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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Vampire Diaries 1.4: Family Ties October 5, 2009

Early last week I was about ready to give up on the latest teen vampire saga, but after last week’s episode, I’m afraid I’m ready to sink my teeth into Vampire Diaries. Here’s why:

  • Sibling rivalry – Up until now Damon and Stefan have only exchanged harsh glances and words, but in this episode they grew more violent and conniving. First they stabbed each other with a knife (you know, just some old fashioned brotherly squabbling), and then Stefan tried to poison Damon with an herb that will weaken him. This escalating rivalry piqued my interest, especially now that Damon is imprisoned in his family’s top secret basement herb garden. I don’t imagine he’ll stay there for long, but will it be Elena, Caroline, or his own cleverness that releases him?
  • Damon and Caroline’s “relationship” – For the first time, I felt sorry for Caroline in this episode. The writers humanized her by giving her more to do than just gossip or talk about boys. It’s sad to see her under Damon’s spell, while he totally uses and abuses her. For example, when she told him he could be very sweet when he wanted to, he showered her with kisses, but then in the same moment she asked him if he was going to kill her, and he answered with a matter of fact “uh huh.” Talk about a warped relationship. I wonder where they are headed, now that he has tried to kill her and said that he was so over her. And cheers for Elena, for having such an emotional reaction to discovering Caroline’s bruises and bite marks. It was nice to see her stand up for her friend and go into protector mode. And at the end of the episode, she also gave a distraught and emotionally wrecked Caroline a shoulder to cry uncontrollably on.
  • Pop culture references – I’m sure Twilight fans enjoyed this exchange between Damon and Caroline: Damon – “What’s so special about this Bella girl? Edward is so whipped.” Caroline – “You gotta read the first book first. It won’t make sense if you don’t.” Damon – “I miss Anne Rice. She was so on it.” Caroline – “How come you don’t sparkle?” Damon – “Because I live in the real world, where vampires burn in the sun.” Caroline – “Yeah, but you go in the sun.” Damon – “I have a ring. It protects me. Long story.” I don’t think this show can place itself on a pedestal above Twilight just yet, but it was fun to hear devious, spirited Damon basically dis Edward for being such a wuss, and call into question the vampire mythology of Stephenie Meyers’ series.
  • Bonnie the Flame Igniter – We’ve been receiving hints every week that Bonnie is psychic and has some witchy blood in her veins, but this week we witnessed her light candles with her mind. Seeing her reaction of surprise and disbelief was interesting. I wonder how her abilities will affect Elena, Damon, Stefan, and the rest of the town.
  • “Doesn’t it always come down to the love of a woman?” – This is the question Damon asks Elena after telling her the story of the “original Salvatori brothers.” They raced to save the woman they loved from a burning building, but were shot in the process. These are interesting details added to Damon and Stefan’s sketchy past. But it still doesn’t tell us how they became vampires. But the themes of love and revenge will obviously be important ones as the show continues.
  • The Music – I really enjoyed the songs in this episode, especially Viva Voce’s “Believer,” which was playing during the last scene with Damon and Caroline. Click here for a list of songs from this episode.
  • The Parents Have Arrived – One complaint I’ve had about the show is the absence of authority figures. Well, they all came out at once in this episode, and how convenient that they all seem to hold important positions in the community: Tyler’s father is the Mayor, Caroline’s mom is the sheriff, and Jenna’s ex is a local tv news reporter. I was glad that they finally showed up, but irritated that they all seem to be “evil.” Tyler’s mom nearly spit on Vicki for being from the “wrong side of the tracks,” Logan (Jenna’s ex) is a manipulative jerk who’s only getting back together with her to locate the missing watch, and Caroline’s mom seems to be the leader of some sort of secret society. So while the show has surpassed the Charlie Brown Syndrome (the absence of parents), it has now moved into Scooby Doo Syndrome, where all the grown ups are bad, mean, or down right evil. (The one grown up on each episode of Scooby Doo always turned out to be the villain.)
  • The Mythology Starts to Take Shape – Damon steals (or rather, takes back) a “very important crystal” from one of the town artifacts, and the grownups obsess over a missing pocket watch, which the sheriff says they will need since there have been “five bodies all drained of blood” Reporter Logan ends the episode by announcing what we already know: “They’ve come back.” These developments beg a few of questions. 1) Why did they leave in the first place? 2) What does a watch have to do with stopping them? 3) What does a vampire need a crystal for? 4) Who does this group represent? Are they good guys, bad guys? Regular people? Witches? Whatever the case, I find myself, for the first time, anticipating the next episode.
 

