Fangs for the memories as vampire story ends
Romance/Drama/Action. Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Kellan Lutz, Billy Burke, Michael Sheen, Jamie Campbell Bower, Christopher Heyerdahl, Dakota Fanning, Cameron Bright, Charlie Bewley, Daniel Cudmore, Maggie Grace. Director: Bill Condon.
The concluding chapter of the outlandish fang-tasy series based on Stephenie Meyer's best-selling books delivers a master class in constructing CGI mountains out of molehills.
The Twilight Saga: Treading Water would be more apt, considering how scriptwriter Melissa Rosenberg manages to expand 30 minutes of plot into two hours of anticipation and dread.
A climactic battle royale between the diabolical Volturi and the Cullens is certainly spectacular and director Bill Condon, who also helmed Part 1, orchestrates this special effects-heavy mayhem with verve.
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Airborne vampires and snarling werewolves tumble acrobatically across the screen while locked in mortal combat, their desperate struggles ended with a sickening snap of a neck or crude decapitation.
Were these brave warriors anything but otherworldly creatures, which miraculously don't bleed when injured, the relentless on-screen carnage would merit a 15 certificate.
Before all of the slavering jaws and severed limbs, the fifth instalment in the series doesn't justify the decision by film-makers to cleave Meyer's final book in two a la Harry Potter.
Substance is woefully lacking and there are only so many slow-motion smooches that can paper over the cracks before the most ardent members of Team Edward and Team Jacob will start to look nervously at their watches.
Part 2 begins with Bella (Kristen Stewart) re-awakening as a vampire.
Opening scenes visualise her heightened senses: the sound of a spider spinning its web, the music of a passing breeze, a trickle of a bead of water down a glass.
She sees and hears everything, contentedly falling back into the arms of lover Edward (Robert Pattinson). Soon after, best friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) arrives and is taken aback by Bella's rejuvenation.
"I didn't expect you to seem so... 'you'... except for the creepy eyes," he grins.
Jacob confesses to Bella that he has imprinted on their half-mortal, half-vampire offspring, Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy).
Once the young mother recovers from the shock and accepts Jacob as her daughter's protector, Bella and Edward settle into domestic bliss with the rest of the Cullen clan: Dr Carlisle (Peter Facinelli), Esme (Elizabeth Reaser), Alice (Ashley Greene), Rosalie (Nikki Reed), Emmett (Kellan Lutz) and Jasper (Jackson Rathbone).
Alas, their joy is short-lived when Edward's cousin Irina (Maggie Grace) mistakenly identifies Renesmee as an immortal child – an abomination under ancient vampire law.
She reports her fears to the Volturi, the vampire counsel led by Aro (Michael Sheen), Caius (Jamie Campbell Bower) and Marcus (Christopher Heyerdahl), and they marshal an army including sibling guards Jane (Dakota Fanning) and Alec (Cameron Bright) and enforcers Demetri (Charlie Bewley) and Felix (Daniel Cudmore).
Aside from the impressive final showdown, Breaking Dawn – Part 2 feels like the dying breaths of a cash cow being milked dry.
Stewart and Pattinson stare dreamily into each other's eyes to an angst-heavy soundtrack of Green Day, Ellie Goulding, Christina Perri and Feist, and make gushing declarations – "I'm never going to get tired of this!" – that inspire wry smiles in light of tabloid revelations.
Lautner appeases fans with another scene of gratuitous nudity, while Sheen devours the very expensive scenery as the bloodsucking elder with an unquenchable thirst for slaughter.
A protracted montage of the leading couple in clinches is more filler, but Condon does deliver one nice touch by individually honouring actors from all five films as he fades to black. Credit where it's due.
Drama. Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Jesse Plemons, Ambyr Childers, Laura Dern. Director: Paul Thomas Anderson.
If art is judged on its ability to provoke debate, then Paul Thomas Anderson makes great art.
From his eye-catching 1997 portrait of the adult entertainment industry, Boogie Nights, which reinvigorated Mark Wahlberg's screen fortunes, to the bombast of There Will Be Blood, featuring Daniel Day Lewis, the Californian writer-director has consistently challenged us.
With The Master, Anderson has incurred the wrath of the Church of Scientology, which has campaigned vociferously against this emotionally wrought tale of a cult leader welcoming a new recruit into the fold.
What follows is an overlong demonstration of virtuoso film-making that is by turns dazzling and boorishly pretentious.
Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is the figurehead of a burgeoning philosophical movement known as The Cause.
His followers grow in number and he is delighted to welcome alcoholic war veteran Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) into the fold as his "guinea pig and protege", despite the warnings of his wife Peggy (Amy Adams).
She recognises Freddie as a damaged and emotionally volatile soul and tries to curb his dangerous impulses.
However, that primal rage which percolates inside Freddie proves useful for Lancaster as he encounters resistance to his argument and even scorn from his own son.
The Master is distinguished by its performances.
Phoenix's unswerving commitment to his role is undeniable. At times, he drifts through scenes in a drowsy stupor, incomprehension flickering in his eyes as he searches for salvation.
In other scenes, rage explodes, most notably in a police cell when he repeatedly slams his naked shoulders against the cast iron frame of a bed frame with enough force not just to split skin but to fracture bone as well.
Hoffman is charismatic as the leader, who may or may not hold all of the answers, shepherding his flock until a non-believer dares to question his vision in front of his disciples and punctures the bubble of superiority that envelops him.
Adams will also be vying for Oscar consideration for her steely supporting performance as the power behind the throne.
Anderson's film is easy to admire for its ambition and directorial verve, but hard to worship for the protracted sequences of pointlessness that test our patience far beyond breaking point.