Category: Guest bloggers

TATTOO FAILS: ‘NO REGERTS’

Our guest blogger John James, Senior Associate at Levi Solicitors LLP, talks tattoo regrets and what to do about them… 

What happens when you choose a new tattoo, pick a tattoo artist you haven’t used before and then:
• “Never Don’t Give Up”;
• “Regret Nohing”;
• “It’s Get Better”;
• “Thuuder Only Happens When It’s Raisin”?

Never don't give up

Disaster! All of a sudden, you are an internet sensation thanks to your tattooist and your cruel friend who shares the photo with the world…

…Even worse, you have also been left with an infection from the needle the tattooist had used for the previous four days. And what’s more, you just found out he doesn’t have any insurance.

tattoo-1843620_1920 (1)

What can I do?
The consequences for failed tattoo treatment can be very costly, both financially and physically. Needless to say, you have a right as a customer to have the artist fix the error or give you a refund.

However, you may also have other rights to compensation for personal injury or other damages you sustained as a direct result of this failed treatment.

Beware the tattoo fixer….

Unfortunately, there’s a surprisingly high number of people who have suffered cuts, burns, scars and even poisoning from failed treatments. Quite often, this is because people have been too hasty in choosing their provider – and if you choose unwisely, your options may be limited.

If you have been left with injuries after a failed procedure, you may be entitled to bring a personal injury claim against the person who carried out the treatment. Rather than trying to sue the individual (who may not have the money to pay your damages), your best chance of a successful claim is against the insurance company which covers them in the event that things go wrong.

However, if you have picked a tattoo artist without checking their insurance or their credentials properly, you could face the nightmare scenario of being left with an injury for which you cannot claim compensation.

Spelling mistake tattoo

Prevention is cheaper than the cure

Whilst you might be in a rush to get your tattoo, or to have it removed, repaired or altered, you should take time to research properly the person you approach to carry out the procedure.

People who have taken their time choosing their artist to either create or remove a tattoo stand a much better chance of a claim succeeding if the treatment goes wrong.

Bon Jovi tattoo

Therefore, my best possible advice to those people looking for the perfect tattoo is:
• Research the artist before walking into their studio
• Check they are insured before they go anywhere near you!
• Avoid the “backstreet” tattooist – you are unlikely to succeed in a claim against him/her if their treatment fails.
• If in doubt, do not have the treatment until you are certain you are safeguarded against things going wrong.

If you follow these three simple tips, you will have “no regerts” when you finally have your tattoo!

Guest article by John James, Senior Associate, Levi Solicitors LLP

The Tiger Style: Tiggen

We chat to Tiggen, 19-year-old retail assistant manager and blogger, from London about her blog, fashion style and collection of blackwork tattoos…

IMG_1061
When did you start blogging, how did you get into it? I first started blogging last March, however I’d been building up the confidence to start for about a year by that point. After following and admiring many other bloggers online, I wanted to try it out for myself. It was something I’d always thought about pursuing but initially I had to push myself into writing my first post.

What kind of things do you blog about? Typically, I enjoy blogging about personal style, as it’s something that is unique to everyone and so closely linked to self image. I find issues around body image, and how we view ourselves and others, to be very interesting and I plan on writing more about that in the future. Other topics I blog about are lifestyle, beauty and London.

IMG_1065

How would you describe your style? My style is very minimalist. I only wear black and white, with one exception of a brown jacket. As my colour plate is so simplistic I tend to focus on the quality of the material over anything else. I would say I dress quite casually on a day to day basis, I’m nearly always wearing my leather jacket.

What inspires you? I take inspiration from people watching, seeing the variation of street style and how people present themselves. London is such a diverse city and full of so many interesting people that I can’t help but feel inspired.

Do you have a favourite, artist, designer or musician, or someone else that you admire? I wouldn’t say there was just one person in particular that I admire, there are so many people that I look up to. Social media plays a part as it allows you to glimpse into people’s lives, to respect what they’re feeling and going through. To name a couple that I follow on Instagram:  @jayrosetattoo @acornandauger

IMG_1063

When did you get your first tattoo? Do you still love it? I got my first tattoo the day after I turned 18, it was only small but I was extremely happy to finally have one. Sometimes I forget it’s even there now that I have many more, but I still like it.

