A Very Belated Stranger Things 2 Review

I wrote this review when the series came out, but was unable to post it until I had submitted it for my magazine assignment. Below is the full review plus how it looked in the magazine, and if you want to sneak a peak at my full magazine project, click here.

Stranger Things 2 Review

my full review DPS, featuring Stranger Things!

original article:

The Goonies, E.T, Farrah Fawcett hair and Cyndi Lauper are all fond callbacks to a time long since past, but the 15th of July 2016 marked the release of a show that perfectly personifies eighties nostalgia. For over a year, fans awaited the eagerly awaited the next instalment of the modern classic. On the 27th of October 2017 Netflix finally gave the world what we had been begging for, and just in time for Halloween.

 

Stranger Things 2 kicks things off a year after the first series, with new characters, more witty one-liners, more eighties references, and a lot more horror. It is a deeply satisfying sequel to the first installment in a world where terrible sequels and remakes are churned out of Hollywood daily, and nostalgia has become a simple cash-grab with films like Jumangi: Welcome to the Jungle, and last years Ghostbusters remake. With brilliant performances from the kids and the addition of Sean Astin’s Bob, an obvious nod to The Goonies, the new series was a Halloween hit, sure to be binged and rebinged until we get more. If you’re yet to watch the episodes be warned; there are spoilers ahead!

 

The series picks up with all our favourites from last time, with new appearances alongside Bob, like the mysterious Kali (Linnea Berthelsen,) and Max (Sadie Sink,) the boisterous new girl at school and a love interest for Dustin and Lucas to fight over.

 

As expected, there were strong performances all around from the crew of ridiculously talented children, and the adults around them. But a standout performance this series is Will (Noah Schnapp,) who is tortured by his experience in the upside-down, and the connection he still holds to the monster inside it.

 

It was him that amped up the horror element of this series, watching him get taken over by the demagorgon in Episode Three: The Polly-wog. As Will was missing in the upside-down in series one, he did not get much screen time, but series two shows off Schnapp’s full acting potential in an absolutely stunning performance, leaving audiences and the other characters alike ready to love and protect Will, whatever it takes.

 

Hopper (David Habour) and Eleven (Millie Bobby-Brown) shine in their unconventional father and daughter dynamic, something we didn’t know we all needed. Their relationship is tumultuous throughout the episodes as he takes care of her, but ends with him becoming her legal parent in a beautifully sweet conclusion.

Eleven, or Jane, as we now know her to be called, has a huge arc in this series, as we learn more about her true identity. However this leads to one of the let downs of the show: episode seven- The Lost Sister. This episode follows Eleven as she meets others like her, learning the full extent of her story.

While this meant the audience learned more about her, the episode feels like a detour in the series, with a vast change in pace and tone. As a spin off series, by all means would the audience be interested in learning more about Eleven’s story. But this episode did not fit with the rest, and was a let-down of series 2.

The Johnathan-Nancy-Steve love triangle is again a focal point of the show in this installment, with Steve being fleshed out even more as a good guy character, and babysitter to the kids, leading him to be the source of many memes. While we end the series loving Steve even more, Nancy’s behavior leaves a bad taste in the mouth. But her journey to get justice for Barb is a satisfying end to the character’s story, after her death in series one.

Stranger Things 2 was always going to be binged by millions regardless of whether or not it lived up to the first installment, but the show doesn’t disappoint, matching up to the stunning visuals, perfect mixture of scary and funny moments, and sentimental eighties vibes that made series one so loved.

 

 

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Final Girls Horror Duo Tour UK With Special Halloween Screenings

This is a peice I recently wrote for my third year magazine module assignment. I had an incredible time at We Are The Weirdos, and chatting to them afterwards was a great experience. Below is the final page layout, and the original text in full. Enjoy!

Manchester is a city rich in scary Halloween delights, but a highlight in 2017 was horror loving duo The Final Girl’s screening of their favourite feminist horror shorts, at independent cinema HOME.

We Are The Weirdos is a collection of feminist short horror films, put together and taken on tour by Final Girls Olivia Howe and Anna Bhustkaya, after feeling a frustration towards how women are treated in the horror world.

Howe said: “The Final Girls is a film collective exploring the intersection between horror films and feminism.”

