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Monthly Archives: February 2014

Looking back to my childhood again this week with a question that reeks of that wonderful sensation -nostalgia. Thinking back to simpler times is one of the rare things that makes me both smile and cry. It’s one of my favourite things to do even if the realisation that it’s gone forever often saddens me. I don’t know how healthy it is to look back to the past but it certainly cheers me up sometimes.

What is something you experienced in your youth that kids today will never experience?

As a 90s child, I am amazed to realise that so many things that I enjoyed as a kid are now obsolete to the kids today. Just twenty years ago, I had yet to start school and the only forms of entertainment I knew were dolls and Disney films. Saying that sounds so old-fashioned as I’m sure it’s not hugely dissimilar to my parents and even grandparents childhoods although they didn’t have TV, of course. However, I don’t remember ever watching TV properly until I was at least six or seven so I can only assume that my early childhood was one of simple pleasures.

The idea of a life like this now is one that strangely intrigues me. I would love to go back to a time when I wasn’t constantly checking my social media channels for new information or worrying about how good I look in my photos. Of course in a lot of ways, having such ready access to the internet is a great thing. It means I’m rarely bored (although I sometimes STILL am) and the huge range of entertainment that is available to me has grown a thousand-fold from what I had as a kid but feeding snippets of your life to the people who mainly only stand on the periphery of it is stressful, right?

When I hear stories of three and four year olds being given mobile phones and iPads as gifts from their parents, I’m shocked. Even though I’m only in my early twenties, it’s amazing that kids being born today will probably live a totally different childhood to the one I did. Time moves so fast and it does sadden me a bit that they will never know the simplicity that I experienced as a kid. They’re introduced to this whole digital world without a dial-up system in sight!

 

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TheWolfofWallStreet_iTunesPre-sale_1400x2100TITLE: The Wolf Of Wall Street
STARS: Leonardo Di Caprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Margot Robbie, Joanna Lumley
DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese
RELEASED: January 17th 2014

I’ll start off by saying that The Wolf Of Wall Street never really sounded like the kind of film I’d enjoy. I’m not really into stories about very rich people who proceed to commit crime and lose it all. For me, that just doesn’t seem like enough to draw me in. However, with very rave reviews from a range of different sources, I finally agreed to see it. I am certainly a fan of Leo, so I hoped he would cause me to get lost in it.

It’s based on the true story of Jordan Belfort (played by DiCaprio) who narrates the action. Jordan gets a job on Wall Street with boss Mark Hanna (McConaughey) who advises him to live a life full of drugs and sex in order to keep on top of work. When he loses the job, he goes on to work for a smaller firm and impresses bosses there with his expert selling style. It is here that he meets Donnie (Jonah Hill) and goes into business with him forming Stratton Oakmont, a scam company that in turn makes millions of dollars and Jordan earns his title of “Wolf of Wall Street”. Living the high life, Jordan quickly spirals into a life of cocaine and prostitutes which causes his marriage to break down. He then re-marries Naomi (Margot Robbie) and has a daughter with her. As the FBI investigate Jordan’s firm, he opens a Swiss bank account in Naomi’s aunt’s Emma’s (Joanna Lumley) name in England.¬†After many more twists and turns involving further debauchery, the police catch up with Jordan and close Stratton Oakmont, throwing him in prison. However, the ending shows Jordan giving seminars on sales techniques after his sentence is reduced.

Considering the film was three hours long, it was a lot to take in for a long period of time. It is described as a black comedy and there were definitely some funny moments within the film. Mark Hanna’s chest-thumping exercise was one of the most memorable funny moments as were Jordan’s attempts to drive from his country club to his home while heavily intoxicated. The acting displayed in this scene is definitely worthy of an Oscar for DiCaprio.

However, I found it very difficult to sympathise or relate to any of the characters. This is a big deal for me because it meant that I couldn’t really lose myself in the film as I would have liked to. It is a whole cast of unpleasant, self-absorbed people and because of this, it really lacked any sort of emotion for me. With a film as long as it was, I got quite bored because there wasn’t anyone or anything for me to latch on to and if I hadn’t paid to see it, I probably would have turned it off halfway through. The story wasn’t the easiest to follow either and I was a little confused at the end that he wasn’t in jail as fraud on that scale deserved much longer than he got.

