The Twilight Series: A Romance Story within a Vampire Novel or a Vampire Story within a Romance Novel?

The biggest book franchise since Harry Potter and a multi-million dollar movie franchise which has made its stars household names. It’s fair to say that Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight franchise has done extremely well for itself with millions of fans across the world (nicknamed ’Twihards’). Despite the fact I have made my way to the cinema for each of the five movies, I had not read the book series, apart from the first book. I took up the challenge soon after I saw the last movie at the cinema, and two months later, I had successfully read them all.

For those that have not read the books/seen the film the series centres around teenager Bella Swan, who moves to the small town of Forks to live with her father, and here she meets the mysterious and beautiful Edward Cullen and his equally impressive family. She realises there is something not quite normal about them, and she is proven right when she learns that Edwards and his family are in fact vampires. Of course, they fall in love, and throughout the series their relationship is tested through various different problems including trouble with werewolves and an almost war with a vampire group that are akin to royalty.

The books are in the first person mostly from the point of view of Bella apart from a period in Breaking Dawn where Jacob is the narrator. The series is more of a romantic love story, with the added plot twist of the ‘hero’ being a vampire. The books perhaps rely on the supernatural aspect to make the story more intriguing to readers; take away that aspect of the books and it purely becomes a samey romantic love story.

To be perfectly frank, the story isn’t the problem I found with these books – it’s the writing style of Stephanie Meyer. The book is simply quite badly written and it becomes annoying after a time. Bella as the narrator of the series becomes tiresome and irritating, constantly bemoaning her situation of how two men are fighting over her, how incessantly normal she is, and how she keeps hurting both of the men in her life that love her. The chapters that Jacob narrates in Breaking Dawn are quite refreshing and I felt myself wanting his narration to continue.

The book series as a whole have become quite a phenomenon across the world, and whilst the books are never going to appear in a list of the best books ever written, they probably do appear in the list of best-selling books. The series explores love and romance, but also other issues such as humanity, life after death and the idea of family. While I also think the scriptwriters of the films managed to turn some dismal dialogue from the books and improve it, I did enjoy the books. I noticed subtle differences between the book characters and the film characters, and enjoyed the small moments that were left out of the film from the books. Being an English Literature graduate, I think I will always have a bias towards books, especially when they become adapted into a film and I’m glad I finally got round to reading the series.

“Why did she hit you?”

“Because I kissed her,” Jacob said, unashamed.

“Good for you, kid,” Charlie congratulated him.

(Eclipse)

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My Top 10 Films of 2012

Another year of cinema is over and albeit, I still have a long list of films to plough through from 2012 (in fact many films from across a number of years) however, here is a list of my top 10 films of 2012!

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10. Twilight Breaking Dawn part 2

The final instalment of the Twilight franchise made its way onto our screens in November and it’s fair to say it was probably the best one out of the series. The end battle alone was brilliant, especially the ‘it was all a dream’ scenario that helped create it. The actors all stepped up their game (who would’ve thought Kristen Stewart would be less annoying as vampire Bella). Anyway, because of my support of the previous films, and that end battle sequence this sneaks my way onto my top 10.

“You nick-named my daughter after the Loch Ness daughter!” (Bella, Twilight Breaking Dawn part 2)

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9. The Amazing Spider-Man

The re-boot of the Spiderman series starring Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker was sandwiched between the other two major comic book movies of last year and was the weakest of the three movies. That certainly doesn’t mean it wasn’t brilliant though. I mean when you’re up against the juggernaut of Nolan’s Batman series and Marvel’s culmination of their master Phase 1 plan, helmed by the genius of Joss Whedon you know you have a lot to contend with. The film has a lot going for it – the chemistry of real life couple Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone (who plays Gwen Stacy) shines through on screen and Garfield is refreshing as Peter Parker, very different from Tobey Maguire’s version. Add the fact Martin Sheen brings a great performance as Uncle Ben, as well as a great supporting cast including Rhys Ifans and Denis Leary this movie brings intrigue as the mystery of Peter’s parents disappearance deepens. The sequel is set to be released in 2014 and with Jamie Foxx cast as the villain it promises to be one to see.

“We all have secrets: the ones we keep… and the ones that are kept from us.” (Peter Parker, The Amazing Spider-Man)

The Hobbit Review

8. The Hobbit

Peter Jackson returns us to the land of Middle Earth 10 years after the Lord of the Rings trilogy with Tolkein’s prequel and the tale of Bilbo Baggins’ extraordinary adventure. At first this book was going to be adapted into two films, but once filming was complete Jackson changed his mind, stating the wealth of material was enough for three films. The first instalment hit our screens, covering a mere six chapters of the novel, but encompassing a lot of other different sources along with it. It wasn’t as good as The Fellowship of the Ring, and some moments seemed a little self-indulgent, however it was entertaining and certainly took cinema-goers back to the land of Middle Earth. The next instalment comes out at the end of this year, and I’ll be waiting to see the third instalment before making a judgement on the films as a whole.

