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17Nov/122

Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part Two (2012)

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By Jacob's abs that was a satisfying experience.

The Twilight Saga comes to a close with the back story of Bella Cullen (formerly Swan) fully told in four movies.  With Breaking Dawn - Part Two there's no more story on the horizon and whatever artistic credibility that could be salvaged from the series peaks here.  On that topic, director Bill Condon maintains the same sense of humor and beautiful visuals of part one.  But, more importantly, as a barn-burner this film had the crowd hooting, laughing, and not-so-silently weeping at all the right spots.

This is lurid entertainment done perfectly by a man who knows exactly where the series should have been four movies ago.  It will be an interesting experience to revisit these films someday and mark their transition from over-earnest representations of Stephanie Meyer's books to the comic-book like collection of powers and emotions seen in BD-PIICondon sends the series out not with grace but a delicious hunk of dripping red meat.

This, I think you'll agree, is appropriate given the story.

19Nov/110

Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part One (2011)

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It's only taken four films but finally Bella Swan's back-story is complete.  Finally she has become the superheroine she dreamed of manipulating Edward into making her since the first film.  Now, complete with blood red eyes, an adoring extended family and a newfound taste for blood she will make her enemies scream in pain.

Am I reading or hoping too much for this kind of climax in Part 2?  Because if there's one thing this latest iteration in the Twilight series has taught me it's Ms. Swan is capable of twisting a situation to whatever purpose she demands.  Once again the vampires and the werewolves just pay backdrop to her getting some and obtaining new strength in the process.

9Dec/101

Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)

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ANDREW LIKEI'm thinking of making a placard I can point to anytime I say I enjoy the Twilight movies.  Any time I've said this, I'm greeted with a set of bemused and alarmed eyes that wonder if I've gone completely crazy or if they'll ever be able to trust my opinion on anything ever again.  After watching the third film, Eclipse, I can safely assume that if you can't find some way of enjoying an epic battle between vampires and werewolves that isn't clad in Underworld-style blue then there's no hope.

5Jan/203

Forever connected: a comprehensive list of the best and worst films of the decade

I am not a fan of lists, and when I decided to do a list covering the best and worst films of the last decade it became clear that I needed to do the whole thing or none at all.

With that in mind, here it is, a comprehensive list of the best and worst films of the decade. This list covers 2010 to 2019 and, starting from the top, goes from the best on down. Each section is broken up with an image of reviews that reflect my best as a writer or a film that has earned special consideration of some kind.

The exception are my picks for the two best films of the decade, tied at #1, and a brief explanation about why they are at the top. After that, I hope that you'll join me through this decade of writing and growth. I've had stumbles, to say nothing of trying to figure out my voice, and haven't been able to review much recently. But I'm hoping to change and get back on my feet again starting with this overview of the last decade in film.

Let's begin at the top.

Our always-connected age means that we are more directly in contact with one another's feelings than ever before. It's overwhelming. One minute you could be happily watching a puppy play in snow then scroll down to find live camera footage of someone being killed. Scroll further and you'll see someone trying to sell you hair grooming products then further down a friend talking about the crippling pain they live with. It's overwhelming trying to figure out what to do with yourself amidst this never ending deluge of feeling. Good, bad, elated, traumatic - if you want to live in this world there's no way of turning it off anymore.

The best two films of the decade both confront what it's like to live in our always-connected age but take vastly different approaches. Shane Carruth and Amy Seimetz's Upstream Color approaches our connection with experimentation and uncertainty. Zack and Deborah Snyder's Man of Steel mythologizes the open nerve of connection with grandeur and spirituality. Upstream Color is the angrier of the two, seeing those that would profit on our pain as aloof emotional vampires. Man of Steel is the more hopeful, watching the savior we don't deserve experience the worst of humanity while still finding the strength to go on by our ability to sacrifice for one another.

It feels impossible to discuss these two films in some kind of neutral state. In Upstream Color's case, the film has so few that have seen it and those that have struggle to find the words for the pain it so directly confronts. For Man of Steel, passions between what it did or didn't do to the legacy of Superman have become so embedded in neverending cultural and political warfare. Neither benefits from languishing in relative obscurity or being the cultural battleground for online liberals and conservatives alike.

Both have exquisite music that highlight our connection while confounding it. Upstream Color's melodies shying away from catharsis as one of Carruth's messy tracks bleeds into the next. Man of Steel never shies away from hope, finding the note to soar even in the most militant-sounding of Hans Zimmerman's compositions. One might seem sonic years away from the other, but in each I hear the same yearning to be felt and touched. To be reminded that what we feel is not what makes us alone.

The images match their conclusions. In Upstream Color, two people huddled in fear that don't understand their connection grow to accept the mystery, and one another, while they reach beyond species to comfort all living things. In Man of Steel, the scared boy who doesn't understand why his sacrifice frightens others grows to draw strength from that sacrifice as he inspires the best in his fellow humans. We are always connected and, many times, we are scared. But there is hope at the end of that painful connection.

Let their examples guide us. Do not accept the vultures that seek to profit off of your misery. Do not accept those in power who would deny the possibility of a messiah because they weren't born in your homeland. Accept that we are all that we are and, even if it doesn't feel like it, we have the capability of inspiring the best of one another in our darkest moments.

The Best

Great

Good

Zone of Indifference

Bad

Wretched

29Aug/170

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

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It's a tale as old as time.  Belle gives up her freedom to keep her father safe from a horrific beast.  But the beast is more than he seems, and Belle's good heart might be the key to breaking the curse that made him the frightening sight he is.  Bill Condon directs Beauty and the Beast, with the screenplay written by Steven Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos, and stars Emma Watson and Dan Stevens.

Beauty and the Beast is one of the most bizarre flops of a fantasy I have ever seen.  Disney hasn't been gun-shy about its remakes or side-stories as of late, and the results - until this point - have been on the positive side.  Cinderella revealed a quirky heart shortly before half of its run-time concluded and Maleficent packed a surprising wallop in its cautious depiction of sexual violence.  With Bill Condon handling the direction, I even went into this live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast with hope as he pushed the camp into overdrive for the last two Twilight films.

There are moments in Beauty and the Beast where the playful side of Condon comes out and I can tolerate what's onscreen.  The rest of the time I sat in a sort of disgusted awe at this disastrous the clash of Condon's camp and the drive to make a heartfelt musical.  Almost all the problems with Beauty and the Beast pare down to this clash of tones.  While Condon's off making psychedelic tea parties, Emma Watson's doing god knows what with her performance of Belle, and Dan Sevens' Beast shows up to roll his eyes at the silly melodrama of it all in what I'm almost convinced is a Condon avatar for directing this film.