Bhustkaya, the other half of the Final Girls, states that they began due to an anger towards how the horror scene treated women.

She said: “We started it off in a way because of a shared frustration in not being able to participate in the horror scene as much as we wanted to.

“It was a place where we didn’t feel welcome, where it was frankly kind of gross, and we felt we were constantly being kind of questioned, or treated like we weren’t true horror fans, or we weren’t supposed to appreciate horror,” concluded Bhustkaya.
The ten films are all very different, but are accidentally united by the common theme of female directors.

“We didn’t set out for it to be all shorts directed by women, it naturally just happened,” said Bhustkaya.

“The ones we were drawn to and the ones that we thought were most interesting were all directed by women, so we decided to just make that the concept,” she said.

Bhustkaya also said that their goal for the films was to open up horror for women: following in the vision of the Final Girls creation.

She said: “We want to show that it horror doesn’t have to be the way it’s perceived to be; boring, tacky and repetitive.

“It can be interesting and intriguing and surprising, and that it’s a place for everyone to think about and interpret horror in the way that they wish.”
The pair where spoilt for choice when it came to choosing the ten films for the screenings.

“We had over 1,300 submissions, we also had a number of film-makers we had on our radar, and the programme itself is a combination of both of those things,” said Howe.

“We were looking for a very particular thing, so it was quite easy to narrow it down that way,” she elaborated.

The collection of films, titled We Are The Weirdos, visited independent cinemas across the UK in the run up to Halloween.

“We really wanted to speak to independent cinemas rather than chains, it felt the most appropriate with the event,” said Howe.

The pair are very proud of the variety in the ten films chosen for the piece.

“What’s really nice about the program is it’s very balanced: one half of it is film makers that we were aware of, and half of it is people that we had no idea about,” Howe explained.

The women chose HOME for their Manchester venue, as it was one of the first cinemas outside of London for them to put on an event in previous years.

The tour visited twelve UK cities in total, beginning with the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle, and ending with the Genesis in London.

view the full magazine here

My Top 5 Cruelty Free Products

As a new comer to the cruelty free scene, I’m still going through and replacing all my old favourites with their cruelty free alternatives, and my collection is almost complete. A lot of the products on this list are things I probably wouldn’t have tried without them being cruelty free, like collection makeup, for example. So if you’re thinking about making the change, just know there’s so much more out there than you think that doesn’t harm animals, and with brands like NYX and elf new to the UK, there’s never been a better time to try and buy more cruelty free! Here are my top five cruelty free products:

NYX Ultimate Warm Neutrals Palette

I was very excited when NYX came to the UK. I knew it as what they used on RuPaul’s Drag Race, and had seen it in American makeup tutorials. I also knew it was cruelty free, and it came to Boots at almost the same time I decided to go cruelty free. Clearly, me and this palette were meant to be. Living up to the name, it has every matte and sparkly neautral shade you’d ever need, as well as a few bolder brown, orangey and pink tones. It’s very pigmented and lasts a long time. I hadn’t had many other eye shadows before I got this palette so I don’t have much to compare to, but I know it is quality none the less. NYX is a high street makeup brand, and at just a little bit more on the pricey side at £18. While this is more expensive than it’s ELF or Revolution competitors, you’re paying for the long wear and pigmentation in the 18 shades.

get it here

Superdrug Sensitive TeaTree Cleansing Wipes

Something that has been very helpful since I started buying cruelty free was Superdrug- all their own brand products aren’t tested on animals! This is helpful for more obscure things like toothpaste and suncream that are harder to find cruelty free, but my favourite is their teatree makeup wipes. They’re nearly always on offer, and they’re a perfect match for my sensitive spotty skin. They usually cost £3.29, but are almost always reduced, or on 3 for 2. The pore strips from the range are great too. Cheap, effective, and no little rabbits got hurt in the process. What more can I say?

get them here

Collection Lasting Perfection Foundation

Foundation has always been tricky for me. With the two extremes of combination skin, finding something that is matte but won’t dry me out and will be heavy duty enough to cover my spots is pretty tough. Add cruelty free into the mix narrows the search even more. I’d found one that was good enough, but then the search began again for a cruelty free replacement. I tried out a lot and collection was the one! In all honesty I’d written it off as a cheap tacky brand, but I am happy to say I was wrong. It’s oil free which is perfect for my skin but doesn’t dry me out either. At £5.99 I won’t be buying another for a while.