Tell us about your tattoos? Do they help you to see you body differently, do they inspire confidence? Each time I get a tattoo it instills more confidence in me and makes me feel at home in my own skin. They don’t feel like an addition, more as though they were there all along just under the surface and now they’re revealed. To me getting a new one is not only a physical change but a mental one, they help me to see my body differently and to boost my self image. I find them empowering. Much like my personal style I only have blackwork pieces, they range from illustrative style to more mehndi buddhist pieces.

IMG_1057

Do you have any future tattoo plans? I have a habit of planning very far ahead in regard to tattoos. I’ve carefully thought about what I’m going to get and where, most of my body is already planned out. Next on my list is to get my other hand done.

Do you consider yourself a tattoo collector? Without a doubt. I enjoy collecting tattoos and meeting new tattoo artists. I’m hoping to travel to get a lot of them done, it’s all part of the experience. The beautiful thing about collecting tattoos is having artwork on your own skin that you can admire everyday and carry with you.

IMG_1059

What kinds of reactions do your tattoos get? Luckily most of the reactions I receive are positive, whether from friends and family or strangers. However, there are occasions when people  make derogatory remarks or invade my personal space to try and touch my tattoos. In the end though they’re on my body, so the only thing that truly matters is how they make me feel.

Cold Girl Fever: Katie Thirks

We chat to 27-year-old Leeds based blogger and zine creator Katie Thirks about her blog www.coldgirlfever.com, her tattoo collection, and why she created her now sold-out Love/Hate zine…

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-20-09-27

How would you describe your style? My day-to-day style is pretty laid-back. I don’t really follow fashion trends consciously – I buy clothes and style my outfits depending on my mood. I can never plan outfits in advance because of this, so packing for holidays is always a nightmare. My priorities comfort and versatility – clothing that I can mix up – and good denim. Shoes are my weakness, I have around 50 pairs – you’ll mainly find me in Salt-Water sandals, Vans or 70s Chuck Taylor’s.

My tattoos are, for the most part, pretty American/Western traditional. That’s the style of tattooing I am drawn to. I like the aesthetics, the colours and the boldness. I have a lot of older traditional flash tattooed, such as my backpiece which is based on a Bert Grimm original, Sundance (or Raindance, depending on who you ask!). It’s always interesting to see how a tattooer will put their spin on an old piece of flash and make it their own.

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-20-12-55

What do you think of social media as a platform, how do you feel about sharing your life in such a public space? I only really use Instagram, which I love. I have a Twitter and a private Facebook, but they don’t get used as much. I don’t agree with the stance that social media is bad for us, or narcissistic. I dislike that negative spin, it’s a very bitter outlook. In saying that, there can most definitely be a darker side to social media. I think it can be hard for some people to separate reality from the online world. Although, given that we document so much of our lives these days, it can be easy for the lines to be blurred. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, technology has enabled us to do so much and connect in more ways than ever before.

I’ve dealt with negativity online (which I’ve blogged about) and I do think, in some cases, social media can perhaps encourage unhealthy behaviour. For me personally, social media has allowed me to fulfil creative pursuits and promote them – Love/Hate, for example. My Instagram is a really useful tool for interacting with like-minded people and it gives me a voice, in some ways.

I think it’s time to accept that social media is as much real-life as, err… real-life. That being said, it’s important to not get too sucked in and be sure to live life away from a camera lens, enjoying the moment. I don’t put my entire life online, but I generally post highlights and nice things I get to do, nice places, my cat and, of course, selfies! Big selfie advocate over here – I love seeing women feeling confident and beautiful enough to document it.

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-20-09-53

How did you start your blog, what inspired you? Making the decision to start blogging was an extension from my Instagram account, I guess. I have always dabbled in blogging in some way or another – I’ve had a MySpace, Live Journal and a Tumblr. I like sharing stories and experiences, I like connecting with people and I like writing. Blogging is something that feels natural for me. As someone who seems to have gone through a fair few challenges in my life, sometimes it’s difficult for me to express what I’m feeling or going through vocally (I’m working on that!) and I’ve always found writing a cathartic process. It helps me get my thoughts in order and is very therapeutic.

What can people expect to see on your blog? What do you write about? I write about personal topics – health, self-care, travelling. Talking about mental health is something I think is especially important. It was never an agenda of mine to write about mental health, but it just happened. When I write, it tends to be from the heart and spontaneous, and I rarely plan or schedule posts so again, depending on my mood or situation, it dictates the direction of what I write.

