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Godzilla: The Best Remake Yet, but Still Lacking!

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Godzilla movie

By Matthew Peerce, Guest Writer/Movie Reviewer

Unlike previous remakes, when Godzilla first makes his appearance is breathtaking. Both the monsters and the anti-hero Godzilla look amazing. The action scenes are fantastic and feel larger than life, especially in 3D. However, as entertaining as Godzilla is, he really has a secondary role throughout the movie and no one is large enough to fill his shoes.

Godzilla starts out with an awesome homage to the prior installments of the series and adds some of the backstory that will come up later in the film. The first half of the movie is fairly slow, focusing on some lackluster characters that are ultimately helpless. The main character is an army Lt. who has a strange amount of pull in the Military and manages to travel quite a bit and run into the monsters a lot. The monsters are supposed to be hunting down radiation to feed off of, but it definitely seems like they are just hunting the main character, who can only save children. For the first hour the movie is just a little slow and this is where the movie didn’t quite meet my expectations. The plot moved fairly quickly, I just really expected the characters to have some depth and to actually do things that were meaningful to the overall plot.

Once the second half of the movie began and Godzilla really made his appearance, the movie definitely picked up. Chaos and destruction are always good in a monster flick and the monsters were pretty diverse and entertaining. Godzilla really was true to the original series; it was a little cheesy, you weren’t entirely sure if Godzilla was a hero or a villain, and you somehow end up rooting for him nonetheless. There were a couple of real delights in the fight and the main character actually did get to do something useful.

This Godzilla is definitely the best of any of the remakes, or any of the Godzilla movies. The improvements in CGI and the lack of Matthew Broderick definitely add to the series, but the movie itself still lacks anything more than a monster v. monster movie. For that reason it’s a good movie to go see, its entertaining and great to watch with some friends, some popcorn, and some drinks; but there are no substantial characters or story. In the realm of monster fight movies, Godzilla is crushed by much weightier titles such as Pacific Rim and The Host.

~Matthew Peerce, United States Patent Office, Washington, DC

Godzilla 2

 

‘Captain America: the Winter Soldier,’ Another Thrilling Marvel Movie!

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Captain America The Winter Soldier

By Jason Peerce, Contributing Guest Writer/Reviewer 

              Not too long ago I did a post that put “Captain America:  The Winter Soldier” as one of my “Must See” movies of 2014…and boy was I not disappointed!  “Winter Soldier” is not only entertaining and full of action, but—and I quote a fellow viewer I overheard on my way out—“a solid movie.”  

“Winter Soldier” continues with several themes that started with the first “Captain America” movie and that has been touched upon in other Marvel movies—invasion of privacy through technology, the balance between security and freedom, etc.  These themes come to a boiling point in this movie when S.H.I.E.L.D. secretly decides to build three new ‘hellicarriers’ (their floating-fortress warships), which use a program that collects information to decide who is a ‘threat’ in order to eliminate the target preemptively.  The problem with this is obvious and Captain America, coming from a simpler ethical time period is staunchly opposed to it.  Which means case solved, right? 

Luckily, things aren’t so simple!  Conspiracies abound and, before you know it, the famous Captain America is on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D. and you don’t know who the allies or enemies are.   What was really wonderful was how little the trailer gave away. It painted one of the villains, the ‘Winter Soldier,’ as the primary bad guy, but in reality he was just one pawn in a much larger plot and someone that I felt like didn’t even get a whole lot of screen time—mainly just the big scenes.  When he did show up his presence was certainly felt, but I’m actually a bit curious why they named the movie after him; even his “big secret” trait did not hold much of an impact on the primary story.

One thing “Winter Soldier” does very well is continuing the character development of nearly every main character (except, possibly, the sidekick character of Sam Wilson/Falcon—he was great until he got wings!).  Chris Evans’s portrayal of Captain America continues to excel, and Scarlet Johannson’s Black Widow character gets much wittier and becomes much more than just a pretty sidekick. Even Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) gets put through the paces, and Robert Redford puts on a stellar performance as Alexander Pierce, the bureaucrat with clouded morals and intentions.

