Category Archives: Film

After Nightfall Season 2, Episode 5

Oh. My. God.

W.T.F

I may or may not have needed to down a glass of rosé after last night’s episode. Because I did not see that ending coming. And naturally, I’m here to write about it. There’s a lot to go through in this episode and some tantalising theories to spin, so pour yourself a glass and let’s get right into it.

Episode 5 opens with our friendly neighbourhood drug dealer Dave seemingly contemplating his recent decline, when Leanne shows up. And before I go on, I have to say, I do feel bad I’ve not given actor David Woodland the praise he deserves for his solid performance. So here it is now. He’s wonderful in this role. He sells the danger of this man while also imbibing him with a humanity not often seen with this type of character. This is also down to the writing, but the performance is great regardless. That’s really one of the main strengths of After Nightfall, as I said back in my very first review. The moments we see the characters are short, but the power of the writing and the acting is able to get across a lot with very little. But that’s also an advantage of film as opposed to live theatre.
Anyhow, Leanne shows up and she’s done with the icy reception she’s been getting since Dave discovered her infidelity. She wants to know what she can do to be forgiven, but he’s not sure there’s anything she can do. A feeling I understand all too well.

Next, one of the juiciest scenes in the episode. A big call, I know, but I’m making it anyway for reasons you’ll soon understand.
Hayden shares his suspicions of Wesley (still calling that as a red herring) with Grace and Xavier, and this is where things get VERY interesting.
See, Grace points out something that had actually been bothering me since Season 1. When she and Xavier found Troy’s body, what made them look in the ditch?
Troy’s phone ringing.
And then, Kobie mysteriously got hold of it. Later, they caught him burying the phone where Troy’s body was. Grace rightly wonders how he got hold of it. She suspects maybe the police gave it to him, but we know that can’t be the case; they’ve been looking for it the entire time. Someone else gave it to him, and from the music, the shifty eyes and the camera angle, that person has to be Xavier. Think about it. He’s literally the only one who could have done it. The only question is why? And to that, I have literally no idea. Maybe something to do with Oscar? He did say in season 1 episode 5 Oscar stares at him…

The scene cuts to my beloved Nathan at conversion camp. And this is where I will mildly celebrate the fact that one of my theories has turned out to be correct. Nathan, Yardley, Daisy and two other camp members Finn and Tess (who shares a surname with Leanne. Coincidence?) have joined forces and decided they’re going to try and escape. Next week, we’ll see if they’re successful or not. And I hope to heaven they are. But I’m wondering, did those guards overhear them?

The episode is far from over. Oscar is confronted by an enraged Kobie, and just barely manages to get away. Somehow I don’t think this is over. And I really doubt Oscar is going to survive beyond this season. It’ll be incredible if he survives before the finale.

Meanwhile, at the McLeavey household, Justine discovers the money Isobel’s stolen. But before she can ground her til the age of 18, Zara and Angela arrived with a search warrant…and Brenda.
Brenda claims Troy told her he put his phone and iPad in the kitchen drawer, which she saw Colin do in the last episode. Zara finds it, and after berating Angela for not searching thoroughly in the initial sweep, Colin is taken to the station for questioning.
Since Nathan’s parents and the conversion camp leaders haven’t shown up for me to hate this episode, I shall focus my wrath on Brenda here with no shame whatsoever. What the hell is your problem, lady? You’re so desperate to seem credible you’ll get an innocent man arrested? Sure, Colin’s no angel and he wasn’t polite last week, but why should he be polite to someone who profits off exploiting and scamming grieving families? And it’s not just him, Colin’s not the only one affected by this. Justine’s been through more than anyone should and Isobel may be a scheming little brat but she’s still a kid. Holy hell this woman is a piece of work.
But as Colin is being taken out, Troy appears, causing a chair to fall. Narelle was right. His strength is building.

With bombshell after bombshell, this should be the end of episode 5, right? Haha, no.
The biggest twist of all is coming, in a house Colin is selling for his real estate job. Huh. I picked him more for an accountant. But no matter. Brad arrives, and who should be there waiting for him but Quintin. And he’s come prepared. We have our third death on the show. First Troy, then Simon, and now Brad. I guess that means we can cross him off the suspect list.

Quintin has been on many viewer’s suspect list, including my own, but now we’ve actually seen him kill someone. And he’s clearly premeditated this. He wears gloves to prevent fingerprints. He’s laid down plastic on the floor. It’s almost like he’s done this before….
There’s a massive amount of evidence here. Quintin has a background you could describe as ‘shady’. He reacted to the news of Troy’s murder by angrily kicking a chair, but he hasn’t really seemed overly torn up about it. His father told him last week he wished he’d been the one murdered instead of Troy. He works for his criminal uncle. When Dave was named a suspect, he instantly said “That’s bullshit!” He was in the area where Troy’s body was found, around the time the body was left there. He’s physically strong enough to overpower his brother, and he’s old enough to drive. He obviously attended Troy’s funeral. He knows how police investigations work. He knows how to conceal evidence, and Simon was also stabbed to death. We also know Simon had some kind of deal going on with Troy’s killer, and Dave’s gang had Brad on the payroll.

Did Quintin kill Troy? It certainly seems that way, but this is After Nightfall, and there’s 3 episodes left. Troy was strangled, not stabbed, and there’s definitely a number of people who could have been responsible. But still. This is not going to go unnoticed. A second police officer dead, and in a house attached to the McLeavey name? I think Colin needs to watch out, because there’s every chance he’ll be tied to this murder.

This is yet another episode showing the advancement the series has made this season. The music, the camera shots, the locations, the effects budget, the performances, everything has stepped up to the next level. The story is continuing, not rehashing or falling into the trap of writing without an endgame in sight. You can tell every scene is important in the overall arc. Every single moment is racing towards something, and now it’s full steam ahead on all fronts. It’s a remarkable achievement and everyone involved should be commended for what they’ve done.

