Twilight: New Moon Premiere is a Success

By: Jennifer Smith

Chattanooga(UTC/The Loop)-  The Twilight Saga has become a huge phenomenon that spans numerous age groups and has taken America by storm since the publication of the first novel in 2005. The books, expertly written by Stephenie Meyer, weave an intricate web of drama and fantasy revolving around one subject: the love between a mortal and a vampire.

Screen capture of a scene in the first film, Twilight

Screen capture of a scene in the first film, Twilight

Twilight was released in 2005 and followed by three more: New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn. The books had a huge following but it wasn’t until the film was released a year ago that the series became so wildly successful.The second film in the four part series premiereed November 20 nationwide. Under new director Chris Weitz, New Moon is sure to have audiences everywhere clinging to the edge of their seats.

There is no arguing that the story, so brilliantly written by Meyer, will be sure not to disappoint, but there was much critical analysis of the special effects in the first Twilight film. 21-year-old Sarah Beeman said, “The graphics in the first movie looked like a mediocre video game. I know they’ll be able to top that in this one.” With a much higher budget for the film and the sure-to-be excellent adaptation by screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, New Moon had very high expectations to live up to.

The cast of the film is a young one at best. The stars of the film are really only known for their roles in the first Twilight film, some with a few small roles previously under their belts. The name Robert Pattinson, who plays the vampire Edward Cullen, has become well known within the last year. His role in the Twilight Saga films has boosted his career exponentially and has put his name on a list of young heartthrob actors with the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp, and Brad Pitt.

Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, and Kristen Stewart on one of the many official New Moon Posters

Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, and Kristen Stewart on one of the many official New Moon Posters

Kristen Stewart plays Bella Swan, the love interest of Pattinson’s character Edward. Stewart was first seen in her breakout role as Jodie Foster’s daughter in 2002’s Panic Room. She has also dabbled in horror films such as 2003’s Cold Creek Manor, as Tim Robbins’ daughter, and The Messengers opposite Dylan McDermott in 2007. It has to be a challenge for Stewart to truly embody the complexity of the character that Meyer developed in her novels. 21-year-old Amanda Grodeman said, “I don’t think the first film really showed the romance between Edward and Bella that well. In the book, you get a glimpse into the mind of Bella and how in love with Edward she really is. I hope that they improve on that in New Moon. It’s a great story. I just hope they do it justice.”

Other young actors such as Taylor Lautner, Nikki Reed, and Ashley Greene have used their roles in The Twilight Saga to catapult their careers. Prior to their being cast in Twilight, they had not had much success, each with only a few small roles in film and television. Since, each has landed roles in major Hollywood films that will be seen in the next few years.

One of the only already-famous stars in New Moon is 15-year-old child star Dakota Fanning. She earned her way into Hollywood with her role in I Am Sam, a 2001 Oscar Nominee. She also starred in Man on Fire in 2004 opposite Denzel Washington. Her role in New Moon is that of Jane, an eternally young but wise and powerful vampire who serves as one of the antagonists in the film.

Some other notable young actors in New Moon are:

  • Jackson Rathbone as Jasper Cullen

    From left: Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Peter Fascinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Ashley Greene, Jackson Rathbone

    From left: Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Peter Fascinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Ashley Greene, Jackson Rathbone

  • Michael Welch as Mike Newton
  • Peter Facinelli as Carlisle Cullen
  • Elizabeth Reaser as Esme Cullen
  • Kellan Lutz as Emmett Cullen
  • Rachel Lefevre as Victoria

In changing directors for the second film, a new and fresh style will surely be seen in New Moon due out on the 20th. Chris Weitz was the director of the 2002 Oscar nominated film About a Boy starring Hugh Grant. He also had a hand in the production of the hugely popular American Pie series and the 2008 blockbuster Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.

Another huge part of the New Moon is its soundtrack.  The album has a melancholy tone but with the immense musical talent of bands such as Death Cab for Cutie, Muse, and others, the music in the film definitely embodies the angst, heartbreak, and true love that are central themes to the film.

