Interstellar film review

interstellar2-articleLarg

I’m not sure what to make of Interstellar. I am a big Christopher Nolan fan, and the film received rave reviews from critics. I was expecting something along the lines of Inception.

But the only things the two films had in common we’re complex plots, anti-gravity scenes and vertical walls that could support buildings.

Yes, the film is impressive, particularly visually, and thought provoking but I can’t help but feel there was something missing. Either that or the three hour epic could have ended an hour sooner and let us answer some questions ourselves.

The film is set in the not too distant feature and the earth is becoming a barren dust bowl. Corn is one of the few crops we are still able to grow.

Former astronaut and engineer Cooper, Matthew McConaughey, works on one such corn farm with his two children, Murphy and Tom, and his father in law.

We are told this is a caretaker generation after science were rejected and became something to fear. But Cooper doesn’t see it that way, as one such use of science is the MRI that could have saved his wife from a fatal brain tumour. Cooper maintains that we are not caretakers, but explorers and pioneers.

Inquisitive and intelligent Murphy notices some strange paranormal activity in her bedroom as books and model space ships fall off her bookshelf. She thinks it’s a ghost leaving her a message; a more sceptical Cooper believes it to be gravity. Either way, the room leaves them a message, leading them to NASA, who have gone into hiding. Cooper happens to know the lead scientist on the board, Professor Brand (Michael Caine) along with his daughter Anne Hathaway. They need his astronaut expertise on a space mission. They want to recruit him to find a new planet to inhabit.

I thought the film was a little slow until this point, although I was intrigued by the ghost in Murph’s room. Once the raw and barren earth is left behind and we go into space, the film is visually beautiful; but not in the shiny and polished way last year’s Gravity was. Something about the cinematography feels more raw and realistic, almost like you’re watching a documentary.

And of course, as with any space exploration film since 2001 a Space Oddessy, there is the rousing orchestral music, backed by a booming organ. Nolan did a god job of making elements of the film pay homage to those space exploration films that have gone before it.

While McConaughey and Hathaway give solid performances, I doubt be will be recognised in the best actor categories. They seem more like Nolan’s puppets rather than actually bringing anything more to the film. Neither The father-daughter relationship between Caine and Hathaway nor between McConaughey and Mackenzie Foy, and then Jessica Chastain, convinced me.

Yes, the film is long, but there are a lot of ideas to pack in. While I feel I have a comfortable grasp on the theories the film put forward, perhaps I am not scientifically minded enough to ‘get it’. My doctor uncle and med student brother have been discussing how some of the theories put forward could work in reality, like Einstein’s theory of Relativity. That is beyond me.
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5 best films about friends dating

We are so often told from he silver screen, that girls and guys cannot be best friends because sex gets in the way.

Cue a rom-com about just that. New film Love, Rosie sees lifelong friends Rosie (Lily Collins) and Alex (Sam Claflin) fight their urges as they date other people, but still have to most fun together, yet insist they’re just friends.

We all know how it will probably end, but it’s fun to go along for the ride….

5. No Strings Attached

Director: Ivan Reitman | Starring: Ashton Kutcher & Natalie Portman

noo strings attachedAfter Natalie Portman performed her Oscar-winning role in the gritty Black Swan, she opted for far lighter, fluffier content on her next outing.

Rather than a couple meeting, making friends and deciding not to go down the dating route< <classic friends dating film formula>, No Strings Attached follows life-long friends Emma (Portman) and Adam (Kutcher) who initiate a “no strings” rule after they end up having sex once and, actually, quite enjoying it.

There are predictably, lots of smutty jokes as the two try to maintain their friendship, have great sex and not fall in love. But I don’t quite buy the connection between Portman and Kutcher. It’s an enjoyable, trashy rom-com with a good dollop of cringe thrown in for good measure.

4. What If

Director: Michael Dowse | Starring: Daniel Radcliffe & Zoe Kazan

what if2014’s What If saw Daniel Radcliffe continuing to try to shake off his Harry Potter label, with this being the first time he played a romantic lead.

For those who may not have seen Radcliffe in Equus, this certainly shed any doubts that he could do sexy. And He and Kazan have great chemistry.

