Archive for July, 2011

Closure: A Review of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” (2011)

Posted in Old Non Horror Reviews on July 31, 2011 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

WARNING: SPOILERS ALERT!!

I have just emerged from the cinema having finally gone to watch the epic conclusion of what has to be one of the world’s biggest franchises. Prior to seeing the film there seemed to be a “marmite” effect going on with some people telling me how fantastic the film is and why they liked it to others having a more negative view on it, I’m in the first team and noticed that the “haters” could not actually give a legitimate reason or evaluate what they didn’t like about it they would just merely say “its crap”. Most people will argue “it left loads out of the book and didn’t include this bit” etc. but what they fail to remember is this is not a book it is a film, a complete different medium and it is based on a book not a shot by shot carbon copy where every written word has to be represented through the cinematography in great detail- we’d be there forever otherwise! In all honesty I will admit that I have not read the last three “Harry Potter” books; therefore I am purely reviewing what I watched on screen and how I felt the moments were presented, I couldn’t care less about “what they left out” of the book, I’m a fan of the films and that’s it really.

Back in 2001 when “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was released I was eleven years old and just like the characters I had began high school, I’m also very close in age to the actors, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Tom Felton therefore I find it very relateable and the films are something I’ve grown up with and they’ve grown up with me; I love how the tone of the films have gradually become darker as they have gone on, becoming a metaphor for real life, as children we are all optimistic and believe in things but as we get older we do discover the harsher realities of life and I think this aspect is presented well in its tone. Its hard to believe 10 years on its all finished, and I do feel incredibly sentimental regarding this and saddened that we are never going to have a film from this franchise ever again. The moment the film begins the tone is incredibly emotive and the title card is dragged out slightly because as an audience we know its the last time we are ever going to see it. From then on the film keeps the audience’s interest, its action-packed and exciting from the get-go. I enjoyed the sequence in Gringots bank with the dragon as it was both intense and exciting at the same time and the CGI was just impressive. I loved how all the characters from the previous films had their little appearances and how Neville Longbottom (Played by Matthew Lewis) had developed as a character, I liked the brave quality he possessed. The film was completely intense throughout as it led to Harry and Voldermort (Played by Ralph Fiennes) finally coming face to face for the last time and contained so many twists and turns that gave the audience the sense of anticipation. Severus Snape’s (Played by Alan Rickman) death scene was done exceptionally well, as previously stated I am not a fan of the books therefore didn’t know that the character was going to be killed off in such a horrific manner but I think for everyone watching it was still shocking; I loved how the camera pulled away so we couldn’t actually see what was happening and only had the sound to rely on to create an effective scene, I think that made it all the more tragic and horrific. The eagerly anticipated kiss between Ron and Hermione was perfect, I loved how there was no dialogue, there didn’t need to be and he just kissed her; that moment was long-overdue. Both Professor McGonagall (Played by Maggie Smith) and Mrs Weasley (Played by Julie Walters) had fantastic action scenes which made the audience laugh and cheer. I think everything in the film was done very poignantly; my favourite shot had to be near to the end with the three leads standing on the bridge, it was a very powerful cinematic moment and represented the journey that we have been on with them for the past ten years. I also think the “19 years later” sequence was a perfect ending to the film and brought it all full circle. The performances in the film were strong from the whole cast, and it actually changed my opinion of Daniel Radcliffe as an actor, in the past I always found him very “wooden” but this film shows how much he has grown as a performer and I think this is down to learning as he went along and also the fact he’s had experience in theatre.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” in my opinion is a fantastic film and the perfect closure for the series, I personally couldn’t have asked for anything better, it was action-packed, intense and gave off a sentimental feeling all at the same time, the cinematography was breath-taking and its one of the best examples of modern film-making. My only criticism was I felt the 3D used was unnecessary and didn’t stand out in any way at all. I really am going to miss Harry Potter and I feel very proud that is was part of my generation and I think these films will forever remain remembered and popular. Completely satisfying.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

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“My Buffy-Fest” 22nd July 2011

Posted in Uncategorized on July 24, 2011 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

“My Buffy-Fest” is going to be an on-going series within my blog. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003) is my favourite ever television show and it may sound corny but the show changed my life in so many aspects! I grew up with it and the many metaphors within the show helped me deal and understand a few things that were going on in my adolescence and now even into adulthood; some people may roll their eyes and wonder how can a show that is endearingly and cheesily titled “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” actually make a massive impact on me and many others? Well die-hard “Buffy” fans will understand exactly what I mean; the show is cleverly written, the characters develop on so many levels throughout the seven years it aired for and it is still considerably current despite it being a late-nineties, early noughties show; I’m pretty sure Anthony Head who played Giles actually commented on that recently, it also has many enjoyable and entertaining pop culture references and unlike other “teen horror” (I use this term loosely) shows it is not actually focused on “the monster of the week” scenario; this concept is actually used as a metaphor for issues that occur in real life such as morality (I will delve into that more later) also the show has the right balance of humour, tragedy conveyed through some dark and then the lighter episode; creator Joss Whedon’s method of story-telling is always consistent as well as compelling and a lot “unfinished business” is never left hanging! So, my plan for my little “Buffy-Themed” series is to watch three episodes of the show and then analyse and review them, I’m going to focus on why I chose the episode in question and what I enjoy about it (and possibly disliked about it!) but most likely enjoy! As previously mentioned, I grew up with this show, It’s been influential, I adore it and its part of me…so let’s get our fangs stuck in (excuse the pun!) and begin:

