Saturday, November 28, 2009

More 'New Moon' Reviews added

Master post of the 'NEW MOON' reviews!!!

Please keep in mind that reviews can contain spoilers, lots of spoilers, and that negative reviews can be interesting to read.
If you have more reviews, feel free to email me. :)


•• Emanuel Levy: Dealing with vampires and werewolves, "Twilight Saga: New Moon," the second chapter in Stephenie Meyer’s successful book and now film series, tells a more complex if also convoluted romantic story than the first one.

In this segment, directed by Chris Weitz, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) decides to test fate for a feeling or a glimpse of her vampire love, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). However, going deeper into the mysteries of the supernatural world, in which she's eager to participate, Bella discovers some ancient secrets that put her at great peril.

Like the first film, "New Moon" is a feature made primarily for the target audiences, for the global fans of the series. Like "Twilight," it will divide film critics, and like its predecessor, the picture may be critics-proof. Calculated to a fault, "Twilight" proved, if nothing else, that it knows how to reach its most immediate and crucial audiences.

The appearance in a major role of the sexy Taylor Lautner, who's becoming a celeb among youths for many reasons, no doubt should help the commercial prospects of the new film. And the chemistry (read erotic tension) between Lautner and Stewart is strong, perhaps even stronger than between her and Pattinson.

The screenplay revolves around an enigma. In an effort to protect her, Edward decides to leave Bella just after her 18th birthday. He thinks he’s helping her by ending the relationship, failing to realize the torment and the angst involved in such a break-up. The split is depicted in ways that is bound to touch any youngster who has gone through the experience.

But the timing could not have been worse. Heartbroken, Bella sleepwalks through her senior year at school. She feels numb and alone–until she realizes that she can summon Edward’s image whenever she's in danger, thus summoning another fantasy shared by youth.

Upping the ante, "New Moon" explores the nature and limits of desire of a curious girl, willing to take greater risks, including high-speed motorcycle jaunts. Girls and boys will get a kick out of watching the motorcycle sequences. With the help of Jacob Black (Lautner), her childhood friend and member of the mysterious Quileute tribe, Bella refurbishes a motorbike for her adventures. In the process, Bella gets to know Jacob, who has a supernatural secret of his own. When Bella wanders alone into a meadow, she encounters a deadly attacker, and it takes wolves to save her from what looks like a grisly fate.

Director Chris Weitz has previously adapted other books for the screen, successfully with "About a Boy" and unsuccessfully (or semi-successfully) with "The Golden Compass." Weitz may not be the best choice for this kind of text. However, to be fair, he had to operate within some constraints, the public's familiarity with the source material, the visual style of the first film, and, of course, the casting.

Visually and technically, "New Moon" is not a better picture than "Twilight," but it has a more interesting story to tell since it involves a triangle. Moreover, as preposterous as it is, this saga is about primitive secrets, such as those of the Quileute tribe, and revelations, such as Edward’s real motivation for leaving Bella, which dominate the second half of the tale.

Central to the new story is the growing friendship between Bella and Jacob Black, a werewolf and natural enemy of the vampires. The stakes gets higher, as now it’s not just Bella’s existence that’s in danger, but Edward’s existence as well. By the end, all three protags have learned some life lessons. Bella grows up more rapidly than she had anticipated or wished for, and Edward is humbled by the realization that knowledge is deficient, that he doesn’t know everything (as he had pretended or wanted to believe in.

Digging deeper into Bella’s life as her worlds-the social-physical but also fantasy one–expand, the movie unfolds as a series of discoveries about the people of Forks, the Quileutes, and Jacob and his buddies, who, among other skills, have the ability to turn into wolves.

The best thing you can say about "New Moon" is that, unlike most sequels, it's not a rehash of the first picture. Like the book it's based upon, the film takes Bella and Edward’s fledging relationship to more intense and dangerous levels, and reveals a haunting conflict, the rivalry between the Quileute tribe and the vampires, played out between Jacob and Edward.

Fans of Pattinson will be disappointed by his smaller part, and the fact that he largely appears in apparitions, which make his paleness and monotonous delivery of lines all the more apparent. However, as a screen presence, Taylor Lautner is far more interesting, and his sequences with Kristen Stewart generate the requisite tension and heat.

"New Moon" offers new areas and corners of mythology, and while mixing elements of the vampire mythology with those of werewolves (which has been done before) is not always successful, the effort brings new dimensions to the yarn.

As could be expected, "New Moon" includes a number of acts and scenes that hint and serve as preparation for the third screen chapter in the four-segment book series.

•• The Telegraph, Tim Robey: Rating 2/4
The Twilight Saga: New Moon has all the requisite looks of tortured longing but lacks any animating pulse.

On one level, the appeal of the Twilight franchise is obvious: heartache sells, sexy vampires are on trend, and there’s something about the unattainability of Robert Pattinson’s Edward Cullen (and by extension, R.Pattz himself) which gives his fans the sense of ownership they demand.

For the non-Robsessed, connecting with the mythology of Stephenie Meyer’s series is a different matter -- it’s a pick ‘n’ mix of watered-down fantasy concepts in chalk-white emo styling. The middle hour (of what feels like three) will induce not just heavy R.Pattz withdrawal in the key audience -- Edward dumps Bella (Kristen Stewart) and disappears for her own safety -- but catalepsy in anyone wanting stuff to, you know, happen. She falls in with newly-buff Quileute neighbour Jacob (Taylor Lautner) and they fix up motorbikes, until he finally comes out as a werewolf.

Under Chris Weitz’s direction, the actors have gained some confidence, and this chaste love triangle among creatures of the night has all the requisite looks of tortured longing. What it misses is any animating pulse: we just wait and wait for the bleeding obvious. The movie is best enjoyed for its dowdy sops to teen culture -- vampires with email addresses, lycanthropes with six-packs -- but for anyone on the outside looking in, the insulation of the characters from real danger makes it a bit of a drag.

••, Philippa Hawker: Rating 3/4
Much-hyped, long-awaited and guaranteed to be a blockbuster hit, the one thing that New Moon won’t deliver, by its very nature, is surprises.

When director Chris Weitz undertook to bring to the screen the second volume in Stephenie Meyer’s four-book Twilight saga, he promised to be faithful to the book. And he has pretty much kept his word.

Twilight, the first movie, introduced us to Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), the independent, solitary young woman who moved to a small town in Washington to live with her father, and fell in love with a local vampire, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson).

The sequel, New Moon, begins, just as the book does, with a quotation from Romeo and Juliet, and takes us on an intense, single-minded exploration of the further trials and tribulations of falling in love with a pale, unnervingly handsome boy who is both 17 and 109 years old.

There is the added complication of werewolves. There is a brush with the vampire ruling class - featuring cameo appearances from Dakota Fanning, as a malevolent, blank-faced vampire girl, and Michael Sheen (recently seen as Tony Blair in The Queen) as a suave vampire authority figure.

There is a strong emphasis, in the film on male beauty. And it seems as if there are - to an almost comical degree - more buff male torsos in this movie than a beach volleyball tournament and a Chippendale’s calendar combined.

One thing New Moon must cope with is the absence, for much of the story, of its romantic lead. Edward banishes himself after an unfortunate incident at Bella's 18th birthday party, a moment that highlights how tricky it is for vampires and humans to get too intimate. He tells Bella that she cannot be part of his world, and that he can never see her again.

In the book, Bella hears Edward’s voice in her head from time to time, apparently coming to protect her in moments of danger. In the movie, he makes occasional appearances, looking like a slightly cheesy hologram.

Meanwhile she grows closer to an old friend, Jacob (Taylor Lautner), the young Native American boy who is clearly devoted to her, but has struggles of his own to contend with.

Weitz brings a few more flickers of humour to the narrative, but the essential, appealing earnestness of the book remains, whole-heartedly embraced. New Moon is a story about longing, and loss, and the dangers of desire. For its screen incarnation, one of its strongest elements is the performance of Stewart. There’s a toughness and introspection to her characterisation of Bella, but there’s also something vulnerable and youthful in her depiction of the pain, the immediacy and the extremes of adolescent yearning.

•• TimeOut, Anna Smith: Rating 3/5
Given the effect the first ‘Twilight’ film had on teens, it’s appropriate that the sequel is a study of sexual and romantic obsession. When pallid, principled vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) leaves town, his chaste girlfriend, Bella (Kristen Stewart), moons and mourns for months. The usual teen pursuits don’t interest her: she sneers at shopping and only opts for sport or cinema if they bring her closer to Edward. Then solace arrives in the bulging biceps of Jacob (Taylor Lautner), Bella’s childhood friend-turned-boy-hulk.

It’s not exactly a celebration of female independence, but ‘New Moon’ still has an expert handle on its young audience. Near-kisses and sexual frustration abound. Boys become attractive yet also dangerous when they come of age – and the good ones keep the monsters in check. This time, the monsters aren’t merely vampires, but werewolves: spectacular CG creatures that snarl and pounce their way through several enjoyable action sequences, then transform back into buff, topless young studs… Yep, ‘New Moon’ knows what it’s doing.

Plot-wise it’s a slow starter, but gains momentum when Bella develops a taste for adrenaline in the hope of catching a glimpse of her vampiric protector. Motorbike rides and deathly dives follow, along with a scenic race to Italy to meet uber-vampire Michael Sheen (always a pleasure). Welcome comedy comes from Bella’s schoolmates, notably Jessica (Anna Kendrick), who wearily deconstructs the symbolism in zombie movies while bemoaning the lack of hot guys. Is this ‘New Moon’ defending its fanbase and pre-empting criticism about its transparent agenda? Natalie and Bella are intelligent young women, yet ruled by their hormones – plenty of room for audience identification there. ‘New Moon’ is little more than a skilful soap opera, but it’s still enjoyable escapism – even if you’re old and wise enough to see through it.

•• Digital Spy, Stella Papamichael: Rating 3/5
If the first instalment of The Twilight Saga was a celebration of teenage sulkiness, then this sequel positively drowns in it. As Bella, Kristen Stewart is pure 'heroin chic', though it isn't drugs that means she's looking so pale; it's being dumped by her bloodsucking vampire soul-mate Edward (Robert Pattinson doing his James Dean impression) because he worries for her soul. Sigh... But it, like, totally sucks because he leaves town, which means all the girls who come to watch this movie hoping for two-plus hours of drool-worthy close-ups might feel, like, totally frustrated.

Taylor Lautner hogs most of the screen-time as rosy-cheeked Native American kid, Jacob. His feelings for Bella run deeper as their friendship becomes closer and even she starts to look at him in a different light; most notably when he whips off his shirt to reveal washboard abs. In the moonlight, he's even more imposing and much, much hairier. He's a werewolf but - yes, you guessed it - he's a bit reluctant about the whole bloodthirsty killing part. Bizarrely though, it's only when Jacob turns into a giant CG Lycanthrope that he becomes interesting. Unfortunately, Lautner has all the charisma of aforementioned washboard. No wonder Bella can't get over Edward.

Their separation is made more sweetly painful by spooky visions of you-know-who that coincide with moments of great danger. Hence, Bella becomes a biker babe. Of course in the mountainous backwoods where she lives, she can only go so far off the rails. This entire adrenalin-fuelled exercise is lamely unconvincing, like The Fast & The Furious meets Sweet Valley High. However, for the film's producers, it means Pattinson fans can get an ethereal flash of him at carefully measured intervals. (Swoon...) Still, it's left to Jacob to bare fangs when bitchy vamp Victoria (Rachelle Lefevre) shows up baying for Bella's blood. It's a score she needs to settle with Edward after he did away with the un-dead love of her non-life in part one.

While all this is going on, we're to assume that Edward is busy writhing in angst over his decision to leave Bella behind. Pattinson does at least get to do a bit of pouting on-camera when he finally re-emerges in the last act. Michael Sheen also pops up, quite Christopher Lee-like, as the camp vampire overlord who muses on the fate of the star-crossed lovers. But this denouement feels crudely tacked on. As before, the chemistry between Pattinson and Stewart helps to cover some of the cracks, but with the little amount of time they're onscreen together, it's like trying to patch up a flesh wound with Elastoplast. It also underlines the lack of a genuine rapport between Stewart and Lautner which bleeds the middle section of the film dry.

Stewart deserves credit for carrying the film on her shoulders and, once again, bringing plenty of soul to a character who might otherwise come across as self-indulgent. Lovelorn teenage girls will relate to scenes of her alone in her bedroom, glumly watching the seasons change to a soft-rock soundtrack. Director Chris Weitz (The Golden Compass) offers a few other evocative moments, like an underwater encounter between Bella and Edward which looks like it could've been inspired by an old Calvin Klein perfume ad. But the effect of that dreary dreamscape is always rudely broken by crass sexual overtones; Lautner and his pack mates run around the woods bare-chested in cut-off jeans, howling, like refugees from a '90s boy band. Perhaps the noise is meant to distract us from what's really going on. Which is nothing much really. 130 minutes of it too... A draining experience, but not in a good way.

•• Variety, Jordan Mintzer: This second chapter of the four-part franchise is as good as "Twilight" and arguably a shade better.

ith more bark than bite, “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” finds its brooding heroine torn from her depressive, bloodsucking boyfriend and thrust into the claws of a hunky werewolf. That’s sort of like being caught between a rock and a hard place (or, in high school terms, between a Goth and a jock), and this second screen installment of Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling “Twilight” series focuses, somewhat convincingly, on the emotions of an 18-year-old coping with her undying love of the undead. Carried by Kristen Stewart’s compellingly dark performance, but also by helmer Chris Weitz’s robust visuals, “Moon” should cause boffo B.O. tides and could outperform its predecessor, which grossed $383 million worldwide.

