Rogue Element 90: ‘Breaking Dawn’…and Shattering My Funnybone

By Avril Brown

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past few months, or just don’t care, you are likely aware that the first part of the last installment of the ‘Twilight’ saga premieres tonight in theaters everywhere. ‘Breaking Dawn,’ the largest and last book in the four-part series, was broken in two movies ala ‘Harry Potter’ style, and the second movie will be released in 2012 much to the delight of Twi-hards everywhere.

While I wouldn’t consider myself a ‘Twi-hard’ (the vernacular for people obsessed with the series, either book, movie or both), I will admit to having read the books (and re-read them more than I should have; ‘Twilight’ is not the most brilliantly written collection of works), and seen the movies, even going to see ‘New Moon’ at a pre-screen premiere thanks to my generous and spendy sister. Honestly it was the amazingly entertaining experience I had during that wild ride (I wrote a column about that night) that inspired me to catch the midnight showing of ‘Breaking Dawn: Part One’ last night/this morning. Plus, I had a partner in crime in the form of one of my favorite nerdy people, fellow co-host of ‘Comics Slumber Party,’ Ms. Molly Jane Kremer. Like me she is not a true ‘Twi-hard’ but can enjoy a midnight movie, particularly when it comes with the potential for a full and eclectic theater.

We acquired our tickets ahead of time and therefore dilly-dallied before the show, hanging at a comic art show and then getting noshes with a couple of wild and crazy guys, so our seats were not the best, but with all due respect to the ancient and battered Davis Theater, there are few seats in there that one would consider ‘the best.’ We soaked up the atmosphere, enjoyed the juvenile jawing echoing around us and settled in for what promised to be an entertaining two hours. We were not disappointed.

Now please do not mistake my meaning. When I say we were not disappointed with our night, this does not translate to saying the movie was good. In fact ‘Breaking Dawn: Part One’ is one of the most woodenly-acted, cheese-a-rific, sack of supernatural silliness I have ever seen, but damn was it funny. Unintentionally so, to be certain, but still hysterical as hell, and our audience was a large part in helping make it such an unforgettable cinema experience.

(WARNING: Spoilers ahead, but I promise not to give too much away because I sincerely wish you a movie night like mine)

When the commercials and previews began I could tell immediately the abundance of teenage hormone bombs was either going to make or break my viewing experience. The hooting and hollering, the not-so-witty banter and loud whispering would have gotten on my nerves if not for the fact that, coupled with the movie, it was pretty amusing. Plus we were seated right behind two plump Latino women who likely had not read the books given their extreme and dramatic reactions to, well, everything.

Right from the get go we got a little Taylor “Ab Man” Lautner in some now-classic shirt-taking-off-action, which sent the teens, both male and female, into one of their first, but certainly not their last, round of dialogue-drowning cheers and wolf whistles (pun intended). The television previews of ‘Breaking Dawn’ covered almost the entire opening sequence, and following that the pace was swift and transitioned quickly into the rather lovely wedding scene trumpeted as the ‘wedding of the century.’ Visually it was stunning and rather fairytale-esque, and the speeches given at the reception were my favorite part of the film, perhaps due to the fact they were intentionally diverting. Overall, the entire ceremony and reception was well put together and a proper balance of from-the-book and unique to the film.

Following the wedding, of course, was the much-anticipated honeymoon where Edward and Bella finally get groin-y. Author Stephenie “The Mormon” Meyer does not go into steamy sexy detail of any between-the-sheet-time between the two main characters, so you can imagine how much people were looking forward to the Hollywood starlets stripping down, particularly since the original cut was too racy for the critics who slapped it with an R rating until the producers cut some of the consummation scenes. Given that last nugget of information I will admit I was disappointed in the lack of leftover hotness emanating from the on and off screen couple, but then again I am a little sex-obsessed and this IS a PG-13 film in a country founded by prudes, so I will not nit-pick.

The honeymoon locale was beautiful (the Latino ladies cheered the appearance of Rio’s gigantic Jesus) and the scenes stuck pretty close to the book, including the parts where Bella puts the pieces together and figures out she is knocked up with a vampire spawn (in case anyone in my theater had any doubts, when Bella makes a beeline to the toilet to puke up a bite of chicken, a member of the audience shouted out, ‘Preggers!’ Thanks for the tip). Then it was back to the States where the lopsidedly happy couple prepares to face the wrath of jilted Jacob and deal with Bella’s attachment to her bone-breaking, life-sucking bouncing baby.

This is where ‘Breaking Dawn’ pretty much derailed, and there really is nowhere to lay the blame. These scenes in the book simply do not translate well to film because honestly, how do you shoot a scene where gigantic CG wolves get into a communal telepathic argument and NOT have it look like the silliest thing since special effects stopped sucking? The drama level was jacked, what with Bella rapidly dying in front of her vampire husband in order to save a hybrid fetus whom no one likes except for her and the formerly-blond vampire Rosalie, and the majority of the werewolf tribe intent on destroying it and Bella before it comes to term. Not a one of the cast was particularly skilled in delivering their dramatic dialogue either, which took the mickey out of the angst…but then again, their performance may have been marred by the near-constant guffawing escaping from almost everyone in the theater, myself and Molly included. Somehow I doubt it, especially when it comes to Taylor Lautner whose acting skills seem to stop at his chiseled six-pack. I would say at least he got that right, but his washboard remained depressingly covered after that first scene. Torture.

