Even by the low standards of this bloodsucking 5-movie franchise, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1” is a drag.
The penultimate entry in a vampire epic, mopey in every way but profit, is essentially a 2-hour set-up for next year’s finale.
The basics: Drippy human teenager Bella (Kristen Stewart) marries gloomy vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson). They honeymoon in Brazil, have sex (once, off-screen) and conceive a demon-child. Edward suggests they “get that thing out.” Bella refuses, has a very difficult childbirth and turns into a vampire.
For reasons not worth pondering, the pregnancy upsets the fragile peace between Edward’s vampire clan and the Native American werewolf pack of Jacob (Taylor Lautner, still buff, still unencumbered by talent).
Stripped of its longing glances and petulant glares, “Breaking Dawn” could be whittled into a passably entertaining montage of action highlights and romantic moments.
Director (and “Twilight” first-timer) Bill Condon leaves his imprint with only a few visual flourishes -- notably a white-wedding dream sequence spattered with blood and roses.
By now, gripes about the franchise’s wooden performances, ludicrous dialogue and lousy CGI effects seem as pointless as Jacob shouting “You did this!” to Edward upon spotting Bella’s baby bump. International box office for the first three films is just under $2 billion. Short of replacing his three stars with Muppets, Condon could inflict little commercial harm.
All the more disappointing, then, that the director of the quirky “Kinsey” risks so little. A quick flash of “Bride of Frankenstein” -- a nod to Condon’s James Whale biopic “Gods and Monsters” -- is the sole stab at anything like wit.
Instead, Condon sticks with author Stephenie Meyer’s queasy blend of Grand Guignol and ‘50s-era sex education. Once is all it takes, choice is for monsters and lust is the grimmest reaper of all.
“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1,” from Summit Entertainment, is playing across the U.S. Rating: *1/2
A lonely widower filled with drink and rage kicks a whining dog to death in the opening moments of “Tyrannosaur.”
And then things get grim.
Written and directed by British actor Paddy Considine, “Tyrannosaur” spares little in its depictions of man’s inhumanity to men, dogs, women, walls and just about anything else getting in the way of fists, sticks and teeth.
All of which makes the moments of redemption and tenderness as jolting and poignant as the violence is disturbing.
Peter Mullan (“Trainspotting,” “My Name is Joe”) plays Joseph, a middle-aged, unemployed bully who drinks and brawls his way through the bars and streets of Britain’s working-class Leeds.
Fleeing one such encounter, the volatile Joseph ducks into a charity thrift shop where the Christian volunteer Hannah (Olivia Colman) offers him sanctuary, prayer and undeserved kindness.
In just a few well-observed scenes, Joseph and Hannah develop a tenuous (and credible) friendship, their bond strengthening when Joseph gets wise to the abuse Hannah endures from her husband (Eddie Marsan).
“Tyrannosaur,” photographed in near-documentary style, never patronizes it characters or their plights, so any notion that love conquers all is disabused early and often.
Considine, making his directorial feature debut, hasn’t yet added restraint to his cinematic vocabulary. The cute neighborhood kid befriended by Joseph and terrorized by a lout with a pit bull is probably one tragedy too many.
“Tyrannosaur,” from Strand Releasing, is playing in New York and Los Angeles. Rating: ***
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(Greg Evans is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)