Pop Arts Recommends: Pretty Little Liars

YOU GUYS. I’m actually not sure how to adequately convey my love for and complete obsession with Pretty Little Liars. If you haven’t found it yet, then BOY, do you have a treat waiting. For those that have: welcome, friend! As the show has just started airing its fifth season, I thought I should spend some time talking about its amazingness.

And thus, the whole show was summed up in one gif.

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Throwback Thursday: Pop Arts Revisits…Little Women!

This week’s throwback is to another of my favourite childhood books that remains a favourite to this day: Little Women.

Louisa May Alcott’s tale of a family of sisters, coping with their father’s war-induced absence, poverty and various issues related to simply growing up is an enduring classic beloved across the world.

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Film Review: Edge of Tomorrow

Honestly, I’m not sure what I expected going into Edge of Tomorrow. I like a big blockbustery action movie but I can find sci-fi a bit off-putting sometimes (sorry!). Plus, yet again, I wasn’t entirely sure what it was about (are trailers just designed to overwhelm us now? To bewilder us into seeing these movies?) Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise gave a long, slightly spoilery plot summary on Graham Norton, leading me to expect Groundhog Day meets War of the Worlds. Which is pretty much what I got. It was also smart, funny, action-packed and well paced, with a great female role for Blunt.

In Edge of Tomorrow, the future Earth has been invaded by rampaging, scary aliens called Mimics. They have been progressing across central Europe and (in a neat WWII parallel) have finally reached France. An international army is gathering in the UK, preparing to launch across the sea to the beaches of France to try and defeat the Mimics and keep them from crossing the sea. Tom Cruise plays Major William Cage, a US Army PR officer, whose main job is to get soldiers to volunteer. When an unfortunate encounter ends with him headed to the beaches to fight the enemy, he is totally out of his depth and quickly comes a-cropper. However, something odd happens and he wakes up to relive the day again. And again. And again. Cage eventually approaches super soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) after she reveals she may know what’s happening to him…

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Film review: X-Men – Days of Future Past

To catch up on the X-Men films so far, go here.

I wasn’t a comic book reader growing up, I have to confess. But I did live with an avid fan and so Marvel was an ever present part of my childhood. We were particularly devoted to the X-Men cartoons (which are still awesome, by the way). I have watched all the previous films, including the much maligned X-Men Origins: Wolverine and was looking forward to Days of Future Past, despite the fact that I had absolutely NO IDEA what it was about. Fox managed to produce just about the vaguest trailer I’ve ever seen. ‘But what is it actually ABOUT?’ I asked every TV ad, promotional interview and trailer showing, to no avail.

Is it me?

Anyway, I saw, I followed the plot (hurrah!) and I really enjoyed. My expert brother dubbed this as the best Marvel film he’s seen and I think I might be tempted to agree with him. The acting is universally excellent (though some actors are appearing in what are essentially cameos – the trailer is a little misleading) and the plot was sophisticated and written with grown ups in mind. The pace was good too; I never felt like it dragged (always a plus for me in action films – too many of them go on forever nowadays).

The plot was well structured and cleverly layered. The time travel gambit wasn’t overly complicated and easy to get with straight off the bat. It was set up in such a way that the ‘how’ wasn’t really that important, making it a lot easier to follow. It was a smart idea to use Wolverine as a bridge between the two time periods; Hugh Jackman really holds the film together and keeps a level of consistency throughout. As I mentioned, the trailer is a little misleading – despite appearances, this film unquestioningly belongs to the First Class cast. With James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Hugh Jackman walking away with most of the screen time, you have four great actors and charismatic leads, who lend a lot of spark to the film. Excellent support is provided by Peter Dinklage as the bad guy and Nicholas Hoult, as Hank McCoy/Beast. He really delivered on the (then) Jekyll and Hyde aspect to his mutation. I also really enjoyed Evan Peters’ appearance as Quicksilver. He put in a charming and deftly comedic performance and I’m glad he’s set to appear in the planned next instalment.

The period setting really worked (the choice of combative US president felt inevitable) and I enjoyed the sharp contrast between the past and the present. One of the best things about the X-Men has always been the way it showcases the persecution and marginalisation of minority groups in society. This film really delivered for me on the complexities of being part of a maligned group and the hard choices to be made between turning the other cheek and fighting back. While a peaceful resolution is clearly preferred, the film allows us to understand Mystique and Magneto’s reasons for feeling like fighting fire with fire is their only option and gives its leads complicated morality codes.

While First Class was good, the return of Singer at the helm does add a richness to the film. The humour, casting, acting and action were all on point and I can’t wait to see what this team does with the Apocalypse story.

