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REVIEW: CRAZY EX GIRLFRIEND

A couple of months ago, I stumbled upon a show on Netflix called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I decided to give it a go, and boy, I’m glad I did. Rachel bloom performs as Rebecca Bunch, a career orientated woman depressed and despairing at her empty life, when she stumbles upon her ex boyfriend, Josh Chan. On an impulse and obsessive decision, she decides to move to West Covina (which just so happens to be where Josh lives) in an attempt to regain some happiness in her life, and so, an ingenious show was born.

I didn’t realise upon watching that it was a musically inclined show, and the first song that appeared I was not prepare for and may put some viewers off but I promise, stick with the show and you will be rewarded. It is new, innovative and incredibly refreshing, but above all, realistic when dealing with events in life. It removes the romanticism that Hollywood often prescribes to everyday life, and instead takes dark matters and deep themes such as depression, mental health and sexuality, and presents them in a wonderfully light hearted and comedic style. Rebecca is all of us: slightly crazy, obsessive, kooky, weird and, in other words: not perfect. She is such an accurate representation of the modern woman that I couldn’t stop laughing and empathising with her. Rebecca’s character is one of the best female characters I’ve come across in the last year or so because not only is she empowering, but she’s also so relatable. You know those days where you look like shit, haven’t washed or put makeup on, just dashed out of the house to maybe stock up on tampons and chocolate? Or where you try and play things cool, when really you’ve been obsessing over it endlessly and you just brush it off when it’s brought up? Well, Rebecca Bunch, as the ‘everyday woman’, does these things too. She’s like an average role model, the one who celebrates her quirkiness and imperfections.

Some of my personal favourite songs (on YouTube if you fancy watching)
– The Sexy Getting Ready song (an accurate documentation of the process girls go through getting ready, and absolutely hilarious)
I’m the villain (A Disneyfied anti-hero narrative that’s incredibly catchy)
Sex with a stranger (for anyone who’s had terrible experiences on tinder)
I gave you a UTI ( A hilarious jaunty song which includes genius lyrics such as ‘My sweet love Injection caused a urinary tract infection’ and ‘If it hurts to take a leak
That’s just part of my technique’)
Greg’s Drinking Song (an old fashioned, Irish folkish song performed by Greg (the fantastic Santino Fontano) coming to terms with his alcoholism, yet in the most light-hearted way. Includes lyrics about him puking on his cat, having sex with a bush, and trying to fly for a plane). One of my personal favourites.

The best thing about the show is, in my opinion, it’s music. Ingenious lyrics, really- it’s incredibly clever  puns and play on words (Getting-Bi is a good example of a man discovering his sexuality, and just getting by with it, for example). And each song is different and unique- there’ll be rock styles, pop music, R & B songs, Country songs, good old power ballards, all of them). And the attention to detail in the show is magnificent, in Season 2 they compiled a song made up of different songs from season one- imagine! One big song made of different songs?! It’s awesome. The hilarity of the show is matched only by the skill of the vocals from every cast member- while Rebecca is indeed the protagonist, we are treated to individual songs from different characters with their own struggles and styles.

I could go on describing all the songs, but this post is becoming increasingly too long already, so just go and watch the show yourself. The characters are absolutely hilarious, including Greg, a sarcastic, alcoholic bartender with a pessimistic attitude, feeling trapped in his own life, his drinking and his poor taste in women, Valencia, a ‘Humble yoga instructor/ Kate Hudson / Princess / Bitch’, Heather, an intellectual goth-emo-scary chick who just so happens to be ‘Miss Douche’, and countless others.

