Archive for the Old Non Horror Reviews Category

“Good Morning Aberystwyth!”- A Review of “Hairspray the Musical!”

Posted in Old Non Horror Reviews with tags , , , , on August 5, 2012 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Head down to the Aberystwyth Arts Centre this summer and witness the best musical that has ever graced the Theatre-Y-Werin stage, “its Hairspray!” Set in 1962 Baltimore, “Hairspray” tells the tale of Tracy Turnbland, a big girl, with big hair and big dreams to dance on national television as part of “The Corny Collins Show” in which she wins a guest spot and becomes and overnight sensation. The message presented is uplifting as Tracy an unlikely hero fights for integration and sets the standard that anyone can achieve their dreams no matter who they are or what they look like! “Hairspray” also depicts a changing era in history with the traditional attitudes of the 1950’s becoming more relaxed and accepting. However not everyone can quite shake the old ways away as bigoted TV producer Velma Von Tussle and her bratty daughter Amber attempt to thwart Tracy’s plans for a freer society. “Hairspray” is based on the John Waters 1988 film of the same name which starred a young Ricki Lake as Tracy and became a cult classic early on, however the more familiar adaptation would be the 2007 musical version starring John Travolta and Queen Latifah. John Waters film was adapted for the stage in 2002. The show has its little quirks such as the tradition of Edna Turnbland being played by a man as a homage to the late drag-Queen Divine’s performance in the original.

Anthony Williams’s production that is running until September 1st is absolutely sensational and demonstrates that you don’t need to travel far for a West End standard style show. It is difficult to even pick one fault with the entire performance. Each cast member did fantastic jobs with their roles creating a strong consistency throughout the duration, with the mix of professionals and local talent keeping the show refreshing. The singing and dancing were on top form, with the infectious songs being performed brilliantly. The cast had so much energy during the flawless dance numbers which were constantly so much fun and impressive to watch. The production is very colourful and light-hearted on the whole but it does squeeze in some powerful serious moments too. Marion Campbell’s rendition of “I know where I’ve been” as Motormouth Maybelle sends shivers down the spine, she has one of the most incredible singing voices, Andrew Agnew is very entertaining as Edna, Tracy’s downbeat mother who comes out of her shell later in the show, Jenny O’Leary’s Tracy is wonderful as she really carries the performance in the lead role making the character relate-able. Lori Haley Fox also plays the villainous Velma Von Tussle superbly, Arun Blair Mangat shows what a fabulous dancer he is as Seaweed and Oliver Ormson is sweet as Link, Tracy’s love interest. It is clear that the younger performers in the cast have real potential to become big stars one day. As previously stated it is difficult to single the cast members out as they all did fantastic jobs and have worked well together to bring the show and characters to life, its evident a lot of heart has gone into making the production as phenomenal as it is. You will laugh, cry, clap and find it a challenge to not move your feet. The set is limited due to the size of the stage and doesn’t provide many computerised technical aspects as seen in more recent musicals such as “Ghost”, however the use of a screen at the beginning of the show demonstrates how it is keeping up with the way modern shows are bringing in a cinematic quality to their productions. Also, for those more familiar with the 2007 film, the show gives out a bit extra by performing the omitted numbers including “Mama, I’m a big girl now” which provides the audience with a closer look at Tracy, Amber and Penny’s relationships with their mother’s, “The Madison”, “Cooties” and “The Big Dollhouse” which is one of the most comedic moments in the show, this aspect also helps to define the characters and develop them more than a film can due to timing restrictions.

It is guaranteed that “Hairspray” is the ultimate feel-good musical that also teaches its audience strong political and social messages while being quirky at the same time.  Last night’s show received a standing ovation following the impressive finale, so show the cast and crew the praise they deserve by joining them in dancing and singing along to “You can’t stop the beat”. Also catch the cast perform in “The Magic of the Musicals” where they showcase their individual talents on August 19th.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

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.

