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‘Twilight’ Fades; ‘Silver’ Shines; ‘Anna K’; ‘Pi’: Movies

'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2'
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2." The Summit Entertainment film is playing across the U.S. Photographer: Andrew Cooper/Summit Entertainment, LLC via Bloomberg

Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Like a zombie playing possum, the fifth and final entry in the pallid “Twilight” franchise makes one last, uproarious grasp for attention.

Signs of life come too late to convince the unconvinced that $2.5 billion in world sales is anything but a cosmic absurdity.

Ah, but Edward and Bella were never really ours, were they?

Easily the best of this mopey, dopey series, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2” goes out with an extended, over-the-top, head-ripping battle sequence that taunts non-believers with the fun we could have been having all along.

Director Bill Condon delivers the loopy vampire Armageddon after muddling through the essentials: moony reaction shots, third-rate digital effects, Carter Burwell’s cloying score and Taylor Lautner’s abs.

Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart, slightly less pinched than usual) is now a vampire and mother, courtesy of undead soulmate Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson, headed for nowhere).

Bounding over treetops, scaling a mountain and dining on cougar, Bella takes to post-human life with gusto.

“I’m never going to get enough of this,” she tells Edward after a round of vampire sex.

Interruptus arrives via the Volturi, an ancient, powerful class of vampires who take a dim view of cross-species hanky-panky and its results: They’ve come to kill little Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy), the fast-aging, dreadfully-named and one-of-a-kind spawn of Bella and Edward.

More Fun

“Only the known is safe,” says Volturi leader Aro (Michael Sheen, having more fun than the others combined). “Only the known is tolerable.”

The snow-peaked showdown is “Twilight” at fever pitch, more exciting by half and sillier by far than previous sojourns. A phalanx of black-cloaked Volturi stands off against a United Nations of Cullen allies garbed in Olympic pageant finery.

By the time a bare-chested pseudo-Mayan struts afield, Condon (“Kinsey,” “Gods and Monsters”) has settled on the proper, logical goodbye: Wrap it in a loincloth, give it a speech and enjoy the laughs.

“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2,” from Summit Entertainment, is playing across the U.S. Rating: **1/2 (Evans)

‘Silver Linings’

The first half of “Silver Linings Playbook” doesn’t seem like a comedy.

Its severely bipolar main character, Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), has just spent eight months in a Baltimore mental hospital; now he’s back in Philadelphia, wobbling on the edge of sanity, potentially violent and hanging on by the thread of hope that he’ll be able to repair his ruined marriage.

His parents (Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro) have taken him in, but his manic episodes -- like tearing up the house in the middle of the night in a frantic search for his wedding video -- frighten and bewilder them.

Then he meets Tiffany (the petite, gargly-voiced powerhouse Jennifer Lawrence), a young widow who’s nearly as crazy as he is. Immediately she wants him -- he’s not interested -- and the movie turns, gradually and imperceptibly, into something more conventional. Thank goodness.

Mood Swings

The writer-director, David O. Russell (“Three Kings,” “The Fighter”), has a knack for mixing tones, and he’s terrific with actors. De Niro, for example, who can seem half there when he isn’t engaged, is touching as an OCD Eagles fanatic who loves his son but has no idea how to deal with his mood swings.

Why is Tiffany drawn to a guy who’s so clearly bad news (until he isn’t)? There’s no good reason, but Cooper and Lawrence have chemistry, and, as Russell directs them, they play their yearning characters with a minimum of pathos.

“Silver Linings Playbook” probably isn’t true to the lower reaches of human experience. But it’s true to the history of American romantic comedy, and it’s an utter delight.

“Silver Linings Playbook,” from the Weinstein Company, is playing in selected cities across the U.S. Rating: ****1/2 (Seligman)

‘Anna Karenina’

The English director Joe Wright sets his version of “Anna Karenina” in and around a grand old theater, often moving the players along to a waltz by his composer, Dario Marianelli. During the steeplechase, Vronsky’s horse tumbles off the stage.

It’s like one of those versions of Shakespeare or Verdi that re-imagines the drama as a play within a play.

Tolstoy’s masterpiece of realism (not a work of art, said Matthew Arnold, but a piece of life) is about the last vehicle you’d expect to see subjected to Brechtian alienation effects. But Wright’s daring is intelligent.

Since there’s no way to bring the fullness of Tolstoy’s long novel to the screen, it signals that Wright’s is one possible, one specific adaptation among many.

And this “Anna” is intelligent to a fault. Tom Stoppard’s screenplay extracts the main plot points and themes with the dexterity of a French waiter deboning a flounder. (The theater idea was the director’s, though.)

Keira Knightley, Jude Law and Aaron Taylor-Johnson are impeccable as the woman intoxicated by passion, her patient, baffled husband and the lover inflamed, then taken aback by her intensity. But “impeccable” also suggests the movie’s downside.

In 2005, Wright and Knightly collaborated on a stirring version of “Pride and Prejudice” that, at the climax, definitely called for Kleenex. Who would have predicted that a director and his star would elicit more tears with Jane Austen’s comic heroine than with Tolstoy’s tragic one?

“Anna Karenina,” from Focus Features, is playing in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Washington, D.C. Rating: **** (Seligman)

Tiger Burning

Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi,” which opened the New York Film Festival in September, tells the story of a shipwrecked boy and a Bengal tiger alone on the ocean together. The boy has to gain the animal’s trust in order to keep them both alive.

From the opening moments, Lee makes clear his intention: to amaze. And with star-sprinkled skies above a phosphorescent sea, a rushing and leaping whale, a sudden invasion of flying fish that comes on like a thunderstorm, he does.

The movie opens nationwide next Wednesday, Nov. 21. To read Bloomberg’s review, click here. Rating: *****


What the Stars Mean:

***** Fantastic
**** Excellent
*** Good
** So-So
* Poor
(No stars) Avoid

(Greg Evans and Craig Seligman are critics for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own.)

Muse highlights include Jeremy Gerard on theater and New York weekend.

To contact the writers on the story: Greg Evans at gregeaevans@yahoo.com. and Craig Seligman at cseligman@mindspring.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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