From the video montages superimposed with flashes of faces of images past and scenes to come and coupled with histrionic background music, to the ‘Underworld’-style CG scenes where the camera internally observes the changes happening in Bella’s body (only half as weird as it sounds), all the way around to the epically awful imprinting scene, the second half of ‘Breaking Dawn: Part One’ really breaks the mold when it comes to a supernatural drama trying too hard, and failing spectacularly.

However, fun was had and that is typically all I ask for from my cinematic experiences, particularly when it comes to sparkly vampire and temperamental werewolf-centric films. Was it a good movie? My sources say no. Will I go see it again? Signs point to yes. Can I explain this chain of reasoning? Reply hazy, try again. I suppose part of my desire to see it once more in theaters stems from wanting to view the shiny special effects and pretty people on a quality screen, but I’d also like to experience it with a new crew of people, including my sister. Was it just us? Were we all just hyped up on sugar, caffeine and that one AM rush? Again I am more inclined to trust my first instinct on this, and I have assurance from a geeky ginger whose opinion I hold in high esteem. Many thanks to Molly Jane for accompanying me on this quest that few people would have dared, but it goes to show that with good company, a blatant disregard for normal sleep cycles and a solid sense of humor, great times can be found in the unlikeliest of places.


Rogue Element 89: Save the Squirrel!

By Avril Brown

The economy, unsurprisingly, both sucks and blows. This is not news as we have all felt the repercussions, whether it be a hit to a 401K, the loss of a job, or in the case of my beloved comic book shop, Evil Squirrel Comics, the potential loss of a business.

Shawn King is the proprietor of Evil Squirrel Comics located in Rogers Park at 6928 N. Glenwood Ave., a wicked easy walk off the CTA Red Line Morse stop and two blocks from the 147 bus. I have been a patron of Shawn’s since he was hanging his hat in Evanston at a book shop entitled Something Wicked, and I followed him to his first Evil Squirrel location in Rogers Park and again when he moved a few blocks to his current domicile. Shawn is amazingly friendly, hysterical, classy and smart. He is the reason I was able to have a sit down with Nicholas Brendon aka Xander Harris from ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ fame. He is exactly the type of person you want to meet when you walk into a comic book shop. And unfortunately Shawn, and his Squirrel, are in trouble.

Back rent is due, and if the Squirrel does not see adequate revenue in the near future the shop will be evicted. Though Shawn has come close to such a situation in the past, he has always managed to pull through. This time, however, the furry balls of the Evil Squirrel are inches away from the band saw, and the gap is shrinking.

I may not have the monetary funds to see Shawn and the Squirrel through this financial emergency but I do have a voice, and I intend to use it loudly. Stop on by Rogers Park soon and help Save the Squirrel! Get some Christmas shopping done early! Did your friend just see ‘The Watchmen’ and love the stunning cinematography and fight scenes? Pick up the deluxe edition of the graphic novel and show them where it all began. Does your sister miss her ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ episodes? The show lives on in the Dark Horse Buffy series which is a continuation of the syndicated show, with Joss Whedon himself writing several story arcs. Need some color in your drab living room? Find a poster of your favorite characters to hang on your walls and really tie the room together.

Comics are bagged and boarded at no extra charge! Back issues are only three dollars a pound! Groupon Now alerts pop up frequently with special discounts! Friendly, knowledgeable staff are always on hand for a smile, a chat and any help you might need for your shopping experience! Evil Squirrel Comics, a family-friendly and multi-faceted comic book shop, needs your help. First, hear it from Shawn himself by listening to the brief interview I did with my friend and comic book dealer as we discuss his current situation and all the things Evil Squirrel has to offer in addition to comics. Then stop on by, spend some money and tell your friends and family to do the same. Together we can get some great comics, have a fun shopping experience and Save the Squirrel!

Also, be sure and check the Evil Squirrel home page and their Facebook page for updates, activities and more ways you can help.


Written and Drawn by Renard Dillies
Published by NBM

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Charlie the Mouse finds himself in a position that writers know all too well: he is blocked, his creative juices not flowing, and the pages before him are blank. He is also dreadfully, horribly alone. At times he may choose solitude, but it is those times when he has not which are weighing upon him. Now, with his town about to be filled with people thanks to an annual carnival, a strange bird appears on his window sill to give substance to his loneliness and Charlie must force himself out into the world in an attempt to break the dry spell and engage with the world… which is the greatest inspiration of all.

There have been odder stories that dealing with writer’s block and the challenges of the creative process, but certainly very few as charming as this one. Renaud Dillies’ storytelling has a sense of wonder about it that really captivates the reader. The book is artistically beautiful- this is cream of the crop Euro styling, and the production design is exquisite. Plus, the characters are fun- Charlie never gets so morose that you can’t empathize with him, and he has enough depth to him that you see sides of him not having to do with writing. Relatability matters in this case. The actual script is also sharp- the book is very text light, allowing the art to show you the story instead of the caption boxes telling it to you.

BUBBLES AND GONDOLA is a work that is safe for all ages, but that will definitely appeal more to older and more sophisticated readers. It’s intelligent, mature material.