While this second chapter of Summit Entertainment’s four-part franchise is as good as “Twilight” and arguably a shade better, it’s indisputably darker in its depiction of the throes and woes of adolescent love, especially when one gets dumped. That’s how things kick off for Bella Swan (Stewart), whose 18th birthday begins with a nightmare and ends with vampire heartthrob Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) telling her he’s moving away, with no plans of maintaining a long-distance relationship. Bella quickly slips into a massive depression that resembles a full-scale heroin withdrawal, while her cop dad (Billy Burke) and barely visible school pals can do little but look on.

As foreshadowed in the closing minutes of part one, help soon comes in the form of Native American dream boy Jacob Black, aka Jake (Taylor Lautner), who’s clearly been working out since the first film (as Bella remarks several times).

Although they start off as friends, it’s no secret where things are headed, and Bella engages in several near-suicidal acts that leave her torn between Edward’s far-reaching grasp and Jake’s bulging biceps.

Bella and Jake’s growing relationship is paralleled by rumors of random animal attacks in the woods, as well as the increasingly menacing presence of Jake’s macho buddies (all of whom, like Jake, prefer to remain bare-chested, especially after it starts raining). When vampires from the first go-round resurface to take revenge on Bella, a pack of colossal werewolves comes to her rescue, and it doesn’t take a degree in occult studies to make the connection between the beasts and the boys.

Pic’s first half maintains a somber atmosphere that is broken by spells of PG-13 violence (a decapitation, a few gory closeups) and some nifty cinematic tricks, including a twirling 360-degree shot that shows the passing of time as Bella recovers from the break-up.

Director Weitz (“The Golden Compass”), taking the reins from “Twilight” helmer Catherine Hardwicke, and lenser Javier Aguirresarobe painstakingly depict the gloomy, dreamlike state of Bella’s extended blues, and then pick up the pace about an hour in with several action sequences set in the rain-soaked woods near Forks, Wash.

As expected, Edward soon reappears, albeit for confused reasons, and the quid pro quo eventually carries the action to a royal Italian vampire council (known as the Volturi), providing some handsome locations and a brief turn by Dakota Fanning as a mind-controlling, heavily made-up vampiress. The shortcuts needed to propel the narrative homeward feel a tad rushed, but screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg (who also penned “Twilight”) wisely keeps things focused on Bella’s ever-changing, mostly darkening emotional states, and whether she will end up choosing Edward or Jake.

Stewart is the heart and soul of the film, and not only because her Bella is surrounded by characters who literally have neither one nor the other. She gives both weight and depth to dialogue (“You’re just warm. You’re like your own sun”) that would sound like typical chick-lit blather in the mouth of a less engaging actress, and she makes Bella’s psychological wounds seem like the real deal.

Fangirls may be disappointed by Pattinson’s reduced presence here, as his Edward appears predominantly in mumbling visions until a cliffhanger that brazenly sets up the next episode. Lautner’s Jake provides a strong alternative to Edward’s pale dreariness, though the filmmakers overdo the “strong” part in an ongoing effort to keep their target audience enraptured.

Tech credits and visual effects have improved since “Twilight.”

•• View London, Matthew Turner: Rating 3/5
Enjoyable sequel to last year's smash hit with a stronger plot and better performances, though it still suffers from the occasional dodgy moment and some amusingly rubbish special effects.

The Good - The acting has improved enormously since Twilight, particularly in the case of Taylor Lautner, who delivers a strong, likeable performance as Jacob and has genuine chemistry with Stewart. The plot is much more engaging this time round too, both emotionally and dramatically, though Pattinson's legions of screaming fans may be disappointed by his relative lack of screen time.

Pattinson and Stewart are both good and there's strong support from Ashley Greene (as Alice Cullen) and Anna Kendrick (as Bella's non-vampire friend Jessica), whilst Dakota Fanning makes a memorable impression as Jane, a sinister member of the Volturi.

The Bad - The main problem is that Bella's whiny thrill-seeking (because Edward appears to her whenever she's in danger) is both unconvincing and laughably stupid, such as when she goes for a ride with the world's nicest Hell's Angel-type. Similarly, the script goes a little overboard on the Romeo and Juliet parallels.

In addition, the CGI wolf effects are good in some scenes but terrible in others, most notably in the first appearance of the pack. It's also a shame there's no werewolf equivalent of vampire baseball.

Worth seeing? - The Twilight Saga: New Moon is an entertaining, well acted sequel that sticks closely to the events of the book and won't disappoint the fans.

•• Urban Cinefile, Louise Keller: You're good with weird, Kristen Stewart's Bella is told, as the impossible love triangle between vampire and wolf-man unravels. After the spectacularly successful Twilight, this second in the franchise has plenty to live up to, and although New Moon may not have the breathless anticipation of the original (after all, how do you top the revelation that the boy in your biology class is a vampire?), fans will mostly be satisfied. I was sorry Catherine Hardwicke did not take up the helm again (the mood she captured was exceptional and faithful to the novel), but Chris Weitz' direction works adequately. So too, does the storyline involving Taylor Lautner's beefed up wolf-man Jacob, although we are all waiting impatiently for charismatic Robert Pattinson as Edward, whose intensity on screen has more spark than the sparkles on his white skin when exposed to the sun.

The film begins with Bella's 18th birthday and Edward's declaration 'The only thing that can hurt me is you.' It seems like a leap when he suddenly declares (after an incident involving a drop of Bella's blood on the white long-pile carpet and one of his brothers) 'You're just not good for me'. It is then that the screenplay starts to lag. Lautner's long-haired Jacob gives Bella a dream-catcher (to catch those bad dreams), but without Edward, she is inconsolable. It is not until Jacob gets a haircut and takes off his shirt that she begins to notice him. Ah yes, and then he turns into a wolf. Good move. I found Bella's voice over narration in which she shares her innermost thoughts in correspondence with Edward's sister Alice (Ashley Greene) irritating, but things get back on track when she heads to Italy to find Edward.

Pace is not the only thing that stumbles in this sequel. The screenplay feels padded and the different strands of the storyline do not mesh together seamlessly. Performances however, live up to expectations with Stewart and Pattinson exuding the magic that reminds us why we care so much about their relationship. There are touches of humour and some spectacular action, although we are already waiting impatiently for the final chapter in the franchise.

•• Urban Cinefile, Andrew L. Urban: I don't know what Twilight book fans will make of this second movie from the saga, but as just another film critic who took to the first one, I am a little disappointed. The tone isn't as elegant and shimmering as was Catherine Hardwicke's handling of the material, and there are clunky story telling flaws, including an opening sequence that promises much more than it delivers. One saving grace of the first film was the successful weaving together of the human and the immortal vampire elements, the fantasy that gave it the lifeblood of exotica.

That tone is largely missing, and in the third act, things get positively cheesy in the high court of the vampires, where Martin Sheen rules like a demented Tony Blair. His lounge-hugging court hangers on are even worse, growling and hamming as if they were in a B movie from the 50s.

However, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson save the day with a repeat performance of sensitivity and texture, credible and emotionally satisfying delivery and wistful young love moments. This is, after all, a trans-species love triangle and there is perhaps far too much time given to the tortures of breaking or broken young hearts; repetition strain movie moments injury sets in.

The love story takes over early on and after Edward leaves Bella, leaving her writhing in painful nightmares. After a while this gets a little tiresome, there is distraction when Jacob (Taylor Lautner) makes his move to take Edward's place. Jacob's secret soon surfaces and the old feud between vampires and werewolves reignites. But it feels perfunctory and the focus stays on the love triangle. Scares are few, fights are rare and bloodsucking is avoided; in the final analysis, this chapter of Twilight is not so much a vampire movie but a chick flick. But the pasty charm and genuine, melancholy tone is missing.

•• Indiewire, Anne Thompson: When new distributor Summit left behind Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke in its rush to push through the second film in their windfall franchise, they took a calculated risk. Abandoning a silly Twilight script that had been passed on by Paramount, Hardwicke and writer Melissa Rosenberg went back to the heart-pounding first-person intensity of the Stephenie Meyer original, which wound up selling 70 million copies worldwide. The dream that inspired Meyer--chapter thirteen in the first book--is a scene in a rain forest between a lovelorn young girl and a sparkling 109-year-old vampire who is restraining himself from biting and killing her. That tension is the heart and soul of the Twilight series.

Meyer always knew that New Moon was an odd book, as Edward abandons Bella, who is depressed and bereft for much of the movie. While the book makes clear why Edward leaves Bella--to protect her--the movie leaves his motivation murky. Forlorn Bella, well-played by Stewart, turns for support to muscle-bound Jacob instead. There's a reason that Summit is pushing Taylor Lautner as fresh bait for tweens. There isn't enough of the central relationship between Stewart and Pattinson to hold this film together. The device of having Edward hover and disappear as a protective warning to Bella is risible. While young girl moviegoers gasp whenever Lautner removes his shirt (which is often), the film's parallel vampire vs. werewolf structure also begs credulity.

•• The Hollywood Reporter, Michael Rechtshaffen: The moon may be new and the director may be different, but otherwise, the second installment of the "Twilight" saga remains, for better or worse, exceptionally faithful to its 2008 beginnings.

The moon may be new and the director may be different (Chris Weitz takes over the reins from Catherine Hardwicke), but otherwise, the second installment of the "Twilight" saga remains, for better or worse, exceptionally faithful to its 2008 beginnings.

Understandably not wanting to mess with that $350 million worldwide success, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," is content to stay within those tonal parameters rather than venture out in potentially more intriguing or substantial directions, which should suit its ferocious adolescent female fan base just fine.

The uninitiated meanwhile, might find that the film's deliberately unhurried 130-minute running time feels like a Cullen clan eternity.

Anticipation is sufficiently high that the opening weekend boxoffice is guaranteed to be anything but anemic, most likely eclipsing that $70 million taken by "Twilight" this time last year.

Alluding more obviously to the "Romeo & Juliet" vibe of author Stephenie Meyer's books, "New Moon" finds heroine Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) caught in a tricky triangular relationship with Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner).

Not wanting to give away too much of the plot (though chances are most of the movie's audience will have already read the book), let's just say brooding Bella is having a tough time where both objectified males are concerned, and that it turns out Jacob's been keeping a little secret of his own -- and it's not just finding a personal trainer in the middle of Forks, Wash.

Given that he's directed both the more intimate character-driven "About a Boy" and the fantastical "The Golden Compass," incoming director Weitz is a smart choice for the material.

He definitely gets to have things both ways here, using the CG effects sparingly but generally effectively, though even his restrained touch isn't enough to prevent the occasional smirk or two that's coaxed by some of screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg's more stoical dialogue.

Once again, the three young leads give committed performances, with Lautner's character allowed a larger share of the spotlight this time around.

Stewart's Bella remains a sturdy, empathetic anchor, and if they were ever to give a best supporting nomination for hair gel, Pattinson's particular brand would be a shoo-in.

Among the newcomers to the "Twilight" saga, Michael Sheen, who played an enslaved werewolf in the "Underworld" pictures, is given the opportunity to vamp it up as Aro, the 2,000-year-old leader of the Volturi.

Production values are suitably dark and moody, with able assist from production designer David Brisbin's pre-Raphaelite visual cues to Alexandre Desplat's opulently ominous score.

•• FilmInk, Erin Free: The first half is laboured and feels like a bridge for the third instalment, but there’s still plenty of cast chemistry and great set pieces.

The dedicated, fevered fans of the cinematic Twilight series have no interest in what film critics have to say about their beloved movies. Their love is unconditional, and in an era when things like loyalty and passion don't count for much, that kind of enthusiasm should be celebrated.

The first Twilight film was politely savaged by a group of people - male and female critics, most of them ranging in age from late twenties to sixties - that it most certainly and distinctly wasn't aimed for. The Twilight Saga is, for the most part, aimed at teenage girls, who will care nothing for the content of this review. Redundancy aside (and for those more casual observers of the film series), here is our two cents' worth.

While Twilight had punch and bundles of surprise value because of its almost out-of-the-blue status, The Twilight Saga: New Moon is stately, over-long and excruciatingly aware of its newfound pop-cultural significance. Twilight benefitted immeasurably from the ragged sensibilities of director Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, The Lords Of Dogtown). On the second film, she has been replaced by Chris Weitz (The Golden Compass), who too readily buys into New Moon's depressive, bum-trip narrative.

Much of the film consists of heroine Bella (Kristen Stewart) moping around the autumnal surrounds of her small home town after her vampire love, the brooding Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), deserts her. She's tortured, pained, distant and difficult, remaining at arm's length from her caring father (Billy Burke) and good-kid friends. Sooky Bella eventually finds solace in the arms of her childhood friend, Jacob (Taylor Lautner), who is equally tortured. He loves Bella, and is also riddled with angst because he's, yes, a werewolf, charged with protecting the woods from vampires, including Bella's beloved Edward. Cue tortured love triangle.

Apart from a lot of sulking, bottom-lip-quivering, dramatically purple prose and brooding, not much happens in New Moon until Bella races off to Italy to save Edward from The Volturi, the vampire world's equivalent of ruling royalty.

Led by Michael Sheen's wonderfully camp and malevolent Aro, and juiced up even further by Dakota Fanning's icy, menacing minion Jane, The Volturi are great fun, and wouldn't feel out of place in the sexier, more mature vampire world of author Anne Rice.

A number of interesting plot points are also revealed about Bella, making the second half of The Twilight Saga: New Moon far more entertaining and invigorating than the first.

This holds a lot of promise for the next film in the series, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (to be directed by wild man David Slade, who made the adrenalised and bloody Hard Candy and 30 Days Of Night), and makes New Moon look more like a transitional bridge in the series.

