The X Factor USA: Let’s Hear It For The Girls!

I’m no fool. I know the words ‘The X Factor‘ don’t just strike fear into the hearts of hipsters and BBC One executives, but the common man also. For ten years Britain has been sitting down in front of the television, pretending to be above it all and muttering the words, “I’m only watching it because nothing else is on.” whilst giving guilty eyes towards their boxsets of Homeland and Red Dwarf. We’ve celebrated with Leona Lewis, grieved for the loss of Sharon Osbourne’s paycheck and as a nation we cringed together through that performance of “Fight For This Love.” Yes, Britain has been on, sigh, an emotional rollercoaster through just hearing about this show alone but America, they have all this to look forward.

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Simon “Now That’s What I Call A Popstar” Cowell jumped ship a couple of years ago and set sail for the U S of A in order to bring them the joy that we have shared for ten years. The first season didn’t exactly begin well after Cheryl “I’ve Got Goosebumps” Cole was sacked after two weeks with the charade host Nicole “Jamazeballs” Scherzinger stepping in, ahem, last minute to round off the panel. There was just one teeny tiny problem however. No one was watching the show. I mean, they watched for a little bit but then they switched off after Paula “I’m A Choreographer… I Guess” Abdul needed more close-ups and L.A. “Fear Me, I Created Justin Beiber” Reid’s finger pointing became so aggressive alcohol was needed to quell the anxiety. So, new action was needed for the second season and they decided to, and I am quoting Pitch Perfect here, remix this business and get some fresh faces on the panel. Simon made a big investment in contracting Britney “… Yeah, I Liked It…” Spears for a cool $15 million before selecting a more cheaper reliable judge, Demi “Disney changed me. IT CHANGED ME” Lovato — that was the last one I swear — who was the Vauxall Astra of the X Factor panel. Y’know, she got you from A to B. It seemed as if the music talent highway was clear and carefree but yet again that Tornado of Disappointment ripped through the concrete and the car was almost totalled. Viewers switched off and that $15 million was the biggest waste of green since the Taylor-Burton diamond,  as soon as the cameras went live, Britney went neutral. Really neutral. At one point we feared she may have died, she was hardly moving. But I digress. As I said, the car was almost total as the sparring relationship between Demi and Simon kept a modest collection of viewers interested and a third season of the show was commissioned.

But changes were needed. Serious changes. Joan Rivers changes. So Simon called Britney’s people for a refund and let L.A. Reid go in order for him to continue his plan of world destruction but supplying Justin Beiber and Avril Lavigne with more albums. He pondered between Bon Jovi and Ne-Yo for replacements but ultimately decided that considering the show’s main audience consists of young girls between the ages of eighteen and… well nineteen a little more estrogen was needed. But who to pick? Who to pick? After locking Demi in for another season Cowell went into the X Factor time capsule and piked out the name Kelly Rowland. It’s been a few years since she sat between Tulisa and Gary Barlow and screamed, “I didn’t know you could do uptempo OWWW!” and it has been two years too long! The former Child of Destiny is sassy, sexy and madder than a box of frogs. Even panel needs a judge two pencils short of masterpiece. But nothing and no one can match up to the last judge standing: Paulina Rubio. Now I know Old El Paso Fajitas should steal the crown for the Most Mexican Thing On The Planet but they are nothing compared to this Latin beauty. We may be oblivious to her music here in GB but the Latin-American community eat her music up… with a dollop of salsa. Too much? I’ve only seen the promo but I can already envision a scene in the live shows involving a stage-storming situation involving a compromising position with host Mario Lopez that will not be appreciated before the watershed. No danger of that from our Mr. Barlow whose most thrilling daily occurrence is having a third Chocolate Hob Nob after a long day.

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Whether my predictions are accurate or not, the fact of the matter is that for the first time in the history of the show three women dominate the panel and I couldn’t be more excited. Sad I know. Simon has always draped his arm over the back of his second in command lady and leered at her in a manner most distasteful for an English gentleman but there is no way he can take on three of the craziest women in the industry today and come out anything other than emasculated and down a couple hundred pegs… or two.

What We Love This Week…”Frances Ha”!

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This week, we love the trailer for Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha starring Greta Gerwig. Just ’cause we can’t get enough of off-beat, coming-of-age New York comedies about women who are trying to find their feet. I’m looking at you, Lena Dunhan.

Plus, who doesn’t like a bit of David Bowie with their Thursday mornings?

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Blancanieves: The Fairest One of All?

 

Dir: Pablo Berger

Stars: Maribel Verdú, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Macarena García

Rating: 12

****

Summary: A SpaBlancanieves-908474662-largenish retelling of The Brothers Grimm’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Here, Snow White is a young female named Carmen, who joins a novelty group of dwarf matadors.

In the past couple of years, silent cinema has made a comeback, with the academy award winning The Artist setting the trend. Blancanieves, a Snow White inspired story about matadors, dwarves and Louise Brooks haircuts is a cinematic triumph, which easily mops the floor with the other sub-par fairy-tale remakes that seem to be in fashion at the moment. This is due to one reason: every aspect of this film has that something any piece of modern art craves for. It has originality.

Choosing to make a silent film is all fine and dandy, but it’s not exactly the most original idea, is it? Well, on paper, it’s not, but Blancanieves director, Pablo Berger, made sure to create a far superior, engaging and memorable film than the other two Snow White films that were released in 2012. And yes, a main factor of this is because it’s a silent movie, but a lot of credit is due to the composer, Alfonso de Vilallonga. He successfully created a breathtaking score that jumps from classical music, which you’d expect from a silent film, to traditional, Spanish flamenco; the latter being incredibly emotive when our heroine had to overcome her own obstacles. The wish for silence combined with the original score is the reason why this film, literally, has an award winning formula, as it has scooped up multiple awards.

Blancanieves has that Old Hollywood, back to the golden age feel that we get as soon as the opening credits roll on screen, similar to the old Disney films – or any films from that age, for that matter, which I thought was an endearing quality. Yet, Blancanieves is no Disney story. Its gothic nature brings to light the true temperament of the Brother’s Grimm Tales, which is lacking in the other recent remakes.

Now, let’s talk about the heroine. Snow White, known for the majority of the film as Carmen, is hands down one of the best female characters who has been adapted from a fairy tale. Why? Because she’s a female matador and she don’t rely on no man! Plus, she’s played by Macarena García, who doesn’t even have to say anything and she still out-acts Kristen Stewart ten timeBlancanieves_54350507103_53699622600_601_341s over. García is also joined by Pan’s Labyrinth‘s Maribel Verdú, who plays Encarna, the ‘Evil Stepmother’, who’s a nurse-turned-socialite through manipulating Carmen’s father into marriage and behind the curtains is a secret dominatrix. Yes, I’ve not exactly heard that one before, either, but for some reason it doesn’t surprise me. All of Encarna’s evilness aside, the girl knows how to rock an outfit. Seriously, I applaud the film’s stylist, because those costumes were, simply, gorgeous. Why can’t we have twenties revival in fashion and swap the peplum for spangle-y shift dresses?

One thing’s for certain about Blancanieves—the film does not stick to the fairy-tale rule book. You might get the gist where this story will lead, but don’t be so sure. The type of expectations in fairy-tales that Disney instilled into me as a child has surely been smashed and tossed into the gutter by this brave and innovative retelling of a classic. Honestly, the macabre ending is enough to make you want to find your own poisoned apple.

So, to put it in black and white (like the film, ha!): Go and watch Blancanieves. It is a true original of its genre.