 

 

#Season Two #Episode 19

“I Only Have Eyes For You”

  • Directed By James Whitmore
  • Written By Marti Noxon
  • Original Air Date: 28th April 1998 (According to “The Watcher’s Guide” Vol 1. Edited by Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder)

 The reason I chose this later episode from the second season is because it plays a very significant role in terms of the Buffy and Angel (or Bangel) relationship along with his soulless side Angelus’s reign of terror. The main themes of the episode is coming to terms with the end of first love and coping with the aftermath with feelings of hurt, rejection and regret; the episode also touches on the grieving process for Giles’s character. As the episode opens Buffy (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar) appears very isolated from her closest friends, with thoughts of Angel plaguing her mind, she shows no indication of attempting to move on through rejecting a boy who shows interest from her class and vowing she will never date anybody ever again!- the show then dealing with another emotion; denial. I love the soundtrack that plays in this scene, the song “Charge” by Splendid is performed in “The Bronze” which perfectly describes Buffy’s conflict at this point in the series with lyrics such as “I’m falling from the opposite, what good is it, fight the map with no key attached, my heart’s enlarged and I charge” demonstrating how her and Angel (Played by David Boreanaz) are in very different places at this stage. Willow (Played by Alyson Hannigan) then makes an attempt at optimism and ironically states “Love Can Be Nice” (this early character trait for Willow is going to prove interesting later in both the show and this review!) following that statement we are then into Sunnydale High where we are in the midst of a couple arguing; however it is a little bit more than just a “lover’s tiff” when the guy pulls out a gun on the girl; luckily our protagonist appears in time to prevent any damage occurring and the couple regain their senses with no knowledge as to why they were arguing, followed by the gun disappearing into thin air, contrasting with Willow’s earlier comment and setting up enigma for the episode. I like the strong character motivation in this episode and the little touches used in order to place Buffy in the centre of the action e.g. a 1955 year book falling on the floor in Principal Snyder’s (Played by Armin Shimerman) office and her daydream in the middle of history class introducing her to the antagonist of the piece James (Played By Christopher Gorham) and his “forbidden” relationship with his teacher Grace (Played by Meredith Salenger); I think its clever how the episode also mirrors the “forbidden” human relationship against the Vampire/Human relationship, the line Buffy/James utters “I don’t give a damn about a normal life” emphasises this aspect. I liked how the episode showed a different side to Giles portraying his vulnerability through the grieving process and seeing him as an actual person rather than just a figure of authority; it is heartbreaking seeing him cope with his loss and holding out hope that the ghost that seems to be haunting the school and couples is his beloved Jenny (Played by Robia LaMorte). Its not just Giles’s grief that is looked at but also how the rest of the Scooby Gang are affected by his behaviour through discussing his failure of acceptance.  I enjoy watching the continuous banter and ongoing tension between Angelus and Spike (Played by James Marsters) and how they attempt to get one up on each other, Angelus by impressing Dru (Played by Juliet Landau) and mocking Spike for his incompetence (he’s in a wheelchair!) and later Spike outsmarting Angelus by faking the fact that he can’t walk; granted in future “Buffy” and spin-off “Angel” (1999-2004) episodes there’s plenty of classic Spike and Angel moments (My favourite being in “In the Dark” (#1.3) in hindsight these scene’s aren’t the most memorable but its still fun to watch. Buffy’s character development in the episode is stunning, from having lack of empathy with James and seeing everything in black and white to eventually identifying with the spirit after he possesses her, I love the shot where she looks in the mirror and sees James instead of her own reflection which emphasises her identification with him. Its clever how the “Monster-of-the week” scenario is relate-able to the key plot of the season. This episode has a pretty good scare sequence and the image of James’s decaying spirit is chilling on top of the haunting soundtrack of “I Only Have Eyes For You” By the Flamingo’s. “I Only Have Eyes for you” is definitely one of the more emotional episodes as it deals with the aftermath of tragic events as well as leading to future revelations e.g. foreshadowing Buffy really having to kill Angel in “Becoming Part Two” (#2.22).

