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Notes from the back row

The best Twilight yet, which isn’t saying much

That lineup out the theatre door can only mean one thing - Twilight: Eclipse.

It's easy to see the Twilight movies as cheaply made cheese-ass melodrama for the bra-stuffing set but the truth is Twilight is bigger than God. Bigger than the Beatles even. With a rabid fan base of everything from horny housewives, dizzy tweens, successful businesswomen and even my own supermodel girlfriend, Twilight: Eclipse is almost guaranteed to be the biggest movie of the summer, if not the year. But is it any good?

No, but it's better than the last two installments. Eclipse finds hot-ass Kristen Stewart donning a budget-wig and doing a lot of lip-biting while she strings two dudes along with the old "decisions, decisions" routine. The fate of the ancient vampire/werewolf truce hangs in the balance as vampiric Edward and wolfy Jacob overcome their grievances and band together to protect Bella from an even greater threat, an army of shit disturber vamps known as the "newborns." And all this with graduation just around the corner.

Director David Slade ( 30 Days of Night) brings better action scenes this time around and the CGI wolves are pretty good, but Eclipse still spends too much time in the kiddie pool for melodrama and fondles messily at what I guess passes for sexual tension these days. Pretty tame.

From tame to lame, M. Knight Shayamalan has never been a favourite of mine. Post- Sixth Sense , I've found his payoffs to cheap and the journey getting there too long and stupid (and his name too hard to spell, it's worse than Gyllenhaal.) Shamalayan's latest attempt, The Last Airbender opens this week at the Village 8 (but not in 3D). There were no pre-screenings on this one, usually a bad omen, but it's based on a Nickelodeon-animated series about a world of nations divided into the four elements of air-earth-water-fire but now totally under the domination of the Fire Nation. One young hero has the power to manipulate all four elements and he teams with a foxy chick for a bunch of post- Matrix stylized action scenes and a chance to restore balance to their war-torn world. In a PG rated flick it's a safe bet to say they succeed and fall in love as well.

The Last Airbender looks pretty slick though, the action I've seen online is not bad and the other visuals ranged from well-made-but-familiar to weird-and-kinda-cool. The Sci-fi genre might also help Shamalayan, who also wrote the film, avoid sliding into his usual dumb-shit-that-would-never-happen scripting habits. Looks interesting but buyer beware.

The DVD of the week is Hot Tub Time Machine because it takes place in a ski town and is a great example of how a stupid movie can succeed with great actors and a decent script. Plus Jessica Paré has a killer hot tub scene.

Next week - keep your eyes peeled for the release of Winnebago Man , a documentary about the infamously foul-mouthed motorhome salesman Jack Rebney.

More than just the obscenity-laced sales outtakes famous on YouTube, Winnebago Man is actually an 87-minute character and media study. Filmmaker Ben Steinbauer must first track Rebney down, then attempt to learn how he feels about being in one the most popular clips on the Internet. Covering ideas like privacy and accidental celebrity, frustration and growth, Steinbauer's Winnebago Man examines the story behind the Internet joke and why traditional storytelling and filmmaking is even more important in a post YouTube environment.

Winnebago Man opens in Vancouver next week but expect theatres to still be busy as Twilight- ers return for their fifth or sixth viewings. They're crazy. I know a grown woman who will only watch the Twilight shows at home, for privacy reasons. Yikes.