“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.

Cult Classics: BACK TO THE FUTURE: PART 2 (1989)

Posted in Old Non Horror Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2012 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

The outrageously funny and explosive sequel to the cult hit “Back to the Future” (1985) emerged onto screens four years after its predecessor. The plot picks up exactly where the last film left off, Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) has come to warn Marty (Michael J. Fox) and his girlfriend Jennifer (Elisabeth Shue) about their children’s future which sets them all off on a new adventure thirty years into the future, the year 2015 (which will occur three years into the future following this review!).

The construction of the film is both clever and unique, it feels episodic as we see Marty encounter different parallel universes, the 1985 he created in the first film, the futuristic 2015, the grim, seedy 1985 where Biff (Thomas F. Wilson) is a powerful millionaire and of course the 1955 that’s depicted also in the first film. The various settings give the film different tones and constantly keeps it fresh, playing around with new ideas and scenarios. To begin with Marty has a mission to prevent his future son from taking part in a robbery orchestrated by Biff’s grandson Griff! He successfully diffuses the situation early on, leaving the audience in anticipation of where the story will lead. Despite a few similar sequences, its not predictable or a direct re-hash like many other Hollywood sequels. A lot of futuristic films of the era did portray the future as a depressing, industrial setting e.g “Bladerunner” (1982) therefore “Back to the Future: Part 2” puts a refreshing spin on the futuristic, science fiction genre by creating an optimistic world of flying cars, hover-boards and 3D movies (that one is actually accurate!) but also holds a sense of nostalgia with the “Cafe 80’s” theme, this is also an accurate depiction especially with the longing for the 90’s decade that’s occurring in recent popular culture.

Marty has fun with the new world, however problems arise when temptation gets the better of him and he comes across a “Sports Almanac” that will ideally make him rich if he returns to 1985 with it! Marty remains the identifiable teenage hero however this does highlight that he does have flaws which creates layers for the character and makes him human and far from perfect, he learns from his mistakes. Before he knows it the Almanac reaches into the wrong hands and the ageing Biff temporarily steals the time machine to enlighten and benefit his younger self, ultimately changing 1985 into a corrupt and dangerous place.  Marty is horrified to discover the dark, underworld version of “Hill/Hell Valley” that’s controlled by Biff. In this universe his father has been brutally murdered, his brother in prison, his sister in debt and his mother a surgically enhanced alcoholic who’s married to Biff! In order to escape this nightmare Marty with the help of Doc must return to 1955, to the night of the lightning storm to prevent Biff changing history forever! This sequence is the most suspenseful part of the film, keeping the audience on edge as Marty makes several attempts to retrieve the sports almanac to no avail while also facing the challenging task of avoiding meeting his past self and altering history once more! On a technical level the sequence is impressive as it uses scenes from the first film accompanied by Marty’s perspective of seeing how he approached his previous adventure. Its a clever metaphor that leaves us questioning, if we had the chance to look back and see how we handled a situation, how would we analyse it and what would we do differently?

Allegedly the director Rob Zemeckis hadn’t planned to make a sequel however box office numbers went through the roof and a sequel was massively anticipated by fans. Hearing this was quite surprising as the conclusion of the first film heavily indicates the story is not over and leaves the audience hanging on for more as the main characters fly off into the distance in the time machine. Zemeckis only agreed to making the film because Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox both agreed to return, and he also teamed up with his screenwriting partner Bob Gale. Several re-writes occured as Zemeckis and Gale had regretted including the character of Marty’s girlfriend Jennifer embarking on the adventure with them, as for continuity purposes they would need to include a storyline for her character when the ideal preference would have been to create something entirely different, her character is still underused. The original actress who portrayed Jennifer did not return for the sequel therefore a shot for shot re-shoot was constructed of the final sequence. Another issue they stumbled upon was Crispin Glover’s reluctance to reprise his role of George McFly due to failure to agree on his overall salary, meaning the use of the character was now limited; hence a brief appearance in the future scene and the implication he had been murdered by Biff in the dystopian 1985.

