New Moon

It begins with a nightmare and ends with a proposal.  Two hours of mostly uninvolving sequences bookend these two equally lacklustre cinematic moments.  Ultimately, it adds up to yet another lousy vampire vs. werewolf movie.
 
Believe it or not, New Moon is actually slightly better than its tedious predecessor, Twilight.  Both films are based on the popular Stephenie Meyer novels and are just the first two installments in a multi-picture franchise.  God help us all.
 
As you may recall from Twilight, the dour, pale-skinned beauty, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), falls madly in love with Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a tormented old vampire who spent much of the first hour of that film alternating between friendly and borderline criminal behaviour before finally making up his mind.  The film ended with this awkward couple dancing outside in the dark oblivious to everything and everyone else around them, including their own lack of chemistry.
 
At the start of New Moon, Bella has become insecure about her mortality.  She dreams about looking like her grandmother while ever-devoted Edward doesn’t age a day.  She’s just turned 18 and is still pleading with her unattractive boyfriend to transform her into a vampire already.  Edward consistently refuses.
 
Meanwhile, hunky, long-haired Jacob (Taylor Lautner) is eager to spend more time with her.  The ripped 16-year-old finally gets his opportunity after an incident at Edward’s family home leads to a contrived, sudden break-up and a most welcome disappearance.  However, the terminally morose Bella wastes three months of her young life sitting in her room motionless and wordless, not to mention staring into nothingness, before she finally starts hanging out with him.
 
One of the weirdest elements of the film involves Bella continually seeking adventurous thrills (mostly of the motorcycle variety) in order to conjure up the scolding Obi-Wan-like spirit of her disapproving ex.  (Yeah, that’s hot.)  Even weirder is how she sends email updates to Edward’s psychic sister, Alice (sexy and sweet Ashley Greene) even though her address doesn’t exist anymore.  Wouldn’t it have made more sense just to think those same messages?  (Alice is a mind reader, right?)
 
Meanwhile, a couple of the bad vampires are seeking vengeance for events that happened in the earlier picture, some hikers have been mysteriously murdered in the woods, and Jacob is quickly turning into a romantic rival for Bella’s affections.
 
Here’s the good news about New Moon.  It actually has a sense of humour from time to time.  When Bella decides to be social again, she goes to the movies with her pal Jessica (cutie pie Oscar nominee Anna Kendrick from Up In The Air).  As they exit the theatre, Jessica goes on a bit of a comic rant about zombie movies that features one very pointed satirical dig at New Moon.  (The character actually comes to life in that humourous scene.)  Bella’s third romantic interest, Mike (Michael Welch), gets queasy over an intense action scene he’s watching during another trip to the cinema.  The cheesy dialogue of that fake movie (not seen, only heard) is also funny as is Jacob’s reaction to his unmanly behaviour as he high-tails it into the can.  These lighthearted moments sure beat the unconvincing, slow paced melodrama that suck up most of the running time.
 
While watching those particular scenes, I couldn’t help but wonder if William Shatner served as a consultant to some of the actors.  The dreaded pause acting he perfected from John Wayne might explain why the film is 2 hours and 10 minutes long.  If Bella and Edward would just get their thoughts out quicker this damn thing would surely finish a half hour earlier.  If their romance was unbelievable in Twilight, it’s even less so in New Moon.  Honestly, on a superficial level, it’s hard to fathom Bella instantly preferring the underwhelming Edward over the chiselled Jacob.  My God, the latter is constantly shirtless, tanned and in fantastic shape while the former looks like he’s been living in silent German horror films for centuries.  He’s both colourless and charmless.
 
However, on a deeper level, it turns out that Jacob is just as big of a knob as Edward.  When he finds himself getting very close to Bella, he starts to pull away.  He refuses to return her calls and in a scene where she drives out to visit him, he bluntly tells her they can’t be friends anymore.  Then, the shirtless wonder runs off with his fellow shirtless tribe which makes you question his sexuality.  But then, like Edward, he changes his mind and wants to see her again.  Unfortunately for him, Bella’s stupid teenage brain (she’s a little slow to learn Jacob’s secret) is made up.  No matter how warm Jacob is, no matter how "sort of beautiful" she finds him and no matter how often she sees him half-naked, she’ll always pick the pasty douche who suddenly bailed on her.  She’d have better luck with Mike.  At least, he’s not confused about his feelings.
 
Michael Sheen does a nice job playing Aro Volturi, an aristocratic vampire who, along with his two brothers, serves as sort of a bloodsucking Supreme Court Justice.  (The threesome have the legal right to rip body parts off of vampires who willingly expose their true identity to mortals.  Nice work if you can get it.)  It’s a small role but he delivers a smooth, understated performance (although he keeps his eyes a bit too wide at times which can be distracting).  Lovely Dakota Fanning, however, is pretty much wasted playing one of his employees.  She’s not given enough screen time to establish her character. 
 
