Mike at the Movies

“The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” (PG-13) **

I still don’t like vampire movies. Call me contrarian and I know that what the critics say will not touch these pictures, but that does not remove from us the responsibility for commenting on their weaknesses.

Start with the actors: Robert Pattison still mumbles, poses and slinks his way through these films; Taylor Lautner still has little more than his abs to deal with in terms of talent; and Kristen Stewart’s lines never reach her eyes. She looks eternally vapid, a worthy and willing target of the vampires who are trying to recruit her or, in the case of Edward (Pattison), trying to save her from a fate worse than death as a fellow vampire. This is vampire who cares.

There is another problem with this film: The producers don’t seem to care about getting a new audience or are relying on DVD sales to let potential new viewers find out what the basic story line is in parts one and two. The first 30 minutes of “Eclipse” must be total gobbledygook to the uninitiated. In fact, it is an apparent assumption that no exposition at all is needed to enjoy this film, thus violating the primary rule of sequels: make sure the film stands on its own. This one simply does not.

Yes, there are touches of humor, sort of. Edward asks, wryly, of the bare-chested Jacob (Lautner): “Doesn’t he own a shirt?” And the only really clever line of the film, in which the high-temperature werewolf Lautner is stripping down to warm up a chilly Bella and says to Edward, the cold-blooded vampire, “After all, I am hotter than you.” In this series, that remark passes for profundity.

If you’re not careful, you forget that Bella is being asked to make a choice between dying as a “human” if she becomes a vampire and becoming a werewolf’s bride. Some choice!

This stuff will rake in the dough because there are readers of vampire literature and the films are by now a franchise. But I still have the right and obligation to say that it is a lousy film.

“Predators” (R) **

The actors in this film literally fall from the heavens to take part in it. That is part of the plot to make them, all “predators” of one sort or another on earth, targets of superior predators on some unnamed planet. As soon as you realize this is an interplanetary explosion of violence with lots of gooey stuff oozing out of open wounds, lots of sort of maggots, exploding limbs and improbably destructive fights that go on for a long time, you can relax because you know there is only one story line: Can the humans find a way to eliminate the super-villains before they are all wiped out?

Some strange things happen here: Royce (Adrian Brody) tells the human predators they can survive only if they don’t run. A scene later they run like crazy. Noland (Laurence Fishburne) brags about being a survivor for 10 years and in the next scene gets blown away.

But like I said, once you realize what this is, no attention to plot is necessary. The director and writers didn’t pay much attention, so why should you?

“Despicable Me” (PG) ****

This film takes some time to adapt to. Its atmosphere is strange, the cartooning old-fashioned in terms of exaggerated shapes and movement, and the premise a bit foggy. Once you get settled in and realize that this is the Scrooge story in terms of redemption of an old, crabby guy, and once you yield to the robots, you’re in good hands.

Gru (voiced extraordinarily by Steve Carell) is an arch-villain who finds himself outdone by somebody who steals the Giza Pyramid. Gru wants to steal the moon to expand his reputation. In order to do that, he has to shrink it so he seeks funding for a Shrink Machine. That funding is to come from a bank for villains run by the father of Gru’s greatest competitor and the guy who stole the pyramid, Vector, (voiced by Jason Segel). Because only three orphans are able to penetrate Vector’s lair to get the Shrinking Machine he steals from Gru, Gru “adopts” the three from Miss Hattie’s Home for Girls.

Take your pick: Either the robots or the trio of Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Geier) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher) steal the movie as well as the heart of Gru. The film is filled with fantastic machines and events, including the shrinking of the moon and a conscience-stirring missed ballet recital, even though Gru gave a “pinkie promise” to make it. (Some things never change.)

I didn’t understand a word of the robots’ dialogue and will have to figure out the difference between the one-eyed ones and the two-eyed ones, but every appearance of them makes you chuckle if not giggle out loud. Certainly the kids in the audience related to them; the laughter that greeted their every appearance was ample evidence of youthful audience appeal.

Many of the recent animated features have appealed to both adults and children. This one is more targeted at the younger set. Their world is still magical enough for them to spend less time figuring out what’s going on and more time simply enjoying it.

Find more of Mike’s movie reviews on our website at www.towncourier.com.