‘Cheryl – My Story’ by Cheryl

From Geordie girl, to Girls Aloud, to being Mrs Ashley Cole and to being just plain Cheryl, she’s had quite a colourful life to say the least. When I saw it for half price in the shop, I couldn’t resist. I do like a good autobiography, particularly for celebs that I like. Cheryl isn’t my favourite, but I thought it would be a good read and I wasn’t disappointed.

Like I said Cheryl has had a colourful life – from living in Newcastle where her family struggled to get by. Her pride for the city echoes throughout the book, and it seems her dream of becoming a pop star stated from a young age. Before her major public heartbreak and divorce from ex-husband Ashley Cole, it seems her heart was broken before by a heroin addict boyfriend and another cheater.

Other than early life heartbreak, she discusses happier times such as the early days of Girls Aloud, climbing Kilimanjaro, her success as a solo artist and her time on X Factor UK. I think after reading the book I’ve got a lot more respect for Cheryl, particularly her no-nonsense approach to the paparazzi. I recommend anyone who is a fan of Cheryl to go out and find it (to be honest you can probably find it in a charity shop). Even if you’re not a fan, but you like autobiographies, Cheryl has quite a few anecdotes about her life and her celebrity friends so I would still recommend it.

The X Factor or should we call it The Fix Factor

Reality TV competition shows – you either love them or hate them. I love them – I find them incredibly addictive and just can’t help but get swept up in the drama of it all. Every year there’s always a sob story, an entertainer who doesn’t really have the best voice but an epic personality and a couple of amazing talented singers. This year is no exception and it seems that the age old argument of the show being a fix is rearing its head again.

The contestants in the firing line this year are Rylan Clarke and Christopher Maloney. Now my personal opinions of these two contestants are polar opposite – I love Rylan – even though he doesn’t have the best singing voice, he has a brilliant personality and genuinely entertains. You can also sense he is a genuinely nice guy as well, whereas Christopher is not entertaining, is slightly annoying and quite frankly doesn’t seem that nice either. Every week they have managed to escape the bottom 2 (even though I’ve been secretly hoping Rylan wasn’t in it) but these past 2 weeks it has become painfully obvious that something isn’t right.

Last week, it seemed time was up but instead we got battle of the boybands and District 3 were sent home. This week, again it seemed even more obvious that they should be in the bottom 2 – to be honest I would’ve loved to have seen Rylan versus Christopher so Rylan could smash Chris to pieces. I feel that because Rylan is more entertaining he should be in longer than Chris. However this did not happen – in fact neither of them were in the bottom and instead two singers who both should have been in the final were left to fight it out, leading to the biggest shock in the show’s history. 16 year-old singer Ella Henderson left with her head held high-composed and mature but I was left shocked that this result even happened. It seems that no one is voting for Christopher Maloney, but then somehow he makes it through. It begs the question who is voting and how fair is this style of voting. Would it better to vote for people you would rather see leave the competition?

What’s clear is that this week and next week’s show will be even more interesting. The Xtra Factor (the show that airs right after the results show) demonstrated that the contestants, the presenter and the public were all shocked by the result. Rylan looked positively distraught and claimed he felt guilty that he was still there and that Ella was not. Chris however looked as happy as pie, possibly angering viewers everywhere (well this viewer anyway). Tulisa looked furious after the results were announced and again on the Xtra Factor – she even said she blames Christopher. It’ll be interesting to see what the backlash is like and just how next week’s results will pan out.

It’s SHOWTIME with Michael McIntyre….

Michael McIntyre has been on the comedy scene for quite some time now, and his most recent tour was the one most fans have been waiting for. I feel the third (big-timer) comedy tour is always the most anticipated. The first tour is for the people who have followed the comic from comedy club status, the second is for those who have bought the first tour DVD and like them off the telly, but by the third is where it really counts; they are now a household name and the expectations are high.
Michael McIntyre is one of the more well know comedians and so he had a lot to live up to with this tour. Tickets went on sale (at a hefty price) and sold out 12 months before he was due to reach some cities; as I sat and listened to his performance I asked myself: was it worth it? The answer: No
Now I am veteran fan, I promoted his first DVD with a passion and got all my friends involved, I attended his second tour following it up with a purchase of his second DVD, and so yes I will admit that I did have very high hopes for this tour. And I don’t blame myself, I’d paid a lot of money, waited a long time and I was expecting big things. Previously I have been to see Lee Evans (my all-time favourite but no bias), and he still managed to deliver a tour that was totally brand new.
Don’t get me wrong McIntyre was funny for the most part, but by the end of it I was itching to go home. Yes it’s great to show off your improb skills by interacting with the audience, but not for the whole show! I’ve paid to see you tell jokes, not take the piss out of the lady who can’t laugh properly in the front row; if I wanted that I would have gone to see Frankie Boyle.
The thing that annoys me the most is when a comedian plays on a joke that has been previously successful for them; e.g. Peter Kay and his Garlic Bread. McIntyre wasn’t as bad as Kay, but the same thing kept happening, it was like having a stint of déjà vu. I just wanted to scream, GET NEW JOKES!!!!! Repetition is the comedian’s downfall.
I wanted to write this earlier, but due to the tour still having a few dates left I thought it best not to dampen sprites. Sorry McIntyre, you haven’t done it for me this time.

Degrading or Sexually Awakening? Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy Review

Cast your mind back a few months to the start of the summer, when it seemed like everyone was reading the hot new thing– the erotic, romance novel Fifty Shades of Grey. The EL James book trilogy took Britain by storm and sold millions of copies. As it seemed like all my friends (especially my girl friends) were reading the novels, and as an avid reader myself I needed to see what the fuss was about so invested in the entire trilogy (I figured I would read the whole thing).

The novel centres on Anastasia Steele, a young, pretty, quite innocent girl and Christian Grey, an enigmatic, bachelor billionaire. They happen to meet when Ana has to interview him on behalf of her housemate and the two have an instant spark. Grey begins to pursue/stalk her (but in a cute way) and Ana begins to fall under his spell. Christian then reveals that he in fact leads a very alternative lifestyle, acting as a dominant, and is into BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, and Masochism). Things start getting interesting from this point, although Ana continues to fall head over heels in love with him, and it seems that she is having an effect on Christian.

I won’t go into too much detail about the novel, but it is a romance trilogy so you can probably guess that these two crazy kids end up together (and not just in a dominant/subordinate relationship). In terms of the book sizes they’re not light – each book is about 500 pages long, and I do struggle to see how EL James has dragged the story out for that long. There is a lot of description (of sex and of other extravagant activities the couple gets up to).  I probably started reading the books around July, and it didn’t take me long to get into the first book – I finished that within about two weeks (I can be a slow reader). However, the next two took a bit longer and it wasn’t until the end of October that I managed to finish the entire series.

One thing that struck me very much towards the end of the series is how much the series reminded me of Twilight (minus the vampires of course). Here we have a man who was detached, but beautiful and full of charm, and a girl who was perhaps slightly socially awkward, quite normal pretty but besotted by him. I can even imagine the film adaptation when it comes out flowing quite like the Twilight movie – voice over thoughts and moody music. Edward compares himself to a bad guy in a superhero story, constantly telling Bella it would be better off if she stayed away from him. Early on the in first novel Christian does exactly the same to Anastasia. He tells her to stay away from him and that he’s not a ‘hearts and flowers guy’. The similarities between the characters and their relationship with each other are numerous – they’re both fiercely protective of their girls, other women are constantly bowled over by their beauty and charisma, and as couples, they tend to not want to be separated and when they do they constantly moan about their unhappiness. More trivial similarities include Bella and Ana’s parents are both divorced and Edward and Christian have adoptive families. The characters of José and Jacob are also quite similar in terms of their blatant love for their respective friend (although with Jacob Bella does actually have some feelings towards him whereas José is purely platonic.

I actually like the Twilight franchise and to be honest I enjoyed reading these books. It’s certainly not going to be winning any Pulitzer prizes but, as far as an enjoyable, easy going read goes, this one is certainly one you could pack in your suitcase to read beside the pool. As far as the sexual content goes, I certainly don’t think this book is degrading to women, in fact I think it is exactly the opposite. In recent years, ‘Page 3’ and ‘lads mags’ have become far more accessible and much more in your face so I think it is only fair that women have a chance to be sexually awakened and be presented with more mainstream erotica. It allows women who may not have experience of that side of sex to become more accustomed to it, and perhaps introduce it into their own love lives.

However, being an ex-English Literature student, I cannot forgive EL James’ poor writing. It took me a while to realise just how badly the novels were written. The constant repetitiveness of Ana’s thoughts and just how ridiculous they sounded were enough to irritate me. She manages to make both lead characters very two-dimensional, and both clearly have issues (although saying that every human does). After a while the issues become quite annoying in themselves; Ana has obvious self-esteem and confidence issues and Christian is self loathing and doesn’t believe he is worth anything. Sometimes I did find myself reading the book and just wanting to jump into the story and shout and slap the both of them. The idea that the two characters simply cannot be apart from each other for more than an hour is also suffocating to even think about – in reality would any woman want to be controlled or be around there partner every minute of the day?

One thing that I can commend EL James on is the sexual awakening of Ana’s character. She walks into the book awkward and a virgin, and she soon finds her libido and her sex drive, and thus showing women everywhere a new opening into their sexual awakening.

I would certainly recommend this book if you’re going away on holiday any time soon and if you want a bit of light reading on the plane/by the pool. If you want to find out what the fuss is about, then go, be brave and embrace the novels. But don’t expect a first class read on par with War and Peace.

 

“I’ve wanted you since you fell into my office. You are exquisite, honest, warm, strong, witty, beguiling, innocent; the list is endless. I’m in awe of you. I want you, and the thought of anyone else having you is like a knife twisting in my dark soul” (Christian, Fifty Shades Darker)

Long Live the Storyline…

Last week I gave my better half a lesson is classic film culture. After lending him the DVD of the infamous Shawshank Redemption five years ago, he finally got round to watching it; and quite frankly it blew his socks off. If you’ve never seen the film then you are truly missing out on what can only be described as cinematic genius and I don’t mean the visual effects, or the dramatic soundtrack, or even the star studded cast, because really all of these things are absent. No I’m talking about the plot, yes this is a film which actually has a story to tell, characters to fall in love with, and an ending worth getting to.

We start at the scene of a double murder, followed quickly by Andy Dufresne being sentenced, jailed and arriving in his new home; the scene is set. We are then introduced to the group of characters of which the film revolves and are soon to find that the beautiful voice of Morgan freeman will be narrating us through the film. Strange concept I hear you think? And so it sounds, but in fact it works beautifully, the soundtrack is very minimal, with more diegetic sound than none, making the film feel more realistic. We follow the characters as they live out their lives in the big house, deal with the hierarchy of the guards and make a good situation out of a bad.

The worry for most people when they come across Shawshank is the commitment that has to be made, two and a half hours is a very long time (or at least it was in 1994when Shawshank was first released) to sit and watch a film which doesn’t have the visual effects to distract you. But there is no need to fret, the beauty of Shawshank is that it swoops you up, draws you in and engulfs you into a beautiful story, which, despite not being fast paced, makes you forget that times exists. Only when the film finishes do you realise how long you have in fact being sitting in front of the T.V. Now for me, this is a major accomplishment considering there is little to go on in the way of distractions. When was the last time a film’s storyline gripped you so much you were unaware of the concept of time?

I feel as though these days there are no classic films being made, yes we have the likes of Skyfall and The Avengers which are both visually stunning, but the story lines? Are they really that fantastic? Will we really remember the story for years for come? I doubt it very much, I barely remember the point of Dark Knight Rises and that came out a matter of months ago. What is it with films these days? It’s as though we’ve forgotten the true meaning of films, instead of the telling of a story we get brain washed by flashy stunts, visual effects and the fact that half of Hollywood has teamed up to give us the latest blockbuster.

Where have the films like Shawshank, and Forrest Gump gone? The ones that actually deserve the Oscars they are nominated for; the ones we can watch over and over and repeat the storyline years after the release date? I’m not saying the new films we have now are bad, not at all, but it just feels like directors and producers are trying to put as many visual effect as possible into every film they make. And due to this, visual and sound effects have become the norm.

It saddens me greatly, as does the world’s current pace that we no longer have the story lines to love.

‘I hear you’re a man that can get things’

British Espionage at it’s Best – Skyfall Review

That familiar theme tune. Gadgets and fast cars. Action and espionage. Oh and a charming, delectable leading man. It can only mean one thing – James Bond is back and wow is he back with a bang. After work and a weekend away stopped me from seeing it earlier, I patiently waited and last night I finally got to see it and it did not disappoint.

Daniel Craig’s stint as Bond has for the most part been highly praised. Casino Royale explored Bond’s beginning’s, telling the story of how he procured his 00 status, and also silenced the many critics of Craig, who believed Bond could never be blonde. Quantum of Solace was a stumble, with some good aspects to it, but certainly not as good as Craig’s first outing. Now British director Sam Mendes takes the helm and in Bond’s 50th anniversary year he creates what some critics are calling one of the best Bond films in history, filled with a new modern day Bond and one that nods to the nostalgia and history of the series.