The main content of the series is beautifully simple; Rebecca, on a pursuit of happiness, which we can see is an uphill struggle with lots of laughs on the way. Season two follows this idea, with Rebecca hanging onto the belief that if she ends up with Josh, she’ll finally be happy. (Spoiler for S2 in the next sentence)

The amazing finale shows a final epiphany for Rebecca as she is left at the altar, all her dreams crushed as she comes to the realisation happiness will not be found in Josh Chan, or the other men in her life that have left her (we see an amazing parallel of daddy issues shown between Rebecca and her new hot boss, Nathaniel)
By the grace of God, Season 3 has been confirmed and so I will eagerly await its release. The show delves into all kinds of issues: from having crushes on people, to making friends, meeting the parents, fucking everything up, being stuck in a love triangle, the hardships and weirdness of being a dad, the importance of female empowerment and feminism, homosexuality, racism- you name it, it’s got it. It’s and if nothing I’ve said has persuaded you to watch the show, check out some of the songs on Netflix or youtube at least, it’s worth listening to.

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What’s the deal with Fifty Shades of Grey?

I vaguely remember the storm around E. L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey when it came out. I remember gathering around a copy with my friends, trying to find the rude sections, and giggling as we read it out. I remember seeing pictures of women brazenly reading it on trains for the world to see, and being fairly impressed at this unapologetic display of an erotic book on their way home from Charing Cross on a Tuesday night. I am in Great Britain, after all, and even though we are known for our prudishness, we are not one to ban stuff.
With the arrival of trailers of the second film, Fifty Shades Darker, I decided to get off my high horse, and watch it. Now, I know it was originally written as a fanfiction from Stephanie Meyers Twilight series, hence the reason why I avoided the film like the plague. Like many others, I assumed it was directed at middle aged suburban women, thrill-seeking and trembling in their cinema seats. But alas, I watched it. And like, what’s the deal with it?

The plot was very simple, very dull, and I kept waiting for something dramatic and exciting to happen. But no. It’s was just a series of meetings between Ana and Christian as they bonded (and later, bondaged… ignore that. I’ll work on the puns later). I did wonder how they were going to direct a film all about explicit sex (from what I gather, I haven’t actually read the book so lack the means to compare) but it was done very tastefully, and the sex scenes weren’t half bad.

Now, I don’t know if I’m being a feminazi here, or whether the film genuinely displayed an almost abusive relationship. Christian draws up a contract for Anastasia, in which she, as a submissive sexual partner, can’t drink alcohol, can only eating food from a specific list, and specifically says she must do anything sexual he asks for ‘without argument’, because nothing says sexy like the underlying threat of rape.

Now, if a guy tried to tell me I couldn’t drink, or I wasn’t allowed that second slice of pizza, he’d be out the door before you could say dildo.
Ana, like any self-respecting woman, doesn’t sign the contract, and eventually gets on with her life, until Christian, displaying EXTREMELY possessive, obsessive tendencies, hounds her via text, getting genuinely pissed off that she’s taking her time considering signing her soul and dignity away. Eventually, instead of giving her the breathing time that she needs, he decides to stalk her, enter her apartment without asking, and has sex with her. Talk about seduction. Already at this point warning bells are going off in my mind. lets face it, girls love a bad boy. Sometimes, it’s cute when he gets jealous. But this goes so far beyond that.
Christian goes so far beyond cute to stalker-psycho, more like Patrick Bateman than Patrick Swayze. He tears her away from her graduation with her father, tells her she cannot go to see her mother and then when she does, turns up and -oh you guessed it- drags her away from special time with her mother. The guy doesn’t have boundaries. He takes over her life completely, and its not sexy, its not cute, its borderline abusive.

But the real cruncher here, is that Christian, whilst displaying a psychotic sort of cold affection towards Ana, states there would be no romantic relationship, only a sexual one. Ana can not touch him, or sometimes look him in the eye. And whilst all the women watching this film look with goggle eyes at Jamie Dornan (Christian), they fail to acknowledge this insult. This guy is the epitome of what we now say ‘fuckboy’. He is not interested in dating her, being nice to her, getting to know her, only using her for his own pleasure. And women find this… sexy? If a boy texted one of my friends saying he wasn’t interested in her for her sunny personality, only her vagina, we’d both laugh and cast him off with all the other fuckboys. But I guess it’s different if it’s a sadistic famous millionaire (A GREAT message for young girls, by the way).