My blog has opened up some really helpful dialogue and I’ve had great conversations off the back of some of my posts. Ironically, keeping to a regular blogging schedule is something that I struggle with, thanks to my mental health, which can be erratic. I go through phases of productivity and it can be hard to not feel pressure. I have to remind myself that my blog is for me and try to keep it easygoing, rather than beat myself up for not posting anything for two months.

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-20-11-20

What was your first tattoo, do you still love it? My first tattoo was a lesson in how not to get your first tattoo. I was 17 and it was Bob Tyrell flash off of the wall in a scratcher shop. It was a gothic heart with wings and I had it on my stomach. It’s since been covered by a much bigger Japanese piece by Fil Wood. Please don’t get your first, or any, tattoo in this way.

What drew you to the world of tattoos? My favourite uncle is heavily tattooed and pierced. Growing up I was in awe of him, his leather jacket and his motorbikes. We would go to a biker festival called The Rock & Blues with my parents and him, and it was always so much fun. I would stare at everybody’s tattoos and ask questions about them. I also used to draw on my skin and have stick-on transfers. I just love how tattoos look and the history behind them fascinates me. I am so glad that I learned a lesson and waited longer before I started getting ‘seriously’ tattooed with more visible work.

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-20-10-08

Do you think tattoos have to have a meaning? I don’t think tattoos have to have a deep, profound meaning, but I appreciate the notion that they can have a meaning. I have tattoos that are ‘for’ something or to preserve memories – a place, a pet, my husband’s name. When people have larger scale work and ongoing projects, I absolutely understand how it can become more of a spiritual journey for them. Being tattooed, no matter the size of a tattoo or the duration of a session, requires so much physical and mental energy and it’s going to change your body permanently.

Has having tattoos changed how you feel about yourself and your body? With each tattoo, I feel like I come into my own a bit more. I’ve always struggled with body image for various reasons and, as glib as it sounds, I’m so much more confident in my own skin now. I have plenty of space left, but I’m in no rush to fill up – it isn’t a race. For me, being tattooed is a process. I don’t have a master plan where everything is mapped out. I seek out artists I love when I travel and choose pieces based on factors such as the size and shape of the space it’s going to fill and how it will complement other tattoos surrounding it.

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-20-17-20

Why did you decide to create a zine around women, tattoos and the reactions they encounter? What do you hope to achieve? My inspiration for the zine was basically my own experiences of having people let me know what they think of my tattoos. All. The. Time. I never invite people to comment (or to touch me), yet their need to express their opinion baffles me every time it happens, which is on a daily basis. In turn, I found myself having frequent conversations with other women about dealing with the same unwanted attention – catcalling, sexist remarks and negative comments from family and strangers in the street regarding our tattoos and bodies.

With the zine I simply wanted to create a space for tattooed women/trans/non-binary folks to share their experiences. I knew I wanted to bring together a range of stories and for it to be a collective effort. One woman’s story about street-harassment may shock us, but over 30 stories is even more powerful. The finished product almost feels celebratory – whenever I received a new submission, I would be beaming from ear-to-ear upon opening the email because of the beautiful photos people sent with their writing. I love nothing more than seeing women proudly show off their bodies and the choices they have made. By creating this project, I hope it lets other tattooed women know that A) it’s unacceptable behaviour and we have the right to stand up for ourselves and B) make people think twice before they interrogate or shame a tattooed woman.

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-20-09-12

Was this zine drawn from your own experience? Have you struggled with what to wear because of other people? As much as I love my tattoos and don’t feel the need to seek approval from anybody, I am definitely affected by other people’s reactions to them. Whether this is my auntie telling me that when she sees a pretty girl in a dress who happens to have tattoos that she “looks trashy and has ruined her looks”, or the stranger in the cafe whispering loudly that I look “like a thug”, or the customer at work who touched my arms, telling me, “I like your tattoos – I mean I like all of you, if you know what I mean…”, the charity worker shouting for “the lady with the tattoos” to come for a chat in the middle of a busy street… It goes on.

I, and other women, have to navigate this intrusive and embarrassing behaviour daily. It’s constant. How can we not consider what we’ll wear each day, and the responses it will evoke from the general public? I noticed a theme with the stories – people said that things got worse in the summer, which is something I absolutely relate to. It broke my heart that, on top of all the usual obstacles women face, our choices and ownership of our bodies is still being brought into question with each summer dress or vest top that we wear.

Film Review: A United Kingdom

Harry Casey-Woodward, movie connoisseur, reviews last year’s romantic drama on race and politics in 1940s Botswana.

A United Kingdom, 2016, cert 12, dir Amma Asante, 3/5

mv5bnjexmdm3m2itnzk5ys00oge4lweznmutodk3yzdhn2qzm2m4xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjgymdmymzi-_v1_

When the caption ‘based on a true story’ appears onscreen at the start of a movie, I can’t help but feel a mild form of dread. At their worse, some of these films demand to be taken seriously while simplifying historical events and real people into ‘goodies vs baddies’ situations. While this true-story movie is also somewhat guilty, I was pleasantly surprised by its quality which is nearly worthy of the events it depicts.

The film opens in 1940s London, where we meet Prince Seretse Khama of Botswana who is studying while awaiting the time to return home and be king. He is played passionately by David Oyelowo, who also gave a great performance in Disney’s 2016 chess underdog story Queen of Katwe.

mv5bmjixmjrkymytotfjmc00mzczltkxowitoweyy2ywmme3ymewl2ltywdll2ltywdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyntk1mtq3ndi-_v1_

He meets Ruth Williams, a young white London woman played by Rosamund Pike. They fall in love and even decide to marry, regardless of the consequences. Unfortunately these consequences turn out to be huge.

They meet opposition from everyone, not just from casual racists in the street but Ruth’s father even disowns her. The situation worsens when Prince Khama brings Ruth to Botswana to be his queen. For marrying a white woman and defying tradition, his uncle tries to undermine his right to the throne.

The British government in charge of Botswana exploit this division to seize further control of the country and its possible resources of diamonds. They even go so far as to have Khama exiled, separating him from Ruth. Even when apart, the pair struggle on to unite Botswana and be re-united with each other.

mv5bmjlizjbjzdktm2q1ys00nthilweyotgtnzm1ztqxmzu4mte2xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjuwnzk3ndc-_v1_

This romantic drama may have a lot of clichés you may recognise. For example, despite this being a complex political situation the goodies and baddies are clearly defined. Jack Davenport (Admiral Norrington from Pirates of the Caribbean) and Tom Felton (aka Draco Malfoy) are typecast as the slimy villainous bureaucrats representing British imperialist politics and thwarting the main characters’ romance. There are also times where the film feels a bit overly positive. Rosamund Pike somehow wins over the hearts of the Botswana people and overcomes their prejudices just by being… nice.

However, the film is still a strong comment on racism in the twentieth century. Two people of different colour marry and political turmoil ensues. It also helps that the performances are good. The romance of the leads feels powerful and believable thanks to their incredible acting. Oyelowo reduces himself to tears in one scene when he’s giving a speech to his people on his right to rule. The intense political conflict also makes this more gripping than other milder historic dramas. To be fair, you’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by this cry for love and unity in the face of state-sanctioned prejudice.

5 Best Films of 2016

Hobbyist reviewer Harry Casey-Woodward takes a look back over last year’s films and lists his five personal favourites.

5. Deadpool, cert 15, dir Tim Miller 

mv5bmjixnjuzmje2mf5bml5banbnxkftztgwnzm0nty0nje-_v1_sx1777_cr001777999_al_

There’s nothing deep about this film, but it’s such a refreshing stab (pun intended) against the conventional superhero image. Ryan Reynolds has great fun as the spandex-clad, mercenary joker in this hilarious cocktail of adult humour, pop-culture references and darkly comic violence.

4. Bone Tomahawk, cert 18, dir S. Craig Zahler

BT_100714_RAW-4653.CR2

Besides The Witch, this is perhaps the most original horror released in the UK this year. Not only is it a good horror, it’s a good western too. Kurt Russell plays an ageing sheriff leading a small band against a tribe of cannibals who kidnapped their fellow townspeople. There’s some brutal gore but this film thankfully focuses more on the characters, their drama and the building suspense.

3. Julieta, cert 15, dir Pedro Almodovar

mv5bmtcxotc5mzmynv5bml5banbnxkftztgwmdi3nzc4mdi-_v1_sy1000_sx1500_al_

Spanish director Almodovar does it again with this emotional, feminine drama worthy of his previous classics like All About My Mother. A middle-aged woman living in Madrid is troubled by her tragic past and her relationship with her estranged daughter. With such striking quirks as two actresses playing the main character, this is powerful and imaginative cinema.

2. The Revenant, cert 15, dir Alejandro G. Innaritu

mv5botiwmza4otawml5bml5banbnxkftztgwndq3mtkynje-_v1_sy1000_cr0015531000_al_

This Oscar-winning historical epic is a brutal but beautiful survival story set in the early days of the American frontier. Leonardo Di Caprio won Best Actor for his gruelling performance of a fur trapper left for dead after a bear attack, but who stubbornly drags himself through the wilderness after his nemesis, Tom Hardy. This great story is not only well acted but well shot, with unusually long tracking shots giving you a thrilling and unique cinematic experience.

1. The Hateful Eight, cert 18, dir Quentin Tarantino

THE HATEFUL EIGHT

Tarantino reminds us that sometimes to make a great film, you can just strand some violent, well-armed characters in one cabin and let mayhem ensue. Tarantino defies genre conventions and predictability yet again in this snowbound western. It may test your patience at three hours long, but I enjoy it’s simplicity. It’s proof you can capture an audience’s attention not just with action and special effects but with dialogue, suspense and great actors like Samuel L. Jackson and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Interview with Mermaid Moon Child

19-year-old Hayley Sunter is a business student and blogger from Bradford. We chatted to Hayley about how she started her blog www.mermaidmoonchild.wordpress.com and her tattoo collection… 

15284011_10208329241171838_1358777560466044266_n

When did you start blogging, how did you get into it? I started blogging September of this year, what got me into blogging was just a passion for writing, I also wanted to share and talk about things I love.

What kind of things do you blog about? I don’t like to see myself as a typical beauty blogger not that there is anything wrong with that, I just wanted my blog to be more. I blog about things such as mental health, my tattoos, life updates and if I do talk about beauty products I am always promoting cruelty free ones. I like to see my blog as a somewhat visual and online diary,  I am a very open about my life online as I hope some of my life struggles and achievements will either help or inspire people who come across my blog.

15338711_10208329240931832_6866760129820338087_n

How would you describe your style? Honestly I have people try to label my style as many things but for me personally I get fashion inspiration from alternative women, typically on Instagram so I would label myself as alternative.

What inspires you? I get inspiration from a lot of different things from compassion and kindness I see online, to people loving themselves and being truly happy the way they are in their body. I feel like the world wants us to dislike at least one thing about ourselves and seeing people overcome that inspires me to love myself and others.

15319320_10208329240971833_7028237069234899435_n

Do you have a favourite artist, designer or musician? Or someone you admire? The person I admire the most is a tattoo artist called Hannah Pixie Snowdon, I first came across her on Instagram when I saw some of her tattoos and that is one of the first times I fell in love with heavily tattooed women. I then went on to get more inspired by her outlook on life, she has so much compassion, she is so mindful and she has overcome some dark demons in her life. I plan on getting her portrait tattooed one day, because she has inspired me so much and pretty much changed how I see life.

When did you get your first tattoo? Do you still love it? I got my first tattoo August 2015 just after my 18th birthday, its a little traditional style black cat sat on a moon on my ankle and honestly it was a painful little thing. I do still love it but where it is in terms of placement, it didn’t heal the best and the lines blew out a bit.

15319081_10208329238211764_9152442910745981708_n

Tell us about your tattoos? Do they help you to see your body differently, do they inspire confidence? I am not the most heavily tattooed person but I plan on being, I currently have four tattoos including my second tattoo – my thigh piece done by Lucy O’Connell at Red Tattoo Leeds. It’s a portrait of my beloved pet ferret Ed who sadly passed last year, he was literally like my fur child so I booked in with Lucy the month he died. My third tattoo is done by Danny at Cobra Club Leeds, it’s of Gizmo from the film Gremlins I just love everything about it!

15338778_10208329238811779_6738959451775744526_n

My last but not least was done by Tom Flanagan at Odd Fellows in Leeds. This tattoo has a lot of meaning behind it, as it features a love heart with a hand holding a panther paw its a little twist on the traditional style two people holding hands tattoos. I wanted it to represent that animals are here with us not for us. I recently turned vegetarian when I got this tattoo and never looked back.

