Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

New Moon: A Review December 13, 2009

I read New Moon a little over a year ago, and my review of the book was not very kind. I ranted about how self-centered and whiny Bella was, how sappy and lovesick Edward was, and how uneventful the book was as a whole. Strange, then, that I thoroughly enjoyed the movie when I saw it in the theater last week. While Twilight’s film adaptation played out like an unintentional comedy, New Moon translated well onto the screen, and had a satisfying blend of drama, suspense, romance, and humor.

Jacob and Edward are both in love with Bella. If I were her, I know which one of them I'd choose.

In case anyone is reading this who isn’t familiar with the story, New Moon is the second book in the Twilight series, and it focuses on Bella’s separation from Edward and subsequent deepening friendship with Jacob. Near the beginning, a freak accident during Bella’s birthday party leads to the Cullens leaving town. Edward convinces Bella that he doesn’t love her and that he’s trying to make a clean break. Edward’s sudden departure sends Bella into a deep depression, and the only time she feels alive is when she gets an adrenaline rush, because at those times she has visions of Edward telling her to stop what she’s doing. Her need to live on the edge is what initially brings her and Jacob together, since she asks him to fix up an old motorbike for her. Over the course of the school year, they become closer, but meanwhile Jacob goes through a life-altering transition of his own. Eventually, Bella’s recklessness sets off a series of events that lead her and Alice to Edward’s rescue in Italy. When the movie ends, Bella is anxious to be turned into a vampire, but finds herself  caught between two guys – Jacob, who wants her to live a “normal” life with him, and Edward, who wants her to marry him.

What I Liked

  • Jacob – I’ve never been a big enough fan of the series to choose a side, but after seeing this movie, I am definitely Team Jacob! He was so easy to like and cheer for, not to mention easy to look at! I wasn’t crazy about the long hair, but once he got it cut, I was a fan. Liking Jacob so much only made me dislike Bella more. This was true in the book, too. I still think that she was way too self-absorbed and selfish, taking advantage of Jacob’s feelings for her. Taylor Lautner did a nice job with this role.
  • Bella’s character development – I may not like Bella, but at least the writers translated her character well enough that we understood why she was acting the way she was. Whether we were seeing her staring blankly out her bedroom window as the months passed by, listening to her terrified screams when she would wake up from nightmares, or watching her cling to Jacob for attention and affirmation of her worth, she was clearly a deeply damaged and troubled young woman.
  • Charlie – In the first movie, Bella’s dad may as well have been Barney Fife. He was a bumbling, goofy deputy. However, in this movie he was portrayed more as a caring father who was only trying to protect his daughter and help her through a hard time. It was nice to see a strong parental presence.
  • Jane – Who knew that Dakota Fanning would be such a convincing, well cast Jane? She was great as the old in years but childlike in appearance vampire who can torture people with her mind. Fanning played the character as quiet but strong, a force to be reckoned with. She was the most interesting of the Volturi. The vampires who sat in their thrones during the proceedings were creepy, but a little too campy to fit the tone of the movie.
  • Bella’s high school friends – In Twilight, Bella’s human friends were mostly just annoying, but this time around I was thoroughly entertained, especially by Mike and Jessica. They provided some needed comic relief during the mostly gloomy proceedings of the movie.
  • The Music – I don’t remember much about the music in Twilight, but the New Moon Sountrack is full of great songs. It features artists like Muse, The Killers, and Death Cab for Cutie. The music helped set the appropriate tone at different moments of the movie. If the Twilight series is an experience, then it makes sense that music would play an important role in helping viewers experience the theatrical version.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Edward – Yep, you read that right. I did not like Edward. To be more specific, I didn’t like Robert Pattinson’s portrayal of Edward. It was hard to imagine Bella still choosing Edward over Jacob when the two guys had their confrontation toward the end of the movie. On one side, there was buff, healthy, glowing, passionate Jacob. On the other, there was pale, skin and bones, sour-faced, and solemn Edward. Throughout the movie, sweet Jacob had either a winning smile or an understandable scowl on his face, but in either case it was easy to root for him. When we saw Edward, he mostly just looked constipated. Perhaps that was just bad acting on Robert Pattinson’s part, but it didn’t do anything to make me happy about the Edward and Bella reunion.
  • The Cullens – In their defense, they didn’t have much screen time, or much to do or say when they did appear, but I just wasn’t interested in them at all. In particular, Jasper just looked crazy, with his huge eyes and bird’s nest of hair.
  • Quileute Pack – Just because I liked Jacob doesn’t mean I liked his “brothers.” They didn’t have much screen time, but when they did the acting wasn’t great. Just about the only moment in the movie that got a bad reaction from the crowd was when one of the Quileute guys said “Well, I guess the wolf’s out of the bag.” (Someone in the audience reacted by shouting out an annoyed, “Give me a break…”)

So there you have it. There was more to like than to dislike, and it was a vast improvement over the first movie. As for me being Team Jacob, I know that may change eventually. As one of my friends pointed out, things get weird later on, with Jacob imprinting on Renesmee and such. But for now, I’ll wish for that which will never come to pass – a Bella/Jacob romance. Now it’s up to the writer/director of Eclipse, along with Robert Pattinson, to make me change over to Team Edward.

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Twilight: The Dance Musical? October 30, 2009

No, Twilight is not being made into a Broadway extravaganza – at least not yet. But, if you will humor me for a few minutes, I’d like to propose the all-star So You Think You Can Dance lineup that would fill out the cast of a dance-infused musical version of the Twilight series. The reason I started thinking about this topic is that, as I mentioned in a previous post, season six contestant Nathan Trasoras rivals Edward Cullen’s striking good looks (translation: he’s a pretty boy). However, Nathan is actually a better fit for the role of Jacob. Let’s take a closer look at which Dance contestants would bring the Twilight characters to twirling, leaping, poppin’ and lockin’ life:

Danny, beautiful person and dancer that he is, would play the important role of Edward Cullen.

