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Phoebe Ollerearnshaw

Ocean's 8

Ocean’s 8 Confirmed for Release This Summer

Five years, eight months and 12 days: that’s the amount of time Debbie Ocean has dedicated to hatching one of the most daring heists ever to be attempted. The number of days the world has waited for a Hollywood flick to accurately and justly represent women: uncountable. Enter Ocean’s 8, which aces the Bechdel test—an indicator for the active presence of women in films—no questions asked.

Ocean’s 8 has been confirmed for release this summer and diehard fans are going nuts. The movie seeks to disrupt the status quo and redefine Hollywood’s generic blockbuster formula—promising to do so in style. It’s not often that a film has eight leading ladies—in some cases you would be hard pushed to find a single one. This begs the question, is Ocean’s 8 laying the foundations for a new era of filmmaking?

With a cast of accomplished female actresses at the helm, we have no doubt that Ocean’s 8, the fourth installment in the renowned series, will be a smash hit at the box office. Director Gary Ross collaborated on writing the script for the film with Olivia Milch. The original trilogy’s director, Steven Soderbergh, is also on board as producer—much to the delight of Ocean’s enthusiasts. Ross had originally conceived the idea for an addition to the franchise five years ago and proceeded to bring his idea to Soderbergh. “If he [Soderbergh] hadn’t been involved, I don’t think I would have done it. It was great working together,” Ross recollects.

Oscar winner Sandra Bullock stars in the leading role as Debbie Ocean, the estranged sister to Danny Ocean (George Clooney), who was the lead character in the original Ocean’s 11 (2001). Playing Ocean’s specialist team are Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna and Oscar nominee Helena Bonham Carter, with Anne Hathaway as their target. Each female is known in her own right and brings a different dimension to the film.

The Ocean’s 8 story unfolds in New York—and was filmed entirely on location—which presents the perfect arena for the high-stakes; flashy and flamboyant plotline. The collective of skilled women plan to steal the Toussaint, Cartier’s one-of-a-kind diamond necklace, valued at $150 million at the illustrious Met Gala.

The crew and cast recall the instant chemistry of the key members and their pride in taking part in such a production. “You can’t underestimate the power of visual representation. To an eight-year-old, we’re not trying to say: ‘Go have a life of crime.’ But we’re saying: ‘Go do what you want. There’s space for you, and there’s space for you to do it with your friends, and there’s room for all of you.’ I think the films that have an ‘everybody in’ mentality and message for people who have historically been excluded, that’s a really good thing,” Hathaway commented.

On the topic of ethnic diversity and authentic female representation in the film, Awkwafina said: “When it comes to representation and diversity, there’s a difference between throwing in people of color and women, and then actually representing them accurately and authentically. The important thing about the characters in this movie—especially the people of color in this movie—is that’s not defining our characters. I am a New Yorker from Queens and Asian-ness has nothing to do with it. That’s representation. That’s where we’re going. I think this movie is going to be a step toward a right direction.”

Cartier was apparently an invaluable partner for the project, creating a specifically modified version of the stunning Toussaint necklace. “The Toussaint is one of the largest necklaces in their collection, sitting in their vault,” says executive producer Diana Alvarez. “The people at Cartier were incredible consultants and their expertise was a huge help to us. They allowed us to shoot at the Cartier Mansion.”

Ocean’s 8 is confirmed for release this summer on June 8, 2018—no doubt the masses will be waiting with baited breath until then.

Further reading: Ready Player One: Spielberg Revisits His Roots

Ready Player One

Ready Player One: Spielberg Revisits His Roots

Spoilers ahead, read at your own risk!

He was the fantastical curator of our childhoods; countless classics of his filled our screens (and our hearts) such as Jaws (1975), Jurassic Park (1993), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). These blockbusters—whose glimmering themes opened up new realms of cinematic possibility—carved him out to be one of the most prolific directors of all time. Steven Spielberg is now back with his new motion picture, Ready Player One (2018) and let’s face it…it’s awesome! This is the sort of rip-roaring adrenaline adventure that gave him his name and, unsurprisingly, audiences are eating it up like candy. 

A treasure trove of pop-culture

Ready Player One is based on Ernest Cline’s science fiction novel of the same name, which has since become a worldwide sensation. The film adaptation is set in 2045 in Columbus, Ohio (a slight variation from the book) where the overpopulated world is on the brink of chaos. Our protagonist, Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan, X Men), lives within a decaying vertical trailer park: a modern-day shantytown that looks every bit as bleak as it sounds. The downtrodden citizens of Earth are looking for salvation, which they find in the comfort of the OASIS—a virtual reality to plug into. In this vast cyber world, anything and everything is possible. You can be whomever you want. For any filmmaker, this is an unmissable opportunity to get creative. Where will you transport your viewers when the sky’s not even the limit?

