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Anxiety can grip the best of us, it is a natural activation in the body spanning all the way back to our caveman days. When we are scared and stressed, we become anxious and living in our fast paced world it can be even more accelerated. And it’s no surprise that anxiety and anger go hand in hand. However, even the most confident of people get nervous and celebrities are no exception.

Celebrities are just like us, when they are exposed to the world they have to remember to show their best selves or they suddenly lose followers. Some celebrities maintain public personas, which are heavily crafted versions of themselves that they display to us. These are not real people either; these are still ‘characters’ of sorts and therefore the stars that maintain these personas tend to be less nervous and a lot more charismatic. Many see acting as a confident art form where you have to constantly parade yourself on social media when in fact a lot of actors love their job because of what it means to them. Telling stories, developing relationships and conveying emotions are not something that has to be limited because you suffer from anxiety. In fact, some actors don’t believe in hiding at all, Kristen Stewart who openly has anxiety has spoken out about her experiences with developing characters. She suggests that her characters always have parts of her in there that help her to feel rooted and more at home. Others however prefer to change their whole appearance and accent to become their characters leaving no trace of their identity; this helps with critical backlash as well.

Some examples of celebrities with anxiety range from Oscar nominee, Jesse Eisenberg to Captain America himself, Chris Evans. In Jesse’s case, there have been many times that the actor has openly expressed his fight with both anxiety and OCD but what is shocking is the amount of negative comments his illnesses have garnered (especially on Hollywood Reporter’s 2011 Oscar Roundtable in which there was not one nice comment). These comments range from ‘what a twitchy, nervy geek’ to ‘this boy makes me so anxious’. So why do we get so angry with celebrities that openly appear anxious? Well for one it may be due to the fact that we project our emotions onto others and another person’s anxious feelings get projected onto us, therefore making us feel uneasy. A good example of this can be found in an X Factor audition in which you can see the contestant visibly shaking and you suddenly feel incredibly nervous for them. Another reason may be that we become angry at their failure to uphold their celebrity caricature, when a star shows signs of anxiety it means they are human and just like us. When we are constantly fed news about a celebrity scandal we feel world’s away from them and instead of making us feel closer to them we instead feel more detached as we become enraged that they can earn as much money and publicity as they do and still appear nervous.

Interviews are even trickier. Many people have to remember that these stars aren’t playing characters when they are being interviewed; they are playing themselves. They often have to balance their ability to come across as funny and relatable whilst also appearing intelligent and knowledgeable about their craft. One misplaced line and suddenly they can’t chew gum and walk at the same time, likewise one funny anecdote and their profitability soars. And when they do reveal themselves they are abused by Internet trolls for being self indulgent, narcissists hiding behind insecure, shivering intellectuals. Putting it simply, interviews aren’t as easy as they look especially for celebrities with anxiety.

We are all human and it is perfectly fine to feel nervous in situations where you would normally feel nervous. Most of us dread public speaking and the thought of a presentation has most us banging our heads against the wall. What we need to focus on is our compassion for others and their situations; this can be integrated into everyday life as well. Instead of feeling angry at somebody’s lack of confidence, try and build them up and highlight how well they did instead of how nervous they were. The majority of people only become anxious because they fear others perceptions of them, if we were all compassionate to others then we would no longer feel the need to keep beating ourselves up. Of course, this wont clear up anxiety but it will definitely go some way in helping others feel better about their presence.

If your anxiety is beginning to take over your life you can visit www.mind.org.co.uk, www.sane.org.co.uk or www.idontmind.com. Lets start the conversation.

The Fate of the Furious overtakes The Force Awakens for a record worldwide opening

The 8th instalment of the Fast and Furious franchise has broken box office records by grossing over $530m worldwide in just 3 days. The film, released on April 14 has a $100m domestic gross which is $40m below its predecessor Furious 7 but $3m up on its worldwide gross against Star Wars: The Force Awakens which has taken in a worldwide gross of over $2 billion to date. It is unforeseen whether F8 will have a steep drop off or gain in traction but from other Fast and Furious films it appears that the film will keep gaining a decent amount of profit for the next week with it being the Easter holidays.

The film shoots over four locations: Cuba, Germany, New York and Russia. Each location holds a new challenge for Dominic Toretto and the team, however in this instalment the challenge is Toretto (Vin Diesel) himself and cyber villain Cipher (Charlize Theron). Cipher uses her expert knowledge to force Dom’s co-operation with her tasks, some of these include stealing nuclear codes, launch chips and even betraying his own team. Whilst this might seem absurd to an audience that has been with this franchise since the beginning, a reasonable excuse is given and one that actually seems plausible (Hint: it has nothing to do with Paul Walker’s Brian).

Whilst some of the scenes seem visually crazy such as the thousands of cars in New York City that are hacked by Cipher and forced to drive around the city, it makes for an incredibly tense and entertaining set piece that keeps the viewer thrilled and the audience expectant. Charlize Theron’s Cipher is by far the standout of this film, of course an Academy Award winning actress will do that. However, her unique brand of villainy in this film is not one of malice or desperation but more of a twisted sense of morality and duty, this is definitely a woman with a power complex. She is not quite as angry and cruel as her Evil Queen character in Snow White and The Huntsman but she holds enough nastiness to pass for a villain that we won’t root for.

The addition of Oscar winning actress Charlize Theron adds intrigue to the film

Without detailing every explosive action piece and character development, we can preface this: This film is bananas. Seriously. It steps it up 3 notches from Furious 7 which for me had an empty feeling to it and presents us with a no holds bar action flick that throws reality right out of the window (A Lamborghini on ice? I don’t think so). Although these films are increasingly becoming more like Mission Impossible segments, the films still contain plenty of cars, racing and family to satisfy. And for those who are still not swayed, simply watch it for The Rock being an absolute beast.

It will be interesting to see how this box office record matches the highly anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 out later this month which became the highest grossing film of 2014.

Ghost in the Shell visually stuns but doesn’t excite

When Masamune Shirow’s manga series, ‘Ghost in the Shell’ got an anime adaptation in 1995 by director Mamoru Oshii, it became a worldwide success inspiring films like ‘The Matrix’. Ghost in the Shell presents us with a futuristic, almost dystopian world (if you hate technology, that is) that’s enhanced with cybernetic beings and hologram billboards. Major Motoko Kusanagi (Scarlett Johansson) is a cybernetic cop who is tasked with taking down Kuze (Michael Pitt) a cyborg who is killing Hanka Robotics scientists. There is a little bit of an ambiguity to who the villain really is in the film but there can’t be much said on this due to intense spoilers. Many have criticized the casting of Scarlett Johansson for the role of Major as she is not a Japanese actress, instead director Rupert Sanders (known for Snow White and The Huntsman) chose to cast Johansson for her unique ability to play the range of emotions or non emotions that the Major has. Of course, Johansson did a sufficient job but in this case I think that casting a Japanese actress wouldn’t have been a negative but I also realise that Johansson’s star power will sell more tickets. This suspect ‘whitewashing’ is covered by the Major’s origins being implanted inside the robot body of Johansson.

Despite claims of whitewashing, Scarlett Johansson does a sufficient job as Major

Visually, the film is stunning and in 3D it becomes a languid spectacle that is almost inspiring and scary to watch. The CGI is handled well and the setting is incredibly inventive. The buildings and holograms advertising products such as Heineken Beer dominate the landscape and create a lonely and dark surrounding which only becomes more black as we realise the Major’s struggle with her identity. Who is she in this world? Who are we, in this world of advertising and social media? Do we even have full identities anymore or does the media shape us? These are questions that are philosophized in the film but are never really dealt with to a true extent. We get the sense that this film is never telling us the true story about the fears and dangers of technology and cyber enhancement, instead we are left to decide how we feel about this on an individual level and interpret the film on that scale. After visiting Hong Kong I can immediately see Sander’s inspiration in the film, the domineering buildings juxtaposed with the backstreet markets selling meat and cloth all create this dreamy world that the Major inhabits.