Despite its dreary patches, there's undeniably a lot to like here: Stewart and Pattinson have honest-to-god chemistry; there are a number of moody, beautifully composed set pieces (werewolf attacks; Bella being stalked underwater by Rachel Lefevre's vicious vampire, Victoria; the clash with The Volturi); and the deepening of the series' mythology. It's pretty good, but not great, though The Twilight Saga: Eclipse will hopefully put things right...

•• New York Daily News, Elizabeth Weitzman: Rating 3/5
When it comes to the vampire world, either you’re in or you’re out.

And Chris Weitz, who directs the second chapter in Stephenie Meyer’s adored young adult series, knows exactly who matters in this particular club: Bella, Edward, and the girls who love them.

So fans will feel fully at home from the opening scenes of “New Moon,” which establish a pattern that holds all the way through: swooning romance, PG-13 thrills, and enough sharp cheekbones and shirtless boys to carry any adolescent over to the next installment.

Weitz takes a looser approach than the series’ last director, Catherine Hardwicke, did. He has a better sense of humor, too.

But he does get tripped up in the long-winded plot, which begins with a brief, happy moment between high school student Bella (Kristen Stewart) and her undead love, Edward (Robert Pattinson).

Soon enough, an accident turns her into a potential vampire buffet, and he gets spooked. It’s safest, he insists, if he and his vamp family are out of her life for good.

A heartbroken Bella is consoled by old friend Jacob (an appealing Taylor Lautner).

Jake, it turns out, is hiding his own secrets, not to mention some pretty impressive biceps she can’t help noticing.

It’s not long before they’re drawn together, and while I don’t want to upset anyone here, they share a genuine spark that’s missing between Stewart and Pattinson. Still, we all know where Bella’s heart really lies.

A cynical adult might note that it’s easy enough to see where Weitz’s heart lies, too.

His job is to sell as many tickets as possible, which means hitting all the right notes.

He does that well enough, despite some difficulty juggling every subplot.

A trip to Italy, in which Bella and Edward face a vampire council (led by Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning, both underused), feels particularly squeezed in.

And while Stewart has deepened her portrayal of Bella, Pattinson has little to do but brood.

Then again, if you’ve come to this movie looking for fancy filmmaking or an original voice (other than Meyer’s), well, Weitz frankly doesn’t care. You’re not his audience.

He’s got a franchise to keep running, and he does that with workmanlike precision and minimal intrusion. Which, most likely, is just how fans will want it.

•• The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw: Rating 2/5
In the first Twilight film, lovely, young Bella Swan couldn't have sex with her vampire beau in case he got carried away and bit her. In this new one, on the other hand, Bella can't get it on with her werewolf suitor in case he gets carried away and claws the bejeepers out of her. In the next in the series, Bella won't have sex with the Mummy in case he gets carried away and strangles her with a bit of manky old bandage, and in the film after that, she mustn't shag Frankenstein's monster in case he gets carried away and rams his electrified neck-bolts into her ears. There will be no end to the parade of neo-horror archetypes who are not getting anywhere near Bella's silver ring of abstinence.

After a terrifically enjoyable start, the Twilight series is settling into a somewhat predictable groove, with its tragi-romantic motif of not having sex becoming a bit gimmicky and worn. At the beginning of this film, directed by Chris Weitz, Bella (Kristen Stewart) turns 18 and starts worrying about becoming the older woman to her eternally youthful undead boyfriend Edward Cullen, played by Robert Pattinson. So, with his heart audibly breaking, Edward finally bites the bullet – as it were – and leaves her for her own good, settling apparently in Rio de Janeiro, that city being glimpsed subliminally just once. Poor, post-breakup Bella mopes and whinges as the months drag past, taking refuge in dangerous not-sex activities such as motorbike riding.

It is at this point that she restarts her relationship with her childhood friend, Jacob Black, played by Taylor Lautner, a buff, shirtless guy who is a member of the Native American Quileute people. They start hanging out, and it's clear that Jacob has feelings for her – but also that he has something to hide: something to do with the crowd of other buff, shirtless guys to be seen in the local forest. It really is incredible how often these boys are to be glimpsed shirtless, and Jacob has stomach muscles so developed he looks like he could pick up a pencil using the crevice between his abs. And Jacob has a lupine secret, putting him in a very similar emotional dilemma to the absent Edward. Bella is probably thinking to herself: when, oh when, am I going to meet a boy who doesn't have tragic loyalties to a family group of mythical beasts?

For those Twilight fans who secretly thought Edward was all very well but a little too wimpy, Jacob is just the job: a real macho gym bunny. But Edward is always Bella's number one guy, and ultimately he must return to claim her heart. Together, Bella and Edward must confront the malign Vampire king Aro, played by Michael Sheen with red eyes and the campest hair extensions this side of the Carpathians.

There are some entertaining things about New Moon: Stewart is developing as an actor in a way Pattinson isn't, and there are droll scenes in which some characters go and see films. Bella's friend has a tongue-in-cheek complaint about the metaphorical content of zombie films, and there's an awful action movie called Face Punch (tagline: Let's Do This). But the franchise is looking a little anaemic.

Jo Reviews, Jolene Mendez: Rating 3/5
Girls everywhere will be cooing for “Twilight: New Moon” and they will have reason to. Following in the Twilight saga (Stephanie Meyer’s TWILIGHT series), New Moon picks up where its predecessor left off. Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) are in love and spending every moment together. When Bella’s birthday arrives it is time to celebrate. Alice (Ashley Greene) invites Bella over to the Cullen’s for gift giving. Unfortunately the night turns violent when Bella suffers a paper cut and Jasper (Jackson Rathbone) can’t control his reaction to her blood. As Edward protects Bella he only winds up hurting her more.

Realizing all he does is hurt Bella, Edward must choose to let her go. In the hopes that she will be better off without him Edward and the Cullen’s leave Forks. Bella is heartbroken and turns to dangerous acts that cause her to have an adrenaline rush, as these are the only times she sees Edward. One of these dangerous hobbies she takes up is dirt bikes. She picks up a couple junkers and turns to her good friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) to help her get them up and running. The pair continues to grow closer with each day. Despite Jacob’s feelings for Bella she is still in love with Edward.

As Jacob disappears for an extended period of time Bella becomes concerned. She tracks Jacob down and he tells her to remember the story her told her about the Cullen’s treaty with the wolf pack. Trying to get Bella to realize what has happened to him. Finally putting the pieces together Bella confronts the other wolves and after a heated argument, we see Jacob shed his clothes and attack to protect his love. Once Jacob’s secret is revealed his job is to protect Bella from Victoria (Rachelle Lefevre) who has returned to Forks to take Edward’s love from him.

After many months Alice returns to Forks and is waiting for Bella at her home. She believes Bella has died due to a vision and returned to see if it was true before telling Edward. Sadly Alice is too late as Edward received word of the death and calls Bella’s home only to have Jacob answer and tell him that Charlie (Billy Burke) is planning a funeral. This causes Edward to desire his own life be taken (much like Romeo & Juliet). Rushing to Edward, literally running into his arms, the two are reunited in one of the most intense scenes. The pair returns to Forks after a misfortune with Volturi where it is ordered that Bella be turned to a vampire soon, or they will come for her. Once home in Forks Bella and Edward are together as if they had never parted. Their time apart has only made their love stronger than ever which is proven when Bella insists Edward turn her which he agrees to do only if it is forever. Forever meaning a marriage for the two as he proposes.

“Twilight: New Moon” was not as intense at the first one. It also lost the romance factor. I did not enjoy it as much as the first, but it still had a good energy to it. The special effects of the wolves were superb, especially at making these massive creatures life-like. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson still had that strong chemistry that we all loved in Twilight. Not lacking in the heat department were Stewart and the very buff Taylor Lautner. Taylor proved that he deserved this role and his many months of work paid off. There was not as much action as the original and Victoria sadly was underused. A few minor disappointments can’t spoil this film. “Twilight: New Moon” will be the excitement of fans everywhere, rightfully so. It has romance, action, excitement and a love that has only grown from time apart. Don’t fret about seeing Bella’s answer to Edward’s proposal as “Eclipse” is only a mere six months away.

••, Laremy Legel: Rating 7,5/10
From the start of the moody and brooding opening title cards you know you’re in for a better experience than the last go-round. Director Chris Weitz has delivered a treat, a legitimate artistic expression on love, loss, and the obsessive qualities of initial attraction. Sure, it has a few flaws, but New Moon succeeds on a level that few films have this year. It gives the people exactly what they want, but with an artistic flourish. If you’ve read the books, it definitely works. If you haven’t? I’m not so sure. It’s hard to unknow things, and you won’t find me speaking for those so casually dismissive of what’s clearly a generation’s love mythos.

Remember that first person you dropped an “L-O-V-E” on? The guy or gal who made you feel angry, sad, manic, and wanted all at once? That’s the vibe of New Moon, the eternal theme of first love mined for maximum effect, the vulnerability and desperation that comes with caring about someone more than you could possibly care about yourself analyzed and laid bare onscreen. Weitz has tapped into that phenomenon here, and he balances well the feelings of suffocation and giddiness that come with the realization juxtaposed with the awful dread of losing it. When Bella is supposed to look distraught, she does; when Jasper is in a scene, he doesn’t just scrunch his face up for unintended comical effect. The film moves along well, and there are real moments of beauty here, too: a crow flying at a third the speed of a vampire running, delightful overhead camera work showing off gorgeous visual spectacle.

The plot (for those non-book readers hoping to read some tea leaves) involves a quasi-love triangle between Jacob (Taylor Lautner), Bella (Kristen Stewart), and Edward (Robert Pattinson). The setting is again Forks, Washington. The supernatural takes center stage with werewolves and vampires battling it out for Bella supremacy. So then, Bella Swan and the gang are back, only this time they’ve clearly been given solid direction and are up to the task. They’re asked to carry a ton of emotional weight, and they generally come through. Little moments about this film stand out, and the interaction between Bella and Edward feels a little more subtle, a little more nuanced. There’s a moment early on where Bella reacts to something Edward doesn’t say, a huge improvement from the monster telegraphs of the first film. The obsessive and seemingly limitless first love of your teenage years feels very well thought out, even if it’s with a vampire, even if you happen to run with a few werewolves.

Chuck Klosterman recently wrote a strong essay (in his new book, Eating the Dinosaur) about ABBA where he discussed the song “The Winner Takes it All.” Klosterman felt, within the confines of a couple breaking up:

“The individual leaving takes everything with them.”

And that’s heartily apparent within Stewart’s portrayal of Bella. She’s left with nothing, dispatched to a world that is all sharp angles and pain. Klosterman, in his essay, goes on to expose the fallacy of rejecting something you find “cheesy” on those grounds alone, pointing out that ABBA’s lyrics and style set them apart (in a good way) from almost every band in history. Somewhere in there you can find an analogous comparison to New Moon. Those who would reject the cheese do so at their own peril because the message and concepts presented are ubiquitous and viral. People (myself included) respond to the material for a reason. Acting as though that reason isn’t valid simply points to a global and shared hypocrisy — namely, that it’s fun and easy to taunt the romantic and idealistic. But I’m not so sure there’s any honor or joy in doing so.

Now then, there are three elements I have to knock New Moon on:

* Without knowing the source material this might be tougher to relate to. Having read New Moon it seemed extremely well executed, but I know not everyone will have that experience going in.

* Director Chris Weitz uses music to cover almost everything in the film, to the point where it’s tough to say what’s pulling on your heart. Is it the actors? The dialogue? Or the persistent and haunting noise in the background? As a sucker for music I don’t quite trust myself with a film this drenched in tunes.

* There are points where the melodrama is a beat too long. For minutes on end things feel authentic, but there are a few cringe-worthy moments too. You’ll know them when you see them; the audience I was with chuckled a few times when things went a little too far.

That said, this is the film you’ve seen in your head if you’ve read the books. The film comes by its earnest love in an honest manner, it does the work to make the characters relatable and dynamic. The notion of how we hurt the people we care about is fused tautly with the supernatural. The werewolves look great, and the slowed down (yet styled up) action clearly elevates the work.

There are people here who won’t “get it.” And that’s fine. They don’t connect with the stories, and this clearly isn’t for them. But the movie looks tremendous, the dialogue works, there are numerous well-placed jokes, and the acting is on point. The fact that certain folks won’t be moved is irrelevant; this isn’t the way they relate, and they’re too far past that moment of having your heart shattered into a thousand pieces. In a way you’ve got to envy them, as they’ve already taken the Death Cab for Cutie song to heart. For me? The film worked surprisingly well, and I’m interested to see the direction they’ll take with Eclipse. So long as there are people, there will be love stories — I hope they all feel as lush and lively as this one.

•• GQ UK, Alex Bilmes: Are you a Twi-hard? Are you so Robsessed with R-Patz it's, like, retarded? Do you wish, just for one day, you could be Bella (Bella, Bella, Bella...)? Wait. OMFG! Have you seen Taylor's hardbody? Hawt!

No idea what I'm talking about? You're clearly not in touch with your inner 14-year-old girl. And you obviously didn't catch Twilight, last year's supreme pop cult phenom, based on the first of Stephenie Meyer's series of huge bestsellers about vampires in the Pacific Northwest - the film that made a superstar of the dreamy British actor Robert Pattinson, now indisputably the most lusted after man in cyberspace, a heartthrob unlike any seen since Titanic-era DiCaprio.