 

 

#Season Four #Episode 9

“Something Blue”

  • Directed By Nick Marck
  • Written By Tracey Forbes
  • Original Air Date: 30th November 1999 (According to both IMDB.com and “The Watcher’s Guide Vol. 2” Edited by Nancy Holder)

 Season Four was a daring risk for “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”; the familiar settings of Sunnydale high and the Library were now gone as the show had moved on with the characters portraying their lives after high school. We also had the loss of popular characters Angel and Cordelia (Played by Charisma Carpenter) who were now starring in the spin-off show. I chose to analyse “Something Blue” as it is one of the more lighter episodes and its just purely fun! It is also key as it is the first time Buffy and Spike are thrown into a romantic scenario (that’s if you disregard the subtly of Spike lustfully watching Buffy dance in his debut “School Hard” (#2.3)! The chemistry between these characters is amazing and both Sarah Michelle Gellar and James Marsters give hilarious performances. The episode is also significant as it delves into Willow’s darker side as she turns to magic (addiction metaphor) in order to attempt to get over her first love Oz (Played by Seth Green), I like the realism of how Buffy tries to use her own failed romantic experience in order to empathise with Willow’s plight; near the beginning of the episode we also get a hint of Willow’s future sexuality storyline as Riley (Played by Marc Blucas) is displaying a banner for a lesbian group within the university; and I still laugh when he utters the line “I’m a Lesbian” which is second to “I’m Cowboy Guy” from “Restless” (#4.22). I actually noticed in “Something Blue” that there are subtle indications suggesting that Riley will not be the permanent love of Buffy’s life; she just appears incredibly awkward around him and there is a lot of space between them in relation to how they’re framed in the shot. I liked how Buffy analyses her tendency to fall for “bad boys” (something we’re all guilty of!) and felt distanced from Riley because he’s not making her feel miserable and how love and passion have to collide with pain and fighting; I also liked her comment on the crossover episode with “Angel” “I Will Remember You” (#1.8) as it was nice to see the interactions between the two shows. Neutered Chip-in-the head Spike has to be my favourite version of the character, as he is much more comical; there are some classic moments between him and Giles in this episode as well as with Buffy.  Its clever how Spike, the “villain” of the piece actually realises what’s going on with Willow and senses her pain whereas the human characters assume she is coping fine. This episode consists of a lot of foreshadowing particularly into Season Six, through everything I have previously mentioned and the cameo of Amy (played by Elizabeth Anne Allen) is a nice touch. “Something Blue” is definitely a feel-good episode, however it does deal with the thin line between humour and sadness very carefully and is a definite must-see for all Spuffy fans!

 

 

#Season Six #Episode 19

“Seeing Red”

  • Directed by Michael Gershman
  • Written By Steven S. DeKnight
  • Original Air Date 7th May 2002

 The final episode I am going to analyse in this series is “Seeing Red” from the sixth season; depicted by most as the darkest season of “Buffy”. Again the show took a massive risk and it paid off well. I love how brutally real the storyline’s are more than before and that the show is delving into concepts and the reality that human beings are the real monsters in this world. The tone of the episode sways from one extreme to another as it opens with a blissfully happy reunited Willow and Tara (played by Amber Benson) and ends in complete and utter tragedy as well as dealing with an attempted rape storyline; its really heavy stuff and excellently written. After viewing “Something Blue” then moving on to this its incredible how serious the tables have turned for the characters, however the hints have always been there. I thought it was interesting how the audience are put in a false sense of security as Amber Benson was finally credited as a regular for her role as Tara, only for her to be cruelly killed off by the evil Warren (played by Adam Busch). The episode has a consistent feminist theme throughout e.g. Anya (Played by Emma Caulfield) voicing her hatred of men to a potential vengeance client, the solid lesbian relationship between Willow and Tara, and the male characters being portrayed in a negative light e.g. Spike, Warren and even Xander (Played by Nicholas Brendon) is shown to be less than understanding after discovering Buffy’s trysts with Spike. For me the most shocking and hard-hitting scene in the episode was the attempted rape scene between Spike and Buffy, its no secret that James Marsters was adamant that he would only perform the scene once as it was such a difficult subject; therefore the fact that the scene was done in one take adds to its terrifying nature and displays rawness in the scene. The storyline focusing on the nerds Andrew (Played by Tom Lenk) Jonathan (Played by Danny Strong) and Warren was built up slowly throughout the season and finally comes to a devastating head in this episode, placing emphasis on how people can spiral out of control and go completely out of their depth through the thirst for power. Xander and Buffy’s friendship in this episode is considerably frail demonstrating how people can change and grow apart after possibly being friends for years and the changes that occur in adulthood, however when Xander comes through for Buffy after her rape ordeal and supports her, it shows the people who matter are there when it counts. “Seeing Red” is incredibly powerful and tragic and one of the best written episodes, it feels real and is often uncomfortable to watch which makes it a powerful moment in television.

 

 

I apologise if this review feels a bit endless, but I am talking about something that means a lot to me and want to be as detailed as I can be; I’m writing not just for myself but for every single “Buffy” fan out there and of course as a massive thank you to Joss Whedon and all the writers for creating seven years of compelling television. I would love any feedback regarding this review and as readers you’re thoughts on the episodes discussed. I hope to make this mini-series frequent. Thank you for reading.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

“Risen Has Fallen!”…A Review of “Risen” (2010)

Posted in Uncategorized on July 21, 2011 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

“Risen” (2010) directed by Neil Jones is a film I would label as a “biopic”; the film’s intention was to create and portray the story of boxer Howard Winstone from “Valley Boy” to “World Champion Boxer”. I will state now that I did not enjoy this film in the slightest and I am not reviewing it just to criticise it or make fun of it; I was actually glad I had watched this film simply because it was an example of poor film making and what not to do when making a film; it interested me from the point of view of an amateur student film maker and in terms of cinematography, direction, editing and performances this film was just that-amateur. It was my father who suggested watching “Risen” as he had spent some time living in Merthyr Tydfil and briefly knew Howard Winstone during his post-boxing career, therefore it was a subject of interest for him; from what I had been told about Howard Winstone (Played by Stuart Brennan- who my father said was a good likeness to him) I expected his story to be powerful and dramatic; however the film just did not deliver that.