Another aspect of this movie that deserves mentioning are the action sequences, as weird as that may seem.  I’m very much used to comic book action movies—flashy, over the top, and the sense that your heroes are never really in danger.  I cannot count the number of times that I cringed during a fight scene—there was an oddly “real” sensation to much of the action.

In summary, “Winter Soldier” is not only one of the best Marvel movies that has been made to date, but a really good movie in general.  It is certainly a movie worth watching.  Oh, and bonus points to you if you can pick the “Pulp Fiction” reference!

‘The Wind Rises,’ Animated Biography at its Best!

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The Wind Rises

By Matthew Peerce

Contributing Guest Writer

              The latest, and supposedly last, Miyazaki film is a particularly wonderful and interesting film. The story itself is very loosely based on the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the developer of Zero. The film has no real conflict and kind of feels more like a documentary. That being said, it is wonderfully done and very entertaining.

              A lot of the story, and Horikoshi’s internal dialogue, are related through imaginative and interesting dream sequences. These dream sequences are absolutely beautiful. Horikoshi discusses his designs and life with an Italian plane designer by the name of Caproni as they explore Caproni’s airplanes.  It is in these segments that we see into the character of Horikoshi and what he really believes it is to be an engineer. Horikoshi is more of an artist than an engineer, he believes that aircraft are not for profit or for war, merely to be beautiful and to fly. There has been a lot of controversy around this film because Horikoshi’s fighter was used for kamikaze runs, but Miyazaki takes the side of Horikoshi and tells his story. Horikoshi’s fighter was used for great evil, but it was not designed to do so. It was designed to be beautiful and to fly well.  

              There is also a wonderful romance that continues through the entire movie. Horikoshi meets a beautiful young woman during an earthquake and fortunately meets her again at a later time. It is a really touching romance and adds a lot to the film. Also the film has a lot of political commentary about the time that the events occurred. It really shows how Japan changed during this time and how the war affected the common people.  

              Altogether this is a movie that is hard to relate in words, it is something that must be experienced. The animation is absolutely beautiful, the music is wonderful, and it has some of the best voice acting that I have ever seen. All around it’s a great experience and definitely worth the trip to theaters.

             

’300: Rise of an Empire,’ Stick with the First One!

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The Rise of an EmpireBy Jason Peerce

Contributing Guest Writer  

              A long-time comic book fan, I was ecstatic when the first “300” came out and reveled in Frank Miller’s masterpiece being on the big screen.  My friends joked that it was a staple in the “Man Bible,” and I have since seen it many times.  Even my wife liked it! (Although, admittedly, it may have been more for the digitally-enhanced abs of Gerard Butler)

              When “300:  Rise of an Empire” was announced, I was worried because I knew that Hollywood loves to play off success and would happily run something good into the ground for more money.  While I would not go so far as to say that this sequel is an example of something being “run into the ground,” it was too far from the mark.  You have the same slow-motion action sequences, the same background narration, the same theme of Massive Unstoppable Force versus Tiny Freedom Fighters—but this time, on boats.  Other than the change in scenery, I felt like I was watching the same movie minus good dialogue.  Even though one-liners are cheesy, “300” was full of them and added to the over-the-top entertainment value.  “Rise of an Empire” hardly had any; but wait a minute, if it did wouldn’t it be playing off its predecessor even more? Well, yes, but without the cheesy one liners people start to actually pay attention to dialogue and “Rise” starts to seem ridiculous. 

              The one redeeming quality was Eva Green’s portrayal of Artemisia, who seemed to embody the heart of “300,” but happened to be on the Persian side of the war.  She was wonderfully evil and had not only decent dialogue, but a good back story that was more fleshed out than any other character in the movie.  She had a thirst for vengeance and was certainly more convincing of a character than her main Greek foil, that of Sullivan Stapleton’s Themistokles.

              In summary, the first “300” is a movie that I will continue to watch over and over, but its sequel is something that may be occasionally, if ever viewed.  While not exactly a “bad” movie, probably its one overarching flaw is that the first “300” was just such a good movie.  Living in the shadow of a bigger brother like that would be hard for any film.