In terms of do my tattoos make me see myself differently? Absolutely they do, about three years ago I never got my legs out without some fake tan, as I didn’t really like my legs. Now with my legs featuring some beautiful art I love it, I can’t wait for summer so I can get them out again! Each time I get a tattoo I feel more and more like myself.

15317754_10208329239371793_7136379339241779392_n

Do you have any future tattoo plans? I actually have a tattoo booked just after Christmas which I am looking forward to. As for future plans I plan on adding more and more to my legs first then I will work my way up my body. For years I have wanted my stomach tattooed so I might make plans for that sometime next year.

Do you consider yourself as a tattoo collector? I do, I plan on travelling around the country to different tattoo artists I have admired on Instagram. Luckily some really talented people are based right on my door step in Leeds. I’ll only really stick to one artist if we are working on a stomach or back piece, other than that I want to collect as many different tattoos from different artists that I really admire.

15380577_10208329238851780_8564843630807277379_n

What kinds of reactions do your tattoos get? Honestly I think I have only had one bad reaction to my tattoos and that has been online, where they were a bit old fashioned and thought that females don’t suit tattoos. Other than that I have had some lovely reactions in person and online. I remember in the Summer I was shopping and the shop assistant asked to look at my legs I was so confused for a second until she commented on how beautiful my tattoos are. Sometimes I forgot they are there I am so used to them now.

Film Review: Kubo and the Two Strings

Hobbyist reviewer Harry Casey-Woodward reviews a cool kid’s movie, the magical epic of Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo and the Two Strings, 2016, cert PG, dir Travis Knight, 3/5

mv5bnjkxodu1nze1nl5bml5banbnxkftztgwmta2otm5ode-_v1_

The best kid’s films have some basis in the oldest stories. See Disney’s biggest successes for example. So what with a lot of the classic fairy tales having been filmed (or re-filmed in the case of Disney’s recent remakes), it’s always exciting when a new family film comes along based on something that isn’t princesses and palaces.

Enter Kubo and the Two Strings, a dazzling mix of stop motion and computer animation with a story set once upon a time in Japan. I don’t know which parts of the story are based on actual Japanese folklore and which are made up, but the movie has a rather authentic mythic feel even when it’s served with dollops of Disney-style, family-friendly goo.

Kubo is a boy with a rather emo fringe that hides his missing eye. This eye was stolen from him by his grandfather and the film opens with Kubo and his mother fleeing their wicked relatives during a storm. Cut forward a few years and Kubo lives with his mother in a cave just outside of town.

mv5bngrkm2flzdatztdhnc00mtk4ltkyn2utzjrhmtdkmzazytq2xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymzg0nte4mdq-_v1_

Kubo spends his time in the town below, entertaining people with violent samurai stories and acting them out with his enchanted origami. He brings the paper to life by playing a two-stringed, guitar-like instrument that is the source of his powers. So he’s having fun, until one day he accidentally stays out too late and his witch-like aunts wearing creepy masks come chasing him. His mother saves him by enchanting his robe to grow wings and carry him away.

He finds himself stuck with a talking monkey (Charlize Theron) who tells him the only way he can be safe is to seek the three powerful objects he told stories about: a sword, a breastplate and a helmet. Kubo finds himself on the quest of his dreams, but it doesn’t come without challenges. However with the help of his origami, his monkey and a new samurai friend cursed into a half-beetle creature (Matthew McConaughy), he gives it a go.

mv5bmje3ndm4mje4n15bml5banbnxkftztgwmza2otm5ode-_v1_

So as you can see, the plot has some quirky ideas. Who doesn’t love a story of a young boy going on an epic quest with talking animals, fighting monsters with cool weapons in rather impressive action scenes? For kids it’s going to feel like one big video game. It has its soft side too, with a stress on the importance of family and friendship in the face of hardship, that sort of thing.

There are some funny moments too, often at the expense of the monkey which is a slight shame because she’s an awesome character. The beetle samurai reminded me of Kronk from Emperor’s New Groove, which will be good for people who like loveable idiots. The animation isn’t sloppy either and may be the best thing to see this movie for. Slick, colourful and genuinely beautiful in places, this is a feast for the eyes. If you can adjust to Japanese characters speaking in American accents, you should enjoy it.