Wallace (Radcliffe), a medical-school dropout has no luck dating and decides to give up the game for a while (much like my friend who is currently having a man break by doing No-men-ber). But, typically, he then meets Chantry. She has a live-in boyfriend, but she and Wallace become firm friends. Then, shock, Radcliffe’s sex appeal gets in the way.

Speaking of his sex appeal, check out this clip of what he said about people considering him sexy now: it’s the best answer ever and is why I think he is an amazing person <fan girl moment>.

3. 13 Going on 30

Director: Gary Winick | Starring: Jennifer Garner & Mark Ruffalo

13 going on 30.While friends who date is not the main theme to this body swap/time hop film, it does play an integral part.

When 13-year-old geeky girl Jenna (Garner) wishes she was grown up, she wakes up to find herself a fabulous 30-year-old magazine editor with the world at her feet. While she is dating some appealing men, her 13-year-old mind still lusts after her childhood friend Matt (Ruffalo).

It turns out that Jenna ditched Matt in her teen years as he wasn’t ‘cool’ enough. But it turns out there are a lot of idiots out there, so maybe it is best (sometimes) to date a friend who you know you get on with and isn’t a chauvinistic bastard.

The film is fun, frivolous and feel-good. And with a nice underlying message for all the teen girls who may watch it and lust after the Sex and the City lifestyle portrayed on screen in Jenna’s thirties.

2. Friends with Benefits

Director: Will Gluck | Starring: Justin Timberlake & Mila Kunis

friends with benefitsOne of my personal favourite rom-coms, that actually has some decent ‘com’, Friends with Benefits sees design exec Dylan (Timberlake) move from independent studios in LA to a big time magazine in New York after being headhunted by Jamie (Kunis).

There is definite chemistry between the two, who have both just broken up with crazy exes (a great turn from Emma Stone) and as Dylan doesn’t know anyone in NYC, he and Jamie become firm friends.

Then one night, they both realise they have an itch that needs scratching. So they lay down some rules and swear on a Bible (app) that they will have sex but not get romantically involved. Shenanigans ensue…  

1. When Harry Met Sally

Director: Nora Ephron | Starring: Meg Ryan & Billy Crystal

harry met sallyThe mother of all friends-falling-in-love films, When Harry Met Sally is often referenced in situations when people say you can’t be best friends with a member of the opposite sex, because sex gets in the way.

Written and directed by the brilliant Nora Ephron (Husbands and Wives, You’ve Got Mail) it is an intelligent and witty chick flick that has stood the test of time, and made a star out of a then relatively unknown Meg Ryan.

The great screenplay sees Harry and Sally meet at university and follows their lives until a decade later when they reflect upon their dating history. The script sparkles with wit and the heat between Ryan and Crystal is sizzling.

Of course, the film is also famous for that scene in the diner where Sally fakes an orgasm. “I’ll have what she’s having” remarks an old woman as Meg screams and groans while banning the table and running her hands through her hair. Yes. Yes. Yes!

Cats are taking over the [cultural] world

kittens

Cats. Cats are everywhere. Britain has always been a country that prides itself on its love of animals, but at the moments, cats seem to have got the cream.

There was an online feline renaissance in 2012 with the emergence of memes such as Grumpy Cat (Meme of the Year 2013 at the Webbys) and countless YouTube videos proving cats are funnier than dogs.

But why are cats so on trend?

They have now snuck into other areas of culture. Feline fashion is so ‘in’ right now. Kitten camisoles are literally the cats pyjamas. Vogue despaired last year when cats were clawing their way into fashion, but they have clung on. Just yesterday, I saw a woman in the train wearing a black midi skirt (very on trend) with a cat face print. Vogue would not have been impressed.

While kitties haven’t strictly breached pop music, the biggest pop singer on the scene right now, Taylor Swift, has always endorsed cats; on her shoes, cat ears on her headbands, taking about them in her interviews and smattering her Instagram with pictures of her own cats, including an adorable Scottish Fold. <awww>. In fact, in February, the Telegraph reported that cat photos are more popular than selfies.

Buzzfeed has cottoned onto this: cats = hits. Cats are now often used as click bait (hey, it got you here)… An article entitled ‘The 25 Most Awkward Cat Sleeping Positions’ was read more than 3.5 million times on BuzzFeed. Did you know you can even subscribe to a Buzzfeed Cats newsletter?

So being a crazy cat lady isn’t actually a bad thing these days.

Here are my top 6 favourite cat things….

Grumpy Cat

grumpy catss

Even though he’s a grump, everyone loves this cat. A bit like those who suffer from resting bitch face, he can’t help that he looks this way. There are now countless memes of him. He even has his own merchandise,  book and cartoon series.

 

Cat ear headbands

girls cat earsThey used to only be suitable for children or Halloween parties. But now celebrities like (previously mentioned cat lady) Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande are wearing cute cat ears as a fashion statement. Do you like mine?

 

Cuddling cats video

 

If you haven’t seen this video already, you’re missing out on some serious cuteness!

Sex kitten

sex kittens

There is definitely something quite sexy about the feline characteristics, hence the term sex kitten. Meow…. Maybe we could add some of those cat ears to complete the look?

 

Cat emojis (Catmojis)

catmojiAside from the see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil monkeys, cats are the only Apple emoji that have a range of expressions, so clearly they are the best. Personally I love the lusty cat with hearts in his eyes.

 

 

My own cat

tinkerbellsThis is Tink. We stole her from the neighbours and she prefers it at ours anyway. (Don’t worry, the neighbours are cool with this, they have three other cats) She is now microchipped to our house so only she can get in the cat flap because we started getting loads of random cats showing up in the house. Either we have some sort of cat homing beacon or Tink has told the neighbourhood  cats that we’re suckers who will give cats free board and lodging.

Now here’s keyboard cat to play us off…

From Tinder to timber: how to avoid falling for the wrong person on dating apps

tinder

As you get older dating becomes that bit more difficult – a minefield of questions: where do I meet people? When do I find the time to meet people around work and social commitments? What if all the good ones are taken? How do i put myself out there?

I, in my mid 20s, (yes, not THAT old) found myself single for the first time since I was 18 this year; a scary prospect for someone who is always used to having a boyfriend. But at around the same time I became a single lady (cue the Beyoncé music) a little dating app was suddenly becoming very popular: Tinder.

At first it’s something of a novelty, browsing through all these potential mates; and there’s something that makes you feel quite in control about being able to swipe left for ‘no’ with such ease and not be pestered by anyone you’re not interested in.

For those of you who haven’t ventured onto the app, you can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a person on seeing their first name, age, photo, any mutual Facebook friends or interests and anything they choose to disclose in their bio.

It’s a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. You feel like Tinderella, or the Prince, looking for that idea of the perfect person, but judging only for a few seconds, almost entirely on looks and making snap decisions (if you’re fussy, you can really get some speed up rejecting people) based on a glimpse of a stranger.

Even when you find someone you like, there’s still the awkward initial chats to get past, waiting for the shoe, or glass slipper, to drop. I have found the general conversation goes like this:

Him: “Hey. How are you?”
Me: “Not too bad thanks, how are you?”
Him: “Good. Long day at work.”
Me: “Oh what do you do.”
Him: “[insert job I usually know nothing about/am not interested in]
Me: “Ok. So you like [insert hobby based on Tinder pictures]
Him: “Yes, do you?”
Me: “Yes/no.”

If my answer is yes, maybe the conversation will continue. If it’s no, that’s when it generally grinds to a halt. I find the latter scenario is usually the case.

Of course, there are exceptions. I didn’t ever meet up with this person, but one of the most memorable openers I ever had was:

“I just wanted to say I find you very attractive. If I got to know you better, I would invite you over for a romantic dinner involving an expensive £5 bottle of wine and two of those microwaveable curry meals. Our dinner discussion would be most imminent, involving the difference between butter and margarine. Afterwards we would make our way to my polar bear carpet and begin adaptive role playing to those twilight movies.”

It’s pretty weird (that’s an understatement), but it caught my eye. I’d had a few G&Ts so was happy to reciprocate with some witty banter. Personally I thought it was far more interesting than ‘Hey, how are you?’ which is polite, but unoriginal and makes for a stilted opening conversation.