The landscape inspired by Hong Kong is incredibly domineering

Unfortunately, the narrative is lacking and the Major’s search for her identity is interspersed with lackluster action scenes. The plot never feels like it goes anywhere and the film suffers because of this, dragging after the 1-hour mark. However, Ghost in the Shell is an ambitious, visually amazing film that challenges our own conceptions of the world we live in but unfortunately it’s not a film you’ll want to repeat view like the original anime.

3/5

Marvel’s Iron Fist may stumble but it definitely packs a punch

Become who you were meant to be

Marvel’s new Netflix show, Iron Fist dropped 13 episodes on Friday and sufficed to say, people have been very harsh. Before its original premiere date, Netflix gave out 6 episodes for the popular critics circle (Guardian, Hollywood Reporter etc) to review. Many dismissed the show as “boring” and “uninspired” not to mention they all had a similar aggravation with the pacing of the show. I was very excited about this show and did not want to let the critics dissuade me from watching the series, I have now watched all 13 episodes and I can say wholeheartedly, it really isn’t as bad as it is being made out to be.

The series revolves around Danny Rand (Finn Jones), an heir to Rand Enterprises and the ‘immortal Iron Fist’. Before making his way to New York to reclaim his father’s company back from childhood friends, Joy and Ward Meachum (Jessica Stroup and Tom Pelphrey), his parents died in a plane crash but he survived. After being rescued by some monks, he trained in K’un L’un and learnt Kung Fu.

The first episode gets off to a nice start with an establishment of characters and setting and some hints at Danny’s capabilities. Some of the mistaken identity surrounding his name and credentials gets slightly annoying but it’s nothing that should put you off in a hurry. A lot of critics and audiences on social media have an issue with Danny as a character, he is either too naive and annoying or too invasive and pathetic. I do agree that his character is invasive and naive but I also find something very innocent and endearing about him and although he may not be the strongest screen presence, I did find myself warming to him as the series continued.

Danny does annoy the viewer at times as he has a tendency to be more than a little ignorant, disregarding the fact that people may not think his opinions and decisions are right or indeed warranted. He does not care about interrupting Colleen Wing’s (Jessica Henwick’s) life; a character who is incredibly strong all on her own and very strong willed.  But he is a man-child, he has the innocence and guile of a child but the bravado and stubbornness of a teenager, evidenced by his angry remark to Claire Temple “I appreciate your concern but I’ve already made up my mind!” Everything seems to be his fault and people tell him as such, but that doesn’t mean he won’t retort with a childish remark or a Peter Pan syndrome-esque’ pout. However, this is counterbalanced by his ability to be honourable and kind in the way he treats his employees and his love interest, Colleen.

Netflix. Danny Rand (Finn Jones) has proven divisive with audiences

Colleen and Claire aren’t the only strong, capable women in the show, Joy Meachum packs a punch of her own, but in a business type way not an Iron Fist way… Joy single handedly seems to be running Rand Enterprises while her brother, Ward spirals into drug addiction, psychosis and even murder. This is all handled wonderfully by Tom Pelphrey who is arguably more of a screen presence than Jones.

The villains of the show, Madame Gao and Harold Meachum are disappointing and Harold appears more slimy and disgusting than villainous. Whilst there are some plot twists regarding ‘The Hand’ and other villains of the show (that you may have encountered if you have been watching Daredevil) there never seems to be any true opposition to Danny. There are some easter eggs in the show for fans referencing other shows such as Jessica Jones when Joy mentions that she has hired a private investigator that was good “when she was sober”.

Netflix. Danny struggles with his buddhist teachings and the corporate lifestyle he inherits

Danny’s struggle between his buddhist teachings and inner chi and his billionaire lifestyle often inflict unnecessary drama into his life. Whilst he has been raised to reject materialism and corporate lifestyles, he is also flung into a world where he has to acknowledge this to better himself. In fact some of the corporate Rand scenes echo Mr. Robot‘s war against E-Corp, not to mention the Rand ‘we’re here for you’ billboards posted across town are more than a little ironic.

Critics had only seen 6 episodes of Iron Fist and although they argued that pacing issues were a big problem with some of them pointing out that they could not get through 2 episodes, I have to disagree. Yes, some episodes drag in areas they shouldn’t but this a TV series with 13 hour long episodes, this is not a movie where everything has to be crammed into 2 hours. This may be a big reason why audiences have not responded well to the show, however all four of Marvel’s Netflix shows including Iron Fist have pacing problems. I personally found Daredevil season 1 too hard and slow to get through but I found Jessica Jones easy. It is a very subjective matter and you shouldn’t let media sway your opinion on watching a show, even this article.

Netflix. Although watchable, the fight scenes have not been what viewers were expecting

One thing I was looking forward to were the fight scenes as I have always loved martial arts films. Critics spoke about the uninspired and lacklustre sequences. The fight scenes are very choreographed and although they get much better towards episode 13, they are not what I and many other people were expecting.

Overall, Iron Fist could do with a clean up on script, action sequences and character development but the show has to be given some credit for what it is trying to achieve. Stick with the show and by Episode 6, you’ll be hooked enough to continue the show as I did. Iron Fist doesn’t pack as big a punch as it could do but will definitely knock you to the ground a few times.

7/10

Marvel’s Netflix shows ranked:

  1. Jessica Jones – Iron Fist (Joint tie) 
  2. Luke Cage
  3. Daredevil 

How Lily Collin’s book ‘Unfiltered’ teaches us about love, life and personal growth

No shame. No regrets. Just me. 

For many out there, Lily Collins is best known for acting and having a famous dad, Phil Collins. But what many people don’t realise is that just because Lily has the life most would dream of, doesn’t mean she can’t relate to the everyday woman’s struggle. Collins herself has expressed her frustration over receiving comments in the form of ‘someone like you wouldn’t understand what I’m going through’ when in actual fact she knows that to be quite the opposite. I had always been told growing up that I had the eyebrows of Lily Collins and from the side, people at college would often come up to me and remark the similarity. Of course, I found this quite bizarre. Not only did I find it odd that people came up to me despite being one of many who had black eyebrows but also that Lily’s eyebrows had become so popular in beauty and culture circles that I was now being compared to her. In Unfiltered, Lily talks openly and honestly about her struggles with everything from peer pressure and looks to her own destructive capabilities. Here are some things that Unfiltered has taught me about life and growth that may help you too.

Being different is good 

Just like Lily, I was made fun of at school for having big, bushy eyebrows and because they were black they stood out more. So one night, I took a set of tweezers and plucked my eyebrows until they became two small tadpoles on my forehead. They looked ridiculous. They looked so ridiculous that right after I plucked them I began filling them in with harsh brow pencils that made them look like hazel slugs… Lily too felt the instant mistake when she plucked her eyebrows off. I wish I had never let people get to me as they are now the feature that people most comment on and yes, I am still compared. But in a good way and it’s definitely a compliment. Being different is good, it is what makes you special.

Some people simply don’t deserve second chances

Have you ever met a person that you were completely besotted with only for them to treat you like something on the bottom of their shoe? Yeah, I think we’ve all been there. Sometimes we put our energy into trying to attain someone’s affections that we become lost in the ‘hunt’. We lose ourselves, sometimes changing our appearances, our way of acting and even our friendship groups just so we can become more likeable or relatable. This is a lot more common than people may think, especially for the women that are told constantly that they are not enough. Well, sometimes we give those people the benefit of the doubt and sometimes they don’t deserve it. It’s always nice to see the good in people but sometimes when people treat you badly from day one, just show them where the door is. You’re better than that.

Perfection is an illusion 

Lily talks in great length about her eating disorders which include anorexia and bulimia, these conversations have allowed her to understand herself more and open up to what was causing her to restrict herself in the first place. Perfection. Putting it simply, the need for perfection is too strong, sometimes conquering the best of us. I have also dealt with eating disorders in the past and although that’s a different story, I can offer some wise words of wisdom myself.