Vampire Diaries 1.2: Night of the Comet September 18, 2009

The drama was spilling over in abundance on this week’s episode of Vampire Diaries. In one corner you have Vicki, who is having hallucinations of creepy vampires in bathroom mirrors when she isn’t being glamoured by their “parlor tricks.” In another corner, you have Elena fretting about whether or not she’s ready to pursue a relationship with a brooding guy who has serious family issues and a broken heart from his previous girlfriend. In yet another corner, Aunt Jenna is struggling to maintain control of her teen charges before one of them ends up dropping out of school and going into rehab for an out of control drug habit. And finally, there’s a comet flying over Mystic Falls, which could either be simply a ball of snow and ice, or more forebodingly, a sign of bad things to come.

Stefan and Damons first confrontation over Elena, in their family home

Stefan and Damon's first confrontation over Elena, in their family home

I enjoyed this second episode much more than the pilot. I was especially drawn to Elena and Jeremy’s guardian, Aunt Jenna. We saw a more realistic view of her struggle to establish authority over Jeremy, and her feelings of inadequacy. I always like to see some family drama unfold on these shows, and between Aunt Jenna’s run-ins with Jeremy, and Stefan’s icy confrontation with Damon after Elena’s impromptu house call, there was plenty to go around. I also like Elena’s ex-boyfriend Matt. I know he’s supposed to be the dull human boy to Stefan’s mysterious and sexy vampire, but I like his rugged charm and protective attitude toward Elena and his sister, Vicki. Speaking of Vicki, she is played by Kayla Ewell, who I spotted this week on an episode of Freaks and Geeks. It’s interesting to note that she plays a high school student on both shows, since Freaks and Geeks aired ten years ago! She was 14 then, and was adorable as a fresh-faced newcomer who wasn’t ashamed to hang out with the geeks. Now look at her. She’s 24, and is somewhat annoying as a feisty high schooler who is embarrassed to let anyone know that she had a fling with younger Jeremy.

Kayla Ewell has been walking the halls of high school for ten years, since before she was Vicki on Vampire Diaries, she played a student on Freaks and Geeks.

Kayla Ewell has been walking the halls of high school for ten years, since before she was Vicki on Vampire Diaries, she played a student on Freaks and Geeks.

As for the music in episode two, I was especially glad to hear “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles. Since my main association for this song is Kayla and Kupono’s emotionally charged contemporary dance about addiction on last season’s So You Think You Can Dance, it was strange to hear the song in the context of a budding relationship. Strangely, the song works well in both situations. The concept of something/someone bringing you down can be a negative, as in the affects of a drug addiction or an abusive relationship, but in Stefan and Elena’s case, the idea of them bringing each other down was a positive one, because they were grounding each other in reality, instead of getting caught up in the drama of “what ifs” and “what abouts.” Melodramatic? Maybe. But satisfying and romantic? Definitely. I thought it was a sweet way for this “epic” couple to start their relationship.

So, am I planning to watch episode three of this supernatural teen drama? Yes, I am. I like the direction the show is headed, including:

  • Elena and Stefan’s moody relationship
  • Damon’s mysterious evil plan for the town (“it’s time for a wake-up call”)
  • The family dynamics in the Gilbert household, as well as the Salvatore home. (What’s the deal with the brothers’ guardian referring to them as “uncle”? Is he like their family protector?)
  • The music – It really does enhance the viewing experience. I already mentioned the closing song, “Gravity,” but here’s a link to the rest of the songs from the episode.
  • The Salvatore house – I loved that we got a long, lingering look at the old-fashioned and elaborate interior of Stefan and Damon’s family home. Vampire shows give us an opportunity to delve into the customs, fashions, and decorating trends of the past, and so I’m glad the props and set designers on this show have taken the time (and money) to do so. (True Blood has set the current standard in this area, but at least its teen counterpart is trying.)