What’s unfortunate is I like to support Welsh cinema as I feel its very underrated and not promoted enough as most films from my home land are produced on small budgets; this was an evident factor in “Risen”; however just because the budget wasn’t as massive as a Hollywood Blockbuster doesn’t mean a decent film cannot be made; although in this case it was as if the film maker’s wanted to use every single irrelevant detail as possible. In all honesty I have seen short films made by colleagues off my university course on literally no budget at all that have entertained me and been a better quality of film making than this. Throughout, the film felt like it could have been good but every single aspect of it was lacking. For me, the film consisted of shaky camera work which mostly showed the floor being filmed, reminding me of my Dad filming home movies of family holidays and Christmas etc back in the 1990’s! Along with hand held shots that served no relevance or purpose and performances were so subtle that they failed to convey the dramatic nature of the story. I found it extremely irritating that when characters were engaging in conversation long shots were being used, was it trying to suggest as an audience we were meant to be at a distance from the story and the relationships with the characters? At crucial moments I just felt it would have been conveyed better if medium close-ups were used and then when they were used characters head’s were being cut out of the frame. The use of shallow focus in the film was considerably poor and as an audience we don’t really need to be viewing a blur on screen; especially in the fight scenes, this choice of effect was considerably distracting. The cinematography also tended to just focus on random inanimate objects a lot that slowed down the pace of the film; for example a bottle of alcohol to suggest Howard’s wife Bennita (played by Grainne Joughin) was turning to drink during his absence and a drain in the communal showers after Howard had come out of one of his fights. Another irritating aspect of the film was the sound. Whoever was in control of the boom did a pretty poor job as there was far too much background noise and the dialogue was barely audible; then when it came down to editing the music that was added on top of the dialogue made it even more painful to watch/listen to. During one of the later fight scenes the audio was completely gone and a piano piece played over the scene, this was more suited to a film about ballet rather than boxing and completely overpowered any kind of tension or atmosphere that should have been in place; as an audience we need to be on the edge of our seats but personally I felt more like falling asleep. An alternative would have been to have sharp sounds of the crowds gasping and cheering and of the punches thrown in order to create a powerful moment. The only attempt at atmosphere during the scenes in the ring was having a group of men singing the Welsh national anthem, which just felt like filler and again diverted away from the action of the fights for far too long; “Yeah we get it! The Welsh are Patriotic!”

The plot didn’t seem to create a sense of time or place; there was no indication to suggest that the story was set in the South Wales Valley’s apart from within the dialogue e.g. talking about going down the pit; other than that it could have been set anywhere, there was also no sense that we were heading back in time to the late 1950’s to 1960’s apart from title cards that revealed the year on every fight scene; which just felt lazy and formulaic, nothing suggested time was moving forward. There were moments where the editing felt as if it was on helium, it was sped up for no particular purpose in scene’s such as Howard announcing to his wife that he is to be fighting Terry Spinks (played by Billy Rumbol) and when his wife and mother came to blows over her leaving him for someone else; maybe there was a legitimate reason for this choice of editing but I just didn’t get it. Scenes’s just appeared to have no conclusion and would move on from one situation to the next e.g. from Howard going home drunk to him fighting in the next scene; it just didn’t flow very well and scenes seemed out of place. One of the worst scenes for me was when Howard takes his friend Don (played by Edward Eales-White) to a club for a few drinks; again the dialogue was barely audible and the focus was more on the band who were singing there than the actual protagonist, with atrocious, blurry, close up shots that served no meaning to the plot, it was as if the film makers thought “their part of the budget therefore lets use as much footage of them as we can”.

Overall as you can tell, I was largely disappointed with the quality of this film and how badly constructed it was, unfortunately I didn’t get a sense of what the true Howard Winstone was really like as the portrayal was very vague. I don’t think it did him justice. I thought that if I wanted to sit through a film with poor acting, direction, shots, soundtrack and editing I would have had more enjoyment out of sitting through Tommy Wiseau’s cult “worst-movie-ever” “The Room” (2003)! “Risen” was definitely an education into poor film making and I really hope that Howard Winstone’s inspirational story of a man who never gave up and overcame obstacles to achieve his dream of boxing world champion is remade to a better effect than this.