The film opens with a grand chase involving cars, motorbikes  a train fight through Istanbul (once I saw those rooftops and recognised them from Taken 2 I had to laugh – does everyone go to Istanbul now for action movies?) It results in Bond being shot accidentally by fellow agent Eve (Naomie Harris) and presumed dead, the world moves on without him. He escapes death but decides to return after hearing about trouble brewing back in London – an attack on MI6 and an enemy from M’s past stirring up trouble.

Cinematographer Roger Deakins gives this movie an epic feel, with beautiful shots of locations such as Macau, and Istanbul and creates an atmospheric, moody London and rural Scotland. It totally brings you into the heart of the film, carrying you along with the story. Thomas Newman does a terrific score, encompassing new dramatic pieces with the familiarity of the classic Bond theme. And Adele’s theme song is stunning against the opening credits and gives the atmospheric feel that extra boost.

As for the acting, Daniel Craig leads this cast with leading man charm, giving a fantastic performance; he makes the character of Bond look as ruthless as ever, but gives him humanity, humour and vulnerability, particularly as he is brought back into the ‘game’. The film delves into Bond’s roots, taking us to the rural Scotland of Bond’s childhood. Craig also has a great on-screen chemistry with Judi Dench who also returns in this movie as M, as their relationship develops into that of a surrogate mother with her child, and both actors convey their character’s care for the other. Dench has been a firm element to the Bond movies since her introduction with Pierce Brosnan in Goldeneye, and she gives a tremendous performance of a woman in power who suffers in this movie for her decisions that she could have made or did make. Her sparring with Bond and her motherly connection to him is engaging and great to watch. She is perhaps the true Bond girl in this movie – the matriarch of MI6.

Javier Bardem as the villainous Mr Silva is maniacal, revenge-driven, and genuinely terrifying with his erratic, but eerie calm behaviour and with his fixation on M. Even though he doesn’t make his entrance until an hour or so into the movie, his opening interrogation scene with Bond is an entrance to remember. It’s a role Bardem clearly relishes in playing, and one that he fully sinks his teeth into, making him one of the best Bond villains in recent years.

Other key players in this movie include the sexy witty MI6 agent Eve played by Naoemis Harris-her sparring with Bond and the sexual chemistry between the two of them keep the audience guessing on what (if anything) will happen. It seems that we may be seeing more of her as well and if this is the case then it will be a welcome return. Ralph Fiennes was great as always, and Ben Whishaw as the new Q is a breath of fresh air –he brings youth, wit, charm and yet intelligence and a belief that he is a genius. (He is also extremely cute!)

Skyfall as a movie has great pace – it is roughly 2 and a half hours long, but the story moves well and points in the movie that could have been dragged out mercifully weren’t. The action set pieces are fast-paced and thrilling including the Istanbul opening, and an elaborate chase through London, incorporating the London underground. The humour is also still there, witty lines and amusing moments pop up through the film, including a reference to the exploding pen from Goldeneye which had me grinning stupidly. I can say so much more about this film and the twists and turns but I don’t want to spoil it for you all.

A theme that continually pops up in this film is the idea of ‘the old vs. the new’ with Bond and in some ways M representing the old ways. It is continually suggested that Bond is perhaps ‘too old’ or that he is past his best. After 50 years of Bond, if this movie was not a success, perhaps that is what critics would have said about the franchise. However, after 50 years, the James Bond franchise has become an integral part of Britain, and the film celebrates this by having a British director take the helm, British actors such as Daniel Craig, Judi Dench and Ralph Fiennes taking leading roles and by using London as a prominent location throughout the movie (London also looks beautiful on screen). Add to this is Daniel Craig’s involvement with the Olympic Opening Ceremony, escorting the Queen to the ceremony as James Bond and it solidifies the franchise as a cornerstone of British cinematic history.

Bond is definitely back with a bang and I can totally see why it has been called one of the best Bonds in history. The 50th anniversary outing mixes the old with the new, and lays down fresh foundations for the future, which makes you feel that the series has come full circle. This is certainly Daniel Craig’s best performance yet as Bond; an amazing movie that makes up for the slight disappointment that was Quantum–definitely worth the wait despite the product placement that happened in the movie. Bring on the next Bond and the next 50 years of 007!

 

“She sent you after me, knowing you weren;t ready and that you would likely die – Mommy was very bad” (Silva)