Category: Guest bloggers

Fashion Pearls of Wisdom: Public Property

Our columnist Natalie McCreesh aka Pearl, is a fashion lecturer, freelance writer and creator of Fashion Pearls of Wisdom. In this post she’ll be talking about the stir visible tattoos can cause…

Us Brits are a predictable bunch, first sign of a little sun and we are stripped down to our shorts and vests before you can say ‘ice cream van’. Every year the warmer weather seems to jump on us out of nowhere- no warning until one day you are walking home from work in your faux fur coat as everyone else passes you in flip-flops. Lament as I did in my last column about winter clothes hiding our tattoos; I had forgotten what a stir tattoos can cause. In true Brit fashion I jumped at the chance to go to work today without my woolly tights on, legs bare and if I’ll admit a bit cold! I was walking around enjoying the vitamin D when I heard it ‘look at those tattoos’! The girl actually gave me a sheepish smile as she realised she hadn’t been as discreet as she might have though and I couldn’t help but laugh. But it did bring back to me the reminders of how other people find our tattoos to be something of their business. Suddenly my skin that had been protected by jeans and thick jumpers was exposed and public property.

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This got me thinking about who we get tattoos for and how we control who sees them. Back, torso, bum these are all quite private areas which we generally conceal on a daily basis. For me anything above the knee is generally hidden away from sight unless I consciously choose to wear something like shorts or a backless dress. I am fully aware that if I chose not to cover my tattoos I will draw attention, wanted or not. As I’m sat writing this in the park a guy comes over and asks if he can look closer at my arm/ back tattoos – I’m wearing a vest top. I say sure and we have a quick chat about whether they hurt and where I got them done. He says I’m a ‘tattooed wonder woman’ and bids me farewell. The more visible tattoos I get the more I have to consider how I control my body. I’m not sure I’m ready to be in position where I can’t choose to hide my tattoos, not yet anyway. I salute those who do.

Rock n Roll Soul: Emma Inks

Emma Copland is a 28-year-old Scottish charity support manager and blogger living in London. We chatted to Emma about how she started her blog emmainks.com and her tattoo collection… 

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When did you start blogging, how did you get into it? I had a secret blog that was a scrapbook of my life but it was October 2014 when I officially started Emma Inks. The combination of living in London and my passion for travel meant friends were always asking for recommendations so I started promoting my posts, hoping that other people might find my ramblings useful too.

What kinds of things do you blog about? My blog is a reflection of me so it is a bit all over the place with posts on: London life, travel, vegetarian food, style, beauty and any other random thoughts I have.

How would you describe your style? I am not one to follow trends; I just wear what makes me feel comfortable, which often includes lots of leather, ripped denim, vintage rock t-shirts, black, and leopard print. I often end up looking like I have just been thrown out of an American dive bar. My style is mainly influenced by rock music, movies, Cher and people I see on the street.

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What inspires you? I am inspired by many things, but mainly travel and people who are not afraid to be themselves. I love people who make their own path instead of following the crowd or doing what is expected of them.

Do you have a favourite designer or artist? There are so many talented artists; a few of my current favourite tattoo artists include Kirk Jones, Kelly Violence, Dani Queipo, Henbo, Rebecca Vincent, Cally-Jo, Hannah Pixie Sykes, and my gorgeous friend Nikki Nairns. They are all high on my list of people I would love to be tattooed by.

When did you get your first tattoo? Do you still love it? I got my first tattoo just after turning 18. It was bought by my two best friends before I went on my first solo backpacking trip and was a meant to be a heart/thistle representing our friendship and my Scottish roots.

These days it looks more like a club stamp I have not washed off and has a scar right through the middle of it after I broke my wrist snowboarding. It is definitely not a piece of art, but it reminds me of an amazing time in my life, being young and reckless so I don’t think I will ever get it covered.

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Tell us about your tattoos? I started getting tattoos at 18 and went with the tribal style which was common at the time. I had my aforementioned club stamp on my wrist and a hand drawn sun on my back within the same year. The back tattoo was meant to represent my backpacking trip around South-east Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, though I still like it I am thinking about getting the Buddha in the centre covered up as I don’t want any religious symbolism in my tattoos.