I need hardly remind everyone that Season 1 had six episodes, so this time last season we were almost at the end. Here, we have 3 episodes left, and a huge amount of stories to tie up. There’s questions that need answering, and characters that need closure. If I’m honest, part of me is wondering how this is going to be accomplished in such a short amount of time, especially with no guarantee of a third season, which would have a new storyline. But I have confidence that whatever happens in the final three episodes, it’ll be worth the ride we’ve been on, and I’ll be here to write about every moment. Because if there’s one thing After Nightfall deserves, it’s to be talked about. And I’m going to give them that.

 

After Nightfall Season 2, Episodes 1 & 2

Warning: Graphic content. Also, plenty of spoilers abound in the following. Proceed at your own risk.

Clearly, Troy’s ghost and I need to have a serious talk.

The first season of After Nightfall has been, in a word, successful. It’s won more awards around the world than you can poke a stick at, and now we’re back with season 2, which has more episodes, more characters, and a bigger budget thanks to a crowd funding campaign. All these combine into making Season 2 look like it’s going to be even better than Season 1, if you can believe it!

First a quick recap (or you can read my review of Season 1 by clicking here, here, here, here and here)

In the season 1 finale, Colin managed to unlock Troy’s iPad. Nathan and Yardley were caught kissing at conversion camp, with the Naylor couple promising to ‘step up’ therapy. Dave discovered Leanne’s affair thanks to Isobel. Hayden, Grace and Xavier found Kobie burying Troy’s phone where his body was discovered. A heavily pregnant Faye was attacked and seriously injured by Oscar. And lead detective Simon was murdered by Troy’s killer.

Episode 1 opens with a new character. Zara is the new sergeant at the station, and we meet her as she’s leaving her distraught partner. Instantly, you know this is not a woman you want to cross. She means business.

But the main feature of this episode is Troy’s funeral, and Angela is convinced the killer is among the mourners. While we don’t see any of the service, it doesn’t matter. This setting is a perfect way to introduce several new characters. Being added to the roll call is Colin’s sister Renee McCleavey (who is at odds with mum Viv), Colin’s Aunt Narelle who shares the family ESP gene, Angela’s ex-husband Ian, and mysterious school student Wesley, who has obviously come off worse in a fight. There’s also mention of another McCleavey sibling. Kate. This can be no coincidence, given that Colin asked Viv in Season 1 how she coped with losing a child. I think Kate might be appearing in some way sooner or later. Red herrings are a given in a murder mystery, but there’s one thing Wayne Tunks doesn’t do and that’s gratuitous plot holes. Thank God.

(P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, a certain Harper Smith appears at Troy’s funeral. You may recognise the actor. She knows nothing other than the two pages of the script from that day!)

Inside the church, Troy’s ghost stands by his casket, seen by Viv, Colin and Narelle, who tells Colin that Troy has unfinished business. I quite agree.
Also, shout out to the beautiful music performed by the multi-talented Kristina Benton, who plays Ursula in the series!

Moving on to Episode 2, and Troy continues to linger. Sort of a strange thing to comment on, but massive props to the makeup artist for adding the strangulation marks on Troy’s neck. A very effective touch!

We cut to the park, where Sergeant Zara confronts Brad and Angela, both drinking off-duty. She promises there’s going to be a lot of changes, including a crackdown on corruption. And from the look she gives Brad, I’d say she’s onto him. Good. Barbara Gouskos give a very powerful performance in the few minutes she’s been on screen. I’m very keen to see what her character is all about, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find there’s more to her than meets the eye.

Meanwhile, Kobie hounds his little sister for information on Faye’s attacker, but she’s not telling anything yet. Which, honestly, given her age and what she witnessed makes perfect sense. I’m just wondering why she hasn’t been interviewed by the authorities, yet, but the season is still young!

Over at Dave’s, we meet Amaia, the newest member of Dave’s gang. Leanne is still around, but Dave’s justifiably giving her the cold shoulder. And currently there’s no word on Ryan, but I’d be surprised if he still has a face at this point.

Justine’s anger at her husband is growing by the second, and then there’s an unexpected visitor to the McCleavey household. It’s Brenda, a TV psychic who claims she’s been speaking with Troy. Cue the eye roll. And it seems Colin will be the character we follow most in Season 2. He heads to Hayden’s house and reveals the data on Troy’s iPad is corrupted. And this is where, as I said above, Troy and me need to talk.
I’m not entirely sure why he’d leave his damn iPad in the cubby house where water could get to it, and if the data is unreadable. I know, I know, it could be a red herring and there’s very likely going to be an explanation of why/how this happened. But still. Also, if I was killed (touch wood) and came back as a ghost, the first thing I’d do is snitch on the murderer. However, Narelle did say Troy’s strength was building, and I’m pretty sure I saw him name names to Viv in Episode 5, so who knows?

Anyhow, Colin has officially teamed up with Hayden, and is now in possession of Troy’s phone. I’m going to go out on a limb and say we can officially strike Hayden and Colin off the suspect list but to be perfectly honest, I never thought either of them was the killer. 

And finally, we return to conversion camp, where my beloved Nathan and Yardley are being subjected to…well, there’s really no other way to put this, torture. This is why I’ve added a content warning, and I have literally never done that on anything I’ve ever written, so you know I sure as hell mean it.

