The Host (2013)
★ / ★★★★
A perfect world now exists because of extraterrestrial beings who have taken over the planet via controlling people’s bodies. Meanwhile, humans who managed to escape the main invasion are continually on the run. When Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) plunges to her death, her body is taken to the infirmary. An alien called Wanderer, just about the size of one’s palm, is put inside her. But Melanie is an anomaly. Instead of her mind and body being completely taken over by the parasite, she remains to have some control. Wanderer cannot help but be fascinated by the human experience despite the fact that it is assigned to go through her host’s memory in order to discover the rebels’ hideout.
“The Host,” based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer, falls into the trappings of syrupy romance despite the fact that its universe offers a whole lot more than dealing with trivial problems like being torn between two boys. Since its approach is small when the bigger picture demands to be explored, the majority of the picture ends up being a bore, mostly taking place in a cave where there is in-fighting. It does not warrant two hours of our time.
The protagonist lacks depth. The screenplay has not found a way to circumvent the fact that since Melanie’s body is split into having two minds, every thought she has is expressed–whether it be the original Melanie or the alien’s. As a result, the lack of subtlety makes the character one-dimensional when she really should be the most complex. Ronan tries to make the most out of the role, but she really cannot do much other than look sad or robotic depending on the situation.
There is a lack of a detestable villain. The Seeker (Diane Kruger) is potentially interesting in the beginning. Kruger plays her to be very calculating and cold. However, once the hunt for Melanie’s body begins, we see her mostly driving a helicopter, a car, or shooting at people. Later in the film, she changes a little bit (prior to going under the knife) but I had a difficult time believing the charade due to the absence of a believable, smooth character arc. Many changes within the characters seem to occur on a whim which is at times confusing–or just very poorly written.
The flashbacks are corny and elementary. One of the things that bother me in the movies is when I sense that characters are being introduced as if we were watching a parade. The flashbacks employ this approach and so when events are supposed to be sweet or emotional, I caught myself snickering at the mawkishness of the scene.
Based on the screenplay and directed by Andrew Niccol, “The Host” offers some neat images like a field of wheat grown inside a massive cave, but pretty images do not save the material from a deficiency of ambition or even a sense of very energetic fun. For the most part, one will find himself waiting for something to happen. When it finally does, the rewards are few and unfulfilling.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (2011)
★ / ★★★★
Invitations were sent to family and friends about Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward’s (Robert Pattinson) upcoming wedding. Jacob (Taylor Lautner) was far from happy after receiving the news so he headed outside, took off his shirt, transformed into a wolf, and ran to ameliorate his rage. During their honeymoon, Bella discovered that she was pregnant. The couple was surprised because it was believed that a human and a vampire could not conceive a viable being. The fetus was growing at a rapid rate and it threatened the life of its host. Despite sensible advice that she ought to terminate, Bella decided to keep the thing inside her. Based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1” was the weakest entry in the series. It was divided into three parts: the wedding, the honeymoon, and the horrific pregnancy. There was absolutely no reason for the film to be divided into two halves other than to make money. There was no pretentiousness, which I would have welcomed and possibly interpreted as ambition, or even an attempt of artistic integrity. The movie lacked interesting events, both big and small, designed to challenge who the characters were and what they really stood for. Since Melissa Rosenberg, who wrote the screenplay, stretched about half the novel for almost two hours, the pacing felt unbearably slow. It got so bad to the point where the characters actually ended up watching television together because they had nothing better to do. At least it was unintentionally funny. The acting was never the series’ strong point, but I’ve always managed to stick with it. In this installment, I lost my patience within the first few minutes. It was supposed to be Bella’s wedding day. It’s a big day when everyone is supposed to be excited and happy. Or at least pretending to be. Walking down that aisle, Bella looked absolutely miserable, like she was being punished and in pain. Take off the wedding dress and she looked like she really needed to go to the restroom. I understood that maybe she was nervous about marrying a vampire. Maybe she was even having second thoughts about making a monumental commitment. If those were the emotions that the actress wanted to portray, the responsible thing to do was for the director, Bill Condon, to do a reshoot until the right emotions were conveyed through the screen. The director had no control over his material. It looked like the filmmakers did only about ten takes and were forced to pick the best one, which was below mediocre. I’ve seen Stewart’s work in other movies and I know that she can act well given the right script and direction. I wish Jessica (Anna Kendrick), Bella’s friend from high school with whom she never interacted with, had more lines during the scenes prior to the wedding. Kendrick brought a certain energy, a realism and effortless charisma, that the other actors either didn’t have or were unwilling to show. “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1” could not afford its characters to look bored because the pacing, the script, and the plot were already on the verge of lethargy. For instance, instead of showing the Cullens, Bella, and Jacob just sitting on the couch and watching TV, why not explain the concept of imprinting? It was an important part of the movie, but I found myself having to look up exactly what it was after watching it. Like the parasitic creature in Bella’s womb, that’s not a good sign.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)
★★ / ★★★★