What do you like or not like about this show?

 

Glee and Vampire Diaries: Opposite Ends of the Teen Spectrum September 11, 2009

Somewhere in Ohio, high school misfits find a common purpose in a revamped glee club, while somewhere in Virginia, a sad and isolated high school student finds a reason to be gleeful when she hits it off with the “new boy at school” vampire. I had to think really hard to work “vamp” and “glee” into both of those sentences, which just goes to show you how far apart the worlds of these two shows are. One is all inspiration, comedy, and fun; the other is all doom, gloom, and a love that spans centuries. One is more comedy for everyone than teen show; the other is a drama mostly for teens, mostly supernatural, and not funny at all. (Well, I was amused by the cawing blackbird and spontaneous fog, but I’m not sure that’s what was intended.)

I highly anticipated the premiere, post-pilot episode of Glee, and I was cautiously intrigued by the approach of Vampire Diaries. Now that I’ve seen both of these shows, I am prepared to share my initial reactions and opinions.

Overall Impression

  • Glee – While the second episode didn’t have the absolute, joyous perfection of the pilot, I was still thoroughly entertained. Some stand out moments included anything involving the principal, anything involving Jane Lynch’s cheerleading coach, and the glee club’s two performances – Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” and Salt n Pepa’s “Push It.” I am not as interested in Rachel’s pining over Finn, or Terri’s spontaneous decision to fake being pregnant rather than telling Will it was a false positive. But if the show continues to find humor in the high school social strata, and if the glee club continues to grow and improve, I’ll keep tuning in.
  • Vampire Diaries – I was entertained enough by the pilot that I will watch the second episode, but I’m not yet convinced that this is “must see tv.” While I was watching the pilot, I kept thinking to myself, “I’m too old to be watching this.” I was so not interested in the melodrama of what’s his face wanting to get back together with Elena, or of Elena’s brother Jeremy being all wounded when his summer fling Vicki stopped paying attention to him. And the spooky parts weren’t very spooky. I wasn’t scared during the opening scene when the college kids had a bloody encounter with Damon, nor when Vicki was attacked in the woods. Really the only things I did like were Elena’s narration and diary entries, her friendship with possibly psychic Bonnie, Stefan’s mysterious past and desire to finally return home, and Stefan and Damon’s history as brothers, including their involvement with Elena’s Civil War-era look-alike  (Damon mentioned that he vowed to make life difficult for Stefan a long time ago, but we don’t really know why yet.).
Jane Lynch is my favorite thing about Glee.

Jane Lynch is my favorite thing about Glee.

The Acting

  • Glee – Overall, the acting is excellent on this show, which means that the casting was well done, too. The very best thing about Glee is Jane Lynch as cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester. Lynch has always been fantastic in any role, but she is so completely hilarious and spot-on here, that every expression, every glare, every word out of her mouth is golden. If she isn’t nominated for supporting actress in a comedy category at all the tv awards shows this year, then something is very, very wrong. Matthew Morrison plays idealistic do-gooder very well, and I also love Jayma Mays as germaphobic guidance counselor Emma Pillsbury. So far the teen cast are too caricaturish to evaluate, but given time I imagine we’ll see some sort of development with them as well.
  • Vampire Diaries – I observed some rather atrocious acting during the pilot. I hate to name names, so instead I’ll just give credit to those who impressed me or seemed well cast. Well, that just leaves me with the three who received top billing: Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, and Ian Somerhalder. Dobrev brings a quiet confidence and a no-nonsense air to Elena, Wesley plays “I’m the good one” vampire Stefan as well as one can, and Somerhalder brings some much-needed comic relief (I’m not sure it was supposed to be funny, but I laughed) and passion to the whole proceedings. Somerhalder just has that creepy, evil eye look about him, similar to Cillian Murphy, that makes him well-suited for a role such as this. He will be entertaining as Damon, and will probably be the main reason I’ll keep watching, if I do.