The plan had been to set the sequel in 1967, this decision was scrapped when Zemeckis decided that the time paradoxes would allow them to travel back to the original’s setting of 1955 to see the story from a new angle; there is still a sense of curiosity to know what the film would have been like if the original script had been translated to screen. Even though the film was released in 1989 it still keeps to the timeline, using 1985 as the present day. The final instalment of the franchise that was released in 1990 that incorporates a Western setting was filmed back to back with this one, there are some hints of what’s to come thrown in throughout such as a clip of Clint Eastwood from “A Fistful of Dollars” (1964) which compliments the well thought out continuity and structure of the films.

As a sequel “Back to the Future: Part 2” definitely holds up well to the original. While the 1985 film was wacky, quirky, hilarious and suspenseful, this one has even more of those traits! It takes the concepts, characters and special effects of the first film and ramps them up to a high voltage! The actors were able to stretch themselves in terms of performances particularly Michael J. Fox and Thomas F. Wilson as they go from playing themselves and their relatives at different stages from young to middle-aged to elderly. Thomas F. Wilson’s performance as Biff is perfect movie villain material, he is obnoxious, brutal, and plain nasty but luckily for Marty and the audience not invulnerable!  He represents fear of change, fear of control which Marty must conquer. Marty remains likeable, and the hero we all root for. Doc is once again brilliant and provides constant wacky comedy as well as acting as the wise mentor archetype to Marty. There seems to be more scenes with the two together in this instalment as they directly communicate throughout and share the adventures together, they balance each other out well and prove they need to support each other especially when the stakes are raised!! All the characters are well-written and easy for the audience to become invested in, a great strength and the main attraction for the franchise.

“Back to the Future: Part 2” is an excellent follow up and as close to being just as good as the original as your gonna get! Its an edge of-the-seat adventure, thrill ride that gives so much but still leaves you wanting more!  I’ll now conclude this retrospect review on a fun fact, there is an urban legend surrounding the film where apparently the hover-boards from 2015 were actually real but were not released into the public due to safety issues!

If in three years time 2015 is anything like the depiction in this film it’ll be a fun world to live in!

Hayley Alice Roberts.

For my “Back to the Future” (1985) review, click this link: https://mshayleyr1989.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/cult-classics-back-to-the-future-1985/

TV Character Study: The Case of Lana Lang (Smallville)

Posted in Old Non Horror Reviews with tags , , , , , on June 12, 2012 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**Note: This review is based on analysing a character from a TV show of my choice. It will look at what was successful about them, what worked and what didn’t, their main story-lines and contribution as well as a broad audience reception of them. With certain shows there are so much that can be said however this will merely focus on a summary of the proposed discussions. If you have any feedback please feel free to comment on this post as well as post requests of future character studies you would like to see and I’ll do my best. Many Thanks.**

The re-imagining of Superman’s early years began in 2001 in the shape of “Smallville” (2001-2011). When the show started it focused on Clark Kent’s early years as a teenager, dealing with the various trials and tribulations of growing up, keeping secrets, Lex Luthor and meteor freaks! In this review the focus will turn to a rather controversial character that fans of both the comics and the show share divided views on, Lana Lang. In this review Lana is going to be examined as a character in “Smallville”, along with her contribution to the series in terms of storyline and audience reception. So let’s have a look at the love of Clark Kent’s life! Lois Lane ! Sorry I mean that other girl that shaped Clark in terms of becoming the superhero we all know today (in the “Smallville” universe of course!).