‘You’re Next,” a Not-So-Horrible Horror Movie!

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You're Next Movie

By Jason Peerce

Contributing Guest Writer, Movie Reviewer

“You’re Next” was released back in August and will be coming to DVD/BR on January 14, but I had the opportunity to watch it via “Movie-on-Demand,” so it’s a great time to do a review!  This comes from the same writer/director team that did “V/H/S” and its sequel and on first glance, it looked like a ripoff of “The Strangers,” so my expectations were not high for this movie, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised.

The movie begins with the murder of a couple and quickly cuts to a quiet scene with an older man and his wife driving to their country home.  The murder scene almost appears random, until you realize that the murder occurred in the neighboring house.  The oblivious couple is soon accompanied by their sons, daughters, and several “extras,” (boyfriends and girlfriends/wives) for a tension-filled family reunion in an old New England Tudor-style home. 

The killing starts in earnest very early on into the movie.  Perhaps its single greatest flaw is that a viewer does not get time to know any of the characters.  The rather dysfunctional dynamics of the family are revealed in a rather rough-shod manner, painting a somewhat generic history of brother/brother and brother/sister issues that have seemingly simmered for years.  Perhaps the most distinguishable character from early on—Drake—is an insufferable jerk and I found myself boyishly rooting for his demise.  Some of the other characters get just a mere handful of lines before they are victims of what is (or appears to be) random violence by a group of animal-masked strangers.  As I mentioned before, “You’re Next” really did appear to be a ripoff of the absolutely terrifying “The Strangers” from 2008.  Masked murderers lying siege to a secluded house, killing or terrorizing its inhabitants, all for apparently no reason—it was heading in a bad direction until it actually got interesting.

What distinguishes it is a pair of plot twists that really make the movie, and I’ll be careful to not say too much here (full disclosure: I guessed the surprise about five minute before it was revealed), but it gave the movie and several of its characters more depth than I thought they would end up with.  In fact, the whole movie takes an upswing about halfway through and becomes pretty entertaining, all of which is spearheaded by the lovely-but-tough-as-nails Erin (played by Sharni Vinson).  I’ve always been a sucker for a strong female lead and Erin is not the typical weak female that “miraculously” prevails at the end—she had me rooting for her the moment the action started and becomes a well-developed character, someone that viewers can really get behind.

In the end, “You’re Next” is less a horror movie and more of a thriller/action, especially as it gained both steam and a plot.  It still has plenty of blood and violence, but goes light on the gore, and ended with a bang.  Unlike many movies in its genre, I would happily watch it again with some friends because it was scary, exciting, and even fun.

Continuing the Epic with ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’

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THE HOBBIT, The Desolation of SmaugBy Jason Peerce

Contributing Guest Writer

Peter Jackson continues his three-part theatrical adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit with “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.”  This visually stunning masterpiece picks up where the first installment left off, which was the trials and tribulations of the Misty Mountains, and takes our group of adventurers (which include twelve dwarves, a hobbit, and a wizard, for those who haven’t seen “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”) through the Mirkwood Forest, past Laketown, and (finally!) to the Lonely Mountain itself, their destination.

That is, in essence, the story: moving from Point A to Point B.  Now, don’t mistake what I’m saying:  their journey is hair-raising and exciting, which makes it a very enjoyable film to watch, but Jackson had to add in several things to entertain audiences and space out the middle third of a 300 page book.  Not only did he throw in an appearance by Orlando Bloom’s character Legolas, but even gave him a love interest in the completely-made-up-character Tauriel, which is a bit of a sore point for me.  A long-time Tolkien fan, I understand why Jackson put in a lot of material that was outside The Hobbit—books such as The Silmarillion may not adapt kindly to the big screen, but the bounty of material that is there helps flesh out the story, especially when making a film trilogy that will take longer to watch than simply reading the book.  The redeeming aspect is that she is a strong character that shows more emotional depth than almost any other character in the movie. 

