Archive for July, 2012

Corruption, Chaos, Anarchy and Catwoman, A Review of “Dark Knight Rises (2012)”

Posted in Old Non Horror Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 23, 2012 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS INCLUDED**

“Dark Knight Rises” (2012) along with “Avengers Assemble” (2012) and “The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012) is one of the most eagerly anticipated superhero blockbusters of the year. It certainly meets expectations and beyond as it concludes the final part in Christopher Nolan’s gritty re-imagining of the Batman series.

2008’s offering “The Dark Knight” is to many one of the best film’s ever made, this follow up certainly delivers the same high quality as its predecessor with Nolan’s dark vision and memorable performances from all the actors. The main Villain Bane (played by Tom Hardy) for instance is just as terrifying and sinister as the late Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker, the same amount of complexity that was written into the Joker character can be seen in Bane from the edge of the seat opening sequence to the brutal end. Fans of the series certainly won’t be disappointed with the film.

This third instalment takes place eight years after “The Dark Knight”. Bruce Wayne  (Played by Christian Bale) has abandoned his secret identity and lost himself as he is barely recognisable following the events of the previous film. Bruce has hidden himself away from the world, he is gaunt and frail and far away from the strong hero the audience have previously seen. His loyal friend and butler Alfred (played by Michael Caine) encourages him to regain his life. Their relationships is strained but very emotionally driven and provides a real heart to the film, Alfred sends shock-waves into Bruce’s world when he reveals tragic information regarding his late former girlfriend Rachel, which is one of the film’s most powerful scenes. Commissioner Gordon (Played by Gary Oldman) has set up the Dent act in order to eradicate crime and violence in Gotham city under the pretence of a false hero, Harvey Dent (Played by Aaron Eckhart) which brings in major conflict and plenty of action.

“Dark Knight Rises” displays so many layers in its stories and characters meaning that there are so many attractions to the film. Both Batman/Bruce Wayne and Bane are developed to a strong effect and even the supporting characters are written so well that the audience are able to empathize with their peril. The film takes an in-depth look at Batman’s world and the struggle he faces in a corrupt city. Bane’s objective is complex in giving the city back to the people and overthrowing authority while causing anarchy and chaos, as his backstory unravels over the course of the film, the audience gains a clearer understanding of the dark psychology behind his motives, Tom Hardy’s performance reaches beyond unsettling and disturbing. Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Played by Anne Hathaway) represents the struggle of the non-wealthy people of Gotham, she steals from the rich in order to survive. A complexity to her character is again brought in as she claims to steal only from those who won’t go without. Similarly to Black Widow in “Avengers Assemble”, Catwoman is a strong, powerful female who will go to any lengths in order to survive, she displays a tough exterior however demonstrates redeeming qualities by the film’s end. Anne Hathaway and Christian Bale display electrifying chemistry that perhaps needed more development and screen time, however their scenes are still enjoyable. In comparison to Rachel in the previous instalments, Selina/Catwoman does bring in a fresh feminist angle and represents a stronger role model for female audiences in a franchise that has been male dominated. Each character, including the main hero is emotionally human, there is an understanding for each of their motives given the environment and situation they are placed in. “Dark Knight Rises” also depicts a strong sense of community and reflects on how people band together in times of crisis, ensuring a series of powerful and emotive scenes.

The tone is incredibly gritty, complimented by the use of the lighting that gives a sense of bleakness throughout and highlights the corrupt world we see on screen. The CGI is incredible and provides startling effects to the film’s emotion, especially when Bane’s chaos ensues. The scenes of Batman’s capture place the audience into a claustrophobic hell, these moments in the film are uncomfortable and desperate, the film does not set up a strong sense of hope indicating that Bruce/Batman’s survival is not guaranteed. The minor glimmer of hope is in  the character of John Blake (Played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an orphan turned police officer who is more than meets the eye, he is depicted to be a young man who just believes there are heroes out there, representing a majority. There are plenty of shocks in store and an incredible twist ending that remains unsuspecting. Humour is in place to a certain degree, however presents itself subtly in comparison to the Marvel films audiences have seen this year.

