Friday Flicks: Is It Finally the End for ‘Twilight’?

TIME breaks down which films to see and which to avoid this weekend.

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The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2

Tagline: Forever.

The tagline – or should that be tagword? – to the newest addition to the Twilight canon is simply, “Forever.” Forgive us Twi-hards, but that’s exactly how long it feels like this franchise is going to run for (see the link at the end of this page, for more) with director Bill Condon back to helm the sequel to a book which originally wasn’t split in two. But taking a page out of the Harry Potter movie playbook, which split the seventh and final tome into two parts in order to double the enjoyment for fans around the world (nothing to do with box office, folks), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 goes down a similar path.

When we were last in the company of Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), they had to deal with the considerable fallout from a marriage, a honeymoon and the birth of a child — exactly the kind of issues a teen target audience can relate to. This time around, Bella and Edward (as well as his family and the werewolves) are trying to protect the baby from the evil Volturi, who think she’s a vampire.

But the early word from critics — whose opinion won’t matter a jot, let’s face facts — is surprisingly upbeat. “One final swoonsome flourish to this most lovelorn series, this is the finale that Twilight needed,” concludes Empire. “Breaking Dawn Part 2 is three fingers of supernatural teen romance served neat in a dirty glass with a sparkler and cocktail umbrella, and not a single concession is made to newcomers, or sanity,” reckons the Daily Telegraph. But the Guardian won’t buy into the concept, neither with this installment or what has gone before: “Breaking Dawn has moments of wit, but did the Twilight saga have to be so bland?”

MORE: Why Twilight Won’t End With Breaking Dawn (Even Though It Should)

Anna Karenina

Who would dare have the temerity to take on Leo Tolstoy’s timeless novel? (Ignore the fact that it’s been filmed many times before, starring the likes of Greta Garbo and Vivien Leigh — we mean, who now would dare have the temerity?) But while one breathes a sigh of relief upon finding out that no less a wordsmith than playwright Tom Stoppard has handled the script for this adaptation, one’s heart sinks upon learning that director Joe Wright (Atonement) has decided to set his new movie in a dilapidated theater. By the time one reads that the leads are Keira Knightley and Jude Law – who on their off days can be among the more wooden actors in modern cinema – one could be too exhausted to carry on.

Thankfully, that’s where the critics come in to deliver their verdicts on the classic story of Anna questioning her happiness and marriage – they’re interlinked, you know! – as Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) enters her life and gives Law’s Judge Alexei Karenin a run for his money. For TIME’s Richard Corliss, it’s all about the eponymous heroine: “Knightley embodies Anna as a girlish woman who has never felt erotic love; once smitten, she is raised to heavenly ecstasy before tumbling into the abyss of shame … She helps make Anna Karenina an operatic romance worth singing about.” The Guardian is pretty much convinced, concluding that “The Wright/Stoppard Anna Karenina is not a total success, but it’s a bold and creative response to the novel.” But for every good reaction, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The Daily Telegraph isn’t fully down on the movie yet yearns for the project to have turned out differently, noting that “It’s hard to watch Wright’s version without wondering what might have been, if only Knightley had a worthier scene partner than Aaron Taylor-Johnson.” New York magazine is in no doubt: “As boldly original a miscalculation as any you’re likely to see … It’s a tour de force in the wrong direction.”

MORE: Fashionable Lit: Dress Like Anna Karenina for $500

NewsFeed’s Flicks Pick: None of the week’s releases are in the same league as recent winners such as Argo, Skyfall and Lincoln but we’ll give Anna Karenina points for trying.
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