A big misunderstanding leads Edward to the conclusion that maybe this immortality business is overrated and inevitably he ends up making his case in front of the Volturis who don’t think he’s very persuasive.  How emotionally involved you are in his romance with Bella determines how much you care about this third act storyline, especially the puzzling final scene.  When you’re eagerly rooting against this pretentious Romeo & Juliet scenario, it’s clear the film isn’t working.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, May 14, 2010
3:40 p.m. 
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Published in: on May 14, 2010 at 3:40 pm  Comments (2)  

Website Changes

Like The Vatican, I can be resistant to change.  Thankfully, my stubbornness doesn’t last for centuries.
 
For almost three years, I’ve been wanting to change the look of this space.  Back when I launched this site in February 2006, it had a cool film strip theme that repeated all the way down the page.  Unfortunately, it eventually had to be scrapped because at one point, all my content turned invisible.  As a result, I had to settle for a less than appealing polka dot design (based on a helpful suggestion from someone on the Windows Live Spaces Technical Team).  After a while, I made another switch near the end of the year.  It was a space nebula theme that gave the site a lovely bit of atmosphere, albeit in a low-key way.
 
That design lasted a lot longer than I wanted it to, which brings us to yesterday.  After scouring all the different themes, I settled on this understated space motif.  The coolest part involves scrolling all the way down the home page where you’ll see blue stars on either side of the blog.  I like how they fill the blank spaces down there.
 
This isn’t the only new aspect of The Writings Of Dennis Earl.  If you focus on the right side of your screen while you’re moving down the home page, you’ll notice something is missing.  That would be the Recommended Books For Sale list.
 
Four almost four years, I had an Amazon Associates ID.  The way it works is pretty simple.  You send them an email requesting the ID, they examine your site to make sure everything’s kosher and if they approve of it, you get the ID, basically a code name that incorporates numbers and the name of your site. 
 
The next step is to put together a book list and this is where I ran into trouble for months.  Fortunately, I figured out what I was doing wrong (the WLS Technical Team were no help) and everything was ready to go in November 2006.  I was going to get 4% commission on every book directly ordered from this space.  (My ID appeared in each link so Amazon would know the origin of the sale.)  Seeing the covers of all but one of the titles improved the look of the site tremendously.  (They mysteriously disappeared months ago during one of Microsoft’s occasional Spaces updates, unfortunately.)
 
However, after receiving 1093 clicks and no sales, despite briefly experimenting with the idea of swapping my recommended reads for current best-sellers, the reality could no longer be denied.  No one wanted to buy a book from this site.  As a result, I informed Amazon last night that I wanted out.  When I checked my messages today, there was a response.  As per my request, they cancelled my ID. 
 
What does this ultimately mean?  Simple.  I won’t be making any money through my writing here.  As I explained back in 2006, there are only two ways to earn revenue on Windows Live Spaces:  Kanoodle Ads and the Amazon book list.  Surely, there are better ideas.
 
Until a more surefire profit-making venture comes along, you won’t be given the hard sell regarding advertising.  You’ll be able to read in peace.
 
One last thing.  You may have noticed a really cool spinning diamond followed by three links to three separate Windows Live Spaces sites that someone posted in my Guestbook several months ago.  There was no personal message to me and normally, I would delete spam of this nature but when I saw that diamond, I thought it classed up my site so I kept it.  Unfortunately, it stopped working a while ago.  Whenever I would scroll down to check it out, all I would see is a white box with a red "X" in the middle, the universal sign for something that didn’t load in properly.  (Several attempts to get it to work always resulted in failure.)  Sadly, it has since been deleted.  But special thanks to the guy who sent it to me.  I got plenty of enjoyment out of it.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
7:55 p.m.
 
UPDATE:  I forgot to mention something.  In a previous piece, I mentioned that you can follow my blog on NetworkedBlogs, a site that has its own app on Facebook.  In the upper right hand corner of my home page, you’ll notice a box that says "Follow my blog…".  In order to become a follower of The Writings Of Dennis Earl, note the line "Click here to sign up for FREE".  When you get to my NetworkedBlogs page, click "Follow".  (It’s right under the thumbnail picture of my site.)  And that’s it.  While you’re there, have a look around at other blogs you might be interested in following.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
2:20 p.m.
Published in: on May 11, 2010 at 7:56 pm  Comments (1)  

A Month Of Silence, Two New MonkeyBiz Reviews And An Invitation

For those who pray and meditate, it can be bliss.  But for those who value their creativity, it’s frustrating as hell.
 
