Friday, 29 May 2015

Film Review: Pitch Perfect 2


It’s been three years since Pitch Perfect was released, but now the Bellas are back for another fun-filled pitch-slapping adventure.

The series was heavily influenced by hit US TV show Glee and loosely adapted from Mickey Rapkin’s book of the same name. Both films follow a group of college girls from the fictional Barden University, the Barden Bellas, on their journey to become a capella champions.

Pitch Perfect 2 jumps forward in time, taking place three years after the Bellas won the American a capella crown. Because of this, the group are now all entering their final year of college and facing the end of their time as Barden Bellas. However, according to the opening scene, it doesn’t look like much has changed over the last three years as the girls are still on top of the competition. But during a performance for US president Barack Obama, disaster strikes. Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) suffers a wardrobe malfunction that leads to humiliation and disgrace for the whole team, resulting in the Bellas being suspended from future championships. However, obsessive leader Chloe (Brittany Snow) realises that competition rules mean the girls are still eligible to compete in the prestigious quadrennial World Championships. The film follows the Bellas journey to try to win the championships and therefore re-establish their reputation.

Fun and Drama

As the film is set during the Bellas final year there is also a B-plot featuring lead character Becca (Anna Kendrick) as she accepts an internship at a local recording studio. Becca finally gets to see the reality of her dream job, learning some hard truths along the way. This is refreshing because it’s so relatable, covering the topics of dreams, careers, and life after university, which are so often glossed over or idealised by Hollywood.

The biggest issue I have with the film is the characters. Most are fine, but in the transition between the original and the sequel some have become stereotyped cardboard cut-out versions of themselves. For example, Cynthia-Rose (Ester Dean) has become little more than the token lesbian character. Others, like Becca’s boyfriend Jesse (Skylar Astin) are grossly misused, having very little screen time. Also, Guatemalan new addition Florencia (Chrissie Fit) seems to be used only to make comical references relating to her ethnicity. Similarly, returning championship commentators John (John Michael Higgins) and Gail (Elizabeth Banks) were supposed to provide the comedy but instead somewhat missed the mark with many offensive and misogynistic comments.

A Musical Hit

However, the real highlights of the film are the many musical performances. Barden University’s Bellas and Treblemakers once again show their talent, but this time it’s German rivals Das Sound Machine that really steal the show. The film also manages to incorporate a repeat of the riff-off contest that proved so popular the first time around. Despite essentially halting the plot for the contest’s duration, this sequence works because it’s so musically impressive and just plain fun. The guest appearance of some of American football team the Green Bay Packers’ players also adds to the scene’s humour.

Despite its faults Pitch Perfect 2 is still an enjoyable sequel. The strength and quality of the musical performances alone make this a film worth watching, even if it doesn’t quite meet the standard of the original. But there’s life in the franchise yet, and a Pitch Perfect 3 should prove to be very popular.

Are you a fan of the Pitch Perfect franchise? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Film Review - Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron is both the second Avengers film and the eleventh instalment of the MCU. This means that the movie has to continue and develop existing plot threads and set up new ones for future MCU films, as well as telling its own story. So with such an ambitious task, did Age of Ultron deliver?

Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) come into the film off the back of their respective recent solo films. They reunite with the rest of the Avengers – Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) – as well as some new faces.

The film begins in the Eastern European country of Sokovia, jumping straight into the plot with a brief recap of the Avengers and their powers by way of a jam-packed action sequence. It’s a brilliant way to delve straight into the film without the need for a gradual reassembling of the team, which would be unnecessary and a waste of precious story-telling time.

Continue reading:

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Eurovision Song Contest 2015: The Best Tweets From the Night

A big event like Eurovision isn’t complete without the mandatory comments plastered all over social media. Last night, Twitter was awash with opinions, with people tweeting about their favourite (and least favourite) acts from around the globe. Let’s take a look at some of the best tweets from the contest.

Before the songs even started, commentator Graham Norton set the tone for the evening with humour and sarcastic remarks.

The contest was opened with a performance by reigning champion, Conchita, and a film explaining this year’s theme – Building Bridges.

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Sunday, 24 May 2015

Penguin Platform and Little Black Classics

AD* | Penguin Platform is a new online community for 16-19 year olds that aims to provide a place for young adults to share and discover the stories they love. It will feature insights from top YA titles as well as introducing crossover and adult books.

Individual book-related content and experiences will be offered by Penguin Random House. The entire community has been shaped by the tastes and preferences of the teen audience, even being named by the readers themselves. The platform will include author interviews, Q&A’s, writing advice, playlists, and book recommendations.

This is a really cool idea, but it’s not the only thing Penguin are doing this year.

As you might have seen, Penguin have released 80 little black classic books this year to celebrate their birthday. Each book costs 80p, so they’re a brilliant way to get reluctant readers into some classic stories. I think it’s such a good idea that I couldn’t resist buying a few of the little black classics myself. I chose How a Ghastly Story was Brought to Light by a Common or Garden Butcher’s Dog by Johann Peter Hebel, The Great Fire of London by Samuel Pepys, and Caligula by Suetonius. Although I’ve only bought a couple, with 80 to choose from there’s such a variety that there’s definitely a story out there that will appeal to anyone.