“Dark Knight Rises” is certainly worth the four year wait, its themes are compelling, epic, intelligent, its very well executed, featuring brilliant performances from the entire cast, notably Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Anne Hathaway. The message the film conveys will stay with the viewer forever, anyone can become a hero. With the trilogy now concluded, the excitement lies in the up and coming re-imagining of “Superman” in “Man of Steel” (2013), if it turns out anything like Nolan’s unforgettable Batman films, fans are surely in for a treat!

Hayley Alice Roberts.

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“The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012) A brief summary of the latest summer superhero spectacle!

Posted in Old Non Horror Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 8, 2012 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**Note, this is a spoiler free review, there will also be no comparisons drawn between this version and the Sam Raimi trilogy of “Spider-Man” films (2002-2007) as I would like to review the film for what it is and as a separate entity.**

The title of this film alone sums up how good it is! This brand new re-imagining of one of the world’s most well-loved superheroes delivers on so many levels and brings something fresh to the second Hollywood re-boot of “Spider-man”. Taking a leaf out of Christopher Nolan’s book, Director Marc Webb and his team of screenwriters add a new depth to the characters and the plots as well as a grittier tone but at the same time still keeps the fun and adventure that goes hand in hand with Spidey! “The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012) has the right balance of emotional depth with a focus on the characters and relationships while delivering an infectious sense of humour and comedy.

The cast carry the film well. Andrew Garfield is perfectly cast as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, it is evident he has fun with the role and gets invested into the character. Peter’s arc is developed exceedingly well throughout the film from clumsy, shy high school photographer to web spinning, ass kicking superhero. Emma Stone is very likeable as the feisty Gwen Stacy. The chemistry between the two is electrifying and their connection comes across clearly to the audience. Rhys Ifans is just phenomenal playing the unhinged scientist  Dr. Curt Connors who’s desperation for “a world without weakness” causes him to experiment with Lizard DNA transforming him into a monster in a loose spin on the “Jekyll and Hyde” tale. Rhys brings a great deal of empathy to the character which creates a more complex meaning between what’s unfolding on screen and the audience, he’s not an out and out villain, there is understanding and vulnerability behind the madness. The supporting cast are wonderful, Martin Sheen is brilliantly funny and there’s a lot of tense moments between Peter and Captain Stacy, Gwen’s father played by Denis Leary which makes the film entertaining.

There are some storylines included in the film that have been seen before and will be familiar to the audience, however this is to be expected due to the story taking place from the beginning of Peter’s decadence into superhero-dom! The discovery of his powers isn’t emphasised on as much as the catalyst event needs to play out so that the film can take the audience into its spectacular action sequences. The level of depth given to the relationships in the film makes the action sequences even more intense and they balance each other out well. The high school is focused on a lot more which was unexpected especially an action-packed, nail-biting sequence between Spidey and the Lizard in the school. If there was one nit-pick with this film it would be the 3D, if studios want to make more money by shooting in this format then they should at least deliver eye-popping moments that leave the audience in wonder as “The Amazing Spider-Man” just looks like a regular 2D film apart from maybe one or two brief moments. The point of view shots of Spidey swinging off buildings are a welcome treat.

“The Amazing Spider-Man” is just that, AMAZING! It has its own style of story-telling and made some interesting choices by including different characters that perhaps the film audiences won’t be as familiar with e.g. Gwen Stacy and Curt Connors/Lizard. The darker tone fits the film well while not losing sight of the essence of Spider-Man. Marc Webb was daring enough to take a chance on re-booting the film and bringing in a different vision, no doubt he has done a fantastic job. The performances are electrifying, the action sequences and special effects are out of this world, and it has some great one-liners! Its certainly a summer flick to get into a spin for!

The only question left now is, when’s the sequel?

Hayley Alice Roberts

“The Post-modern Fairytale of them All”- A Review of “Mirror Mirror” (2012)

Posted in Old Non Horror Reviews with tags , , , , , , on July 8, 2012 by Hayley's Horror Reviews
**WARNING: CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS**
When two films are released within months of each other focusing on the same story or fairytale in this case, its difficult not to make comparisons. It is however fair to say that both films hold a very striking and opposing presence in Hollywood and both offer something different to the viewer. “Mirror Mirror: The Untold Adventures of Snow White” (2012) has a contrasting style from the previously reviewed “Snow White and the Huntsman” (2012), “Mirror Mirror” is family friendly, it is targeted at children (possibly from around the age of 6 upwards) with its light hearted tone. It still does hold a universal appeal, and like Disney its something that everyone can enjoy. 