Lana Lang appeared in the “Pilot” (#1.1). She was a central part to the beginning of the show, even having screen time before Clark’s eagerly-awaited appearence. Her parents were killed in the meteor shower. This event enabled her to become closely connected with the main characters and storylines. As a teenager, Lana was the typical girl-next-door and a high school crush for Clark. In a similar vein to the concept of her in the comics, the main difference was the change of physical appearence for the character, Lana was no longer the red-headed cheerleader fans were familiar with in the comics and the Christopher Reeve films. She was portrayed by Kristin Kreuk and was now a brunette, her origin’s are unclear however it was implied heavily in the fourth season that she had French ancestors. Clearly the show was aiming for Lana to be a love interest for a long time and wanted to bring something new to her character as well as having an attractive leading lady to capture the male audience. She was there as an equal to Clark in appearance and personality. As his first love she would be a key factor in his development especially as they were depicting Superman’s early years. The main problems arose when the writers kept her in the show as a primary love interest up to season eight.

The Girl-Next-Door Lana in Season One

The issue to  begin with was that Lana acted as the damsel in distress, finding herself placed in situations where she was at risk for Clark where he had to physically save her e.g. “Metamorphosis” (#1.2), “X-Ray” (#1.4), “Accelerate” (#2.21). In the early days it was down to the fact she wore a kryptonite filled necklace which is the one element Clark is affected by (sticking to “Superman” lore!) . The necklace symbolized the doomed nature of their relationship and acted as a warning sign from the beginning,  eventually becoming more symbolic in her departure. The other female lead, Chloe (a whole new character created for the show) was smart and was able to help Clark through investigating meteor freak behavior as well as collecting information that eventually went onto her “wall of weird”. Chloe was the nerdy best friend archetype, however she contributed much more than the love interest did at this stage, even as far as possessing similar qualities to Lois as an ambitious reporter. Therefore the audience were expected to just accept the fact that Clark was infatuated with this girl without real reason when Chloe seemed more well-suited to him. Lana did possess likable qualities, she was kind and friendly and cared about those around her even putting others needs before her own.

Young Love: “Clana”

One of the more frustrating aspects of Lana was the writer’s slow build-up towards her romance with Clark, (yes five seasons we’re talking here!). There were many attempts at romance e.g. “Exodus” (#2.23), the main reason it was always stalled was due to Lana constantly suspecting something different about Clark and being unable to fully trust him, it was made worse following Clark’s encounters with red kryptonite which caused him to behave rebelliously and almost as a stereotypical jock/jerk towards Lana (“Red” #2.4). Ideas of romance were played with in the form of alternate realities e.g. “Relic” (#3.6). Even though it became tedious and had fans screaming “GET TOGETHER ALREADY!!!” it was actually a legitimate reason on the character’s part to be hesitant, she couldn’t give herself completely unless she knew the whole mystery surrounding Clark Kent. This did give her character an intelligent side as well as a cautious one as it demonstrated how she wasn’t going to give in too easily and thought things through. However in later years when she did discover the truth behind Clark’s secret she accepted it and would go to any lengths in order to protect him (e.g. “Promise” #6.16) where she married Lex Luthor following a threat made by his father Lionel where if she didn’t marry Lex, Clark would die! In one of the best episodes of the entire series “Reckoning” (#5.12) Clark proposed to Lana after telling her the truth about his alien nature. Lana accepted and it seemed like a “happy ever after” was in store. Sadly, the fact that Lana kept the truth from a continuously suspicious Lex meant tragic consequences for her as she was involved in a car smash after being chased by Lex and died. Even though tragic this could have been a fitting and dignified end for her character, she would have been difficult for Clark to get over and would have held a great and profound impact over his life but with the help of Lois Lane, his eventual wife it could have provided a better development for that relationship rather than an “out-of-nowhere” crush beginning in season eight.  Clark was able to turn back the clock and his perfect moments with Lana were now a memory only for him, leading to an interesting turn of events which saw the match of “Lexana” much to fans dismay, but we’ll get to that later! The destruction of their possible happy life together only added to the hints of their doomed relationship. In season seven the characters made another attempt at a relationship, a shock twist came in the form of Clark being inhabited by Bizzaro and Lana admitting she had felt more of a connection when he wasn’t himself to when he actually was Clark. By this point the writer’s were going too far and were recycling everything the audience was aware of, Clark and Lana were not meant to be!