get it here

REVOLUTION Ultra Pro Glow Highlighter Palette

I can’t rave about this palette enough! A teeny tiny swipe of my brush leaves me highlighted, bronzed and beautiful. At only £8 for 8 colours it’s a steal, with a shade to compliment every makeup look you can think of. I’m obsessed. I would even go as far as saying this palette lives up to it’s name and is bloody revolutionary.

get it here

 

Body Shop Seaweed Oil Balancing Mask

This mask is less of a staple and one of the more indulgent items on my list. The Body Shop has been cruelty free since I can remember,  even if it’s swapped hands over the years. I love face masks, but this one is my favourite. It smells amazing, absorbs every bit of oil, and leaves my face feeling smooth. The pot is £11 which seems like a lot, until you realize how long it lasts. I actually prefer it to the more expensive range of masks the shop sells. It does the job without the frills, but still feels like a treat! I honestly don’t know if it makes my skin better or not, I tend to find most products don’t actually do help the way they claim to, but the seaweed mask pulls all the oil out of my face without leaving me feeling dry. Simple!

get it here

 

 

 

Flash Review: Wonder Woman

 In the past few years female lead media has been on the rise, with successes such as Pitch Perfect, Orange is the New Black and most recently GLOW. We are seeing feminist messages in our media more and more, and the phrase ‘strong female character’ has become common place. Wonder Woman took this one step further, in a beautiful representation of every little girls favourite superhero. Grossing a total of $813.4 million worldwide, it is undeniable the film was a success. 

DC hasn’t had an amazing track record in it’s film releases in recent year. Despite the two still making millions, Batman vs Superman was a worldwide letdown, and Suicide Squad has become a joke in it’s own right. Because of this I was nervous for a stand alone Wonder Woman film. It was very important to me that this film succeeded in order to elevate female superheros from sex symbols to actually being taken seriously in the public eye. Don’t get me wrong; we’ve been seeing amazing lady heroes for years now with the likes of various  X-Men and the Black Widow.  But, Wolverine has his own set of films, not Storm, and Natasha Romanoff is one of the only Avengers without her own movie. DC has taken an alternative approach, setting up Wonder Woman before the Justice League film, rather than some of it’s other male counterparts. In summary I was nervous the film wasn’t going to be a success, but it thankfully proved me very wrong.

Wonder Woman follows the story of Dianna, played by Isreali actress Gal Gadot, an excellent choice for the iconic role.  Dianna is an Amazon woman from the fictional island of Themyscira. The Amazons, made up exclusively of women, are a warrior race in constant battle training for the return of Ares: the god of war. Dianna is the child of the Queen Hippolyta, who tells her stories of a weapon left by Zuess to protect mankind: the God Killer. Although her mother tries to protect her from the world of war, Dianna grows up training in secret, to become an excellent fighter. Her skill is tested when a mysterious man washes up on the beach of Themyscira, talking of war on earth. The year is 1918, the final year of the first World War. Dianna, hearing Steve Trevor’s story, steals the God Killer, a magnificent sword. Her plan is to kill Ares and end the war, though Steve is skeptical and looking for a way back to London.

With the back story out of the way, lets fast forward slightly. Not to give too much away Dianna’s venture into the world eventually leads her and Steve to form a group fighting back against the Germans, with Dianna getting closer to who she believes is Ares. The hijincks of Dianna in a 1918 London lead to funny moments of her trying on clothes that work with her armour, but also facing the limitations of being a woman in that oppresive time. While her ignorance of the world often makes her a voice of simple reason, Steve’s superiors ignore her aspiration to protect as many as possible in the war, leading to a team of rebels lead by Steve.What follows is an utter delight. I don’t wish to give away any more of the plot than I already have, but there are finer details I need to discuss.