Similarly to “Huntsman”, “Mirror Mirror” is visually appealing, as a lot of thought and detail has gone into the quality of the production. However “Mirror Mirror”  differs as  it presents a traditional fairytale/Disney feel to its mise-en-scene with plenty of bright colours and extravagant costumes. The world presented feels magical with a surreal effect and meets prior expectations of how this type of fairytale should look. There are some intriguing visuals such as the use of puppets and the royal costumes being reminiscent of the Capitol people from “The Hunger Games” (2012). There are breathtaking shots of the castle and the lake surrounding it as well as the snowy landscapes of the woods.

Even though “Mirror Mirror” appears like a traditional fairytale, the dialogue indicates otherwise. All the characters are very self-aware of their archtypes in this type of story and constantly critique their actions. The speech in place is very post-modern, therefore rather than being compared to “Huntsman” it could be argued that the film it shares a stronger comparison with is “Enchanted” (2007). The use of the word “Adventures” in the title heavily suggests that Snow White is going to be the strong, heroine and to expect some action in the film.  This again challenges the notion of Snow White being the beautiful princess who needs rescuing by the strong, handsome Prince, therefore reversing traditional roles and furthermore updating the story for a new generation. In a sense Snow White is portrayed like a female Robin Hood as she fights for the poor against the wealthy in order to regain her kingdom. The Prince on the other hand is morally weak as he becomes subjected to a love spell by the Queen and is the one who needs to be saved.

The cast in the film is incredible. Lily Collins shines as Snow White, she is a likeable and identifiable protagonist, pulling off the role well. She allegedly auditioned to play “Snow White” in “Huntsman” but lost out to Kristen Stewart, it is hard to say whether she would have suited the darker portrayal of the princess, but there is no doubt that she wasn’t perfect in her role in this adaptation. Julia Roberts makes a fantastic villainess as the Wicked Queen. Her performance was delightfully over the top with a perfect brand of humour added in, she is almost like a pantomime villain throughout the majority of the film. “Mirror Mirror” is marketed as being told from the perspective of the Queen’s character, however as the story unfolds it is just the typical tale of “Snow White” with a few updated twists thrown in. It would have been interesting if they had gone down the route of the up and coming “Maleficent”  (2014) and told the story from the villain’s point of view. Having the Queen’s reflection as the mirror was an interesting choice, displaying her concious and showing there is a moral side to her somewhere, she just chooses to ignore it for her own benefit. The Queen uses sorcery in order to control her kingdom, she can temporarily make people fall in love with her or attack her enemies with giant puppets, she is however vulnerable as the film teaches their are consequence’s for all actions, questioning if the Queen is prepared to deal with the weight of that.

Nathan Lane plays Brighton, the “Huntsman” style character however in this version he’s a baron, having the huntsman absent from the film was a smart move so it could differ from the other film of its kind. Julia and Nathan have great chemistry between them and deliver much of the humorous moments of the film. The absolute highlight are the dwarves, each of their individual personalities shine through and each of them have a real connection with Snow White which is nice to watch. The sequence of Snow White living with them is included and they are the main contribution to making Snow White the stronger heroine that she becomes. Armie Hammer is also brilliant in the role as the Prince, expect to see every Disney cliché in his character.

“Mirror Mirror” is a fun fantasy fairytale that ticks all the right boxes, its sharp and witty, very cheesy and predictable in some aspects but a great family film.

The overall verdict, if you’re looking for something dark and gritty then stick with “Snow White and the Huntsman”, but this is the one if you’re after something a bit more tongue in cheek and light hearted.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

“When Bella met Thor”- A Review of “Snow White and the Huntsman” (2012)

Posted in Old Non Horror Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 2, 2012 by Hayley's Horror Reviews
**WARNING: INCLUDES SPOILERS**
A new breed of Hollywood blockbusters has begun in the shape of the re-imaginings of fairy-tales, so move over vampires! This year so far has seen two very different approaches to the classic Grimm fairytale of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”; first there was the light-hearted “Mirror Mirror” (2012) starring Julia Roberts as the Wicked Queen and then came the film that will be focused on in this review “Snow White and the Huntsman” (2012); the main similarity between the two is the heavy marketing of the Queen character as the main attraction. “Snow White and the Huntsman” offers a darker approach to the classic fairytale, returning to its origins of Grimm rather than the family friendly image that “Snow White” mainly has in popular culture due to Disney incorporating a medieval style.
 