Lana possessed by the spirit of the Countess Thoreaux

Being a pretty love interest was not enough for the character to remain on the show therefore the obvious direction would be to give her superpowers. This was something the writers toyed with throughout Lana’s stint on the show, however they did not keep it as a consistent factor and just seemed to be throwing various different scenarios at the audience. Lana has had super strength (“Wrath” (#7.7), she was possessed by a powerful witch (“Spell” #4.8, “Sacred” #4.15), and became a vampire (“Thirst” #5.5). When she left the show she was bound in a skin suit made from nano-technology as well as alien DNA providing her with superpowers, finally she could become Clark’s equal in terms of strength and they could save the world together, although Lex had other plans for that! The suit unfortunately enabled her to absorb kryptonite energy making her repellent to Clark forever (“Requiem (#814). These stories were both compelling and fun to watch however felt inconsistent, as one moment she had powers and the next they were gone giving a gimmick feel to the character and storylines. A personal favorite of Lana’s powers has to be the witch posession as it transformed her character from a meek, shy girl into an ass-kicking, dangerous woman not to be messed with! She held her own against the strong masculine characters e.g. Clark and her then “love interest” Jason Teague. Kristin Kreuk was also given the opportunity to show her potential as a surprising leading lady. Its possible that episodes like these encouraged the creators to keep her around longer than intended as Kristin delivered some unforgettable performances and showed believable chemistry with Tom Welling.

Lana and her biological father Henry Small, the storyline was short-lived!

The family in Lana’s life was inconsistent. She became independent extremely fast through running her own business at The Talon. With her parents gone, she was brought up by her Aunt Nell who departed the series early on in order to live with a new boyfriend. Lana discovered her father wasn’t who she thought he was and her biological father was still alive and living in Smallville, going by the name of Henry Small (“Lineage” #2.7). She began to build a bond with him, however the storyline was shortly dropped and  to recollection was not mentioned again. Stability was a lacking factor in Lana’s life contributing to her lack of trust in others. The death of her parents made her stronger and drove her to fight and become a stronger person, the beginning of this transformation showed her taking on self-defence classes following an accident.

Lana and her season four boyfriend Jason Teague

Other than Clark and Lex, Lana had two other big relationships in the series, Whitney in Season One and Jason Teague in Season Four. Both these men shared similarities, both human, both football players/jock types and both jealous of Clark which eventually drove them crazy. It appeared that on the surface Lana was attracted to these two as they seemed safe and relatively “normal” and were not as challenging to be around as Clark was. Lana soon realized in both relationships that she belonged with Clark, therefore these two represented a sense of realization for her in terms of where she wanted to be in her life. When Lana made the decision to leave Whitney she was held back with the news of his father’s illness, instead of abandoning him she put him before her own happiness and supported him. In Jason’s case, he came out of nowhere, viewers were led to believe that Lana had met him by chance in Paris, however there was more to him than met the eye. In the beginning their relationship seemed very innocent as they went about it in secret, Lana was serious about Jason however matters became complex when his mother Genevieve became involved. In Paris, Lana had developed a mark of transference on her lower back which was connected to her ancestor the Countess Thoreaux. Genevieve was hiding something, Lana had dreampt of her prior to meeting Jason. It turned out that Genevieve had orchestrated the whole relationship as the Countess was burned at the stake by their ancestors and vowed revenge one day. The Teague’s ancestor had been obsessed with searching for the stones of knowledge leading Jason and Lex to China on a similar quest. Eventually Lana felt distrust in their relationship and grew tired of it revolving around the stones. In the end Lana, possessed once more by the Countess killed Genevieve while Lex orchestrated Jason’s death in the second meteor shower. She now felt Jason used her to find the stones and demonstrated no remorse for his loss. The storyline took a surprising turn with Jason becoming more unlikable. By the fifth season when Lana was made aware of his death she showed little remorse, her character began to grow and harden emotionally.

