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New Moon

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Shakespeare must be flushed with praise.  Since Romeo and Juliet’s release, his influential work has seen literally hundreds of interpretations.  The Twilight series has been the latest with its tale of forbidden love between two people of opposing tribes garnering massive audiences.  Chapter Two in the Twilight quartet, New Moon further stretches the formula giving a new spin on the Bard’s words.
Still loving Bella (Kristen Stewart) with fervour, young vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) wonders how long it can last.  An answer arrives upon her 18th birthday when she is attacked by his brother.  Shocked by this, Edward calls off the romance and flees.  Broken-hearted by his departure Bella finds solace in the arms of Jacob (Taylor Lautner) who is part of a werewolf tribe.  While she falls for his charms, a grave action by Edward puts her love in perspective as she races to save his life before an army of Italian vampires seek to destroy their undying love.
No matter what this review says fans will flock to New Moon with abandon.  Never mind the risible dialogue and some pretty weak acting, as long as the merchandising bonanza and tickets continue to sell there’ll be no stopping this franchise.  That probably sounds harsh, although it amazes how such a hollow series has become a mega-hit.  Like its predecessor New Moon contains very little passionate romance with smouldering looks and teen angst replacing genuine emotion.  Excuse the pun but you’d expect more life in a tale containing vampires and werewolves rather than the earnest self-consciousness provided.
Despite those faults New Moon’s strength lies in its characterisation.  Taylor Lautner is the main beneficiary with his role as Jacob well developed.  Jacob’s delight in a new love and anguish at an ancient curse are well documented and his scenes enliven a rather crude narrative.  There’s nothing restrained about Chris Weitz’s direction as every plot point is telegraphed with a thin story-line wilting under the film’s overlong running time.  The action sequences and CGI are expertly crafted although they add little substance in what is an overall basic package.
Serviceable without being remarkable, New Moon offers definitive proof you can make much from very little.  Whilst having a more involving story than the first, New Moon fails to discard the spectre of the commercial money-making engine behind its character’s love-lorn tribulations. 
Rating out of 10:  5

A Serious Man

Never ones resting on their laurels, Joel and Ethan Coen’s films have shown their determined diversity.  The directorial brothers can be cheeky sometimes as their gleefulness in playing with audiences finds them shifting between crime, drama and comedy with ease.  Pleasingly viewers have embraced their unique perspectives with each outing eagerly awaited.  It’ll be interesting to see how A Serious Man fares, as this more personal project unearths a black recollection of their youth. 
During 1967’s long hot summer, Jewish physics professor Larry (Michael Stuhlbarg) is in a quandary.  With his marriage falling apart, his children ignoring him and various other traumas, he seeks a solution.  He thinks he finds this with a group of Rabbis who extol the virtues of their path with a platitude of confusing statements.  Befuddled by the conflicting advice, Larry’s life turns into a serious of mis-understandings where hopefulness is in short supply.
A Serious Man finds the Coen’s ability in creating tension from the most mundane situations in full flight.  As they pile more problems onto Larry’s hapless existence, each dilemma is given the brother’s peculiar twist.  Wonderfully portrayed by Stuhlbarg, you really feel sorry for his character as his stressed persona attempts to conquer a plethora of personal selfishness.  This is especially felt in his familial interactions, as each member draws out their own needs from Larry without offering something in return.  This percolation of anxiety is always slowing rippling under the surface, ensuring the viewer never knows what will next arrive.
Although certainly an acquired taste, A Serious Man benefits from some well written characters and crackling dialogue.  Making these work wonderfully is the script’s episodic nature as each incident gradually builds towards an enigmatic finale.  Not every question receives answers, although the Coen’s have never been ones to spoon feed audiences with formulaic dross.  There’s always something to think about after seeing one of their films, and Larry’s constant search for enlightenment in his increasingly frantic life mirrors some facets of today’s fast moving society.
Less a dig at Judaism than an essay on conformity, A Serious Man reveals the Coen’s adventurous spirit still shines.  Definitely something to be thankful for, you have to admire their gift in pushing their talents in new and quirky directions.
Rating out of 10:  7