In the opening scenes, we discover the true definition of “no boundaries”. The screen erupts in an explosion of action as a race between thousands of cars commences through the streets of New York. During this time, a DeLorean—driven by Watts’ avatar Parzival—outmaneuvers a Tyrannosaurus rex (a not-so-subtle reference to Spielberg’s own work). The scene begins a feature-length-long game of spot the pop-culture reference, with characters and objects bombarding the audience from every angle. Familiar entities like the A-team van, Lara Croft, Mechagodzilla and a thundering King Kong are just the tip of the iceberg in this fandom extravaganza. The OASIS itself is a visual marvel, a feat of technical genius. Although the world has been created using CGI, it doesn’t feel overly gimmicky.

The plotline of the film is relatively straightforward, which, compared to the franticness of the frames, is a relief. We follow Watts/Parzival as he battles against other players to find the elusive “golden Easter egg”, the discovery of which will lead him to inherit the fortune of the game’s creator—James Halliday (Mark Rylance). This geeky gazillionaire—who resembles a mismatch of Steve Jobs, Einstein and Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man (1988)—poses as a sort of ghostly mentor to Watts.

Knowing that the one to succeed him and run the OASIS will be charged with a great power, Halliday crafts a number of challenges to decide the victor. Of course, there are evil competitors in the race for the golden Easter egg. After all, the film would lack urgency without them. The villain in Ready Player One comes in the form of the businessman Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), who satisfies our palates for a textbook sci-fi bad guy. Watts/Parzival must complete the tasks before Sorrento manages to do so. He’s joined by his fellow avatars Art3mis—Samantha in the real world (Olivia Cooke); Aech—Helen in the real world (Lena Waithe) and the rest of the ‘high five’ gang.

Fandom within the film revolves around the 80s and 90s: when Halliday and the digital universe came of age. Some of the pop-culture references are obvious, while others are clearly designed for hard core fans to study as they skim the film frame-by-frame upon its release on DVD. The cast do an exceptional job at portraying passionate gamers, with Sheridan and Cooke making a charming duo. Rylance provides the definitive performance as Halliday; playing the role of an awkward genius seems to agree with him somehow.

Just a few niggles

There is a huge build-up during the length of the feature that leads to a little bit of an anticlimax. While all loose ends are neatly tied off, there is a distinct lack of resolution. After obtaining the golden Easter egg, Watts and his fellow teammates decide to close the OASIS for two days a week to encourage people to experience the world outside. However, there is no real indication that he intends to use his riches to tackle the supreme poverty around them. While there is a snifter of hope that things may improve, we are also left to ponder the possibility of the world reverting back to how it was. Would it not have been more poignant to scrap the OASIS program entirely, realise that the physical world needs saving and that human interaction is more precious?

Similarly, although the action in the film is pertinent to the storyline, it occasionally comes at the cost of character development. While there are some touching moments between the hero and heroine, these quickly dissipate as a result of a sudden chase or shootout. 

What the critics are saying

Being Spielberg’s first science fiction release since War of the Worlds (2005) and considering his reputation, expectations for the film have been decidedly high. On the whole, the movie has received terrific critical reviews: PostTrak reported that filmgoers gave it an 82 percent overall positive score and a 65 percent “definite recommend”. Jonathan Pile from Empire commented: “Spielberg has seemingly done the impossible: balancing sugar-rush nostalgia with an involving story to create a pure, non-cynical, cinematic ride that recaptures the magic of his early films.”

Recent reports have shown that Ready Player One is now the second biggest movie release of the year in terms of the global box office, with its worldwide total currently residing at $523,718,18. The blockbuster has prospered particularly overseas in China where it has earned $163 million thus far.

Recapturing the magic

Watching Ready Player One is like playing witness to somebody recapturing their youth. There is a distinct sense that the director has tried to evoke the magic of the films in his “golden era”. There are several comparisons that can be made to his earlier work. For instance, Spielberg was known to identify with fatherless boys during the beginning of his career (Finding Neverland (2004), Hook (1991), Catch Me If You Can (2002))—being an orphan, Watts is no exception to this rule. Although there are sinister moments, Ready Player One makes a point of not taking itself too seriously. This ambitious project by Spielberg is pure unabashed nostalgia—although you don’t need to be a pop-culture nut to enjoy it. Never in such a long time has a film felt as though Spielberg was revisiting his roots.

Further reading: Film Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Chicken Panzanella

Chicken Panzanella Recipe

Chicken panzanella is a Tuscan salad consisting of rustic bread croutons, olives, onion and an assortment of tomatoes. Include tomatoes of all shapes, sizes and colors—whatever you have available. Put your stale bread to good use: aging sourdough, ciabatta or chunky wholemeal work best. Combine with leftover chicken or stick to the vegetarian version.