Nathan and Yardley are forced to view images of gay couples and given electric shocks to ‘train’ their sexuality. I won’t lie, this is a very difficult scene to watch, and it’s even worse when you know this sort of ‘treatment’ is very real. Not since Dolores Umbridge hopped her way into Harry Potter have I ever genuinely wished to strangle a character as much as I do Peter and Melinda in this scene. Holy hell I hope they get what’s coming to them. My hat is off to the actors for their bravery and honesty, as I can’t imagine this would have been easy to film. What on earth is going to happen next?

Season 2 of After Nightfall has really taken things to the next level in every way. The story is dense and building by the episode. The world is expanding and the established characters are developing further. The plot is moving forward in unexpected ways. The atmosphere is building like a pressure-cooker. Presumably thanks to the higher budget, the cinematography has stepped up from its already impressive look, including some great split screen shots of Troy, the use of slow motion, and creative camera angles.

It’s been more than a year since we last caught up with the McCleavey family, but from what has been delivered in these first two episodes, it’s been well worth the wait. We still have six episodes left, and the possibility of a third season, so hang on tight. It’s going to be quite the ride.

 

I Have Returned

For the last year, my blog has been very quiet without any explanation to my subscribers and friends. I’ve posted very little, and very rarely. I wasn’t in any space to give notice or reasons, or to give a ballpark when or if I was going to blog again. This is all going to change right now.

Without going into all the gory details, or naming any names, in October 2017 my life fell apart in every single way. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, in just a few moments, everything I was sure of was gone. Just like that.

It’s hard when other people make bad choices. It’s hard not to blame yourself and then come to terms with the fact that you haven’t done anything wrong. Especially when people insert themselves into a situation, thinking they know the truth when they really have no idea. It’s hard when you find out you were lied to and used, for absolutely no reason.
It’s hard when people you thought were your friends, who you would have trusted with your very life, betray you in the worst way. And thanks to social media, escaping it is also next to impossible. My whole identity was brought into question, through no fault of my own.
On top of this, and really because of it, I was battling some serious health issues. Still am, even though I’m a million times better than I was.

I tried to write. But I couldn’t. I was physically incapable of doing it beyond the occasional short review, and I was too afraid to share it around like I normally would.
Writing is something very dependant on mood, emotions, headspace and personal feelings. I don’t know how on earth J.K Rowling wrote the way she did with the kind of pressure she faced.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend that everything is perfect now. It’s not. I’m still rebuilding the person I want to be. But I feel I’ve reached a point to bring this blog back, and make it better than ever on top of everything else I’m doing.

I am sorry to all my subscribers and friends who’ve missed my work. I’m truly sorry for dropping off the radar like I did.  But I had to take care of myself first and foremost, and I have plans for my blog.

What’s coming….

  1. My Wanderlust recap of my incredible solo trip to Europe will be completed by the end of the year, as I plan my next overseas adventure. Travel blogging is definitely going to be a new venture for me, but obviously the arts are my number one passion and my site will ALWAYS be about them above all.
  2. As I take on new acting projects, you can expect to be kept in the loop and brought behind the scenes.
  3. My first artist interview is coming very soon, something I am hopeful will become a semi-regular occurrence.
  4. Yes, I have many critiques, reviews, lists and analysing blogs in my backlog. And they will be released as I see fit.

It’s great to be back.

 

After Nightfall Episode 6

You ever have that moment when a series leaves you on a cliffhanger and you’re suddenly filled with an urge to see more immediately, and simultaneously throw something at the screen because how dare they leave you hanging?

Trust After Nightfall to do this to me. And trust me to love them for it.

Episode 6, the Season 1 finale is the episode where the story starts moving forward, where things are happening, plot points are being explored and small incidents are finally becoming significant.

The episode opens with an insanely clever scene which appears to be a flashback to the morning of Troy’s murder, literally the first time we hear Troy speak or see him interact with other family members, and not as a ghost. However, this quickly morphs into the realisation that it’s a dream, which usually would drive me insane, but in this case it didn’t because Colin now knows the passcode to Troy’s iPad. As I said last week, the investigators could have opened it in seconds, but what do I know? Cliffhanger #1.

At conversion camp, we see the adorable Nathan (Robert Miniter) and Yardley (Adam Haylock) get closer. These two are just….God, I love them. I have never ever shipped a couple like this. Unfortunately it can’t last, because camp leaders, Melinda and Peter, burst in and declare that “therapy” will now be increased. Cliffhanger #2.

During another drug deal, Troy’s uncle receives the video from Isobel of his girlfriend cheating with another of his cronies. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that’s why Isobel nicked the phone from that woman in the last episode. Of course, the police can also trace where videos come from, even if passed from phone to phone (I toured cyberbullying plays in 2016, ok? I had to do some research!) so Isobel might not get out of this one even if she is a minor. Anyway, from the look on Dave’s face, I’d say his buddy will soon have a perfectly flat surface where his face used to be. Should be fun. Cliffhanger #3.

Meanwhile, Hayden and company observe Kobie digging a hole in the woods where Troy’s body was found. This better not be going where I think it is.
Cliffhanger #4.

Meanwhile creepy Oscar breaks into Kobie’s house to retrieve Troy’s phone (by hilariously climbing through the open window…so that actually works?) only to be caught by Kobie’s mother Faye and causing her a serious injury/apparent death. Nice one there idiot. You leave a traumatised child in your wake and possibly a dead woman. Cliffhanger #5.

And finally, we return to lead investigator Simon, who is stabbed by a hooded figure. Before he dies, he chokes out “You killed Troy!” Cliffhanger #6 ends Season 1 and leaves me absolutely cheering (silently, because I was watching this at midnight).

This episode ends the season on the highest of high notes with great acting and the best use yet of cinematography, camera angles and the use of atmosphere. We have possibly two more deaths, blackmail, revenge, mystery and LGBTQ issues, but still not enough to piece together the entire mystery. Questions are being answered for sure, and action is on the verge of exploding, but the pressure cooker that is After Nightfall still wants to keep us in suspense.