  • Edward Cullen – Danny Tidwell (season three runner-up) – As one might expect, Edward was the most difficult character for me to cast, since strangely enough, there haven’t been very many staggeringly beautiful guys on SYTYCD. In fact, I ended up going against type and casting non-white dancer Danny. He may not be pale, but he certainly qualifies as beautiful! His quiet, mysterious demeanor and rare smile make him a natural to play introspective, withdrawn Edward. Edward’s habit of running at top speed through the woods and glittering in the sun will translate well into Danny pirouetting around the stage and shining in the spotlight. Glitter away, Danny, glitter away!

Jeanine would be my pick for a dancing Bella.

  • Bella Swan – Jeanine Mason (season five winner) – The first time I saw Jeanine, I saw a resemblance to Kristen Stewart, so it seems perfectly fitting that the season five champion would portray dark-haired, fair-skinned Bella in the Twilight Dance Spectacular. She and Danny would make a fine pair as epic couple Bella and Edward.

Nathan Trasoras would make a terrific Jacob Black.

  • Jacob Black – Nathan Trasoras (season six) Nathan has the darker complexion, intense stare, and youthful charm to portray Jacob Black. He would just need to bulk up some to play werewolf Jacob. I can just see the special costume now, with the wolf represented by a furry jumpsuit and elaborate head dress. Of course, when dancing as Jacob all he would wear is a pair of khaki shorts, since he would want to stay true to the book, in which Jacob wore as little clothing as possible since changing into his wolf form always resulted in the destruction of his clothes and shoes.

Small-statured Sabra would make a great Alice Cullen.

  • Alice Cullen – Sabra Johnson (season three winner) In the books, Alice is described as “pixie like, with short spiky black hair.” Sabra is definitely petite and adorable, and has a positive, contagiously upbeat personality. Since she and Danny worked together during season three, they would have good chemistry as close foster siblings Alice and Edward.
Anya and Pasha

Our favorite ballroom partners, Pasha and Anya, would be perfect in the roles of Carlisle and Esme.

  • Carlisle Cullen – Pasha Kovalev (season three) – I was quite displeased with Carlisle’s clownish appearance in the Twilight movie, so I am thrilled to have this hypothetical chance to redeem that casting (or at least makeup department) error. Pasha is perhaps my favorite SYTYCD contestant ever, and so I had to find a place for him somewhere! Since he is now teaching other contestants choreography, thus in a sense acting as a mentor, what better role for him than that of foster father Carlilse? He brings a kind spirit and maturity to the role.
  • Esme Cullen – Anya Garnis (season three) – Esme is described in the book as having “caramel-colored hair; she also has a heart-shaped face with dimples, and her figure is slender, but rounded and soft.” I think Anya resembles that description enough, plus what better person to play Carlilse’s wife than Pasha’s ballroom dance partner? We know they already have great chemistry, so they are the perfect couple for this role.

Kayla would be convincing as undead beauty Rosalie.

  • Rosalie Hale – Kayla Radomski (season five) – This was another difficult spot to fill, since Rosalie is described as “being the most beautiful person in the world; she is tall, statuesque, and has long, wavy blonde hair.” I decided Kayla was best for the role – she is beautiful, and a bit haughty (just as Rosalie often comes across), and she also has the pale skin that makes it easy to believe her as a vampire.

I'd split up this ballroom couple, making Ryan good-guy Emmett, and Ashleigh vampire villainess Victoria.

  • Emmett Cullen – Ryan Di Lello (season six) – Emmett is described as “being tall, burly, extremely muscular, and, to most humans, the most intimidating of his adoptive siblings. He has slightly curly dark hair and dimpled cheeks.” I couldn’t think of a more fitting contestant for this role than the strongest man to ever join the SYTYCD competition, Ryan. He actually seems more like a lumberjack than a dancer, and so he would bring the necessary strength and stage presence to the role of Emmett.

Travis would win people over as Jasper.

  • Jasper Hale – Travis Wall (season two) – Jasper is described as “tall with honey blond hair, and is muscular but lean” and has the ability to manipulate others’ emotions. Travis sort of fits the physical description, and as a choreographer, he certainly seems to have put the judges and viewers under his spell. His contemporary piece that Jeanine and Jason performed last season even inspired them to kiss at the end! He was a participant in one of the most famous dances in SYTYCD history: Mia Michaels’ bench piece, which was very sweet and heartfelt. Based on his experience on the show, and now as an impressive, emotionally affecting choreographer, he would create a new group of Twilight fans: Team Jasper.

If Mollee danced as Renesmee, she'd have to dye her hair black, but otherwise she'd be set.

  • Renesmee Cullen – Mollee Gray (season six) – Okay, so Mollee doesn’t have “brown curly hair,” like the Renesmee in the book. However, you can’t get much closer to childlike than Mollee when picking from SYTYCD contestants. The judges have repeatedly called Mollee out for dancing like a child. It would definitely be interesting to see her dancing on stage with Jeanine and Danny playing her parents. Strange, indeed.

Kupono dances "evil" very well, and so he would be very suitable for the role of James.

  • James – Kupono Aweau (season five) – James, the merciless tracker who stalked and nearly killed Bella in Twilight, was too campy for my taste in the movie. Kupono can be overdramatic and theatrical, but I think he has the intensity and dedication to make this a memorable role. I immediately thought of him for this part when I remembered his deeply affecting contemporary performance with Kayla from last season, in which he personified addiction, and in the process ruthlessly held her down, preventing her from escaping his grip. That was the most powerful performance of the entire season, and so I know he can be a great villain.
  • Victoria – Ashleigh Di Lello (season six) – Victoria is the “red-haired, cat like” vampire who plots to kill Bella in revenge for Edward killing her lover, James. Ashleigh may not have red hair, but that can easily be solved with a little hair color. She already has the sultry disposition, and quite a bit of attitude (in her performances). The wardrobe department could have fun with her elaborate clothing.