All in all, it just wasn’t a film for me. I didn’t go in with high expectations so I’m glad that I wasn’t disappointed but for me, there just wasn’t enough emotional content or comedy. No doubt those who love films about tricksters and money scams will love it but The Wolf Of Wall Street definitely didn’t convert me!

tapeTITLE: Tape
AUTHOR: Steven Camden
EDITION: Harper Collins
PUBLISHED: January 30th 2014

I was lucky enough to win a signed copy of this book on Goodreads. The summary depicted it as a time-travelling romance for a YA audience, which just ticked so many boxes for me and I was delighted when I won it. It’s author’s Steven Camden’s debut novel but he is known as a spoken-word performer under the name Polarbear across the UK.

Spanning two time periods, Tape is a unique story that connects Ryan and Ameliah, two teenagers separated by twenty years but bound together. In 1993, Ryan records a diary on a cassette tape talking about his regular teenage life as well as the death of his mother. In 2013, Ameliah moves in with her grandmother after the death of her parents. She finds a cassette tape with a boy’s voice on it which appears to be speaking to her.

Throughout the course of the book, we’re kept guessing about the exact relationship between the two voices and it’s this that forces you to keep turning the pages. There are plenty of hints and clues via the echoes of each other in both Ryan and Ameliah’s narratives but it doesn’t become crystal clear until the end. Even though it is ultimately a children’s book, I couldn’t work it out fully and it was definitely this fact that kept my adult brain interested. I do love reading books from the points of view of teens but YA contemporary plots tend to be quite predictable -Tape’s definitely wasn’t.

The description “time travelling romance” isn’t exactly what Tape is about but there are of course elements of both time travel and the thread of romance runs through the entire story, binding the two narratives together. For a book primarily for pre-teens, it’s complex and incredibly intriguing. I was surprised to see that it has only got average ratings on Goodreads but I think you have to read it for what it is -a book for young readers. It’s not meant to be read by adults and therefore you can’t judge it based on language sophistication and plot complexity. It’s a great YA stand alone and I can’t wait to read more from Camden.

 

This week’s question has some pretty obvious answers to it and some that I’m sure everyone would respond with. However, these tastes are unique to everyone, so it would be really interesting to get some other people’s opinions on it!

What automatically makes someone ineligible to be in a relationship with you?

I’ve never been one to focus on physical appearance. You could give me a choice between the hottest male model or someone like James Corden and I’d pick Corden every time. Why? Because I know that I’m guaranteed a great time with him. I’m guaranteed to laugh until my sides hurt, I’m guaranteed to have plenty to talk about with him. Just sitting and staring at someone who looks nice but doesn’t have all that much to say doesn’t remotely interest me and in fact, that’s not really a relationship, is it?

So, the guy has to have some substance. He can’t just be a walking piece of art and he certainly can’t be arrogant. Naturally, I would never pass up the chance to be with a male model provided he has other things going for him. I’m never blinded by someone’s beauty and to me, good looks come as an un-needed extra.

Arrogance has always been something that I can’t put up with. There is a fine line between self-confidence and arrogance and someone who manages to get the balance right is perfect. Someone with ambition is also important. They have to have a direction in life and be doing all they can to pursue it. Traits like this are so much more attractive than a pretty face and they really show a person’s value to society.

On a more trivial note, I tend to avoid being romantically involved in anyone who strongly follows a religion. I was born a Christian and was baptised but as an adult, I have chosen to become atheist. Therefore, religion can never play a role in my life and while I’m perfectly happy to have friendships with religious people, I could never become romantically linked.

the_lego_movie_one_sheetTITLE: The Lego Movie
STARS: Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum
DIRECTOR: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
RELEASED: February 14th 2014

Possibly one of the most highly anticipated children’s films of the year, The Lego Movie was always going to be a high priority for me. Considering the length of time that Lego has been a popular thing, I’m surprised that this film hasn’t been made earlier but now that it’s here, I’m sure it will be something that a lot of people will be going to see.

