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New Moon, the second in Stephenie Meyer's blockbuster teen-fiction saga adapted for film, is stronger than its predecessor, Twilight. Director Chris Weitz (The Golden Compass), taking the helm from Catherine Hardwicke, brings a lighter, more assured touch to the sequel, which continues the star-crossed love story of mortal Bella (Kristen Stewart) and vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson). Incidentally, Edward is absent for most of the film; after an accident on Bella's birthday reminds Edward that her life is always at risk when he's around, he chooses to abandon her, sending her into a deep depression. The only person who helps her heal her broken heart is her friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner), a member of the Quileute tribe who, as he grows taller, beefier, and more aggressive (with less clothing), comes to realize he's not entirely human either. But even his love for Bella doesn't prevent her from throwing herself in the path of danger, because that's the only time she can see visions of Edward. One such fateful misunderstanding sends Edward into the coven of the Volturi (a sort of vampire Mafia, if you will), where the most dangerous vampires hold both Edward and Bella's fate in their cold, dark hands. Much of New Moon rests on the shoulders of Lautner, so scrawny in Twilight, who famously packed on the muscle to avoid getting recast. He's very nearly successful in carrying the load, but the cheese-tastic beefcake scenes disservice him, and Jacob and Bella's complicated friendship stumbles on its way to any kind of love triangle. Some of that blame lies with Stewart, who understandably holds her emotions close to her chest but reveals much too little (c'mon, even an angsty girl has to be a little joyful in the arms of two different hunks). As is with the book, the film is just a bridge between sagas, so the plot drags and not a lot happens. Fortunately, while Twilight was trapped in its own self-consciousness, the wobbly-legged cast seems to have found stronger footing in New Moon; the jokes come faster, the writing (by Melissa Rosenberg, who also scribed Twilight) is a hair wittier. (Even Pattinson seems more comfortable in Edward's skin.) The Volturi, highlighted by Michael Sheen's Aro and Dakota Fanning's Jane, also make an all-too-brief impression, but at least there's more to look forward to when Eclipse, the third installment, is released.

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Special Features Audio commentary with Director Chris Weitz and Editor Peter Lamber A riveting six-part documentary that takes you behind the scenes Exclusive band rehearsal footage with Muse Music videos from Death Cab for Cutie, Anya Marina, and Mute Math

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PA334957 Twilight Saga: New Moon Two-Disc Special Edition DVD (2009/Robert Pattinson) $14.98 $12.99