The other artists who made it onto the soundtrack are:

Indie rock band Death Cab for Cutie was a major contributor to the New Moon Soundtrack

Indie rock band Death Cab for Cutie was a major contributor to the New Moon Soundtrack

  • Band of Skulls
  • Thom Yorke
  • Lykke Li
  • The Killers
  • Anya Marina
  • Bon Iver and St. Vincent
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
  • Hurricane Bells
  • Sea Wolf
  • OK GO
  • Grizzly Bear
  • Editors
  • Alexandre Desplat

It is easy to see that The Twilight Saga has earned a monumentous following

Dakota Fanning and others on one of the official movie posters

Dakota Fanning and others on one of the official movie posters

of devout fans but what is it about the series that has people so crazed?  22-year-old Elizabeth DuBois said that what attracts her to the Twilight series is the romance and the sense of adventure in each of the books. “It’s just so entertaining. It’s an easy read but it really is a great escape from reality. The books are so well written that it’s hard to go back to a reality where vampires, werewolves, and earth shatteringly true love just don’t exist.”

53-year-old mother Vicki Smith said that even she will be found at the midnight premiere of New Moon. Though the majority of fans of Twilight are in the under-25 age bracket, Smith said, “They’re not kids’ stories. I’m not going to walk around with a “Team Edward” T-shirt on or camp out for days at the premiere for a chance to meet one of these kids in the movie but I did like the books.” Smith said she got into the books because her daughter was reading them and was shocked at what she found. She said, “I can’t believe that the audience for these books was originally targeted at school age children. They may be in the genre of fantasy but there’s a lot more than a silly love story in there. There’s sex and all kinds of drama that should really be more directed at an adult crowd. I loved reading them but it’s not something I’d want to see kids under at least 16 or 17 years old reading.”

Many Chattanooga area theaters premiered the movie at midnight on the November 20th and all were overwhelmed by the huge turnout of Twilight fans.  The Rave Motion Pictures theater in Chattanooga had 17 theaters showing the film at midnight and by 11 p.m. tickets for every theater were completely sold out.

The atmosphere in the theater both before and after the film was electric and it was clear that Twilight fans were very impressed with the film.  The much anticipated movie was a total success and most certainly left audiences dying for the next film, Eclipse, scheduled to premiere on June 30, 2010.

Related articles:

Fans Much Happier with ‘New Moon’ Than Twilight

‘NEW MOON’ takes a big bite out of the midnight box office showings

Bar Competition and Auction Benefits Make A Wish Foundation

Chattanooga (UTC/The Loop)- What could be better than having drinks with friends, watching talented bartenders show off their skills, and raising money for a deserving child all at the same time?  The bartending staff at TGI Friday’s in Chattanooga held a competition and auction event Wednesday, September 23 to raise money for a child they are sponsoring with the Make a Wish Foundation.  Seven-year-old Reid Scott suffers from Burkitt’s Lymphoma, a highly aggressive cancer, and his wish is to visit his best friend who recently moved to New Zealand.  The Friday’s staff hosted a hugely successful event and raised nearly $4,000 in one night to help Reid realize his dream.

Reid plays with bartenders Elizabeth DuBois and Amanda Grodeman

Reid plays with bartenders Elizabeth DuBois and Amanda Grodeman

Sarah Beeman, a 21-year-old Friday’s employee , “Tonight was so much fun.  I can’t believe how many people showed up and I’m really proud to work here because this was such an awesome experience.”  She continued,”I don’t usually get to go out and spend money like this but it’s such a good cause.”

The staff worked hard prior to the event, gathering donations from local businesses.  These items were then auctioned off to the highest bidder.  Raffle tickets were also sold with several donated prizes given out to the winners.

Friday's Bartender Chad Yates acts as auctioneer for the event

Friday's Bartender Chad Yates acts as auctioneer for the event

Best Buy, Super Tan, and several local hotels and restaurants donated items and gift certificates for auction.  Some of the well known Friday’s employees and guests were also up for auction; the highest bidder winning a date with them.