Charlize Theron gives a  phenomenal  performance as the evil Queen. Her presence is constantly unsettling with her stony stares and her temperamental nature, creating a sinister edge and constant tension throughout the film. The film does put an interesting spin on the character, paying reference to the legend of Mrs Bathory with the notion of her draining the life from the young in order to preserve herself. The visual effects which compliment her fantastic performance are outstanding, her transformation from beautiful young Queen to evil old hag as well as the scenes where she disguises herself as a flock of birds.

“Snow White and the Huntsman” is a pure Hollywood product which sets out to meet a certain structure and fills particular clichés. Firstly the casting, the producers of this film  placed Kristen Stewart in the lead role, she is well known for her  immensely popular role as Bella Swan in the “Twilight” franchise (2008-present) . The performance she gives is bland and expressionless as once more she is typecast into a role where she is constantly reliant on a man to save her! The arc they give her from the weak and helpless princess to a strong warrior Queen is therefore unconvincing by the film’s closure. It also created problems for the feminist angle the film was trying so hard to convey. Chris Hemsworth of “Avengers”  (2012) fame plays the Huntsman, a character who only plays a minor part in the original story, he does his job of setting Snow White free and the story moves on without him, however in this re-telling he is transformed into the romantic lead and main protector of the “beautiful princess”. Stewart and Hemsworth together have very little screen chemistry, resulting in a forced and tedious sub-plot for the film that drags it down, it removes the potential it has in terms of a strong story and performances complimenting the visuals. Hollywood have basically said “Let’s take two of the biggest stars of the moment from two of the biggest film franchises and just place them in a movie together and just go with it”, but that’s Hollywood and they know how they are going to market their films and what will pull in the box office figures! To a large degree the film does feel like a vehicle for these two stars.

It was clear that to an extent they were attempting to replicate “Twilight” by placing in a love triangle sub-plot between the Huntsman and William, Snow White’s childhood friend. A similar plot-line can also be found in “The Hunger Games” (2012) series which is again a huge Hollywood blockbuster at the moment. In the sequence where Snow White, the Huntsman and the Dwarves enter the Sanctuary, even though it is visually beautiful, it seemed in place to replicate the similar style of the beautiful world seen in “Avatar” (2009). Critics have also drawn comparisons with the “Narnia” films (2005-present). The need to add in popular cliché’s to a re-imagining of a well-known story seemed unneeded and there for the sake of being there as it attempted to live up to all the major blockbusters out there.

That said, its certainly not an awful film. The Cinematography is beautiful, the use of colours in the film are really profound such as the red blood dripping onto white snow. Its definitely appealing to look at and its clear that so much thought and detail has evidently gone into the mise-en-scene, costumes and the colouring. The forest sequence is eerie and haunting with the notion of trees coming to life! In terms of the performances the saving grace of the film comes in the shape of the Dwarves, who lighten the dark tone to a degree. The casting for the characters are fantastic including Nick Frost, Ray Winstone, Bob Hoskins and Brian Gleeson. Each of them showcase an individual personality and bounce well off each other in terms of humor and wit! They couldn’t have come into the film sooner! Seeing these actors in the shape of Dwarves again demonstrates how spectacular the effects are. The battle scenes are also epic and rank up the tension during the films final moments as they go all out with the CGI. There was also a clever and unexpected twist thrown in when Snow White inevitably takes a bite out of that poisonous apple!

Despite the disappointing areas of the film such as the story, “Snow White and the Huntsman” is definitely worth a watch as its a medieval tale of epic proportions. I will be curious to see “Jack the Giant Killer” (2012) and eventually “Maleficent” (2014) and everything else that emerges from the genre. As long as Hollywood can keep fairy-tales fresh then keep em’ coming!

Hayley Alice Roberts.