Category: Reviews

The Tattoo Flash Colouring Book and Interview with MEGAMUNDEN

The Tattoo Flash Colouring Book created by MEGAMUNDEN, and published by Laurence King, is filled with a vibrant and varied collection of tattoo flash for you to colour in. Inspired by  traditional style flash sheets and tattoo imagery, it’s a celebration of the tattoo world and its history. It’s perfect for tattoo lovers who love to unwind by exploring their creativity. 

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We chat to 35-year-old Brighton-based illustrator and creator of The Tattoo Flash Colouring Book Oliver Munden, AKA MEGAMUNDEN, to find out more about his book and what originally drew him to tattoo art…

Do you have a background in art? I followed the fairly typical route of doing art and design at school, then a foundation course at college, and a graphic design course at university. This gave me a really broad understanding of design and my first job was at a graphic design studio. It was here I realised I wanted to follow a career that focused on illustration. I’d drawn all the time from a very young age, so it made sense that I came back around to focusing on that.

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What kinds of things do you create? As a lead designer at Ilovedust, I create anything from tequila bottle labels to graphics for restaurant interiors, book covers to huge murals and everything in between! As MEGAMUNDEN, I focus generally on tattoo inspired artwork but that changes from project to project. I get bored doing one style all the time, although I do always come back to a tattoo-inspired aesthetic.

I’ve created two colouring books with Laurence King Publishing, both with a tattoo theme. I’m currently working on a deck of Tarot cards with them too, these have a tattoo theme and we have other projects under discussion, so watch this space.

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What inspires you and what inspired the book?  I took a trip to the States before making the second book and I collected tons of photographs and various other trinkets to inspire me.

The first book was a 50/50 split between Japanese and Western inspired tattoo style artwork. I wanted the second book to be more Western focused in its source of inspiration. I wanted it to be decorative yet bold and graphic. I wanted patterns to be woven into the visuals. I’m really into the old sailor style tattoos, and they’re a big trend right now. I looked at many recognisable tattoo icons, including vases, flowers, anchors, gypsy girls, ships, snakes, tigers, and tried to give them all my own spin.

What medium do you prefer to work in? I hand-drew most of my first book but at the moment I tend to work digitally using a Cintiq drawing tablet. It allows me to draw more complex things quickly, although the second book took even longer than the first despite having less pages! It’s just that much more complex in design and I like to think it’s a much more consistent and considered collection of tattoo flash. All there for people to colour if they wish!

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What drew you to the world of tattoos? The way designs impact you when you see them, like when you see a amazing tiger head tattoo and it stays with you. So many fields take influence from the world of tattoos, for example snowboard riders want their design to be easy to see when their board is flipping, so bold tattoo inspired visuals work nicely for that.

Skulls, snakes, spiders and flowers all resonate with me. My father has been keen on keeping reptiles and amphibians all his life, and that definitely rubbed off on me. I think all of that has a lot to do with the icons within tattooing it’s just so inspiring.

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Can you tell us about your tattoos ? I have a full Japanese sleeve on my left arm and my right arm is a collection of more sailor style pieces that I’ve got on my many travels and work trips. I’ve been to the USA a lot and had stuff done there, but I’ve also got a couple of pieces from Lisbon and Barcelona. Dan Frye does a lot of my tattoos when I’m at home in Brighton – he’s ace!

The Tattoo Flash Colouring Book created by MEGAMUNDEN and published by Laurence King is a must for tattoo lovers and available to buy here.

Briar Rose Tattoo, south London

We couldn’t resist a trip to south London’s Hither Green, when tattoo artist Tiggy Tuppence invited us down to her brand new (and Disney inspired) tattoo studio Briar Rose. It’s the most perfect place to get tattooed and she’s thought of every last detail, including an antler chandelier that reminded of her Beauty and the Beast‘s Gaston… 

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What inspired you to become a tattoo artist? I worked in the games industry, but I hated being in an office environment, it felt static and uncreative. I’d been thinking about tattooing as a career as I felt that it would give me the creative freedom I needed, and the opportunity to be around people I might fit in with more. I had a tattoo artist friend, who told me that it would be too hard, that I’d have to quit my job and work for nothing for years, which was a bit disheartening, so I never felt like I would be good enough  to become a tattoo artist. However, I was offered an apprenticeship by Kamil in north London because he had seen my work and  liked it! That was a huge confidence boost! I quit my main job to pursue tattooing, and  took on a part-time job in GAME to support me. It was the best thing I ever did, and I’m so glad I didn’t give up. 