Which means you missed out. Because even for those of us whose days of pashing over teen idols - male and/or female - are longish gone, Twilight was a charming affair, the story of a great love between willowy high schooler Bella Swan (the bewitching Kristen Stewart) and permanently 17-year-old vampire Edward Cullen (Pattinson). This is a love that can never be physically consummated, lest, in the throes of orgasm, Edward should lose his head and Bella should lose her, er, neck. I know, I know... the True Love Waits metaphor is just too delicious, but Twilight works: it's fresh and funny and not too slick. If you were a 14-year-old girl (of any age or gender), you'd love it, too.

And so, onto New Moon, the second of a projected quartet of blockbusters. Is it any good? That depends what you look for in a blockbuster. If you want explosions and hardware and car crashes and superheroes and all the stuff of the traditional geek-driven, big-budget Hollywood entertainment, you won't find them here. If you want a traditional teen movie, with geeks and jocks, cheerleaders and preps, unfeeling teachers and remote parents, you won't find those, either.

Instead, New Moon, like its predecessor, is a long, delirious, lovelorn sigh of a film - a movie about a gorgeous, intelligent girl in hopeless love with a beautiful, sensitive boy who can never really be hers.

The difficulty for the filmmakers in this episode is that Edward - and therefore R-Patz - spends much of the film off-screen, since he has selflessly removed himself from Bella's life in order to protect her. His place is taken by Lautner's Jacob, who unbeknown to her is a plus-sized werewolf, and therefore a sworn enemy of vampires.

Director Chris Weitz - replacing Catherine Hardwicke - has a bigger canvas, and more money, but must also make this film follow seamlessly on from Twilight. The plot necessitates much CGI work but he must ensure that Forks, the town where the Twilight saga is set, doesn't turn into Narnia. It must feel recognisably like our own world. He must shift the action to Italy without encroaching on Dan Brown territory. He must introduce new characters and he must ensure that New Moon retains some of the gaucheness of Twilight, without which the saga might become unbearably solemn and self-satisfied.

His greatest asset, by far, is his leading lady. Kristen Stewart, despite an able supporting cast, is inevitably forced to carry this long, complicated and enormously anticipated film virtually alone. It's Bella's story, and she's in almost every frame. Much of the time she is simply silently emoting: looking upset, uncertain, confused. It's a huge responsibility for a 19-year-old and one she handles brilliantly. Stewart, a reluctant celebrity to judge from her interviews, is a terrific actor, someone who can indicate a rich emotional inner life with just the flickering of her eyes. She's already a huge star, of course, but she has a bright future away from Twilight, as she proved in this year's delightful teen comedy, Adventureland. For the straight male Twilight audience (a minority perhaps, but we are here) she also provides something to look at while the girls are goggling at Lautner and Pattinson.

I enjoyed New Moon. It has occasional longeurs, for sure; it lurches from the sublime to the ridiculous (that's a cliché, but this film does just that); but it also has joyous moments: at one stage a giant wolf chases a gymnastic, scarlet-haired female vampire through a forest of redwoods while, on the soundtrack, Thom Yorke mumbles his postmodern mantras over a staccato beat. These are moments to sit back and grin at the stupendous ability of Hollywood to continue entrancing millions of people around the world.

Still, one can't help feeling for Bella. As the credits rolled, the woman on my left turned to her friend and said, "My God, will the poor girl never get her leg over?"

•• Sky: Rating 3/5
Twilight sunk its teeth into the box office...but with a bigger budget, a bigger cast and a love triangle to play with can sequel New Moon do any better?

It opens with Bella's (Kristen Stewart) unwelcome 18th birthday, but celebrations aren't on the cards when an unfortunate paper cut incident causes Edward (Robert Pattinson) to skip town leaving his true love heartbroken.

Enter love rival, all-round good guy and secret werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) who's more than willing to mend Bella's broken heart until Alice Cullen (Ashley Greene) returns with some devastating news - Edward is planning to pay a deadly visit to vampire law enforcers the Volturi and Bella is the only one who can stop him.

If Twilight was the movie that made R-Pattz a star, then the sequel will surely give Taylor Lautner (Tay-ner? T-Laut?) his big break. New Moon is Jacob's story and the young actor pulls it off with an affable charm that will no doubt have women old enough to be his grandmother inappropriately wishing they were 17 again.

Sadly where Lautner achieves, his fictional love rival fails.

The charisma and confidence that made Pattinson so attractive in Twilight is gone, replaced with a poor James Dean impression and an unfathomable lack of flair. In a faithful interpretation of the source material, Edward spends his short screen time tortured and brooding, but the actor's choice to spend every scene looking like he's about to burst into tears is somewhat pathetic. Never an attractive quality in a leading man.

Stewart gives an accomplished performance as Bella - particularly in her depiction of a heartbroken young woman pining for her first love.

The minor players are paid some attention and with good effect. Bella's quiet relationship with her father is played beautifully by Billy Burke and the Queilute wolf pack are a triumph - though the veritable flesh fest that begins whenever they appear on screen may have something to do with it.

Michael Sheen's hammy turn as Volturi leader Aro, strikes the perfect balance between civilised and psycho - but he's the only vampire that makes much of an impact.

New Moon improves on its predecessor in many ways, mostly because of an inflated budget which allows the movie to look and feel the way a blockbuster should. But when it comes to the important stuff, this sequel isn't a patch on Twilight.

It feels like it's gearing up to something big - but the climax never comes. The cast may be more confident in their roles but ultimately the script and storytelling fails them. A total of four fight scenes amount to nothing, whilst the emotional bits are heavy handed and ruined by unnecessary flashbacks.

Overall, it delivers on everything Twi-hards will want, but that in itself is this film's failing. Those who haven't read the books just won't get it. New Moon is a flick for fans only in the biggest waste of potential since (dare we say it) Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - not that that will make the slightest bit of difference when it comes to the box office.

We can only hope that the franchise finds it's feet when part three, Eclipse, hits the screens.

•• Reeling Review, Laura Clifford: Rating B-
Catherine Hardwicke did such an exemplary job mining what was good out of Stephanie Meyer's first novel that fans were distressed when she did not return for the sequel, but new director Chris Weitz, whose "Golden Compass" experience with CGI created creatures serves him well here with oversized werewolves, carries on with some innovations of his own. As everybody surely knows, the second of the four books which have now been dubbed "The Twilight Saga" creates a love triangle between a vampire and a werewolf with Bella as the prize and in addition to some nifty Weitz visuals, Taylor Lautner, underwhelming in the first film, proves a big surprise in the second. Sadly, though, as Lautner's stock rises, Pattinson's falls. Almost every scene with Edward save one (a literature class) features Pattinson vogueing his way through tortured romance. Edward Cullen the character has been replaced with Edward Cullen, Goth model.

Working with a script by Melissa Rosenberg ("Twilight"), Weitz gets several things right, beginning with the dream which opens the book and sets the stage for Bella's aging worries and her growing demand to be made immortal. Once Edward leaves, Bella tries to literally crumple up and die in the woods, but she's found and returned to Chief of Police Charlie Swan (Billy Burke, "Feast of Love," "Twilight") by Sam Uley (Chaske Spencer), who just happens to be shirtless and who shares an unspoken communication with Harry.

But when Bella goes out with Jessica (Anna Kendrick, "Twilight," the upcoming "Up in the Air") to appease her dad, she learns that danger brings Edward's spirit out to warn her away from it. Logic dictates she must now become an adrenaline addict in order to see Edward and so she gets Jacob to begin restoring a pair of motorcycles. Then she's helped out when Laurent reappears to kill her for Victoria (Rachelle Lefevre, "Twilight") who wants Bella dead as recompense for Edward killing her mate at the end of the last movie. Jacob disappears and Bella's put into another tailspin, but she's persistent about seeing him and discovers that his strange behavior and odd relationship with Sam is because Sam has been waiting to train the young tribe members who happen to have the werewolf gene. As if that's not enough excitement, Bella decides to give cliff diving a try and Alice Cullen (Ashley Greene, "Twilight") mistakenly 'sees' her death. When Edward finds out his beloved is dead, he turns himself in to the Volturi to end his life and Bella and Alice race to Italy (on Virgin America airlines - ha!) to save him.

Stewart grieves well whether she's silent and moaning or screaming in her sleep and she has a knack for making overwrought dialogue sound natural, but this film belongs to Lautner. He's warm and natural and funny and confident and makes a real strong case for Team Jacob ("Twilight" fans were divided on who Bella should end up with before the last book decided things once and for all). Pattinson, whose hair seems flatter than the last time, is artfully arranged all about the place, but Lautner gives Jacob more real passion. Michael Sheen ("Frost/Nixon," "The Damned United") is an absolute hoot as Volturi head Aro and Dakota Fanning ("The Secret Life of Bees") does some lovely subtle work as the pain inflicting Jane.

Weitz has some tricks up his sleeve, especially around the cliff diving. When we first see Sam dive the camera follows him upwards as he then dives into the water with no additional camera movement. When Bella jumps later, she's pleased to have survived it, only to get battered under by waves. Beneath the water, Victoria swims towards her like a Great White on speed before Jacob manages to pluck her to safety. (Oh, and Edward's 'spirit' is thrown in their, his hair waving about his face more poetically than Bella's.) The story is a little choppy, giving shorter shrift to both the motorcycle and werewolf transformation aspects than they deserved, but Bella's trip to the movies with Jacob and Mike is an amusing diversion.

"The Twilight Saga: New Moon" isn't the surprise that the first film was, something much better than the book itself, and it suffers because of Edward's diminished presence (in both the story and performance senses), but Lautner, who didn't impress me in "Twilight" at all, has come up to the plate big time. The kid's got a career.

•• ComingSoon, Joshua Starnes: There’s a reason why sequels don’t work or are often disappointing. It’s because they’re being required to do two essentially opposing ideas: to repeat, and amp up, what was enjoyable the first time around while simultaneously introducing new twists and surprises into the narrative to deepen the characters and their world. The list of well-intentioned sequels whose mangled remains litter the highway of audience reception is long and unfortunate.

In theory, “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” has a leg up in this area as an adaptation of the second of Stephenie Meyer’s immensely popular novel series. It gives the filmmakers a blueprint to start with that they can then examine for weaknesses and underexplored areas, tightening up the core story and the characters and jettisoning unneeded material. More often than not, film adaptations benefit more by staying true to the spirit of the book than the fact of it as the two mediums’ strengths don’t always overlap.

Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, new director Chris Weitz (“The Golden Compass”) has decided to be generally faithful to his source material despite the problems it’s going to give him through a narrative that could delicately be described as ‘sprawling.’

Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) loves a vampire (Robert Pattinson). Loves him so much that she can’t begin to imagine life without him, which means naturally all she can think about it are the different ways she’ll end up losing him. We’ve all been there. Well, not so much the vampire part. But all the rest of it–the clinginess, the overwrought emotional reactions to everything, the feeling that the other person is the whole world and nothing else matters–that’s young love. And at its best, “New Moon” is a decent play on those universal emotions blown up to the nth degree. Fantasy, when it really works, takes the internal that way and fashions it into some sort of impossible physical ‘thing’ that we can engage with, and “New Moon” is no exception.

But the other thing about young love is that passes. Quickly. It feels so intense at the time because it’s new and because that’s the nature of youth, but it doesn’t last. That last little bit isn’t too romantic though, and “New Moon” it turns out isn’t too interested in exploring how young love feels to the young. It’s mainly interested in exploiting it.

Despite having just turned 18 and being only a year into the only romantic relationship she’s ever had, Bella has decided that Edward is ‘the one’ and she is going to stay with him forever. Literally. This naturally freaks Edward out, who likes her as she is, and after another vampire near-miss on her life he decides the best thing he can do for her is head for the hills and let her move on.

Which is a problem because in a story that is supposed to be about the epic romance these two characters go through, it effectively removes half of the pair for the majority of the film. Weitz and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg try hard to keep Edward in the audience’s mind but for all practical purposes he has nothing to do with anything until the last act. That’s quite a long time to be missing in a two-hour film. It might have made more sense to cut back and forth between the two, juxtaposing how each deals with the pain of separation and the events that eventually lead them into crossing paths again.

But they didn’t do that and it’s not fair to judge a film on what it’s not. What “New Moon” has done is to follow Bella exclusively as she tries to come to terms with her loss and figure what to do about it. Which is unfortunate because, and I’m not exaggerating, she’s less interesting than every other character in the film, including the cameos. Because Bella is insane.

It’s the nature of young love to be crazy and irrational, but it’s a real problem when you can’t let go of it and move on, and Bella can’t let go. Once she realizes that she can induce hallucinations of Edward by exposing herself to extreme risk she becomes an adrenaline junky, going for late night rides with strange back alley bikers and the like. And when that isn’t enough, she talks her old friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) into helping her build a bike of her own.

Which is the point where “New Moon” finally starts to get interesting. Compared with the stuffy, repressed vampires, Jacob is a breath of fresh air. He’s earthy and passionate and Lautner has great chemistry with Stewart. So much so that you can forgive the fact the filmmakers have him running around with his shirt off for half the film in one of the least subtle paeans to a core audience ever. In fact, it’s only around Jacob that Bella starts to resemble anything approaching a normal person as they go through the normal teenage rituals of doing homework and going to the movies, turning into a werewolf and being hunted by a psychotic vampire (Rachelle Lefevre).

Actually it’s in these sequences where “New Moon” works best as a film and a sequel. It combines the fantastic and the real together in a way that makes it all relatable without being ridiculous. It repeats much of what was popular in the first “Twilight” with Jacob, right down to the introduction of his werewolf family and their efforts to protect her from her vampire problem. It works largely because it does recognize how much it is drawing comparisons to the first film, to the Cullens, showing Bella the options she may not have known she had. There’s even some room made for her family and friends, who unfortunately never get as much screen time as they deserve.