One of Jackson’s embellishments that I did enjoy was the travels of Gandalf (still played by the wonderful Ian McKellen) after he leaves the party to find their own way through Mirkwood Forest.  This was never a scene in the book, but goes a long way in helping audiences see the connections with “Lord of the Rings” and the rise of Sauron.  Not everyone is familiar with the series, so this is a boon for those who may still be confused and an enjoyable “behind-the-scenes” for long-time fans.

Of course, no review would be complete without a mention of Smaug, the dragon inhabiting the Lonely Mountain.  Benedict Cumberbatch, as the voice of Smaug, is, without a doubt, perfect.  There have not been many talking dragons in film that have not been humorous or corny, but Smaug is neither of those.  The scenes with him in it are some of my favorites and Jackson did a masterful job when building the tension leading up to his big reveal.

Overall, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” was a very enjoyable film to watch, much more so than its predecessor, but something that fan boys (such as myself) have a hard time reconciling with the book.  The fun, light-hearted adventure written for the author’s grandchildren has been turned into a darker, violence-filled saga made for today’s audiences and to build off the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy already made.  Get some popcorn, turn up the volume and enjoy yourself, but be forgiving if the movie does not make you reminiscent for the book read so long ago.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: A Beautiful Tale of Adventure

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December, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

By Matthew Peerce

Contributing Guest Writer

              This movie is absolutely brilliant and a must see. Walter Mitty is a humble daydreamer who finds himself on quite the adventure to track down a photographer and recover a missing negative.

              A lot of fellow movie-viewers lately have been discussing the need for originality and the deplorable lack of it in recent films. Although “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is based on a short story, the movie itself is almost entirely original, and kudos to the screenplay by Steve Conrad. Both the movie and the short story star a daydreamer named Walter Mitty and the similarities stop there. For once, this is a good thing. Although the short story is quite good, it would be an incredibly boring and depressing movie. What Ben Stiller has created instead is an incredible movie with deep characters, adventure, and a fair amount of mystery.

              The movie kind of has a rough start, the daydreams are pretty ridiculous and kind of pull you out of the cinematic experience. You can’t help but watch the scenes and think an out how ridiculous it is and that you are merely an audience privy to an awkward and strange daydream. This might very well be what Ben Stiller was going for and these scenes are quite amusing, they are frankly a bit distracting. But this is definitely a movie worth sticking with, once it gets going the daydreams get much, much less and the film really focuses on the characters and the adventure, which is wonderful.

              This movie is insanely gorgeous. There are beautiful shots in New York, Greenland, Iceland, and Afghanistan. Even the daydreams are beautifully done. The cinematography is absolutely mind blowing and set to a wonderful soundtrack. The music is perfectly selected and fits every scene like a glove.

              The pacing of “The Secret of Walter Mitty” strikes a beautiful balance between action and romance. This makes it a great movie for date nights especially. If you walk into this movie expecting an action packed experience or a comedy from start to finish, you will be sorely disappointed. The Secret Life paces itself very well by having intense scenes throughout it but still dedicating a lot of screen time devoted to story telling and character development.

“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is Ben Stiller’s best work as a director as well as an actor. It is put together very well and, once Walter’s adventure starts, really draws you into a cathartic experience. It is a tale very similar to The Hobbit in that an unknowing and meek character is drawn into an incredible adventure where they find their courage and themselves. Walter Mitty’s character is massively developed throughout the movie and results in a lovable and kick-ass person at the end. Also there is a really intriguing mystery throughout the movie as Walter tries to track down an elusive photographer, played wonderfully by Sean Penn, with only 3 images to go off of.

“The Secret Life” has a great message, that to accomplish or experience anything in life, you must stop daydreaming and start doing. This is a very refreshing movie in that the message is simple and not overtly done. Add this to a beautifully filmed movie with deep characters and a great plot and it becomes a movie definitely worth a trip to the theaters for.

To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer,to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”

Disney’s new movie, ‘Frozen.’ Good or bad?