Of course, it is a kids’ film but when have I ever let my twenty-something years stop me from seeing/reading/doing anything I want to? The Valentine’s Day release of this film meant that Dan and I did spend our evening together in the cinema watching it. However, it really is a film that is so much more than a shallow, simple affair for the very young. As with so many other films marketed at children, there is a lot for the adults who accompany them and in my opinion, it’s this that keeps me coming back to the things I loved as a kid.

The Lego Movie tells the story of Emmet (Chris Pratt), a normal construction worker who is sucked into a world with a female Master Builder Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks). The wizard Vetruvius (Morgan Freeman) has prophesised that a person known as “The Special” will find the Piece of Resistance to stop the superweapon Kragle, which is being kept by the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell). Emmet unknowingly finds the Piece of Resistance and is taken prisoner by cops where he learns that the Kragle is in fact a tube of Krazy Glue. Wyldstyle rescues him and the two visit Vetruvius who see potential in Emmet due to his visions of “the Man Upstairs”. Devising a plan to storm Lord Business’ headquarters, Emmet meets Wyldstyle’s boyfriend Batman (Will Arnett), a space guy Benny (Charlie Day), Unikitty (Alison Brie), Superman (Channing Tatum), Green Lantern (Jonah Hill) and other Master Builders. After many problems and discoveries, the film comes to an ending that lands us back in the real world and we suddenly realise that we’ve been viewing true events from a different perspective. Losing ourselves in the drama of the story is what all good forms of entertainment do and the ending of The Lego Movie definitely brings you back down to Earth with a bump. We realise that we’ve been living through a child’s imagination and the true power of that becomes clear, which is a really uplifting magical thought to take away.

The Lego Movie is a great choice of film if you want something light-hearted and thought-provoking. Plenty of humour for the older audience is also included, so you can guarantee that you’ll get a few laughs from it. I didn’t expect it to be as funny as it is but I did laugh out loud several times while watching it. Even if you’re not a Lego fan and don’t know anyone who is, it’s still an awesome fun film that will have you smiling all the way home. Oh and the theme tune Everything Is Awesome is possibly the happiest song ever written!

taylorswiftredGIG: Red
ARTISTS: Taylor Swift, The Vamps
VENUE: The O2, London
DATE: February 11th 2014

I find it weird to admit that I’ve only recently become a fan of Taylor Swift. In fact, her most recent album Red was the first one I bought and listened to in its entirety. This experience left me wondering why I’d never listened to her properly before. Red was one of my favourite albums of 2012 and it prompted me to research Ms Swift’s back catalogue. Since then, I’ve listened to Fearless and Speak Now plenty of times and I can now safely say that Taylor is my favourite female solo artist. When I saw that she was bringing her Red tour to London, buying a ticket was a no brainer.

Slipping into my favourite red dress and painting my nails a bright scarlet, I arrived at the venue and took my seat. I became engrossed in the preliminary videos on the screens of the makings of various videos from Red singles We’re Never Ever Getting Back Together, 22 and I Knew You Were Trouble. Rather than playing general adverts and music videos, we were transported to Taylor’s world straightaway and I loved this touch as it just heightened my anticipation.

Stepping out of it for a little while, The Vamps took to the stage and played some energetic pop rock. Although I had heard of their name before, I hadn’t heard any of their music. They’re a young Birmingham quartet who definitely know how to get a crowd going. I’m usually a big fan of pop rock and pop-punk but something about their nasal vocals and tinny guitars didn’t really connect with me. I found their original songs to be a little too immature and as I was in a Taylor Swift place in my mind, it just wasn’t what I wanted to hear at the time. However, I did love their cover of The Killers’ Mr Brightside. When they first began to play it, I was a little nervous as it happens to be one of my favourite songs but I did really enjoy their version.

When it wasIMG_0654 finally time for Taylor to make her entrance, the crowd went wild as the opening riff of State Of Grace began playing. The lights shone a mysterious red and Taylor’s silhouette appeared on the curtains at the back of the anchor-shaped stage. When the curtain dropped, Taylor finished State of Grace and stood basking in the frenzy that she’d set The O2 into. The expression of wonder on her face showed her appreciation and she clearly lapped every ounce of love her fans gave her.

taylorswift1State Of Grace ran straight into Holy Ground and Red before Taylor addressed the crowd for the first time. I’ve never been to a gig where the artist has interacted with the crowd so much. Explaining her reasons and inspiration behind some of the songs really let us in and we learnt something about Taylor as a person. Something about the way that she speaks and the amount of confidence that her every word carries leaves you awestruck and you just want to spend time with her. Even though she’s speaking to thousands of people, you feel like she’s speaking directly to you and despite the setting, it feels so intimate. I’ve never seen an artist do this and it really was something special.

