Eclipse

First of all, let’s get one thing straight. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.

No.

The god-damned movie is called Eclipse. Your movie isn't a “saga” just because it makes tons of money. Now, onto the review.

Everyone is back for what promises to be an Epic Final Showdown with the Cullen family and their uneasy allies, the Quileute werewolves, on one side; and the recurring Evil Redhead, her dupe (Xavier Samuel, who looks like a young Willem Dafoe), and a small army of newborn vampires on the other. “Newborn” as-in freshly turned, not vampiric infants. That’s a whole other brand of movie.

The showdown angle is actually the decent movie hidden deep in the recesses of an all new chapter of this overwrought teenage love story, and while I have praised the previous films for being focused, this one is-by comparison-quite overstuffed. Bella (Kristen Stuart) is still vapid and useless, unable to decide which boy’s emotions she’d rather toy with. I know there’s some subtext here, but seriously, girl, pick one! She’s not sure yet if she loves Jacob (Taylor Lautner), while he’s more or less insisting she loves him but doesn't know it yet. Edward (Robert Pattison) on the other hand, is acting fittingly like a 100-year-old man. The whole thing builds to its dramatic climax when Bella finds herself succumbing to hypothermia while hiding out from the rogue vampires, and Jacob has to keep Bella warm with his puppy-man body heat.

Eventually Ed and Jake have a little chat.

JACOB: I lurv Bella, even if she is a dumb girl ::ab flex::

EDWARD: I lurv Bella, even if she is a puny hoo-man. ::sparkles::

JACOB: You’re a dick.

EDWARD: No, you’re a dick.

JACOB: ::glowers::

EDWARD: ::glowers::

What’s really irritating about Jacob is that he sounds like he’s 16 years old, but his ripped as all hell, it’s really weird to see.

On top of this nonsense, Eclipse is the edgy flashback chapter of the Twilight movies, revealing the dark and angst ridden origins of two the Cullen Family “children.” One was a confederate major in the Civil War, and the other was some sort of gangster’s moll. There’s also a flashback to the reason why the local werewolf tribe hates vampires, featuring Peter Murphy. Yes, “Cuts-You-Up” Peter Murphy. All of these little vignettes actually add some much needed tension and horror to the story.

Then they remove all that tension by making the act of killing vampires look like breaking statues. During the long-awaited Epic Final Showdown, a whole lot of vampires die, and if it were any other movie, this would have been a scene full of well-earned gore and violence. The choice to not have more than an ounce of blood ruins the tension they built between scenes from the romantic comedy “Everybody Loves Bella.” It even feels like they edited the fights for TV. Honestly, I thought for a second that I needed to rent it on DVD, as this cut sucked. I then realized to my dismay that I was in a god-damned movie theater.

One thing they’re starting to get right when they make these movies is that it’s a comedy gold mine. There is a hysterical scene where Bella’s dad (Billy Burke) tries to give her “The Talk,” and insist she use condoms, because he’s just that clueless. Lesson learned: Always, always, always ask your daughter if she is dating some sort of supernatural humanoids. That’s just good parenting.

New Moon

Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is in way over her head. Edward Cullen (Robert Pattison), the pretty mopey boy she fell for, decides to break up with her the day after her birthday because he's an awesome boyfriend.

Bella, being an 18-year-old, decides that the break up is the end of the world so she wails like a banshee in her sleep. Her father (Billy Burke) now forever loathes Edward for giving his daughter what sounds like post-traumatic whooping cough.

Bella starts hanging out with Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner); local Native American, Vidal Sassoon poster boy, and Edward's arch nemesis. They have an awkward and sad relationship, as Bella uses him so she doesn't feel alone. She rebuffs his advances, so he cuts his hair and joins a gang whose sole focus appears to be showing off their rippling abdominal muscles. They have an exchange that goes something like this:

JACOB: I ARE TEH KILLAR MONSTER! (*ab flex*)

BELLA: I'm sorry I used you.