The UTC Marching Band started out the event by playing a few songs in the lobby at the restaurant, getting people up and moving.

The bartenders then competed with each other, some in teams and some flying solo, to create the best drinks and to do the best bar tricks.  The drinks were then auctioned off to the highest bidder, with all proceeds going to Reid and his family.  Brady Miller, a veteran Friday’s bartender, won the competition and will move on to compete in the regional competition in Nashville.

Flipping bottles and even ready-to-serve drinks and catching them were just a few of the amazing tricks the Friday’s crew has been practicing.  Reid could even be spotted behind the bar flipping plastic bottles with his new friends.

Winner Brady Miller shows off his bar tricks

Winner Brady Miller shows off his bar tricks

Amanda Grodeman won second place in the competition.  She said, “I can’t believe I got second!  It was so cool that I got to be part of this.  Reid is an amazing kid.”  For more information on Reid and his journey, visit his page on

Though the night was truly just a loud party in a bar, the bigger picture shows that the managers and staff of TGI Friday’s know that they have to give back to the community.  The event was a total success and nearly enough money was raised to send Reid and his family on a dream vacation.

TGI Friday’s will be sponsoring Reid until this time next year, when they will adopt a new Make A Wish child and host another bar competition.  Donations can be made at TGI Fridays at 2 Broad Street in Chattanooga.  More information is also available at

Fraud Fugitive Busted After Unwise Friend Request

SEATTLE (AP) — Maxi Sopo was living the dream of a fugitive abroad, kicking back on the beaches of Cancun by day, partying in the clubs by night.

Then he did two things that are never a good idea when you’re on the run from authorities: He started posting Facebook updates about how much fun he was having — and added a former Justice Department official to his list of friends.

That kind of recklessness landed the 26-year-old native of Cameroon in a Mexico City jail, where he is awaiting extradition to the United States on bank fraud charges. Federal prosecutors say he and an associate falsely obtained more than $200,000 from Seattle-area banks and credit unions.

“He was making posts about how beautiful life is and how he was having a good time with his buddies,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Scoville, who helped find Sopo. “He was definitely not living the way we wanted him to be living, given the charges he was facing.”

Even in the hold-nothing-back world of social networking, where police search Facebook photos for evidence of underage drinking and watch YouTube videos to identify riot suspects, it’s rare that a fugitive helps authorities this much.

In status updates, Sopo said he was “loving it” and “living in paradise.”


Sopo, who came to the U.S. in about 2003, made a living selling roses in Seattle nightclubs until, according to prosecutors, he moved on to bank fraud. He apparently drove a rented car to Mexico in late February after learning that federal agents were investigating the fraud scheme.

Investigators initially could find no trace of him on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, and they were unable to pin down his exact location in Mexico.

But several months later, Secret Service agent Seth Reeg checked Facebook again — and up popped Maxi Sopo. His photo showed him wearing a black jacket decorated with a white lion as he stood in front of a party backdrop featuring logos of BMW and Courvoisier cognac.

Although Sopo’s profile was set to private, his list of friends was not, and Scoville started combing through it. He was surprised to see that one friend listed an affiliation with the Justice Department and sent him a message requesting a phone call.

“We figured this was a person we could probably trust to keep our inquiry discreet,” Scoville said.

The former official told Scoville he had met Sopo in Cancun’s nightclubs a few times, but did not really know him and had no idea he was a fugitive. The official learned where Sopo was living and passed that information back to Scoville, who provided it to Mexican authorities. They arrested Sopo last month.

The fugitive had been living at a nice apartment complex, working at a hotel and partying at Cancun’s beaches, pools and nightclubs, Scoville said.

Sopo does not yet have a lawyer, and it was not immediately clear how to contact him.

Prosecutors say he masterminded the bank fraud scheme with Edward Asatoorians, who was convicted by a federal jury in Seattle last week. Testimony at trial indicated the pair persuaded young co-conspirators to lie about their income to obtain loans for fabricated auto purchases, and then used the money to prop up Asatoorians’ business and to take an expensive trip to Las Vegas.