Russell is my pick for vampire Laurent

  • Laurent – Russell Ferguson (season six) – The only good-intentioned member of James’ coven, Laurent is friendly with the Cullens but still has the occasional lapse into drinking human blood.  Russell would bring a serious tone and quiet power to Laurent’s character.

Picture this: Adam in a police uniform, Mary as a minor league baseball player's wife, and Nigel as a tribal elder? Say what?

  • Charlie Swan – Adam Shankman – Ok, I realize that I’m reaching with this one. I’m envisioning the role of Charlie as one of comic relief, and what would be funnier than Adam Shankman dressed in law enforcement duds, playing a clueless, “trying to be cool” dad?
  • Renee Dwyer – Mary Murphy – Again, there was a shortage of bubbly, talkative, middle-aged women to choose from, and so Mary would end up playing Charlie’s ex wife, Bella’s mom.
  • Billy Black – Nigel Lythgoe – In the biggest stretch of all, I chose Nigel to portray Jacob’s Quileute father. It’s almost as bad as John Travolta playing an overweight woman in Hairspray, but if it worked in that movie, then surely Nigel can dye his hair black, wear a fat suit, and mask his British accent.

Say hello to a dancing Mike Newton

  • Mike Newton – Neil Haskell (season three) – As those of you who read my blog during season three already know, I was never a Neil fan, so I am relegating him to this rather thankless role of the “cute, baby-faced boy with carefully spiked pale blond hair.” He can pine away for Jeanine while Danny and Nathan fight over her.

Perhaps Katee and Courtney could recycle these season three costumes while playing Twilight's Angela and Jessica.

  • Jessica Stanley – Courtney Galiano (season four) – I have nothing against Courtney, but her exuberant personality and appearance make her a good fit for the role of a “chatterbox with curly dark hair.”
  • Angela Weber – Katee Shean (season four) – Katee was likely one of the nicest contestants to ever be on the show, or at least she seemed that way, so she is a good fit to play the “tall, shy, quiet, and very kind girl” that Angela is.

So there you have it. I didn’t do a comprehensive list of characters, so feel free to make suggestions about other SYTYCD contestants who would make a good member of the Volturi, one of Jacob’s Quileute friends, etc. Also feel free to challenge my casting decisions. There are so many factors at play, that there is surely more than one dancer who would work well for most of these characters.

As for what the Twilight dance extravaganza would look like, I’m sure there would be a lot of costume changes, elaborate lighting, and variety of dance styles. The early scenes when Edward and Bella are falling for each other would have to rely on contemporary, and the showdown between James and Bella might work well as a paso doble, whereas the baseball scene might translate into a goofy broadway bit. It’s fun to imagine Twilight as a musical, and I am sure that will become a reality one day. Until then, I will have fun imagining my favorite SYTYCD contestants turning this epic vampire tale into a dance sensation…


SYTYCD Season 5: The Top 14 Perform July 1, 2009

So, when my mother-in-law told me that she records So You Think You Can Dance, what she actually meant is that she doesn’t record it, she just watches it live. Therefore, when I turned on her tv at 8:45 p.m., which is when I put my son to bed, all I managed to see of the show was Vitolio and Karla’s performance. And I was so distraught that I had missed the rest of it, that I don’t have any thoughts to share about their dance.

Moral to the story: don’t trust someone else’s word or their DVR; always check the recording status yourself. And the good news is that I can A) watch the performances online tomorrow, and/or B) watch the entire show on my Tivo when I return home this weekend.


Despite a DVR/mother-in-law malfunction that prevented me from watching the show last night, I was able to catch the performances online today. (Thanks to for posting all the videos!) Here are my thoughts on the top 14:

  • Janette and Brandon – Cha Cha – They were great together, as well as individually. I like Janette more every week, and Brandon continues to impress me with his versatility.
  • Kayla and Kupono – “Eyes on Fire” by Blue Foundation – Contemporary (Sonya) – I like how Sonya’s choreography always makes use of every inch of the body – hands, fingertips, hair… This vampire-themed performance will earn a lot of votes. Kayla got to show off her leg strength and control, and Kupono was good, too. The song oozed weirdness as well, and is featured on the Twilight soundtrack. Can’t get any more popular than Edward and Bella right now.
  • Randi and Evan – Broadway – This Joey Dowling routine played out like a more razzle dazzle version of the quirky Mia Michaels’ French poodle dance they performed last week. It wasn’t my favorite performance this week, but it rates pretty high among the Broadway performances from this season. Randi and Evan always look very comfortable on stage, and with each other, which isn’t something that can be said about all the dancers this season. (To be specific, Karla always looks terrified to me, and Phillip often looks uncomfortable.)
  • Jason and Caitlin – Pop Jazz (Brian Friedman) – Hmmm, a dance about an alien procreating with an earthling? Thats… bizarre. And everything about the routine was strange, from the choreography to the costumes, well, at least Caitlin’s. I’m starting to think that Brian Friedman’s routines require extreme costumes to distract from the fact that his choreography isn’t very complicated or interesting. I’m just not that into his creations. Had Mia or Sonya created a dance with this alien/human mating theme, it may have been astonishing, but this one just made me go, “Meh…”
  • Jeanine and Phillip – Hip Hop (Tabitha and Napoleon) – I wasn’t crazy about the chain gimmick. (I’m never a huge fan of the use of props on the show.) And I like Jeanine more than Phillip, which means they aren’t in my top favorites like some of the more in sync “power couples.” Still, though, it was nice to see a T & N hip hop routine.
  • Melissa and Ade – Classical Pas de Deux (Thordal Christensen) – I get chills every time I watch them dance; they both have such an impressive balance of grace and strength, and they work so well together. Love them! They remain my favorite couple. And it can’t be just coincidence that they “drew” pas de deux out of a hat. They are probably the only couple in the top 14 who could pull this off (well, maybe Janette and Brandon could, too), and pull it off they did!
  • Karla and Vitolio – Quickstep – This couple has three strikes against them this week: they have a new pairing, they have both been in the bottom three numerous times, and they got the quickstep. I will be stunned if they aren’t in the bottom three this week. Of all the girls remaining this season, Karla is the one I haven’t had any reaction to, positive or negative. She’s just kind of there. I don’t know if that’s her fault (not enough stage presence), the producers’ fault (for not letting us get to know her), or just my personal taste. Maybe a combination of all three. And Vitolio is my least favorite of the guys, for many of the same reasons I listed for Karla.