 

*There will be several film reviews coming up as I have been to the cinema a LOT recently – you have been warned!

 

 

Throwback Thursday: Pop Arts Revisits… Musicology!

Good day all; apologies for the missing TBT article last week – hectic life stuff got in the way and I forgot to post it!

This week I talk about my favourite of all things: Prince. Specifically, the first Prince album I ever owned that  truly made me realise his greatness. The album that’s this week’s throwback is Musicology.

You guys, I listened and I fell in love. It was like a revelation to me. I vaguely knew of the Prince big hitters, ‘Kiss’, ‘1999’ and ‘When Doves Cry’, primarily, but this album sparked a whole new feeling. I initially wanted to impress a boy  (look, I know that’s terrible, but I was 15, ok?). Said cute boy got me to listen to ‘A Sign of the Times’ and I was hooked. Here was an artist creating songs that were both musically interesting and powerful. Musicology came out not long after and I grabbed and listened to it over and over, like my life depended on it. This was Prince’s most successful album for many years and it’s easy to see why. It’s just so damn funky.

See, Prince is excited too!

Musicology was released in 2004, when I was a teenager. In the same way that other albums were helping figure out my place in the world and what being an adult meant, Prince was helping me figure how much FUN life is. The whole album is like one big party. I played it at every actual party I held for about a year – resisting protests from my less discerning friends to play something else – hoping that somehow the cool vibes from Prince would convince everyone.

My all-time favourite track from the album is still ‘Life o’ the Party’. It makes me feel cool and fun and like I could hang with Prince. Maybe. There’s also the plea to not have to sleep ‘On the Couch’, the politically themed ‘Cinnamon Girl’ and the love song to music that is ‘Musicology’ – a mere selection of treasures from the album.

If you want a collection of great R&B songs, with a definite leaning towards the fun in life, then Musicology is a safe bet. I listen to it now and I’m back in my room, leaping around and singing along, getting ready to go out and see my friends.

I think it would be remiss to close this post and not link to Kerry at Welcome to Ladyville, who is as big a Prince fan as I am.Go and read her, friends!

Also, I really wanted to use this gif. You’re welcome.

 

Culture Vulture (Or: Meanwhile, on the Internets)

Good day to you all! Sadly, the weather here in the UK is a little more uneven this week than the glorious sunshine we had last week but summer is definitely here!

This week’s bag of internet goodness below…

Lots of interesting opinions on what is ‘literary’ and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch in this article. I for one am still excited to read it…

A bookish alternative to the World Cup, courtesy of Penguin!

Pretty Little liars are back and so are the Forever Young Adult recaps – huzzah!

My friend kindly directed me to this blog post about the first UK YA Lit Con – it looks awesome, is anyone going?

Interesting and controversial article about adults reading YA literature. I don’t agree with the views expressed, but I do think reading a decent range of different types of books is good for you as a reader. What do you think?

Really interesting article about caring for our West End Theatres.

And lastly, I LOVE this list of things Coach Taylor has taught us. Clear eyes…

Theatre review: West Side Story

Where: Milton Keynes Theatre / When: 14th June 2014

First up, a confession: I’m not a huge fan of the central plot of West Side Story. Nor am I particularly fond of Romeo and Juliet, on which it’s based. The older I become, the less patience I have for the story of two teenagers who fall in love in like, a second, and then wreak havoc, bringing peace only through untimely demises. The violence and waste of life in both stories feels more senseless and frustrating to me as the years go by. The violence and gang warfare seems to stay especially potent, as gang violence remains a persistent and deadly problem.

However exasperated I get with the story though, you’d have to be made of stone not to be moved by this wonderful production. High class from start to finish, this was an exuberent, emotive and visually striking production of West Side Story, with a young and impressive cast.

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Book Review: Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu

Life By Committee is the story of Tabitha; high school student with no friends, a growing (and unfortunate) reputation and immature parents. At the very beginning of the book, we learn that she is falling for schoolmate she chats to on the internet… who also happens to have a serious girlfriend. Knowing no one else would approve of their relationship, Tabitha is weighed down by keeping the details to herself. Missing her friends and finding her parents occupied by the imminent arrival of her sibling, Tabitha is delighted when she comes across Life by Committee (LBC). LBC is a website where you share your secrets with a select group of people – all sharing, all anonymous. However, Tabitha soon learns that the group will award an assignment for each secret. These assignments lead Tabitha into more and more trouble with this boy and she begins to isolate the few friends she has left in her attempts to keep up with LBC…

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