Asatoorians is expected to face at least five years in prison when he’s sentenced. If convicted, Sopo could face up to 30 years.

Citing privacy concerns, the former Justice Department official declined an interview request left with the U.S. attorney’s office.

Scoville said it was someone who left the department when the Obama administration arrived, and who had been taking some time off and organizing student trips to Cancun.

Facebook was not Sopo’s only computer activity during his time on the lam. An affidavit contains details from an instant-message conversation in March between Sopo and a low-level conspirator in the case. Sopo explained that he had fled to “the one safe place where i can actually think.”

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Eric Church Rocks the Chattanooga Choo Choo

By: Jennifer Smith

Chattanooga(UTC/The Loop)-  Country music singer-songwriter Eric Church played for a crowd of rowdy fans at the Chattanooga ChooChoo on Saturday as part of his Young and Wilder Tour.  Church played in a small venue in the rear of the ChooChoo’s vast property. After making an increasingly anxious crowd wait over an hour after his opening act, the Dirt Drifters, left the stage,  he and his band emerged.  Church then revealed that he had a broken foot but promised a great show anyhow.  Church played for over two hours to a loud and rowdy audience who were overjoyed to hear the artist’s country and southern rock fusion.

Despite a broken foot, Church entertains a large crowd.

Despite a broken foot, Church entertains a large crowd.

Matt Smith, 19 of Cookeville, Tenn., said, “He had a broken foot but it didn’t even seem like it bothered him.  He played with more energy than I’ve seen a lot of people play with and he was sittin’ down the whole time.”  Smith and several friends from Cookeville drove to Chattanooga just for this show.  When asked why he liked Church and his music so much, he said, “Because every song either relates to you or you can tweak it just a little bit to relate to you.  Changing a name or a type of alcohol… you can change it and it perfectly relates to your life.”

Church began by playing the song “How ‘Bout You” that made him a fixture on country radio in 2006 and quickly followed that with his chart topping songs “Two Pink Lines” and “Guys Like Me.”  He also included his most famous ballad “Sinners Like Me” followed by a new one, “Carolina.”  The show went on to what Smith called a “sweet jam session” where Church and his band played without vocals for over ten minutes.  This led into what 24-year-old Cookeville native Caleb Garrett said is his favorite song: “Drink a Little Drink, Smoke a Little Smoke.” Garrett said, “Eric Church is like one of the only true country music people left.  I gotta come support the guy, he works hard, he writes great music, and he rocks!”

Amanda Grodeman, 21 of Chattanooga, said she is not even a country music fan but is glad she took a chance and went to the show.  “I didn’t think I was gonna like it but it was really fun.  He’s definitely an entertainer and I can appreciate that,” she said.

Church emerged on the country music scene in 2006 with his first single “How ‘Bout You”  and has since then, had six singles to make the US Country Top 100 Chart.  His most recent single, “Love Your Love The Most” is currently at number 12.  He has released two albums, “Sinners Like Me” and “Carolina”, both of which have been ranked in the top 10 on the US Country Chart.  Below is a list of his songs and their peak positions on the US Country Chart.

14.  How ‘Bout You (2006)

19. Two Pink Lines (2006)

17. Guys Like Me (2007)

51. Sinners Like Me (2008)

46. His Kind of Money (My Kind of Love) (2008)

12. Love Your Love The Most (2009)

For more information on Eric Church and a list of tour dates visit Eric Church’s Official Website.  Church’s music is also available for purchase on iTunes.

Calorie Counts On Menus Force Hard Choices

NEW YORK (AP) — Alejandra Ramos has lost her appetite for the occasional carnitas burrito from Chipotle, the frozen frappucino from Starbucks and the blueberry muffin from Dunkin’ Donuts.

And she’s not happy about it.

“Once they put up the calorie counts, then suddenly I was like, ‘I can’t eat this, this is a whole day’s worth of calories,'” said Ramos, 26, of her Chipotle burrito. At Starbucks, the culinary writer said, “I have ended up ordering a hot tea, which is nothing, or a bottle of water.”