When I was a poor student I couldn’t afford new tattoos but I did plenty of research and started to get into more traditional, colourful pieces. I got my anchor by Frank Paradiso in Tattoo Peter, Amsterdam’s oldest tattoo shop. I loved the style and vibrancy so much I got my second traditional tattoo by his colleague, Bill Loika, at Brighton Tattoo Convention. You could tell Bill has been a tattoo artist for years as my swallow inking was super speedy, yet beautifully executed.

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A year later I promised myself that I was just going to look at the artwork at the same convention but after seeing Adam Cornish’s flash I couldn’t resist and got the rose on my shoulder.

The most recent piece was done by Harry Harvey at Vagabond in East London, the arrow was my idea but Harry took it to the next level and I was so pleased with the final design.

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Do you have any future tattoo plans? I definitely want many more tattoos, I know that I want to continue with a few more traditional pieces on my right arm but I also want to start on some more detailed blackwork on my left leg. I would have more right now but unfortunately money is in the way of my grand plans.

Do you consider yourself a tattoo collector? Yes, I would say so. I love having a range of art by different people on my body.

What reactions do your tattoos get?  I have had a mixture of positive and negative reactions to my tattoos. I think mainly people are just inquisitive so I really don’t mind answering their questions, even though they often get repetitive. The one which I get asked all the time that does get on my nerves is “What does your boyfriend  [who has no tattoos] think?”. It kind of implies that my body is not mine to do what I want with and also that tattoos make me unattractive. It is never meant with malice but usually has an undertone of disapproval. People’s reactions don’t really bother me as I love my tattoos, and that’s all that really matters.

The Five Best Cats in Film

Hobbyist reviewer Harry Casey-Woodward compares some of the fluffiest, scratchiest performances in cinematic history….

Cats have dominated our media- acting cute and idiotic before cameras was surely a key part of their world invasion plan, and nowhere have they been more amusing and beguiling than on film. So here is a short list of the best cats to claw, spit and hiss their way across our screens. Possibly an idea for an Academy Award category?

5. The alley cat swingers from AristoCats, 1970

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It might not be correct to feature animated cats but I couldn’t pass off the most feline of all family films. This classic has a gallery of colourful cat characters, but the most enjoyable are the controversially named ‘swingers’ or alley cats, musical squatters who play raucous swing music in abandoned Paris buildings. Their most famous ditty is about how every individual desires to attain feline status. They may be threatening to the mouse character, one of them is a racist Asian stereotype and who knows what street crime they indulge in to fund their catnip habits. But dang, do they know how to have a good time.

4. The Siamese twins in Lady and the Tramp, 1955

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A couple more Disney characters in one of the studio’s most bizarre and racist scenes. In this canine romance, a dog hating old matron takes over Lady’s house and leaves a basket in the lounge. Out of it slither a perfectly choreographed pair of head-bobbing Siamese cats singing in high pitched Asian accents. In typical feline fashion, they go on to cause as much trouble as they can find, with Lady frantically chasing after them. They even manage to frame her for their mess. As fiendish as these negative racial stereotypes are, their song is still damn catchy years after viewing.

3. Spiteful farm cat in Babe, 1995

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An actually villainous cat this time, rather than just comically evil and none get more evil than the fluffy farm cat in Babe. She scratches our porky hero’s nose simply for trying to make friends with her. She’s put outside in the rain by the angry farmer, but she slips back in and at first appears to be kinder to Babe. Then she lets slip that people eat pigs, causing him to run away from the farm. Not only is her behaviour viciously spiteful for no reason, it also feels horribly cat-like. Plus she sounds like she’s voiced by some psychotic grandmother.

2. Mr. Tinkles from Cats & Dogs, 2001

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Everyone knows the white fluffy cat essential for the lap of every spy villain. But what if the cat was the villain? The result is horror and hilarity, as the power-hungry white fluffball in Cats & Dogs finds the megalomaniac image he wants to build for himself somewhat spoilt by his name: something his adoring nanny never refrains from reminding him of. Nevertheless, it is funny and scary to see the villain’s lapcat making ridiculously genius plans for world domination. Let’s not forget his most adorable and deadly henchman, the Russian kitty. There’s something unnerving about an armed kitten with a thick Russian accent who can cough up dog poo.

