Rather than a by-the-book adaptation of the end of Stephenie Meyer's novel, "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2" (coming Saturday) is like a roller coaster car that almost goes off the rails before returning to the track.
Devotees of the four books about a teenage transplant to the Pacific Northwest named Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) who falls in love with a century-old vampire, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), much to the initial dismay of werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), likely will be satisfied. If you're unfamiliar with the movies or novels, you will be hopelessly lost.
The story picks up where "Breaking Dawn -- Part 1" left off in November 2011. Newlywed Bella is now a fledgling vampire, still gauging her strength and powers, and realizing her daughter continues to be no ordinary child. Just as her name is an awkward blend of two other names, Renesmee is half-human and half-vampire.
That means she starts to grow and mature at a rapid rate, but, when she's mistaken for an immortal -- a human child who's been turned into a blood-sucker, which is forbidden -- the rival Volturi coven makes plans to come and crush the Cullens once and for all.
"Breaking Dawn -- Part 2" is the most action-packed and violent of the movies. It covers just less than half of the final novel, but additional characters get short shrift and the franchise has never solved the wolf problem. The animals are still too big and betray their computer-generated roots, appearing to have been layered into the scene behind or alongside the humans.
Combine a wolf and little Renesmee, played by 10-year-old Mackenzie Foy whose face was often digitally pasted on other girls' bodies to indicate her rapid growth, in a single scene and you have two distractions in one.
All of those drawbacks aside, the final film directed by Bill Condon and written for a fifth time by Melissa Rosenberg, sends moviegoers out with a double dose of romance, a return of characters such as Michael Sheen, whose visiting vampire cackles with craziness, and emotional end credits.
Blu-ray extras include a seven-part making-of documentary, music video, featurettes and a director's commentary.
"The Master" proves that Joaquin Phoenix digs deeper with each passing project, and fellow Oscar nominee Philip Seymour Hoffman really can do anything.
Mr. Phoenix plays Freddie, a lost soul, a World War II veteran trying to fill a bottomless, aching hole with homemade hooch, sex, anger, aggression and a need to believe in someone or something.
It's all Freddie for the first 30 minutes of the movie, until serendipity or fate leads him to The Master, Lancaster Dodd (Mr. Hoffman), the leader of a Scientology-type movement called "The Cause" in 1950. He practices a jumble of hypnosis, hokum, counseling, affirmations such as "Man is not an animal," and processing, which involves repetitive questions and the notion of past lives.
Freddie falls in with Dodd and his family of relatives and followers, including some wealthy benefactors, but disillusionment roars to life at times. Their push-pull continues through much of the movie, with others such as Dodd's wife, Peggy (Amy Adams), and an adult son (Jesse Plemons) from a previous marriage weighing in on Freddie and on Dodd's teachings.
Director Paul Thomas Anderson who also wrote the script, revisits some of his favorite themes, such as families, real and makeshift, and father figures, and the film's look and sound are spectacular, thanks to rare 65mm film stock with crisp, rich images and a score by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood. It's less satisfying, however, than 2007's "There Will Be Blood," and it loses steam by the end of its 137 minutes.
Those familiar with L. Ron Hubbard will bring a different sensibility to "The Master," while the rest of the world will just want to know if it's worth the time and money. It is, although if you go in expecting the best movie of the year, you may be disappointed.
ALSO THIS WEEK:
• "Chasing Mavericks" (2-1/2 stars): Gerard Butler landed in the hospital after throwing himself into this role about a surfing legend who takes a young man who wants to surf Mavericks, Northern California's most dangerous waves, under his wing.
• "The Client List: The Complete First Season": Jennifer Love Hewitt plays a woman who goes to work at a Texas massage parlor, a job that the single mom takes out of necessity when her husband leaves her. The series is the continuation of the 2010 made-for-cable movie that earned her a Golden Globe nomination.
• "Phineas & Ferb: Perry Files Animal Agents": A fun animated series that follows Perry the Platypus -- better known as Agent P -- as he and his fellow creatures battle the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz. As if the two hours of adventures wasn't enough, the DVD comes with a spy kit.
• "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie": Geraldine McEwan ("Agatha Christie's Marple") shines in the British series based on the novel by Muriel Spark.
• "The Bill Engvall Show: The Second & Third Seasons": Cable comedy starring Jennifer Lawrence.
• "Rocko's Modern Life: The Complete Series": The adventures of the wallaby and his offbeat friends has a refreshing design and witty writing.
• "Girls Against Boys": Tormented college student reaches her breaking point.
• "Sins": The wages of sin are deadly in the thriller starring Danny Glover.
• "Man From Shaolin": The traditions of a fighting monk are tested.
• "Freaky Deaky": Billy Burke stars in the film based on the Elmore Leonard novel.
• "Law & Order: The Twelfth Year": TV drama that includes both capture and prosecution of criminals.
• "Night Court: The Complete Eighth Season": Legal TV comedy starring Harry Anderson.
• "Barbie in The Pink Shoes": This time Barbie is a ballerina with big dreams.
• "Garrow's Law: The Complete Collection": William Garrow (Andrew Buchan) is a lawyer who defends the downtrodden in 18th-century England.
• "Maigret: Complete Collection": Michael Gambon plays the sleuth.
• "Joshua Tree": A car runner (Dolph Lundgren) faces danger after a failed heist.
-- PG staff and Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers