Category: Guest bloggers

Five Inspiring Film Characters with Disabilities

Inspired by this year’s Paralympics, hobbyist reviewer Harry Casey-Woodward lists a few of his favourite film characters with disabilities.

Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) 

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Charlize Theron certainly surprised me with her portrayal of a tough-as-nails war commander in this post-apocalyptic road rage. The fact that she’s missing an arm doesn’t stop her fighting tooth and claw to save some slave girls from the clutches of a vile warlord.

Gazelle in Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) 

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In every spy movie the villain needs a badass henchman and none come more badass than hench-woman Gazelle, played by Sofia Boutella. Having replaced her missing legs with spikes, she slices up foes with a deadly combo of speed and acrobatics.

Stephanie in Rust and Bone (2012) 

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On a more serious note, Marion Cotillard gave a powerful performance as a killer whale trainer who loses both legs in a horrific accident. In this moving French drama, Stephanie strives for dignity with the help of her friend and lover Alain.

Phillippe in Untouchable (2011) 

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Another French drama for you now, in which an aristocrat becomes a quadriplegic and hires a reluctant young man from the projects to be his carer. His unprofessional but fun-loving new carer is a breath of fresh air in Philippe’s life.

Cherry Darling in Planet Terror (2007) 

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I felt I had to mention this character, since she’s the most iconic element of director Robert Rodriguez‘s zombie splatter-fest. Rose McGowan plays a stripper who loses a leg during a zombie attack and sticks a machine gun in its place to get her own back on those infected nasties. An aspiring attitude for a zombie epidemic at least.

Images from nerdist.com, comicvine.gamespot.com, cinematiccorner.blogspot.co.uk, Odysseypictures.co.uk and fanpop.com.

5 Great Food-Based Films

With the release of the animated comedy Sausage Party (definitely not for kids), film and food lover Harry Casey-Woodward discusses five movies based on things we love to eat.

Ratatouille (2007) 

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When I first saw this in the cinema, I thought this was one of Pixar’s best. The story is charming enough, with a rat fulfilling his dream to be a chef in one of the most esteemed restaurants in Paris. However, the film also invited us to share in his passion for food and cooking, even the simple dish of the title. Let’s just forget the fact that everyone in Paris has American accents.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) 

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I’m not a huge fan of this movie, but it’s such a celebration of our food lust I couldn’t afford to miss it off the list. An ambitious young scientist, trapped in a small town where all there is to eat is sardines, achieves surely everybody’s greatest wish and invents a machine that makes food rain from the sky. The film goes one step further, showing yet again how such a fantastic scientific achievement can get dangerous very quickly.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) 

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In honour of the late, great Gene Wilder this musical chocolate banquet surely earns a place here. Based on one of Roald Dahl‘s most imaginative and celebrated children’s books, the film follows a little blond angel named Charlie who wins one of the fabled golden tickets to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Although I’m sickened slightly by the Americanised sappiness thrust into the story, the filmmakers did a great job of recreating Wonka’s factory with the finest of 70s effects, as well as keeping Dahl’s dark streak of humour intact.

Chocolat (2000) 

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Let’s keep up the literary-inspired choc fests shall we? Based on the novel by Joanne Harris, a mysterious woman arrives in a small French town during Lent and promptly sets up a chocolate shop. When she starts awakening the townspeoples’ repressed desires, this does not sit well with the local priest and he and the woman begin a battle of ideologies. This is an exploration of the emotional power of food and Johnny Depp is dishy as a guitar-playing gypsy pirate.

Delicatessen (1991)  

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Let’s stay in France, except we’ll travel into the future a bit. From visionary director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie, Alien: Resurrection) came this dystopian romantic comedy about an ex-circus performer moving into a flat. Unfortunately, in post-apocalyptic France food is scarce and the landlord, who happens to be a butcher, is eyeing up his tenant. But his daughter is nice. Cue a lot of comic action about human desperation for food, including some vegetarian revolutionaries.

Images from themovieman, amazon, space538.org, snoskred.org and fact.co.uk.