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Music On The Go: “Do I Wanna Know?” By Arctic Monkeys

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past six years, you’ve probably heard of Arctic Monkeys. They stormed the Indie scene back in 2006 with “I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor” but later hit a couple of bum notes with their last few singles, unable to match the success of their debut. But that’s all about to change as they release “Do I Wanna Know?” the second single from their upcoming fifth album, AM. It’s a gritty and sexy track about being in love with a girl who can only love back after she’s had a drink… or fifty. It’s heavy with a raw base, infectious beat and peppered with fantastic lines such as “I’m too busy being yours to fall for someone new.” Arctic Monkeys never fail to disappoint their fans and there’s no danger of them doing so any time soon. Welcome back boys!

Music On The Go: “Love Sick” By Peace

This indie rockers and leopard print lovers from Worcester were nominated for the BBC Sound of 2013 and opened the 2013 NME Awards so y’know they’ve been around. Their new single, “Love Sick” taken from their debut album In Love is a fun and drowsy little number about cutting loose with loose women in a loose kind of a way. Driving around in their Skins-esque video they give off a vibe that they are the next big indie band and with this track, it’s safe to say they’ll be making a sizable splash in the very near future.

Star Wars: May The Force (And The Mistakes) Be With You!

If you met me, ‘Star Wars fan’ wouldn’t be the first thing that would come to mind. Madonna fan, yes! Shopping whore, possibly. But Star Wars fan, no. However, loud and proud, I am coming out as a Star Wars watcher and lover. You can imagine the squeals that burst from my lips when ITV began a Star Wars season on their channel (with adverts set to “Flashdance… What A Feeling!” what could be better?) which meant that every so-many days they would be playing the franchise on a loop. Huzzah! I thought. My time to visit that bloody galaxy far, far away has been very little these days so I was ready to indulge my addiction!

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Four episodes in and I’m feeling good. Starbursts on go, family sized Coke almost past the label and I was quite content. That was until I got to the second and third episode. Unlike those before me, I watch the films in the order that Mr. Lucas intended (four to six, one to three. Also known as Best to Worst). The second (or fifth if you’re that way inclined) episode proves the most difficult for me to get my head around. It’s not the lackluster chemistry between Anakin and Padme, it’s not even the blue chick with the penis hair and the badass lightsaber skills. No, it’s the horrible inaccuracies. It began about half an hour in and Ani and Padme are having a saucy, sexually charged (cough cough) dinner together. In between lukewarm looks of desire across the table, Ani uses his Forcey telekineticy powers to make her pear float to him where he pursues in cutting a piece off and make it go back to her. She takes a bite… three seconds after the bite mark appears on the pear. Now, this might seem like nit-picking, I grant you, but I think it’s the little things that really tie a movie together. Not to mention, when Padme gets a nasty cut from a big ass cat, they entirety of her midriff magically gets ripped off as well. Scantily clad women in action films aren’t exactly rare but a little explanation wouldn’t go a miss.

But enough about the trivial stuff, let’s get right down to the BIG problems. I knew that Mr. Vader was Luke’s Darth daddy way before I ever saw The Empire Strikes Back but I still gasped in shock during that scene. However, having just finished watching Revenge of the Sith, the remaining Jedi council were quite adamant that Luke and Leia would never be found if they were separated and given away. Now, I know the Force is some powerful shit but considering Vader makes zero notions that he’s cottoned on to the fact that Luke’s his son until the second episode, I think it might be on the fritz. He should definitely have a man in considering Luke is named “The son of Anakin Skywalker” through most of the first one whilst living on Vader’s home turf. Honestly, the neglected father act he’s pulling would make even Jeremy Kyle blush.

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Another issue I have (among the countless others in my life) is that in Return of the Jedi, Leia states quite arrogantly that she remembers her and Luke’s mother describing her as beautiful but sad or some shit. However, Revenge of the Sith soon squashed that little ideal after it shows Padme dying in childbirth. She survived a war with a crappy gun and an exposed chest and even took down a troop of droids in a very fashionable skirt and yet it is Anakin becoming Vader that finally killed her off. Honestly, he became ruler of the galaxy. Imagine the child support if she just held on. I guess the Force could have played some role in Leia’s remembrance, she is its granddaughter after all, that’s gotta give you at least a cheeky vision or two. And a great icebreaker at awkward intergalactic dinner parties.