 

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Horror Double Bill Review: “Julia’s Eyes” (2010) and “Mother’s Day” (2010)

Posted in Uncategorized on July 16, 2011 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

In this review I have decided to return to my guilty pleasure of the horror genre; as of late I have been reviewing films with a more serious tone and message so hopefully this review will be more light-hearted! (Well…In my twisted sense of humour anyway!).  Last night I attended a screening of two recent horror films at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre Cinema, Spanish Chiller “Julia’s Eyes” (2010) and the remake of “Mother’s Day” (2010); I have to say that the audience consisted mainly of the Abertoir Horror Festival regulars and it was a good atmosphere, more like a large group of friends just watching a couple of horror movies together and having a laugh. Anyway let’s kick off with “Julia’s Eyes”:

 

 

 “Julia’s Eyes” or alternatively “Los Ojos De Julia” (the Spanish title) is the first feature film to be  directed by Guillem Morales. I think the film’s premise sounded really interesting and different from a  lot of Horror that is out there today; however I am unable to put my finger on it but I didn’t really feel  I’d gained a lot out of the film, I wasn’t particularly scared and it didn’t leave anything thought-  provoking with me. The atmosphere of the film was generally dull and this was consistent throughout. The sense of mystery within the narrative was intriguing at the beginning but as it built up for me it just became more farcical and anti-climactic; without giving too much away the fact that when the “bad guy” was allegedly caring for Julia (played by Belen Rueda) he was shot so the audience could not see his face until nearer to the end and appeared as more of a shadowy figure, therefore the surprise element was slightly disappointing as where the plot was heading became too obvious and resulted in a long drawn out cat and mouse game; then again I think the director just wanted to emphasise that the audience was seeing things through Julia’s point of view. The scares in the film were expected and predictable, dramatic music was used as it is in a lot of horror films in order to heighten the tension but instead of leading the audience to what they don’t expect, the film just threw scares at us that we could see coming. Admittedly what I liked about the film was the main character, I liked that Julia was portrayed as a strong, determined heroine and that her character goes against the horror cliche of the “weak blonde victim”, her character is also likeable and easy to empathise with. For the majority of the film it felt like it fit into the thriller genre rather than horror and it wasn’t very gore focused which I liked as I have previously stated in other reviews the less the audience sees the more effective it is. I occasionally enjoy films that build up slowly and save the gore till the very end; in that sense the film reminded me a little bit of Takashi Miike’s “Audition” (2000); however the scene in question was more uncomfortable rather than over the top but just seemed pointless and used for shock value than having relevance. Unfortunately after building itself up fairly well the film failed for me on the fact that once we meet “the killer” it didn’t seem to know what it wanted to do or where it was going to end and a lot could have been cut out; the plot felt very out of control. Many would agree that the ending concluded the film on a strange note; I suppose it ended hopeful for the protagonist; however it was overly cheesy and I felt like I was watching some weird Sci-Fi film, the tone separated itself massively from the rest of what we had just viewed. So “Julia’s Eyes”, a decent and interesting premise, a strong and well written main character and I admire that it decided to be different by having a blind woman as the protagonist; the film did fail on many levels, there were too many cliche’s and obvious twists and it consistently felt as if something was lacking.

 

 

 I was on the fence as to whether actually go and see this film, my first thought was “The  Hand that Rocks the Cradle” (1992) meets predictably boring horror remake and matters weren’t helped after seeing Brad Jones’s (aka, the Cinema Snob) review of the original along with Matthew Buck’s (aka, Film Brain) review of this version on the That Guy with the Glasses site which left me very sceptical. I hadn’t planned to bother seeing this but due to it being part of the Arts Centre Horror night I decided “yeah why not” and I was pleasantly surprised. I simply enjoyed this film because it wasn’t trying too hard to be frightening or shocking for the sake of it and it used its humour very well. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much in a horror film literally from beginning to end, the lines were delivered at the perfect moments my personal favourite being “I don’t like disco”; I suppose its weird to depict this film as “funny” and “comedic” but that is honestly how I felt about it. Rebecca De Mornay’s performance as Mrs Koffin (The Mother) was utterly brilliant and yes it did feel a little recycled to an extent as she seemed to be playing the same psychotic character as “the Nanny from hell” in “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle” nearly 20 years ago but I do think she was perfect casting and played the role well giving both a sense of edge and humour; all the son’s performances were also hilarious. I’m unsure whether its a good or bad thing but I found there was no character developments of the hostages, they are introduced to the audience and barely into the film we’re thrown into the action so I didn’t really care about them or what happened to them; I would say in terms of story and writing its a bad thing as character motivation and development is vital but a good thing also within the film as I could laugh at and enjoy all the twisted things that were happening to them, I also liked that they were all just as flawed as the villains. There were however too many hostages so that was a little distracting, making it all a bit convoluted as there were too many characters to focus on. I was pleased that this film used its violence subtly, I was expecting some crazy “torture porn” and over the top gore and I’m glad the film didn’t deliver that and didn’t try to sell itself purely on sex or nudity and only toyed with those ideas, it really made the film more refreshing in comparison to the recent remakes that perhaps take themselves too seriously such as “I Spit on your Grave” (2010) and “The Last House on the Left” (2009). The ending was a bit disappointing but I’m glad the film-makers were daring enough to be different and not go with the obvious audience expectation. I honestly feel like I’m describing a comedy here but the film for me was a fun horror and I would recommend watching it with a group of friends as its more of a laugh with a good atmosphere. Yes “Mother’s Day” (2010) (dir. Darren Lynn Bousman) is flawed and silly but I really did enjoy it. Now remember kids: “Don’t miss behave” ;).