Serves 4

 Ingredients

  • 4 large chicken thighs
  • 3 cups assorted of tomatoes
  • 1 roughly torn ciabatta (or any bread available)
  • ½ roughly chopped red onion
  • ½ cup roughly chopped peppers
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • Olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup pitted black olives
  • 1 sprig fresh basil
  • Parmesan

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350F, then rub the chicken with oil and seasoning. If using leftover chicken that is pre-seasoned, simply coat with oil.
  2. Slice and halve your assorted tomatoes, add 3/4 to a baking tray, setting the rest aside for later.
  3. Add roughly torn ciabatta, onion and peppers to the baking tray. Crush and add the garlic cloves. Sprinkle fresh thyme and dried oregano over the tray’s contents along with a glug of oil. Mix together by hand, coating the vegetables and bread.
  4. Lay the chicken on top of the ingredients and put in the oven to bake.
  5. Cook for approximately 1½ hours or until the juices of the meat run clear. If cooked chicken is being used, reduce the baking time to 30 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and drizzle the balsamic vinegar over the ingredients.
  7. Mix the hot ingredients with the remaining cold tomatoes and olives. Finally, season the chicken panzanella with salt and pepper; garnish with fresh basil and Parmesan shavings.

Further reading: Makeshift Peach and Berry Crumble Recipe

Testimony to US Congress

Mark Zuckerberg’s Testimony to US Congress: What We Know so Far

In the wake of the data scandal that involved millions of people’s personal data being potentially shared with Cambridge Analytica, Mark Zuckerberg—CEO and co-founder of Facebook—faced US Congress to answer for the company’s involvement. Here’s what we know so far.

The scandal

The lid was lifted on Facebook’s relationship with Cambridge Analytica after the Observer published an account from a former worker from the firm. The academic, Aleksandr Kogan, had apparently used a personality quiz to harvest personal data from users of the social network and, through a company called Global Science Research (GSR), shared that information with Cambridge Analytica. At present, it is believed that 87 million people may have been affected (this figure includes both those who took the test as well as their friends, whose personal records the app also had access to).

In the US, Cambridge Analytica is backed by the Mercer family, whose heavy influence was thrown into championing Donald Trump during the presidential election in 2016. It is this association that has sparked allegations of election manipulation. Further revelations surfaced after Channel 4 News in the UK revealed a separate undercover investigation in which Alexander Nix, head of Cambridge Analytica, was filmed boasting of using dirty tactics in order to successfully swing elections. The incident saw Nix speak about an opportunity in Sri Lanka where he mentioned the creation of sex scandals and the use of fake news to swing votes.

Zuckerberg’s testimony to US Congress

This Tuesday, Zuckerberg faced US Congress for the first time since the scandal hit the headlines. Questions from the senate commerce and judiciary committees were fired at Zuckerberg on a number of pressing topics including privacy, regulations, data mining and Cambridge Analytica during the five-hour long hearing. Bombarded with cameras, Zuckerberg’s countenance was collected yet alert.

On rights to privacy

When asked in detail about user rights to privacy, Zuckerberg said the following:

“I believe it’s important to tell people exactly how the information that they share on Facebook is going to be used.

“To your broader point about the privacy policy […] long privacy policies are very confusing. And if you make it long and spell out all the detail, then you’re probably going to reduce the percent of people who read it and make it accessible to them.”

Senator Jon Tester then asked him: “You said multiple times during this hearing that I own the data. I’m going to tell you that I think that sounds good, but in practice you’re making $40 billion a year, I’m not making money on it. It feels like you own the data […] could you give me some idea on how you can honestly say it’s my data?”

Zuckerberg responded with, “When I say it’s your data, what we mean is that you have control over how it’s used on Facebook. You clearly need to give Facebook a license to use it otherwise the system doesn’t work.”

Tester countered with: “The fact is the license is very thick, maybe intentionally so.”

Cambridge Analytica

When probed on Facebook’s relationship and dealings with Cambridge Analytica, he said: “[From] what my understanding was … they were not on the platform, [they] were not an app developer or advertiser. When I went back and met with my team afterwards, they let me know that Cambridge Analytica actually did start as an advertiser later in 2015.

“So we could have in theory banned them then. We made a mistake by not doing so.

“When we heard back from Cambridge Analytica they had told us that they weren’t using the data and deleted it, we considered it a closed case. In retrospect, that was clearly a mistake. We shouldn’t have taken their word for it. We’ve updated our policy to make sure we don’t make that mistake again.”

Storing and selling data

“Yes, we store data… some of that content with people’s permission,” said the Facebook CEO.

When Senator Tammy Baldwin asked whether the neuroscientist Kogan had shared the data with any other users aside from Cambridge Analytica, Zuckerberg replied: “Yes, he did.”