My Favorite Performances

  • Melissa and Ade’s Pas de Deux
  • Kayla and Kupono’s Contemporary
  • Janette and Brandon’s Cha Cha

Predicting the Bottom Three Couples

  • Karla and Vitolio
  • Jason and Caitlin
  • Janette and BrandonI think Phillip and Jeanine should be in the bottom three instead of Janette and Brandon (based on last night’s performances), but what should be and what will be are two different things.

Who should go home: Karla and Vitolio – If they stick around another week, that means I don’t know the judges as well as I think I do.

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Twilight: Teen Angst and Vampire Lore Go Campy April 4, 2009

So I finally watched Twilight, the movie, last night. I wasn’t one of the 30-something women who wore my “I ♥ Edward” t-shirt to opening night, and I didn’t throw a Twilight DVD release party, where everyone dressed up as their favorite character from the book. I’m not what you’d call a diehard fan of the series – I’m more of a casual reader who appreciated the epic and thrilling aspects of Bella and Edward’s saga, while still critiquing the series’ flaws and mediocre parts (see my reviews of all four books here).

I had heard mixed reviews of the movie, and that’s about how I feel after watching it. As a story of a misfit teenager who falls in love with a vampire, it works well. As for its attempt to be a suspenseful film that wows you with riveting action and clever special effects, it falls flat.

What I Liked:

  • The Setting – The producers got this part right. The town of Forks, the high school, Charle’s house, the beach at La Push, and the lush forests all set the right tone of gloominess amidst Bella and Edward’s fiery romance. I especially liked the contrast of colors in the forest scenes, with the beautiful shades of green jumping off the screen. The use of near constant rain and the occasional ray of sunlight was also effective. Overall, the scenes were pretty to look at:

  • The Chemistry – Despite all the pre-release debate about whether or not Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart were the right actors for the roles of Edward and Bella, they had great on-screen chemistry. Sure, it was a little creepy at times how they would just stare into each other’s eyes (particularly when they were laying in that mountain top field), but I much prefer their silent admiration of each other to what we got in the book, which was Bella’s constant gushing about how perfect and beautiful Edward is. Both actors did a nice job of conveying their mutual attraction, from the moment Bella first saw Edward in the cafeteria, to the tense science lab scenes, to their steamy kiss in Bella’s bedroom:

  • Edward Cullen – I wasn’t crazy about Kristen Stewart as Bella, mainly because her acting felt very one-dimensional to me (same way I felt about her in Jumper – awful movie by the way). However, as I mentioned above, I felt like she and Pattinson had good on-screen chemistry. I was wary of seeing young, fresh-faced Cedric Diggory turn all dark and brooding vampire, but Pattinson did a nice job. I don’t consider him the most beautiful man in the world, or even close to it (something about his nose and eyes isn’t quite symmetrical enough to fit the classic idea of physical perfection, but I digress), but he exuded strength, restraint, and ferocity just beneath the surface of those furrowed brows, brooding thoughts, and dark eyes.

  • The Baseball Game – I thought the impromptu game of vampire baseball was weird when I read it in the book, but since I knew it was coming in the movie, I actually enjoyed it. It did a nice job of showing how the Cullens have fun together and use their special abilities to their advantage, and it also set up the subsequent conflict. For a brief moment, Bella and Edward and his family were content, laid back, and really thinking that everything was going to work out.
  • The High School Scenes – Just because I liked these scenes doesn’t mean I liked the actors (I found Mike, Jessica, and Eric very annoying, and Angela was only slightly better). I’ve always had a soft spot for teeny bopper flicks, and this movie had scenes that were reminiscent of that genre. We had the cafeteria moment when Bella got the “who’s who in school” lesson, with the focus on the mysterious Cullens. (You’ve gotta love the overabundance of slow motion camera work that always goes into these moments). And the science class scenes reminded me of the tv show Roswell, since it was during science lab that Liz Parker and alien Max Evans got to know one another. The best part of the high school segments were those in the parking lot. The awkward stares, the furtive glances, the suspicious looks – oh, and the whole out of control van incident that really kick-started Bella and Edward’s relationship.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Jacob Black – Um, since when do poor kids living on a reservation have shiny, flowing hair right out of a shampoo commercial and perfect pearly whites? I suppose the casting director was all about making the cast easy on the eyes, but I just wasn’t buying Taylor Lautner in this role. I expected Jacob, especially in this first installment of the series, to be scrawnier, a little less confident, etc. I can’t believe Lautner is only 17! Actually, a lot of the teens in this movie really are still in their teens, even though they look older. I guess that works well for the teen vampires, since it helps establish that they have been around for a long time. Anyway, I don’t have anything against Lautner as an actor. He was okay in his role on the short-lived My Own Worst Enemy. And maybe I will like him better in New Moon. Mostly I was too distracted by his perfect appearance to believe him in the role of love-sick Jacob.

  • Carlilse – When Peter Facinelli first appeared on screen in this movie, when Bella was in the hospital, I couldn’t believe how comical he looked. The fake blond hair, the rosy cheeks, the painted lips, the turquoise shirt – he looked more like a Cirque du Soleil performer than an ancient, noble-hearted vampire. What was that?! Why couldn’t they cast someone with naturally blond hair, and kinder eyes, to play Carlilse, who was one of my favorite characters in the series? They turned him into a caricature. I’m used to seeing Facinelli play the creepy, arrogant type, so it was hard for me to accept him as a humble, wise father figure to a clan of “vegetarian” vampires. Such a shame. This is not the image of Carlilse I had in my mind:

  • Rosalie – Another of the Cullens whose movie-version I didn’t like was Rosalie, played by Nikki Reed. Based on other photos I’ve seen, Reed seems to be a natural brunette, so maybe that was part of my problem, since something was off about her blond hair. Mostly, though, she just didn’t possess the breathtaking beauty that Rosalie is supposed to have. Not to say that Reed is unattractive, but her features have a certain harsh quality, and I expected Rosalie to be more graceful.