Five Best Disney Films

The new Jungle Book is out on DVD and Blu-Ray this week, so in celebration movie-consumer Harry Casey-Woodward is going to tell you his five favourite Disney films.

5. Pinocchio (1940) 

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This makes the list for being possibly the scariest Disney film. There’s child kidnappers, the most monstrous whale ever put on screen and one truly horrific scene where a boy transforms into a donkey. All this somehow went over my head when I was a kid. Maybe I was too distracted by the cricket.

4. The Jungle Book, (1967) 

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The one Disney film with jazz music! Sadly this was the last movie Mr. Disney produced while he was alive, but it was a genius stroke to mix Rudyard Kipling‘s story of a boy raised in the jungle by animals with foot-tappin’ tunes. I have yet to see the 2016 remake and in my opinion it’s going to be hard to beat this original feast of songs and great characters.

3. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000) 

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This film is a breath of fresh air in the Disney canon. It has one of the most original plots (an ancient emperor gets turned into a llama by the fiendish Yzma and the loveable Kronk, possibly the best villainous duo ever) and thus this is definitely the funniest and breeziest of the Disney animations. There’s also no forced songs or romance either, unless you count the growing bromance between the emperor and the peasant Pacha.

2. Finding Nemo (2003) 

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Pixar have surely saved Disney and this has to be their best effort. Inspired by the oceans’s beauty and variety of life, Pixar made a truly epic Odyssey that’s still funny and charming, of a clownfish facing down the dangers of the deep to find his son. I am just a little excited about Finding Dory.

1. The Lion King (1994) 

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Another nature-inspired epic, this time set on the African plains and with a more Shakespearean plot, where Simba the lion has to avenge his father’s death at the paws of his sly uncle Scar and fulfil his destiny as King of the pride. Why is this my favourite? Maybe I just like African wildlife, but everything about this film is damn near perfect: the songs, the animation, the equal amounts of humour and tragedy. There’s also hyenas, and Timon and Pumbaa. All together now, ‘hakuna matata…’.

Images from amazonplaybuzz.com, and movies.disney.com.au.

Film Review: Jurassic Wars

Hobbyist reviewer Harry Casey-Wooodward enters B-movie heaven with this year’s attack of the pterosaursJurassic Wars.

Jurassic Wars/Terrordactyl, 2016, cert 15, dir Don Bitters & Geoff Reisner, 2/5 

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Horrors and monster movies are some of the few film genres that can get away with being bad. The popularity of such films as the Sharknado series is evidence of our generation’s continuing obsession with tasteless horrors, despite their terrible plots, terrible effects and terrible performances. In fact, it is all these terrible features that make these movies so appealing, so much so that I think some recent horrors are deliberately bad just to cash in on our guilty love for pulp trash. Admittedly, there’s few experiences in life more relaxing and enjoyable than kicking back with some mates to laugh and mock some bad horror, even if we’ve paid for it.

Jurassic Wars, originally known as Terrordactyl (perhaps they changed the title to cash in on some association with Jurassic World) is no exception. A cluster of meteorites (or meteors, I can’t remember which) land outside of Los Angeles. Two gardeners named Jonas and Lars (played by Jason Tobias and Christopher John Jennings) drive out into the night to find one of the space rocks and strike it rich. They take it back into town for bargirl Valerie (Bianca Haase) to offer her ‘expert’ opinion, since she admitted an interest in space rocks when Jonas was trying to hit on her.

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Unfortunately for them and the rest of the city, flocks of pterosaurs (winged reptiles that flew over the heads of dinosaurs, in case you weren’t sure) have swooped in with the meteors and, thanks to an odd lack of police and military presence, now blitz the city with lots of stabbing beaks and grabby claws. Think of the pterosaur attack scene in Jurassic World, except for the length of an entire film and with worse effects.

The pterosaurs themselves are rather badly animated and designed throughout the movie. Little consideration has been given regarding palaeontological accuracy, with most of the pterosaurs up close looking more like dragons, while in the distance I’m pretty sure some of the pterosaurs flying looked as static as toys.

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If you don’t want to watch this for accuracy, don’t watch it for gore either. There are a few bloody beak-stabbing scenes, but other scenes you’d expect to be messy are not shown, either for the power of suggestion or to cut down on the effects budget.

Of course, there’s no reason to watch this expecting a good movie. Watch this for impressively bad-looking monsters, plenty of action and enthusiastic actors armed with guns, flame throwers, homemade explosives and booze. The dialogue is entertaining at times, even if at others it tries too hard to be funny. Bargirl Valerie also turns out to be a kickass heroine, even if she falls for the old cliche of fancying the unlikely geeky hero.

Images from flixist.com, moviesmug.com and dailydead.com.

Eight Bands You Don’t Want To Miss At This Year’s Arctangent Festival

Arctangent returns for its fourth year at Fernhill Farm, celebrating the very best that math-rock, post-rock and noise-rock have to offer. With so many diverse bands on the line-up, freelance writer Mat Ombler has gathered a list of eight that you simply cannot afford to miss…

 

Nordic Giants

Nordic Giants live performance is out of this world, and their breath-taking sets have been melting the minds of their audiences since 2010. The duo incorporate visuals into their live set, performing alongside cinematic projections that provide a narrative to their songs.

Alongside these projections, Nordic Giants become a collaboration of true artistry, capable of evoking serious emotion from their audiences. It’s rare that at a festival with a crowd three thousand strong, a band could manage to wow their audience into complete silence – but Nordic Giants manage to do just that, time and time again.

Svalbard

Blackened post-rock music doesn’t get much better than this! Svalbard is a combination of black metal melodies and epic post-rock progressions, perfectly executed with the aggression you would expect from a thrash metal or punk band. Their latest release, ‘One Day All This Will End‘, is one of the finest albums I’ve had the pleasure of listening to in a long time, with not a single weak track on the album.

Three Trapped Tigers

Their combination of mad synth sounds, wacky electronics and wild drum patterns make Three Trapped Tigers a highlight of any line-up. The musical trio is a beautifully choreographed mess of intensely unique sounds, with all the energy from both the band and crowd you would expect from a set at an illegal underground rave.

Three Trapped Tigers raise the roof, basically.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Perhaps one of the most influential post-rock bands of all time, Godspeed You! Black Emperor headline the main stage on Friday at this year’s festival. Featuring a large ensemble of various musicians – with various percussionists and even a violin player – Godspeed You! Black Emperor promise to deliver a headline performance unlike any Arctangent Festival has seen before.

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Toe are a Japanese rock band from Tokyo and they’re performing an exclusive UK set at this year’s festival. They’re unlikely to be returning anytime soon, so don’t miss them, yeah?

Toe’s back-catalogue is as diverse as the festival line-up, featuring melodic instrumental sections with some beautiful vocal accompaniments in certain parts.

La Dispute

La Dispute make their debut appearance at this year’s Arctangent Festival. Jordan Dreyer’s vocals are essentially spoken word, sitting atop experimental guitar drones and muddy bass to help draw their audience into the short stories they’re telling. La Dispute’s experimental take on melodic and post-hardcore is unlike any other and it’s not to be missed.

Knifeworld

This psychedelic prog-rock band features a bassoon, alto saxophone and even a baritone saxophone, their songs usually consist of around seven or eight different instruments coming together to craft a sound that’s somewhere in-between contemporary prog bands and alternative mainstream music. There are tracks on their most recent release, ‘Bottled Out Of Eden‘, that are reminiscent of Between The Buried And Me’s ‘Colours’ masterpiece, but with the influence of more popular indie artists. If you’re a fan of progressive rock music, the recreational uses of psychedelic drugs – or perhaps both: don’t miss ‘em.

TTNG

Formerly known as This Town Needs Guns, this math-rock band from Oxford are one of the most well known bands from the math-rock scene. Their technically driven melodic guitar progressions draw influence all the way from Spanish to jazz music, and their deployment of various time signatures is enough to keep any listener on their feet – and for the right reasons.

Arctangent Festival takes place 18th- 20th of August and tickets are still available here.

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5 Best Superhero Movies

Since Olympic athletes are technically superhuman, film lover Harry Casey-Woodward thought it would be appropriate to list a few of his favourite superhero movies.

5. The Kickass movies (2010 and 2013) 

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No one has superpowers in these films, but they make my list for sheer brutality. This series about teenagers turned costumed vigilantes possesses some truly dark moments, such as the scene in the first film where two heroes are beaten live on TV by the mafia and Jim Carrey‘s death scene in the sequel. These films also score points for boasting one of the most savagely badass heroines ever, the purple-haired Hit-Girl.

4. Batman (1989) 

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How could I not include the classic that arguably raised the standard for all superhero films? Director Tim Burton excelled in his typically Gothic style while leaving out his annoying kookiness. Nevertheless, this dark edgy thriller still packs in some slightly silly capers and capes. It also has Jack Nicholson‘s infamous, smiley performance as the Joker, who somehow combined menace and cheesiness.

3. The Hellboy movies (2004 and 2008) 

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Hellboy is more of a superhuman than the above heroes while also being slightly less human. A big red half-demon with a stone hand that holds the key to the apocalypse, Hellboy’s backstory is admittedly more extensive than your average radiation-affected superhero. The world that writer Mike Mignola and director Guillermo del Toro imagined for him is also strikingly imaginative, with lots of crazed Nazis and cool monsters for Hellboy to beat the crap out while quipping one liners.  

2. Christopher Nolan‘s Batman Trilogy (2005-12) 

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The man in the black, pointy-eared cape is back, only this time we’ve moved on from the over-the-top 80s and we’re into the slick, sophisticated noughties. The franchise needed a reboot, especially after the camp fiasco of Batman & Robin, and Mr. Nolan, director of smart thrillers like Memento, appears to have been the man to do that. His three Batman films did away with the cheesy Gothic excess of the 90s films and attempted to take the subject matter more seriously, with more complex characters. Of course, it is impossible to take Christian Bale‘s gravelly Batman voice seriously, but we did get non-stop action and some surprisingly villainous performances from such cute actors as Heath Ledger and Tom Hardy.

1. Deadpool (2016) 

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This shouldn’t really be number one, since it’s not a serious superhero movie. But it’s just so damn entertaining. I may also be a little biased, since I don’t really like superhero movies so the merciless humour directed at the moral pomposity of these films was much appreciated. It was also a refreshing revelation to see a Marvel film that had adult humour and blackly comic violence while openly mocking the conventions of its own genre. The hero is still badass, even if he never stops making pop culture references.

Images from moviepilot.com, batman.wikia.com, denofgeeek.com, nerdist.com and bleedingcool.com.

Album Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers, ‘The Getaway’

Harry Casey-Woodward, casual reviewer, gives his opinions on the latest album from one of California’s most popular exports, funk rock extraordinaires the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Getaway, 2016, 3/5 

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Love them or hate them, you can’t deny the Chili Peppers have had an eclectic sound. There is the joke that in order to write a Chili Peppers hit you just chuck the word ‘California’ in somewhere, but the band have gone through several dramatic transformations throughout their extraordinary career.

In the 80s and 90s, they were a drug-crazed, sex-crazed, fiery funk/punk power machine. That all changed with the 1999 Californication album, when the band started sounding more mellow and mature. Unfortunately, since then they may have gone too mellow. The worst of their recent music, from such guilty albums as Stadium Arcadium and I’m With You, is just radio-ready soft rock.

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This year’s record The Getaway confirmed my suspicions that it would be another mild Chili Peppers offering. But does that make it bad? By the Way fans will be pleased to know that the band have returned to the cool melancholy that characterised that 2002 album rather than the slick, mindless joy of Stadium Arcadium. Some of the Getaway tracks are still funky rock-outs like ‘We Turn Red’, though of course they’re not as heavy as old songs like ‘Suck My Kiss’.