Then of course there’s the really weird ones. And the ones who are just looking for sex. You can usually spot these a mile off. Sometimes you’ll even be lucky enough to see a dick pick while you’re scrolling through the friendly, and not so friendly faces; scary stuff. What I want to know is:

A) Do these boys (no real man would do this) think this actually works?
B) If so, who are the girls who say ‘yes’ to a penis.
C) Are these pictures on their Facebook profile? Tinder is linked to Facebook so you can choose your photos from your Facebook albums. Facebook has a pretty strict policy on nudity – they recently banned a woman form posting a pic of her breast feeding because it showed a nipple. If they don’t allow that I doubt they will allow a picture of a prick holding his prick.

Occasionally you come across mutual friends or even people you know. I was lucky enough to find someone I went to university with, so while we didn’t know each other well, it was easy to get talking and that’s the hardest part: making small talk with strangers. Mutual friends is also a bonus, because not only is it a talking point (‘How do you know X?’) if you do get so far as going on a date in real life, you can check with your friends they’re not a total weirdo. It’s good to be a little weird though, better than being boring and ‘normal’.

I myself have now been on a few tinder dates, some successful, some not so successful, but I would recommend it. If anything, it’s a great way to put yourself out there and build up some self esteem and practice the art of small talk. It’s not as scary as signing up to online dating because it’s all very brief and casual; the app just connects to your Facebook. It’s also free!

My friend who is in a long term relationship thought Tinder was a revelation when I showed her. She thought it was such a fun ‘game’ which it kind of is;  it’s definitely a win when someone hot matches with you. But that’s the one problem I have found with Tinder – it is quite shallow. You judge based on looks and that’s about it. I did swipe yes to a guy who wasn’t necessarily my type because he had and amazing joke as his bio, and I think a sense of humour is important. But basically, if you’re hot you’re going to get a lot of hits. So choose your picture wisely.

It’s also worth putting up pictures that show you doing some sort of hobby. It has been proven that you’re more likely to get a match. According to The Tab, girls who have a picture in an outdoor setting, do running, yoga or go to the gym are more likely to get a match. Guys who gave a dog in their photo, are outside and claim to be ‘spontaneous’ and ‘ambitious’ are more likely to get a match. Prove you’re more than just a pretty face.

So, I would say: avoid the ones who seem horny, go instead for ones with pictures of them involved in sports/social activities, don’t judge too much based on looks, try to make a joke to break the ice and if in doubt, always swipe right: you never know, they might be the Prince Charming to your Tinderella. If not, you can always block them.

John Lewis: Single shaming at Christmas

monty penguin nl

You know that festive time of year is fast approaching when the Christmas adverts start appearing on television.

This week, the highly anticipated John Lewis advert was released. The department store now has something of a reputation to uphold when it comes to Christmas adverts. It’s very clever marketing ploys over the last year usually involve a scene that tugs at the heart strings, musically backed by a British singer covering a classic weepy song.

This year is no different with the introduction of a Monty the Penguin a (very realistic) CGI pal for a little boy. Tom Odell sings along to Paul McCartney as the boy and his friend build Lego models, share fish fingers and go sledging. But of course, there’s a tear-inducing twist to the story…

We’ve had a little boy trembling in anticipation, not to receive presents, but to give them to his parents, while Slow Moving Millie crooned to Morrissey; Ellie Goulding covering Elton John while people wrap and hide presents for their loved ones; and last year went down the animated route with a hare giving a bear an alarm clock for Christmas so he could wake up from hibernation and join in the celebrations.

It turns out Monty the Penguin cannot enjoy Christmas because he is lonely. Yes, he has his human friend, but he wants a lady penguin to love.

So (spoiler alert) on Christmas morning, the boy takes Monty downstairs and he has bought Monty a female friend. The penguin sits in an unwrapped box as the two rub beaks and coo at each other. Meanwhile, the boy’s mum is standing in the doorway, looking proud and emotional. We then see the scene through her eyes and it turns out Monty is not a real penguin, but a well-loved, rather dirty soft toy. The boy has bought a new toy and is now playing with both of them with a big smile on his face. Meanwhile, Tom Odell croons “it’s reeeaalll love” in the background.

I cried. At my desk. In the office. How embarrassing.

It really is very cute. John Lewis are now going all out with the penguin marketing, selling lots of penguin memorabilia so you too can own your very own Monty. There is even a Monty the Penguin Twitter account. This is where the marketing gets very clever.

Monty keeps talking about how he needs a girlfriend and is following lots of dating Websites from his account.

“So here’s the plan. Get a girlfriend for #Christmas. Plenty of time… What?!? Only 49 days? Better get a waddle on.”

Now while this is is all very cute, I am finding myself single at Christmas for the first time since I was 16. I, like Monty, am now feeling the pressure to find that special someone to enjoy the festive season with. It feels like the media is shaming single people.

I thought that Christmas was a time to spend with family and friends but apparently not: we need that certain special someone to lavish our affections/John Lewis goods on.

Even while listening to Radio One, Scott Mills held an interview with One Direction in which he asked if any of them had ever had a girlfriend just for the winter. “Not intentionally” seemed to be the answer.

Subsequently, a discussion began about how it was great to be footloose and fancy free in the summer, but when the winter nights draw in, it’s nice to have someone to snuggle with on the sofa while you’re watching Strictly on a Saturday night. It seems this is not a new trend; guys like to find a winter girlfriend, or girls like to find a (slightly more catchy) festive fella.

Yes, there is noting wrong with being single at Christmas, but as Chris Stark on Radio One put it, it’s nice to have someone to do things with at Christmas, like go to Winter Wonderland and go ice skating. What about those of us who don’t have a certain someone to share it with?

So it seems the media and marketing world thinks we should be happily coupled up for Christmas, and if we’re not, we should get looking. Monty can be our mascot: he is even counting down the days until Christmas on his Twitter profile, just to really make you feel the pressure.

Personally, I’m going to take Tom Odell’s approach and wait for real love, rather than enter into penguin trafficking, as cute as the advert is. Someone pass the tissues…

PS: rather than spending up to £95 on a penguin toy from John Lewis, why not adopt a real life penguin? Charities allow you to do this for around £20 and you get to protect a wild penguin and you get a cuddly toy as a thank you anyway: win win.

PPS: My friend told me this amazing anecdote:

“While discussing the John Lewis ad, my mum then tells me BRILLIANT story of her friend who took her son to the zoo when he was nine and he got lost. They found him, took him home and put him in the bath. They came back to check on him and there was a penguin in the bath with him which he’d smuggled home in his rucksack!”

“A REAL penguin?!” I asked.

“YES. They rang the zoo, their answer “oh don’t worry this isn’t the first time this has happened.” Quick, let’s go to the zoo and get a Monty of our own before they up their security due to penguin demand!

Fury – film review

fury

Fury is one of the most powerful films I have seen in a long time, certainly the best war film for years (in my opinion). It was Saving Private Ryan meets Platoon by way of The Pacific. There were no rose tinted specs glorifying war: it was laid bare with no detail spared.

For me, the sign of a well-made film is a high level of detail. I am an observant person and tend to wonder off focus in films and observe the background, surroundings and extras. The injured soldiers being attended to in the background at certain points, their guts being stuffed back into their stomachs, at other moments, the photos and memorabilia in the tank: attention to detail makes the film seem that much more immersive and real.

The World War II-set story centres around a depleted platoon of Americans fighting on the front line in 1945 Germany. The team of five have been together through the entire war and are thick as thieves. Unfortunately, their front gunner has just had his face blown off (literally) so young typist Norman Ellis (Logan Luhrman) is drafted in. His naïvety and inexperience is stark in comparison to Brad Pitt’s Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier and his troop of hardened men. Norman has only been in the army eight weeks, has never killed anyone and doesn’t want to be there, declaring his call up as a mistake.

The platoon that operate the tank, Fury, however, are settled into their roles, which they describe as the ‘best job ever’. They take pleasure in killing every last SS member they come across; they even shoot German corpses to make sure they’re dead.

Wardaddy says he started fighting Germans in Africa, then in France, then in Belgium, now in Germany. He is harsh, but cares for his troop. He has promised all of them that he will get them back to their families. These killing machines do have hearts and personalities. They are all religious, especially Shia La Beouf’s character, Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan. Within the tank there is also the abrasive hilbilly Grady ‘Coon-Ass’ Travis and no-nonsense Mexican Trini ‘Gordo’ Garcia. They work together with great efficiency, like a well oiled machine. These men have become a family, and the machine that is Fury has become their home.

Yes, they are perhaps a little stereotypical, but it reflects the archetypes of WW2 American troops: the strong leader, the inexperienced youngster, the bible basher, the funny foreigner and the uneducated scruff. The film also reflects the morale that built up between these men in an unoriginal, but accurate way. Norman is the beta to Wardaddy’s alpha, and they play the roles so well. Lurhman spends most of the film looking pale with shock, bottom lip trembling and eyes holding back tears as opposed to Pitt’s strong, stoic exterior.

But there are moments where Wardaddy shows what’s under his armour; like when Norman has to make his first kill with Wardaddy forcing him to go through with it. The despair that Pitt conveys with one look when the deed is done was enough to bring a catch to my throat. And I pretty much spent the last twenty minutes of the film bawling. It’s powerful stuff.

In one poignant moment of the film, when Wardaddy reveals the decency beneath his aggressive exterior, he says to Norman: “Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.” In my opinion, that sums Fury up pretty well.

American Horror Story: Freak Show – Season 4 plot points revealed

ahs freaks

The most disturbing programme on television is back, and this time Ryan Murphy is talking us to a 50s freak show in the sleepy Florida town of Jupiter.

Going by the structure and themes of the first three seasons, we can paint a broader picture of what is going to happen at the freak show by drawing on what we have seen from the first couple of episodes. Murphy has kindly left us plenty of clues in past seasons to reveal what is going to happen this year.

1. Jessica Lange’s fading starlet 

elsa marsThe troop of freaks is, of course, led by Jessica Lange, in her usual Blanche Dubois-esque character, this time with a Belgian accent. A glamorous woman who was drawn to the bright lights on Hollywood, but a bump in the road led to a drastic detour. The difference this season is, Elsa still hasn’t quite given up on her dream of being in the spotlight, using the freaks around her to get a leg-up onto the stage, sorry that phrasing may seem tasteless as Elsa is actually a double amputee. She seems to care for her freaks, but is it only a means to an end? She certainly seemed to be threatened when it turns out that Dot (one head of Sarah Paulson’s Siamese twins) actually has a glorious singing voice, far better than her own.

2. Masked mass murderer

twistyThe gimp, bloody face, the axe man, and now Twisty the clown. The faceless killer provides an extended story arc over the course of the series. One of the reasons people suffer from coulrophobia is the fear of not knowing who is under all the make up on the clown’s face. It is essentially a mask. In the case of Twisty, half his face is a mask, with the creepily large grin covering something far nastier underneath. Being somewhat twisted himself, Dandy the spoilt brat seems to have taken a liking to Twisty and already become something of an accomplice. Maybe the mass murderer will not act alone this year?

3. Discrimination as a uniting force 

freaksGay people standing up to homophobia, different coloured people standing up to racism, people suffering from mental illness or physical deformities standing up to discrimination and women fighting for feminism. Murphy is always rooting for the outsider. This theme even extends beyond American Horror Story (look at Glee and The Normal Heart). Murphy champions strong female leads in AHS; Vivienne, Lana, most of the coven of witches, and this year, Elsa Mars. But of course, the most predominant example of this theme in Freak Show is the freaks themselves. Although, maybe don’t call them freaks to their face, they don’t seem to like it. Especially the endearing Jimmy Darling, aka Lobster Boy for his deformed hands (Evan Peters in his usual disturbed, brooding but attractive young male role that he plays oh so well). Murphy didn’t just take the easy route of using famous actors with prosthetics for this year’s AHS (obviously Kathy Bates doesn’t have a beard, and there are no three-breasted women in existence, so why not use the brilliant Angela Bassett) but the world’s smallest woman Jyoti Amge from India has joined the cast along with actor Mat Fraser as the Illustrated Seal. It’s always nice to cheer for the underdogs; this year there’s plenty to choose from.