  • The Trio of Bad Vampires – Certain aspects of the movie were cheesy, including the glittering effect of the sunlight on Edward’s skin, the flashback to the Quilheute tribe’s origins when Jacob was telling Bella about the legend of the pale ones, and pretty much anything having to do with Laurent, James, and Victoria – the three vampires who infringe upon the Cullens’ territory and start killing its inhabitants. Talk about campy. The way these three would zoom in and say silly one-liners, crouch like animals, and have a spontaneous wind and fog always blowing around them, was quite comical. Were we supposed to be afraid of them, because I certainly wasn’t. Rachelle Lefevre is too sweet, girl-next door looking for me to believe her as the fierce, vengeful Victoria. Plus, she looked ridiculous in all that fur. Edi Gathegi did a decent job as Laurent, but I also didn’t care for Cam Gigandet as James. He’s supposed to be a cunning, ruthless tracker, but instead he came across as a punk who was mostly talk.

  • The Shoddy Camera Work – I’m referring specifically to the jerky camera movement during scenes in which characters were having conversations (as opposed to action-oriented sequences, which I was okay with). These scenes, mostly indoor ones, were very distracting. It was as if someone was filming with a hand held video camera, which was unnecessary and out of place in scenes where your focus should be on the characters’ dialogue rather than on the disorienting, shaking position of the camera. Sometimes it almost seemed like the cameraman was nodding off – not surprising really, since much of the dialogue was quite boring.
  • The Soundtrack – This movie came across as flat to me. Part of that was due to a stale screenplay, and wooden acting, but it also didn’t help that many of the scenes lacked background music. I’m talking about instrumentals. There was plenty of pop music, which is typical of today’s teen movies, but I found those songs more distracting than involving. The most effective scenes, musically, were when Edward played Bella’s song on the piano, and when they danced to “Clair de Lune” in his bedroom (by the way, I wish my room looked like that!). That music was nice to listen to, and in both cases, the entire scene was understated, which acted to enhance the emotional impact. All the Guitar Hero-type, edgy music that played during the evil vampire trio’s scenes was just silly. I would have preferred more classical instruments, and less obnoxious, throwaway pop music.

  • The Rushed Climax – One of my issues with the books has always been that the climaxes are less than stellar, and sometimes lackluster. That being said, the pivotal events in Twilight were enough to keep me turning pages until the end. Can’t say the same for the movie. If you blinked, you missed the crucial conflict. The gang is playing baseball. The wind blows Bella’s hair. Oops. James is bent on tracking her now. Suddenly, Bella is in Arizona, sneaking away from Alice and Jasper, and falling into James’ ballet studio trap. A few broken mirrors and a bonfire later, we’re waking up with Bella in the hospital, and all is once again right with the world. Maybe if the writers had spent less time having Charlie and Billy act ridiculous (“I’m down with the kids.” “Yeah, you’re the bomb”), or less time with Jessica bragging about her cleavage, they could have created more suspense and drama about the Cullens trying to protect Bella from James.
  • The Beginning and the Ending – I’m not talking about the overall story here. I’m referring to the opening and closing scenes. Bella’s narration at the beginning was fine, as she explained why she was moving from Phoenix to Forks. However, why show us the deer running in slow motion, and then (presumably) Edward closing in on it? What is the symbolism they are going for there? Is that supposed to represent Bella and Edward, or Bella being tracked? I didn’t get it, and I didn’t like it. As for the ending, I didn’t mind Edward and Bella’s prom dance in the gazebo, but when it panned up to Victoria watching them from a window, and then zoomed out to show her walking (in slow motion, accompanied – of course – by some rockin’ guitar chords) down some stairs with a vengeful look in her eyes, I had to roll my eyes. She didn’t look like a spiteful vampire who had just lost her lover. She looked like a little girl playing dress up in her mom’s formal wear, who was about to go steal some jewelry out of mom’s dresser drawer. This final scene simply didn’t leave me with the impression of foreboding that I think the director was going for.

The Rest:

  • So the points above are the things I liked or disliked about the movie, and everything that I didn’t mention falls somewhere in between.
  • I am indifferent about the other Cullens in the movie. In this first installment they don’t have much development anyway. Esme (played by Elizabeth Reaser of Grey’s Anatomy fame), only had a few spoken lines, Emmett mostly jumped around a lot (Rosalie even called him her monkey man), Jasper just stared at everyone with a wide-eyed, empathetic look on his face (I thought that was rather decent casting since Jasper can affect people’s emotions and such – that actor has very large, emotive eyes!), and Alice had the right mix of small stature and spunky personality. We’ll see how well these actors fare in the New Moon movie.
  • I already mentioned that I thought the interaction between Charlie and Billy was silly, and these two actors weren’t given much decent material to work with. Then again, those characters are rather dorky in the book, too, so maybe the writers were just being true to the source material.
  • The plot was about as scattered as I expected: the random scenes of the evil vampire trio killing unsuspecting victims, the inane conversations Bella had with her “normal” friends at school, Edward’s awkward introduction of Bella to the family at their house, etc. Overall, though, the movie seemed to carry over the atmosphere and important plot points of the novel.
  • The super-speed effects – I’ve heard people make fun of the vampires’ warp speed and their tendency to sparkle in sunlight. Edward’s sparkling diamond moment was pretty bad, but I didn’t mind all the speedy gonzales moments. It was pretty weird, though, when he started climbing all those trees with spider monkey Bella on his back:

Grade: C

This movie was just average – nothing special, but not completely awful. People who read the book will enjoy the movie. People who don’t know anything about the book will wonder what all the fuss is about after watching the movie. People who like vampire mythology will find some interesting food for thought in Twilight. And people who like to watch cheesy teen movies will find much to amuse themselves. It’s pretty to look at, but sometimes painful to listen to. So, not bad for a popcorn movie, but definitely not at all award worthy.