Penguin recently ran a competition for students to create works of art using the little black classics as material, with the winners being displayed at Foyles in central London. The video interviews the artists about their creations as well as showing off their work.

Both of these are really interesting, and show how Penguin are adapting for their teen audience as well as keeping classic stories current. It’s really good to see a new generation of readers interacting with the classics, and Penguin are doing a great job with the Penguin Platform community.

Keep up the good work, Penguin! 

* This is a collaborative post 

Have you bought any of the Little Black Classics? Let me know in the comments below!

Saturday, 23 May 2015

25 Things You Should Thank Your Girlfriend For

I recently read an article titled ‘25 things you should thank your boyfriend for.’ Of course, then my boyfriend challenged me to think of 25 things he should thank me for. Naturally, I decided to take that idea and turn it into a blog post, creating a companion article featuring plenty of everyday but important things to thank your girlfriend for. So, here are my 25 reasons to be thankful for your girlfriend!
  1. Attempting to join in a conversation about something she knows literally nothing about
  2. Agreeing to watch football games with you even though you’ll be so engrossed in the game you end up ignoring her anyway
  3. Not complaining when you kick her in your sleep
  4. Or when you lay on her hair and nearly rip it out
  5. Giving you massages when you’re sore after a workout
  6. Picking all the little bits of fluff off your shirt
  7. Laughing at your jokes (even when they’re terrible)
  8. Agreeing to get lunch at that one place you really love for the third time in a week
  9. Enduring the long conversations between you and your friends about things that happened way before she knew you
  10. Putting up with you laughing at really immature things
  11. Even when you find them hilarious (they’re really not)
  12. Fitting herself in around your football schedule
  13. Not retaliating when you complain about the TV show she’s watching
  14. Or the film she wants to see
  15. Or her taste in music
  16. Helping you out with everything she can
  17. Not complaining about your weird habits
  18. Still making the effort to dress up and look nice when you go out together
  19. Always being 100% committed to you
  20. Looking after you when you’re ill
  21. Even when it’s just man flu
  22. Giving you space when you’re busy
  23. Spending ages thinking up the perfect gifts for you
  24. Always believing in you no matter what
  25. And for supporting you through everything
Do you agree with my list? Let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Book Review: How to Live for Free by Deepak Tailor

AD* | Ever looked at your credit card bill or bank statement in despair? Ever wondered how to get the things you buy for a cheaper price? I know I have. That’s why I volunteered to read and review a copy of Deepak Tailor’s book How to Live for Free in exchange for an honest review.

As the founder of the UK’s most popular freebie website - - I expect Deepak Tailor to have a lot of tips and tricks under his belt already. Despite this, he still spent three years researching, interviewing, and travelling the world to discover and unearth the best ways to live for free.

The result is a definitive guide to living for free. The book is divided into handy sections, featuring everything from free restaurant meals to free clothes to free cinema tickets. This makes it clear and well-organised, making it easy to find specific sections and navigate through the book. It’s also interactive, with a helpful checklist at the end of each section and steps to follow for every item. If you follow each tip as you read, you will end up equipped with a wide variety of ways to live for free by the time you reach the end of the book.

This gives the book a nice tone. It’s conversational and friendly and is an exception among other books on the same topic. This is because it has a proper narrative weaved throughout. Deepak enlivens the information by talking about his own experience and giving relevant anecdotes in each section. This prevents it from being just a collection of lists, and gives the book a proper personality. The problem with breaking everything up into small sections is that some areas get a little glossed over. I would have liked some parts of the book to have been more in-depth with some more specific examples, but overall the book is a good general introduction to free living.

It’s also good to have real-life case studies and useful tips from real people who have actually experienced the things they are talking about. This makes the book more honest and open, making you more likely to follow the advice because it’s obviously worked for these people. However, I would personally have liked some pictures of the things that are mentioned. This would have been especially useful in the sections featuring the DIY and upcycling projects, as images are much more useful than a brief written description in this case.  

My biggest criticism is that it doesn’t all seem entirely plausible and attainable. Some of the sections are too far-fetched for ordinary people, such as the story about the man who managed to (illegally) live in luxury London flats for two years. Similarly, a lot of the book seemed to be aimed at those who live in London and are well-connected with a wide network of friends and acquaintances to draw on. I was also a little put-off by the idea of learning to sail a yacht then joining a crew to sail around the world. On paper it sounds harmless enough, but when you think how that advice could turn out for me (an almost 21 year old girl) you start to see the problems with that suggestion.

So is it really possible to live entirely for free? Here’s the answer. If you’re truly dedicated and committed to the free lifestyle… then probably, yes.

Rating: 3 stars.

How to Live for Free by Deepak Tailor is available to buy on Amazon now.

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review 

Have you read How to Live for Free? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!