 

 

References:

The Cinema Snob’s Review of “Mother’s Day” (1980): http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/videolinks/bj/tcs/21483-mothers-day                Film Brain’s Review of “Mother’s Day” (2010):   (http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/videolinks/teamt/fbv/projector/31378-mothers-day-2011)

 

 

Hayley Alice Roberts.

 

 

20th Century Boy: A Review of “Non Educated Delinquents” (N.E.D.S) (2010)

Posted in Old Non Horror Reviews on July 12, 2011 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

“Non Educated Delinquents” or alternatively “N.E.D.S” (2010) is a film that provoked some thoughts in me regarding class, society and youth. It is classed as a British film but it is also a Scottish film that is set in Glasgow following the story of the bright, intelligent John McGill’s (initially played by Greg Forrest, then Conor McCarron for the majority of the film) downward spiral into gang violence and knife crime during the 1970’s; it is written and directed by Peter Mullan, who had a small role in the film as John’s drunken father. The concept of the plot isn’t an original idea and slightly echoed Shane Meadows’s “This Is England” (2006) for me; however as previously stated the film gave an intense and interesting insight into how society can influence a person or drive them into a life of aggression, violence and desperation.

The narrative of the film consists of the theme of expectation; John’s character faces a lot of that in his life, from being top of his class at school, it is put upon him to excel by his teachers and mother; but on the other hand he is torn in terms of living up to his brother Benjamin’s (played by Joe Szula) legendary violent behaviour. I found John a very complex character and I was in limbo concerning whether I had empathy for him or not or whether he was even a redeemable character, for example, realistically there are no justifiable reasons for some of his actions; its a fact of life we are all going to come across people who dislike us or insult us but is that a reason to bash their brains in? On the other hand I found the attack on his abusive, alcoholic  father to an extent justifiable as it could be argued he was protecting the rest of his family. I think this made his character interesting and different from a lot of characters we see on screen today as he’s not quite the “anti-hero”. I believe part of his motive for violence lies in rejection, whether its not being accepted by his school friend’s mother because of his brother’s reputation or the fact he only is who he is because of that and wouldn’t matter without that violent reputation surrounding him. I also wondered whether the way school’s used to function back in the 1970’s and prior to then with discipline, strict rules and punishment affected and later influenced people to rebel and if violence back then was learnt because of that environment e.g. the cane. Also do the classes at school and level’s of intelligence people are labelled with lead to this type of behaviour?Perhaps if people aren’t challenged enough they may become bored or even if they are considered to be less bright than others could influence delinquent behaviour as indicated in “N.E.D.S”.

John McGill Played By Conor McCarron

I found the violence in the film both shocking but also subtle. I liked how the camera cut away from the violent moments in order for the audience to make up their own minds about the brutality, rather than viewing it first hand; always a very effective tactic in cinema. The story was strong and realistic; and as an audience it provoked the question of can we share empathy for a character who seems to show no remorse for his actions? The problem with the film for me was the pace being a bit slow and towards the end of the film and the story didn’t seem to know where it was heading, there was a lot that could have been cut. I did hope that John would redeem himself and choose the path of education for his future, this was suggested in scene’s such as him attending a support group for the homeless and giving a school another go by working his way up from the bottom; however these scenes were conflicting with scenes of him still carrying out acts of violence, indicating no further character development and by this point the violence seemed tired and overdone. The film just didn’t seem to conclude or know when to stop. In many British films I am used to ambiguous, “audience decides for themselves” endings such as in “The Scouting Book for Boys” (2009) so the fact this film went down that path didn’t surprise me, I suppose the ending was meant to be symbolic demonstrating the fearlessness of John’s character but I would have preferred a stronger conclusion to the film with maybe John coming to terms with the aftermath of his actions; then again this is not a Disney fairytale with a “happy ever after” or is it a Hollywood movie-style ending, it is true British grit.

I would recommend this film for its honest portrayal of certain sections of real-life Britain (or Scotland), good direction and performances even though it does get a little lost at times; but if you’re looking for gritty British realism, similarly to Ken Loach and Shane Meadows then this is the film for you.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

“Are you still mine?” A Review of “Ghost-The Musical”

Posted in Old Non Horror Reviews on July 8, 2011 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

I went to London on Monday night in order to attend a performance of the spectacularly beautiful “Ghost-The Musical” at the Picadilly theatre. The Musical is based on the Paramount Pictures film “Ghost” (1990) starring Patrick Swayze (as Sam Wheat), Demi Moore (as Molly Jensen) and Whoopi Goldberg (as Oda Mae Brown), it was written by Bruce Joel Rubin and directed by Jerry Zucker of the “Airplane” (1980) films. The film is mostly iconic for its pottery scene! I am not a big fan of romantic films in all honesty as I find them too predictable and overly cheesy, however “Ghost” was something different; its a tragic love story, and the tragedy was portrayed with the  perfect mix of sadness and humour in this new musical version. I was ecstatic as for the first time in a West End Show I have seen the full original cast; the lead character Sam Wheat was portrayed by the incredibly talented Richard Fleeshman, he was formerly in “Coronation Street” (1960) playing the character Craig Harris from 2002-2006, Molly Jensen his partner was played by Broadway Actress Caissie Levy, her voice was so powerful which heightened the emotions as she played the grieving partner, Sharon D Clarke played the role of psychic Oda Mae Brown (originated by Whoopi Goldberg in the film) and was hilarious with adding the right blend of comedy to the show, her voice was also amazing bringing a more soulful sound to the music.