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FROZEN

By Matthew Peerce

Contributing Guest Writer

Elsa is a young princess with magical powers that she cannot control. After her parents die she locks herself in a room for the rest of her childhood and only comes out for her coronation, which she must attend. After her coronation she loses control of her powers and almost injures several people. She then runs into the mountains to live as a hermit so that she does not harm anyone. Unbeknownst to her the kingdom is in eternal winter because of her. As her sister, Anna, sets out to find her and stop the winter she meets some interesting characters to help her on her way.

The movie itself started out very good. It was witty, charming, and entertaining for the most part. The introduction really intrigued me and pulled me into the story and even had some pretty good musical numbers and lots of famous painting references, always plus. It was pretty humorous and in a very short time you get to see the depth of the characters.

However, once the coronation is underway the plot seems to unwind, as do the musical numbers. Elsa’s songs suddenly have an awful country twang. Additionally the plot becomes completely driven by the characters’ terrible decisions and refusal to communicate with each other. Anna gets all dreamy about men and decides to marry someone that she just met, which seems very out of line with her character. Even the audience thinks that this is a stupid decision. Elsa refuses to let this happen and loses her temper and control over her magical powers. She then runs to the hills and erects a magical ice castle while singing one of the worst songs that I have heard in Disney. Elsa would have made a truly wonderful villainess at this point (she even looks the part), but instead, the movie has a pretty decent plot twist. The children in our audience clearly didn’t see it coming, as they all let out a horrified gasp.

There were a lot of things that I truly appreciate about the movie. In my opinion, Anna really makes the movie worth seeing. She is a spunky, reckless, and fearless princess that loves life. She is somewhat similar to Rapunzel in this way and is a strong female character. Also the movie seems to set out to destroy previous Disney movies’ notions of “true love” and “the one.”  It has a very strong feminism message to young girls that is subtly done, so as to not be overbearing.

However, the plot itself was not particularly well done. Some of the characters’ decisions did not really make sense and the villain was pretty dumb. After Olaf, the snowman, is introduced a large portion of the script seems to be devoted to jokes. I am all for comedic relief but it becomes somewhat overbearing.

If you have children, especially girls, this movie is definitely a “must see.” I can see why kids would love it; it is packed full of jokes and funny characters and has a warm-hearted message of sisterly love and strong female characters. If you don’t have children it is still worth a trip to the theaters. I am sure that Disney was trying for another “Tangled” or “Mulan,” but they missed the mark. Disney created some truly wonderful characters here, but the movie is missing a good villain and a well driven plot. It just does not have the level of conflict that recent movies like “Brave” had.

‘Deadline’ is a powerful movie with a conscience

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Once in a while, a movie is made that affects social consciousness and creates a conduit for important change in one’s self, in one’s country. As Robert Kennedy once said: “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

“Deadline” is one of these movies. The movie is inspired by Mark Ethridge’s 2006 book, Grievances, which detailed his reporting for the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer about an unsolved murder of a young African-American in a small South Carolina town. Ethridge also wrote the screenplay for “Deadline” and moved the story from North Carolina to present day Alabama and Nashville.

Directed by Nashville’s Curt Hahn, “Deadline” offers an excellent depiction of the segregated, racist South. It is a murder mystery of the highest sort. The kind that niggles at you in a relentless way and makes you long to know the truth. And even though the core of this story takes place long ago, it brings a new awareness to current hostilities and racist secrets of towns haunted by their past.

“Deadline” focuses on a small town in Alabama with big secrets. Those big secrets cover up the murder of an African-American youth in rural Alabama that has gone unsolved for almost 20 years. In fact, the murder was never really investigated, much less solved. But Matt Harper, (Steve Talley) who is a reporter for the Nashville Times, meets Trey Hall, (Lauren Jenkins), a conscientious rich girl from Alabama who wants to uncover the truth about the murder since their housekeeper, Mary Pell Sampson (Nashville’s Jackie Welch) is the mother of the slain boy, Wallace Sampson (Romonte Hamer).  Despite objections from the Nashville Times publisher, Harper undertakes the investigation and works with his scraggly colleague Ronnie Bullock (Oscar nominee Eric Roberts) to uncover the truth. Along the way, there are violent threats from folks in Alabama who don’t want the story to be told, problems with Harper’s fiancé, Delana Calhoun (Anna Felix) and Harper’s father’s impending death from cancer. Harper’s father, Lucas Harper, is played by J.D. Souther who is a singer/songwriter and was a lyricist for the Eagles.