Music Review: Seasick Steve at Wembley

Casual music lover Harry Casey-Woodward was lucky enough to see bearded bluesman Seasick Steve playing in our merry capital at Wembley Stadium…

07-seasick-steve-crobsneltjes-6k4a3495

Apart from Elvis, there is perhaps no other musician who embodies the American dream than Seasick Steve. In particular, he embodies the mythical spirit of American freedom, that gets lost on highways and hitches on trains. In October, this big-bearded icon graced our shores with a one-off show.

After fruitlessly circling the wrong Wembley arena, me and my companion found the right venue. We were introduced by Steve himself on a giant screen to his support act, a two-man band named Black Dog Revelation. They sounded like a gnarly Black Keys with slow snarling songs powered by thunderous drums.

After they rocked the house, we were treated to a video of Steve driving up to the venue in a tractor before he walked on stage to deafening applause. He started off with some politics, voicing his disapproval of Trump before opening his set with a hushed Dylanesque solo song.

12-seasick-steve-crobsneltjes-img_2763

Steve and his small handful of musicians then proceeded to turn the cavernous venue into a warm, cosy atmosphere. Steve was as relaxed as if he was playing in your front room. The lighting helped too. The stage was backlit by simple but pleasant fairy lights, draped as if over a tree. The most striking lighting was used when Steve played solo songs like ‘Treasures’. One spotlight would light him up in the middle of the dark venue, making him look dramatically humble.

Humble is something Steve is very good at. More than once, he asked for the spotlights to sweep his cheering audience and appeared constantly stunned at their adoration. He came close to tears when he expressed gratitude for his slot on the Jools Holland show that got him exposure.

He was also good at being kickass during his louder songs like ‘Thunderbird’. He and his giant bearded drummer lost themselves in colossal solos as they thrashed their instruments, even the homemade ones Steve expressed fondness for like his Diddley Bo.

16-seasick-steve-crobsneltjes-img_2863

His most stunning performance was when he pulled a random woman from the crowd and played her a tender rendition of ‘Walkin’ Man’. The lucky lass looked as if she would melt from tearful gratitude.

Other ladies who joined Steve onstage included a singing guitarist from Glasgow who played a cover of a Steve song she had already done on YouTube, which Steve had admired. There was also a gifted filly on the fiddle and a talented square dancer who could tap along to Steve’s songs with her shoes.

The gig ended with Steve being given a cake, showing us a picture of his tractor and playing ‘Dog House Boogie’, which took a while to finish since he forced his drummer to repeat faster and faster endings.

So despite drunken calls of ‘Steeeeeeve-oooooh’ and one or two fights (one of which broke out in front of our seats) the gig was an evening of musical magic and thrilling musicianship. It was also a pleasure to be in the company of such a character like Seasick Steve.

Images from bluesmagazine.nl.

Film Review: The Girl on the Train

Casual film viewer Harry Casey-Woodward investigates the psychological thriller of The Girl on the Train, based on the bestselling novel.

The Girl on the Train, 2016, cert 15, dir Tate Taylor, 2/5

mv5bzdu0mdk1mzetntk2zc00m2m3lwe0ymitodfhogfmotnlnza4xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymji1ntg2otq-_v1_sy1000_cr0015331000_al_

Naturally a lot is expected of a cinematic adaptation of a popular book, especially when it’s released so hot on the heels of said book. There is the assumption that just because the book was a success, the film will be just as good. Unfortunately this is not often the case.

Before I talk about one of this year’s most hyped book adaptations, The Girl on the Train, I better admit that I have yet to read the novel by Paula Hawkins, so this isn’t going to be one of those reviews where I list point by point what the film gets wrong. Nevertheless there is one fact I learnt about the film that bothered me.

I was informed that the story has been transferred from the UK to Manhattan. Not only do I feel it a bit much to adapt a bestseller a year after publication, but it also feels like extra cashing-in for DreamWorks to Americanize the story for bigger US audiences. There’s no denying however that its dark story is gripping.

mv5bota0otcymwitntqyni00ztzmltkxmgqtndgxzwe5ythlotkxxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndkxmtgyotu-_v1_sy1000_cr0013801000_al_

Emily Blunt plays Rachel, the woman who likes to ride on trains. We gradually learn some unpleasant facts about her life, such as her alcoholism and her obsession with her ex-husband (Justin Theroux), his new wife (Rebecca Ferguson) and baby. One night their young neighbour Megan (Haley Bennett) goes missing and Rachel is terrified that she was somehow involved, but can’t remember due to a drink-induced blackout.