Senator Cory Gardner read out parts of the terms of service offered by Facebook relating to account deletion—which mentions that backup copies of the profile may persist after an account is deleted for some amount of time—and questioned Zuckerberg about it. Zuckerberg said that he doesn’t really know how long those backup copies are kept, but generally expressed his belief that they are actually deleted.

Rules and regulations

Senator John Kennedy: “I don’t want to regulate Facebook but god help you I will […] I say this gently: your user agreement sucks. You can spot me 75 IQ points. The purpose of that user agreement is to cover Facebook’s rear end; it’s not to inform your users about their rights. You know that and I know that. I’m going to suggest that you go home and rewrite it.”

Zuckerberg’s testimony to US Congress continued: “I think the real question, as the internet becomes more important in people’s lives, is what is the right regulation, not whether there should be or not.

“We’re investigating every single app that had access to a large amount of information in the past. And if we find that someone improperly used data, we’re going to ban them from Facebook and tell everyone affected.”

Russian interference

“One of my greatest regrets in running the company is that we were slow in identifying the Russian information operations in 2016.

“We have kicked off an investigation … I imagine we’ll find some things,” Zuckerberg continued.

“This is an on-going arms race. As long as there are people sitting in Russia whose job is it to try to interfere in elections around the world, this is going to be an on-going conflict.”

Zuckerberg’s personal privacy

When asked by Senator Dick Durbin if he would be comfortable sharing the name of the hotel he stayed in last night he said: “No. I would probably not choose to do that publicly, here.”

“I think everyone should have control over how their information is used,” he added.

Accountability

In the closing of Zuckerberg’s testimony to US Congress, he took responsibility for the situation, citing his position and interest in making positive changes for the future: “It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm. That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy.

“It was my mistake and I’m sorry.”

Are you convinced by Zuckerberg’s testimony to US Congress? Do you believe regulation will improve or is this the beginning of the end for Facebook? Give us your comments below.

Further reading: Cambridge Analytica and Facebook: All You Need to Know

Peach and Berry crumble

Makeshift Peach and Berry Crumble Recipe

This makeshift peach and berry crumble is the perfect sweet treat that uses overly ripe fruit. The soft consistency of the ripe fruit makes them perfect for this dish. Crumble can be made with almost any fruit combination; you could stick to classic pairings like apple and blackberry or dare to go bold with pineapple, apricot and ginger. Ideally, use what you have already stocked.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 6 peeled soft peaches
  • 2 cups mixed berries
  • 1 orange for juice and zest
  • 3 tsp. corn flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup golden caster sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tbsp. mixed oats
  • 1 tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 1 medium egg
  • ½ cup unsalted butter

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375F, then line a shallow baking dish with butter.
  2. Slice the peaches and place them on the bottom of the buttered dish with the mixed berries.
  3. Mix the juice and zest of the orange with the corn flour, ½ demerara sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Sprinkle this over the peaches.
  4. For the topping, mix the flour, caster sugar, baking powder, oats and nutmeg together. Add the eggs and combine to form a coarse crumb. Place on top of the peach mixture and drizzle with melted unsalted butter.
  5. Bake for 35 minutes or until the top turns golden brown.

Enjoy this tasty makeshift peach and berry crumble? Let College News know!

More recipes: Chocolate Rose Petal Cookies Recipe

Spring Break 2018

Spring Break Destinations

After a strenuous academic term, get some much-needed R&R—check out our top destinations for your next spring break.

During the academic year, most of us dream about our next exhilarating travel excursion. Be inspired by our collection of destinations that incorporate fun, sun and adventure—perfect for a spring or summer getaway.

Cancún, Mexico

Cancún is a vibrant city that lies on the Yucatán Peninsula, bordering the Caribbean Sea. Best known for its turquoise lagoons, magnificent beaches and buzzing nightlife, it makes for an ideal de-stress vacation. Days can be spent sampling the local cuisine; street food vendors serve up delectable soups and tacos that are easy on the wallet and packed with flavor. Diving is another popular pursuit in Cancún, with the Museo Subacuático de Arte being the main attraction. This one-of-a-kind underwater display was built as a way of diverting divers from the area’s deteriorating coral reefs—it features more than 500 intricate life-size sculptures. In the evening, visitors can head down to the notorious hotel zone: where the tequila is poured freely and the parties don’t end until sunrise.

Ko Pha-Ngan, Thailand

Ko Pha-Ngan is an island positioned off the Central Gulf Coast of southern Thailand and is characterised by its luscious coconut trees and stunning seashores. While Ko Pha-Ngan is unquestionably idyllic, it is not necessarily a place of rest. Made famous by its monthly full moon parties, Ko Pha-Ngan is the perfect place to let your hair down during spring break. Flamethrowers, authentic dancers and world-class DJs are the biggest draws that beckon crowds of young tourists each year. Most boisterous festivities are centered on Sunrise Beach, while the northern coast is comparatively more peaceful. The island also offers an intriguing night market, spectacular waterfall hikes and secluded viewpoints to enjoy the ebbing sunset. Crystal clear waters also make snorkeling and scuba diving a popular pastime for visitors.

