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By Michael Calleri

Not since "Rosemary's Baby" has the birth of a child of evil created such a stir at the movies.

Yes, Bella Swan in the "Twilight" series of books and films is a paragon of virtue and beauty, but that half-human, half-vampire spawn she literally spews into the world in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1" is proof positive that her ageless vampire husband Edward Cullen won the battle of whose DNA was going to triumph.

The birth of Bella and Edward's baby is depicted in a brutal and debilitating manner in order to make it uncomfortable for the audience to watch. If, in deep space, no one can hear you scream, it's only because all those possible screams have been stored on Earth just waiting for Bella to complete her pregnancy. She thrusts her little creature into the world with a rush of gruesome blood and grotesque caterwauling. It's the pornography of violence.

Stephenie Meyer, who wrote the "Twilight" books, is a champion of teenage abstinence. Bella is a virgin when she marries Edward. And Ms. Meyer, ever the curmudgeon, makes sure that girls recognize that childbirth is a hellacious event. One feels that the author doesn't want any woman to ever get pregnant.

But, as with all hypocritical churls (literary or otherwise), she wallows in guts and gore. She initially damns the sex act, and then relishes the chance to depict as many vile things as she can, in as perverted a manner as possible, when it comes to the natural result of sex, a beautiful baby. In Meyer's twisted mind, babies are hideous. Break out the chastity belts.

Here are at last (well, not quite), is the cinematic end of the four-book series about a family of night stalkers who reside in a small Washington town and the average townspeople who encounter them. On film, we've gone from high school to a lavish wedding that runs 30 dull minutes. Close-ups of shoes and lace and flowers abound. I guess that when you have sleepy vampires in attendance, one should expect a bit of languor, but why do moviegoers have to be bored? Bridal magazines are livelier.

The "Breaking Dawn" book has been divided into two movies. It's easy to tell you what you will find in Part 1. The lovely human Bella and the moody, misunderstood vampire Edward get married. They go on a honeymoon in Brazil. The couple engage in sex, but you do not see it. You do see a bed that has fallen apart. The author is adamant that you will not see sex. Anyway, Bella gets pregnant and a creature is born. Part 2 is scheduled to arrive in November 2012.

The 117-minute film has about 50 minutes of fresh material. The rest of it is a compendium of dull montages, camera shots held for what seem like an eternity, and a lot of people muttering to themselves or gawking at someone or something for long periods of time.

There are other characters in addition to Bella and Edward, but the only one who seems to matter is wolf pack member Jacob. He's still in love with Bella and is still an angry young man. The filmmakers, director Bill Condon and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, make sure that Jacob rips off his shirt at the start of the movie, because there's nothing quite like a werewolf with ripped abdominal muscles, sculptured pectorals and gleaming white teeth to titillate the teenage girls in the audience. Sex is bad, but soft-core porn is fine.

"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1" unreels like a boring soap opera. It has a lunatic feel to it, but it's not inspired lunacy. The direction is from the stand-and-pose school and the dialogue is often loopy. The acting is stiff and not very interesting.

Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, who play Bella and Edward respectively, have grown into their roles, but there seems to have been a reluctance on the part of whomever has directed to let them stir even a little bit beyond the confines of their characters. Screaming is not acting. It's screaming. Taylor Lautner as Jacob was rewarded with a nice paycheck for working out in a gym. Actual acting eludes him.

Overall, the film cheats us because it denies moviegoers a satisfying conclusion.

In "Like Crazy," two college students fall in and out of love over the course of the film. Jacob is an American studying furniture design (seriously). His furniture is not so special, but we are in California, where standards are more mellow. Anna is British, and she's studying journalism. She doesn't write for the campus paper or participate at the campus radio station. Again, we're in California. Mellow.

The picture is directed by Drake Doremus, whose has made three movies: "Moonpie," "Spooner," and "Douchebag." If you've seen any of them, my heartiest congratulations.

Doremus believes in minimalist filmmaking. In "Like Crazy," he worked without a screenplay, but did co-write an outline with Ben York Jones. He believes in a hand-held digital camera moving to and fro, improvised dialogue, and cutting into the middle of scenes and then quickly out of them, thus leaving a lot of content hanging. The effect is like eavesdropping. It's not always effective.

Anna knows her student visa is limited, but lets it lapse. She returns to England for a visit, but when she tries to return to the United States, she's denied entry. I didn't believe that she would let the visa lapse. But we have to go with it. This mistake means the two are apart for long stretches, but Jacob does visit her. There is tension because long-distance relationships are tough. Both become smitten with another person on their home turf. It ends as it ends with a sense that maybe one of them, I won't tell you who, isn't quite sure what happens is what is wanted.

Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones, as the two students, give the quiet movie the spark it has. Doremus doesn't elevate his material. He believes in frameworks. He's lucky that Yelchin and Jones are talented. Young love can be overly sappy, but you grow to care about these main characters.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Nov. 22, 2011