A deeper look into the ‘Twilight’ melodrama
Twi-hards are ecstatic. (The rest of us, not so much.) But now that the Twilight movie franchise is back with Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), her dreamboat of an immortal, vamp Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), and the boy-werewolf she tossed away, Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), it’s best to simply accept fate and embrace the timeline we’ve been given. (This isn’t Fringe, for crying out loud.) In Breaking Dawn, the first of Twilight’s two-part final opus, Melissa Rosenberg’s screenplay effectively delivers what tweens and teens seem to be craving: a shirtless Taylor Lautner (and that’s in the first five minutes!); plenty of teenage angst (oh, that Bella!) and a craving for more (the final moments of the film have generated buzz.) But even if you haven’t read the Stephenie Meyer novels, director Catherine Hardwicke creates an acceptable outing here that simply mirrors the times we live in. It’s not about the characters.
Worlds can't collide soon enough in apocalyptic 'Melancholia'
Get ready to duck! Lars von Trier is lobbing a gigantic ball of metaphor straight at ya in Melancholia, his highly lauded, deeply lugubrious allegorical drama about the end of the world. And it can't happen a moment too soon for the listless, unexplored, largely unlikeable characters who populate this bloated two-plus hour meditation on despair, the de-evolution of the human species, and one big, random act of natural retribution.
Nobody has ever accused Von Trier of predictability. In previous films, the persistently idiosyncratic Danish filmmaker has experimented mightily with form and content and how (or if) they interact—a melodramatic tragedy staged as a club-footed musical in “Dancer In the Dark;” a morality play about greed and revenge, Dogville, filmed on a bare soundstage, with tape marking off the imaginary interior and exterior spaces.
Nobody was more excited than I to hear that Tarsem Singh was directing a new movie based on Greek mythology. (He directed one of my favorite movies of the last decade, the rapturously gorgeous The Fall.) And nobody could be more appalled than I am at the result, Immortals, a grueling endurance test of blood, gore, murder, warmongering, torture, and more blood. Hey, I like a good, cheesy sword 'n' sandal epic as well as anybody, but in order to woo the Xbox generation, the idea here seems to be to depict every encounter of metal and flesh in unflinching detail. For a visual stylist like Tarsem, that means plotting the trajectory of every geyser and globule of splattering blood, and every severed fragment of anatomy as it fits into the grand composition
Almodóvar unleashes harrowing, dazzling 'Skin I Live In'
Where are moments when Pedro Almodóvar's new movie, The Skin I Live In (La Piel Que Habito) will make you squirm. It has sex and violence—often at the same time—and some very strange relationships, perverse even by Almodóvar standards. In terms of storyline, it's a weird mix of Pygmalion and Frankenstein, with echoes of vintage mad-scientist horror movies from the '30s to the '50s. (You could even make a case for this film paying a sort of bizarre homage to my favorite grade-Z '50s horror movie, The Head That Wouldn't Die).
Spookiness trumps substance in 'Martha Marcy May Marlene'
Identity can be a fragile thing. In Sean Durkin's Martha Marcy May Marlene, the heroine's sense of selfhood is as fractured as the film's title; a runaway from a cult and its hypnotic psycho leader, she's literally trying to find herself. Unfortunately, the film also suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. It wants to be a thriller, a character study, and even a domestic family drama, but it never quite hits its marks in any department. There's plenty of menace to go around, mostly told in flashbacks, but because the character remains as elusive to the filmmaker (and the viewer) as she is to herself, there's little to anchor audience interest in her story.