As for the actors, they are all…well, remarkable. Jackie Welch gives a solid, strong performance as Mary Pell, the elderly woman who harbors one of the biggest secrets of all. Never overly wrought, she displays a calm strength that carries her life’s burdens and heartbreaking pain.

Steve Talley, as the young handsome Matt Harper, is infectious, believable and likeable on the big screen. I predict we’ll see much bigger things from him in the future.

J.D. Souther who plays Lucas Harper, Matt’s father, is stellar in his performance of a dying man with cancer. The story between Matt and his father is actually based on the real-life relationship Ethridge had with his own father, the legendary Louisville Courier-Journal editor, Mark F. Ethridge.

Romonte Hamer, who plays Wallace Sampson in the prologue of the movie, is new to the big screen and is sweet, handsome, poetic, and destined to become a star.

All the actors give outstanding performances and are a credit to this small, indie film.

In a nutshell, “Deadline” aptly portrays the South and all its faults, but it also highlights the South’s ability to rise above its faults and come together in the spirit of justice and humanity. It is a movie about journalistic integrity and the importance of the free press in a world where free speech is not always upheld. It is a movie that has a consciousness – sadly, something that many movies ignore these days.

“Auteur” theory holds that a director’s films reflect personal creative vision as if he or she were the primary “Auteur,” meaning author. From the earliest silent films to contemporary times, motion pictures have crossed over and both entertained and educated the viewing audience. “Deadline” is this kind of movie. Produced by Transcendent, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nashville’s Film House, it provides a social conduit reflecting and commenting about society and the times. Transcendent produces independent features and inspiring, uplifting films that “speak to the viewer’s heart” and are often overlooked by Hollywood. Since this is an independent film, money has been tight and director Curt Hahn (and head of Transcendent film productions) and Ethridge are launching rolling premieres and partnering with newspapers in markets across the South. Themovie had its first premiere in Nashville on Wednesday in conjunction with The Tennessean, which allowed the movie to be filmed in its newsroom. More than 1,000 people attended the premiere in Nashville this past week, raising $13,000 for Family & Children’s Service.

Before the movie opens nationally on April 13, Hahn and Ethridge will board a bus to crisscross the South, hitting premieres in cities like Memphis, Tennessee; Naples and Tampla, Florida; Dallas, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; and Columbia, S.C. If the bus rolls into your city, be sure and support this film by going out to see it. You won’t regret it, I promise you.

Whatever you do – wherever you are - do not miss this film. It kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time.  I loved it and you will, too. In fact, the snow has stopped in Nashville and I think I’ll go and see it a second time today.  Everyone, I hope to see you there! I’ll save you a seat!

“Breaking Dawn, Part 1″ Surpasses All Expectations!

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This movie is my favorite of all the Twilight movies with the exception of the first one. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke, the first movie, Twilight, set the stage for the romance and longing that would be thematic through each succeeding movie. Breaking Dawn, Part 1 continued the same feeling of romance and timelessness that the first one invoked. I also liked the first and last books of the Twilight series the best. In the first book (and movie), Bella and Edward meet and fall in love. There is nothing like that moment of falling in love and that first book and movie captured this. And in the last book (and movie), they consummate their relationship and love with a fantasy wedding and “ever after.”

Bill Condon (Dream Girls, Gods and Monsters) directed Breaking Dawn, Part 1 and Melissa Rosenberg wrote the script, as she has for all the Twilight films. They did a masterful, beautiful job and stayed true to author Stephenie Meyer’s vision. If you haven’t read the books, then you’re missing a lot. Yes, you can still enjoy the movies, but you’re going to miss the intricacies that make a story great. Like other books (Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, etc.) the Twilight books are complicated and in-depth. But that’s what makes them so great. They are full of heart. They appeal to girls and boys of all ages because they’re about love. (Boys will deny that they love the books, but many do). The Twilight story is about meeting someone you love so intensely, you know you cannot live without them. It’s an idealized love, sure, but it’s one that all of us long for. It’s the “Cinderella” story of the 21st century. It’s intoxicating.