“I’m looking for someone to share in an adventure” (Gandalf, The Hobbit)

7. This Means War

This romantic comedy had everything – the fabulously gorgeous Reese Witherspoon who was in a bit of a pickle when she inadvertently starts dating two very attractive guys at the same time – it also helps that those two attractive guys are Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, best friends, who are also secret agents. The comedy is funny, sexy and an easy watch for a cosy night in!

“Sometimes falling is the best part.” (Tuck, This Means War)

6. The Hunger Games

The next big movie adaptation series after Twilight, the movie was one of the first biggest blockbusters and made a great start to the franchise. Jennifer Lawrence was brilliant as Catniss, the ‘girl on fire’, continuing her reign of Hollywood domination after X Men First Class. She was joined by Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth and star power of Stanley Tucci and Woody Harrelson. The movie sparked more intrigue into this already beloved book series, and the box office success ensured that the series got sequels, with the second film due out at the end of this year. Jennifer Lawrence has since gone to show she is not just a pretty face, capable of carrying a successful franchise, having been Oscar nominated for Silver Linings Playbook. Hopefully the next movie will live up to the first movie and help build on the franchise’s success.

“We salute your courage and your sacrifice and we wish you Happy Hunger Games!” (President Snow, The Hunger Games)

 

5. Looper

The sci-fi film starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt opened to fantastic reviews, and it deserved them; a great chemistry between Willis and Levitt, both playing the same character but older and younger versions of themselves. The intelligent writing and plot, and the other supporting cast including Emily Blunt meant that this became one of the most enjoyable movies of the year.

“Then I saw it, I saw a mom who would die for her son, a man who would kill for his wife, a boy, angry & alone, laid out in front of him the bad path. I saw it & the path was a circle, round & round. So I changed it.” (Joe, Looper)

4. Argo

As soon as I saw the trailer for this film, I knew I had to see it. Once I saw it, I thought it was amazing and saw potential for it to triumph at awards season. So far it is doing me proud, sweeping its way picking up award after award. The film itself is awesome, witty, darkly comedic and tense. My top 4 are very similar in their sheer awesomeness and I have my fingers crossed that Argo will triumph at the Oscars.

“If I’m going to make a fake movie, it’s going to be a fake hit.” (Lestor, Argo)

3. Skyfall

James Bond returned with a definite bang in the 23rd Bond film (Daniel Craig’s 3rd outing as 007), as Bond also celebrated its 50th anniversary. The movie helmed by Sam Mendes brought Bond back to its glory and cemented Craig as a Bond to remember. Add stellar performances from Judi Dench who in effect became the Bond girl of the movie and Javier Bardem as a chilling villain and you get Skyfall. Craig is already slated to return for at least another 2 Bond movies and with the same writing team behind those, surely things can only continue to be stronger for the James Bond franchise.

“Some men are coming to kill us. We’re going to kill them first.” (James Bond, Skyfall)

2. The Dark Knight Rises

My top two were very close but The Dark Knight Rises was just pipped to the number one spot. The ending to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy was one I certainly couldn’t wait for (and the fact the film opened on my birthday also added to the excitement.) Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman returned to the film and Nolan added a couple other powerhouses including Joseph Gordon-Levitt as rookie cop John Blake, Tom Hardy as our villain Bane, completely transforming himself in the process, and the beautiful Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman). The film albeit was not as good as The Dark Knight but quite honestly, it was always going to be tough to follow that. However, the film was still a major box office success and an amazing end to the Dark Knight trilogy that Nolan created, giving the Batman series a film to shout about, and restoring some of its darker themes.

“There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.” (Selina Kyle, The Dark Knight Rises)

1. Avengers Assemble

And finally….my number one choice. The first major superhero movie of the summer of 2012 and the culmination of Marvel’s phase one plan. As soon as it was announced that Joss Whedon was writing and directing the film, I knew it was going to be amazing and I felt proud knowing that a wider audience were finally going to see the awesomeness of Whedon’s work. Perhaps I’m biased towards him, but I honestly couldn’t care. The film incorporated Whedon’s wittiness and it matched perfectly to Robert Downey Jr. comedy finesse, add in the likes of Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, and Tom Hiddelston and new to the series Mark Ruffalo (who made a fantastic Hulk) and Jeremy Renner and you have the groundings of a brilliant film. The ability for the cast, crew and Joss Whedon to tackle this mammoth task giving each one of the superhero characters fair screen time, and weave a great plot through the film just proves how awesome it is. It helped that the film did fantastically at the box office, thus giving Marvel the full green light to unleash Phase 2 with sequels for Iron Man, Captain America and Thor leading up to Avengers 2 again helmed by Whedon due out in 2015. The future certainly looks bright (and prosperous) for the Marvel franchise and I will be first in line for all of these movies.