1. Yzma from Emperor’s New Groove, 2000

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Is Yzma, the power-hungry bad-tempered crone from Disney’s Inca comedy The Emperor’s New Groove, one of the best Disney villains ever? She gets even better at the end of the film, when she literally gets a taste of her own medicine and is transformed into a cute, cuddly cat by one of her potions. Turning into a fluffball does nothing to affect her diabolical personality (although she is disgusted at her new squeaky voice). It does, however, make hilarious viewing.

Images from disneywiki, cinemacats, TNTforum, saygoodbyetoto, and ohmydisney.

Interview with Arianna Settembrino

Our Italian contributor Ilaria Pauletti chatted to Arianna Settembrino, who works out of her personal studio Skinwear Tattoo in Rimini about what inspires her and how she sees today’s tattoo culture…

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You were one of the first women to stand out in the tattoo world, not just here in Italy but in the world. How did you get to where you are now? I’m very proud of what I have become. My path, somehow, has always been characterized by great commitment and great sacrifice.
I am very self-critical, but very determined. When I was young, I can remember, being given the chance to work in a studio as an assistant/apprentice, and how I devoted all of myself to this job, making the most of everything I was required to do by my mentor.

If you weren’t a tattoo artist, what would you be doing now? Another great passion of mine is education. I would definitely like to work in the school environment, with particular attention to adolescents. I strongly believe in the value of rehabilitation and recovery- I would have probably worked on a project of rehabilitation and reintegration of young people when they leave juvenile detention centres.

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Do you believe that every tattoo artists chooses their tattooing style based on the characteristics of their own personality? It is absolutely true! The style of a tattoo artist and the characteristics of their work are an external representation of their character and of their essence. I would say that on one side we choose the style, and on the other one, the style chooses you.

Who and what inspires you? Is there any recurring themes in your art?
My sources of inspiration have always been tied to classical iconography of traditional tattoos, with bits of Victorian style and religion thrown in. I’ve definitely found my identity and style, and my own self-discipline and awareness have helped me to do this. I love anything form of art that is very graphic, futurist and Gothic or the brilliant works by Bosch- these intrigue and enchant me, even the music.

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What has changed since you started tattooing? What would you like to change and what would you never want to change? It has changed a lot. The tattoo world reflects significantly the society in which we live in and nothing is as it was then.

Tattooing has evolved so much, especially where technology and equipment are concerned. Social media has elevated tattoos to new heights, and more and more people are getting tattooed because of it. But on the other hand tattoos being so available has generated the false belief that a tattoo is easy- people think they’re cool and simple to create. It takes respect and awareness to be a good tattooer, nowadays no one respects the art or their customers. There are so many ‘famous’ tattooers that do not always know the meaning of ethics and professional conduct, and tattoo their face and hands with a carelessness that leaves me astounded. It is an already saturated environment, and in a way it is so widespread that it has lost value. This job is not for everyone, you have to earn it!

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Do you have a personal mantra that you live by?
My personal mantra is “I am present”. I use it every day, not just at work as I need to keep in touch with myself and stay centred.

What do you think of people who call themselves tattoo collectors? What I think of today’s tattoo collectors is that many of them are hurrying to fill up every little blank space, getting tattooed only by those branded and trendy tattooists. Their collection is not a true representation of a story, it hasn’t grown over time, with no life experiences instead it is a mere status symbol- a pre-packaged design. A visual impact that really makes me sick.

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 If we think of the first tattooed people, years and years ago, we understand that tattoo was seen as something wild, forbidden but fascinating. Considering this, how do you see the future of tattoo culture? If once tattooed people were seen as freaks and people paid a ticket to the circus to see them up close, well, today I would say that we have gone the other way. Today is just the non tattooed person to be something exceptional. It is both good and bad, nowadays many people are getting tattooed because everyone else has one! I hope the future of tattoo art will be positive and that it will flourish, I hope that quality will win against quantity.

Film review: The Homesman

Our resident film reviewer is writer Harry Casey-Woodward who will be sharing his opinions on things he has watched.