The Soundtrack

  • Glee – The music is probably the main reason I watch this show. I enjoy hearing choral interpretations of popular songs, plus I like the quirky, Bobby McPherrinish harmonies that provide atmosphere for many of the scenes.
  • Vampire Diaries – In the tradition of many CW shows that have come before it, this vampire love saga is chock full of barely known music from current bands. At least, it’s barely known to me. But I am all for promoting the little guys. In fact, I like how the CW often advertises the music at the end of its shows: “Tonight’s episode featured music from…” That being said, I didn’t absolutely love any of the music in the pilot episode enough to go download it. Maybe next week. Click here for a list of the songs from the pilot.
Vampire Diaries is the land of lost teens, with almost no adults to be found.

Vampire Diaries is the land of lost teens, with almost no adults to be found.

Where Have All the Grown-Ups Gone?

  • Glee – Well, all the grown-ups are hanging out in the halls of the high school, because most of them are teachers and faculty. The only parent we’ve seen is Finn’s mom, when he flashed back to their fun times on the front lawn with the lawn care guy. And the only spouse we’ve seen is Will’s crazy, self-centered wife Terri (played very well by Jessalyn Gilsig. And for a show about a high school, this is as it should be. Since most of the action takes place at school, there’s no reason to develop the parents at this point.
  • Vampire Diaries – Now that is a good question for this show – where are all the grown-ups? We saw one older teacher, who was put in his place by Stefan when he gave the class some misinformation about Mystic Falls’ civil war civilian casualties. And then there was that secretary who Stefan glamored into enrolling him at the school without proper paperwork. But Elena and Jeremy live with their grad student aunt, who doesn’t look much older than 25, and none of the other kids seem to have any sort of parental guidance. (Am I forgetting anyone?) I haven’t figured out the relationship between Stefan and his “uncle.” I’m guessing that’s just a living descendant of the family who is aware of his family’s bloodsucking past. It seems awkward to just ignore all the parents. I mean, a simple mention would do, or a wave goodbye as Bonnie and the gang head to their coffee shop hangout. I am surprised that we aren’t seeing more parents since this show is from Mr. Dawson’s Creek himself, Kevin Williamson. I always enjoyed the parents’ subplots on that show, since real teenagers’ lives are usually mixed up, rather than totally separate from, their moms and dads, grandparents, guardians… Maybe the show will introduce more adult characters in the coming weeks. If not, I’m calling this out as a flaw.
Vampire Diaries reminds me of Roswell, specifically Max and Lizs relationship.

Vampire Diaries reminds me of Roswell, specifically Max and Liz's relationship.

Reminds me of…

  • Glee – It’s hard to think of any shows like this one. It reminds me more of Christopher Guest movies, such as Best in Show or A Mighty Wind. Unlike most of what comes on tv these days (lots of revivals, remakes, and spin-offs), this one seems very original.
  • Vampire Diaries – This show has nothing in common with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, except that a vampire falls in love with a teenage girl. But I don’t see Elena picking up a sword and vanquishing Damon in the season finale. No, Vampire Diaries is more reminiscent of Roswell. On that show, alien Max Evans fell in love with Liz Parker, and Liz wrote in her diary about how her world was turned upside down the moment she got involved with him. Like Elena, Liz had a friend with psychic connections – as I recall, Maria was somehow in touch with that kind of thing. Aliens, vampires… while there are many differences, both Liz and Elena are drawn to Max and Stefan because they aren’t like the other boys.

In the Great Scheme of Things

  • Glee – I am thrilled to have a musical comedy on tv. Amidst all the melodrama of teen romance, the mystery of criminal investigations, and the depressing cases of medical shows, Glee is a breath of fresh air. I just hope the showrunners and cast can keep up with audience expectation for a long time to come.
  • Vampire Diaries – This, my friends, is no Joss Whedon show. Buffy or Angel it will never be. The love triangle was always just a part of the story on those shows, with a more epic story arc taking center stage. I’m not sure this show will ever rise above the Stefan-Elena-Damon love triangle and the mayhem that Stefan will try to prevent Damon from inflicting on Mystic Falls. Do I sound skeptical? Well, I am. Perhaps if I continue watching, then after several episodes I will compare Vampire Diaries to other vampire shows of the past, to see how it stacks up. I should at least give it a chance.