“It’s good to meet you, Dr. Banner. Your work on anti-electron collisions is unparalleled. And I’m a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster.” (Tony Stark, The Avengers)

 

So there you have it, my top 10 films of 2012 – feel free to comment and let me know what your favourites were and if you agree/disagree!

 

 

Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 Joint Review

SO, seeing as Kat and I are both very big fans of Twilight (although I say Kat probably beats me as she has read the books as well), we decided that rather than both do separate blogs, we would do one big joint blog!

Warning –spoilers will follow.

Rachel: We both saw the movie at different times and even in different locations!  I lined up for the midnight showing of the movie; the cinema was filling up as it was totally sold out, as I waited in anticipation for it to start.

Kat: After a year of waiting, going through a major heartbreak which I thought I was never going to recover from, the moment was finally here.

R+K: Where to start?

R: Bill Condon returns to direct the 2nd part of Breaking Dawn and we pick up right where the first one ended, with Bella awakening from her sleep into a full blown Vampire – just what she always wanted! It’s interesting to see Bella, a character who as she put it in Eclipse ‘stumbles through life’ move through her new one gracefully, easily dispatching a mountain lion as her first kill.  I must admit, Kristen Stewart should be a vampire more often – her make-up was beautiful throughout the film, and I saw more than one emotion from her!

K: No Oscars are going to be won, especially none for best lead actress, *hisses*. For the last four films we have seen Isabella Swan rock jeans and sneakers, a beautiful make-up less face and pull off a incredible broken heart while still looking remotely human, the fifth film comes along and oh she’s now in dresses…wasn’t she the one who in Twilight DIDN’T want to go prom dress shopping? Excuse me? This is so out of character for her, her whole vampire trait in the book was that she stayed relatively close to her human self, and this totally wrecked it for me. She doesn’t suit the dresses they were putting her in, she’s far too skinny. Yes I see they were trying to make her more ‘vampire beautiful’ and mumsy for the film, but I don’t feel it worked. The red contacts however: yes.

R: I agree about the red contacts although I guess the different style of dress is to make her fit in with the rest of the Cullen clan. I personally loved her fierce loyalty towards Renesmee, despite her being a newborn vampire. It did all seem quite easy for her to fight her urges throughout the film, and her reaction to Jacob imprinting on her baby daughter was over-reactive to say the least “You named my daughter after the Loch Ness monster!”

K: I know you love it Rach, but please, I nearly puked in my mouth when Bella scrams ‘you named my daughter after the Loch Ness monster?’ I don’t even want to talk about my feelings towards that. Yes the Twilight Saga has seen some good one-liners, Eclipse being the best for them, but these just seem to be ‘trying too hard’ to be pulled off successfully.

R:  I remember laughing at certain points but honestly cannot remember any more of the jokes. As the film rounds off Bella’s first day as a vampire, we get the scene that we’ve been waiting for – the vampire sex scene. It’s quite steamy, and I did feel slightly awkward watching it. I think the most awkward part is that because it’s a 12A over in the UK it means children around 8/9 will watch it, probably with their parents – I would certainly shield their eyes at this point.

K: We’ve waited four films worth for the vampire on vampire love scene, and that is what we got? I couldn’t even tell if it was Bella and Edward. A clear example of when a 12A rating to get more money at the box office can wreck key pieces of story-line.

R: As their daughter grows every day (and can we just say what an awesome little actress Mackenzie Foy is; she’s adorable and she has great chemistry with Kristen, Rob and Taylor), trouble is brewing and the Volturi decide to rage all out war with them. It brings the Cullen’s on high alert, recruiting old friends and new from all around the world which introduces some great new characters – my favourites being the cousins from Alaska who we met briefly at the wedding and Garrett (Lee Pace) the vampire from Carlisle’s past. But getting to the part we were all waiting for – the change!

K: I must explain, unlike Rach, I fell in love with the Twilight saga through the books, so when the film didn’t quite stick to the words on the pages, you can probably guess I wasn’t best pleased.

R: I’ve read Twilight and I’m currently half way through New Moon, but I must admit when I heard that they had ‘changed’ the ending to the story I thought it was silly – it’s a book adaptation meaning you don’t just suddenly make up something to fit into the movie.