I can always rely on the “Twilight” series to be consistently mediocre despite the fact that each movie released was better than its predecessor. In “Eclipse,” based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer and directed by David Slade, the love triangle between Bella (Kristen Stewart), Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Jacob (Taylor Lautner) reached its peak but the vampire and werewolf camps decided to join forces in order to protect Bella from newly-born vampires led by Riley (Xavier Samuel) and Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard taking over for Rachelle Lefevre). Like the first two movies, “Eclipse” suffered from far too many ways Edward and Bella expressed how much they loved each other. I understood that the whole thing might have worked on paper or else the novels wouldn’t have been as successful but it just did not work on film because it quickly became redundant. Even when the movie tried to explore the romantic relationship between Bella and Jacob, the picture lacked energy and, to be quite honest, I started noticing the make-up, editing and the lighting. In other words, it lost my interest despite my best intentions of sticking with the story. The movie would have benefited if it had more action sequences. Maybe it’s because I’m a guy but I did enjoy the climax when the werewolves and vampires came head-to-head with the vampire army while Edward and Bella faced Riley and Victoria. Victoria was probably my favorite character since the first movie because I thought she was menacing but enchanting at the same time. Unfortunately, even though I could tell she was trying her best, Howard’s interpretation of her character did not work for me because she lacked Lefevre’s subtleties (which the series desperately lacked). In this installment, Victoria felt like a pawn instead of a rogue vampire who was full of malice and thirst for vengeance. I also enjoyed the tent scene when Edward and Jacob finally connected not because it was touching on any level but because it was very amusing to the point where people were actually laughing out loud in the theater. There was something purposely homoerotic about the very intense glares the two sent each other. Even though that scene wasn’t very effective, I admired that the material was aware enough to make fun of itself. Furthermore, I can criticize the film for not being a good example for teenagers in promoting marriage considering the characters’ ages but I won’t because it simply tried to remain loyal to its source. I can only hope that the final installment (divided in two) will have more suspense and action than romance. It needed less cheese and more bloodshed.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)
★★ / ★★★★
I cannot believe I saw this in theaters considering I wasn’t that impressed with the first “Twilight” film. However, since my expectations were low, I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed (but I wasn’t happy about it either). I expected a mediocre outcome and got just that. Chris Weitz directed the second installment of the highly popular franchise. He tried to balance Bella’s (Kirsten Stewart) depression when Edward (Robert Pattinson) decided to break up with her due to an incident during her eighteenth birthday and Bella’s attempt at recovery when she finally got the chance to get to know Jacob (Taylor Lautner) who saw her as a romantic interest. And that was pretty much what the whole movie was about because I felt like this was more of a transition than anything. With that said, I found that this movie had no reason to be over two hours long. There were far too many scenes when Edward and Bella would talk and circumvent the main point they wanted to get across. For me, the sexual tension that worked in the first film simply wasn’t there anymore. Simply saying, “I cannot live without you” over and over is simply not good enough. In fact, I hated it when Bella and Edward were alone together because I knew I would hear an extended conversation that lacked gravity. On the other hand, I was interested in Bella and Jacob’s blossoming friendship. There was a certain brother-sister connection there even though Jacob wanted Bella romantically (and not the other way around). I was also happy with the new characters that involved a vampire royalty called the Volturi (mainly Michael Sheen, Dakota Fanning). I completely bought that they were menacing, powerful and very unstable group of vampires. One of the many ways this movie would’ve been more entertaining was having more action scenes. I loved the scenes that involved the diabolical Victoria (Rachelle Lefevre). Even though she barely said a word, her presence was mysterious and posed as a real threat. Granted, the film was based on Stephenie Meyer’s novel so it had plot limitations that were strictly designed for this sequel. However, there’s a certain way–an elegance, confidence, and ability to take risks–to make those limitations work for this project but I felt like it didn’t even try. With a much bigger budget than its predecessor, it should have been that much better, bigger in scope and more urgent. Regardless, I’m still curious with how the story would play out in the future installments especially with the way they ended this one. I cannot believe I said (more like yelled) “What?!” out loud when a certain line was said and it cut to the end credits. The fans of the novel probably looked at me and wondered why I watched the movie before I read the book.
★★ / ★★★★
I never read the series written by Stephenie Meyer so I won’t compare the film to the novel. However, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised that I liked this film, in parts, because of all the negative reviews from both fans and non-fans of the book. Kristen Stewart stars as Bella Swan, a girl that recently moves in Fork, Washington and eventually befriends a vampire played by Robert Pattinson. It’s only a matter of time until they fall for each other and problems regarding the collision of their different worlds start to arise. I mentioned that I liked this movie in parts. I really enjoyed “Twilight” up until Stewart finally realized that Pattinson was a vampire. The way that Catherine Hardwicke, the director, framed the awkwardness and stupidity of high school students was really good. (I really do mean that as a compliment.) I wasn’t that surprised because she directed admirable pictures like “Thirteen” and “Lords of Dogtown.” What didn’t work for me was when the romantic aspect was being explored. I felt like Bella’s IQ dropped twenty points when she finally figured out Pattinson’s nature. She knows he’s dangerous but she doesn’t put in any effort to stay away; she also becomes a typical damsel-in-distress which was a completely different main character during the movie’s first few minutes. I thought Bella was going to be consistently tough, edgy, not to mention having a mind of her own. I felt like she needed a man in order to feel safe and that’s not a good message to girls and women. While I didn’t mind the whole teenager-dating-a-hundred-year-old-guy aspect of it because I was a fan of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (the Buffy-Angel relationship, not the Buffy-Spike ridiculousness), I felt like the movie would’ve been more interesting if it consistently explored why these vampires are dangerous, their histories, and more importantly, their varying abilities. It was nice that the vampires in this movie could walk around in daylight, have reflections and have certain abilities that others do not have. I thought “Twilight” recovered its focus during the baseball scene: James (Cam Gigandet) was a convincing threat to Bella so I was engaged. But then the movie dropped the ball again during the last few scenes. I expected that not all my questions will be answered because this was only the first of the series. I particularly wanted to know more about Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) and how he’s different than Edward Cullen. I felt like this movie had an equal amount of positives and negatives so I’m going to give this a mediocre rating. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be (granted, my expectations were really quite low) and hopefully, it gets better as the series progresses.