New Orleans, USA

There is a gritty, palpable and unmistakable air that flows through streets of New Orleans: this indescribable charisma solidifies it as an unmissable destination. Thriving food joints offer indulgent delicacies: gumbo, biegnets and po’ boy sandwiches are all must-try dishes. New Orleans also has an interesting history that dates back hundreds of years, which is demonstrated by the French-inspired architecture and colonial builds of the area. The supernatural also plays a major role in the culture; voodoo preachers and tarot card readers offer their expertise to fascinated newcomers. Above all, the locals know how to throw a damn good party. While Mardi Gras is the main festival to draw in the crowds, parades and celebrations occur practically every week of the year. With hometown jazz flowing from the cafés and bars, we compel you not to get swept up in the magic of it all this spring break.

 Utila, Honduras

Located near the south end of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef system, Utila is the smallest of Honduras’ major Bay Islands. But what Utila lacks in size, it certainly makes up for in character. With very few roads, Utila is only accessible by boat, making it the perfect retreat for city dwellers. This picturesque island is crawling with dive-obsessed backpackers in search of a good time. While recent diving taxes mean that courses aren’t quite as cheap as they once were, visitors often jump at the chance to see the juvenile whale sharks that frequent these waters. Otherwise, days can be spent soaking up the rays from a hammock or strolling along the white sands of the curving bay. As darkness falls, the island suddenly springs to life; exotic beach bars and clubs resonate with lively music and a distinctly youthful vibe.

South Padre Island, USA

South Padre Island—which is nestled at the southernmost tip of Texas—undoubtedly has the “school’s out” feeling. Throughout the summer months, the coast’s Gulf breeze poses a welcome reprieve from the scorching heat of the mainland. During which time, the local bars buzz with a hive of fun-seeking visitors throughout the day and night. Live events often take place on the beachfront, with stages drawing considerable crowds. Meanwhile, regular party cruises set sail each day, allowing voyagers to mingle and meet new faces. Apart from its energetic party scene, South Padre Island makes a point of contributing to animal conservation. The Sea Turtle, Inc. center facilitates the recovery of injured animals and organizes educational programs for tourists. The island is especially suited to adventure junkies; the tranquil water conditions enable a wealth of watersports such as jet skiing, parasailing and kiteboarding.

Travel responsibly

Before selecting your spring break destination, always be sure to read up on the culture of the natives—respecting local customs can help tourism to prosper. Try to use the native tongue where possible, recite some key expressions and bring a phrasebook for reference.

Further reading: 6 Surprising Travel Destinations for 2018

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Film Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Be warned: Major spoilers ahead!

To review Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) is to convey what violent grief truly means. Unless you have the artistic talents of Frances McDormand—the leading actress and protagonist of the movie—this is no easy feat. However, the headstrong messages that echo throughout the narrative scream out and refuse to be ignored—a notion that has evidently been felt by the vast majority of the movie’s attendees.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was written, produced and directed by Martin McDonagh—the charismatic and somewhat polarizing playwright-turned-filmmaker. McDonagh was raised in south London and his parents were working class Irish immigrants. His writing strongly reflects his diverse upbringing. During his early career, McDonagh dazzled the London stage with his writing, with several of his plays showing simultaneously. But the bright lights of the movie theatre were beckoning and the writer/director went on to create In Bruges (2008), a film generally regarded as a triumph. He more recently directed Seven Psychopaths (2012), which didn’t quite manage to garner the same positive response. Several critics have said that Three Billboards is McDonagh’s best film to date and is McDormand’s most poignant performance since her appearance in Fargo back in 1996.

The inspiration 

McDonagh was apparently inspired to write the dark and emotionally raw tale after travelling “somewhere down in the Georgia, Florida, Alabama corner.” The screenwriter/director saw three billboards in passing that referred to an unsolved crime in the local neighborhood. “The rage that put a bunch of billboards like that up was palpable and stayed with me,” McDonagh said. Unable to get the image out of his mind, he pondered on what could have sparked such anguish. “[…] Once I decided, in my head, that it was a mother, everything fell into place,” he remarked.

The plot

 And so, the opening scenes of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri begin. Without a word being spoken, the dank hopelessness of Ebbing, Missouri’s (a fictional place in the southern Unites States) backward community is brought into view. As the not-so-subtle name suggests, this is a town where society seems to be receding. McDormand storms onto the screen as Mildred Hayes: a fiery divorcée and mother whose young daughter was raped and killed seven months prior. As the result of their inaction and incompetence, Hayes wages war on the local police department—armed with a bandana and a tongue so sharp it could cut you to shreds.