We’re left hanging on for more, yet in pure satisfaction that there’ll be more great drama to dive into in Season 2. I gave up watching TV years ago, and a series has not had me hooked like this since I can’t remember when.

Hurry up Season 2. We all need to know who killed Troy.

Watch all episodes here

After Nightfall Episode 1 & 2

Maybe it’s the remnants of the Jack the Ripper walking tour I did on my recent trip to London, but I have a longstanding love affair with crime drama and mysteries. After Nightfall, a new web series written by celebrated writer Wayne Tunks, seemed right up my alley, so I was quite excited to check it out. The night it premiered, I finally arrived home from acting class at 11pm, settled down with a bowl of pasta, and pressed play.

We all know the saying. If you want something done right, do it yourself. Australian artists are taking this to heart. Our industry is suffering enough with never-ending tax cuts and general indifference to the arts. Hence, artists have to be more creative than ever when it comes to sharing and constructing our craft. Here, the creators have funded this ambitious project with the tried-and-true method of crowdfunding, and we should all be thankful for every cent poured into this absolutely wonderful series.
After Nightfall follows the aftermath of a young gay teen, Troy McLeavey, brutally murdered in a small rural town. Everybody is a suspect. His parents. His boyfriend. His ex-boyfriend or his ghastly homophobic parents. His drug lord uncle. The school bully. Predatory members of the community. The investigators themselves. Maybe even the butler did it.
A deceptively simple premise, but from the very first frame, the message to the audience is clear: you are in for one hell of a ride.

The first episode of course goes about establishing the world, the story and the characters. Many key players are unnamed initially but the strength of the actors makes the viewer able to glean exactly what they’re about. Therefore, the relatively short moments give you an eerie sense of what’s to come. Many scenes have minimal dialogue, allowing for greater atmosphere and mystery. Are there clues peppered throughout the silent moments? It certainly seems that way to an eagle-eyed viewer, but only time will tell.

Episode 2…well, the short answer is, it’s great. Troy’s family begins their struggle with grief, and members of the town start behaving suspiciously. Washing blood from a shirt, seemingly innocuous comments, silent looks of anguish from new faces. What will this all lead to? Mercifully, I was not watching this with my older brother who has that infuriating habit of predicting twists and answers out loud, so I only have my own thoughts at this point.

How very refreshing it is to see contemporary Australian work that isn’t set in the outback, doesn’t involve either World War, and doesn’t scream 1950s. Instead, the series dives into real people in relatable situations. There’s no pretence here, just the straight up story and characters. The audience is treated as intelligent, thinking adults. Visual and silent moments, lingering camera shots draw you in further. There’s none of the dreaded tell-don’t-show, there’s no excessive expositional dialogue, the pacing is excellent and from a production/photography point of view, it’s highly impressive how the cinematography can maintain the hair-raising darkness without descending into Tim Burton territory.

After Nightfall stars a host of talented and unknown actors, but of course the real star here is the writing. My regular readers will know exactly how critical I am of bad writing, and I honestly can’t think of a single criticism here. The writing is nothing short of brilliant.
Tunks doesn’t shy away from the violent reality of the subject matter, but he isn’t afraid to show subtler sides of everyday suffering either. One particularly moving moment for me, being the daughter of a single mother, was the heartbreaking scene of a mother going without food to make sure her child can eat. I can’t remember the last time I saw something like that on screen, and yet it’s an every day occurrence for many.

I guess if I had to nitpick anything, and I mean ANYTHING, about After Nightfall, it’s that the timeline can seem a tad out of order. Yeah, it’s a small town where everybody knows everybody, but would the police really inform the family before the body of a murder victim is even examined? Still, this is the first two episodes, so I’m not going to worry too hard about that.

The biggest compliment you can give any piece of art is that you want more. And in all sincerity, that’s exactly what I want here. I want a LOT more from this world. I want to see what will happen next. I want to get to know these characters. I want to dive deeper into the town. Most of all, I want the question answered.

Who killed Troy McLeavey?

WATCH HERE: https://afternightfallseries.com/

Date with Disney

March 31st, 2017. We’d been planning this night for months. My partner and two of our dearest friends on a cheesy double date to the highly anticipated Beauty and the Beast.
We all met up, oh-so-Australian Malteasers in hand, and went to get the tickets in an episode which would prove to be more dramatic than the film. Here’s a detailed plan on how to make getting tickets far more complicated than it should be.

  1. Turn up and head to the kiosk.
  2. Discover that the next session is Xtreme Screen and the only seats left are in the very front row. Discuss as a group whether you really want to be that close.
  3. Check movie times across the road via phone. Race over to the other cinema only to discover that one is in 3D. Another group discussion follows.
  4. The theatre staff say that the ads are still playing at the 7:35 session and we can make it. Buy the tickets, rush in, and discover the film is halfway through the song Belle.
  5. Leave the theatre, get a refund and go back to the original theatre to get the Xtreme Screen tickets. Discover they have also sold out.
  6. After even MORE discussion, get tickets for the 8:45 session, now one hour away. Also the Xtreme Screen in the front row.
  7. Go kill time at San Churros where you order New York Cheesecake instead of churros.
belleface

WHY MUST EVERYTHING BE SO DIFFICULT?!?

At 8:45pm, we finally took our reclining seats and the film began. All those months of anticipation, all the excitement of seeing my favourite animated Disney film in the flesh, on the big screen.

I left in a state of mixed emotions and mainly asking “Why?” I don’t even know if I can actually decide how I feel about the movie.

angrymob

Here we go again….

