are suing Snoop Dogg, claiming the rapper offered them drugs during Mardi Gras 2002 to flash their breasts for pictures that later appeared on a cover of the video series Girls Gone Wild. One of the women was 17 years old at the time of the alleged incident. The suit also names Joseph R. Francis, the owner of Mantra Films Inc., which produces the series of mail-order videos. According to the AP, Francis was arrested April 2 during Spring Break in Panama City, Fla., and faces 22 charges including racketeering, procuring minors for sexual acts, filming minors engaged in sexual performances and conspiracy. Attorneys for Francis and Snoop Dogg, who was host of the video, have both denied the allegations in court filings, saying that any pictures taken were done with voluntary consent.
Role Call: Murphy in Talks for Daddy Day Camp
Eddie Murphy is in talks to reprise his role in a sequel to Daddy Day Care. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Revolution Studios has hired Toy Story scribes Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow to pen the script, titled Daddy Day Camp. The film would see Murphy's character, Charlie Hinton, in charge of a summer day camp. No deal is yet in place for the actor.