The Homesman, 2014, cert 15, dir. Tommy Lee Jones, 4/5

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In 1850s Nebraska, three farmers’ wives go insane. Not surprising when they’re stuck in the middle of nowhere surrounded by death. The local preacher (played by John Lithgow aka Lord Farquaad from Shrek) is wondering what to do with these women, since their husbands are either incapable of looking after them, or just plain abusive.

Enter Mary Bee Cuddy, an unmarried lady farmer played by Oscar winner Hilary Swank. She volunteers to round up the three madwomen and take them back East by covered wagon across the untamed plains of the Western frontier, to a minister’s wife in Ohio (Meryl Streep). Along the way she meets a man who calls himself George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones), hanging from a tree for the crime of claim-jumping an abandoned farm. She agrees to save him in return for his assistance on her quest.

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This western stuck out at me for two reasons. For one thing, Tommy Lee Jones not only starred in but also directed this picture and I was intrigued to see what an actor with such a varied career (Men in Black, Natural Born Killers and No Country for Old Men to name a few classics) could bring to the directing table.

The second attractive aspect of The Homesman was its depiction of a subject never really covered by westerns: what to do with mentally ill women. The film’s depiction of madness is very sensitive and mature. The women’s behaviour is often child-like and animalistic, and there are some extreme scenes. But the actresses playing them (one of whom is Miranda Otto aka Eowyn, Shieldmaiden of Rohan from Lord of the Rings) put so much into their performances there’s no forgetting the humanity behind the empty staring and occasional screaming.

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The film’s focus is the growing relationship between the two carers, Mary Bee and George Briggs. At first they appear to be different people with different motivations. Cuddy has taken on the quest out of her goodness and courage, while Briggs claims he’s only interested in the $300 promised to him at the end. However, it becomes apparent that both are hiding their cares and vulnerabilities under hardened exteriors, and their difficult journey takes a heavy emotional toll on them both.

The Independent claimed this was ‘the best western since Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven‘. A lot of westerns since 1992 have been compared with this Oscar winning masterpiece, but I think so far Homesman is the one that deserves the mantle. Tarantino’s recent westerns may be more entertaining and striking, but The Homesman balances action and humour with a mature depiction of human relationships and historical attitudes to women and madness. Not only has Tommy Lee Jones given an entertaining, John Wayne-like performance as George Briggs, but he has also crafted a minimalist but powerful epic that deserves a place in the canon of western classics.

Images from pulpcurry and indiewire.

Gig Review: Big Ups

Our writer Harry Casey-Woodward reviews the New York punk band Big Ups, who he saw at the Lexington, London on the 30th March 2016…

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The Big Ups are a Brooklyn post-hardcore band who have just released their second album this year. Nearly a week after buying said album Before a Million Universes, I discovered that the band were voyaging across the Atlantic to play in our merry little capital on Wednesday 30th March so eagerly I grabbed a ticket.

The Lexington is a small venue on Pentonville Road, with a 200 max gig room above the bar. The bar was cool to sit in, the walls decked with various animal horns and antique rifles. Upstairs there were two support bands besides the Big Ups. The first band was a surprise, since they weren’t even mentioned on the gig poster. I didn’t catch their name but they certainly made an impression. Not only did they sound like some enraged pub rock band, but the raucous singer was channelling the spirit of Jonny Rotten, from glaring moodily at the crowd to chucking beer. The second band Crows made a hellish post-punk din you could dance to, while the bug-eyed singer jerked and writhed across the venue as if possessed by some demon.

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The supports were energetic enough to get the packed room going. When the Big Ups took to the stage, I was surprised. I knew they met at college in New York, so I was expecting some moody art students. They all looked so young and fresh-faced, and their enthusiasm clearly shone. After the two rather assaultive performances from the supports, the Big Ups’ youthful energy was a refreshing blast.

Singer Joe Galarraga certainly knew how to entertain a crowd. Between songs he was a mild-mannered stand-up. When performing he took on a comic intensity, making faces and throwing himself recklessly around the stage. There was one moment when he slithered head first over the edge of the stage and sang to the floor with his skinny legs flailing in the air. I wondered if he was a fan of Jello Biafra, clownish singer from such satirical punk bands as Dead Kennedys.

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So the band knew how to get a laugh out of their audience, but the intensity and quality of their performance was all too clear. The singer could certainly scream, and the crowd screamed along with him, a good amount knowing lyrics to nearly all the songs. It was great to see such enthusiasm. The songs that sounded so cool and loud on Before a Million Universes sounded even more exhilarating live. The quiet moments built up tension that was shattered by the explosive stabbing riffs.

The crowd were very energetic and there was some vigorous moshing. But overall the gig felt very good natured. For me, the Big Ups’ performance distilled everything I wanted in a punk show. There was a good balance of rage, energy and humour and they were rather pleasant people. They played an encore, mingled with the crowd afterwards and personally thanked everyone for turning up and supporting their music. I personally thank them for gracing us with their presence and such an awesome show.

Images from facebook.

Film Review: What We Do in the Shadows

Our resident film reviewer is writer Harry Casey-Woodward who will be sharing his opinions on things he has watched…  

What We Do in the Shadows, 2014, cert 15, dir Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, 3/5 

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There are two things that bug me about the horror genre. One, vampires are sometimes taken too seriously and two, horror parodies are often overly crass. New Zealand horror comedy What We Do in the Shadows solves both issues.

One thing that attracted me to this film is that it was co-directed, co-written and starred New Zealand comic actor Jemaine Clement. You may have seen Jemaine in HBO comedy show Flight of the Conchords, in which he and fellow star Bret McKenzie played two struggling folk musicians trying to hit the big time in New York. I liked the show for its absurd, awkward humour and the hilarious songs which peppered each episode.

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In Shadows, Jemaine and some fellow New Zealand actors play some vampire mates who live in a flat in Wellington. There’s Viago (Taika Waititi, who also wrote and directed), an 18th century dandy who is the most civilised and foppish of the group, often holding house meeting to get his flatmates to do the dishes. There’s Deacon (Jonny Brugh), who fancies himself as a stud but just comes across as creepy. Jemaine plays Vladislav, a medieval vampire who is a shadow of his former tyrannical self. There’s also Petyr (Ben Fransham), an ancient Nosferatu-like creature who lives in the basement and hisses rather than speaks.

The film is a mockumentary, as this band of bloodsucking bachelors are being filmed by a documentary crew who wear crucifixes and the vampires have promised not to attack. The vampires are filmed getting into various misadventures. They hit the town and try to get invited into clubs. They order their servants to bring virgins to the flat. They make a decent attempt to include Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer), one of their recently changed victims and his human friend Stu (Stu Rotherford), who they end up liking more than Nick.

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I enjoyed watching this film more than I enjoyed Flight of the Conchords. I would even go so far to say as this would make a better TV show. As much I like Conchords, the jokes are mostly about being poor and single. Here, the humour is more creative as the vampire condition is hilariously and cleverly picked apart. The creators have managed to get great jokes from various aspects of vampire mythology. Their vampires are not tortured hunks, but creepy losers who are still painfully human.

While being a hoot from start to finish, the movie is also a good tribute to the horror genre. Not only are the costumes and sets suitably Gothic, but there are moments in the film that are quite horrific and even scary. There are two chase scenes in particular, one in the vampires’ house when they pursue Nick and another where they are chased around a park after antagonizing some werewolves. The use of hand-held camera in these scenes is more effective and unsettling than anything most serious horror mockumentaries have attempted with the technique.

Film Review: The Salvation

Our resident film reviewer is writer Harry Casey-Woodward who will be sharing his opinions on things he has watched… 

The Salvation, 2015, cert 15, dir Kristian Levring, 3/5 

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The western genre is riding to strange places at the moment. From Tarantino‘s genre-busting, blood-soaked visions on race conflict to Slow West, a 2015 British production shot in New Zealand and Bone Tomahawk, a cannibalistic horror western released this year. How about a Danish western shot in South Africa?

Cue last year’s Salvation, starring Mads Mikkelsen. His icy looks have been put to good use in villainous roles for Casino Royale and the recent US show Hannibal, in which he played the psychiatrist chef from hell himself. This time in Salvation, he uses his cold gaze and sparse dialogue to play the grim western hero.