Christian gives Ana a new laptop, expensive books, and even a car (though it’s crucial to point out that without asking her, he got one of his henchmen to sell her old one. See why I have a problem with this?)So basically, it’s a sugar-daddy/ escort situation, but it’s okay because he’s hot.
The main redeeming factor is Anastasia finally leaves Christian, and it seems apparent that she is standing up for herself, not allowing him to hurt her, buy her or own her- a point that now seems redundant considering there’s a second film- but we’ll get to that later.

Now maybe I am reading to much into it. And whilst I don’t want to come off too feminist-lefty-liberal, I honestly do see some worrying displays of abuse in the film. I get the whole dominant-submissive sexual thing, but when it surpasses the bedroom, and takes over the couples life, surely that becomes a problem? If Christian wants to dominant Ana in the bedroom, and she consents, then its all fun and games. But it goes past this, to him controlling what she eats, what she drinks, her friends, when she sees her family, what car she drives, where she lives. So what do you guys think? Is it a disgusting portrayal of an abusive relationship, condoning dominance in young couples? (It’s key to remember this that some young audiences, will watch this and think this is how functional relationships work because majority of teenage audiences are young, dumb, and full of cum.)
Or is it a harmless film that plays around with sexual stereotypes? What do you guys think? Even if you haven’t watched it and have stuck this far, what reading do you get from it? I’d be fascinated to know what others think of this film, as it seems weird for me to bring it up to my friends after years of it being released (and I’m almost ashamed to admit watching it). Let me know what you guys think. Peace Out.

REVIEW: DRY THE RIVER – SHALLOW BED

Armed with a watered down, lukewarm beer in a plastic cup trying to find my friends, I stumbled upon an absolute gem of a band at Reading Festival 2013- Dry the River. I’ve had the fortune of seeing this band twice more after that- once again at Reading, a year later, and then finally a gig at Tooting tram in December. The interesting use of vocal harmonies across the band paired with finger-picked guitar, violins and intense crescendos showed me music in a way I’d never heard it before. This wasn’t just music, this was an experience.

Dry the River’s album ‘Shallow Bed’ can only be described as a treasure chest, full of exquisite, beautiful songs all incredibly special and unique. Lead singer/ songwriter Peter Liddle has a Godlike talent for creating an old-soul sound, contrasted with an experimentative youthfulness. Each song, while mysterious and enigmatic, has the blessing of not being terribly cryptic, and so I find a multitude of people can extract different meanings from the songs. With the same soulful melodies of bands like Sigur Ros and the lyrical genius of -dare I say- Bob Dylan, Dry The River provides it’s audience with something archaic yet fresh. One could say it’s…. riveting.The five piece British indie folk band all came from different origins, experimenting with more hard-core branches of music, but ultimately decided to take a more folksy, alternative approach.

 “The Dry the River sound is what you’d hear if you were in the bath after being dumped”
– Scott Miller (Bass & Percussion).
While not an incredibly glamorous statement, the melancholic sounds can generally be enjoyed whenever, but personally I would add it to an autumn/winter playlist due to the gentle melodies that match the simplistic beauty of winter weather vibes. The aesthetics of the lyrics create a deep, philosophical stance; a nice break from the bombarding of the repetitive, common pop music dominating the radio.
The use of biblical references combined with allusions to mythology and animal imagery sets Dry The River apart from other alternative bands singing of teenage heartbreak and smoking cigarettes *cough*.
Additionally, the lyrics break down the cliché stereotypes of discussing love via the medium of music in a poetic style, akin to Bon Iver. Pete’s angelic voice certainly adds to the heavenly aesthetics of the songs on ‘Shallow Bed’.
The luxurious innocence combined with dark themes form a truly imaginative album, and whilst Dry the River may not be the ideal band to listen to for a drinking session with your mates, it certainly adds something new to the up and coming alternative/folk genre of modern music. 