I have seen many spectacular shows on the west end over the years and all have been amazing but there was something about “Ghost-The Musical” that stood out and (excuse the pun) it does literally make you suspend your disbelief! The special effects were of a cinematic quality. I couldn’t believe my eyes when Sam actually walked through the door and vanished into thin air and of course near the end of the show when he is taunting evil Carl (played by Andrew Langtree) in his office, there was no one there and this guy was literally being flung across the room and messages were being typed on his computer from beyond the grave with no actor actually in sight. It was just phenomenal! The idea of having an illusionist on board of the production is ground-breaking in terms of theatre and creates a whole new dimension and a magical atmosphere. A lot of digital imagery was used throughout the show in place of 2D scenery and as previously stated it made the show that more cinematic; the scenery that stood out the most for me was the busyness of the New York setting, with the buzzing city atmosphere, at this point the actors added to this effect by walking on a conveyor belt which created a busy pace and movement. I found the whole tone and mood of the show was very bittersweet; I felt very choked up throughout the whole performance, but I think it was mainly because of the strong performances given by all the actors. The scene that sticks out in my mind is where Sam has found out the truth regarding his murder; his expression is pained, and his emotions are emphasised by digital imagery, the anger is displayed in his face as he powerfully sings “I had a Life”. Again, the digital imagery conveyed to the audience at the beginning of the show, the relationship between Molly and Sam, with a surge of photographs of them together, insinuating they have been together for a long time (hence deciding to move in together), and all the happy times they have shared. I thought one of the most beautiful images was of their hands clasping together displaying the strength of their relationship and then breaking apart the moment Sam dies, conveying that everything is now distorted and has fallen apart. The lightning in the show was also very effective, in order to portray that Sam is a ghost he constantly had a white light shone over him in order to separate him from the other human characters.

I really loved the songs in the musical, written by Dave Stewart, best known for being in the band the Eurythmics and Glen Ballard; they had a different sound to them in comparison to the Eurythmics style I was expecting. Most of them were stunning ballads; I especially loved Molly’s solo “With You”; Caissie Levy really created an empathy between the character and the audience demonstrating how lost Molly had become since losing the love of her life and the cruelty of having everything ripped away. In contrast Oda Mae Brown’s songs were a lot more upbeat and I think her number “I’m Outta Here” was much needed in order to lighten the mood at times, it was definitely your typical, fun, all singing all dancing dream sequence Broadway number; as I previously stated I liked the soulful style Sharon D Clarke brought to the performance. “Ball of Wax” sang by the hospital ghost (Played by Mark White) came in not long after Sam’s death and was also in the same vain of a showy Broadway fun number, however I felt the transition between the death scene and this number was done too quickly and maybe a more subtle song should have been used, as I wasn’t quite sure what the audience was meant to feel, obviously sadness and confusion for Sam but then almost immediately it was like the audience is supposed to be humoured; but that’s just my opinion; maybe I felt those scene’s didn’t really fit together. I liked how they kept “Unchained Melody” in as alongside the pottery scene, the song is an iconic feature in relation to “Ghost” and its just a touching song that describes Sam’s situation after being torn apart from Molly. After an emotional rollercoaster of the first half, I enjoyed how the three characters came together (Molly, Sam and Carl) to conclude it displaying each of their conflicts in “Suspend my disbelief/I had a life”, this was extremely powerful and left the audience anticipating the second half. The film version came out over 20 years ago back in 1990, therefore I liked how they had updated the story for the musical, for example when Molly is speaking to the police and they inform her Oda Mae Brown is nothing but a fraud they state the dates of all the times she committed fraud as during the last decade; I also loved the scene with the subway ghost when Sam is attempting to learn how to touch objects, “Focus” (performed by Adebayo Bolaji) was more of a rap number and definitely added a modern twist to the whole story. The villains depicted in the show were actually quite different from each other. Carl’s character was much more of a loose canon, very calculating and extremely smug, Willie Lopez (played by Ivan De Freitas) was more thuggish, I think having two different types of villains really complimented the show and added a sense of intensity.

In the film the final scene is probably my top tear-jerking moment in cinema, when Sam has finally made peace and is ready to cross over; I think nowadays what makes it that more emotional is because of the real-life death of the amazing Patrick Swayze; I actually find it difficult talking about that scene without getting emotional. By this point in the show the waterworks had really set off, and the scene did that moment in the film justice. Its just the little things in the scene such as the dialogue that makes it all the more poignant e.g. Sam’s line “I love you” and Molly simply replying “Ditto”; (if you’re a fan you will get what I mean!). As an audience we know that this is the last time they are ever going to see each other and its just so heartbreaking; that single image of Sam walking into the distance and fading away is just so emotional.