This review will contain spoilers. Most of you have read the books, so you already know what to expect in the movie. And most diehard fans probably saw the movie during its opening weekend of November 18th, so as you read this, you will understand what I’m thinking, what I’m saying.

One thing I noticed in the movie: all the actors have matured in the 4 years since Twilight began and all are more confident, accomplished actors. Which is fitting for the story because Bella and Edward mature in the books. They grow confident in themselves and of their relationship and it’s wonderful to see this reflected in the movie. When we first met Bella (Kristen Stewart) in Twilight, the original 2008 feature, she was a clumsy, quiet, book-nerdish high-school student surviving adolescence in Forks, Washington. Just a few years later, Bella’s not only graduating from high school, she’s walking down the aisle to marry her “Prince Charming,” in this case, vampire Edward Cullen.

The movie opens with the wedding of Bella and Edward and it is the most fairytale, picturesque wedding I’ve ever seen. Set outdoors in the forest with wood-hewn seats and white flowers forming an overhead canopy from the trees, this wedding is stunning in every way. When Bella and Edward have their first kiss as a married couple, Iron & Wine’s “Flightless Bird, American Mouth (wedding version)” soars through the scene, harkening back to the first Twilight movie. It was the same song that played when Bella and Edward had their first dance at the prom. Nothing could have evoked such stirring, emotional feelings of love as this song and moment. We fell in love with Bella and Edward then as a couple and three years later, we’re celebrating that love again.

Bella’s high school friends are at the wedding and Jessica (Anna Kendrick) has her “scene stealing” moments when she says: “I wonder if she’ll be showing,” to her friend Angela. “Why else does anyone get married at 18?”

There is also humor in the film and during the reception, several people give a toast to the newlyweds including Jessica who talks about how everyone had a crush on Edward in high school, but then it became “all about Bella” even though Bella wasn’t the president of anything. Charlie (Billy Burke) who plays Bella’s father gave one of the funniest toasts, proclaiming, “I am a cop and I know things. I know how to hunt people down….” I would have liked to have seen a few more scenes with Bella and her father because that was one of the highlights of all the films. When she talks to him while on her honeymoon and he says, “So, I guess Edward still walks on water,” I thought it was great. Bella’s mom, Renee (Sarah Clarke) is hilarious as she sings a lullaby to Bella as her way of “toasting” her. It’s really funny. Stephenie Meyer was among the guests at the wedding, as was Melissa Rosenberg. I thought this was a fun nod to them and to Twilight fans as well.

Jacob (Taylor Lautner) surprises Bella at the wedding reception and Bella feels complete. It is only when she tells him that she plans to have a traditional honeymoon while still human that Jacob loses it and has to be escorted off the property by his wolf-pack brothers. All through the movie, we see Jacob mature as well as he comes to a new understanding of the Cullen family. At one point, he says: “I can see that you all are a real family, just as much as the family I was born into.”

Bella and Edward leave on their honeymoon and go to Rio de Janeiro and dance in the streets, then boat on to Isle Esme, a gift from Carlisle and Esme. Their honeymoon night is fraught with nerves and tension, but a moonlight swim helps to ease the stress of “the first time” for both of them. And Edward tells her: “I promised you we’ll try.” It was romantic and perfect. And it was Stewart’s and Pattinson’s strongest performances to date. You can feel Bella’s hunger and desire for Edward. You can feel the love between the two. One of the best moments is “the morning after” when Bella is reliving her night with Edward, remembering moments….a kiss….a touch…his lips…It’s the way we all remember the first time, I believe. We relish in the memories the day after and this was conveyed so beautifully in the movie.