However, what the album lacks in ‘ooomph’, it makes up for with cool sophistication. Some of the tracks, like epic single ‘Dark Necessities’, even reminded me slightly of the Talking Heads‘ cool art funk. Of course, the Peppers have yet to lose their gift of writing supremely catchy tunes and the chorus of ‘Necessities’ is sure to still appeal to anguished youth: ‘you don’t know my mind/you don’t know my kind/dark necessities are part of my design.’

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The band have also added new elements to their music. Along with the formidable talents of the original members, a few tracks are driven by synth. I wasn’t sure about this at first, since it sounded like the band were moving further from their rock roots and embracing current musical trends just to fit in. But the synths are used to great effect, especially on the title track which uses throbbing beats for a jerky rhythm a la Gang of Four. Contrasted with Anthony Kiedis’s seductive vocals, what we get is an eerie but danceable album opener. Elsewhere a string quartet, a vocal choir and even piano by Elton John all build up lush, textured songs that bridge the line between rock and pop.

So it may not be a Blood Sugar Sex Magik or even a Californication. But it’s a relief that the Peppers made an album that doesn’t make you cringe. I’m surprised at how much I enjoy it. It’s a groovy, moody masterpiece with a little sparkle that’s perfect for dancing and chilling to this summer, or blasting out of your camper van as you cruise down the highway or whatever hip kids are doing these days.

Images from redhotchilipeppers.com.

Five films that would make great holidays

With the unusual burst of subtropical temperatures in the British climate this week, movie lover Harry Casey-Woodward ponders which films would make the best vacations. Grab your sun cream, floppy hats and bikinis…

Pirates of the Caribbean 

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Let’s start with an obvious one, already a popular holiday destination but let’s go back a couple hundred years. Don’t enjoy all the frills of a package holiday? Then get ready to work your passage on a wooden ship, crew consisting of the captain and you. You don’t mind working and fighting off pesky pirates, you will sail to such exotic cultural hotspots as the lively port of Tortuga (mind the fists and pistol shots). With luck, you may even discover deserted islands stocked with rum. ‘Welcome to the Caribbean, lass’.

Jurassic World 

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Let’s face it, ever since you saw Jurassic Park you’ve been imagining what a working dinosaur park where nothing went wrong would be like. Maybe you even went so far as to design it on bits of paper… ANYWAY last year’s blockbuster Jurassic World finally gave us our wish. Well sort of. Things went wrong pretty quickly. But we got a chance to see the rides, the petting zoo and the fast food courts we all imagined and you’d like to think you’d do a better job at running them than the idiots always in charge.

The Hobbit 

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Fancy a bit of hiking? Of course you don’t have to be whisked off by a band of hairy dwarves to go see some impressive mountain architecture… and possibly slay a dragon. Who wouldn’t want to go on a trip that involves spelunking, rapids and observing such exciting wildlife as giant spiders? No? Well you could just go as far as Rivendell or even stay at home in Hobbiton for a gentler holiday of tea and possibly elf salad. Just don’t pick up any shiny rings for the love of God. You’ll open a whole can of worms if you do.

Harry Potter 

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Of course, why not go somewhere where you don’t even have to go outside for adventure? Hogwarts would surely make a killing if it let out rooms for the summer, like muggle universities do. Even if you’re not a Potter lover you’ve got to appreciate a castle with comfy four poster beds, constant feasts and a neighbouring village that supplies magical sweets and butter beer. Just don’t tell anyone about the murderous whispers in the walls, or the dodgy defence against the dark arts teacher that may be a criminal in disguise. Brings the mood down.

The Shining 

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Now you may think I’m mad, hopefully not Jack Nicholson mad. But hear me out. Imagine getting an entire luxurious hotel to yourself with a fully stocked kitchen (including all the chocolate ice cream and French fries with ketchup you can eat) and all the snow outside you could ever want to play with. There’s even a maze! Well the maze is a bit creepy. So are the ghosts and the dreadful sense of isolation but let’s ignore those. Just don’t come here with psychic gifts or be Jack Nicholson.

