This Week at the Movies

'Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part I' has nothing at stake, while 'The Descendants' is a rare treat for adults and 'Tyrannosaur' is a bleak portrait of two troubled souls.

I’m well aware that I'm not the target audience for “Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1,” the fourth film based on the wildly popular novels by Stephenie Meyer. That being said, this latest entry is still not an easy sit.

For non Twi-hards, the first three movies have followed the exploits of Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), a young woman who becomes smitten with vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and chummy with his family of friendly bloodsuckers. She occasionally finds herself romantically entangled with Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), who happens to be a (frequently shirtless) werewolf.

Surprisingly, the series has nabbed its most talented and experienced director to date – Bill Condon, whose impressive resume includes “Gods and Monsters” and “Kinsey.”

Sadly, the filmmaker is given little with which to work, from the melodramatics of Melissa Rosenberg’s script and Meyer’s novel to the occasionally stiff performances from several cast members.

The picture opens with Bella and Edward’s wedding and then follows the pair as they head off for a romantic honeymoon in Brazil. For the first time in the series, the duo breaks their chastity and appears to feel the earth move, at least, judging from the state of the bedroom on the morning after.

Literally, the next day, Bella finds that she is pregnant with Edward’s potentially undead spawn. Much of the film’s two-hour running time is dedicated to Edward and Jacob questioning Bella as to whether she should carry the baby to term because it could potentially be a vampire and the birth process could kill her. But she remains resolute.

To sum it all up: Oh Bella! Oh Edward! Oh Jacob! Oh Edward! Oh Bella! Oh Jacob!

Among Hollywood’s franchises of late, “Twilight” has been one of the more humdrum. It’s not as bombastic as, say, the “Transformers” movies or routine as the myriad of comic book movies that will all converge in next year’s “The Avengers.”

The series does not provide material you can sink your teeth into.

On the other hand, Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” is one of the season’s richest films, complete with terrific performances, great writing, solid direction and thematic resonance. It’s the type of serious dramatic movie for adults that Hollywood rarely bothers to make anymore.

George Clooney plays Matt King, a Hawaiian lawyer whose wife is in a coma following a boating accident. He also has various family members breathing down his neck to close a massive land deal on an undeveloped tract of land in Kauai for which he has been named the trustee.

Matt attempts to be a better parent toward his daughters – the young, impressionable Scottie (Amara Miller) and wild child Alexandra (Shailene Woodley), who reveals that their mother was having an affair with a realtor prior to her accident.

Payne’s films – including “Election,” “About Schmidt” and “Sideways” – tend to focus on men who discover they are disappointed with their lives and find themselves at a crossroads. “The Descendants” fits into this mold, but it plays out its story more dramatically than the laugh-out-loud style of his previous pictures.

That is not to say that it does not provide some laughs. A scene during which a cuckolded character confronts Matt’s comatose wife is mordantly funny.

In one of his finest performances, Clooney shows vulnerability that he has not previously explored and the entire supporting cast is solid. This is a film in which nearly every cast member is given something to do. One of Payne’s gifts as a writer and filmmaker is populating his pictures with well-rounded and believable characters, warts and all.

“The Descendants” will surely be an Oscar contender – and deservedly.

Most likely being released as counter programming to the melodrama of “Twilight” and the emotional resonance of Payne’s film is actor Paddy Considine’s directorial debut, “Tyrannosaur.”

The film is the best recent example of a genre known as British miserablism, which offers bleak depictions of working class Londoners.

Considine’s movie succeeds – at least, to an extent – due to the incredibly tense work by actors Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman.

In the film, Mullan plays Joseph, a violent sociopath whom we first meet as he drunkenly stomps his dog to death, and Colman is Hannah, who is severely abused by her cruel husband, James (Eddie Marsan).

Joseph, who lost his wife years before and now wanders around in a constant state of rage, begins to feel responsible for improving Hannah’s lot in life and the two form an unlikely friendship.

The film is often a bitter pill to swallow. It is worth seeing for Mullan and Colman’s committed performances, but be forewarned: this is a harrowing piece of work.


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