Alright, alright, put your torches and pitchforks down for a second and relax. I don’t hate this movie. I don’t even dislike it. There were aspects of the film I absolutely loved. Aspects that were, dare I say, even a slight improvement over the almost flawless 1991 film. Credit must always go where credit is due.
That being said though, I can’t sit back and pretend that this movie even comes close to the brilliance of the original film or the Broadway adaptation. Nor can I ignore the glaring problems with the film.

In the interest of keeping my blog shorter than the Bible, let’s get down to some ground rules. First off, this is not about the debate over whether Beauty and the Beast is about Stockholm Syndrome or bestiality. Those arguments are irrelevant and frankly boring to me. Secondly, if you disagree, more power to you. For all criticism of any art form, good or bad, there’s always going to be conflicting perspectives and we should only learn from them.

The Original

Beauty-and-the-Beast1991.jpg
The animated Beauty and the Beast is bar none my favourite Disney animated film. Everything about it is almost perfect. The characters are memorable, well-written and interesting. Belle is arguably the best female lead in the whole Disney canon. Top three, easily. The movie engulfs itself in the fairytale and throws a few twists along the way. The villain is not your typical bad guy; he’s actually the town hero but failing to get his way turns him to more desperate and evil measures. The animation is spectacular. The music is one of the best scores ever written. It was the first animated film to ever be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. Possibly it’s the reason we have a Best Animated category at all. (Time out – Moana should have won this year. I’ve been stewing over that for weeks! Ok ok, stay on topic…)
The point is, the 1991 original is about as perfect an animated film as you can get. So…really, why remake it at all? What was the reasoning behind it? I know Disney is all about live action remakes lately. And while I can understand the logic of wanting to ‘correct’ the mistakes of the past with Maleficent – which failed hard –  Cinderella or The Jungle Book, with a movie as good and timeless as Beauty and the Beast, it just really seems unnecessary.
But to be fair, it’s entirely possible for a remake to be great, and when I first heard of the remake, I was keen. Maybe a remake of Beauty and the Beast could focus on some aspects of the Beast’s past, or go into greater detail about Belle. I was open to it, and even kind of excited.

The Cast

Beauty-Beast-Cast-Tweets.jpg

All the characters in Beauty and the Beast are nothing short of iconic, and so it only seems logical that the remake have the finest possible cast as well.
When the casting was announced for the remake, I got even more hyped. Emma Watson as Belle? Makes sense. Ewan McGregor as Lumiere? Yes please. Kevin Kline as Maurice? I’ll watch that any day. Ian McKellen as Cogsworth? Absolutely. Josh Gad as Lefou? That works, obviously. Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts? Definitely. Living theatrical goddess Audra McDonald? I’m sold. I had no idea who Dan Stevens (Beast) and Luke Evans (Gaston) were and I admit that with no shame whatsoever.
Obviously this new cast had big shoes to fill, considering the treasure trove that was the original voice cast. Paige O’Hara (Belle), Robby Benson (Beast), Angela Lansbury (Mrs. Potts), David Ogden Stiers (Cogsworth), Richard White (Gaston), the late Jerry Orbach (Lumiere). But there’s no reason to assume that they can’t reach and even surpass the original.
My verdict? Everyone in the remake is at least watchable. Some are better than others, and this is mainly due to screen time and the writing. Which brings me to….

The Characters

Belle

In the original, Belle is a role model for the ages. She’s kind, but she has her limits. She’s smart, but doesn’t show off. She’s beautiful, but there’s a lot more to her than that.People talk about her, but she doesn’t let that stop her from doing what she loves. She knows she’s destined for greater things and desires something greater than herself.
Emma Watson was a very fitting choice for Belle, not least because of Hermione also being a massive bookworm. And I’m just going to say here, I think Emma Watson is a decent actress, an inspirational person and beautiful both inside and out.
Her performance as Belle is…ok. She certainly knows the character and heaven knows she’s trying. But compare this performance to the animated version and you will be sadly disappointed.
In the original, the way Belle is animated and voice-acted gives her a real identity and they make it absolutely clear that she is unique. She is the only character in her town that wears blue until the Beast shows up. In the remake, Belle is not the only one wearing blue, and not a lot about her really stands out as different. She talks to more people, she doesn’t really act any different, she doesn’t even read that much. In short, she’s not as interesting.
And yes, let’s get to the elephant in the room. Emma Watson’s singing. Um…how can I put this….it was terrible. I’m not even sorry. She cannot sing and anyone who tries to convince me otherwise is fighting a losing battle. And yes, I can judge since I have a qualification in music theatre and have been singing professionally for over seven years.
Not only was her voice shaky, hesitant and auto-tuned beyond belief, but there was zero acting involved and she also sounded like she was trying to imitate an American teen pop sound as opposed to a grand musical theatre style. Sometimes, like the case with The Rock in Moana or Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables, a non-singer can use charm, charisma, or just incredible acting skills to the point where a not-so great sound doesn’t actually matter. Emma Watson does not do this. It’s really uncomfortable to watch and not pleasant to listen to. Add to the fact that the original film had Paige O’Hara, and the original Broadway production starred Susan Egan, and there’s just no way in the world to make such bad singing redeemable.

Frankly, I’m sick to death of Hollywood casting people who can’t sing (Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, anyone?) in musicals. If you cannot sing, you have no business being in a musical, let alone one of the most beloved musical films ever. I say either cast real singers or bring back dubbing!