Be what you were meant to be

Now that might sound hokey and cryptic but what I actually mean is that deep down you know the kind of person you want to be. Whether that’s a super independent, business type or a more chilled, introspective type, it doesn’t matter. In your heart of hearts you know who you should be and what kind of person you would like to grow up to be and you shouldn’t let other people assert their opinions on you to the point of you straying from this. Other Hollywood actresses who do not conform this ideal Hollywood-Glamour model archetype are women such as Kristen Stewart, Brie Larson or Shailene Woodley. Both reject their celebrity in favour of a more natural, private life. Lily’s main point in this book is that the need to change herself to suit everybody else made her unhappy and ultimately that’s not living the life that you deserve.

Help those around you

This could be family and friends or it could simply be somebody that needs a little help in their day. Lily talks extensively about her need to save exes and family members from their own destructive demons because she herself had gone through them. Whether its food, alcohol or our own poor judgement, everybody needs saving from something at some point. And those people would really benefit from having a friendly ear to talk to or a kind shoulder to cry on.

Although there are many other topics that Lily covers in her book, these were the main points of discussion that popped out to me. Unfiltered has taught me a lot about myself, especially how much in common I actually have with Lily. But it has also taught me how to express myself in an open way, to not let others dominate my sense of self and also that seizing the day is an action that we should all do if we want to live our best selves.

Unfiltered is available from Amazon, Waterstones and many other bookstores. The audiobook is also available from Amazon.

Kristen Stewart dazzles in the darkly commanding, Personal Shopper

‘Personal Shopper’ is Oliver Assayas’ new French film and second film with Kristen Stewart after Clouds of Sil Maria. It was selected to compete in last years Cannes Film Festival and as such, has received critical acclaim. Stewart portrays Maureen Cartwright, a young woman who is forced to take a job as a personal shopper in order to pay her rent. She is a shopper for Kyra (Nora van Waldstatten) who is never really present in the film but has the image of a Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton sort. Maureen is actually in Paris because her brother, Lewis died there only a couple of months before and she is hoping to be visited by his spirit.

The fashion and art aspects of the film infuse a present day ideology that dominates our culture; luxury goods can corrupt a natural soul. So what do I mean by that? Well, for starters Maureen is not a very ‘fashionable’ person. She rides along the streets on her scooter in unflattering, old looking outfits. Minimal makeup and baggy clothes are the order of the day for Maureen, however working for the fashion industry whether a small or big role, the employee cannot help being sucked into that world of materialism and decadence. Just take Andy from The Devil Wears Prada for instance, she promises her boyfriend that she will not let her job change her into a stick thin runway model, but of course she does. Towards the end of the film she discovers her identity and forms a refreshing balance between the two but the temptation is always there. Much like Maureen in Personal Shopper, Andy has the temptation because clothes surround her and the meaning attached to those clothes dominate her sense of self.

Maureen’s clothing bares a similar resemblance to Stanley Kubrick’s horror film, The Shining.

Assayas’ choice to cast Kristen Stewart for this role is incredibly smart and pays off in droves. Although there are many out there who believe Stewart only has one acting face, she has more than proved her worth in a string of independent, European art-house hits that showcased her ability to produce enigmatic and captivating performances. Kristen also has a very interesting style herself, she is aware of high fashion and appreciates it (she is the face of Chanel Makeup and is frequently seen wearing pieces that creative director, Karl Lagerfeld picks out for her). Favouring Old Skool Vans and baggy Levi’s, Kristen has made it her goal to be unapologetically herself and that shows not only in her fashion choices but her career choices to. Stewart’s rejection of her own celebrity is undoubtedly her defining attribute and to this day, a refreshing one.

Kristen Stewart’s ability to portray the hallucinatory and fearful nature of our minds, is a big positive for Personal Shopper.

Fashion and the exterior obsessed is not the only dominant theme in Personal Shopper, the looming threat of technology is as well. Maureen receives countless messages from an unknown recipient who threatens her with a loss of control and erotic commandments. Think a more disturbing version of Pretty Little Liars. Dealing with her own grief, Assayas portrays Maureen’s loss of control as the very thing her life now depends on, her control over her emotions, her sexuality and her ability to detach herself from her brother’s spirit. It’s no surprise that this film has bleak, depressing tones running throughout which Stewart masters with bizarre dexterity.