As Hayes rides into town, she is accompanied by the soft twang of a western-esque score from Carter Burwell, who incidentally worked with McDonagh previously on In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths. Hayes rents a trio of broken down hoardings on the outskirts of town, brandishing them with a message to the local sheriff, Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson). Hayes’ intention is to shame and spur the officers into action and, in doing so, shine a light on the corruption that is rife within the town’s police department. The embodiment of everything that is wrong with the law system is Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), a man whose skull-cracking tendencies make him volatile and dangerous. Even in the first moments of our introduction to him, we become aware of his vindictive, racist and homophobic inclinations. We are also made aware that Dixon has recently been involved in a racist assault, although the audience are never fully given the gritty details.

As the tale of Hayes’ struggle unfolds, we come to realise that prejudice is not only engrained within the police, but also within the majority of the townsfolk. Chief Willoughby’s loyal followers remain impassive to his shortcomings, leaving Hayes to defend her cause alone to the very end. It is only the addition of a few unforeseeable events that bring any glimpse of closure for the character.

While there is a darkness that clouds the entire film, it is interlaced with a distinctive thread of satire. In McDonagh’s signature style, he manages to play comedy against violence. At several points—whether it be through Hayes’ prickly sarcasm or Dixon’s bumbling incapability to do the simplest of tasks—the audience are forced to stifle a laugh. Each joke has an unsettling undercurrent, a dark subtext that makes us wonder why we are laughing at all. McDonagh’s knack for making audiences question themselves shines through and is perhaps what makes Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri such an interesting watch.

One of the most fascinating elements of Three Billboards—whether intentional or not—is that there is no mention of the time in which the story is set. There is no assurance as to whether these circumstances are happening today or, perhaps, a decade ago. While the difference seems insignificant, one could argue that it matters. The narrative gives no real mention of social media, for example, or any other signifier of modern-day culture. And yet, the story could conceivably be set in the here-and-now. Could it be that this was McDonagh’s intention all along? Was this a ploy to have us contemplate the abundance of discrimination that remains in today’s society?

Each of the three main actors give stellar performances, in fact McDonagh admitted that he wrote the characters of Hayes and Dixon with McDormand and Rockwell in mind. However, it is McDormand who steals the show. Her knack for complete naturalism and her depiction of raw emotion makes for an enthralling experience.

The critical response

While Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has largely been applauded for its unique approach, not all reviews have been positive. A number of very important issues are raised in the movie. But, while the matter of race is brought into the story early on, it soon falls to the sideline. Concepts of racism are there but never shown outright. Could this be seen as a copout (pardon the pun)? The same goes for the central character, Dixon. We are indirectly informed of his racist attack on another town member, but by the end of the film we start to feel a tiny shred of sympathy for him. This directional choice is extremely problematic. Humanizing somebody, whose actions cannot be described as anything apart than evil, smells very much like validation. Perhaps, rather than wanting to change our view of this character, we are instead supposed to realise that everybody (even the most vile of people), have a trace of humanity within them.

The movie’s initial release in the Unites States and Canada led to a gross profit of approximately $45.3 million. Since its release in the UK and elsewhere in January 2018, the worldwide total has reached $100.9 million.

McDonagh’s fierce, tragic comedy tugs on the heartstrings; its twists and turns often make us question who and what the real focus of this film really is. Our film review in short: don’t miss it.

College Degree to be Successful

Do You Need a College Degree to be Successful?

With potential loan debts and tuition costs rising every year, it’s no wonder half the millennial population is asking: do you need a college degree to be successful? The answer isn’t simple. There is no definitive proof that a degree can secure you the job of your dreams or lead to the ultimate “success” (especially because success is in the eye of the beholder). One person’s idea of being successful may be different to another’s. But, for now, lets assume that it means you have effectively climbed to the top of your field and earn a reasonably high salary.

A career prerequisite

Before considering whether you wish to attend college, you may want to reflect on what you have a real passion for. This is almost always the thing you will excel at. From there, you should surmise whether a degree is necessary in order to enter this vocation. For many industries, a degree isn’t a prerequisite for an entry-level position. In such circumstances, some students may feel a degree would simply postpone any possible opportunities. However, a degree may be an absolute must for certain fields—the obvious ones being medicine, the sciences, engineering and architecture.

Having realistic expectations is important at this stage of your decision-making. This is not to say don’t aim high, but be honest with yourself about what you can achieve. If your objectives are ambitious, devise a plausible plan that will make your dreams a reality. You may aspire to be a professional swimmer, but you should appreciate that this profession may be slightly out of reach. Instead, becoming the best swimming instructor in the region may be more achievable. Identifying a suitable location with a gap in the market may facilitate you founding a swimming school, which could even lead to a franchise.

What’s it worth?