But it’s all for naught. Because deep down inside Bella is probably the most dependent person ever born. She’s never given up on Edward and despite a little guilt has no qualms leading Jacob on in order to make herself feel as close to Edward as she can even when he’s not around. She seems to have decided if she can’t have Edward she’ll die, she’s just working up the nerve.

Those sorts of feelings probably are imminently relatable to “New Moon’s” target audience, which really is Bella’s sole reason for being, but human beings are more than just feelings, which can be fleeting and extremely shallow. But Bella isn’t more than that. She’s not a person, even in the limited version a film can offer. She’s a whole bunch of overdone girls’ romance clichés stuffed into a person shaped bag and sat in front of us for two and a half hours. Tedious doesn’t begin to describe her.

When the film focuses on her reactions with Jacob or her friends it describes a lot of the faults and actually makes some headway towards being interesting despite being so obviously targeted as a teenage-girl’s daydream rather than an actual story much of the time. But it backtracks considerably whenever we get any real insight into what is going on inside Bella. She is so one-faceted it’s impossible to stay interested in her.

And that sort of two-steps forward, one-step back feel is all over “New Moon.” The performances are generally much better this time around, except for whenever the vampires show up. Except for Michael Sheen, who knows exactly how to show boat with this type of quiet menace, they tend to drain the life out of everything, not just in their own performances but in the people around them. Whatever charisma Pattinson had the first time around seems missing (or maybe that’s just because he is gone for so long) and all of the life and vitality Bella shows around Jacob turns into stammering shallowness around Edward.

The first film had quite a few visual cracks at its edges, due largely to inadequate effects and an ill-thought out visual aesthetic. A new film and a new director have solved a lot of that, but rather than put a completely new visual stamp on the film, Weitz has chosen to keep some of the first film’s choices and they don’t work any better the second time around. While the “Twilight” films will never offer the visual punch of “Harry Potter” or “Transformers,” they don’t really need it and the werewolf effects are serviceable enough. But for some reason every time the vampires swing into action the film drops into slow motion. It looks silly more often than not and removes any visceral thrust from the films action sequences, including the big climax when Bella rushes off to Italy to save Edward’s life.

If you feel like you just skipped two pages at once, you didn’t, it just feels that way. After two hours of werewolves and missing Edward and left-over plot points from the first film, “New Moon” pretty much jettisons everything that has come before in a last act in Italy that has almost nothing to do with anything that comes before. There’s no emotional build to it, no connection to the themes or subplots, or characters, built on throughout the film. Just, bam, Italy and ending that could generously be described as anti-climatic.

There’s a certain amount of laying new groundwork for the next film (always a problem when the filmmakers already know there will be one) but it doesn’t do much for this film. Every time Weitz has a choice to make between staying true to the material or strengthening the film, he chooses the material. Which probably will make fans happy, but doesn’t do much for anyone else.

“New Moon” is continuously schizophrenic this way and keeps me resolutely ambivalent about it. Every time I think it’s just a piece of teenage-angst baiting melodrama, it surprises me. And every time I start to think it may be better than it lets on, it disappoints. It does a lot of what a successful sequel needs to do, but it’s too hesitant to forge its own identity to go all the way. Fans will like it, and their appetites for the next one will probably be whet, but every one else will probably spend a lot of time looking at their watches.

•• Creative Loafing, Matt Brunson: Rating 2,5/5
Hollywood's second foray into the Twilight zone features enough fantasy and romance to satisfy most hardcore devotees of Stephenie Meyer's vampire saga, but just as many viewers will notice that this is too often a case of the emperor — or, more specifically, buff teenage boys — wearing no clothes.

A step down from last year's box office hit Twilight, New Moon has retained the same screenwriter (Melissa Rosenberg) but opted to switch out directors (The Golden Compass' Chris Weitz in for Thirteen's Catherine Hardwicke). Perhaps it's this changing of the guard that prevents this latest picture from ever maintaining a steady rhythm. After all, Twilight might have been occasionally ripe, but that worked for the material, as Hardwicke instinctively fed into the oversized angst that all too often defines the lives of teenagers wrapped up in their daily melodramas. By comparison, Weitz keeps the proceedings on a low simmer, an emotional oasis only punctuated every once in a while by Bella's howls as she pines for her one true bloodsucking love.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. In New Moon, vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) has decided that it's too dangerous for his human girlfriend Bella (Kristen Stewart) to be around his kind, so he and his family pack up and leave their Forks, Wash., home, ostensibly for good. Missing her soulmate, Bella shuts down completely, and is only slowly drawn out of her shell by her friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) — and by the discovery that Edward appears in ethereal form whenever she's in danger. Bella repeatedly puts herself at risk — riding motorcycles at daredevil speeds, diving off impossibly high cliffs, gorging on fast-food combos every day for a full month (OK, kidding on that last one) — but soon discovers that an even deadlier option materializes with the return of some vampiric foes. And what's with those gigantic werewolves stomping through the Pacific Northwest woods?

As before, the whole enterprise is primarily held together by Stewart's performance, a believable mix of adoration for her man and attitude toward the rest of the world. The plot structure limits Pattinson's screen time, but that's not necessarily a bad thing: Less effective than he was in Twilight, here the actor seems bored by the franchise, as if he's already anxious to try his hand at more mature roles. As Jacob, Lautner projects a wholesome earnestness, even if he's victim to most of the film's most risible moments — I especially chuckled during the scene in which he tends to a cut on Bella's forehead not by tearing off a swatch of his shirt but by whipping off the entire garment, thus allowing audiences to appreciate his bulging biceps-upon-biceps.

Then again, you can't say that Weitz doesn't have his target audience in sight. In my review for Twilight, I wrote that the movie was "a love story first and a vampire tale second." Given Pattinson's ascension to pinup star as well as the pack of shirtless hunks filling out this latest film's supporting cast, it's safe to amend that statement to read that New Moon is a love story first and a male-model calendar second. The vampire tale has become almost incidental.

•• The Movie Kit: I’d rather step away from the critic’s circle this time, if you don’t mind. I’m fairly certain none of the millions of fans of the Twilight movies could give a rat’s ass what a jaded film critic thinks about it. And so, I’m not going to be one.

Instead, I’m going to stand up for the films, particularly New Moon. Look, I might be a 40-ish mother of two, but there is no way I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager again. All those raw emotions. And I am NOT alone. Women of all ages – and men, who are in touch with their romantic side – go gaga over the tortured romance of it all. Granted, both Twilight and New Moon are over-the-top melodramas of the highest order , but I think that’s why they are so popular (and better told onscreen than read in the books, in my opinion). In the first film, Bella finds who – we women can all admit – is almost the most ideal boyfriend: Edward is handsome, mysterious, aloof, but then once in love, completely dedicated and protective. He talks to Bella, listens to her, holds her hand. It isn’t about sex because, well, he’s a vampire and he might hurt her. One of the sexier love scenes EVER on film is when she wants to kiss him, in her room, but he tells her not to move. Man, Robert Pattinson slayed me.

Then, the saga continues. Just when you think it’ll all be perfect, in New Moon said perfect boyfriend rips out his beloved’s heart (just literally, not figuratively) by leaving her. It’s all in the guise of protecting her, but Bella is crushed, almost beyond repair. Like Kristen Stewart said in her press conference, “I know what’s it like to get broken up with, but I don’t know what it’s like to get broken up with by a vampire, who I’ve now been physically and chemically altered by. Suddenly, you take an addict, you take whatever they’re addicted to away from them, and there’s withdrawal.” That’s exactly how Stewart plays it. You totally feel her pain, like you were 16 again and you break up with YOUR first love.

But then there’s Jacob, Bella’s friend, who is there to help her pick up the pieces. He was, at first, a sort of puppy dog in Twilight, pining after Bella, but when she sees him again in New Moon, he’s suddenly a strapping young man, who clearly has the hots for her, and is transforming into something as equally as powerful as a vampire. As if Bella didn’t already think the world was a strange enough place with vampires, she is now also faced with the fact that werewolves, the vampires’ mortal enemies, also exist. Taylor Lautner truly stepped up with this one, not only physically but in his performance. And I love the fact the wolf pack are guys from a Native American tribe who have been dormant until the vampire Cullen family arrives. It’s a clever bit of storytelling.

So, here’s Jacob – a sweet, hunky, warm-blooded werewolf – and Edward – swoon-worthy, tortured, cold-blooded vampire — who are both in love with the same mortal girl. I mean, COME ON! How perfect is that love triangle? It’s AWESOME, is what it is. So, I don’t mind the cheesy dialogue. I don’t care whether the films should appeal to the male demographic with more “action” scenes. And I certainly don’t feel ashamed about ogling the shirtless eye candy; in fact, it’s refreshing to see men objectified for a change. All I want is to see how this will all turn out onscreen, because Bella has got some TOUGH choices ahead.

•• StarTribune, Colin Covert: Early in "New Moon," Sheriff Charlie Swan offers some fatherly advice to his daughter Bella, who is feverish from crushing on vampire hottie Edward Cullen. "Sometimes," Charlie says in his distant but caring way, "you have to learn to love what's good for you."

Sure, Dad, whatever. Following that drab, sensible advice would make this chapter into "Twilight's" last gleaming and kill the fun of the teen supernatural romance. Bella is so stoked with pent-up sexual steam that she's a bigger threat to the public safety than all the vampires and wolfmen prowling around Forks, Wash. Any second she could erupt and level the place like Mount St. Helens.

"New Moon," a saga of angst, absence and abstinence, finds Bella separated from her gorgeous vampire (Robert Pattinson). It's Bella's fault, sort of. The Cullens throw her an 18th birthday party, she gets a paper cut unwrapping a gift and the sight of blood turns the festivities into a messy food fight.

Realizing that she can't consummate her love with Edward as a human -- she'll be a withered old husk in a few decades while he remains yummy -- Bella begs to be turned. Ever-protective Edward can't do that; it would damn her soul. The Cullens depart, her black-winged angel cuts off all contact and the moody grief montages begin. Kristen Stewart brings such raw vulnerability to the screen that she makes moping attractive.

Bella can't get Edward out of her head, especially since he reappears in astral projections to warn her of danger. With true teen logic, Bella begins risking her life to get a one-second glimpse of her beau. In pursuit of peril she brings a couple of junkyard motorbikes to her platonic friend Jacob Black, and as they restore them side by side, he begins feeling some animal urges. Not the ones any red-blooded 16-year-old Native American boy would feel; he's coming of age as a werewolf. Bella can pick 'em.

While most sequels pump up the action and raise the stakes, this episode of the story is basically filler. With Edward out of the picture, "New Moon" dithers around. It introduces the Volturi, a coven of Italian vampires whose decrees control the lives of the undead. The simmering romance between Jacob and Bella gives Taylor Lautner a chance to flaunt his gym-sculpted abs, but the lack of magnetism between the actors makes it clear this is only a temporary distraction. There are some nifty werewolf transformations, yet their snarling fights don't propel the action in a meaningful direction.

The momentum returns in the final stretch when Edward pleads with the Volturi for release from his vampire curse. In the plaza outside their palazzo, crimson-cloaked religious pilgrims circulate like so many red corpuscles. Michael Sheen ("Frost/Nixon") is lip-smackingly evil as overlord Aro, who is most unsympathetic to Edward's human-loving ways. One of his henchmen engages Edward in a bruising "Matrix"-style slo-mo fight, but the most formidable of the Volturi is Dakota Fanning as the sadistic telepath Jane. A child actor no longer, Fanning sparks the movie with each flash of her scarlet contact lenses.

Replacing Catherine Hardwicke in the director's chair, Chris Weitz ("The Golden Compass") remains nicely attuned to the giddy passions of first love. He brings a new level of technical polish to the editing, pacing and action sequences, and gooses the film with wry humor. Anna Kendrick gets a standout scene as a classmate of Bella's who suspects she's lost her marbles.

Weitz knows that it's the tension between romance and repression that makes this series tick, and he has fun with it. When Bella races to Italy to rescue her beloved Edward, she flies Virgin America. Good one.

•• Bitch Flicks, Stephanie Rogers: Critics have rightly argued that Twilight gives off a certain metaphor for teen abstinence vibe. Edward desires Bella so much that he refuses to let himself lose control with her. So, the audience gets a couple of scenes of passionate, intense kissing before the two melodramatically pull away from each other and decide to spoon innocently on the bed instead. If they decide to fornicate, after all, Bella could easily end up wounded by Edward’s thrusting vamp-strength or sucked completely dry. Of her blood. By Edward, her lover, who would of course be entirely unable to stop himself from sucking.

(For those of you unfamiliar, the Cullens, who are Edward’s vampire family, only drink the blood of animals to survive, even though they prefer human blood. The other, evil vampires in the movie, murder humans at will. Tsk, tsk.)

Twilight portrayed Bella as the passive object of vamp-Edward’s desire, who needed constant saving by him, from other vamps and from other men and from runaway cars, and who couldn’t make any decisions on her own throughout most of the movie. It shifts a little in the end, when Bella runs off to save her mother, ignoring the advice of the vampires who want to protect her. But by becoming an active subject in that scene, she’s punished, ultimately finding herself in a situation where Edward must save her yet again, literally by sucking poison from her blood.

But New Moon! How did you make me like you? It makes no sense—Bella still ends up in constant need of boy-saving, and she loses her freaking mind for months when Edward breaks up with her, which is not melodramatically showcased at all I swear, ha, by her constant nighttime screaming fits that force even her dad to run to her rescue. For the most part, Bella seems powerless, at the mercy of Edward, at the mercy of her nightmares, and eventually, at the mercy of the evil vampires who want to kill her (as punishment for Edward, who killed a vampire in Twilight).