So obviously, if I were forced to choose between these two shows, I would immediately select Glee. Vampire Diaries pales (pun intended) in comparison to the more magical, zingier Glee. What did you think of these two shows?

 

Fall 2009 Preview: The CW’s New Shows September 3, 2009

I will now round out my take on the major networks’ new series with a look at the CW’s new shows. I haven’t watched anything on the former WB since Veronica Mars was canceled two years ago. I thought I would be permanently finished with this youth-skewing network, but they have at least one show that has piqued my interest this season. Let’s take a look.

Not Interested At All

  • Melrose Place – I somehow managed to avoid this show in its original incarnation. Well, I was 14 when it started, which probably made me a bit too young to be watching a trashy primetime soap about 20- and 30-somethings living in an apartment complex. Strange, then, that they are reviving said trashy soap on a network geared toward teens. I see no reason to watch this show. I don’t like soap operas, and I don’t know any of the actors, and based on the preview I watched, it doesn’t look like any of these characters are likable. However, I am sure it will find an audience and will provide some good watercooler topics for people who are interested in that sort of thing.
  • The Beautiful Life – Description from cwtv.com: “The life of a high-fashion model appears glamorous and sexy, but as every new model quickly learns, behind the beautiful façade is a world of insecurity and cut-throat competition. Two teenage models who are about to discover this world for themselves are Raina Mayer (Sara Paxton, “Last House on the Left”), a stunning beauty with a secret past, and Chris Andrews (Benjamin Hollingsworth, “The Line”), a strikingly handsome Iowa farm boy.” This is another show that simply isn’t for me. I would never watch this show. I have no interest in high fashion, and I am sure this is yet another primetime soap in the making. Kudos to Ashton Kutcher for getting involved with a project that is a somewhat new approach to the genre, by setting it in the world of fashion. I can’t think of another show besides reality-based ones that has had such a premise. Too bad I’m just not interested. The CW was smart to schedule it after America’s Next Top Model. They will probably gain more viewers that way.

Somewhat Interested


  • The Vampire Diaries – This is the only CW show premiering this fall that I’m remotely interested in. I always give vampire shows a chance. Sometimes they are great (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel); sometimes they are lackluster (Moonlight). I am guessing this one will fall somewhere in between. I’ve heard the book series upon which it is based is mediocre at best. It seems obvious that Vampire Diairies is the CW’s attempt to capitalize on the huge popularity of all things Twilight. A human girl (played by Nina Dobrev from Degrassi: The Next Generation) falls in love with a mysterious, handsome boy who happens to be a vampire… However, Twilight fans may not be willing to just watch this show because it is about vampires. Most of them are quite obsessed with dear Edward and company, so these new fangs on the block may not measure up. It’s nice to see Ian Somerhalder (Boone on Lost) back on tv, and I also know Paul Wesley from his role on Everwood as Amy’s drug-addicted boyfriend. He was also the star of the short-lived supernatural drama Fallen. It will be hard for me to believe Somerhalder as the villain, but I’m willing to see what he does with his character, Damon the ancient and evil vampire. So, yes, I am skeptical as to whether or not CW can do a vampire show well, after all the shows they have managed to mess up over the past few years. But I’ll tune in as long as it holds my interest (and doesn’t conflict with my other shows).

The CW has two more shows scheduled to premiere at midseason: Blonde Charity Mafia and Life Unexpected. Blonde Charity Mafia sounds terrifying – something about the lives of Washington, D.C.’s most influential 20-something alpha girls. It’s described as a docu-series. I don’t know if that means it’s a reality show, or simply a drama based on reality. I don’t want to find out! The other “coming soon” show sounds potentially decent. Life Unexpected is about a 15-year old teenager, Lux, who decides to become an emancipated minor after spending most of her life in foster homes. During the legal process that follows, she meets her biological father, 30-something “aging frat boy” Nate, and her biological mother, Cate, a local radio celebrity. Cate also has a radio DJ boyfriend, Ryan. A judge grants temporary custody of Lux to Nate and Cate (how cute – rhyming names), and they decide to “make a belated attempt to give her the family she deserves.” It’s nice to see Shiri Appleby (Roswell) back on the WB, I mean CW. She’ll be playing Lux’s mother, Cate. It’s also nice to welcome Kerr Smith back to the network, although I have a hard time seeing Jack from Dawson’s Creek as an aging frat boy. I hope I remember to watch this show at midseason. It could be the next Everwood. Family drama, interesting characters… It at least looks like a step up from One Tree Hill and 90210. That’s something, right?