K: The moment Carlisle’s head got ripped off I turned to my friend to scream-whisper ‘DID THIS HAPPEN IN THE BOOK?!?!’ not believing my own memory, and crossed the DVD off my Christmas list. I carried on quietly fuming as the next 15 minutes played out, slowing getting more and more angry as the scene unfolded only to be rescued, like the rest of the audience, by the major twist being revealed.

R: I was happily calm until I realised Carlisle’s had been killed, and I was in utter shock, along with the rest of the cinema. You could collectively hear the gasps, and the panic through the cinema screen. As more characters kept dying, I was slowly panicking more, having no clue whether this had happened in the book or not. When it was finally revealed that it had all been a part of Alice’s vision to Aro, the entire cinema erupted into nervous laughter and huge sighs of relief.

K: I won’t deny that the twist was spectacular and an exceptional experience for all those involved, but it varied so far from the book that it did change my feelings towards the end film. The worst diversion (apart from the twist) was the involvement of Charlie. In the books it is clear that he knows about Bella being a vampire, it’s not spelled out to him, but it is clear that he knows and he spends so much more time with the family. He’s barely touched on in the film, apart from Jacob stripping for him and turning into a wolf, and this annoys me greatly (not the stripping part obviously).

R: Certainly not the stripping part! I was glad that we got to at least see some of Charlie in this film – I do love Billy Burke and he brings a comedic and loveable element to the film. After the (pretend) battle sequence, the film quickly wraps up, inferring that the Cullen’s, Jake and the wolf pack all live harmoniously in Forks together, but not before a cringe-worthy flashback sequence of Bella and Edward’s love story.

K: The montage of love scenes *says with a soppy voice* between the two and how far they’ve come over the past four film is just a waste of time. It’s clear you’ve ran out of things to do, and what makes it worse is that we’re still recovering from the Kirsten cheating scandal so we don’t want to be reminded of how good it was – yes it’s totally different but it somewhat reflects the coupe in real life as its part of their journey together. To follow this, the credits. Oh I’m sorry did we not say thank you to everyone when they were in the film they actually appeared in? Yes it was nice to pay tribute to those who have been part of the saga, but was it really necessary? Not for me, again another time waster.

R: See I really liked the end credit sequence – I thought it was a nice, heart-warming moment, giving each actor from every movie their moment in the sun, driving home the idea that the franchise was like ‘a family’.

I feel the final movie to the franchise is a good send off, filled with drama and tension and one that fans of the movie franchise won’t be disappointed with. I’ll be adding it to the DVD’s I’ll buy to complete my collection, but it certainly hasn’t left a hole in my life now that it’s over (that mantle belongs to the Harry Potter films). Hopefully Stephanie Meyer will not try and resurrect this franchise and I believe it’s come its rightful end.

K: I know I’ve slated the film like mad, but believe it or not I did enjoy it, and I will be awaiting the DVD, mainly so I have the complete set, but I can’t say I was overly impressed. I didn’t come out of the cinema wanting to go back in and watch it a second time, which upsets me greatly. I think I’m ready to finish the chapter and close the book on the twilight saga.

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“The packs will fight. We’ve never been afraid of vampires.” (Jacob, Breaking Dawn part 2)

Degrading or Sexually Awakening? Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy Review

Cast your mind back a few months to the start of the summer, when it seemed like everyone was reading the hot new thing– the erotic, romance novel Fifty Shades of Grey. The EL James book trilogy took Britain by storm and sold millions of copies. As it seemed like all my friends (especially my girl friends) were reading the novels, and as an avid reader myself I needed to see what the fuss was about so invested in the entire trilogy (I figured I would read the whole thing).

The novel centres on Anastasia Steele, a young, pretty, quite innocent girl and Christian Grey, an enigmatic, bachelor billionaire. They happen to meet when Ana has to interview him on behalf of her housemate and the two have an instant spark. Grey begins to pursue/stalk her (but in a cute way) and Ana begins to fall under his spell. Christian then reveals that he in fact leads a very alternative lifestyle, acting as a dominant, and is into BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, and Masochism). Things start getting interesting from this point, although Ana continues to fall head over heels in love with him, and it seems that she is having an effect on Christian.

I won’t go into too much detail about the novel, but it is a romance trilogy so you can probably guess that these two crazy kids end up together (and not just in a dominant/subordinate relationship). In terms of the book sizes they’re not light – each book is about 500 pages long, and I do struggle to see how EL James has dragged the story out for that long. There is a lot of description (of sex and of other extravagant activities the couple gets up to).  I probably started reading the books around July, and it didn’t take me long to get into the first book – I finished that within about two weeks (I can be a slow reader). However, the next two took a bit longer and it wasn’t until the end of October that I managed to finish the entire series.