The Beast

Oh movie. You tried so hard to make the Beast have more of a backstory. You were so close. You mentioned that the Prince only became selfish because of his father’s influence brought about by his mother’s death.
So why in the name of all that’s good and holy didn’t you explore it? It went absolutely nowhere. This could have been fascinating to watch. We could have seen a major character arc, explored the parental influence, commented on the fact that the servants apparently sat back and allowed this to happen. The ‘flashback’ was so brief it was blink-and-you-miss-it! Also, the animation in the original had a zillion times more emotional expression than the CGI thing you stuck on the screen. When Belle sees Maurice is in trouble through the enchanted mirror, the animation shows the Beast actually struggle with what to do, and ultimately make a very painful decision. When Belle arrives at the castle, you see the regret and even awkwardness on his face. You can see the loss of hope when Gaston arrives to kill him. He’s given up. Then when Belle arrives, you can see the resolve to fight back. I could go on and on about this, giving examples of moments with ALL the characters. You feel the changes and emotions through the music, the acting and the drawings. It’s shown, not told and this is why people loved the Beast so much to begin with. He was freaking interesting!
With the remake, the lack of expression makes it harder to have any chemistry between Belle and the Beast. This Beast wasn’t bad by any means…he’s just not as compelling to watch.
However, to be fair, it made a lot more sense for the Beast to be educated in this context, since that makes sense with the time period and also gives him and Belle some more common ground.

Now let’s get to the absolute best things about the film!

Maurice

I think my mother put it best “I’d watch Kevin Kline do a Coke ad,”
If Kevin Kline has ever given a bad performance, I’m yet to see it, and this film is no exception. He is absolutely beautiful as Maurice and the way he’s written makes the character so much more believable that the original. As mentioned before, he creates music boxes instead of inventions. He’s slightly eccentric, but nowhere near the bumbling fool of 1991. He was brave and could stand up for himself. He has a backstory (although why did he insist on keeping it secret?), he clearly loves his daughter, he’s really fun to watch and that song he sings in his introductory scene…it was magical. He was absolutely perfect in every way.

Gaston and Lefou

I have zero complaints about these two also. Not only are Luke Evan and Josh Gad having the time of their lives in their roles, but Gaston and Lefou have been expanded and made more realistic for a live-action retelling. Gaston being a celebrated soldier makes a lot of sense and having Lefou being given a moral dilemma was quite enjoyable. Every scene with them made me laugh hard.

And in terms of the alleged LGBT moment….I honestly don’t understand why people were having a heart attack over it. It was so unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

Objects

The objects are fine in the remake and they look great. The acting is good, the designs work, they have some fun moments. You have no trouble believing that this is how people might look if they were turned into these items. But I do have one MAJOR gripe that I simply cannot let slide.

Broadway star Audra McDonald is in this movie. She is a living legend. The woman has the voice of an angel and her acting skills are nearly unrivalled. She could sing the phone book from 1998 and make it enthralling. She has SIX Tony awards, more than anyone in human history. She’s also the only person to win a Tony in every acting category.
How dare you only give Audra McDonald about 6 lines. Shame on you.

Essentially the characters are a mixed bag and so is…..

The Story

How can I put this? The movie is almost twice as long as the original yet it felt like it was on fast forward. At times it seemed like an almost shot-for-shot rehash, but all the important moments were almost glanced at.
I didn’t feel there was a single moment when Belle fell in love with the Beast or vice versa. In the original, the Beast knows right from the get-go that Belle could be the one to break the spell. He doesn’t give her a room and actually gets angry at Lumiere for letting her out of the dungeon. He doesn’t invite her to dinner until she’s in her room refusing to come out. He expresses absolutely zero desire to get to know her. In the original, he gives her the library as the most grand romantic gesture possible. He seemed almost bored in the remake. I didn’t believe for a second that they were forming a connection, as none was shown through looks, music or acting. How can the pacing and emotional journey be so superior for an animated film where there’s all kinds of time constraints and restrictions? The original felt like the story was moving, like characters were actually doing something and changing.
That is essentially the main flaw with this remake. It is banking on the fact that you’ve seen the 1991 animated film. This is why characters aren’t as interesting or fleshed out. This is why the most crucial elements of the story are treated as an afterthought. It’s like they thought it wasn’t necessary to throw effort into certain scenes.
There were potentially great plot points that could have been added but were practically glossed over. There was a pre-release mention of Belle being an inventor while Maurice made music boxes and I was totally down with that. But come the movie, and it’s barely even mentioned. The laundry device she supposedly makes appears for about ten seconds. We don’t know how she came up with the idea, how she put it together, or if this is something she does regularly. This could have been an added dimension to an already good character. It was missed. There was a moment where Belle was teaching a little girl to read, which was a lovely scene. But again, ten seconds later and it’s never brought up again. The little girl never reappears and it’s never explored why she would approach Belle.
But the added tangent I actually despised was the scene where Belle and the Beast go into that ridiculous magic book. That was completely pointless and felt like an entirely different movie. Aside from that appalling “tourist” joke which dragged you completely out of the moment, why did this enchanted book even have to be there? It was never mentioned again. Supposedly the Enchantress left it along with the rose and I assume the mirror since the remake never actually said where the enchanted mirror even came from. Again, they rely on the knowledge of the original.
And ok, Belle’s mother died from the plague. Fair enough. So what does Belle do? She brings back that rose pen thing which is presumably infected with plague bacteria and is now going to spread death and destruction everywhere.

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Congratulations Belle. You’ve doomed the entire village.

And finally, the music. I was sorely disappointed and confused as to why on earth four new songs were written for the film when there were six new songs added to the stage musical.
Though I could stomach the lyric changes well enough, the film’s new songs were generally just not as good. The reason the new songs worked well in the stage show was because they were based in the instrumental score so everything tied together. Home, Maison Des Lunes, No Matter What, A Change in Me, Human Again, If I Can’t Love Her. I was dying to see that last song on the big screen. It’s a beautiful piece of music and a great moment for the Beast. I’ll admit I have a soft spot for Evermore, the Beast’s new number, and the moment in the film was a good spot for a song, but it just didn’t have the power that If I Can’t Love Her had. I sincerely wish that they had simply incorporated the Broadway tracks into the film. That would have been fine. Although I’d be lying if I said I wanted to hear Emma Watson’s attempts to sing Home.