Will you watch any shows on The CW this season?

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Film Review: Let the Right One In July 23, 2009

Filed under: Movies — Emily @ 11:42 am
Tags: , ,

Let the Right One In (its actual title is Låt den rätte komma in), a Swedish suspense film, is not a vampire movie. Instead, it just so happens to have a vampire as one of its central characters. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, which mysteriously appeared in my Netflix Instant Watch queue. I don’t remember putting it there, and it doesn’t seem like the sort of movie my husband would be interested in. Whatever the case, I am glad that I discovered it. So what makes this movie worth watching? Let’s take a look.

The Movie’s Tagline

  • Oskar, an overlooked and bullied boy, finds love and revenge through Eli, a beautiful but peculiar girl who turns out to be a vampire.”
    • I really didn’t know what to expect from this movie, beyond this vague plot synopsis. What I got was a movie that was disturbing more for its realism than its gore. There are certainly some gory scenes, but more often I got chills and had disturbing reactions to the moments where the situations seemed like something out of real life: the mundane setting of a quiet, small town where people don’t notice when something bad is happening because they don’t expect it to; the clueless teacher sitting inside at her desk while a student is being traumatized by bullies outside; the lonely misfit with rage brewing just beneath the surface; a reclusive neighbor getting more than he bargained for when he looks out the window…

The Characters

  • Oskar – He’s a 12 year old boy who doesn’t have any friends, whose parents are divorced (he lives with his mom), and who has a morbid fascination with murder (he cuts out articles about various murders from the newspaper and keeps a scrapbook).
  • Eli – She is a lonely and mysterious  12 year old (“more or less”) girl who walks barefoot in the snow, only comes out at night, and faces a constant predicament of where her next meal will come from.
  • The Supporting Players – The secondary characters include  the bullies, Eli’s “father,” Oskar’s mother and father, some teachers, and a handful of neighbors who all live in the same apartment complex as Oskar and Eli.

The Setting

  • Oskar and Eli live in the Stockholm suburb of Blackeberg, and it’s the early ’80s. The unsettling atmosphere is enhanced by the presence of snow, which blankets the town and the disturbing events, in silence.
  • The cinematography is amazing, as every scene is strategically and artistically shot, with utmost attention paid to the lighting, shadows, and angles.

The Plot – There are three main threads to the story (don’t worry – I’ll keep this spoiler free)

  • Oskar’s constant and escalating bullying by a group of boys at his school
  • The effect that Eli’s presence has on the community
  • Oskar and Eli’s burgeoning friendship, based on their common bond of loneliness and being outsiders
    • Their friendship is the main focus of the movie, which makes this more of a coming of age tale than a horror or suspense movie.

The Result – No, I’m not talking about how the movie ends. I’m talking about my overall impression of the movie, based on its ingredients.

  • I really enjoyed it. The movie poses some interesting questions, and provides some surprising answers
    • What would it be like for a vampire to be the only one of its kind living in a community of humans? How would that vampire balance the needs for companionship and survival?
    • What is the breaking point for a child who thinks the whole world, including his parents and his classmates, are against him?
    • In a world where people don’t know that vampires actually exist, how do they react to, process, or explain situations where a vampire has left its mark?

Final thought

  • At the beginning of this review, I mentioned that Let the Right One In isn’t a vampire movie – it just has a character who is a vampire. That’s not to say that it doesn’t present some interesting vampire mythology, but that aspect takes a backseat to the more interesting character development. The result is a world in which you empathize with just about everyone, and aren’t sure what to think when the credits roll – other than saying that everything about the movie was fascinating and well executed. So, if you are interested in vampires, but also value character development and cinematic artistry, skip Twilight, and watch Let the Right One In.
 

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.

Bella

  • 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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