Images from ibtimes.com, Forbes.com, telegraph.co.uk, csmonitor.com and stephenking.wikia.com

Veganism and Ink

In this post our guest blogger Amber Bryce discusses how she thinks veganism and tattoos go perfectly together and she talks to two tattoo artists who also share her point of view…  

In many ways, I think that veganism and tattoos make a perfect pair. They’re  decisions that hold a lot of weight and impact, they can change your entire outlook on life and help to narrate a new kind of future for either yourself, or the world. To discuss the subject further I spoke with two lovely women in the tattoo industry: Avalon, a tattoo artist who works at The Grand Illusion Studio in Melbourne, Australia, and Dina, who owns Gristle Tattoo in Brooklyn, USA.

Here’s what they had to say…

Avalon Westcott, 24, Melbourne

How long have you been tattooing for? I started apprenticing at The Grand Illusion (Melbourne) at the start of 2013 and did my first tattoo ever on myself by the end of 2013. Before tattooing I had been painting for a few years, doing custom pet portraits for people, which was so much fun.

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When did you become vegan? I went vegan five years ago when my fiancé Josh and I moved to the states for a few months. A month into my veganism I realised how amazing I felt, like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. At that point I knew there was no turning back and that nothing, no peer pressure, no craving, no situation would ever make me eat animals again.

Is your veganism something that has always inspired your tattoo designs? I can’t count the amount of vegan inspired tattoos that I’ve done. Animals have become my speciality! I usually tattoo a combination of animals together, cows, lambs, chickens (lots of chickens) and piggies. Meeting like-minded people, chatting food, chatting animals and sharing a mutual lifestyle really brings me closer to the clients.

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How do you think tattoos can help veganism? It’s no surprise that people with tattoos are often asked about why they have particular tattoos. My clients get tattooed for themselves, often to celebrate a milestone in their veganism or to commemorate animals, however, if anyone were to ask about why they have a love heart with animals in it tattooed on them I’m sure they’re proud to explain why. I believe that having a vegan tattoo is a very courageous and inspiring thing. To welcome people to question your lifestyle or even comment on it takes strength.

Do you have any personal vegan tattoos? If so, who are they by? I do have a few animal tattoos myself! My most recent is a girl dressed up as a chicken referenced from some vintage flash painted by Earl Brown, circa 1950, on the side of my thigh by the brilliant Becca Gené-Bacon from Hand of Glory in Brooklyn, NY.

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What’s your favourite vegan tattoo that you’ve done? Every vegan tattoo that I have done holds its own meaning and its own memories. Really, they’re all as special as each other for the client, and myself.

Dina DiCenso, Brooklyn

When did you become vegan? I’ve been 100% vegan for six years and the two years prior to that I was 90% vegan (I ate cheese once every four months) and then I was vegetarian for about 15 years prior to that. So when I opened my own business it seemed natural for it to be vegan.

How has veganism informed your business? I use the shop to do a lot of fundraisers for animal rescues. We work with small, local rescues that are in desperate need of funds. We tailor each fundraiser flash to fit the organisation. For example, we do wolves when we work with Wolf Conservation Center, we do farm animals when we work with Skylands or Woodstock Farm Sanctuaries and we have a TnR event coming up so we’ll design cat related flash.

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How do you think tattoos can help the cause of veganism? I think tattoos can inspire veganism in a few ways. First, if people encounter enough people with vegan tattoos, they may stop and think about how many people are vegan and that it’s possible for them to change and be vegan too. And second, they may also see an image that inspires them to change their own lifestyle and habits.

Tell us about your tattoos? For me, it’s important to have my tattoos have meaning so I don’t get sick of them. Few things have more importance to me than the animals I’ve rescued, and animals in general, so I’ve tried to get a few of my favourites as tattoos.