The film’s strongest feature is Emily Blunt, who gives a convincing portrayal of a woman on the constant verge of emotional and mental breakdown. This doesn’t mean she acts so mental that we don’t feel sorry for her, but when she does fly off the handle she’s genuinely scary. She is also a fascinating protagonist since we can never trust her view of the plot, for she has no firm grip on reality or even her memories.

mv5bnjhjnjcyytutzjbins00owq2ltg3mtetmzhizddlmdg4ogzjxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndkxmtgyotu-_v1_

The remaining cast’s performances are also good, but they are too good-looking to be believable as ordinary people. This is where the Americanization of the plot rears its ugly head. I feel if the film had been made in the UK, it would have felt much grittier. Instead it has this slick sheen of beautiful actors and glamorous sets that makes it feel like an episode of some glossy US drama.

In fact the whole film, despite its fine performances and dark, occasionally moving story, feels like a formulaic thriller, which would be fine if there hadn’t been so much hype. As it is it feels underwhelming, a familiar helping of suburban strife and domestic depression. It’s a maze of twists, flashbacks and awkward sex scenes that tries to be some menacing film noir but cinematically lacked ‘oomph’. Blunt’s powerful performance deserves to be in a better film.

Film Review: Ava’s Possessions

Casual reviewer Harry Casey-Woodward reviews a new breed of exorcism film, Ava’s Possessions.

Ava’s Possessions, 2015, dir Jordan Galland, 4/5

ava-possessions

This movie answers the question: what does a person do after they’ve been possessed by a demon? The Last Exorcism Part II tried to give an answer in 2013, but its main character was some delicate flower who floated around, trying not to bother anyone. Ava’s Possession is the first exorcism film I’ve seen which shows a down-to-earth person struggling to piece back the nuts and bolts of her old life after a traumatic supernatural experience. It also has a sense of humour.

Apart from The Exorcist, I generally dislike films about demonic possession since they tend to be Exorcist rip-offs that take themselves far too seriously without any of the power of that classic pea-soup-spurting original. Ava’s Possessions is the first I’ve seen with an original and refreshing approach. It focuses more on the aftermath of an exorcism rather than on the event itself.

screen-shot-2015-03-06-at-10-32-43-pm

The opening credits are interspersed with distorted shots from the point of view of a girl tied to a bed while a priest chants above her. The audience is forced to see the world through the eyes of someone possessed, which is quite creepy. The film opens with said priest sitting on the bed of said girl (named Ava, in case you hadn’t guessed and played by Louisa Krause), matter-of-factly informing her that he has saved her from a demon.

It doesn’t take long for Ava to discover that the possession has completely ruined her life. The actions she committed while possessed, including wild sexual behaviour and violent assaults, have driven away her friends, her boyfriend and even her family, none of whom seem very understanding or sympathetic. Even worse, the law is looking to prosecute her for her crimes, even though she can’t remember committing them. Her lawyer informs her that the charges can be dropped if she takes a possession therapy course.

mv5bndawmjiwmty1nv5bml5banbnxkftztgwnda3nze3nde-_v1_

Her moustached therapist encourages her to seek out people she wronged while possessed and make amends, which will also help her realise everything she did. In the process however, she discovers evidence that suggests she committed crimes much worse than she can imagine. She is also troubled by weird, terrifying visions as the demon tries to return and there’s also a girl she befriends in therapy who is far too eager to be reunited with her own demon.

This tangled mystery is more like a neon-lit film noir than your typical exorcism movie. For one thing, rather than going for that muted Gothic look most horrors go for, Ava’s Possessions uses a lot of bright, trashy colours and stylised, disorientating shots to create a misleading, glamorous look. Also, as I’ve mentioned above, this movie thankfully focuses more on messy human relationships and frustrations, rather than on horror clichés or showing off the demon with bad CGI. Overall this is one of the coolest, sexiest and most blackly comic horrors you could see. While it may not be as gut-wrenching as The Exorcist, it maintains some degree of realism and still has the ability to chill.

Images from frightday.com, thehorrorhoneys.com and imdb.