So why did I find myself finally turning into an uber-fangirl as I watched? Because this time, the film is, dare I say … complicated.

Enter Jacob, Bella’s good friend who just happens to be a werewolf and who just happens to have the most incredible abs I’ve seen since Brad Pitt in Fight Club and who just happens to walk around with his shirt off constantly. And let’s remember the early scene in the school parking lot, where Bella watched as Edward walked toward her in exaggerated slow-motion, hair and button-down shirt blowing wistfully in the breeze, the camera steadied on him as Bella and me and fangirls across the country, yes, I’m going to say it, swoon. And then I started to wonder, “Is Bella entirely powerless?”

Not necessarily.

Because what strikes me most about the men in the Twilight saga is their desire to be looked at by Bella, which (fangirls everywhere unite!) positions Bella as the active subject (the gazer) and the men as passive objects (the gazed at). In the first film, Edward removes his shirt in the sunlight, revealing his twinkling vampire skin, and, upon seeing it, Bella says, “You’re beautiful.” She uses those words again in New Moon, this time with Jacob. When he says something along the lines of, “Why are you looking at me?” She responds with, “You’re sorta beautiful.”

Interestingly, (fangirls everywhere unite!) this direct physical objectification of women doesn’t exist in either movie—for instance, we don’t get traditional scenes of scantily clad girl-vamps trying to seduce men who they eventually eat (played as girl-power when it’s really just male fantasy).

But Bella isn’t without self-scrutiny. In the opening scene of the film, Bella dreams of herself as an old woman with Edward still at her side. That scene reveals an important plotline: fear of aging. Bella sees herself through the eyes of Edward (and therefore, men in general). She sees herself getting older while he stays young and twinkly-beautiful. She says, “You won’t want me when I’m a grandmother.” These feelings stem from living in a society that devalues aging women, and I like that the film explores the issue. Edward’s response? “You obviously don’t understand my feelings for you, Bella.”

Okay, so this is a total fangirl fantasy, right? I mean, a beautiful man loving you for what’s on the inside? I mean, honestly, we’re smarter than that, right? Right?! (Am I kidding?)

Still, in New Moon, even though Bella performs reckless acts, like jumping off a cliff and wrecking a motorcycle, just so faux-Edward will magically appear in some wavy fog-mist to male-dominate and tell her it’s dangerous, she still performs reckless acts. She makes decisions. She risks her life. For love! Ha. Of course, the fact that Edward can no longer save her—he isn’t physically there for real—means Jacob must step in. He does nice things … like taking off his shirt to reveal his Brad Pitt in Fight Club abs and to coincidentally wipe the blood from her forehead. He turns into a werewolf and saves her from one of the bad vamps. He performs CPR. Oh Jacob!

But then, after all this constant being saved by vampire-men and wolf-men, something amazing happens. Bella saves Edward. And even after she saves him, she saves him again, by convincing the Lead Evil Vampire God or Whatever to kill her instead of Edward. He doesn’t kill Bella, of course, because he becomes interested in—check out this awesomeness—her immunity to vampire powers. That’s right: the vampire mind readers can’t read Bella’s mind and the Dakota Fanning vampire can’t inflict mystical pain on Bella just by looking at her. It’s like Bella’s a vamp’s version of a superhero!

Look, is the film flawed? Yes.

The objectification of the men, for instance, also becomes an objectification of The Other (vampire/werewolf). Bella wants Edward to turn her into a vampire so they can be together forever but also because she doesn’t want to age (i.e. become undesirable). Bella can’t function when Edward leaves her, and she risks hurting herself just to get a glimpse of him again. Edward is 106 years old and she’s 18—would that work if the genders were reversed? And, when Edward agrees to turn Bella into a vampire, he insists that they marry first, which plays an awful lot like some creepy, conservative, let’s-get-married-before-I-take-your-virginity nonsense, creating that metaphor for teen abstinence vibe again.

But Bella isn’t a one-dimensional character anymore. In New Moon, she’s much more fleshed out, and perhaps most importantly, she doesn’t have to take her clothes off or perform a certain kind of femininity to get the boy. Edward falls for her because he finds her intriguing: he can’t read her thoughts (see True Blood), and he’s drawn to her because she smells delicious, sex metaphor? Jacob falls in love with Bella after they spend significant time together; it’s not some love-at-first-sight fantasy where he sees Bella, and the camera pans from her feet all the way up her legs and finally to her face where she either smiles coyly or looks down shyly.

•• Slate, Dana Stevens: I can't defend this movie, but I loved it.

Sometimes a critic's aesthetic judgment is impossible to extricate from what you might call her cinematic libido. There are movies that bring us a pleasure that's neither definable nor defensible. These used to be called "guilty pleasures," but that phrase seems too judgmental, too pre-Vatican II, for our postmodern era of omnivorous cultural consumption. The distinction between high and low culture, between what we're allowed to enjoy publicly and what we must sneak off to savor in private, has effaced itself to the degree that "guilty pleasures" needs to be replaced by a more morally neutral term. For our purposes here, I'll go with a term that a friend and I coined in college and that I still deploy on occasion: movies we couldn't intellectually defend but still unapologetically loved we called "juicebombs."

All that to say thatThe Twilight Saga: New Moon (Summit Entertainment), like its 2008 predecessor Twilight, is a classic juicebomb. Mopey, draggy, and absurdly self-important, the movie nonetheless twangs at some resonant affective chord. This viewer, at least, was catapulted back to that moment of adolescence when being mopey, draggy, and absurdly self-important felt like a passionate act of liberation. The Twilight movies are schlock, but they're elegantly appointed, luxuriously enjoyable schlock, and the world they take place in—the densely forested, perpetually overcast, vampire-and-werewolf-ridden town of Forks, Wash.—feels like a real, if fantastical, place. It's as specific and evocative a location as the fictional Washington town of Twin Peaks. It's this sense of place that elevates the Twilight films above the best-selling books by Stephenie Meyer, made up of impenetrable blocks of descriptive yet curiously featureless prose.

When we last left Forks, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), the sulky new girl in town, was attending the school dance with her true love, the forever-teenage vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). Edward, a member of an abstinent vampire clan that has forsworn human blood, is the dream boyfriend, given to slavish declarations of devotion ("Bella, you give me enough just by breathing") yet ever-unattainable because of his insatiable erotic appetite—if he so much as kisses Bella, he may not be able to stop himself from ripping her throat out and draining her blood. Like a '50s coed bargaining for her boyfriend's fraternity pin, Bella is constantly pressuring Ed to make her not his prey but his co-predator. If he bites her in some other, unspecified fashion, she will be turned into a vampire as well, and the two can live together in undead bliss for all eternity.

As the second installment begins, Edward and his whole pale, glittering, amber-contact-lensed family are about to leave Forks for good. Ed spouts some nonsense about not loving Bella anymore, but we know from his pained face that he's deserting her for her own safety. Bella spends three months numb with grief (a state that's effectively evoked by a long 360-degree shot of her staring out a window as the names of the months flash up on-screen). But on discovering that a rush of adrenaline allows her to sense Edward's presence briefly, Bella starts seeking out dangerous situations. Her friend Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), a foxy-fine Quileute Indian who's also, as it turns out, a newly initiated werewolf, helps her to salvage and restore some old motorcycles, which Bella takes out for high-speed spins. (The Twilight franchise may promote sexual abstinence, but its stance on helmet safety is downright promiscuous.) Meanwhile, an ancient enmity between vampires and werewolves is heating up in the forests outside of town.

The feminist in me wishes that Bella spent more time actually working on those motorcycles rather than hanging over Jacob's shoulder as he wields his manly, er, wrench. The feminist in me wishes a lot of things. But say what you will about the Twilight films; they take female desire as seriously as a grad student from the early '90s. The whole overcooked vampire vs. werewolfmythology (which also involves packs of shirtless wolf-boys and a sort of vampire Pope, played with camp glee by Michael Sheen) is, in essence, an excuse to place the viewer in Bella's Timberland boots: torn between two flesh-eating monsters, feelin' like a fool. Haters may construe Bella as a passive victim eager to be served up as vampire meat, but she's the subject of this love story, not its object; she's the lover while Edward and Jacob are her diametrically opposed beloveds, one hot-blooded (Jacob runs a constant body temperature of 108 degrees), the other pale and cold as stone.

Matty Robinson, a co-host of the excellent movie podcast Filmspotting, likes to say of an underrated performance, "I don't want to see his Hamlet, but [X] is not bad in this role." You don't want to see Kristen Stewart's Hamlet—and based on a few lines Ed reads aloud in an English-class scene, you really don't want to see Robert Pattinson's Romeo—but both actors are ideally suited to their roles as pining sweethearts separated only by the fact that one lacks an eternal soul. Based on her mumbly, visibly uncomfortable appearances on the talk-show circuit, Stewart really is a bit of a Bella, rough-edged and glum. And Pattinson—well, he's best when he's not talking, but, luckily, New Moon's Bella-centric plot structure doesn't often require him to. (Of course, the knowledge that they may or may not be dating in real life—not since the days of Walter Winchell has a Hollywood romance been more carefully stage-managed—adds to the penumbra of mystery that surrounds the couple.)

As a last-ditch defense for my fondness for New Moon, I'll observe that unlike its predecessor, the sequel (directed not by Catherine Hardwicke this time but by Chris Weitz, co-director of About A Boyand American Pie) is often intentionally funny: the scene in which Bella insists on taking not one but two prospective suitors to an action movie called Face Punch or the moment when a paper cut at a birthday party leads to a near-mauling by her vampire pals. But a true juicebomb, by definition, requires no defense. As the screen went black after Edward's supremely cheesy last line, my first thought was, "Give me a break." The second was, "How long till Eclipse comes out?"

•• Reader, Jessica Hopper: In the supernatural romance Twilight (2008), high school senior Bella (Kristen Stewart) and her 109-year-old vampire boyfriend, Edward (Robert Pattinson), maintained a love affair so chaste it would make Victorians seem freaky. This sequel finds the stress getting to them, and after Edward bails on Bella, she turns into a codependent drip, relying on the attentions of men to give her life shape and putting herself in danger just to be rescued by them. Saving the day (and the movie) is her werewolf BFF, Jacob (Taylor Lautner). The movie's script and production values represent a big step up from the nearly unwatchable predecessor and make it suitable viewing even for people who aren't Twilight nerds. Chris Weitz (About a Boy) directed.

•• Eric D. Snider: Rating C+
Bella Swan’s problem, and the thing that makes her so enviable to many of her adolescent female fans, is that there are two strong, handsome young men deeply in love with her, both of them willing to die for her. Is this not the epitome of the classic romantic melodrama? What teenage girl wouldn’t want to be her? As far as the target audience is concerned, the only way it could be better is if there were three boyfriends instead of two. Of course, the third one would have to be a zombie or something.

Bella (played by Kristen Stewart) has another problem that pops up a lot in “New Moon,” the first sequel to the squeal-inducing “Twilight”: these guys love her so much that they keep telling her to stay away from them for her own good. Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), as you already know, is a vampire who can barely resist the urge to gorge himself on a feast of her blood. Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), as you also already know but aren’t supposed to until well into this film, becomes a werewolf when he gets angry. Vampires and werewolves hate each other anyway, but especially when they’re in love with the same girl. Isn’t it romantic? Swoon.

These are not supernatural movies. I cannot stress that enough. They are teen romances that happen to have supernatural elements. Stephenie Meyer’s novels – or at least the first one, which is all I’ve read – make no attempt to hide this fact, and the two movies so far are likewise pretty straightforward about their intentions. If you come out of “New Moon” wishing there’d been more vampire mythology or werewolf science-fiction, that’s your problem, not the movie’s.

This is unlikely, however. If you go into “New Moon” in the first place, willingly and of your own accord, the odds are very good that you are a fan of the book series, and that you are female, and that you are eager to see a somber, gothic love story. It’s not for nothing that Bella’s English class is studying “Romeo and Juliet.” (According to Hollywood law, this means that specific plot elements of “Romeo and Juliet” must subsequently come into play in the lives of the characters.) I think the movie will probably give you what you’re looking for – which isn’t to say it’s a great movie, only that it’s basically successful at achieving the not-very-lofty goals it sets for itself.

The story begins on Bella’s 18th birthday, a reminder that she is getting older while her boyfriend remains forever 17. What will happen when she is elderly and haggard and Edward is still pasty-faced and adolescent? Bella’s proposed solution to this problem is that Edward vampirize her, which he opposes on the grounds that being a vampire means losing your soul, which evidently is bad. Still, he cannot bear the thought of living without her. If he ever lost her, he says, he would commit suicide by going to the Volturi, an ancient race of hardline vampires, and provoking them into executing him. In the business, we call this sort of casual reference OBVIOUS FORESHADOWING.

After an unfortunate paper-cut incident at Edward’s house reminds him and his vampire family how perilous the Bella situation is, the Cullens leave town. Bella is heartbroken, and director Chris Weitz (“About a Boy,” “The Golden Compass”) does a good job conveying her teenage depression and the passage of several months’ time in about a minute. (Would that he had been so efficient elsewhere: At 130 minutes, the movie overstays its welcome.) Eventually Bella finds solace with her friend, Jacob, who unfortunately is starting to go through certain changes that certain lupine members of his Native American tribe experience in adolescence. Jacob is on the brink of werepuberty.