4. Time hopping

strong beardAHS doesn’t do linear timelines. Flashbacks help to explain characters’ backstories and give us a glimpse as to why they became the way they did. Murphy is not afraid to write flawed characters, there is never a clear cut “good guy” and these flashbacks, and sometimes even flash forwards, help to reveal these quirks and characteristics. It’s safe to say that this season will jump around to look back at Elsa’s past, Twisty’s past, and how the Strong Man (Michael Chilkis) and Bearded Lady (Kathy Bates) became estranged following the birth of their son, Lobster boy. There may also be some time hopping that links to the Asylum in series three, as Pepper was present in both seasons, and they are only set ten years apart. Rumour has is that Lily Rabe is returning as Sister Mary Eunice. With her back in the habit, maybe she takes Pepper away to live at the asylum? It would be interesting to have more clear cut links between the series. The hints are there but not as explicitly as character cross overs, until now…

5. Familiar faces

ahs castThe anthology structure of AHS is exciting because every season is a clean slate, a new horror trope in a new part of America in different era. As well as the possibility of cross over characters, Murphy uses the same core troop of actors to play different characters. Jessica Lange, who has deservedly won Golden Globes and Emmys for AHS, and Evan Peters have become central characters every season, although, sadly, Lange has announced this season will be her last. After their great reception in Coven, Cathy Bates, Angela Bassett and Emma Roberts are all back. I am disappointed not to see Taissa Farmiga again, and was hoping for a return from the brilliant Zachary Quinto after his absence from Coven. It is rumoured that last season’s witch Gabourney Sidibe will also be making a return. And many are excited to see a brand new face join the troop: Neil Patrick Harris.

6. Drawing on urban myths, and real life frights

edward mordrakeWhat’s more scary than a true story, or a supposedly true story? Having explored the Black Dahlia, Westfield High school shootings and Fanny Price among others. Don’t worry, Twisty isn’t based on a true story, so don’t let at haunt you more than it already has; this season is looking into Edward Mordrake, a man who had a ‘demon’ face on the back of his head in addition to his real face. The convincingly creepy Wes Bently plays the man which two faces, maybe he will be a friend to Sarah Paulson’s two headed lady?

7. Forbidden love

lobster boy

There’s usually a gothic Romeo and Juliet style romance in AHS, usually with Evan Peters as the Romeo (or in the case of last year, more Frankenstein) This year we have already seen him offering his services to some sexually frustrated housewives and seen him flirting with Bette and Dot (naïve Bette is definitely smitten) but who will be the lucky, or in this case, not so lucky, girl to win his heart at the Freak Show?

8. Blood

Lastly, something you can certainly expect a lot of this year is blood. And gore. And more blood. With murders mounting up already, this Freak Show is being true to form when it comes to bloody violence. If you don’t like gore, look away now.

Blogfest 2014

mumsnet

I am very much looking forward to attending Mumsnet’s annual Blogfest in London this week.

Having only just relaunched my blog, I am intrigued to get hints and tips from professionals (and non-professionals) including novelist Nick Hornby, comedian Francesca Martinez and campaigner Camila Batmanghelidjh, who have succeeded in the tough online world of blogging.

There are still tickets up for grabs, it would be great to see some fellow bloggers there.

Shop local and save the British high street

shop-local

Just last month, I was filled with sadness at the news that Bohemian Days was closing. While this may not mean much to most of you, it was a beautiful gift and interiors shop in my local village, an independent, family-run business that had been trading for 18 years. It was my first, and one of my favourite, jobs. I was the Saturday girl from aged 16 and continued part-time work in between university terms and only gave up my retail manager position on Sundays last year.

It was one of those beautiful shops that was like an Aladdin’s cave: the stock was primarily made of one-off or unusual, but tasteful items which were sought out by the buyers from all over Europe. Dainty Danish jewellery, fabulous French furniture and decadent Dutch decor. So many people commented on how much they loved the shop and loved browsing the ever-changing displays. But this is where the problem laid: browsing, not buying.

Despite being featured in high profile magazines like Country Living and House to Home and even being named Independent Gift Retailer of the Year in 2013 for South England, this was not enough to keep this one-off store afloat.

This story is not a one-off: all over the country, shops are struggling to continue trading. High streets are rapidly emptying and being filled with charity shops and chain stores as these are the only people who can afford the steep rent charges of shop sites.

Charity shops receive a reduced rates for shop sites and large chains are the only ones who can afford the extortionate rents. It’s sad but high streets all over the country are gradually morphing into the same parade of shops: I would be willing to bet that your local high street has a Costa/Starbucks, a Tesco Express/Sainsburys local and a Boots/Superdrug.