Random Thoughts on TV: April 1, 2009 April 1, 2009

Here’s some juicy scoop I’ve heard about tv developments for next season:

Welcome to Winnipeg

  • In an effort to profit from the popularity of The Office, NBC has decided to turn the show into a franchise, following in the footsteps of CSI and Law & Order. So, in addition to our favorite office mates in Scranton, next year NBC will introduce two spin-offs – The Office: Winnipeg, and The Office: Miami. The Winnipeg edition will feature some characters who are fluent in both English and French, and since the boss will be a transplant from the U.S., they will speak in French when they are messing with him. In addition, the Winnipeg office will be involved in an inter-office hockey league, with much hilarity to ensue. The Miami edition will be quite a contrast to the cold landscapes of Winnipeg and Scranton. In Miami, the paper supply company will have a beach front office, and the employees will often take breaks to play volleyball with beautiful women in bikinis (in an effort to draw more male viewers). But to appeal to a wide demographic, Miami will also introduce a couple of retired, part-time employees – Gertrude and Herbert – who are grouchy, full of one liners, and start an office romance of their own. Look for a few cross over episodes among the three Offices next season.

  • With the renewed interest in the fantasy/supernatural genre inspired by the Twilight book series and movie, CBS has decided to take Beauty and the Beast, it’s late ’80s television series, out of the vault and give it new life. In the original series, Linda Hamilton played a beauty who was attracted to Vincent (Ron Perlman), a man-beast. In a bold (but potentially disastrous) move, CBS has decided to “pull a Starbuck” by having the beast be played by a female lead, none other than Britney Spears, who will attempt a career in television as a replacement for her waning music career. Spears will play Vivian, a beast-woman who leads a clan of social outcasts who live in a web of intricate tunnels and caves beneath New York City. After saving a beautiful man, Cavan, from a pack of wild dogs in Central Park, they begin a transforming relationship. Cavan sees past Vivian’s freakish appearance to her inner beauty, and the pair begin a magical journey into love. Casting calls are still underway for the role of Cavan, but rumors are circulating that it will go to Robert Pattinson, who may always now be type cast as “the beautiful man” after nabbing the role as the most beautiful man in the world, Edward Cullen.

  • Not all of CBS’ plans for the fall are as daring as Beauty and the Beast. One of its most successful sitcoms, The King of Queens, which ran for nine seasons and ended in 2007, is being resurrected… kind of. In the original show, the title character, Doug (Kevin James), and his wife Carrie (Leah Remini), lived in Queens, NY, and experienced the ups and downs of marriage, complicated by having Carrie’s dad living with them. The reincarnation of the show, entitled The Queen of Kings, finds the couple living in small town Kings, IL, where they moved when Carrie became the mayor due to a bizarre request in her great uncle’s will. Now, Doug is a stay-at-home dad with their adopted child, while Carrie takes on the adventures of leading the citizens of a small town. Part Gilmore Girls, part Mr. Mom, this show is sure to please audiences looking for empowered women, incompetent dads, and all around feel-good tv.

  • Not all the news is about new shows, however. Lost has decided to add some melodrama to its story by turning the love quadrangle involving Sawyer, Juliet, Jack, and Kate, into a love hexagon, by throwing newbies Horace and Amy into the mix. The complications that ensue require the show to add a bundle of new episodes, which means that for the next two summers, Lost fans who also happen to be ‘shippers will be treated to special summer episodes entitled Lost: Hexagon of Love. No matter which pair you are hoping to see together, the writers promise that no one will be disappointed, as there will be plenty of budding romance, break-ups, and make-ups.

Fox Reality

  • With all the reality cluttering the television landscape these days, you’d think there isn’t room for much more. But wait. Fox, the king of reality, has greenlit a new reality show called Death by Reality, in which network executives are forced to endure marathon viewing sessions of the very reality shows that they agreed to put on the air. Most of these men and women will have never seen a single minute of reality tv before they enter the “Boardroom of Boredom.” Viewers won’t be able to look away as Clay Aiken, the host, describes (sometimes through song and dance, sometimes by simple narration) the rapid mental deterioration that they suffer, the deeper and deeper they go into the reality vault. Joe Millionaire, The Swan, Hole in the Wall… No show is off limits as these head honchos get a taste of their own medicine.

That’s all for now. By the way, happy April Fool’s Day! 😉


Breaking Dawn: A Tidy Little Package to End the Twilight Series December 15, 2008

Yes, I finally finished reading the Twilight series. I am the only person on the planet who it took longer than two weeks to read the four books in this vampire/teenager saga. It took me nearly five months! That says less about the entertainment value of the books, and more about my lack of time to read. Overall, I was satisfied by this final installment. I’ll try to collect my thoughts in an organized fashion, which may be hard to do since I have to think back over the 6 weeks that it took me to read Breaking Dawn. And read on at your own risk: discussion of spoilerish plot points ahead!


Part One of the story begins as Bella and Edward are preparing for their wedding, and Jacob is running endlessly through the woods of Canada in his wolf form – his coping technique for losing Bella to Edward for good. There is a good amount of hoopla surrounding the wedding, and Jacob even makes an appearance to make peace with the new Mr. and Mrs. Cullen. Then things get a little odd, as Bella and Edward go on their honeymoon to a remote island beach house, where they destroy a feather bed and a few other items in the process of making their union complete. In the tradition of books about sexually active teens, it isn’t long before Bella is ravenously hungry, tired, and a little nauseous, the result of being impregnated by a vampire. Bella is more excited about bringing this child into the world than Edward, and Part One of Breaking Dawn ends with her secretly calling Rosalie for help when she realizes Edward intends to take her home and have Carlisle “get rid of” the baby.