Weitz’s visual style is steady and polished – this is a very good-looking movie. (Props to cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe, who also shot “The Road” and apparently specializes in bleak, sullen stories.) Where “Twilight” director Catherine Hardwicke emphasized a realistic, gritty look, Weitz makes “New Moon” glossy, in the fashion of traditional Hollywood romances. The special effects have vastly improved, too. But Weitz is stuck with two male leads who can’t deliver what their roles require. Pattinson’s strategy is to look “brooding” at all times, as if he is constantly on the verge of being sick to his stomach. His Edward seems to have only one emotion: aching. Lautner, his role beefed up for this film (along with his pecs and abs), just doesn’t have the gravitas needed to be convincing as a lovesick young man haunted by powerful secrets. His “intense” moments don’t ring true, like a high-schooler doing “Death of a Salesman.”

Then there is Kristen Stewart. Her performance is fine – but what is there for her character to do? Bella is defined solely by Edward. Every thought she has, every action she takes, is because of her love for him. That may be romantic, but such a one-dimensional protagonist (especially a somber one like Bella) stops being enjoyable to watch after a while.

The cheesy love dialogue makes me gag a little, but I’ll concede that exchanges like this:

BELLA: I don’t have anything to give to you.
EDWARD: You give me everything just by breathing.

– and this –

EDWARD: You just don’t belong in my world, Bella.
BELLA: I belong with you.

– are appropriate to the genre of teen-sanitized Harlequin romances. (The screenplay has again been adapted by Melissa Rosenberg, but I wouldn’t be surprised if those specific lines are in the book.)

Regardless of my status as a grown man who does not belong to the “Twilight” demographic, simply as a moviegoer I’m disappointed by the way “New Moon” is constructed. The story has no climax; it just sort of ends, and you think, “Oh, I guess that little fight was supposed to be the climax. Huh.” Michael Sheen is introduced as one of the Volturi (and Dakota Fanning, too!), then given very little to do. It’s obvious that a lot of threads are being established for later sequels. That sort of seed-planting is acceptable in moderation, but “New Moon” overdoes it, giving us very little payoff here and now. Are they just ASSUMING that everyone will be back for part 3, no matter what? I mean, they’re probably right, but still.

•• TwinCities, Chris Hewitt: The heroine canoodles with a werewolf instead of a vampire in "The Twilight Saga: New Moon." Hey, the girl has a type, and apparently, she finds it on the Women4Monsters page at Craigslist.

Like her new suitor, the "Twilight" sequel has more teeth than its predecessor. The first "Twilight" struck me as a movie about two people with very good eyebrows staring at each other in a meadow, but "New Moon" has more humor, more action and fewer extraneous characters. Long story short: It glides where the first film galumphed.

I also think it's better acted, particularly by Kristen Stewart. Her Bella strikes the perfect note of ambiguity for a teenager who's not sure what she wants from life or even, given that her boyfriend is undead, whether she wants to live. When Stewart, talking about a cliff dive, delivers the line, "It was fun" with the same intonation most people would use to say, "It was disgusting," she perfectly captures Bella's awkward position. Bella is still in high school and in love with a vampire (Robert Pattinson) who can return her love only if he kills her. She's not sure if she's into Jacob, a buff werewolf (Taylor Lautner) who loves her and hates wearing shirts.

Director Chris Weitz's job is easier than Catherine Hardwicke's was on the first "Twilight" movie, since she had to spend a lot of time setting up the star-crossed romance between Bella and Edward, who loves her 90 percent of the time and wants to suck her blood the other 10 percent. That gives Weitz more room to explore what Bella and Edward would be willing to sacrifice for each other, and it gives the movie time to suggest that today's high school students probably have more stuff to figure out than any that came before them. When Jacob says, "It's not a lifestyle choice, Bella. I was born this way," is he coming out as a werewolf or as something else?

"New Moon" honors the complexity and confusion of being a teenager (it certainly helps that Stewart and Lautner ARE teenagers), and it honors fans of "Twilight," who had to sit through a clunker last year but are rewarded this year with a pretty good movie.

•• Dustin Putman: Rating 2/4
In the year since "Twilight" was released to theaters, Stephenie Meyer's four-part book series and the burgeoning screen adaptations have turned into a worldwide phenomenon unlike anything seen since J.K. Rowling and a boy wizard by the name of Harry Potter. The target audience began as teenage girls, but has swept over all demographics of the female population. Is the story a worthwhile one, though, or akin to escapist junk food? "New Moon," like its predecessor, falls safely into the latter category, albeit with a troubling message tacked on. A young woman torn between her paralyzing love for a vampire and her emerging feelings for a werewolf may sound harmless enough for cheesy romance buffs, but her subsequent rash willingness to give up her own life and whatever future aspirations she may have had before meeting them is not only immensely selfish, but also depressingly old-fashioned verging on misogynistic. It doesn't help that her relationships with both guys feels superficial at best. Whatever she sees in them, and they in her, fails to go beyond the purely physical.

Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is turning 18, a milestone that has led her to the scary realization that she is not only now older than eternally youthful vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), but will continue to widen that age gap as long as she remains mortal. Will Edward still want her when she's an old lady? Can Bella bear the thought of one day dying and leaving Edward behind? Bella comes to find that she may not have to worry about any of that when Edward announces he and his family are leaving Forks, Washington, and do not plan on ever returning. Stripped of the person she believes is her one true love, Bella goes into a worrisome depression leavened only by occasional daredevil theatrics and her close friendship with Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), suddenly a whole lot buffer and with a hairy secret of his own. It isn't really giving anything away to note that Edward does return, though not before Bella has to rush to Italy to save him from the clutches of the evil Volturi family, vampire royalty. In doing so, a key sacrifice must be promised.

Sudsy and overwrought, "New Moon" plays like an extension of "Twilight" with very similar pros and cons. Taking over for Catherine Hardwicke in the director's chair is Chris Weitz (2007's "The Golden Compass"), who incorporates a few imaginative streaks of style—a seamless 360-degree camera movement circles three times around Bella as she sits in her room, the seasons changing outside her window as autumn turns to winter—but otherwise is happy to stick to Stephenie Meyer's revisionist take on bloodsuckers and werewolves, so homogenized one barely recognizes either. For two people who are supposed to love each other the way Bella and Edward do, they certainly are a mopey couple. They look like they are in physical pain every time they are around each other, have little in common—what could a 109-year-old vampire and an 18-year-old girl possibly relate to each other about?—and apparently have never heard of smiling. Nevertheless, when Edward walks out on her, Bella is so grief-stricken that she stumbles listlessly around a forest, eventually rolls herself around in the leaves and dirt, and finally passes out, having to be carried home. Afterward, she curls herself up on her bed and sweatily rants and raves in pain as if she were a heroin addict in rehab. It really is awfully silly.

Save for the unintentional laughs that pop up fairly regularly, "New Moon" holds an almost relentlessly dour tone. Long-winded and slow-moving at 130 minutes, the picture spends an hour following a depressed Bella around after Edward leaves, going out with school pals like Jessica (Anna Kendrick) and Mike (Michael Welch) without her heart being in it, and generally just acting like a Debbie Downer. Spirits lift a bit once she and Jacob draw closer, helped all the more by the fact that Jacob actually has a relatively good-natured personality and is more age-appropriate for Bella. Jacob loves her, but she doesn't think of him in quite the same way. That doesn't stop her from commenting on his muscled build every chance she gets and, no lie, nonchalantly caressing his bare abs in one scene while they hold a serious conversation. Meanwhile, the cornball dialogue, spoken amazingly through straight faces, sounds like it was taken from a Harlequin romance or a spoof of a soap opera. "I'm not like a car you can fix. I'm never gonna run right," Bella tells Jacob when he tries to break through to her. Later, she remarks to him, "You're warm. You're like your own sun." Bella isn't the only vocal offender, either. Before Edward leaves at the end of the first act, he assures a worried Bella that "the only thing that could ever hurt me is you." Good to know.

Nearly the entire ensemble of "Twilight" has returned for this first sequel, and they—along with a lot of the same shooting locations—slip into their roles with such ease it is as if the two pictures were filmed back to back. Kristen Stewart (2009's "Adventureland") takes her role as Bella very seriously—one can tell that she is putting her all into it—but what the actress cannot do is bring reason to a character who desperately needs a hobby as she loses sight of herself. As Edward, Robert Pattinson (2007's "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix") is off-screen for a sizable portion of the running time, but makes the most of what he has. Pattinson is called upon to look like a pale clone of Luke Perry, circa 1991, and he succeeds. In an expanded part, Taylor Lautner (2005's "Cheaper by the Dozen 2") is likable as Jacob, and what the performer lacks in polish he makes up for it in sincerity and shirtless shots. Also worth noting, Anna Kendrick (soon to hit it big with her Oscar-worthy performance in "Up in the Air") and Michael Welch (whose "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane" still hasn't found a U.S. release) are wonderful in the supporting roles of Bella's pals Jessica and Mike. These two are peripheral to the main plot, but they still manage to stand out and have been written with a fresh naturalism that makes them all the more endearing.

After a lot of padding and filler, storytelling momentum picks up in the final third of "New Moon" as conflict builds and the stakes are raised for the three central protagonists. A trip to Italy boasts some stunning cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe (2008's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"), though the ultimate confrontation with the Volturi coven, led by Aro (Michael Sheen) and deadly pixie Jane (Dakota Fanning), is disappointingly anticlimactic. Why hire actors of such caliber as Michael Sheen (2008's "Frost/Nixon") and Dakota Fanning (2009's "Push") and then saddle them with walk-on cameos? To be sure, concluding scenes that follow set up the third film in the series, "Eclipse," but serve to make viewers who haven't bought into the sappy surface-level pap dismayed over Bella's near-insatiable desire to be turned into a vampire. Doing so would allow her to live forever, but let's not forget that it would also be suicide and take her away from her family and most everyone else who cares about her. That Bella has all but given up on her own humanity by the end for the mere chance at jumping some humorless undead bones for the rest of eternity isn't romantic, or worthy of giddy swoons. Actually, it's kind of like attending a funeral.

•• ReelTalk, Betty Jo Tucker: I’ll never learn. My expectations for sequels usually exceed all sense of reason. Take New Moon, for example. Having been totally captivated by Twilight, I could hardly wait to see the second offering in this popular franchise. Sadly, much of what I enjoyed about the first movie seems missing in the overly depressing follow-up film, which comes across like Romeo and Juliet on extra downers.

First of all, like millions of his fans, I wanted to see more of Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen, the brooding, sexy vampire. But this character fails to receive the screen time he deserves here. Okay, maybe that’s the way things happen in Stephenie Meyer’s novel. Still, why not pad his part in the film? Worse transgressions have occurred while transferring stories from page to screen. I hated to see so much emphasis placed on all those werewolves and on Bella’s (Kristen Stewart) funk after being dumped by the “good” vampire she loves -- who thinks he’s protecting her by leaving. Granted, Jacob (Taylor Lautner), Bella’s attentive best friend, looks all buff and terrific, but he’s not Edward.

Next, what happened to exciting sequences like the vampire baseball game in Twilight? Nothing in New Moon comes close. Yes, those dramatic changes from boys to wolves are interesting to watch, but they’re not extraordinary, especially considering the amazing visuals special effects are capable of today.

And speaking of excitement or lack thereof, the pace of New Moon almost lulled me into a cat nap more than once -- something that never happened while watching Twilight. How exciting is it to see a teenage girl sink deeper and deeper into a state of lovesick gloom, then behave irresponsibly as she tries to connect with her "true love" again? Although Stewart shows some talent for displaying these troubling emotions, she frequently mumbles her lines and becomes difficult to understand. However, I had no trouble with her articulation in Twilight.

Two bright spots emerge in New Moon. Dakota Fanning (Dreamer) commands the screen for the few minutes she’s on camera. Looking all grown up and mysteriously dramatic, Fanning surprised me with her turn as Jane, a powerful vampire consultant. And the closing scene left me hopeful about Pattinson returning with more camera time for Edward in the next installment. If you’ve read the the third Twilight Saga book, please don’t dash my hopes by telling me if I’m wrong, for that would put me in a deep funk too.

•• Shadows on the wall, Rich Cline: Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga continues with this darker and even mopier chapter. The relational knots of emo heroes and dreamy hunks are making it start to feel rather soapy. It may not be as sharp as Catherine Hardwick's TWILIGHT, but it'll keep fans swooning.

Just as Bella (Stewart) turns 18 and begins her senior year in high school, her beloved Edward (Pattinson) decides he has to leave town for her safety. In a deep funk, she eventually turns to neighbour Jacob (Lautner) for company, but their friendship takes a twist when he starts getting hunky and tetchy and hanging out with gang-leader Sam (Spencer). But it's not steroids; the gang members are actually werewolves, locked in mortal combat with vampires. And she needs (and wants) to keep both Edward and Jacob in her life.

The plot echoes Romeo & Juliet (and not just because they're studying the play in school), which adds tension to the otherwise dreary events. The character detail and action-oriented sideroads from the first film are actually more integral here so, despite the long running time, the story has more momentum. That said, it's still told from the perspective of a moody adolescent.

Even more than the first film, this is a movie for teen girls who feel weak at the knees over the idea of romance with one of these idealised boyfriend types: lovers and friends. The handsome cast members generate considerable internal angst as batting eyelashes face off against rippling abs. There's also much gazing off-screen and mumbled dialog, so it's a welcome change when a grown-up arrives to steal a scene. Sheen is especially good as the leader of the uber-vampire Vulpari, as is Fanning as his vile sidekick. We should get much more of them in the next two films.

Meanwhile, some nasty touches add texture alongside all the longing and yearning. Sudden moments of violence continually catch us by surprise, adding to the drama, as do hints about both things that have happened and things still to come. The only missteps are the jerky plotting and the cartoonish wolf effects; otherwise the filmmaking is lush and forebodingly beautiful, especially as it portrays woods that are lovely, dark and deep. And everything looks so cool it almost hurts.