REVIEW: LUSH

With Instagram snaps of fizzing bath bombs and presents of smelly soaps, I decided to explore the fascination with the new body products sop, Lush.

Firstly, the shop is distinctive because of the potent smell wafting from it’s shop doors halfway down the shopping centre- though many are put off by the strong smell of the shop! The layout is cosy and a bit jam-packed, giving off a busy vibe.

One can compare the feeling of Lush as the same as a child in a candy store- there’s so much to look at and choose from! Rows and lines of fizzy bath bombs with ingenious names such as ‘Granny takes a dip’ and ‘Immaculate Eggception’ which bring the fun, light-hearted soap to cleaning your body. You can see the care in which every person that works at Lush puts in to creating and selling the product, and the customer care is fabulous from my experience.

Lush even work around the major holidays to incorporate creative ideas such as carrot bombs for Easter and can be the perfect sack present for both teens and adults at Christmas. I must admit, I received a massive basket filled with gorgeous lush products that have lasted me and made me feel and smell like an angel. These gifts included Space Girl, Tisty Tosty, Fizzbanger, with a glittery hard massage bar that made my skin feel  smells like coconut, look sparky and feel softer than a baby’s bottom! I add a dusting of vanilla powder for a soft, delicate look for a night out.

The wacky colours and glitter and flowers are very exciting for someone who loves a good bath, and I have to admit there is a childish pleasure in watching the chemical reactions of the bomb fizzing and adapting the water you relax in. For those who have enough excitement in their life, there are calmer products available. Lush have a surprisingly wide range of different products- from hair products to soaps and lotions. I have recently bought the ‘Mask of Magninity’. I have loved facemasks all my life, and this did not disappoint. The soothing mint smells absolutely gorgeous and the honey soothes the face after the anti-inflammatory ingredients works to revitalise and clean your skin.

So what sets Lush aside from other shops? firstly, they don’t test on animals. In fact, they staged a campaign against animal testing in 2012, on Regent street in London as they showed graphic scenes of a performance artist being tested and essentially tortured, with a petition to sign. They raised awareness and of course, all of their products haven’t been tested on animals, are vegetarian and handmade. Paired with the ‘Naked packaging’ and ethical buying, Lush has to be my favourite cosmetics shop and I recommend trying out  couple of their products.

Rating: 9/10. If only I had enough money to fill my bath shelves with all of the products from this fabulous shop.

   
 

REVIEW : LIMITLESS

Limitless is a film showing a struggling writer (the dynamic Bradley Cooper) who is the epitome of procrastination. His laziness and lethargic nature combined with a shabby, messy apartment and the looks of a crackhead in rehab remind me of University students on a Monday morning. I found Eddie’s character therefore extremely easy to connect to and empathise with- majority of us are, after all, inactive creatures with a tendency to shirk our duties. Eddie is on the verge of despair, his life spiralling out of control with his girlfriend dumping him and near to losing his job. The introduction of a new drug- NZT (the name itself sounds chemically snappy) from a vague old friend gives Eddie a chance to be someone else- the better version of himself. What I find particularly interesting is that the drug doesn’t change or alter much in your mind, rather organising it in a way so the information you receive your whole life, is accessible to you when you need it. An example is when in a fight, Eddie remembers clips from self defence and karate movies he had watched, using them to fight a couple of guys that had attacked him.

Things are now going great for Eddie. We see everything more vivid an colourful as the director enhances the audiences own vision so we experience this drug alongside the protagonist. Eddie gets a dashing haircut, a new suit, cleans his apartment, visibly getting his life together. He cleverly starts doubling his money and investing in stocks, using this drive to do something productive. The only problem is that for me, his original dreams of becoming a writer are not mentioned again- so does the drug change his personality? Or somewhere along the way did his aspirations change? Bradley Cooper interestingly enough plays another struggling author in a film called ‘The Words’ (On Netflix if anyone wan to check it out).

