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Author: JoAnne Hyde
November 20, 2009

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OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: In the second installment of Stephenie Meyer’s phenomenally successful TWILIGHT series, the romance between mortal and vampire soars to a new level as Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) delves deeper into the mysteries of the supernatural world she yearns to become part of—only to find herself in greater peril than ever before.

DIRECTED BY: Chris Weitz
WRITTEN BY: Melissa Rosenberg
CAST: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner

TWILIGHT saga fans can rest easy – NEW MOON lives up to its hype.

From the stylish black screen, gigantic golden moon fade-in, to the slow fade-out with the words NEW MOON appearing to– Wham! - the movie begins. What a difference a bigger budget makes! This production has a much smoother, slicker look. Better lighting, better cinematography, and better performances from the actors make for a very enjoyable film experience.

All the cast members you love are back, along with the new additions of the Volturi. Michael Sheen (THE QUEEN) brings a deliciously sinister persona to the treacherous Aro character. He exudes a cringe-worthy evil oiliness as he manipulates everyone around him. Quite a departure from Tony Blair! Dakota Fanning doesn’t have much screen time as Jane, but when she is on screen, she owns it. She is perfectly controlled in one of the longest close-ups I’ve seen. Since the better part of her performance is staring (inflicting pain psychically), she has to communicate only with her eyes – disguised by blood-red contacts – and miniscule movements of facial muscles.

Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson intensify the chemistry between their characters, Edward and Bella, and deliver more mature performances than in the original TWILIGHT movie. That is, until Edward takes a powder and leaves Bella in so much emotional pain that the audience can’t help but feel it right along with her. Enter Jacob, Taylor Lautner’s sympathetic werewolf, and a love triangle ensues. Lautner fought for this role when the powers that be thought he was too young to continue to play Jacob who grows physically at a magically accelerated rate in the book, NEW MOON. Lautner put on 30 pounds of muscle and studied the series of books to develop the Jacob character. He nailed it! He shows very promising range as an actor as he alternates between the boyish best friend of Bella and the tortured werewolf who cannot reveal his secret. He and Stewart generate some real heat in their scenes together. As fans of the book series know, the love triangle escalates in the next film, Eclipse (already in post-production). Pattinson had better watch that bit of lag time before some of his responses, or Lautner will steal his thunder. I don’t know if it’s because he has to use an American accent, but it affects the timing of his response lines. It’s definitely better in this film than it was in Twilight, so maybe the problem will fade in ECLIPSE. The last thing an actor wants is for it to appear that he (or she) is reading lines rather than talking and responding to other characters. Timing is everything. It has to look like the words are the actor’s own. This is a small thing, and the over-all effect of the Bella/Edward relationship does not suffer much. Of course, for “Twihards” on Team Edward, all Mr. Pattinson has to do is show up.

The supporting cast remains a real strength, just as it was in TWILIGHT. Billy Burke (Charlie) is a stand-out as Bella’s dad, as are Ashley Green (Alice) and Kellan Lutz (Emmet). Edward’s family will have more screen time in ECLIPSE, which will allow them to showcase their individual talents.

My only complaints are small ones. At times the soundtrack seems too loud, especially when lyrics are involved. There are a couple of times when scenes lack transition (an editing issue). For example, Edward and Bella argue over her becoming a vampire, she suggests they put it to a vote from his family, and ,joltingly, we go from Bella’s room to the Cullen’s house with the family assembled and ready to vote.

Obviously, NEW MOON is aimed at a specific audience. I think that people unfamiliar with Stephenie Meyer’ best-selling quartet, would be lost. But with millions of fans, world-wide, appealing to a general audience seems unnecessary. It is, after all, a niche film – for every shy, bookish, awkward girl (or anyone who ever was one) – who never thought she had a chance to end up with the hot guy.

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