JACOB: RAWR!! (*ab flex*)

BELLA: I miss Edward! She is so beautiful!

JACOB: (*pout* *ab flex*)

Business as usual in Forks, Wash!

Jacob and his new gang of underage underwear models spend most of their time killing the vampires that stray onto their land, one is being the former girlfriend of the guy who tried kill Bella in the previous film. She is unhappy. So much so that she kills veteran character actor Graham Greene while Thom York's "Hearing Damage" drains the tension out of all the action.

Edward's hot goth sister, Alice (Ashely Green),  shows up to tell Bella that Edward believes Bella to be dead; so he's off to Italy to ask Vampire Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) to kill him, as he can't go on without Bella. Ain't love grand?

The Vampire c Council is the best part of the movie. It barely lasts 20 minutes, but Vampire Tony Blair is a sight to behold. He's unctuous as all get out, speaking Italian and leering at Bella like she was as if she were a pert, firm teenager. . . as everyone else has been doing, really. Dakota Fanning is also here, playing one of those really young-looking vampires. Also present is professional Creepy Kid Cameron Bright , all grown up!  Vampire Tony Blair wants to kill Bella unless the Cullen family agrees to turn her into a vampire. They all shake on it, and then the group gets back in their mystery machine and head heads back to Forks.

Edward swears to never leave Bella again, so he and Jacob have a final face off, but nothing comes of it; they just glower at each other. Edward then asks Bella to marry him. The end! No really, Bella gasps and then they roll credits.

I must praise this movie, however, for having excellent internal continuity. New Moon definitely continues the story started in the first film. Sadly, that story is as a tortuously slow tale of teenagers falling hopelessly in and out of love, which is boring, even when they're not creatures of the night.

New Moon, like its predecessor, feels completely unnecessary. The film doesn't stand on its own, as everything that happens was set up in the first film, making it a true sequel like Lethal Weapon 2 ...only lame.

Twilight

Brace yourselves for a startling revelation:

Twilight isn’t terrible. It’s not good, really, but it’s not terrible.

Director Catherine Hardwicke knows her way around the camera, and there is almost no green screen. Instead, she uses the gorgeous Pacific Northwest as backdrop, a very refreshing touch in this day an age. The acting is also quite good, but that’s really the worst part, because the main players are supposed to be teenagers and they do a damned fine job of acting annoying and naive.

Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is the new girl in the small town of Forks, Wash., moving in with her dad (Billy Burke), and everyone already knows who she is, including mysterious and sexy Edward Cullen (Robert Pattison), i.e. the prettiest "girl" in school.

Bella sits next to Edward in her first biology class, so he freaks out and asks to have the class changed. Bella’s about to ask him what the hell his problem is, but he keeps her from getting crushed by a car. What’s going on? How did he do that? Why is he being such a jerk all the time?...Bella has herself a Google-based research montage, and figures out that Edward is a vampire, which solidly answers at least two of those questions. So they have a conversation like this:

EDWARD: I ARE TEH KILLAR MONSTER! *sparkles*

BELLA: Snuggles?

EDWARD: RAWR!! *sparkles*

BELLA: SNUGGLES!

EDWARD: I are teh bad guy. . .

BELLA: So, how 'bout them snuggles?

This goes on in various levels of subtlety until they decide to start dating.

Everyone around Swan tells her, "That Cullen boy is no good;" including Jacob Black, a local member of the  First Nations who gets in teenage boy glowering contests with Edward whenever they meet.

While all this teen angst silliness has been going on, another group of vampires have been killing people in the area around Forks. One of them bears more than a passing resemblance to Brad Pitt and decides it’s time to hunt Bella after he interrupts the Cullen Family baseball game. I think because he’s an idiot, he believes he’ll get away with trying to kill this girl on his own when there’s a “family” of seven vampires protecting her.