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Where does your inspiration come from? I’ve had many different creative backgrounds, I grew up sewing with my mother, watching Disney as well as every other cartoon going, and drawing every day for fun. I left school at 16 to do a National Diploma in Fashion Design,  then I went to university to do a degree in computer games design. I’d always wanted to go into concept art for films and games, as this was the sort of art I loved. My drawing style reflects that, my work isn’t typically ‘tattoo-ish’. I’ve always worked digitally, working with a Wacom tablet and Photoshop for the last 14 years, and I love to incorporate all different colours into my work – I love colour! My inspiration comes from this rich background, and my love of cartoons, games, films, digital artists, and traditional artists. 

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What are your favourite subjects to tattoo? I love tattooing cats, animals, nature, flowers, birds, wildlife. Yeah, I really love tattooing cute animals. I grew up in rural west-country so I’ve always been into nature and local wildlife, living in London I miss this aspect of my home so tattooing animals is my happy place. I also love tattooing any sort of pop-culture stuff – Pokemon, Disney, Studio Ghibli, stuff from games like Okami, Portal, and Final Fantasy, and many others too.

Your new studio is “unapologetically Disney inspired”, why did you decide to do this?  I didn’t decide to make my studio Disney inspired, it just happened.  After I came up with the name Briar Rose it just all fell into place. I loved that I was able to come up with an original shop name, and I figured there probably aren’t too many tattoo shops like this. I just buy things as and when I see them, and before you know it I have an entire shop (and home) full of Disney!

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Even down to the antler chandelier, that reminded me of Gaston, the rug in the hallway was inspired by the magic carpet from Aladdin, and the wallpaper in the main studio area made me think of The Jungle Book. It’s not officially Disney but each little element has been inspired by it as that’s just how I am! I really did put my heart and soul into making this place. I’ve got a lot of compliments on it, many of my customers have said they’ve never been in a tattoo shop like it before. I like to think I have something magical here.

Favourite Disney film? Man that is the hardest question and it comes up all the time. I ask most people what theirs is (apparently I attract other Disnerds here too) and then of course I am always asked this question back. Can I give a top 5 in no particular order? Aristocats, Robin Hood, Moana, Sleeping Beauty, and Tarzan! It feels horrible having to choose. I love them all.

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Describe your studio in just three words… Whimsical, Warm, Welcoming

How did you pick the location? What kind of clients do you hope to attract? And what can they expect from their experience? I wanted a shop that was in a safe, friendly area, as I know that many of my customers who are female would have to carry cash with them. I don’t want people to feel like they have to look over their shoulder when finding my shop. I’m in the process of getting a card machine as well, which I hope will help that. Also for first-time customers, who are already feeling nervous, I think it’s just nicer to show up to a place that’s easy to find, and where you feel comfortable. This was really important to me, I want people to have a lovely experience, and then go home and feel like they’re always welcome back, even if it’s just for a chat or a coffee.

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In the studio, I’ve tried to provide all sorts of things to help people feel welcome and looked after, I like to take care of people. I’ve bought all different coffees and teas for my fancy coffee machine, I’ve got phone charging ports in the waiting area, complete with Android/iPhone and USBC cables, there is wifi, customers can choose their own music if they like by playing it through our fancy Sonos speaker. Whatever makes their experience comfortable, as they’re often sitting with me for many hours at a time.

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What has been your most favourite tattoo you have ever created, why? I think the one that takes the top spot will have to be a cat portrait I did. Her cat was called Diamond who had the most impressive resting bitch face, which we managed to capture in the tattoo. As an extra bonus, this girl emailed me after her appointment asking if I’d like to meet up some time, it was the most awesome thing ever and she is now one of my best friends, we talk literally every day. Love you Kerri! 

Tiggy11How do you like to work with your clients? The shop is by appointment only so clients will email me with their ideas and organise a consultation, I think it’s important to get to know your client before drawing something for them, to get those extra personal touches into the design, but I know this isn’t always possible. 

I’ll always draw up my client’s designs before they come in so they can see and make changes, I feel like the work is a collaboration where I’m the art director! But it’s important for people to be able to have some amount of say on what lives on them permanently. I’ve also become friends with quite a large handful of my past clients as well, which is wonderful. This is the best job!

Visit www.briarrosetattoo.com, or follow Tiggy’s studio on Instagram @briarrosetattoo

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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

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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.

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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.

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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 

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

Music Review: Slaves, ‘Take Control’

Harry Casey-Woodward, hobbyist reviewer and noise lover, reviews the new album by Kent punk duo Slaves, Take Control.

Slaves, Take Control, 2016, Virgin/EMI, 4/5

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Slaves are something British music has needed for a while. We’ve had plenty of cool noise-making bands over recent years, but none have been as fun or direct as Isaac Holman on drums and Laurie Vincent on strings, both gleefully roaring their sharp, hilarious lyrics on working class problems. Hot on the heels of their official debut last year Are You Satisfied?, Slaves’ second album Take Control came out at the end of this September, sporting a florescent cover painted by the guitarist.

Their previous album was a hard act to follow. Catchy, exhilarating and ballsy, it was surely the Never Mind the Bollocks of 2015. I was a little worried therefore that Slaves would fall into the pattern that ensnares a lot of noisy bands and just spend their careers replicating their first album over and over. Thankfully, while the style of the new album is still very much Slaves, it is a bit of a different creature.

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For one thing, there’s more songs. Some admittedly are random skits, but Take Control also has a greater range of styles and thus feels like a bigger project. Are You Satisfied was a compact burst of shout-along joy rides, while Take Control boasts a little more sophistication, musically and lyrically.

That still doesn’t mean it isn’t fun though. Take opening track ‘Spit it Out’. It may not be a cover of Slipknot’s awesome single but it is a contender for best single of the year, mainly because it’s such a perfect punk anthem. Making brilliant use of the quiet/loud song dynamic that made bands like Nirvana sound great, repetitive jabbing guitar builds up to a roaring chorus, where the singer screams the song title over and over. The other lyrics reflect themes Slaves have raged about on several songs, namely getting lads off their arses and doing something with their lives.

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Other current topics Slaves attack on Take Control include mundane media (on such rollercoaster tracks as ‘Hypnotised’) and material wealth (see the blistering ‘Rich Man’). Once again Slaves prove themselves masters of the punk rock formula: fast, simple topical bullets of humorous anger. However, there is more of the sophisticated side that peeked through the energetic blast of Are You Satisfied.

Half of the tracks are as post-punk as Public Image. Songs like ‘Lies’ sound like catchy but creepy pop hits, with slow, menacing riffs. Even the vocal mix sounds more post-punk. While Isaac was shouting in your face before, now his charismatic voice sounds like it was recorded in an empty concrete room, giving it a spooky echo while losing none of its edge.

Beastie Boy Mike D of all people even supplies rap on the thundering ‘Consume or be Consumed’. Joined by Baxter Dury, Slaves also reveal a sensitive side on the tender ‘Steer Clear’, where the singer begs someone he cares about not to go drink driving after an argument. Once again, Slaves have produced a winning combination of subtlety and savage bluntness while upping their game.

Images from gigslutz.co.uk, greatescapefestival.com and theguardian.com.

Film Review: Julieta

Hobbyist reviewer Harry Casey-Woodward has taken a dip in the ocean of grief and guilt that is Pedro Almodovar’s latest melodramatic epic Julieta.

Julieta, 2016, cert 15, dir Pedro Almodovar, 4/5

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To say that Pedro Almodovar is an interesting director is a bit of an understatement. Each one of his films boast extraordinarily complex plots that manage to pick at the dark drama and desires seething under the surface of everyday life.

The director’s latest movie Julieta sees him returning to the themes of his revered 1999 classic All About My Mother. Subjects such as motherhood, grief and guilt are once again dissected, making for a compelling and gripping drama. I will try to give a small summary of the plot without giving away too much, since this film’s greatest power is its mystery. Almodovar captivates you from the start with a character who we know nothing about but is immediately fascinating.

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The film opens in Madrid, where a woman named Julieta is packing up her belongings, ready to move away to Portugal with her partner. She goes out shopping and bumps into an old family friend. This chance meeting brings a drastic change over Julieta’s priorities. She decides to stay in Madrid and moves back into her old apartment. Something is clearly troubling her and it’s when she starts writing a letter to her absent daughter that her whole sorry story comes out: a story where tragedy, secrets and the inability to talk about such matters have torn Julieta’s old family apart.

Despite the Pandora’s box of emotions this move is, it’s also beguiling to watch. Every setting has its own character and looks stunning, from the bustling streets of Madrid to the gorgeous shots of the ocean near which Julieta’s family used to live. There’s one important flashback scene set on a night train, where the intimate drama playing in the well-lit, comfortable carriages is contrasted with the wild, snow-bound night outside, where a stag fearlessly runs in slow motion beside the train.

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The events and themes of the plot are all connected. Overall, this film focuses on the shared experiences of each female character. Although they feel they are isolated, all are affected by similar tragic circumstances of death, disease and depression that ultimately bring them together.

As heavy as the film sounds, there’s plenty of typical Almodovar playfulness for contrast, whether it’s in some of the more charming and romantic scenes of the film or the playful way he directs. For example, there are two separate actresses playing the character of Julieta, one for a younger version (Adriana Ugarte) and one of an older version (Emma Suarez). In one striking scene, he seamlessly switches between the two.

It is incredible that over the past forty years Almodovar has been directing, his films remain so daring and deep. In fact, I would even go so far as to say Julieta is a powerful summary of everything great about Almodovar’s films and may well be his best, a masterful combination of beautiful filmmaking and incredible performances.