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His character Jon is a Danish ex-soldier who has been building a life in America with his brother, played by fellow Danish actor Mikael Persbrandt. Jon is understandably distraught when his wife and son have barely been in America a day, only to have them murdered by drunk ex-cons. After taking a brutal revenge, it turns out one of his family’s killers was the brother of the tyrannical Colonel Delarue. He is also upset about the loss of a family member and takes it out on the town of Black Creek, demanding they give up citizens for him to kill until they find his brother’s murderer. He also demands they pay him a protection fee, which is ironic seeing as he is the one threatening them. So naturally the townspeople aren’t eager to help Jon when he finds himself on the run. Outnumbered and threatened on all sides, it’s up to him to save his own skin.

So while the blood feud plot is nothing new in the western genre and this film’s depiction of American history is rather simplistic and harsh, it manages to tick all the other boxes in making a good action western. For one thing it looks good. The landscape of South Africa provides an epic backdrop. You’ve even got the Tabletop Mountain looming over the action. The camera work is also very striking and stylish, with lots of dramatic pans and zooms.

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The cast is also good too, and we have an interesting range of performers. Mads is, as usual, gripping to watch. US actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan does a good attempt at playing the moustached, cigar-smoking villain but maybe I’ve seen him in too many sweet, good guy roles to be convinced. French ex-footballer Eric Cantona plays one of his many henchmen. Welshman Jonathan Pryce plays the treacherous mayor of Black Creek, while Eva Green portrays the most interesting character, the mute scheming widow of Delarue’s murdered brother. It’s good to see a western giving us a strong female character, even when she has no lines.

So this western has enough original quirks to help it stand out from the crowd, while also taking care of all the generic conventions with enthusiasm and skill. It’s dark and savage, but it’s still an enjoyable, gritty ride if you’re looking for a good action film.

Film: 5 Sequels that are actually better than the originals

Hobbyist reviewer Harry Casey-Woodward discusses that rarest of phenomenons, a good sequel.

The history of cinema is littered with disappointing sequels. However, on very rare occasions there come along sequels that actually do the job they’re supposed to and raise the bar set by the first film, rather than just giving us exactly the same film or utterly destroying our faith in movies. I have thought of five examples that fit the bill. If you disagree with them, there’s not going to be a sequel to this article anyway.

X-Men 2, 2003, dir Bryan Singer 

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Man the original X-Men film feels old, what with the flood of sequels we’ve had since and the new X-Men: Apocalypse on the horizon. The first film is pretty representative of the flood of comic adaptations at the start of the noughties, which hasn’t really seen an end. It was a nice introduction to the characters but I still don’t think it stands out much from your average superhero film. The second movie, however, gripped me with its darker, more interesting plot of a sinister government agency closing in on the mutant heroes. The relationships between the characters were more developed as well. There were times where I felt it was like a superhero soap opera, except the characters are on the run. Then we got Last Stand and subtlety was thrown out the window, and so it has been since.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army, 2008, dir Guillermo del Toro 

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I don’t remember if I read the comics before seeing the first Hellboy movie, but I still remember feeling disappointed after seeing it. At the time, it just felt like another apocalypse-themed, supernatural action movie with CGI monsters and to this day I still don’t think it captures the eerie, beautifully surreal nature of Mike Mignola‘s original comics. I enjoyed the sequel more, however, because it’s more creative plot and special effects felt more in tone with the comics and this time, Hellboy wasn’t necessarily the focus of the plot. He was just trying to stop all the mayhem unfold, which again felt more true to the comics and less grave than the first film. It was just more entertaining and imaginative, and we got to see Hellboy and fish-man Abe do some drunken karaoke.