Blame New York City officials for her misery. The city requires chain restaurants to post calories alongside menu items, which means she has to face the music: That blueberry muffin has 510 calories.

After she read that, Ramos ended up giving the muffin to someone asking for change on the train.

“So those favorites of my childhood have now been ruined by the calorie counts,” she said.

Menu labeling laws are popping up across the country. And if the health care reform bill passes, restaurants with at least 20 locations throughout the country will have to post calories on menus; other nutritional information, such as fat, sodium and carbohydrates will have to be in writing somewhere in the restaurant. (There’s not enough room to fit everything on the menu board.)

Proponents say the information is needed more than ever. Americans eat about a third of their calories at restaurants, according to Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, D.C., which worked with legislators on the menu labeling provision. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese.

Studies show that most people can’t guess how many calories are in a menu item, and often underestimate, said Wootan.

At Dunkin’ Donuts, for instance, Ramos would have been better off calorie-wise choosing the apple cheese danish (330 calories) or a ham, egg and cheese on an English Muffin (350 calories).

“People have a right to know what’s in their food so they can make their own choices,” said Wootan. “If someone is going to sell you a 3,000-calorie appetizer, they should tell you, so you can decide for yourself if you really want to eat 3,000 calories.”

The proposal seems to have a lot of public support. The California Center for Public Health Advocacy commissioned a telephone poll in 2007 that found that 84 percent of respondents supported requiring chains to post calories on menus and boards. California became the first state to enact statewide menu labeling legislation, in September 2008.

While many restaurants voluntarily provide nutrition information online or in the establishment, diners often can’t find it or don’t see it.

Penny Shanks, 50, executive director of the Clarkston Chamber of Commerce in Michigan, recently spent more than 30 minutes online searching for nutritional information for a chain restaurant. She likes to choose what she orders before dining out to make sure it’s healthy.

“It’s hard when you eat out,” said Shanks, who wound up ordering soup that day. “Portion sizes are large. It’s kind of a mystery, how many calories, how much is fat, how much is carbs, all these little things you want to be concerned about.”

With a split-second decision, “you can save hundreds, even thousands of calories by ordering just a little differently,” said Wootan. For example, ordering a glazed doughnut instead of a honey bran raisin muffin at Dunkin’ Donuts will save you 280 calories.

More than 80 percent of New Yorkers ordered differently when seeing calorie counts, she said, citing a survey from food service consultants Technomic Inc. More than half said it affected where they ate.

But other experts aren’t sure that calorie counts will achieve the desired results.

The plan could backfire, said Stacey Rosenfeld, a New York psychologist who specializes in eating disorders. If you don’t order what you want because it’s high in calories, you might become dissatisfied and overeat later, she said.

Jessica Setnick, a Dallas-based dietitian who works with children and teens to address weight and eating issues, points out that nutrition information has been out there for years on packaged foods.

“People either think it doesn’t apply to them — these people still won’t care — or they are overly preoccupied with calories and fat grams and focus too much on the insignificant data,” she said. “The people in the middle, who eat appropriate amounts of a wide variety of foods, don’t need nutrition information on a menu to guide them.”

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Related Story: NYC Calorie Postings Don’t Change Orders

NYC Calorie Postings Don’t Change Orders

NEW YORK (AP) — A new study finds New York City’s law requiring restaurant chains to post calories on menus doesn’t change the eating habits of low-income people.

The study tracked customers at McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken in poor New York City neighborhoods with high obesity rates.

Half of customers noticed calorie counts. Twenty-eight percent of those said postings had influenced what they ordered. Nine out of 10 of those said they’d made healthier choices as a result.

But New York University and Yale researchers say receipts showed people had ordered slightly more caloriesthan the typical customer before the law went into effect in July 2008.

The study will be published Tuesday in Health Affairs.


Information from: The New York Times,

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Related Story:  Calorie Counts On Menus Don’t Change Orders