There are various elements that can determine the value of your college degree: the amount you will ultimately pay to attend, your desired career path and your post-graduation living situation—each can contribute to its worth. One way to determine whether your college costs will stack up against your potential income is to use the Major ROI tool on the Discover Student Loans’ website. The website covers the potential average salary for different subject majors. For industries with six figure salaries, you can afford to pay for a more expensive institution. If the rewards are low, you may wish to consider a more economic method for achieving your goals.

Let’s not forget that financial aid is still available in the form of scholarships for those who need help with offsetting the cost of a college degree. Community colleges and state universities are also options that shouldn’t be cast aside. Both can provide quality educational courses for people with a subject or occupation in mind.

Pro college degree

  • Shows passion and dedication to the field you are applying for.
  • Prepares individuals for the workplace by developing independence, introducing important connections and improving social skills.
  • Provides resources that students can tap into for in-depth insight into various topics—experienced lecturers stand as a fountain of knowledge and expertise.
  • A college degree has become the standard for which many candidates are measured—mostly due to the imbalance of the job-to-candidate ratio.
  • According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2016, earning potential and educational attainment are directly related; lower earners had completed fewer levels of academia in every category.

Pro no college degree

  • Free from debt and tuition fees.
  • Internship and apprenticeship programs can introduce young people into the workplace—securing such a position doesn’t necessarily require a college degree to be successful.
  • Fostering ambition and making valuable business connections is possible via websites such as LinkedIn and Quora.
  • Online courses and certifications provide useful self-educational tools, providing knowledge needed for the workplace or specific industry.
  • The CNBC/SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey 2017 reported that business owners without a four-year degree far outnumber those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

What the experts say

Several famous personalities have managed to prosper without the help of a college degree; Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, Coco Chanel and Steve Jobs, to name a few. This adheres with the data produced by the CNBC/SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey from 2017. It found that entrepreneurs who didn’t finish or attend college outnumbered those with higher-level degrees across both genders and every age group apart from the over 65s. However, all business owners who had skipped higher level education all shared common personality traits: each had a distinct attitude of independence, determination, a great idea and the willingness to take risks.

Jacqueline Gold, founder of the Ann Summers adult retail empire is another example of a self-made businesswoman, who climbed her way to the top without a degree. “I was acutely aware when I started Ann Summers Party Plan that I had no formal business training, but what started out as a disadvantage actually turned into one of my biggest advantages. I had to rely entirely on listening to customer feedback, which led to the rapid growth of Party Plan turning over £86,000 in its first year.” While Gold believes that college is undeniably beneficial, she also champions those that follow alternative paths. “I’m excited that there are individuals that want to do something different and create their own career and get straight in to the work place.”

On the topic, Chuck Runyon—co-founder of the 24-hour gym chain Anytime Fitness—commented: “If you want to get out of college and try to hustle, it still requires a great deal of capacity.” Runyon decided to leave college after he identified a gap in the market for a gym that was always open, one whose equipment focused solely on what was most frequently used by members. “I want to make it clear: you have to work every bit as hard, if not harder.”

The brain behind Microsoft, Bill Gates, agreed with Runyon’s sentiments. In a blog post in 2015, Gates said, “Although I dropped out of college and got lucky pursuing a career in software, getting a degree is a much surer path to success.” While the majority of successful entrepreneurs show that college degrees aren’t the only way to succeed in life, none seem to show a dislike for higher education, either.

Whether you decide to get a college degree or jump straight into work, it is clear that the key to succeed in life is to aim high, work your hardest, take risks, stretch your creativity, and—no matter what—follow your dreams.

Further reading: Free Courses to Boost Your Resume

Kate Nash North American Tour

Dates for Kate Nash’s North American Tour Confirmed

Dates for Kate Nash’s North American tour were confirmed yesterday, sending die-hard fans into frenzy. Beginning this spring in Vancouver, Canada, Nash will slowly make her way across the Unites States to New York. The announcement for the north American tour comes on the coattails of Nash’s new studio album, Yesterday Was Forever (to be released March 30 2018) and the premiere of her latest single Drink About You (2018).

The new single will feature within Nash’s North American tour; the song in itself has a sweet, poppy vibe and is fuelled by a soulful twang of LA-lo-fi guitars. Drink About You talks about the unhealthy attitudes and habits we develop when going through a difficult break up. In her usual quippy way, Nash relays a number of heartfelt lyrics to an upbeat tempo and a catchy-as-hell chorus. The sing-along capabilities of the tune will undoubtedly go down a treat on her North American Tour.

The album Yesterday Was Forever delves into an excerpt of Nash’s teenage diary. When asked about the compilation, she recalls being picked on as young girl for writing in a journal: “I used to be mocked for being a silly little girl writing in her diary, but these days I feel like the teenage girl is far more respected than she use to be and it’s teenage girls that have fought for that and taught people that lesson. Yesterday Was Forever is about your dreams being trapped in a time capsule, being caught in a moment for too long, and looking back through heart shaped glasses.”

