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Movie Blog: New Movie Notes

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Eric Henderson Eric Henderson
Eric Henderson joined the WCCO.COM web team in June 2006 and currently...
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A few quick notes on this weekend’s new releases.

——-

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1

Do you consider yourself a Twi-hard? Twi harder.

I was no great fan of the previous installment, but at the same time, I got why it had such a following, especially among the set that passes notes asking boys to check “yes” or “no.”

But this time around, the vicarious appeal of having two outsiders (one sporting James Dean’s pompadour, the other stuffed with Lady Gaga’s meat dress) fighting fang and claw over Bella (i.e. the sulky audience surrogate) is mitigated by the fact that she has finally settled on one over the other.

Breaking Dawn Part 1 opens with a wedding sequence of such interminable endlessness, I started longing for Melancholia‘s nuptial apocalypse to make a cameo appearance.

Vows exchange, Bella and Team Edward duck away for a honeymoon on Abstinence-Ending Island, where Edward tries to consummate his marriage without killing Bella. Apparently, the act of lovemaking is, for vampires, a headboard-shattering rite. But this being a resolutely PG-13 franchise, director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) keeps things tasteful — a few moonlit shots of naked lagoon swimming, one of about 13 musical interludes set to Cities 97 Sampler rejects, headboard bust-up, fade out.

That is the sensation too dangerous for Edward to offer Bella for three whole movies up to this point? That is what leaves welts on her back and arms?

Adding insult to injury, the solitary coupling leaves Bella knocked up and Edward unsure of just what sort of life form might be gestating in his new bride, especially when Bella starts shedding enough weight for two. Will it be a bouncing bundle of joy or foul demon from the depths of hell?

Yes, the already soap operatic Twilight actually gets to the point where the audience is asking itself, “And what will become of their baby?!”

My problem with the first half of Breaking Not Bad Enough is not that it’s overdramatic. My problem is that Condon proves too high-minded a director to actually follow through on author Stephenie Meyer’s cheap but, evidently, effective offerings.

Oh, and, not to be a spoilsport, but Taylor Lautner’s Jacob takes his shirt off all of once. Thought a few readers would find that a salient point.

——-

The Descendents

Alexander Payne hasn’t made a movie in seven years, not since his Sideways earned Oscar nominations, netted critical raves and sent merlot’s cachet swirling down the drain.

Was it worth the wait? If you ask Minnesota native Jim Burke, the answer is unquestionably yes.

Burke co-produced Payne’s newest feature The Descendents, which stars George Clooney and was recently selected to close the prestigious New York Film Festival. And, when I had a few minutes to chat with Burke a few weeks ago following the movie’s local premiere at the Walker Art Center, Burke expressed his opinion that Descendents marks his frequent collaborator Payne’s best movie yet, suggesting part of its strength is in how it skirts the line between drama and comedy.

“There’s a lot of great comic actors in this movie, but it is more of an emotional movie,” Burke noted.

(With all due respect to Burke, I remain deep in the unmitigatedly comedic Election‘s corner, but I’ll settle for this being his strongest movie since the 1999 Reese Witherspoon-Matthew Broderick masterpiece.)

George Clooney plays Matt King, a soon-to-be-wealthy man sitting (along with a mass of cousins) on a juicy, resort-ready stretch of coastal Hawaiian land that, for reasons that don’t seem important beyond pushing the plot forward, will need to be divested in the near future.

As he negotiates the land deal, he also copes with coming to terms with his wife’s infidelity. Complicating matters is the fact that she was just knocked into a coma after a speedboat accident. Thus King begins a soul-searching journey with his two daughters in tow — one teenaged and perceptive beyond her years or behavior, the other caught between childhood and adolescence and, seemingly, on the periphery of anything resembling perception.

Burke says The Descendents is representative of his and Payne’s shared sensibilities, as well as screenwriter Jim Taylor’s. Especially when it comes to the local skew on human behavior.

“We sort of found one another 15 years ago. Alexander and I are Midwesterners. There are not that many (in Hollywood),” said Burke. “We like the same kind of movies, and Jim Taylor is the third musketeer.”

Hmm, I’d love to see the three dressed like Athos, Porthos and Aramis at the Oscars next February.

——-

Happy Feet Two

Look, there are people who are going to always love penguins, especially when they sing so many songs audience members already have on their iPods. And there are going to be some who can’t stand what Glee has done in turning this into Janet Jackson’s Karaoke Nation 1814.

Being among both groups, I was a little torn over this sequel to 2006′s cutest entertainment.

No, it is not as charming as the original.

Yes, its storyline is far more contrived than the last movie’s.

No, I am not a major fan of the Moulin Rouge-style jukebox medleys.

Yes, I still came away from it feeling happier than I have from any other animated sequel this year.

The end result is a draw, but Matt Damon and Brad Pitt’s supporting performances as a pair of world-conquering (potentially same-sex married?) prawns tip the balance toward the positive.

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