“Lexana”

Returning to “Lexana”, one of the most twisted and unexpected relationships in the show’s history, it provided drama and conflict and showed Lex at his nastiest and the levels he would sink. In Lana’s case, the story depicted a woman entering adulthood and making the wrong decisions. Lana and Lex had been close friends throughout the early years, even co-owning the Talon together. They both shared similar frustration of not being able to work Clark out and built up a sense of trust. He kept the Talon open for her even though it was not profitable as he knew what it meant to her, he paid for her trip to Paris at the end of the third season and looked out for her against the Teague’s. They grew even closer in the fifth season following the second meteor shower in which she confided in him regarding information about a spaceship landing on earth (“Arrival” #5.1). Following “Reckoning” (#5.12) Lana began to feel trust in Lex over Clark as he appeared “honest” with her, ruthlessly Lex wanted her for himself and arranged for a powerful hypnotist to separate her from Clark (“Hypnotic” #5.16) to which he was successful. Lana began to fall for him deeply, even moving into the Luthor mansion. Unknown to her Lex kept plenty from her including his dealings with Milton Fine/Brainiac, the truth behind the sinister level 33.1 and in a sickening tactic convinced her she was pregnant with his child only to then suffer a miscarriage when she was not even pregnant in the first place! Lex also created a clone of her without her knowledge. Once Lana discovered the truth she swore vengeance. This was the moment where she became headstrong, resourceful and powerful. She faked her own death by using the clone to frame Lex and went into hiding. Lex allowed Lana to return to Smallville with the promise she’d be free of him. Revenge was the only way forward for her at this point but it almost destroyed her. She spied on Lex constantly, even viciously attacked him when she temporarily absorbed Clark’s powers. She was a broken woman trying to keep it together and needed redemption. Her intentions were semi-good as she used the ISIS foundation, a project she began in order to help the meteor-infected and those affected by Lex’s experiments so she could keep a close eye on him. She began to show Luthor-like qualities bringing in a darkness to her character.

Lana’s final scene

By the time Lana exited the show she was a strong, confident and powerful woman using her gifts for good and helping people. Her final scene was moving and emotional as she gave Clark one last kiss which almost drained him of his life, ironically metaphorical of their relationship throughout the entire series. Lana was a crucial character to “Smallville’s” beginning’s,  she was played brilliantly by Kristin Kreuk and provided the show with some of its more interesting storylines. The main problem for hardcore fans was that Lana was completely different from the familiar character depicted in the comic books. Lana didn’t provide as much drama as she did in “Smallville”, her relationship with Clark was not as epic and “Lexana” didn’t exist. In fact Lana married Clark’s best friend Pete, and became First Lady of the United States when Pete was elected president over Lex. As previously mentioned she was also kept around longer than needed in “Smallville” and took priority over developing Clark’s relationship with Lois Lane which became infuriating as stories surrounding “Clana’s” dying romance became recycled over and over. TVtropes.org labels Lana as a “Creator’s Pet”  (SEE: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/CreatorsPet/LiveActionTV) which to an extent is true, allegedly the ratings were dropping due to her extensive screen time which the writer’s ignored. She could never do anything wrong and became raved about by other characters such as Chloe even if she had done wrong to her. The superpowers element bothered fans as she was never intended to be an ass-kicking superhero type, it was as if the writers intended to convince the viewers to love her character which simply did not work. Lana’s best storylines include her season four arc as well as her fall into darkness because of Kristin’s performance, other than that the character did weigh the show down and it could have gone in a different direction much earlier without including her.

So, what are your thoughts on Lana Lang? Please comment below.

Hayley Alice Roberts.