A silent mind is an unproductive one and as a result, this website has been a ghost town for exactly a month.  The sad thing is this isn’t the first time this has happened.  A quick perusal of the content tucked away in the Website Announcements section reveals several old articles explaining these occasionally inactive periods.
 
So, what’s my excuse this time?  Oh, the usual.  Laziness.  Writer’s block.  Perfectionistic tendencies.  You know, the old stand-bys.
 
However, that’s not the entire story.  As I noted in this space over two years ago, I’m a recovering magazine addict.  After parting with all of my wrestling titles in the summer of 2004, I moved on to my vast collection of Entertainment Weeklys along with other remaining showbiz publications such as Movieline, Premiere, Empire (a British movie monthly), Variety, Inside Hollywood and Rolling Stone.  At that point, I was down to eight piles of reading material.  I’m happy to report that since the posting of that 2008 piece, I only have five piles of EWs left to go through.  Everything else has been read.  Most issues have since been recycled.  (The rest await their removal in what I call The Done Pile.)  In the last couple of months, despite the occasional movie screening (eleven stinkers so far), I’ve been a reading machine pouring through issue after issue, only saving what I need and chucking the rest. 
 
Naturally, this ongoing process takes up a great deal of my time.  Add to that my overall lack of inspiration lately and, well, you get the picture.
 
It’s not as though I haven’t tried.  No less than four poems and an EW-related item were initiated within the last couple of weeks.  Despite some promising lines, it was impossible to put together a consistently good set of rhymes.  So all the incomplete poetry was scrapped.  As for the other piece, despite writing quite a few paragraphs, I lost interest in the premise and hit delete.  I’ve been struggling to come up with something substantial ever since.  My increasing lack of patience certainly isn’t helping matters.
 
With my 35th birthday on the horizon, it’s glaringly apparent that I need to get my act together.  I’m still at home, unemployed and dateless, certainly not where I envisioned my future as a much younger guy.  The good news is it’s not all bad.  (In fact, it could be worse, when you think about it.)  I’ve been slowly making progress on other aspects of my life (for instance, my mom is teaching me to cook which, for the most part, I’m enjoying) and despite my occasional frustrations both creative and personal, I’m generally in better spirits these days.  If only that growing sense of optimism would lead to prolific, literary brilliance as well as a steady income doing what I love.  Here’s hoping both happen in the near future.
 
Meanwhile, I’m happy to report that MonkeyBiz has finally published two of my CD reviews.  Last year, when I was still a client of Employment Hamilton (the file was closed in March 2010 without a satisfactory resolution), I was pointed in their direction by my well-intentioned counsellor.  After a series of back-and-forth emails, I was given the opportunity to critique recorded music by a couple of independent Toronto acts.  After listening to each CD a few times, I went to work.  Once the completed reviews were submitted, the waiting game began.  Despite occasional attempts to find out their status, it was uncertain whether my work would be accepted.  My contact wouldn’t give me straight answers, despite being a fan of my writing.
 
Finally, after my last EH meeting, I fired off one last email, this one to the editor who published a piece I wrote last fall regarding a Green Venture/Ladies Home Auto Care event.  (Sadly, the piece is no longer online.)  She confirmed what my counsellor had just told me.  My MonkeyBiz contact was no longer working there and for some reason, the four reviews I submitted to her were not in her possession.  Thankfully, she wanted to read them, so they were re-submitted.
 
The first piece, an assessment of Rearranger by Autobodies, was posted March 28.  Most of the original review was thankfully preserved in the final edit.  (Only a few lines were cut here and there.) Two weeks later, a review of Sage Against The Machine by Dirty Penny, appeared on the site.  From what I can tell, nothing was changed from my original submission.  We’ll see if my other two reviews will see the light of day any time soon.  I hope to have more stuff ready for them in the near future.
 
Finally, here’s something I’ve been meaning to write about for quite a while now.  You can follow my blog through a Facebook application called NetworkedBlogs.  It’s absolutely free.  Whenever a new piece is added here, members will be the first to know.  (I usually post announcements on my wall.)  Because this is a small-traffic site, I only have 17 followers at the moment.  Hopefully, starting with this posting, constant reminders will help boost the total.  To become a follower of my blog, simply click here.  To those who’ve already done so, thank you kindly.
 
In the meantime, I hope to get back to business soon.  Look for new postings in the near future.  Hopefully.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, May 9, 2010
2:05 a.m. 
Published in: on May 9, 2010 at 2:05 am  Leave a Comment