Star Warriors who moonlight as avid blog-readers everywhere, if you have the answers to these unanswerable questions then waste no time in getting in touch. May the Force be with you always… unless it’s on the blink again, that is.

Off With The White Queen’s Head, But Long Live BBC Drama

I have a confession to make. I have recently become addicted to sub-par, historically inaccurate and poorly scripted BBC costume dramas. Between The Returned and The Apprentice I thought I couldn’t find the time to be hopelessly devoted to any more TV shows. Yet evidently I had a ham-shaped whole in my heart, because I have taken to watching The White Queen religiously.

Rebecca Ferguson rocking a really fancy hat in BBC's The White Queen

Rebecca Ferguson rocking a really fancy hat in BBC’s The White Queen

For those sane enough to be ignorant about the show, The White Queen is an adaptation of a trio of novels by historical-fiction writer Philippa Gregory. It charts the decaying years of the medieval era through the feminine eyes of Queen Elizabeth Woodville, Isabel Neville, Anne Neville, Jaquetta Rivers and Margaret Beufort. You’ll notice that, for all the prancing around they do in poofy pants atop sparklingly white ponies, the number of male focal-points in The White Queen are slim to none.

While I admit that, in terms of viewing figures, these costume dramas are aimed at female viewers, The White Queen is the latest in a long line of BBC dramas which feature pretty awesome and pretty well-written ladies. Goshdarn it if the BBC don’t consistently represent us womenfolk well. Even stereotypically “blokey” detective shows these days feature cool, criminal female geniuses such as Alice Morgan in Luther. When it comes to costume dramas, the Beeb tend to cherry-pick from classic literature that features well-developed (if not classically “strong”) heroines such as North and South, Jane Eyre and Emma. They’ve even produced dramas which focus on fictional-historical lesbian characters, as evidenced in the productions of Sarah Waters’ novels Tipping the Velvet and The Night Watch.

It’s always refreshing when a television drama gives my gender-equality riddled brain some peace. Lots of Tudor/late medieval historical fiction seems to centre on the big macho guns – the likes of Henry VIII or Thomas Cromwell (I’m looking at you, Hilary Mantel), or the big imposing female monarchs such as Mary or Elizabeth. The White Queen focuses on the quieter ladies, the ones behind the scenes, albeit those still with a large amount of class and power. Feminism sometimes means giving a voice to women from the past who wouldn’t necessarily have been heard in their own times – even if that was because they’d been accused of witchcraft and had their tongues cut out, or because they were biting on wooden spoons while firing out sprogs from the royal vagina.

Screw wands; we have FISHING LINES b*tches.

Screw wands; we have FISHING LINES b*tches.

This perplexing adaptation has been lauded by the Daily Fail as being simultaneously both “one and five” stars. While I abhor Paul Dacre’s Tory Madhouse and won’t link you to the article, I completely understand the reasoning behind its judgement on this. The White Queen is at times laughably rubbish. “Magic” is frequently treated as a real, dangerous power, with Jaquetta Rivers’ enchanted fishing lines – bloody fishing lines of all things – unintentionally reeling in deus ex machina comedy gold. The White Queen also features such quintessentially medieval items as zips, bricks, buttons, radiators, double glazing, drainpipes, concrete and evidently manicures, luxury shower gel and TRESemmé. Clearly more money in this production went into the costumes and the makeup department than the historical research side of things. It even has its own OFFICIAL TUMBLR, for Pete’s sake.

Every gut instinct tells me I should hate The White Queen. It’s tacky, godawful and contrived. But I can’t help it; I love every second of it. It is nothing but hammy, through and through. Yet, it is the finest Wiltshire ham. It is the sort of glorious honey-glazed ham you would expect at a regal Plantagenet feast. Most importantly, it is unashamedly women-focused ham – and that, for now, will do nicely indeed.

 

The White Queen is on BBC One on Sunday nights at 9pm.