One thing I want to comment on is that Richard Fleeshman really impressed me, he has grown and developed so much as an actor and made a strong leading man, I think he definitely has a great future ahead of him. So there it is, my review on “Ghost- The Musical” I definitely recommend it to people who love the film however it is not necessary to see it first, the show is a whole, stunning, electrifying and emotional performance that I will never forget. Book Now and Always Believe…

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Making the most of life- “Third Star” (2010) Review

Posted in Old Non Horror Reviews on July 3, 2011 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

I was fortunate enough to attend a screening of the low-budget, independent film “Third Star” (2010) at my local cinema in the Aberystwyth Arts Centre (which is an amazing cinema by the way!); after I had viewed the film I stayed behind for a very fun and informative Q&A session with the writer and producer Vaughan Sivell and actor Adam Robertson who plays the character Bill in the film. “Third Star” is one of those hidden gems of a  film that should be more well known than it actually is. The plot is simplistic and easy to relate to. Its also one of those films that really makes you think into the deeper meaning of life. The plot centres on James (played by the incredibly talented Benedict Cumberbatch) who has terminal cancer; along with three of his lifelong friends, Davy (played by Tom Burke), Miles (played by JJ Field) and as previously stated Bill (Adam Robertson) take a trip down to his favourite place, the stunning coastal area of Barfundle Bay in West Wales. Its a peaceful area away from the pressures and technologies of typical Western society, where they are able to think about what place they’re at in their lives and whether they are satisfied with what they have and whether there is something more out there for them. Vaughan Sivell stated that the film is not a film about cancer, even though we are watching the protagonist suffer from it, he says the main theme of the film is about friendship and how we see ourselves, I don’t actually recall the film addressing what type of cancer James has. Vaughn specifically wrote his characters to all be 29 years of age, his reason for this was based on the notion we have of enjoying being in our 20’s and the things we feel we should have achieved throughout this decade of our lives such as have a good job, settle down, get married and have a family. I felt the film was an interesting comment on how British people in general deal with tragedy, when things are bad we tend to turn to humour in order to lighten the mood and a lot of the film focuses on the main characters having fun and joking around despite the underlying conflicts they all have with life and each other. Vaughan Sivell also said that when the film was shown to American audiences they were more open about their emotions commenting on how the film personally affected them, which is an interesting culture difference. The film was actually very well received  in the US as they liked seeing the British quality of sensibility portrayed on screen.

The Cinematography was absolutely breathtaking; I loved how it focused on the little things like birds flying in the sky or a feather falling or the ocean waves crashing, creating visual imagery to portray the theme throughout the film of stepping back for a moment and appreciating the little things in life. We do take everything for granted so watching James’s struggle and the thought of him never seeing the small but beautiful things in life again creates an absolutely devastating tone. I found the atmosphere of the whole film to be very melancholy; it however had the right balance of humour and sadness to invoke an empathetic reaction in the audience. I felt the characters could easily represent people we all know in life, allegedly they were criticised as being “snobby” but this isn’t the case, Adam Robertson pointed out that the film industry generally wants to see characters that are either gangsters or people who live on council estates or period pieces which in their own right are all relevant, however it is refreshing to see characters that don’t really fall into the general stereotype and go beyond our expectations, we don’t actually get an insight into their upbringing’s as such, they are simply four intelligent guys just talking about life; they are the sort of people that in real life I would actually want to get to know and be friends with, I think the film represented the kind of people that I have personally been searching for. The natural flow of dialogue is in place to emphasise the normality of these characters. I thought the most complex of characters was probably Miles as he displayed genuine fear around his friend and wanted to completely ignore the fact he had cancer as a result of being affected by his own father’s death years prior, by the end of the film I do think he confronts his fear by committing the most poignant act (without giving too much away). Bill’s character is interesting as he’s the one who isn’t content with where he is in life with his job or relationship but just makes do with what he has despite the constant criticism from his friends, mainly James. Finally Davy is the character who puts others before himself and perhaps in a sense fusses over James, but he looks after him the most. All the actors performances are incredibly strong, however Benedict Cumberbatch was just incredible portraying James’s pain and as a viewer you really do feel sorry for him, the scene that sticks in my mind is his expression when his friends put on a firework display for him and he just expresses amazement which is almost child-like. I think he’s one of the best British actors of our time.

Vaughan Sivell explains that the film’s concept emerged from the idea of questioning morality, he said that there are scientists out there that place bets on the longevity of the human life span and allegedly it has been proven that humans can live till at least 150 years, therefore if this is the case then do we really have to succeed and have all these things in our lives when we’re in our 20’s. There is a scene in the film in which James catches a white feather, Vaughn tied that image in with the white feather being the symbol of cowardice and the idea of the four feathers as a metaphor for his characters e.g. one will get them to their destination, one will look after them while they’re there and the other will be the one to do him in; (here is some more info http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_feather).

While the film isn’t anything new in terms of story, as there are many films that consist of going on a soul searching journey and people wanting to find themselves, I still enjoyed its simplicity and effectiveness and how it creates deeper thoughts about life in general, the characters were also interesting and well written. The film hasn’t been able to promote itself through posters and various marketing schemes and has been purely fan driven, so I would definitely recommend this film as its probably one of the most beautiful films in terms of story and visuals that I have seen in a long time and possibly one of the best Welsh films.

Hayley Alice Roberts.