Part Two is narrated by Jacob. It takes us through the splitting of the wolf pack, Jacob’s new status as Alpha, Bella’s difficult pregnancy, and Renesmee’s gory birth.

Part Three is once again narrated by Bella and begins with a detailed account of her transformation into a vampire, followed by her process of adjusting to her newfound abilities and heightened senses. The whole family also gets to know and love Renesmee more. Things take a downturn when Alice has a troubling vision of the Volturi coming to Forks with the intent to destroy the Cullen clan. Suddenly Alice and Jasper leave town, and the others are left there to build an army of witnesses, in hopes that they can convince the Volturi of their innocence. The remainder of the book plays out like a League of Supervamps, as the Cullens and their friends and acquaintances prepare for the impending battle. In the end, everything works out in their favor and they live happily ever after.

As a series targeted at young adults/teens, I’m not too surprised that it ended so nice and neat. I would much rather there have been some serious consequences for the gang to deal with after all the buildup to their confrontation with the Volturi. Instead, we got a “Um, we changed our mind. See ya” from the creepy, cloaked ancient ones, and a group hug and sigh of relief from Bella and her “always on the verge of, but never really in danger” family of werewolves, vampires, and half breeds.

My Analysis

  • The Structure – I always enjoy a book that is split into parts, since it lends a greater air of closure and significance to events along the way. In this case, Bella’s pregnancy, and then Renesmee’s birth, were the pivotal plot points at the end of Book 1 and Book 2. In each case, we didn’t know where in the world things were headed. I must say, I enjoyed Jacob as narrator, especially because it gave me a break from Bella’s constant worrying about her life and future as a vampire, and incessant gushing about Edward’s beautiful face and perfect body. It was nice to have a different perspective on things. In looking at my summary of the book, it seems like not much happened in Book Two. I suppose its purpose was to create tension leading up to Bella’s transformation and the birth of the half human/half vampire child. It succeeded on both of those purposes, and it also showed the evolving relationship between the Cullens and the Pack. I enjoyed seeing Jacob and Edward’s relationship go from hostile to friendly to familial over the course of the book.
  • The Big Ticket – Bella becoming a vampire was the moment we had all been waiting for and wondering about since the first time she and Edward discussed it in Twilight. I think Stephenie Meyer did an admirable job of conveying the excruciating pain of the transformation, as Bella slipped in and out of consciousness and had to use mental control to deal with the unbearable sensations. Meyer did stretch a bit, though, when it came to the metaphors and analogies for the pain (there are only so many ways to say “the fire blazed hotter”). But I must say, I was fascinated by Bella’s recounting of the experience.
  • Bella as a Vampire – The book was a bit of a letdown in this department. Where was the period of adjustment? The uncontrollable blood lust? The time in solitary confinement so she wouldn’t kill Charlie or someone else she cared about? I guess Meyer decided that the book would be too long if she had to deal with all those pesky little things. So instead, we had Bella becoming a skilled hunter after one training session with Edward, and with only one little slip up when she smelled a human in the forest. Otherwise, she had a breezy adjustment to her eternal life as a vampire. In fact, other than her vampire abilities, her living conditions weren’t too different from when she was human. Her acquired vampire traits included heightened senses, a greater love and passion for Edward, a beautiful child, the ability to protect herself and others from harm, and super self control. Quite a convenient set of characteristics for a newborn, but it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book. It’s a good thing that vampires aren’t real, though, because this book would have teenage girls lining up to get bitten so they, too, could have a perfect, blissful ever after of endless lovemaking and general merriment.
  • Jacob’s Happy Ending – I grew to like Jacob more and more as the series advanced, so I was happy that he wasn’t left wandering the forest, dejected by Bella. Instead, he imprinted on Renesmee, the child of his former supposed true love. That gets a little icky, but since the child ages so quickly and will stop aging when she reaches Jacob’s age, I suppose it’s all good. I missed the hints about Jacob imprinting on Nessie. I didn’t figure it out until way after I would have expected myself to. I was too hung up on the (incorrect) idea that Nessie had evil mind control powers like Jasmine on the tv show Angel. Thankfully I was wrong, since it would have been unsettling to see a child manipulate her family and set out on a path of destruction. I would have been happy with an ending that had Jacob and Renesmee being some of the only survivors of the confrontation with the Volturi. They could have left Forks and had a happy life in a new place. Strangely enough, I think Jacob would have been one of the most difficult characters to see die in the book. I’m glad he survived. He was a likable guy – surprising, after his annoying presence in Twilight and the first half of New Moon.
  • The Return of Alice and Jasper – I figured Alice and Jasper had left for some reason other than to save themselves, especially when we found out they had gone to South America, where Bella had planned to go to do research about Renesmee. So, it was a satisfying moment when they made their triumphant appearance in the field, with proof that Nessie wasn’t a threat to the vampire way of life. How interesting, that there were others like her. Alice and Jasper were two of the most interesting Cullens, along with Carlilse and Edward, of course, so it was nice to welcome them back.
  • The Anti-climatic Climax – I found the build up to the show down with the Volturi pretty riveting, but then there was a lot of talking, and the Volturi basically said “never mind” and headed back to Italy. When the book just ended all nice and neat, I just closed it and went, “huh.” There would have been a stronger, more lasting impression if there had been some madness and mayhem. There is more power in a story in which people have to lose something to gain something else. What if one of the Cullens, perhaps Carlilse, had sacrificed himself, to protect the rest of the family and their way of life. It would have been really sad, but the others’ survival would have meant more then. Some scenarios would have been taking it too far. For example, having Nessie die would have been too tragic. There would have been nothing for Bella, Edward, and Jacob to look forward to, and it would have meant total defeat at the hands of the Volturi. What if a battle had ensued, and the Cullens had won? That would still have been a happy ending, with vampires worldwide looking forward to a new existence free from the tyranny of this ancient group, but there would have been losses along the way. This would also have given Bella a true chance to shine as a warrior, truly showing her transformation from the clumsy, unconfident girl in Twilight, to the beautiful, coordinated, powerful woman in Breaking Dawn. She was still able to prove her worth as a defensive hero, using her shield to prevent the Volturi from gaining a pre-battle upper hand, but it lacked the punch that a full-fledged battle situation would have provided.
  • Overall Assessment – So, yes, I had a few complaints about Breaking Dawn. Overall, though, I would say that I liked the book. It felt more “grown up” than the other three, so I found less juvenile stuff to be annoyed by. Instead of dealing with themes like high school crushes, gossip, college and career choices, etc., Breaking Dawn delved into issues like a mother’s love for her child, a family’s unwavering loyalty to each other, standing up for what is right, etc. As for the issue of the uber-happy ending, what more should we have expected from a series for young adults? Can you imagine the universal uproar if one of the beloved Cullens had been killed, or the last page had left things on a somber note? No wonder Meyer chose the easy path, the nicely packaged “happily ever after” ending for Edward, Bella, and everyone else. Well, except for poor, unintentionally traitorous Irina, who was obliterated by the Volturi.
  • Ranking the Books – Thinking back on the entire series, here are the books in order from my favorite to least favorite: Eclipse, Breaking Dawn, Twilight, New Moon. So I guess the series ended on a high note for me. My main complaint about New Moon was that nothing happened. It, too, had an anticlimactic ending, with Bella’s trip to rescue Edward from the Volturi ending with another “nevermind” from that supposedly to be feared group. The difference in that book, though, was that nothing else really happened in the hundreds of pages before that, whereas in Breaking Dawn, there was plenty of action, excitement, intrigue, and suspense. Thanks for this interesting journey, Stephenie Meyer!

