The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

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You would be hard pushed to find someone who has never heard of The Boy the in Striped Pyjamas or who has no idea of the themes of which the book is based, but having an idea of what is going on only makes the book better – it would be like knowing Harry Potter is a wizard before reading the series, not detrimental.

However, a knowledge of the history of the Holocaust/ Nazi Germany is vital when reading this, and I fear that those who have a very limited understanding of the history would be unable to enjoy the book to its full. Yes, I know this person would be hard to come by, but if they do exist I feel they will struggle to understand what’s going on.

The story itself is told from the point of view of a 9 year old boy; it is pure innocence lost in the midst of adult on goings. Although a very sad story, it shows the beauty of child innocence, about the challenges adult decisions create for young children, how young minds work and interpret different situations, and the acceptance they have of other human beings.

I was lucky that although I knew the themes of the book, I didn’t know the story – apart from that something bad was going to happen, so with a matter of pages to go at the end I was on the edge of my seat waiting for it to hit me. It did. Even as I read I pleaded with the pages to not tell me what was happening, but in the end it happened anyway.

I found that knowing something bad was about to happen gave the book a new edge, I was constantly waiting for it to come, always aware of how many pages I had left to turn, and the suspense it created throughout the story only made it better. As the book is very short it feels as though it could belong to collection of stories from that period. As though there are more chapters from other people in the camps telling their stories; (I won’t say too much here, so it may be that you need to read the story to understand what I’m going to say), e.g. Bruno’s farther.

One thing that really annoys me with any writing or film which has been ‘inspired by’ or ‘based on’ true events is that there are always critics who claim that ‘it wouldn’t have really happened like that’; ‘it doesn’t resemble the true nature of what happened’. Yes, there is a reason for that. It’s a story. This book is one of those, under scrutiny for not portraying how it really was. But that’s not the point of the book, if I’d wanted a history lesson I would have picked up a fact book. The story is not realistic, it is a story inspired by real events, enjoy it as just that.

(Discussing arm bands)

‘ Yes, but they’re different, aren’t they?’ said Shmuel.

‘No one’s ever given me an armband,’ said Bruno.

‘But I never asked to wear one,’ said Shmuel.

‘All the same,’ said Bruno, ‘I think I’d quite like one. I don’t know which one I’d prefer though, your one or Father’s.’

 

 

 

The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour

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After 2 and a half very intense hours of fighting for tickets, 2 months of listening to every track on every album, several visits to You Tube to watch her videos and countless spontaneous squeals of excitement, the time had finally come; I was going to see Beyoncé in the Mrs. Carter World Tour.

On entering the arena the first thing that catches your eye is the B stage, oh yes two opportunities to get close enough to grab that mane of delicious caramel hair, (for anyone who is yet to go I recommend getting there early). The support act, Luke James, was horrific – the Pepsi and Chime for Change adverts got more of a cheer than him. Dressed as a stripper priest (who then went on to strip off his top half) made me feel literally sick with cringe! What made Beyoncé pick him I have no idea – maybe he knows one of her darkest secrets or she hoped a crap support would make her look better. Who knows?

As the house lights dimmed for a second time I could not contain my excitement, and along with the rest of the audience I went crazy as the opening bars of RUN THE WORLD kicked in. Then, on she came. Queen B was in the same room as me, breathing my air. Dressed in a sparkly, beaded, white one piece, she looked unbelievable, screaming power and femininity.

Her voice was amazing, so powerful and so strong. She interacted with the crowd throughout the whole night – a person favorite was her pronunciation of ‘Birmingham’, and she put on a truly great show.

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Her outfits were exactly what I wanted from her, sexy but not slutty, showing enough skin but not too much that it was tacky, and of course topped off with her signature sky scraper heels. From a flowing red dress, to a black and gold two piece, a skin tight bodice to an animal print dress she looked sensational. The best was the glitter-covered blue, full body cat suit she wore when she zip-lined over the audience to get to her B-stage – yes, she did that.

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Here she rocked out to IRREPLACEABLE, RESENTMENT, and the classic LOVE ON TOP, whipping her hair all over the place before giving some words of advice and zip-lining back to a burst of Destiny’s Child’s SURVIVOR.

Next she was off stage for a quick outfit change as an interlude of Countdown played. As the song counted back to ten, I was ready for her to come back on and jump straight into the lyrics, but boy was I in for a surprise. As the countdown reached one there was a slight pause in the music, then boom straight into the opening chords of CRAZY IN LOVE.

Well I nearly burst into tears (FYI this was the song I had been waiting all my life for). I was finally getting to see ‘the strut’ live! It was amazing. The crowd was going just as crazy as me and it was such a great moment to be in. I had no other cares in the world apart from being right there, right then.

From CRAZY IN LOVE we went straight into SINGLE LADIES and it was clear that the show was coming to an end. Fitting in another costume change, Beyoncé sang her latest song GROWN WOMAN which included a dance routine with a very strange blind folded moment- this wasn’t really explained so I just went with it.

Beyonce,Laurent Bourgeois

(Weird blind fold bit?)

Finally she gave a little rendition of I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU, again slightly strange but I guess a tribute to her many fans, before departing the stage. At this point I realised what her encore would be, and I was right: HALO. Slightly disappointed as it’s not one of my favorite songs of hers, but amazing none the less. This was followed by a massive thank you to everyone involved in the show’s production to the backing track of GREENLIGHT, before the curtains came down on what had been a spectacular night.

The night was sensational, not only was there great singing, it was a great show. Well worth the money. The Mrs. Carter World Tour was everything I wanted it to be and more. So much so, as soon as I got home the next day I was looking for more tickets, and really considering buying tickets for V Fest where she is due to headline this summer.

Beyoncé is at the height of her game, and I hope she stays there long enough to tour again, as I will definitely be in the queue for her next show!

tumblr_mn62ngSzwn1rqgjz2o1_500 Beyonce

 

 

The Runaway Jury by John Grisham

A legal, crime thriller from the master that is John Grisham was the next book on my list to tackle. As someone that had already seen the film adaptation of this book starring John Cusack, Rachel Weisz, Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman, I knew this book was going to be a suspense driven ride and I wasn’t disappointed. (Let me first point out that if you have seen the film, please do read the book – the story is slightly different to the film plot, and I think better.)

Set against the backdrop of Mississippi, Grisham delves into the messy business of litigation –specifically tobacco litigation. Up until this point, the big tobacco companies have always won the trials, but with the plaintiff’s case looking strong, both sides are ready for all out war. Dirty tactics are being played on both sides to help get the jury on their side, but both sets of lawyers don’t count on the jury themselves trying to be controlled by a third-party. Soon the jury are sequestered and it becomes a game of who can secure the verdict first.

John Grisham weaves a fantastic plot which has great pace, suspenseful and a book that I truly wished I didn’t have to finish. The legal jargon can be a little complex, but not enough to boggle your brains entirely, and it is the actions of the characters and the intricate details that Grisham goes into that really allows the story to come alive. Rankin Fitch, a consultant of sorts for the defence and head of the dirty tactics club is a character that throughout the book, you’re mostly feeling hatred towards; but at times his wit and his sheer drive to achieve mean that you end up becoming more intrigued as to what he’ll do next to succeed.

Grisham keeps you guessing for most of the book as to the secrets of the insider on the jury – I wasn’t let down by the final reveal, and despite the fact this book was written almost 20 years ago, it’s still quite a classic to this day, thanks to the popularity of John Grisham. I fully recommend this book – a brilliant read, one I wish had not ended.

“The horde of legal analysts and scholars closely watching the trial agreed on little, but they were unified in their prediction that a unanimous, twelve-vote verdict in favor of Pynex would chill, if not completely freeze, tobacco litigation for a decade.

Fitch was determined to deliver one, whatever the cost.” (The Runaway Jury, p301)

The Understudy by David Nicholls

In terms of books that are perfect as a holiday read – a funny, easy and entertaining read The Understudy is one of those finds that once you start, you don’t want to stop reading it. Author David Nicholls, writer of the book and film One Day and also Starter for Ten, writes a refreshing, yet also stereotypical novel that explores the life of a downbeat actor. Stephen C. McQueen dreams of being the next big thing – as popular as the famous Steve McQueen and then some. Unfortunately the reality is that the biggest thing he has done is voiced a children’s squirrel on an educational DVD, and it seems he is destined to be playing ‘Dead Corpse #1’ for the rest of his career.

Stephen’s struggling career, alongside his shambolic personal life quickly becomes more complicated with his current role as ‘Ghostly Figure’. His small role in a new West End play with handsome and famous Hollywood actor Josh Harper causes problems for Stephen, when he starts to fall in love with Josh’s wife Nora. What ensues in the rest of the book is comedic, laugh out loud and quite entertaining. The characters in the book are relatable – you feel sympathy for Stephen, but at times you do wish he would give up his acting career to save himself from the embarrassment. Nothing seems to go quite right for him in typical fashion and you find yourself laughing at him, rather than with him.

Overall, this book is a brilliant read – it left me chuckling out loud several times, and was an entertaining read – a genuine gem of a find.

“’Hey, you can love someone without actually being faithful to them, Steve,’” (p,283)

Cheryl Cole – My Story – Kat’s Review

Rach has already reviewed this book so I won’t linger too much on the subject but just thought I would add my thoughts.
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What a lovely little read this is. I’ve gone off reading autobiography of late, and I put this down to having read so many, but when waiting for a train I picked up Chezza’s read the first page then had to have it. Since then I couldn’t put it down. I didn’t realise how much she had been through in her life, what background she came from and how shooting to stardom had had devastating effects.
Originally she was one of those girls I didn’t really care for, but then seeing her on Piers Morgan’s LIFE STORIES, I immediately fell in love with the Geordie, after reading this book even more so.
She talks about her deepest sorrows, her biggest struggles and times in her life when she truly felt at the end. It just goes to show how well fake smiles can be perfected. Reading how the press affected her life, I am sad that I was a reader who Googled what she was wearing, rated who looked better out of her and Dani, and was annoyed at her for taking Ashley back after the first allegations about his cheating were made. Reading her book made me see her side; it shed a different light on her situation. I recommend this book to anyone, if you’re already a fan of her you’ll only fall more in love, and if you’re not keen, then you’ll grasp more of an understanding of what the demands of celebrity can do.
‘You might have the shoes, but you can’t walk to the corner shop in them’ – Cheryl Cole

Iron Man 3 – Joint Review

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spoilers

Rachel’s Review….

The inner geek in me could not contain her excitement for Iron Man 3, the official launch of Marvel’s Phase 2 plans which will ultimately lead up to Avengers 2 in 2015. In fact, I decided to book tickets to see the midnight showing of the film in order to be one of the first to see it.

So Iron Man 3 is set after the events of Avengers, and it’s clear what happened in New York has had an effect on our favourite genius billionaire, Tony Stark. He’s suffering from anxiety attacks and PTSD, not sleeping and it’s affecting his relationship with Pepper (who has now fully moved in). Whereas Avengers was on an epic scale, director Shane Black, who takes the reins from Jon Favreau, brings it back being about the man rather than the suit. Iron Man 3 is personal, and shows a much more vulnerable side to Tony Stark – the man, rather than the superhero Iron Man.

Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle are back and brought along Ben Kingsley, Rebecca Hall and Guy Pearce for the ride. Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin is brilliant – from the trailer, you could smell the villainy perturbing from him and his dulcet tones were enough to bring out goosebumps. In the film, he appeared to be a bigger than thou foe – for around half of the film. This was when the big twist was revealed and Kingsley’s true role was revealed – he plays Trevor from Camden actor who was hired to play the Mandarin. It was in fact a gimmick devised by the true evil bad guy and Ben Kingsley’s role was a more comic one. I must say I loved this twist – it was something you never see coming and Kingsley is fantastic as the bumbling Trevor.

Robert Downey Jr. is as great as ever, and really does bring Tony Stark to a more vulnerable and emotional place. His and Gwyneth Paltrow’s chemistry is great to watch as well. Paltrow’s Pepper Potts also gets a lot more to do in this movie (she even gets to put on the Iron Man suit) and she does it really well. The set pieces are great, particularly the attack on the house. The comedic flair of the script is certainly a high point of this film – the one-liners are delivered with brilliant and are certainly on a par with Avengers..

The ending of the movie and the end credits felt very much like a bookmark and a chapter being closed. The removal of the shard around his heart and the destruction of all the Iron Man suits feels like an ending. I left the cinema with the feeling of completion and settled with the thought that if they do not do another stand alone Iron Man film then this would be a very fitting ending to the series.

However, at the very end after the end credit scene (which I’ll get to in a second) it did say – “Tony Stark will return.” In what capacity, we’re still not sure and at this point we’re not even sure if Tony Stark will be in the form of Robert Downey Jr. as his contract has ended with Marvel. In recent interviews he has said he would probably be back for Avengers 2, but rumour has it contract negotiations for the film have become heated, with the main cast asking for more money.

The time came for the infamous end credits scene – myself and at least half the cinema stayed until the bitter end to watch and wait. I’m not sure what I expected, but I liked it – It was simple, light-hearted and featured Mark Ruffalo in a cameo. The scene capitalised on their banter and bromance that they developed in Avengers and even though it didn’t give anything away about what may be planned for Avengers 2, it still was a great little extra moment.

It felt like a lot was packed into this film and the storyline but it worked and it flowed well. I think like Kat I fell in love with Robert Downey Jr. just a little bit more and it was a fantastic start to Marvel’s phase 2 campaign.

“Your cold? I know I can tell. It’s because we’re connected” (Tony Stark, Iron Man 3)

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Kat’s Review…..

The anticipation of the third installment of the Iron Man franchise was killing me, seeing the trailer alone got my adrenaline pumping, and so by the time I was sat in my seat I could hardly contain the squeals coming out of my mouth.

The film opens with a flashback and I won’t lie, my heart sank. Flashbacks, as we’ve seen before tend to be a sign that something is going wrong in the ideas office (*cough* X-men). This immediately worried me but just as quickly as we went back to 1999, we were back to present day and my anxiety subsided.

The film itself is packed full of stunning visual effects, a villain who makes your squirm and one liners which have you creasing nonstop.

I must mention the one liners first as I can’t wait to talk about them. FANTASTIC. So many, so subtle, so funny. Drew Pearce and Shane Black have done such a good job on the screen play, RDJ’s lines are hilarious, and alongside the quick wit of Paltrow, they have the audience eating out of the palms of their hands. (Later I will compose a list of my favorite).

What is most striking about this film is that we see a new side to Tony Stark, he is weak and vulnerable; very unlike the always confident and cocky rich guy we know from the previous two episodes. We also see him without his suit to hide behind for the vast majority of the film, again something we have not seen before. The film is an insight into Stark’s mind, his intelligence and his struggles; currently suffering from panic attacks and PTSD you are made to really feel for the character. We see him interact with a range of different characters, including a young boy – who it’s obvious he sees a lot of himself in; once again opening a once closed door to the personal side of Tony Stark. The film offers us a new light on a character we all already love.

Tony’s girlfriend, the innocent Pepper Potts (Gwyenth Paltrow) plays a much bigger role this time round and I couldn’t help falling in love with their finally established relationship. Paltrow and Downey’s on screen chemistry is magnificent and I really believed that they were together; their petty arguments over giant stuffed animals were hilariously cute and made me fall for them even more. Unfortunately (as is probably expected), as the only thing Tony cares about, Pepper becomes the latest of Aldrich Killian (IM3’s villain) victims to try and get Tony to work with him and fix the flaws with his Extremis. We see Tony Stark crumble as his house becomes under attack and Pepper’s life is endangered, without a moment’s hesitation, Tony calls his suit and suits up Pepper in order to protect her! Although the comedy value of Pepper stumbling around in the Iron Man suit is quite enjoyable, it does not distract from the fact Tony’s house is falling from the Malibu cliff and his life is quickly flashing before his eyes.

Later in the film we see Pepper being captured by Tony’s antagonist, and this is part of the film which slightly disappointed me. Why did they have to infect Pepper with superhuman abilities? I felt as though Tony didn’t even have a chance to save her. But the worst moment where I actually filled up was seeing Tony make a promise to Pepper that if she let go he would catch her; only to miss her and see her fall into the fiery pit below. RDJ’s acting in this scene is sensational; he channels Tony’s emotions to a T and had the whole audience holding their breath.

Despite the split second of Pepper falling, the moment she hit the flames I remembered she had been infected and would survives the burning heat, this was slightly disappointing, mainly because Pepper’s death would have been such a huge twist, and was suddenly rules out without even having chance to panic that she might not make it.

On top of this, we also see her fight ‘her own battle’ and save Tony’s life which again I felt was a bit weird – I guess I’m just traditional when it comes to the ‘damsel in distress needs to be saved by a superhero’ scenario.

The finale scene of the main film shows both Tony and Pepper being treated for their non-human attributes, Pepper is cured and Tony has his reactor removed as well as destroying all of his Iron Man suits, the question lies – will Iron Man return? Despite a post-credit scene showing Tony pouring his heart out in a shrink like fashion to Bruce Banner in a location I can only assume has something to do with the Avengers, my fear is no, but I really hope I’m wrong.

‘You can take away my suits, you can take away my home, but there’s one thing you can never take away from me: I am Iron Man.’ (Tony Stark, Iron Man 3)

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

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I won’t lie when I only picked this film because I was desperate to see Emma Watson take on the role of someone other than Hermione. She was brilliant. Her short hair may have had something to do with me not thinking of Hermione once throughout the whole film, but that is what she needed; a clean break away from the iconic image. Watson’s American accent could use a polish, but it wasn’t unbearable, the main object was he dispatch from Hermione which she nailed.

The film itself follows 15 year old Charlie (Logan Lerman) coping with traumas he’s faced in the past, experiencing first love and trying to find a group of friends to which he belongs. Sam (Watson) and her stepbrother Patrick (Erza Miller) take him under their wing to show him the ropes of what it’s like to handle high school.

With an appearance from Paul Rudd (playing a serious character for a change), the film is subtle and delicate, yet packed with twists and turns you never see coming. There is a slight awkwardness on screen which enables the film to welcome you in and make you feel part of the friendship group. Although elements of the story are quite sad, I came away feeling pleasantly happy.

All in all a lovely little film and very much worth a watch, I imagine if you enjoyed the likes of Juno and 50/50 this may be up your street.

 

‘Why do I and everyone I love pick people who treat us like we’re nothing?’ Sam

‘We accept the love we think we deserve.’ Charlie

A Tale of Two Plays and A Lesson in Stage Door Etiquette

Easter weekend saw a trip to London that I had planned for weeks – I had booked to see two star-studded plays and coupled with the long weekend, what more could a girl want?

First up was Peter and Alice, a new play by John Logan starring Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw; it tells the story of when Alice Liddell Hargreaves met Peter Llewelyn Davies – the inspirations for Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan come face to face and it is through this brief encounter that their lives are explored and laid bare.

The play is part of the Michael Grandage season in the West End – a series of plays with high profile actors, aimed at bringing more members of the public back into theatre at affordable prices. The play is a solid 90 minutes with no interval and Whishaw and Dench are on stage pretty much from the start and don’t leave until the end. Peter and Alice explores issues surrounding life and death, growing up and the contrast to experiencing the world through a child’s eyes and then looking back on it with an adult perspective. It’s an intense emotional rollercoaster, and I can only imagine how exhausting it is for the 6/7 actors in the company performing it (particularly Dench and Whishaw), as I felt exhausted just watching the play. It’s also quite a thought-provoking play as Alice and Peter explore their lives from childhood up until the present day, experiencing some memories in a new light. It’s definitely a play that thinks outside the box, with the present and the past overlapping, and at times this made it hard to keep up with the play.

Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw as the two leads are incredible – both manage to emotionally provoke the audience and maintain their stamina throughout the 90-minute performance. At one point Peter comes up with a great theory regarding the lost boys and why they never grow up – he says it’s because they die. This theory certainly sticks with you and you leave the theatre feeling as if you’ve been hit with a freighter train of emotion. It’s a brilliant new play, and made even better by the two leads. The play runs until the beginning of June, and although it is sold out, there are cheap tickets for sale on the day of the performance, so if you’re visiting London this month, I strongly urge you to give this play a try.

The next night I was treated to a more classical play – William Shakespeare’s Macbeth starring Scotland’s own James McAvoy as the lead role. The play was located in quite a small theatre which has been recently renovated. The space was great, slightly in the round with approximately 80 seats actually placed on the stage. Overall, the theatre only sat around 200-300 people which made the play even more intimate and personal.

The production itself was particularly physical, it felt like McAvoy never stopped moving around the stage, and it added to the madness of the character. It was also set in a Dystopian, near future with combat costumes and minimal lighting and had some great fight scenes. McAvoy in the lead was fantastic and convincing as a man desperate to survive –he also had great chemistry with Clare Foy who played Lady Macbeth. Unfortunately, the play ended at the end of last month but I’m sure it won’t be long until McAvoy comes back into theatre and when he does, be sure to go see him – he’s a fantastic British talent and his blue eyes are mesmerizing.

After both plays I was lucky enough to meet Ben Whishaw, Judi Dench and James McAvoy at the stage doors. Now I love meeting actors at the stage doors after seeing musicals and plays, to show my appreciation for the actors on stage. I’ve done many a stage door so, as a side note to this post, here is my helpful tips with meeting some of your favourite actors and some stage door etiquette:

  1. Be patient – at times it can take up to around 20 minutes for them to get out of make-up and get all their stuff together to leave. Other times actors have friends/relatives visiting so it takes longer – don’t be disheartened (and keep warm).
  2. Make friends – nothing wrong with a bit of a chat to other fans/theatre-goers.
  3. Don’t surge – it is a major pet hate of mine. If you’re stood in an orderly fashion and an actor comes out, suddenly everyone forgets the personal space rule. Actors are real people too! Again, be patient – their much more likely to be appreciative of this.
  4. Be prepared – it’s a 50/50 chance that an actor will carry a pen with them. If you haven’t got one then this is where tip no. 2 comes in handy!
  5. Finally, charge the batteries in your camera – and smile!

Comment below if you have any stage door tips or suggestions of what to see theatre wise in London.