Personal Shopper delivers a cold, lonely narrative that becomes more disjointed and psychotic as the film reaches its 1 hour 45 minute mark. However, both Assayas and Stewart explore the ramifications of grief, the supernatural and the hallucinatory nature of our own minds. Unsettling for viewers, Personal Shopper gives us a world that is powerful, disconcerting and cryptic all in one reel.

3.5/5

John Wick: Chapter 2 is a stylish, hyper-violent dream

“You stabbed the devil in the back. To him this isn’t just vengeance, this is justice” Keanu Reeves’ John Wick is back and better than ever in this stylish, hyper-violent sequel. In 2014 original, John Wick, Reeves portrays former hitman John Wick who sets out on a mad rampage after a Russian mobster kills his dog and steals his beloved car. In this film, he’s honouring a blood oath that he took years ago with Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio). The deal: kill Santino’s sister and he earns his freedom from the oath. It all sounds a bit ‘Godfather’ but it’s actually the films central premise.

Wick travels to Rome where we encounter some beautiful scenery; each opulent building adding to the elegance of this film. What follows is a very stereotypical montage of Wick being lined up for bespoke suits and the best firearms around. Similar to the first film, we are given a club scene scenario for Wick to disguise his gunshots. This time its against a piece of operatic, club music that sets the scene perfectly. A lot of the violence in these particular scenes are held in the catacombs of Rome which may be reminiscent of the scene in Hannibal TV in which Will tells Hannibal that he forgives him. Of course, there’s no forgiveness here as Wick’s blood pumping assault mirrors a first person shooter game.

John Wick (Keanu Reeves) finds himself back in the criminal underworld

Although this film has received a generally positive critical reception, there are a few that believe that this is a mindless showcase of weapon pornography. Yes, there does seem to be an endless amount of guns but director Chad Stahelski frames the fights in a wonderfully, elegant and realistic way. John isn’t just shooting his opponents in the head, he’s using Aikido and Judo, he’s anticipating their every move and he is being just as tactical as he was in the first film, if not more so. There is a skill and art to it that mirrors Hong Kong based martial arts films, for which Reeves is a big fan of.

After this blood-soaked display, a hit goes out on Wick for $7 million USD. Not only does Wick learn that people really want that money but also that the criminal underground is EVERYWHERE. A subway once filled with innocent people now becomes a breeding ground for potential killers and at this point in the narrative I’m thinking ‘poor bloke must be tired…his kidneys must be on their last legs!’ but no, Wick keeps going and more power to him!

The main rivalry in the film lies with John and Cassian (Common) who engage in a duel on a moving subway train, both have similar fighting styles which means their fights are often very drawn out, leaving us waiting for five minutes until there is any dramatic conclusion. Other adversaries include Ares (Ruby Rose) who is seemingly omnipresent in the film but unfortunately never gets any time to really shine. Ruby Rose has more than enough time to make up for it though with a string of action films under her belt this spring with xXx: Return of Xander Cage and Resident Evil 7. 

As we’re near the 2 hour mark, Wick, Santino and Ares participate in an ambitious, shootout in a hall of mirrors. The following scenes are exquisitely shot (handled perfectly by cinematographer Dan Laustsen, who is an incredible talent), each colourful neon frame is embraced by a bullet ricocheting off of a body. In fact, a lot of the decor is similar to Adam Wingard’s 2014 thriller, The Guest. 

With 302 gunshots fired and 128 total kills, it’s not hard to see why John Wick is the best in his field, it’s also not hard to walk out of the cinema with a headache and a slight case of tinnitus. But what John Wick: Chapter 2 excels at is a rip-roaring depiction of rage and vengeance stripped to its core; angry and trapped, Wick is a force to be reckoned with. And as the film closes to Wick running for his life, it’s never more apparent that no matter who he kills, he will never be free. Overall, Chapter 2 is a richly entertaining, hyper-violent splatter-fest that not only honours its first film but in fact, excels it.