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Eclipse: A Love Triangle with Bite October 26, 2008

Well, a month has passed since I reviewed New Moon, the second book in the Twilight series. Once again, it took me far longer than most people to read the third installment, Eclipse. I am happy to report that I thoroughly enjoyed it! I will frame this review in terms of how this book was a vast improvement over the previous one.


  • In both Twilight and New Moon, Bella was self centered and extremely annoying. She still had her moments in Eclipse, but mostly she started to grow up and act more mature.
  • Most importantly, she finally developed a conscience. Despite having strong feelings for Jacob, she realized that she would always choose Edward over him, and so most of her actions were based on that truth.

Bella and Edward

  • There was very little interaction between these two in New Moon, since Edward was off running around in the woods of North America trying to forget Bella while she was stoically going through the motions of high school while secretly pining away for him and being miserable.
  • There were more than enough Bella/Edward scenes in Eclipse. We had nostalgic conversations about Edward’s past, serious discussions about things like marriage and becoming a vampire, and plenty of cuddling and kissing. It was nice to see them as a relatively normal couple, going through disagreements, standing by each other during tough times, and often finding that their thoughts and feelings mirrored one another’s.
  • Thank goodness that Stephenie Meyer finally spared us the excessive praise that Bella as narrator previously lavished upon Edward. (I couldn’t believe how perfect he was, etc.)

Bella and Jacob

  • At times, Jacob’s aggressive tactics for wooing (is that a word anyone uses anymore – probably not, but you know what I mean) Bella were annoying and overbearing, but I guess that was the point. Jacob is the young, fiery werewolf to Edward’s experienced, play-it-cool vampire.
  • Jacob has come a long way from the annoying kid in Book 1. I count him as one of my favorite characters in the series. You can’t help but feel bad for the guy: unrequited love, a life of servitude to his tribe, the need to tie a change of clothes to his ankle (for the inevitable next time that he changes forms and shreds his other clothes to pieces), etc.

The Cullens

  • We still don’t know a whole lot about them, but I do like that each of their “how I became a vampire” stories is being revealed over time. Each one is interesting, unique, and sad, making me more sympathetic to them (as opposed to seeing them simply as a one-dimensional character).

The Pack

  • It was a small but surprising twist to learn that the pack had grown, when more wolves than expected showed up at the meeting with the Cullens.
  • I like the way the pack can hear each others’ thoughts, and how they use that ability as a tool during hunts and battles.

The Cullens and the Pack

  • The joining of these two rival sides and sworn enemies made for an exciting climax to the book!
  • It was intriguing and somewhat horrifying to finally witness what the wolves and the vampires were capable of, in terms of violence, strength, and speed.
  • I wonder if we will hear anymore about the consequences of Bella witnessing Edward’s brutal slaying of his opponents. It’s not every day you see your boyfriend decapitate someone by “lightly brushing his lips against their neck.” It seems like that would require more than a simple “I’m fine” as a response.

The Big Reveal

  • I must admit, I was kept guessing about who was behind the planned attack on Bella. I wasn’t sure who was training the newborns, and how that was connected to confrontations the gang had had in the past. I was happy with who the big bad enemy was, and with how it was revealed. There was plenty of tension and excitement to be had, which is much more than can be said about New Moon, which garnered no more than a “huh” from me.

What’s Next

  • I foresee some eye rolling on my part during the wedding festivities in Breaking Dawn, but I am highly curious to learn if and when Bella will be changed, and even more so, how it will change her.
  • What will become of Jacob? I will be very sad if we never learn more about him than what we were given in the epilogue of Eclipse.
  • I am still troubled by the idea of Bella having to leave everything she has ever known behind (namely Charlie and Renee), when she gives up her human life. But, I suppose she loves Edward more than either of them, so the choice to be with him forever at the expense of her parent-child relationships must be a fair trade-off for her.

Bottom Line: Eclipse has been my favorite book of the series so far. I have very few complaints. My main complaint is actually unrelated to the plot. Did anyone else notice the ridiculous number of typos in the book? The book must have been rushed through editing to get it published sooner – either that or they need to hire some new proofreaders. I found this very annoying. I can’t remember ever reading a book with so many glaring simple errors (“that” instead of “than,” “the” instead of “they,” etc.).

But anyway, I’d give the book an A. Good romance. Good adventure. Good suspense. Good twists. I am glad that I pressed on through the murk and mire of New Moon so that I could enjoy Eclipse.

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