Nash released her first album, Caroline’s a Victim, on vinyl back in 2007 and has steadily risen to fame ever since. Her success led to her being crowned Best Female Artist at the 2008 Brit Awards. From there, Nash used her influential position to challenge perceptions of women and inspire the upcoming generation of females musicians. This led to the launch of the Rock n Roll for Girls After School Music Club. Nash was also appointed as global ambassador of the Because I Am a Girl initiative that was forged by Plan International—a scheme issued to raise and triumph women in developing countries.

Nash’s activism has hugely influenced her melody and, undoubtedly, steered her musical comeback in 2012. Her revival saw her step away from the comfort of her piano—which formulaically underpinned the majority of her previous work—and take hold of the bass guitar. This newfound sound is distinctive in her new album and will likely speak to the younger fan base on her North American tour. Nash has gone on to DJ at London and New York Fashion Week’s most exclusive events, write music alongside Willow Smith and moonlight as music editor for the London-based breakthrough fashion magazine, Phoenix.

Aside from being a singer-songwriter and activist, Nash has also expanded her horizons by branching into the acting sphere. Starring in feature films such as Syrup (2013) and Greetings from Tim Buckley (2012), she proved her worth as an actress. As a result, Nash was chosen to join the talented cast in the Netflix original series, GLOW (2017), where she plays the loveable British wrestler Rhonda “Britannica” Richardson. The series was shot by Liz Flahive, Carly Mensch and Jenji Kohan—the three are now in the process of shooting the second season, which Nash will be starring in.

Nash and her all-female band will tour the United States for three weeks. See the dates for Nash’s North American tour below:

04/04 – Vancouver, BC – Imperial
04/05 – Seattle, WA – The Showbox
04/07 – Portland, OR – Hawthorne Theatre
04/09 – San Francisco, CA – The Fillmore
04/10 – Los Angeles, CA – The Fonda Theatre
04/12 – Santa Diego, CA – The Observatory – North Park
04/13 – Santa Ana, CA – The Observatory OC
04/14 – Phoenix, AZ – Crescent Ballroom
04/16 – Salt Lake City, UT – The Depot
04/17 – Englewood, CO – Gothic Theatre
04/19 – Minneapolis, MN – Fine Line Music Cafe
04/20 – Chicago, IL – Park West
04/21 – Detroit, MI – Majestic Theatre
04/23 – Toronto, ON – Mod Club
04/24 – Montreal, QC – Theatre Fairmount
04/25 – Boston, MA – Royale
04/26 – Philadelphia, PA – Theatre of Living Arts
04/28 – Atlanta, GA – Buckhead Theatre
04/29 – Charlotte, NC – The Underground
04/30 – Washington, D.C. – 9:30 Club
05/02 – New York, NY – Irving Plaza

Further reading: Ron Pope Releases Seventh Studio Album

Vero App

The Rise and Fall of the Vero App

In the past week, Vero—a little-known app that was released back in 2015—has stormed to the top of the iOS app store charts, surpassing some of the biggest contenders in the industry. However, this influx of attention has been the cause of its undoing. The Vero app has since buckled under the pressure and received a rather violent backlash from its users.

Before we go into the specifics, we sense that you may be wondering: what the hell is Vero? Vero advertises itself as a smart social platform: the better version of Instagram. The Vero app differs from Instagram largely because imagery isn’t its sole focus. Members can also share links, music, TV, books and places, for a more dynamic experience—well, that’s the sales pitch. When registering to the app, you provide your name, email address and phone number—unlike Instagram, there are no usernames. In contrast to Instagram’s new algorithm, the feed runs in chronological order. You can follow your friends, favorite brands and celebrities who are also signed up. One of the app’s most alluring features is that it doesn’t store any personal data, nor does it display any advertising.

Vero reportedly received a surge of attention after members of the cosplay community started migrating to it. An Instagram search of #vero produces thousands of photos from users requesting that their followers find them on the new platform. It also may have helped that that the first million users were offered the app for free for life, after which new users would have to pay a subscription fee. Unfortunately, the joyous feelings towards the Vero app were short-lived.

As hundreds of thousands of people began to sign up, the app became plagued with technical issues. While Vero’s technical team battled to get the app running smoothly, users flocked to Twitter to express their outrage at the efficacy of the platform. One twitter post read: “Just so everyone knows. The people behind this app are just about as awful as the app itself. #deletevero”

Vero—which is the Latin word for truth—was created by Lebanese billionaire Ayman Hariri. Before beginning his escapades as CEO for the next generation social media platform, Hariri was vice chairman of his family’s now defunct construction company, Saudi Oger. There have been reports that 31,000 complaints were filed against this company over negligence and unpaid wages before it shut down in July 2017.

What are your thoughts on the rise and fall of the Vero app? We want to hear from you.