One thing that struck me very much towards the end of the series is how much the series reminded me of Twilight (minus the vampires of course). Here we have a man who was detached, but beautiful and full of charm, and a girl who was perhaps slightly socially awkward, quite normal pretty but besotted by him. I can even imagine the film adaptation when it comes out flowing quite like the Twilight movie – voice over thoughts and moody music. Edward compares himself to a bad guy in a superhero story, constantly telling Bella it would be better off if she stayed away from him. Early on the in first novel Christian does exactly the same to Anastasia. He tells her to stay away from him and that he’s not a ‘hearts and flowers guy’. The similarities between the characters and their relationship with each other are numerous – they’re both fiercely protective of their girls, other women are constantly bowled over by their beauty and charisma, and as couples, they tend to not want to be separated and when they do they constantly moan about their unhappiness. More trivial similarities include Bella and Ana’s parents are both divorced and Edward and Christian have adoptive families. The characters of José and Jacob are also quite similar in terms of their blatant love for their respective friend (although with Jacob Bella does actually have some feelings towards him whereas José is purely platonic.

I actually like the Twilight franchise and to be honest I enjoyed reading these books. It’s certainly not going to be winning any Pulitzer prizes but, as far as an enjoyable, easy going read goes, this one is certainly one you could pack in your suitcase to read beside the pool. As far as the sexual content goes, I certainly don’t think this book is degrading to women, in fact I think it is exactly the opposite. In recent years, ‘Page 3’ and ‘lads mags’ have become far more accessible and much more in your face so I think it is only fair that women have a chance to be sexually awakened and be presented with more mainstream erotica. It allows women who may not have experience of that side of sex to become more accustomed to it, and perhaps introduce it into their own love lives.

However, being an ex-English Literature student, I cannot forgive EL James’ poor writing. It took me a while to realise just how badly the novels were written. The constant repetitiveness of Ana’s thoughts and just how ridiculous they sounded were enough to irritate me. She manages to make both lead characters very two-dimensional, and both clearly have issues (although saying that every human does). After a while the issues become quite annoying in themselves; Ana has obvious self-esteem and confidence issues and Christian is self loathing and doesn’t believe he is worth anything. Sometimes I did find myself reading the book and just wanting to jump into the story and shout and slap the both of them. The idea that the two characters simply cannot be apart from each other for more than an hour is also suffocating to even think about – in reality would any woman want to be controlled or be around there partner every minute of the day?

One thing that I can commend EL James on is the sexual awakening of Ana’s character. She walks into the book awkward and a virgin, and she soon finds her libido and her sex drive, and thus showing women everywhere a new opening into their sexual awakening.

I would certainly recommend this book if you’re going away on holiday any time soon and if you want a bit of light reading on the plane/by the pool. If you want to find out what the fuss is about, then go, be brave and embrace the novels. But don’t expect a first class read on par with War and Peace.

 

“I’ve wanted you since you fell into my office. You are exquisite, honest, warm, strong, witty, beguiling, innocent; the list is endless. I’m in awe of you. I want you, and the thought of anyone else having you is like a knife twisting in my dark soul” (Christian, Fifty Shades Darker)

Jodie Foster defends Kristen Stewart, blasts the public for ‘destroying childhoods’

 

 

Very interesting hearing Jodie Foster’s thoughts on the way the media treat actors, particularly in relation to Kristen Stewart. As a veteran of the industry, and one that directly worked with Kristen very early on in her career, her insight into Kristen as a young child actress is powerfully written and does strike a nerve especially as her career seems to be hitting some bumps.

The fact she was DROPPED from the Snow White and the Huntsman sequel was I thought, a little too far. There is no word on Rupert Sanders fate but, ‘cheating’ is a two person game and people will never get to hear what really happened and who was the pursuing who. I think it is slightly unfair to punish her yet leave Sanders go ‘unpunished’ professionally.

Now that Robert Pattinson is performing press duties for his new film, the awkward questions are starting to appear and he is handling them with grace, wit and a smile, whilst reporters are for the most part avoiding using Stewart’s name and being blunt with the actor. However, once Kristen begins to reappear into the public, and especially in 2 months time when Press begins for the last installment of the Twilight franchise-the s**t is gonna hit the fan!

 

Rachel

“Eventually this all passes. The public horrors of today eventually blow away. And yes, you are changed by the awful wake of reckoning they leave behind. You trust less. You calculate your steps. You survive.” Jodie Foster