Even clothes shops in shopping centre are just a repeat of the next city along. Everyone ends up wearing the same things and it takes the joy out of shopping. Another problem with shopping centres is that all the big brand names move into the flashy, expensive new sites, leaving all the independents struggling on the old highstreet, where nobody bothers to visit any more. Why brave the rain to go to that cute boutique store when you have Topshop, River Island and Zara all under one roof?

Don’t get me wrong, I love these shops and do shop at chain stores myself, but where possible I try to shop local and buy from independents. There is generally more a sense of community among the local shops, because the owners put their heart and soul into their shops, cafes and restaurants. It is their livelihood, they are not just a cog in a machine, they are the machine.

But perhaps an even better reason to spend money in locally is that it is actually better for the economy. According to Independent Retailer of the Month, “for every £1 spent locally around 50p – 70p of that money recirculates back into the local economy. For the same £1 spent out of town or online only 5p trickles back to the local community.”

Quite simply, it makes good sense to shop locally at independent retailers to keep the variety of the high street alive and stimulate the British economy. So next time you have a choice between picking up a loaf of bread or birthday card, why not take a look in a little one-off shop rather than a well-known chain store? You may be pleasantly surprised.

You don’t have to wear a t-shirt to be a feminist

feminist tshirt

David Cameron is under fire for not donning a t-shirt bearing the slogan ‘This is what a feminist looks like.’ Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband both obliged when Elle magazine asked the politicians to wear the t-shirt, which makes the Prime Minister look even worse.

This act of defiance is sure to cause some rumblings, especially among female voters. Lorraine Candy, editor-in-chief of Elle, said: “This is a shame on so many levels, especially given he knew Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband had agreed without hesitation, alongside many other influential men who were more than happy to call themselves feminists. It seems the prime minister still has an issue with the word feminist.”

But does wearing a t-shirt really make you a feminist? I don’t think so. Yes, it is good to raise awareness, but promoting a t-shirt, which costs £45, donned by politicians and actors (Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston have also been pictured in the top) isn’t going to make people sit up and listen much more than Emma Watson’s #HeForShe campaign (Sorry Emma, you get points for effort though).

Honestly, I think this campaign is in danger of becoming a fashion statement. It’s one thing to wear a slogan t-shirt, it’s another to actually live up to what is emblazoned on your chest. Nina Nesbitt song lyrics come to mind: “He’s got a Rolling Stones tee, but he only knows one song.” Wearing a band t-shirt doesn’t make you a hardcore fan. Wearing a feminist t-shirt doesn’t make you an actual feminist.

The campaign isn’t even an original idea. A t-shirt with the same slogan was previously sold (at a much more reasonable price of £15) by Fawcett, the UK’s leading charity for women’s equality. This society campaigned for a parliamentary women’s vote. Rather than literally dressing politicians up to look like feminists, more could be done to encourage voting and giving women a voice in parliament.

There have only been 370 female MPs in the House of Commons since the first was elected in 1918. Let’s hope that instead of wearing a t-shirt, Cameron will turn his attention to the 48 women in the Conservative Party who currently sit in the House of Commons (out of 302 Tories).

In fact, in terms of how well women are represented in parliament, the UK ranks 63rd in the world, which is pretty appalling. According to the World Economic Forum, the UK ranks 26th in the world in terms of pay equality: behind Nicaragua, Bulgaria and the Philippines. This is appalling for such a progressive country.

Now, Harriet Harman has shunned her usual power suit for a ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ t-shirt. It was pretty much a big f-you to Cameron as she sat opposite him at Prime Minister’s Questions. And it did cause a stir. But, hey, we all know Harman is a feminist. It wasn’t really the great feminist political statement we’d all been waiting for.

So rather than worrying whether our PM is wearing a slogan t-shirt or not, we should really be looking at the policies his party is passing through government and who is making these policies. When women are able to speak up and be taken seriously in the House of Commons, then we will know what a feminist really looks like.

P.S. – It now turns out that the t-shirts were being made in a sweat shop where staff were paid as little as 62p an hour. It’s bad enough when Primark do this for £3 t-shirts, let alone a charity selling them for an extortionate £45 each. If you’re going to make a point about equality, at least pay the manufacturers fairly. #ironic