Movie Reviews: New Moon, The Princess and the Frog, Invictus

Sophia Bollag

New Moon

I am sad to say that Robert Pattinson has finally mastered his American accent. Too bad. His strange pronunciations and awkward pauses were one of the only reasons Twilight was entertaining. The worst part of the sequel, New Moon, is that it is far better than Twilight, which sounds odd, until you take into account that it was the cheesy, awkward moments in the first movie that made it worth watching (and laughing at) in the first place. Take those away, and you are left with a poorly scripted, clichéd film with a shallow plot; Pattinson’s improved line-delivery is just one example.

For those of you who have not read the book, the storyline of New Moon is centered around the main character Bella’s grief when her beloved vampire boyfriend, Edward, abandons her. She spends the majority of the movie moping around, screaming, and doing stupid things, like deliberately crashing into a tree while riding a motorcycle and jumping off a cliff. Her reasoning (or, more accurately, lack of reasoning) is that practicing daredevil stunts will allow her to “see” Edward (of whom she has hallucinations when she gets an adrenaline rush).

Bella’s friend, Jacob, who lives on the nearby Indian reservation, becomes concerned with her reckless behavior, and tries to comfort her about Edward. Jacob turns out to be a werewolf and promises to protect Bella from the evil vampires (not to be confused with Edward’s clan, the Cullens, who are good vampires).

The cast included Kristen Stewart (Bella), Robert Pattinson (Edward), Taylor Lautner (Jacob), and Dakota Fanning (who played an evil vampire).

The acting, for the most part, was decent. The screenplay however, was terrible, so the good acting didn’t make much of a difference.  Cheesy lines such as Edward’s: “Bella, you give me everything just by breathing,” filled the dialogue. Clichés can be forgiven in small quantities, but the writers of New Moon clearly know nothing about moderation—every other line was predictable.

Despite its many flaws in other areas, the movie’s cinematography and soundtrack lived up to expectations. The spinning camera angle when Bella collapses in the middle of the woods after Edward abandons her, for example, is appropriately dizzying and effective in communicating her confusion. Scenes of lush forest and jagged cliffs conveyed a sense of believable romance that was missing from the script.

Camera work was consistently impressive and gave the film a professional aspect that, unfortunately, clashed with the rest of the movie. Many of the songs were played at the same volume as the characters’ voices, but the artistic decision to have the background music much louder than is customary for films was a good one as it gave the movie a moody feel (and helped to drown out some of the poor dialogue).

The Princess and the Frog

I entered the theater to see Disney’s new animated film, The Princess and the Frog, with raised eyebrows, but just minutes into the movie, my expression changed from skeptical to enthralled. The trailers for the new Disney princess movie really had not done the film justice.

The movie, set in New Orleans in the 1920s, follows the story of hard-working and ambitious Tiana (voice of Anika Noni Rose), who, as she says so well herself, “has been working twice as hard as everybody else to get half as much.” As a young, African American woman at that time, the path to her ultimate goal, owning a successful restaurant, is rife with obstacles. When she is convinced to kiss the smooth-talking Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) who has been turned into a frog by the evil Dr. Facilier (Keith David), she magically turns into a frog herself (the reason for this is unclear, but is not so confusing as to ruin the effect).

What is so refreshing about this particular movie is that it is about a princess saving a prince, and not the other way around. Although both Tiana and Prince Naveen are in trouble, it is primarily Tiana’s wit which enables them to triumph, and not Naveen’s.

The music is excellent. For the first time, Disney has created a princess whose voice isn’t ridiculously high and sweet. Tiana’s voice is deeper and smoother, yet still very feminine; perfect for a more updated version of the classic animated heroine. Many of the songs are catchy and upbeat, and definitely have the potential to become Disney classics.

Almost everything about The Princess and the Frog, from the characters to the animation, was enchanting. The moral of the story, that you have to do more than just wish to get what you want, is not bad either (for a children’s movie). The film also touched on deeper themes—although there was no blatant racism, it was clear that Tiana had to work harder to get what she wanted than her Caucasian peers, and the contrast between the standard of living for the whites in the city and the blacks was portrayed well.

Invictus

Despite the impressive cast and director (Clint Eastwood), Invictus was rather disappointing.

The movie chronicles former South African president Nelson Mandela’s struggle to unite his people in the wake of apartheid during the early 90s. Mandela decides that the easiest way to do this will be to create national pride in the country’s rugby team, the Springboks. He encourages the captain of the team, Francois Pienaar, to lead the Springboks to victory at the World Cup. As a parallel storyline, the movie depicts the tension between Mandela’s black bodyguards and the new white ones who join them when Mandela is elected president. There is also an element of tension regarding Mandela’s family, which is never fully explained. Morgan Freeman plays the part of Mandela, and Matt Damon the part of Pienaar.

While the screenplay and acting were impressive, the plot, which could have been inspiring, was simply boring. For the majority of the film, Mandela is shown interrupting meetings to watch rugby matches and being frowned upon by members of his cabinet for being eccentric. Overall, Eastwood did not portray Mandela in an especially flattering way, although it is clear that the director intended to do so. The scenes depicting Mandela’s prison cell were moving and the film’s namesake, the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley, is truly inspiring, but these aspects alone are not enough to make the film worth watching.Although the story itself had potential, the way it played out in the film was dry and uninteresting.

Photos: Matt Damon stars as Francois Pienaar in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Spyglass Entertainment’s drama “Invictus.” (Handout/MCT) Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart star in “The Twilight Saga: New Moon.” (K. French/MCT)