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You convinced Reprofax to make the first vegan stencil paper! Tell me more about that. I had read online about the stencil paper possibly not being vegan. Rather than take the postings at face value, I tried to contact the company directly. After several contact attempts and no response I had my geneticist friend test it. He came back with lanolin as the offending ingredient and then about the same time I got his results, the company responded confirming it was indeed lanolin — it holds the ink onto the plastic sheet.

I then began harassing them until they agreed to make a vegan stencil paper. Their chemist had retired ten years prior, which is why they were reluctant to create any new versions of the paper. We helped test their early versions and when they had a solid final version, I was the first one to buy it. Many artists are unaware products in the tattoo process are not vegan – they think it’s limited to the ink and aftercare. But it’s the ointment, the soap and even the moisture strip on razors.

5 Best Zombie Films

With the current political turmoil and the prospect of leaving the EU, it might be a good time to revisit films about escalating apocalyptic chaos and horror. Zombie films fit the bill nicely. Casual film lover Harry Casey-Woodward gives a countdown of his top five undead masterpieces.

5. Land of the Dead, 2005 

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Let’s kick, or rather shuffle off with a tour-de-force from the granddaddy of the zombie genre, George A. Romero. In this film, zombies have taken over America except for a few fortified cities. This horror turns into an allegory, when the undead masses get fed up of being used for target practice, learn how to use guns and march on one of the cities, where the wealthy reside in luxurious, high security high-rises. More an action than a horror, expect plenty of anti-capitalist sentiment under all the groaning and guns.

4. Night of the Living Dead, 1968 

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Let’s dig even deeper into the horror vaults and claw up Romero’s first film and arguably the first proper zombie film. This simple tale of some mismatched Americans trying to last a night trapped in a farmhouse with zombies at the door raised the bar for horror. Rather than being some Gothic ghost story, Living Dead reflected the paranoia and racial strife of late 60s America. Also, for a black and white film with limited special effects some scenes are still horrible to watch. It might be because everything looks awfully dark due to the lack of colour, but the fact that the zombies aren’t smothered in the gratuitous make-up of today makes them look more human and thus more scary.

3. Dawn of the Dead, 1978 

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Romero’s second zombie feature came a decade after his first one and was an even bigger horror fest. Those pesky zombies are still ravaging America and a handful of survivors break away from the madness of media and carnage to take refuge inside an abandoned shopping mall, which they turn into a materialistic palace besieged by the zombies outside. While Living Dead was a savage comment on the 60s, Dawn is a bleak attack on hollow consumerism. The 2004 remake upped the  action and gore (which was a feat since the original is a rollercoaster ride of guns and guts) but left out the social commentary that made the original stand out from the undead pack.

2. 28 Days Later, 2002 

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Time to bring some British class into the list. Trainspotting director Danny Boyle dipped his toe into the horror genre and made something scarier than any zombie film gone before. For one thing, his zombies weren’t shuffling grey corpses. After a university-produced virus strikes Britain, the entire population turn into zombies who, when they’re not RUNNING after you, vomit blood and bleed out of their eyes. This movie also has a gritty British bleakness (helped by the fact it’s shot entirely in grainy handheld digital) and a hundred percent serious attitude to its characters and zombies that make this a decent dystopian drama.

1. Shaun of the Dead, 2004 

And now for something completely different. I guess this film shouldn’t really count since it’s a comedy and mocks the above zombie classics while acknowledging their influence. But like in An American Werewolf in London, comedy is Shaun of the Dead‘s secret weapon. 28 Days Later may have more serious characters, but it wallows so much in misery it’s quite gruelling to sit through. Most of Shaun of the Dead‘s characters end up dead and I felt more sorrow for them because they made me laugh. It’s also easy to forget that some of the scenes in Shaun are still quite horrible, thanks to graphic prosthetics and unexpected emotion, even while it makes the point that the concept of a zombie epidemic is a bit ridiculous anyway.

Images from cinemagogue.com, sequart.org, deadline.com, cinesthesiac.blogspot.co.uk and sky.com.