All good things must come to an end, however, as it was too good to be true- somehow I don’t think the directors intention was to suggest that drugs were brilliant and there were no negative effects whatsoever- and Eddie begins o gain enemies- one strange looking man who later turns out to be an absolutely terrifying, knife-wielding maniac. Another Eastern European drug dealer also has it out for Eddie and with the new events of the drug actually causing the addicted to get ill or dead, Eddie must manage to wean off the drugs and fight off the competition all at the same time. The film ends happily, obviously, with a few questions as to whether Eddie has managed to kick the drugs or the drugs hold over him, but overall I think the film is well worth a watch. It shows money, productivity and success as key motivators for all different types of humans and the highs and lows of how to get there. For drugs users, there are many scenes in which you can empathise and understand, all cleverly shown through the directors use of camerawork- manipulating the screen to make it move trippily, the vivid colours and the soundtrack that make an incredibly enjoyable film.

Which leaves me with the question- if you take the drug NTZ, you have the world at your fingertips. You could run for president. You could create a business. You could be an artist, write a book. What would you do?

REIGN REVIEW

After scouring Netflix for another show to watch, I stumbed across ‘Reign’. It looked quite like popular show ‘The Tudors’, something that I’ve always wanted to watch but never have. I loved period dramas and historical films, so I thought I’d give it a go. By the first episode, I was so in love with it that I knew I’d have to write about it. Firstly, the plot begins and ges straight into the action- a poisoning at the convent in which Mary, Queen of scots, is staying at for her protection. She then travels to France where she re-meets her betrothed, the handsome Francis, exchanging some eye-sex with him after seeing his also handsome brother, ‘Bash’- an illegitamet son of the king. The season shows the development of her romance with the two brothers as she is forced continuously to choose between duty and love. The themes of nationality, identity and royalty come across strongly in this brilliant series.

First of all, the cinematography of the show amazed me. The camera work is smooth and graceful, and the picture is perfect. We are graced with a kaleidoscope of colours from the Eden-esque settings of France and the incredibly detailed costume designs. The costumes are absolutely fantastic in this show- each dress had been carefully constructed with the character in mind, the dresses are stunning and elegant, accompanied with gorgeous accessories. My only complaint, however, is that some are so far out of the period-era that it’s quite shocking- normally, I would mind, however to see someone wearing a thigh high dress was crudely out of place. The prince also wears a knitted jumper at some point that looks like it came straight out of Primark.  The costumes fit perfectly with the youthful, beautiful cast that portray the characters in the series. Almost every single character in this is beautiful- Mary and her ladies, the king and queen have an older, more seasoned beauty to them, and their sons- Sebastian (Bash) and Francis, are gorgeous too. Makes me wonder if shows such as Reign, True Blood, Vampire diaries, lost etc would be half as popular with a standard- average looking cast?

Mary shows courage in her character, is pleasant and fairly strong- not breaking down into tears though I would like a bit of character development where she is perhaps vulnerable every now and then, to make her seem more human, though I love how strong her character is. She is polite, says the right things- except her flabberghasted mutterings to Francis  in the first episode which, to be fair, most woman can understand, we’ve all been faced with a dreamboat and have said equally confusing and embarrassing things.

Mostly historically accurate with some obvious exaggeration to make the plot fast moving and interesting, however, the winner for me was the soundtrack. With songs from the Lumineers, band of skulls, crystal fighters and other popular modern music, it gave an interesting twist on this show. The soundtrack is absolutely fabulous and gives an interesting juxtaposition with the historical events.

I’d highly recommend this show due to the interesting, fast moving plot that makes you want to keep watching, with interesting twists from ‘The Plague’ to a ‘whodunnit’ of sorts, along side the use of stunning costumes and location of the set and the characters if you like a historical or period series with a modern twist to make it watchable. Comparable to both ‘Merlin’ and ‘The Tudors’.