Brad Pitt Lite tricks Bella into meeting him alone and tortures her by breaking her fibula with the hope of driving Edward into a rage. Edward and the rest of the Cullens show up, tear him apart, burn him and save Bella.

She wakes up in the hospital, and they go to prom. That’s pretty much it, really. Nothing in this movie is terribly hurried, which is actually kind of nice when so many other movies are crammed to the gills with characters and subplots within subplots.

Really, the chief offense of this movie is draining the life, pun intended, out of some of the oldest monsters in history. I'm not really sure why we need another Vampire/Human love story, as it's been done with more gore or more heart in so many other places.

That being said, Twilight is so self-serious it BEGS for Cavalcade. Between the weird subtext of a 100+ year-old having a romantic relationship with a seventeen-year-old, and the oceans of internet hype for and against it, this movie will definitely entertain anyone who has a few drinks and has seen Bram Stoker's Dracula .

Drive Angry 3D

A few days ago, my father asked me if Nicholas Cage was able to make a good movie anymore.  Having recently watched trailers for Next (2007)Knowing (2009), and The Sorceror’s Apprentice (2010), I immediately responded with no small amount of sadness, “no.”

Then I saw Drive Angry.

Now, like Zarathustra taught us the Ubermensch, the Cavalcade teaches to you the Drive Angry!

John Milton (Nicholas Cage) has broken out of Hell in a sweet muscle car.  This is a completely different concept from Ghost Rider (2007), in which Nicholas Cage is possessed by a demon hunting other demons on behalf of the Devil with a sweet chopper.  His purpose: to stop Satanic cult leader Jonah King (Billy Burke) from using his granddaughter in a sacrificial rite to bring Hell to Earth.  In between Milton breaking out of Hell and [Spoiler Alert] stopping King is nothing short of glorious.

Brought to us by the writer/director team Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier who have brought us epics like Jason X (2001) and My Bloody Valentine 3-D (2009)Drive Angry’s primary goal is showing as many car stunts, bodily mutilations, and gratuitous nudity as humanly possible in 104 minutes.  Gentle readers, you have to understand, the marketing for this film is deplorable.  Remember those commercials with Cage shooting people in a hotel room and dodging an axe thrown at his head?  What the advertisers do not want you to know is that Cage is actually having sex with a completely naked woman the entire time!

I do not have the space or the legal rights to list every incredible action stunt in the picture.  But I can tell you about the performances featured in this film because they are all gold.  Cage is surprisingly restrained here.  There is maybe one Elvis-ism, no screeching, and no quirkiness for quirkiness’ sake.  Cage plays it straight and it works perfectly.  Lussier takes full advantage of Cage’s ability to go from zero to BROODING in .0005 seconds flat.

Amber Heard is plays Milton’s sidekick, Piper.  Having only seen her previously as “406” in Zombieland (2009), I did not expect much.  This actress is phenomenal.  She is essentially Elly May Clampett if she were metal.  Billy Burke’s ability to work leather pants and puffy shirts while simultaneously making any semi-religious nonsense sound like the Gettysburg Address firmly cement him as the heir-apparent too Billy Drago.  Our esteemed screenwriter, Todd Farmer, makes a cameo doing exactly the same thing as he did in My Bloody Valentine 3-D.

However, the man that steals the show is William Fichtner.  Playing “The Account,” the Devil’s bounty hunter, Ficthner joins the “Why didn’t anyone think to give him superpowers before?” list.  Said list includes Christopher Walken after The Prophecy (1995) and Robert Forster in season two of "Heroes." Fichtner glides through the movie as the entire world is his amusement park.  Drive Angry Fun Fact: It is!

The thing is, you all have to go out and embrace this film in the 3-D in which it was intended.  If you don’t, we’ll never get another one.  And we need another one.  This is a film that gives Nicholas Cage license to say with complete seriousness that he will not drink a beer unless it is the skull of his mortal enemy.

Wanna guess what he does before the credits roll?