“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2”

Richard’s review: 3 1/2  stars

This is it… or is it just the beginning of Edward Cullen and Bella Swan’s immortal romance? I don’t know. All I know is the release of “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2” means the film franchise is over and it goes out with probably the most enjoyable movie of the bunch. It’s out with the angst, and in with a newfound sense of fun.

The previous movies struck me as overly ponderous; this one is actually quite funny, occasionally even bordering on camp. And that’s OK given that the story of vampire babies and ab-tastic werewolves is rather silly.

Picking up where the last movie left off -- both films are based on a single book, Stephenie Meyer’s “Breaking Dawn” – this entry begins with the rebirth of Bella (Kristen Stewart) as a vampire following the arrival of her half-human, half-bloodsucker baby Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy). Bella loves her newfound life, or whatever it is the undead call their existence. She doesn’t get tired, doesn’t have to eat and vampire sexy time is supernaturally satisfying. Edward can’t stop smiling, their baby is growing by leaps and bounds, literally, but there is darkness afoot.

An allegation regarding the child finds its way to the Volturi, an ancient, vengeful coven of vampires who enforce the laws of the vampire world. The film leads to a showdown between Edward and Bella’s extended family and the old ones which could lead to a culling of the Cullen clan.

It took five movies to finally get the tone of this story right. The first movies were teen angst personified through Bella’s brooding and Edward’s ennui. It’s as if these popular movies contained the cinematic equivalent of a dog whistle, subtext that only teenage girls could hear and see, which left anyone over the age of 30 out in the cold. Four movies of sad faces and staring off into space may have captured the pain of teen love, but, if you’ll excuse the pun, they also sucked some of the lifeblood from the story.

Director Bill Condon, who also helmed part one of the story, embraces the ridiculousness of this premise without losing the horror-Harlequin feel that made the star-crossed lovers storyline so appealing to Twihards. Bella and Edward still share an eternal love, and the addition of Renesmee has only strengthened that feeling, but now they’re having some fun. Edward, if you watch closely, even smiles occasionally.

It’s a big step from the first installment and it makes for a fun movie. Intentional laugh lines. – For example, when Bella’s dad learns of Jacob’s (Taylor Lautner) lycnthropian ability he says to his daughter, “You don’t turn into an animal too, do you?” These laughs are mixed with some unintentional gags -- Russian vampires anyone? -- and get topped off with some playful action, like Bella wrestling with a cougar.

The cumulative effect helps to create a rare undead story that is entertaining and life affirming, with less of the stuff that made the previous movies tough going for non-romantically inclined fang bangers.

“A Liar’s Autobiography – The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman”

Richard’s review: 3 stars

These days the only movies that get screened at midnight are big Hollywood blockbusters hoping to squeeze a few extra bucks out of fanboys and girls with added showings. There was a time, however, when midnight movies were Midnight Movies, with capital m's. Years ago the term referred to mind-bending fare like “El Topo” and “Eraserhead,” counterculture movies that brought together like-minded --read stoned--people for singular movie experiences.

"A Liar's Autobiography - The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman" is a Midnight Movie, a film that would benefit from the altered states that characterized the classic midnight viewing experience.

Chapman was many things, including a gay Cambridge graduate, physician, writer and actor. But it is as a founding member of Monty Python that he is remembered.

 "A Liar's Autobiography," directed by Python Terry Jones's son, Bill, and based on Chapman's book of the same name is an animated, impressionistic, surreal portrait of the comedian that doesn't focus on the funny.

Chapman was a complicated man. An alcoholic who drank four pints of gin a day to dull the pain of his insecurities, Chapman rebelled against the "airlock" of fame, while hanging out in Los Angeles clubs with Keith Moon and Marty Feldman.

The film begins with a brain freeze on stage, then cuts to his birth in Second World War England. At three years of age he witnessed a wartime incident when his street was littered with body parts.

"Oh come on mum, this must be one of my major formative experiences!" he says, although we never really find out whether it was or not. Instead, we are treated to a series of impressionist biographical tidbits that only loosely hang together.

The formation of Monty Python is set in a Monkey Zoo, fame is portrayed as being in outer space and Chapman’s journey to discover his sexuality is shown as a rollercoaster. It'll keep your eyes dancing, but isn’t very satisfying as a narrative.

Aping the anarchistic spirit of “Monty Python,” the style of animation switches every few minutes, which keeps things lively and adds a disjointed feeling to the story. The cumulative effect of the imaginative visuals is meant to create a fitting portrait of Chapman’s raucous life. That said, it only succeeds in splitting the viewer’s attention one too many ways.

"A Liar's Autobiography" isn’t simply a greatest hits packages of Chapman’s best known work, which is interesting, but it doesn’t quote work as a bio either.

The narration and many of the voices are supplied by Chapman, taken from recordings made before his 1989 death. They help to give some insight into Chapman’s coming out -- he invited all his friends over to announce he was “a bit bent” – as well as his  alcoholism, sexual appetite and problems with fame.

A movie about Chapman should be funny, right? But it’s not. This movie works best when gentle humour mixes with and insight  -- a sequence about “Niven-ism,” the Hollywood disease characterized by name-dropping, is letter perfect.

“Your Sister’s Sister DVD”

Richard’s review: 2 stars

“Your Sister’s Sister” contains the most modest sex scene of the year. It’s the kind of scene where great care is taken to pull blankets up to the neck and whatever glimpses of unblanketed human form are on display are shrouded in a T-shirt. It’s a sequence that sums up this entire movie, which is modest and not nearly as revealing as it should be.

Actor–director Lynn Shelton has created a three-hander to examine the fraught relationship between a trio of people, sisters Iris and Hannah (Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt) and Jack (Mark Duplass) the brother of Iris’ late ex-boyfriend. The odd bunchfind themselves at a remote family cottage, examining their relationships after a night of drunken fun goes too far.

A mix of improvisation and scripted dialogue, “Your Sister’s Sister” is a nicely-performed piece that feels like a nicely performed piece and little more. Characters talk about themselves and their relationships, but their development feels stagey and often contrived. It’s a case of good actors saddled with too much dialogue and bad editing. Scenes go on longer than they should, and by the time we get to the romcom-esque ending the movie has a hard time justifying its 90-minute running time.

“360” DVD

Richard’s reviews 2 1/2 stars

Like the name suggest “360,” the new film from “City of God” and “The Constant Gardener” director Fernando Meirelles, is a well-rounded look at its subject. The film tells a complicated story that mixes-and-matches the lives of globe-trotting characters from all over the world into one intertwined narrative.

Familiar faces like Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, Ben Foster and Anthony Hopkins headline the cast, which also includes international stars Jamel Debbouze and Moritz Bleibtreu working from a script by “The Queen” scribe Peter Morgan. Based on themes of love, life, loss of life and infidelity, the story casts a wide net to include the story of a young Slovakian woman who looks to prostitution as a way of escaping poverty, an older man searching for his missing daughter and a Muslin man struggling with feelings of love for a married co-worker.

As well acted and compelling much of “360” is I couldn’t help but feel a better movie could have been made if fewer stories were essayed. Like so many of these attempts at multi-pronged storytelling, what could have been a rich experience becomes muddled by the sheer volume of stories and characters. Instead, how about choosing any one of the story threads and fully exploring the characters and situations, sewing up loose ends and not worrying too much about weaving together all the disparate story elements?

Meirelles; “360” isn’t a bad movie, far from it. He’s too skilled a director for that. But Meirelles is also ambitious. This time it feels as though his storytelling ambitions got the best of him as he tries to bring too many stories to the table.