Veering away from Red, she serenaded us with oldie You Belong With Me flanked by glamorously dressed backing singers. The action then cut to a classic Hollywood setting for The Lucky One before going back to basics for a simple performance of Mean. Not many artists can sit on a stage with an acoustic guitar and captivate a venue the size of The O2 but Taylor certainly can with arguably her biggest “fuck you” song.¬†Once everyone had had a scream about the haters in our life, the screens showed video clips from Taylor’s life -one for every year up until she was 22- before her latest single blasted through the arena. After the party with her dancers had died down, Taylor once more took up a guitar and treated us to one of her best feel-good songs Long Live. Still on a high, she treated us to another Speak Now love song Sparks Fly while being suspended on a small caged platform that swung gently across the centre of the arena before returning her to the stage.

taylorellieIt was at this point that Taylor announced that she had a surprise. After teasing us with some cryptic clues, she introduced Ellie Goulding on to the stage as the two launched into a duet of Ellie’s hit Burn. It was an explosive performance that certainly had the shock factor and took us higher than we thought possible from a Taylor Swift gig. The fiery passion carried over into I Knew You Were Trouble which featured strong dance moves, plenty of attitude and ferocity. The stark contrast of All Too Well which saw Taylor take to the piano with a toy cat perched on top as she belted out her heartbreaking ballad.

Taking another trip back in time, Love Story came with a beautiful fairytale theme. Stunning costumes and props really dragged every ounce of theatre from the song and I was delighted that she played one of my favourite classics. Winding things down, taylorswift2Taylor treated us to Treacherous which saw her walk along the steadily rising ramp at the centre of the stage in a cute tutu and bare feet. Saying her thank yous, she left the stage before returning in a ringmaster’s outfit and ending on We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together. Confetti, drama and celebrations rang across the arena as Taylor left on a huge high along with everyone in the crowd.

As someone who is constantly talking about their love of indie and alternative rock bands, a love of Taylor Swift may seem a bit out of character for me but there’s something about her lyrics combined with her personality that sucks me in. Taylor isn’t considered a cool artist but she knows and embraces it. She’s the perfect role model and she makes you feel like it’s OK to be different. I definitely came away from the gig happy to be myself and desperate to be Taylor’s best friend.

 

*These are not my photos, of course!

This week’s question comes at an appropriate time. I think a lot of us are still footing Christmas bills and we’re all feeling the pinch a bit. I certainly went a bit mad in the post Christmas sales, so my January wage packet hasn’t quite stretched as much as I would have liked it to. However, this question has allowed my mind to wander and dream of a simpler time that will never be.

If you never had to worry about money, how would you spend your time?

I would live the best life I ever could. Take endless trips abroad, stay in some beautiful hotels and buy all the things I’ve always wanted. I have a slight addiction to buying pretty things and I really enjoy the experience of shopping. Therefore, if my funds were never-ending or the concept of money didn’t exist, I’m not sure I’d ever stop.

Spending time in bookshops and coffee shops is my favourite thing and it relaxes me beyond belief. The thought of my whole life consisting of this sounds amazing and the fact that I’d be constantly diving into different literary worlds makes it seem like it wouldn’t even get boring. Maybe I might lose touch with reality and living such a small, real life probably wouldn’t do much for my mental health but I’d really love to do exactly that for a short while.

The desire to travel has been a part of me since I was very young and it still resides within me. There is so much of the world I haven’t seen and I’d love to take some time out and see some of the places that I’ve heard so many amazing things about. The totally different, unique culture of Japan, the rolling golden sun and beaches of Australia, the sheer vastness and magic of both Poles. I feel that I wouldn’t die happy until I’d seen a huge variety of places.

I guess these things are obvious answers to the question but as always, it’s my honest response. So what would you do, if money was no object?