I have a confession to make: I’m not a Twihard.
Yes, I’ve read all four novels Stephenie Meyer published, as well as the unfinished Midnight Sun manuscript and The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella. I waited in line for the midnight release of Breaking Dawn in the summer of 2008. I have seen all the movies in theaters, and plan on seeing Breaking Dawn Part 2 in theaters… albeit at least a week or two after its initial release.
The thing that makes it impossible for me to be labeled as a Twihard is the fact that I have yet to enjoy any of the Twilight movies as a whole. I find most parts uncomfortable, or boring. And sometimes, I downright hate the story behind it all.
But there are some moments in the movies that I truly enjoy. My favorite scene is from Twilight, when the Cullens show Bella how much cooler baseball is when vampires play.
The skies are dark and stormy (perfect conditions for disguising the loud cracks of the bat colliding with the ball) so for once the color of the film fits the mood of the scene. The music is edgy yet playful. The vampires are truly at ease and let loose; their happiness and utter relaxation is palpable. This is the only time they can truly be themselves and not have to hide. And since there is no need to hide, the vamps show off their coolest skills: super speed, strength, resilience... and not to mention some excellent hand-eye coordination.
This is also one of the first times Bella spends time with the Cullen family knowing exactly what they are, without anyone expressing any ill feelings about Bella and Edward’s relationship. All the uncomfortable “getting to know the vampire family who can potentially kill me” moments have passed.
In basic terms, this scene is pure fun. And let's not forget that it gives us this gem, courtesy of Rosalie: "My monkey man!"
Follow Sydney on Twitter @SydneyBucksbaum
[Photo Credit: Summit Entertainment]
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A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Skyline opens nationwide in theaters this Friday. Believe it or not, this is not an action film about franchised chili parlor employees, a disappointment I had to come to grips with myself. But be that as it may, Skyline does present us with a frightening supposition of our inevitable demise at the hands of our alien overlords. Directed by the fraternal directing team that brought us AVP: Requiem, we can only hope the brothers Strause didn’t exhaust all their magic on that one genius film.
But in all seriousness, we are under constant threat of alien invasion, and as much as Hollywood offers us these amusing distractions, we are perpetually on the brink of intergalactic warfare. And while Skyline may employ the stereotypical “scary” aliens as the harbingers of doom, the reality is that the beings for which we really need to be watching the skies are far more covert in their evilness. Here are the best alien invaders that you never saw coming...
Brown, fuzzy -- a Fozzie bear from planet Melmac? Sure, these are all apt descriptions for the wisecracking new addition to the Tanner family, yet why the moniker of future enslaver of the human race is not bestowed upon him is beyond me. This is a creature that was forced to come to this planet because his own world was destroyed by nuclear war, and where does he land? Earth…in the '80s! We were still in the midst of the Cold War and stockpiling warheads like crazy; ALF would conquer us if only to ensure no encore of his misfortune. Hell, in an early episode, he tried to persuade the president to stop the nuclear arms program, so obviously he isn’t shy about involving himself in a power struggle. All I’m saying is that when the cats begin to go missing, the end is nigh.
Yeah, the whole “ouch” finger thing was cute and, sure, the flying bicycles were heart-warming. But how can you honestly say that E.T. is not out to conquer Earth? He’s bitter about being left on Earth, he practices powerful magic, and he has a creepy knack for eluding his enemies provided that there are enough stuffed animals around. E.T.’s master plan was to manipulate children into doing his bidding and, given that he convinced a group of them to defy a clandestine government agency, I’d say it was a pretty effective plan. Besides, as we saw in the later version of the film, it’s going to be really hard to stop him if our law enforcement officials have all their guns replaced by walkie-talkies.
Yeah, go ahead and believe that these furry denizens of Endor’s moon are merely a marketing gimmick cooked up by Hasbro and Lucas. That is exactly what they want you to think. They may be sickeningly cutesy and impossibly cuddly, but inside each of these monsters beats the heart of a revolutionary. The best warriors in the universe, including a next-generation Jedi, can’t bring down the evil empire, but a bunch of mutant teddy bears get the job done with rocks and sticks? The only thing keeping our planet safe from Ewok occupation is their inability to construct or operate a spacecraft.
This one may be a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy on our part should it occur. So...we send out the Voyager II space probe and invite life forms to come to Earth -- sounds benevolent enough, right? But then we shoot down the first ship that accepts our invitation because we aren’t exactly the brightest species in the universe. While our hero in John Carpenter’s intimate sci-fi film doesn’t lash out against us, some of his compatriots may not be so forgiving of our intergalactic snafu. Also, that ability to genetically replicate anyone and grow from baby to man in minutes is just plain unsettling.
Call me crazy if you like, but those stoic, peace-loving freaks are up to something. Yes, they are all about live-and-let-live-long-and-prosper, but I think it’s all part of an act, a calculated waiting game. When they do rise up and set their sights on Earth, we are six kinds of screwed. Their infallible logic will make them great battle strategists while their Vulcan nerve-pinch will provide victory in any close-quarters combat situation. Plus, with that mind-melding ability, it turns out they are extremely hard to keep dead. What resource do we harbor that Vulcans could possibly desire? Supercuts. Those guys have been sporting the same Beatles mop for decades and would kill for a crew cut or pompadour.
A high school teacher's career is threatened because of a student's death when the rumor is spread that his negligence killed the boy. The 1974-75 series also starred Hartman as the problem-solving teacher and Rosemary Murphy as the principal.