•• ABC, Ruth Hessey: The original director Catherine Hardwicke lost out on the sequel to Chris Weiz, whose previous works, such as the The Golden Compass, should have warned the producers that he has no idea of dramatic structure. Despite the urgings of the teenage girl inside me, it was all I could do to sit through two hours and ten minutes without drinking my own blood. What a bloated, self-important, crashing bore! The film is so long it literally leaves the actors straining for credulity. I was willing to stay with the moaning and quivering and heavy breathing for the first hour or so but the story is so repetitive not even a hundred naked male torsos could keep me from yawning. Even poor Kristen Stewart, who really is an excellent actress and carries the whole film, couldn't be in every scene to keep it alive. Nor is it the first time a girl has discovered that the boys in town are a pack of animals. Even if the special fx on the were-wolves are spectacular, there comes a point where red contact lenses and ghoulish makeup can't substitute for the genuine thrills of a plot.

Eventually Bella Swann hops in a car and drives swiftly to Italy where she encounters a roomful of expensive actors playing vampires like bored rock stars -- there's Dakota Fanning trying really hard to look evil; and Michael Sheen, last seen playing Tony Blair and then David Frost, doing all he can to be mesmerising in his allotted five minutes. He almost does it too, but he's up against too much sludge.

This film has been carefully calculated to exploit the fantasies of teenage girls and such is the ardour of their connection to the Twilight books that they'll probably enrich this dull film with their own febrile imaginations -- unfortunately it's a perfect match for a lot of the empty rubbish peddled to this age group. They will grow up to be a powerful demographic, I just hope they learn to tell the wheat from the chaff. This is chaff.

•• Entertainment Spectrum, Keith Cohen: The sequel to the 2008 supernatural romantic fantasy will not disappoint the avid readers of Stephenie Meyer's bestselling four-book series or the rabid fan base of women, especially teenage girls, who turned last November's first movie into a box office phenomenon.

Kristen Stewart (aging mortal Bella Swan) and Robert Pattinson (forever young vampire Edward Cullen) have become major stars since becoming star-crossed lovers in "Twilight."

Chris Weitz ("The Golden Compass" "American Pie" and "About a Boy") takes over as director and brings more action, better special effects, a larger cast of supporting characters and werewolves.

Bella is entering her senior year in high school and celebrating her 18th birthday. Edward's sister Alice (Ashley Greene) invites her to a party at the house of the vampire family the Cullens. Bella accidentally cuts her finger opening a present. The sight and smell of her blood triggers an attack by Jasper Hale.

The Cullens, including Edward, decide to leave Forks, Wash., to protect Bella from further danger. Edward disappears from her life and leaves Bella depressed and broken-hearted. She turns her attention to her American Indian childhood friend, Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). They get closer when he uses his mechanical skills to repair two motorcycles.

Bella becomes reckless and takes life-threatening risks. This causes Edward's image to appear in a hologram to warn her of danger.

The movie is full of pop culture references. Bella uses the word "cougar" in conversation with Jacob, who is two years younger. Bella notices that Jacob has a beautiful upper body when he rips off his shirt. His body temperature is so hot that she thinks he may have a fever. He turns into a monstrous werewolf whenever he gets agitated or upset. Bella discovers his secret and things get weirder.

An old nemesis comes back into the picture, placing Bella's life in danger. Alice, who can see the future, comes back to Forks and is surprised to find Bella alive.

The ruling royalty of the vampire world known as The Volturi are introduced. They are an old and powerful group that kill vampires who make spectacles of themselves and reveal the secret of their existence to mortals. The malevolent leader of this Italian faction is Aro (Michael Sheen from "Frost/Nixon" and "The Queen") and his menacing minion is Jane (a nearly unrecognizable Dakota Fanning from "The Secret Life of Bees" and "War of the Worlds").

Due to a misunderstanding regarding a funeral, Edward wants to expose himself as a vampire, which would mean death at the hands of The Volturi. Bella flies to Italy with Alice to save her true love.

The strong storytelling keeps you engaged even if you have not read the book. The parallels that can be drawn to "Romeo and Juliet" are more in evidence this time around. There is a lot of mythology only the book readers can understand. The second half of the film has more action sequences featuring werewolf attacks, cliff diving, an underwater struggle and an extended fight scene between vampires. The sparkling effect whenever Edward appears in sunlight is vastly improved.

Much of the movie takes place in the woods, but the scenes in Italy are very colorful with stellar production designs. The women will be drooling over the buff male chests exhibited. The guys who turn into werewolves wear very little clothing. They could give underwear models, beach volleyball players and even the Chippendales a run for their money in the looks department.

An Oscar pedigree is provided by actor Graham Greene ("Dances with Wolves") who has a small role as the sheriff's deputy, Harry Clearwater. Stewart shows more poise and greater maturity in her acting. Lautner has a winning personality and displays a sizzling screen charisma. He creates a romantic dilemma for both Bella and the viewers, who now must choose between Team Edward and Team Jacob. Sheen adds campy class to the proceedings with an unforgettable dramatic performance.

Another strength is a wonderful musical score by Alexandre Desplat ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"), recently named film composer of the year. The icing on this delectable cake is that it features the best series of passionate kissing seen on screen for 2009. The movie ends with a cliffhanging question that has future implications and will have many audience members scrambling to purchase or reread the books.

This cinematic destination event will nourish the soul and provide escapist fun before and after your Thanksgiving feast.

•• NY Mag, David Edelstein: Mass hysteria has turned The Twilight Saga: New Moon—a turgid romantic horror film that under different circumstances would barely attract notice—into the biggest event of the millennium. Which isn’t such a bad thing. I loved watching it with an audience that screamed when Bella (Kristen Stewart) and the vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) first appear. The essential dullness came later.

The last one, Twilight, was fun but shallow compared with the momentous adolescent hormonal feelings flooding Stephenie Meyer’s novel. In New Moon, director Chris Weitz tries to slow things down, which means the unrequited lovers stare longingly at each other and just … won’t … say … their … lines. The hook for young girls is the fantasy of men fighting over them. First, two vampires fight over Bella, then two werewolves. Then werewolves fight vampires. Then a vampire fights more vampires. Bella saves Edward, Edward saves Bella, and the Native American werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner) tries to save Bella from Edward. Whereas Edward is a pale aesthete with the highest brow in movies, Jacob is a dark, hairy biker dude with a very low brow and a trapezius the size of a watermelon. He looks like a Nautilized caveman.

Stewart is lovely and believable, but Pattinson is better in gorgeous repose than when he speaks. The movie has a few good flourishes, like the werewolves’ whooshy overhead chase of an evil red-haired vampire woman. But Weitz’s pacing is so limp you’re going to need the electricity generated by a live audience to keep from yelling, “Hurry it up!”

•• QuickFlix, Simon Miraudo: Rating 2,5/5
Has punch, lacks bite.

The Twilight Saga’s New Moon is not terrible, despite featuring some excruciatingly lazy storytelling, atrocious performances, listless direction and a core storyline that is both uninteresting and somewhat disturbing. But, as I said, it’s not terrible. It is the sequel to a film that was terrible; sub-terrible even. Somehow, Chris Weitz’s adaptation of the second of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight books overcomes its overwhelming flaws to be totally watchable and kind of entertaining. It captures something that its predecessor Twilight could not: the gut-churning sensation of completely irrational, stupid and narcissistic teenage lust. Again, I’m not saying that New Moon is a good film. But it does do something well, and if irrational, stupid and narcissistic teenage lust is what you are after, this is your movie.

The film begins with Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), the heroine of our series, begrudgingly turning 18. This makes her a mere 91 years younger than her eternally-youthful vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). She starts to worry about growing old and being so unattractive that Edward will one day leave her. At this point of the film, I have to remind myself that this would be a legitimate concern when dating an immortal vampire and not just another anti-feminist metaphor. Edward’s family throws Bella a birthday party, during which she receives a paper cut and almost gets eaten alive by the bloodthirsty Cullens. Edward begins to wonder whether dating a human is a good idea after all. His family decides to move away and he tells Bella not to follow. Oh, and that he doesn’t love her anymore. She’s devastated. Her protector abandons her and she almost immediately gets herself accidentally killed. She’ll need another man to take care of her tout de’suite! Enter Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner).

Bella’s neighbour Jacob has clearly hit the gym since we last saw him in Twilight. The sweet-natured 16-year-old has biceps. Big biceps. Biceps so big they themselves have biceps. With Edward out of the picture, Jacob and Bella can spend more time together. He helps her recover from the depression caused by her Cullen-withdrawals. He is everything Edward isn’t. Funny, sweet, tanned. However, as the young Jacob transforms into a man, things begin to change. Hair starts growing in strange places. I mean really strange places. It turns out that Jacob is actually a werewolf and that his brood has had a long-standing feud with the vampires blah blah blah you get the idea. Who will Bella choose? The werewolf or the vampire? And why are these her best options? Why won’t someone introduce her to a nice accountant or something? If I were Bella, I would take a gap year after graduation and move to a town where the population is not entirely made up of mythological creatures.

Robert Pattinson once again reprises his uncanny imitation of a talking hat stand in New Moon, but he’s (mercifully) missing from the majority of the picture. The film primarily focuses on the burgeoning relationship between Bella and Jacob, and when it does, it works. Their friendship, and eventually their romance, is clumsy enough and imperfect enough to feel real. Although Taylor Lautner struggles with the more emotional sequences, he is a charming romantic lead. Kristen Stewart meanwhile proves her worth as one of the most exciting young actresses in Hollywood by making the borderline-psychotic Bella seem, believe it or not, likable. Stewart is intensely watchable in the role; this time she seems to embrace Bella’s madness and roll with it. Sadly, the script consistently betrays her. Nothing Bella does seems to make any sense at all, but at least Stewart sells it. If there is any real progression to be noted from Twilight to New Moon, it is that I actually cared for our protagonist this time around. Surely that counts for something.

However, this will be the extent of my praise. There are far too many problems here to call New Moon ‘good’. Director Chris Weitz does little to improve upon his predecessor Catherine Hardwicke, except to remove that drab blue tinge she smeared the first film with. Both films are as awkwardly paced and free of stylistic character as one another. Meanwhile, the storytelling remains distractingly amateurish. Bella writes (and narrates) endless emails to Edward’s sister Alice (Ashley Greene) about the exact feelings she has at every. single. moment. I can only assume that screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg has lifted these letters directly from Stephanie Meyer’s original novel. Her Dan Brown-esque prose is as agonizingly bland as it gets and adds little to the film, except to provide exposition for even the most obvious of scenes. Finally, the saga’s overriding story is just a little too close to being an apologetic take on domestic abuse for me to ever really feel comfortable with. Too many female characters are beaten by their “monstrous” boyfriends, and each time the women will happily admit it’s their own fault for riling the men up in the first place. Once again, I’m sure I’ll be reminded by this franchise’s fans that this would be a legitimate concern when dating either a vampire or a werewolf. Sure. And Beauty and the Beast is really just about a woman dating a giant man-bear.

Those already a fan of the Twilight phenomenon will lap this installment up. Sadly, New Moon isn’t exactly the new leaf us non-fans were hoping for. Weitz is unable to breathe much life into the bland source material. Perhaps David Slade, director of the brilliant Hard Candy, will bring some much needed visual flair to the next film, Eclipse. However, there are enough elements here to make the film watchable. Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning have very small roles as members of the Volturi, the evil vampire lawmakers. They ham it up wonderfully and are easily the most interesting characters in all of Stephanie Meyer’s universe. The question is this: why are films not being made about them? Also, as I mentioned, Kristen Stewart transforms her formally personality-free cipher into an interesting hero and that alone is worth the price of admission. Team Edward or Team Jacob? I guess I’m Team Bella.

•• The Scorecard Review, Jeff Bayer: Rating 5/10
Let’s get past the fan obsession. Let’s get past dreamboats, and who is dating whom. Let’s get past Team Edward, Team Jacob and Team Bella (like Switzerland from what I understand). Forget the swooning you’ll hear in the theater. Let’s get past if this is an authentic adaptation of the second novel in the “Twilight” series. Let’s not pay attention to box office numbers, and whether that equals quality. We’re only going to pay attention to the film and whether it’s good, or bad. Can we do that people?

This is a film that hinges on two big events. Our first one is a paper cut. After Bella and Edward finally realize they can’t live without each other in the first film, Bella gets a paper cut and this changes everything. Suddenly, Edward now fully understands that he and Bella shouldn’t be together. Vampires and humans just don’t mix. A paper cut.

This leads to an unbelievable break up that Bella believes. Time passes and there is some fun with Bella’s friends. Jessica (Anna Kendrick) gives us a typical teen friend and Mike (Michael Welch) gives us a typical teen crush. Both give us an escape from the supposed romance of a lifetime. Beyond that we have Jacob slowly coming into form. Muscles abound. Shirts come off. New feelings emerge. Can you imagine how many jean shorts these guys must go through? Insane costs. Jacob’s secret is that he’s a big furry beast (werewolf). Bella seems shocked … surprising for a girl who crushes on a vampire.

This leads to big event number two. In an odd crank call, confusing phone message between Edward and Jacob … Edward now wants to head to the Volturi (an important group of vampires) and off himself. I won’t get into all the details here in case you want to go in fresh. But it’s a phone call.

So we’ve got a paper cut and a phone call … and a romance that never feels as big as the movie tries to make it seem. There are moments, like a vampire fight in Italy, and hints of what is to come, but in its current form, we have a teenage romance that has turned into a love triangle. It’s just a passion that not everyone is allowed to see, unless you dive into that first paragraph of information up above. And for most, that’s not something we’re willing to do. And therefore, the movies remain mild, average, and occasionally interesting.