After the first night, he tries to distract her from “the marriage bed” because his strength is almost too much for her and she has the bruises to show this. And he can’t stand the thought of hurting her. And, he wrecked the bedroom, tearing down the canopy around the bed, the bed frame, the window frame and more. It was comical and added humor to the moment.  She tries to seduce him during the rest of the honeymoon, parading in front of him in a black nightie that Alice (Ashley Green) packed for her. He laughs and turns away.

The movie will be wonderful for all young girls who are anticipating their “first time” with a guy. It shows the nervousness, the excitement, the beauty and the romance of that first idyllic moment when you have your first sexual experience. It is tastefully done.

Bella discovers that she’s pregnant and the fetus is growing at an alarming rate. Edward wants her to get rid of it because he knows the baby is going to kill her. And even though Bella is going to be turned into a vampire eventually, he worries that she won’t live long enough to birth the baby. Bella is determined that the baby must be brought to term even if it kills her.

The birth and imprinting scenes were very well done and I believe anyone watching it will understand what “imprinting” is. The birth of the hybrid baby is a little gory, I will admit that. But, it stayed true to the book and this was important. (It’s a little girl (Mackenzie Foy, who is beautiful and looks like she could be Stewart’s and Pattinson’s real-life baby) who Bella names Reneesmee after Renee and Esme). And then, when Jacob imprints on the baby, I loved how they showed the baby grown up as a young woman and all the scenes of this young woman running through the fields. (Seems like there could definitely be a sequel to this Twilight series called “Jacob & Reneesmee.” Wouldn’t we all like to see if they get married?)

Bella and Edward return to Forks, Washington where Bella is “sick” and her fetus is growing at an alarming rate. She looks like a refugee from a concentration camp – all bones and stomach. (Rob Pattinson explained on a talk show that they used a computer-generated body that they attached to Stewart’s head to make her look emaciated).

Jacob (Taylor Lautner) learns that Bella is sick and supposedly staying on her honeymoon for an extended time to recover, he visits the Cullen’s house and discovers that not only is Bella sick, but she’s also pregnant with a half-vampire, half-human hybrid who’s destroying her from the inside out. His wolf-pack’s leader Sam (Chaske Spencer) wants him to join their fight to kill Bella and destroy the seemingly dangerous fetus who will “kill them all.” Jacob won’t agree to this and declares his independence from the pack. This scene, done in wolf form with Condon’s other new addition, wolf-pack telepathy, was intense and clearly illustrated how the wolves all communicate psychically with one another. Once Jacob separates from the pack, Seth (Booboo Stewart) and Leah (Julia Jones) join Jacob because they believe it’s the right thing to do

Bella has to resort to drinking blood to give the proper nutrition to the baby. You might think this is gross, but by this time, Bella will try anything because she’s dying. Edward says that animal blood won’t do and Carlisle announces he has some O-negative in stock for Bella. The whole Cullen family is starved for blood because they can’t go out to hunt since the wolf-pack are surrounding their property. The hungry brothers-in-law leave the room so as to not be tempted. Edward has Carlisle put the blood in a white Styrofoam cup to disguise what she’s drinking. But it stains her lips and teeth and looks like the real thing. She says it tastes good though and Carlisle confirms that her blood pressure is already up, proving that the baby does indeed need blood “nutrition.”

In case you haven’t seen the movie, I’m not going to go into the last part of it. I want you to go see it and be surprised. I want you to experience the intensity of the moments of romance, the wedding, the honeymoon, the birth, the liaison between Rosalie (Nikki Reed) and Bella who connive together to save the baby, the problems Jacob has with his wolf-pack brothers, the growth of the characters, the love, the devotion, and so much more.

And the music is wonderful. Carter Burwell scored this movie (as he did for Twilight) and it adds continuity to the first Twilight movie. When Bella “dies,” there is a tie-in to all the other movies that bring it full-circle. But, I’m not going to elaborate on that. Again, I want you to go see it for yourself. And if you haven’t read the books, go get them now. You have no excuse.

I will probably see it several times while it’s in the theater. It is just wonderful.