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I know, Alice. I know

I realise this review is sort of all over the place, but so is the movie. It seems like the film is trying to be a carbon copy of the original we love, and also be it’s own thing. This half-half leaves an inferior remake behind, trying to fix what was never broken.

Beauty and the Beast did not have to be remade, but it has been, so hopefully you can draw your own conclusions and decide whether it’s worth the two hours. I’m glad I saw it, but I can’t say I’ll be rushing to see it again and again. If you go in expecting a masterpiece you probably won’t find it. You’re more likely to come out appreciating the original masterpiece a lot more. Or maybe you’ll find it a delightful film. Either way, be my guest.

Bully Part 2: My Story

  • *PLEASE NOTE*: Writing about my experiences with severe bullying is not an easy thing to do. I don’t wish to seek sympathy or appear as if I have not dealt with my past. I’m finally sharing my story in the hope that it will help others. *In the interest of identity, names and initials have been changed. I refer to myself as A in the story. I do not have any feelings of hatred towards the people involved in what I went through. I only feel sorry for them now. 

It began when I was very young.

My wonderful mother, who is a teacher, read to me and my brother every night. But we didn’t read picture books. We read novels like Charlotte’s Web and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. I would sit beside Mum and read along with her, sounding out the words. That’s how I learned to read at the age of three.
I developed an insatiable appetite for books of all kinds, and my vocabulary swelled. With my little pink glasses, huge smile and vivacious nature, coupled with words far beyond my years, I was so excited to start school.

I was different. Very different.

This never bothered me much, but it obviously bothered a lot of other people

Perhaps it was inevitable that I’d run into trouble. Maybe it was bound to happen. But regardless, throughout my entire primary school life, I was bullied. Every day I would be called names, with teacher’s pet being a recurring favourite. Kids would throw things at me. They’d threaten to hit me, or even kill me. My schoolwork would be covered in graffitti. The boys would act as through I was poisonous, yelling “Ew, gross!” every time I walked past. I was excluded from a lot of activities, and even got beaten up on a few occasions.

I was always in floods of tears every single day it happened. But there was nobody at school I could turn to. I tried, of course, but always heard the same thing. Grow a thick skin. You’re too emotional. Get over it. Stand up for yourself. One day when I was eight, my teacher told me to my face that I was a “smartypants” and that was “why no-one liked me,” That cruel and inaccurate comment haunted me for years.

Mum offered to let me change schools so many times but I always refused out of fear. I’d already changed schools in kindergarten because we’d needed after school care (single parent family!). I endured it, hating every moment until I finally left for high school.

My Primary education had been in the public system. I went off to a private Christian high school hoping things would be different. And at first, they were.
I met two girls, J* and E*. We clicked right away. They seemed so sweet and kind. Like me, they were the only members of their primary schools to enrol at this high school.
They told me they’d been through similar bullying experiences and swore that we would always be friends. I believed them, and for a few months, I was completely happy. The years at primary school seemed far behind me. Life was fantastic.

But inexplicably, J was changing. She was constantly telling me stories of extreme physical abuse at home, but there was no evidence of the bruising or injuries she should have had from apparently being strangled and beaten. Before anyone dismisses me as a victim-blamer, J told me profusely not to tell anyone. I did tell the principal, but I couldn’t help suspecting that she was lying to me. I shrugged it off. It was impossible that sweet-natured, innocent J could ever lie.
From there, things started going downhill. J started slapping me across the face regularly. I would ask her to stop, but she’d become all sullen and guilt-tripping me until I apologised and agreed that I had deserved it.
J and E began hanging out together a lot, ignoring me and only speaking to me to give me a fresh list of complaints against my personality. I was uptight. Not fun anymore. Annoying. Bossy. Too quiet. Too shy. Too friendly.
I suggested we all go see the school counsellor together to sort out any conflicts. J refused. She was happy to go with E. But not me. Eventually, J and E both agreed to go together. But from the second we entered that room, J blamed every single problem on me and me alone. I was in tears by the end of the session, but I was desperate to salvage the only friendships I had at this school. Everyone else in our year had come from the same primary schools. Cliques were long established and I had no hope of entering.

Finally, things came to a head. They’d been sneaking away from me for weeks, and then came the final nail in the coffin.
There was a rumour going around our year that this boy named Daniel* liked me. One day J came to me and handed me a love letter, saying Daniel had asked her to give it to me. I went into a complete state of panic. I was only 13, desperately shy, didn’t know how to talk to boys, and had no idea what I was meant to do.
J and E laughed at me while I was crying and hyperventilating. I asked Daniel himself about the note, and he said he had never written it. I was stunned. J and E would never do that to me. Never.
The next day, J and E admitted it had all been a sick joke to scare me. I ran off in tears, humiliated for falling for such a stupid trick and furious at myself for embarrassing Daniel.
One day later, November 16th 2005, our year advisor pulled me out of class and told me the truth. J and E weren’t just having fun. The whole scheme had been a set up. They didn’t want to be my friend anymore, and this was all a plan to make me angry enough to leave their group of my own accord.
I was then taken to the school counsellor’s office where J and E were waiting, apparently sobbing. They later bragged to everyone that they had just been laughing at me while pretending to cry.
Mrs C, the counsellor, told them to be honest with me. E exchanged a deer-in-the-headlights look with J. “Can we go outside and talk about it first?”
I wanted to scream at them to get a backbone, to stop weaselling out of being truthful, to tell them how broken I felt inside. But I couldn’t make any words form.
J and E were sent to sick bay to ‘calm down’ together. I was left in the office. Nobody stayed with me.