Highlights: My first highlights of the film were the fight scenes. This is not something I normally enjoy in a film at all, and in superhero flicks there are many to be expected. But I personally found these scenes in Wonder Woman really enjoyable. They were well choreographed, and also short enough that they didn’t drag. When a films entire third act is made up of fighting, I tend to nod off. But the films big climax had fights interspersed with dialogue and action with the side characters, as well as just being a more interesting fight in general, for reasons I will not divulge.

My second highlight was Dianna’s belief in herself. Throughout the film, Steve Trevor and his team quietly think Dianna is ridiculous in her belief Ares is real, yet she keeps her faith and perseveres, even when Steve tells her Ares is not real. She believes in herself and the knowledge she was raised on even though everyone else is telling her different, and does not doubt herself for a moment. I believe this to be a fantastic example to young girls.

My third highlight of the film was Chris Pine’s performance as Steve Trevor. Despite ending up a love interest for Dianna, he only helps her in the sense he takes her where she needs to go. Everything else is done by her alone, and Steve and his men don’t actually affect the plot too much aside from being a love interest. But his character is likable, and the two make a perfect odd couple. Their on-screen chemistry is excellent, providing the romance in the background from the main plot: Dianna’s mission.

Let-downs: This film met every one of my personal expectations; there is not much I can say in terms of let-downs. If I had to pick my least favourite part, it would be the climaxing fight between Dianna and Ares (spoiler alert.) The fight bordered on too ridiculous while the rest of the film was believable enough. Despite following a fictional race of god-women with super powers, the final fight scene pushed the film into the realms of ridiculous. But is this not what we expect from superhero films these days?

Another final let down was the casting of Ares. David Thewlis will always be most well known for his performance in the Harry Potter series as Remus Lupin- the definition of a good guy. This made it difficult to take him seriously as the villain of the film, especially combined with his large almost comical mustache. I will concede however that this fed in to the surprise reveal of Ares’s true identity- you never expect the good guy.

Rating: 9.5/10

 

Flash Review: The Autopsy of Jane Doe

The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a thriller lacking in thrill. I was incredibly excited for this film, I can recall seeing the trailer a long time ago and feeling it was an absolute must-see. It has everything that could leave you on the edge of your seat, but just not quite enough to push you off it.

The film follows father and son morticians Tommy and Austin Tilden, played by Brian Cox and the slightly dishy Emile Hirsch. Just as Austin is about to leave for the day with his girlfriend, they are brought a woman’s’ body with no identification, no backstory, and no obvious cause of death. Her body is dug up in the cellar of a crime scene, in which a couple have been found dead in their home. The Jane Doe’s half dug up body is found by police, and the Tilden’s are told the cause of death must be discovered by the morning. As the seemingly-safe examination begins, so does the feeling of unease. Frequent shots to the woman’s pale face, with her gaping chapped lips and her clouded over eyes, imply to the viewer that something more sinister is going on.

 

The film follows, as the title suggests, the autopsy of the unknown body. It is discovered that despite no physical cause of death on the outside, she appears to have been set alight, her organs lacerated, her tongue cut out and a cloth patterned with strange markings. All of this should have been leading up to a thrilling pay off. But it just didn’t quite… pay off. The spooks took too long to kick off, the twist was a disappointment, and the ending somewhat unfulfilling. It was enjoyable enough, yet the viewer was left feeling dissatisfied.

The film was packed full of interesting ideas that lead to at least some scary moments. But the potential the films initial concept brought was not met. In the era of some pretty fantastic horror we are in, perhaps standards are too high. Then again, the trailer describes the film as ‘the new face of horror, and makes the film appear like a scare a second flick. This is not the case. The majority of the film consists of the two men performing the autopsy, and while this builds suspense and intrigue, it is just not the ‘terror’ the trailer boasts.

Highlights: My favourite aspect of this film was the bells. In the past, old morticians attached bells to the ankles of their subjects that would ring if the body was in fact alive. This old superstition is used as a fantastic spooky device. The bell on the ankle of a dead man features in the climax of the film, and does deliver a good scare. The introduction of the bells at the start of the film also leaves the thought in the back of the viewers mind, leaving a sense of dread as, following the horror format, we know we will hear it ring.

Let downs: The climax came far too late in the film, rendering it something of a scary murder mystery rather than a classic haunting. Some might describe this as a more interesting take on the horror genre, but it did not hit the spot for others.

Rating: 6/10