The Dark Knight, 2008, dir Christopher Nolan 

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I think we can agree that Batman Begins didn’t have the same impact in 2005 as its sequel and you can kind of see why. Batman Begins is a decent superhero film, a slight cut above the others with its dark action and psychological profiling of the hero, but it still underwhelmed me. It might have been the ridiculous stunts at its end. The Dark Knight, however, really raised the bar for the genre. It’s shunning of CGI and plentiful plot twists gave us a decent, genuinely gripping thriller. Also Heath Ledger somehow made a far scarier villain than Liam Neeson. So I like to think of Batman Begins as an intelligent introduction to the nail-biting mayhem of Knight.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day, 1991, dir James Cameron 

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The first Terminator film is deservedly a classic, but it is still so 80s and Judgement Day just does everything better. Not only did it have a bigger budget so the action and effects are more thrilling, but it’s mix of characters and their relationships was more interesting than Sarah Connor getting it on with the soldier from the future in the first film. The young John Connor interacting with Arnold Schwarzenegger as his robot guardian gave us humour and sweetness that lacked in the first film. The more present threat of Armageddon also gave a deeper gravity under the cool car chases and one-liners. Director James Cameron seems to be gifted at sequels, as he did an equally good job on Aliens, his sequel to Ridley Scott‘s classic sci-fi horror Alien.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003), dir Peter Jackson 

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This may be cheating slightly, as the Lord of the Rings trilogy was directed as one long project. However, the creators could easily have messed up at any point during the process, and we would have got something like the Matrix trilogy. The Fellowship of the Ring sequels managed to magnify the story, the effects and the action without losing any quality in the film making and storytelling. This is remarkable considering the enormity of the task Peter Jackson and his fellows took on. Although the sequels had to lose the eerie subtlety of the first film, once you saw the Battle of Helm’s Deep there was no quenching your thirst for epic battle scenes, and like a proper sequel Return of the King delivered in even bigger style. To me Lord of the Rings is still the perfect movie trilogy, a beautifully plotted and gloriously cinematic build-up to its emotional crescendo.

Film Review: The Rover

Our resident film reviewer is writer Harry Casey-Woodward who will be sharing his opinions on things he has watched… 

The Rover, 2014, cert 15, dir David Michôd, 3/5 

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This film is about an epic car chase across the barren wastelands of post-apocalyptic Australia. No, this is The Rover, not Mad Max: Fury Road, a very different model of Aussie road beast. When you compare the two films, it’s easy to see why The Rover was overshadowed. Fury Road was a full-throttle fantastical feast of insane stunts, outlandish costumes and fire-breathing guitars. The Rover drove in the opposite cinematic direction.

For one thing, it’s set in a slightly more tangible future where economy and civilisation have collapsed, reducing Australia to a desperate Wild West-like world. The rover Eric, played by Guy Pearce, has his car stolen by small-time bandits, and is so attached to his vehicle he pursues the robbers relentlessly across the burning outback. Along the way he bumps into Rey, the brother of one of the robbers played by Twilight hunk Robert Pattinson. He had been left for dead by his fellows and under gunpoint agrees to lead Eric after them.

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I expected this to be more like the first Mad Max film, a brutal low-budget road action movie without any of the excessive fantasy of Fury Road. In fact, despite the western-style narrative, I wouldn’t even call The Rover an action film. It plays more like a crime drama, with chilling, haunting depictions of violence and a focus on the growing relationship between the two male leads.

Both the stars’ performances are opposites. Guy Pearce returns to the Clint Eastwood-esque, grungy drifter persona he portrayed in 2005 Aussie western The Proposition, hiding his vulnerabilities under a grim sense of purpose and lack of dialogue. Robert Pattinson was the film’s element I was least looking forward to, but he proved there’s more to his acting abilities than creepy sparkly vampires. He slips into the skin of a scared young hillbilly, not very bright and clearly not suited for this harsh futuristic world. His acting is so convincing he’s like a frightened animal during the intense scenes. Nevertheless, his child-like idealism sets him apart from the other savage characters and he has hidden strengths which he uses to help Eric as best he can, even though Eric clearly establishes his disrespect for him early on.

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So this film hides a startling depiction of a human relationship under its tense action scenes and bleak world view. In fact, the main thing that lets this otherwise remarkable film down is that it’s a bit too bleak. Apart from good film work and beautiful scenery, bleakness is all it has to offer. None of the characters are particularly likeable. In fact, apart from Eric they’re all pretty pathetic. Also there were several scenes where I thought the movie was trying to be philosophical or just plain bizarre, but they felt too artificial. So although this film does a lot of things well and is a cool, lean little slice of imaginative indie film making, it was so sparse and downbeat it just left me feeling empty by the end.