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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 18, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 46
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Inert Breaking Dawn a bloodless bummer
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1
Opening November 18
At this point, there isn't a lot more to be said about the ongoing cinematic adventures of teenager Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and her undead vampire boyfriend (soon to be husband) Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). You've either fallen under author Stephenie Meyer's spell or you've chosen to sit there quietly and just endure what's being thrown up there on the screen. There's little middle ground, not much room to move around in, and while this treacle-laden bit of melodramatic gothic fantasy hokum isn't my particular cup of O-negative, it's getting more difficult for me to begrudge people from enjoying a great big swallow.

All the same, it's very challenging to look at The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 and not want to laugh. Easily Meyer's most insane bit of over-the-top and giddily silly prose, the basic truth is that not a heck of a lot happens here. Sure, Bella and Edward get married, and yes, the supercilious teenage heroine does get pregnant, but as far as plot is concerned, there's just not a lot of there, well, there. The book is page after page of brooding and pouting and worrying and wedding preparations, and when the final moments do come, they're so freakishly out-there and idiotic it's almost stupefying that a person of even subterranean intelligence could have taken them seriously.

Yet, much like Warner did with a certain saga about a boy wizard who lived, Summit Entertainment isn't about to let their cash cow die and have chosen to split Meyer's final Twilight novel into two parts. The problem is what was thin on the page is even thinner on the screen, and for all of returning screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg's and acclaimed director Bill Condon's (Gods and Monsters, Kinsey) attempts to add meat to this carcass's bones, the simple fact is that nothing of actual consequence takes place at any point during this film's entire 117-minute running time.

OK, that's not exactly fair. Like those episodes of Angel where Darla became pregnant with Buffy's former beau's baby, the eventual coming of Bella and Edward's little bundle of joy isn't without its drama. Stewart does her best to make her character's decisions resonate and have meaning, and at least this time around her seemingly continual suffering has an actual reason behind it (the child is slowly consuming her from the inside). The birth itself is beautifully realized, Condon pulling out every stylistic trick in the book to maintain most of Meyer's Cronenberg-like bits of sexual insanity, but at the same time keeping them safe for a PG-13 audience.

For maybe the first time in this series, I got the sense even 'Twi-hards' were starting to come to the realization just how harebrained all of this overwrought melodrama is. Scenes of Jacob (Taylor Lautner) and his werewolf Native American brethren fighting over the coming supernatural birth are unintentionally hysterical, while climactic fight sequences are as foolish as they are pointless. Sequences of the Cullens - mostly Edward, no surprise there - brooding over Bella's condition get more and more supercilious as the film progresses, everyone making profound pronouncements of utmost seriousness and import at the drop of a hat.

Yet the basic fact remains that, much like the climactic novel it is based upon, not much actually happens in this first chapter in the Breaking Dawn adventure. For nearly two hours people sit, stare, walk, talk, argue, brood (it's a trend), worry, and make meaningless statements about the fates of mother and child. The level of danger is fairly nonexistent as it's not like the werewolves are going to kill Edward or Bella will not achieve her ultimate goal (and if you don't know what that goal is, you're thankfully one of the few who've stayed out of the Twilight loop). Sure, the last scenes have a kinetic, almost psychosexual fury this series has lacked since the beginning, but so what? It's all in service to a soapy and meaningless story I couldn't care less about, and the fact that I still have to sit through a climactic second chapter next summer is about as big a bloodless bummer as any I could imagine.


Latest Happy Feet sings a captivating song
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

Happy Feet Two
Opening November 18


Tap-dancing penguin Mumble (Elijah Wood) isn't sure what to do. He and chanteuse wife Gloria (Alicia 'Pink' Moore) have an adorable young son, Erik (Ava Acres), who is having trouble finding his own beat to dance to or the perfect song to sing, and the loving duo isn't entirely sure of the best way to help the kid out. But after he takes off in the footsteps of Ramon (Robin Williams) and heads across the icy tundra with a couple of his best friends in tow, Mumble knows he needs to find a way to become the kind of parent worthy of being looked up to as a role model.

It's a pretty simple setup, and considering how big the stakes were in the 2006 Academy Award winner Happy Feet, it's a little surprising just how slight much of the sequel, Happy Feet Two, can feel. But that's a bit of a mirage, really, because as things progress it soon becomes clear that returning co-writer and director George Miller (Mad Max, Babe: Pig in the City) and his crackerjack team of animators and craftsmen have quite a bit more on their collective minds than you might at first think. This return to the Antarctic is filled with dangers, emotional pitfalls, and matters of the heart that are as profound as they are wonderful. This second penguin-filled adventure is, shockingly, nearly as inspiring and as sensational as that first one was five years ago.

Granted, it helps that the central thrust is extremely straightforward and clear. Mumble and Erik's clan are trapped by an unexpected calamity, their entire community on the brink of death unless father and son can find some way to free them from their frostbitten tomb. They get help from Lovelace (Williams) and his group, a secretive flying 'penguin' named Sven (Hank Azaria) lend a helping flipper, and some rather grumpy (yet oh-so-cute) emperor seals also come to assist in this grave time of need. But in the end, it falls to Mumble and to Erik to find the ultimate solution, freeing Gloria and the others while the father also helps his son discover his voice and some dance steps to call his own.

Happy Feet Two is a stirring story of self-discovery, friendship, and family that wormed its way into my heart with startling effectiveness. Not only do Mumble and Erik need to find a way to communicate, Sven needs to learn to express himself honestly and from his heart, subduing his extrovert flamboyance to reveal the inner truth about himself to those he desperately wants to be friends with. Add into the mix a pair of adventurous krill named Will (Brad Pitt) and Bill (Matt Damon) and you've got creatures finding themselves and their true natures all over the place, and this frozen wonderland becomes a melting pot of discovery bordering on the human.

Some of it can get a bit silly, and unlike the first film, this sequel takes quite a bit of time to find its stride (the opening portions are needlessly padded as well as a bit pointless). But I liked how subtle Miller and company's handling of their global warming and climate change message was this time, how they don't hit the viewer over the head with their proselytizing. I also quite adored many of the new characters - especially Will and Bill (Pitt and Damon are marvelous) - and the animation constantly dazzles.

But it is a single moment, right smack-dab in the middle of the picture, that won me over to this sequel's side. Mumble and Erik are arguing, much of their debate echoing to the terrified trapped penguins below. Fear is gripping everyone, the chances of escape are slim, and the likelihood of a tragic end is growing. Gloria comes to the forefront and lets her voice be heard, singing to her petrified and frazzled son in a voice dripping with motherly concern and love. It's a stunning sequence of events, one that brought a quiet tear to my eye and stunned the preview viewing audience into silence. It's the kind of moment filmmakers dream of achieving but so seldom realize, elevating Happy Feet Two to a plateau that's as universal as it is timeless.






Jinkx Monsoon joins the cast of Le Faux
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The sweet duo behind the wicked stepsisters
An interview with Nick Garrison and Sarah Rudinoff

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J. Edgar: The (Gay?) man behind the mask
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Sharon Jones pours on the soul at Showbox
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Annie Get Your Gun a great production of a classic
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Suffering, Inc. falls short
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Holiday special issue out next week
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A Dyke About Town: The phenomenal Rickie Lee Jones
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Inert Breaking Dawn a bloodless bummer
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Latest Happy Feet sings a captivating song
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Q-Scopes by Jack Fertig
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Prince, Kelly Clarkson headed to the Puget Sound
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Northwest News
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Letters
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