The grief I experienced was staggering. I had never known a human could feel so much pain and still breathe. For the rest of the year, I had to watch J and E stay close, and hear about the rumours they were spreading that I was a horrible person.

I went into Year 8 thinking that the Christmas holidays were what I had needed. I was ready to move on with my life. But J wasn’t.
She wasn’t content to hate me herself. She wanted everyone to hate me.
I was already an outsider. When I sat down at tables or near others, people would literally get up and move. Or they’d ask me to leave so their friends could sit there. At first, I’d quietly say no, or joke “I don’t see their name on it,” only to receive a look of disgust and a comment “Sorry, (friend who apparently owned the seat) A’s being a total bitch and won’t let you sit down,” and then I’d get glared at so much eventually I’d just move anyway.

I tried to make new friends. But J’s plan of attack was to approach whoever I was talking to and, in front of me, invite them to sit with her. She wouldn’t look at me or even acknowledge my existence. Then later on, when I wasn’t around, J would tell them that they would be ‘way happier’ hanging out with her.
It didn’t take me long to figure out what she was doing. It got to the point where I actually had to warn people I was friendly with that she was going to try to sway them to her side. They always swore they would be loyal, but in the end they turned from me and I was alone, which was exactly what J wanted.

The boys absolutely loved it. Their favourite trick was to stir J up to do more. They would get together with J and plan attacks on me. J and the boys would borrow people’s phones to send me nasty text messages. In Year 8, a group of the boys told J that I had told everybody the combination to her locker. I hadn’t, but J ran off and reported me straight away. I got grilled in the assistant principal’s office for a good hour, refusing to admit I had done it. There was no way I was going to be punished for something I hadn’t done. J came to me the next day with watery eyes. “A, I accused you before I knew the facts, and I’m going to make it right,”
She never did.
From there, things got worse and worse.The attacks escalated.  I’d go to my locker to find it filled with rubbish. Every time I walked down the hall, someone would yell out a stupid comment about my alleged sex life. Apparently I was having affairs with all the boys in my grade. One of my most awful memories of the school is when I was walking towards the train station on my way home. Without warning, the boys came and formed a tight circle around me, asking me shocking questions about my body and alleged sexual antics. It was absolutely terrifying. Even as I type about it a decade later, I can still recall the shame and fear.

Every day I would hide in the library and read. But even there I wasn’t safe. J would sit in the library and stare daggers at me the entire time while I ignored her. The boys searched for me all over the school to attack me further.
One day, the boys entered as per usual, for ‘a bit of fun with A.’ I heard my name being called. Like an idiot, I walked over. The gang of boys was sitting with J.
“J,” one said, “Do you like A?”
J’s eyes locked directly with mine. They were full of loathing as she coldly said “No,”

My grades dropped. I couldn’t eat. My weight dropped down to as low as 38kg from the stress. I’ll never forget the night I ended up in the hospital from the horror and despair I felt.
Eventually I gave up trying to get help from school. Their only solution was to not think about J, because she wasn’t doing anything to me. The school counsellor said she was powerless. And one huge advantage J had was her appearance. Curly red hair, tiny physique, freckles, glasses, sugary voice. She was the portrait of purity to everyone. How could someone so cute be a bully? How could such a tiny girl torment someone twice as tall? I don’t necessarily blame anyone for being fooled by J.  I’d fallen for her innocent act myself.
I began thinking that maybe I deserved what I was getting. Maybe it was my place in life. Maybe I was paranoid and blaming J for things that weren’t her fault. I did attempt to make peace with J a few times, but she always took advantage of that and went right back to the torture.
Eventually, after one too many cruel acts and her pleas to the school being flat-out ignored, Mum told me I had to change schools.
I was so scared. The school wasn’t THAT bad. And if they hated me here, why on earth would another school accept me?
Thankfully, Mum was insistent and pulled me out of the Christian school. I enrolled at a performing arts school in Year 10. And finally, I found somewhere I belonged.
I was in my element. People liked talking to me and genuinely wanted to be my friend. They understood and identified with my love of the arts and reading. And I was happy.

For an entire year after I changed schools, the bullies from my first school went to incredible lengths to find me. But I had an amazing group of friends now who protected me, and I knew how to protect myself online.
The scars remained. Despite my new life, it took a long time for me to realise that I didn’t deserve to be bullied and that I did deserve to be happy. But I know that now. I’m still undoing the years the bullies tried to take from me. But I am alive. I’m travelling the country teaching kids that they have the power to stop bullying.
I see the news stories about the children who get desperate enough to end their lives over bullying and my heart breaks. I know all too well about feeling like there’s literally no way out.
We need to fight bullying together. We can’t let it win. We need to stop glorifying such behaviour in the media. We need to stop comforting the bullies and start taking care of the victims. We need to teach resilience and empathy to everyone regardless of age. I’ve overcome bullying. Anybody can. There IS life after such experiences.

What I have written here is NOT about saying “Ha, suck it! I’m so much better than you haters!” That approach would be counterproductive.  I don’t know if anyone who was involved in my story will read this. I don’t know if they feel any remorse and I don’t particularly care what they think of me anymore. I’m not even sure they would admit to being bullies. But if they do, I only have this to say.
I don’t hate you.
You didn’t win.
You didn’t beat me.
I am my own person.
I am not ashamed of my story.
I’m not a victim.
I’m not just a girl who was bullied at school.

Being bullied is only part of my life, and it absolutely does not define who I am. And as long as this is the outcome, my story has only begun.

Help fight bullying at http://www.standforthesilent.org/