The Beast (Dan Stevens) and Belle (Emma Watson) in the castle library in Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, a live-action adaptation of the studio's animated classic which is a celebration of one of the most beloved stories ever told.
Film

Certain Women/ Beauty and the Beast/ The Lost City of Z

The top of the month sees the return of the admittedly attractive, but utterly expressionless, charms of Kristen Stewart in Certain Women (March 3).

Directed by Night Moves’ Kelly Reichardt, Certain Women follows three separate, but tangentially related, women’s lives in a sleepy Montana town.

The first is lawyer Laura (Laura Dern) and her dealings with increasingly deranged client who overlooks her legal advice because she is a women; the second story follows a couple (Michelle Williams and James Le Gros) building their own home and enjoying regular arguments about their daughter and with their curmudgeonly, not to mention sexist, neighbour whose sandstone they hope to purchase; and the final story follows lonely ranch-hand Jamie who finds herself attending anight school law class, taught by a cardigan-sporting K-Stew.

Laden with low key indie charm and preponderance on the endless unspoken burdens of being a woman in a man’s universe, Certain Women is a quiet feminist gem.

Was ever there a casting as perfect as Harry Potter hottie Hermione, aka Emma Watson, as Belle in the live-action remake of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (March 17)? Unless Donald Trump secretly been cast in Cheetos: The Movie, I think not.

In the unlikely event that some people are unfamiliar with the story, here it is: Belle who likes books and singing dish-ware, is taken prisoner by the brooding Beast in exchange for the freedom of her rose-stealing father (is there Sharia law or something in this part of the Disney-verse?)

She soon becomes enamoured of the Beast’s enchanted staff (comprised of talking baroque furniture and cutlery) and eventually, Beast. It’s not really a spoiler since the original story was published in 1740 – it is a tale as old as time. Can Watson actually sing? And is Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) able to convey beastly emotion through all the CGI and prosthetics? There’s only one way to find out!

And now for something completely different, in the form of rip-roaring, testosterone-y, The Lost City of Z (March 24), starring Queer as Folk‘s Charlie Hunnam (and former beard of Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson). Pattinson, usually the most handsome guy in any given movie, literally looks like boiled crap next to the swoonsome charms of the beefy (but terrible-at-accents) Hunnam.

But I digress. The Lost City of Z is the true story of British explorer Col. Percy Fawcett (Hunnam) who in the early 1900s discovered evidence of previously unknown advanced civilisation during an Amazonian exploration. Fawcett’s findings were widely ridiculed by the scientific establishment who refused to believe indigenous peoples were anything other than ignorant ‘savages’.

New Spiderman Tom Holland puts in an appearance as Fawcett’s son, as does Sienna Miller as Fawcett’s devoted wife Nina. And of course, Pattinson as Fawcett’s trusty aide-de-camp, Henry, the one man in the entire world who actually looks worse with a beard. Seriously.

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Uncategorized

Going Queer: Scientology and the Gays

After ex-Scientologist Pete Griffiths gave a speech about cults to the students of St. David’s CBS in Dublin, the school received a letter claiming that he had posted links to “gay pornographic movies of young boys in their late teens”.

It was all part of the Church of Scientology’s ‘fair game’ policy, which seeks to destroy its enemies, he says.

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Pete Griffiths

In 2013, Mayo-based Pete Griffiths was invited to St David’s CBS Artane to give a speech to a religion class on the subject of cults. Griffiths had spent a number of years as a member of the Church of Scientology before defecting and becoming one of its most outspoken critics.

After giving a talk at the school on Wednesday, May 1 – which Griffiths uploaded to Youtube – he returned to the school for a further talk on Friday, May 3. After Friday’s lecture, Griffiths was approached by several panicked teachers and a deputy head, who informed him about an email they’d received containing some serious allegations against him.

Griffiths paraphrases the email’s content: He was a bigoted, unquali ed “hate-monger” under investigation by the Gardai due to his aggressive campaigning against the Church of Scientology; he was a member of ‘hacktivist’ collective Anonymous; he used bad language (two “fuck offs”, one “bullshit” and one “crap”) in front of the class, an “abominable” offence for “a Christian doctrine school”.

Zabrina Collins

scientology,1On three occassions email – sent by a “concerned parent” who later admits her children don’t attend the school in question
– questions Griffiths’ “suitability” to work with minors. The email’s author, Scientologist Zabrina Collins, also alleges that Griffiths’ posted links to “gay pornographic
movies of young boys in their late teens – much like the young boys of St Davis [sic] CBS” on his social media accounts.

The truth, father-of-six Griffiths tells me over coffee, is much less sordid. He is not a member of Anonymous; a picture of a naked Griffiths, covering his genitals with a Guy Fawkes mask (right), which Collins cited as proof of his involvement with the group, was actually taken as part of an online campaign by members of the armed services to show support for Prince Harry after pictures of him naked in a Las Vegas hotel surfaced in 2012.

The “pornographic movies” to which Collins referred were in fact generic coming-of-age movies, the likes of which wouldn’t be out of place at any LGBT lm festival: a fan-made music video using footage from French indie movie A Little Comfort (2004) and German movie Sommersturm (Summerstorm, 2004).

According to Griffiths, Collins’ questioning of his“suitability” was a subtly underhanded insult designed to play on his sexuality (he doesn’t self- identify as ‘gay’ but is in a longterm same-sex relationship) by conflating homosexuality and paedophilia. And though the email stopped short of alleging outright impropriety, Griffiths says the implication was clear: He is not safe to be around young boys.

 

It’s Complicated

The Church of Scientology has a long and complicated relationship with homosexuality. For years rumours have abounded that part of the church’s appeal rests on its claims that it can ‘clear’ a person’s same-sex attraction, while other rumours are rife that the church exploits the homosexuality of its high-profile members for its own ends.

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The prolific Hubbard, pictured with an ‘E-meter’

Founded in 1953 by science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard (who interestingly is the Guinness World Record holder for most published works by one author – 1,084), Scientology was formed from teachings contained in Hubbard’s 1950 book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, and renamed and re-characterised as a religion: The Church of Scientology.

Since its inception the church has been embroiled in many controversies: over its ‘fair game’ policy, which legitimises the persecution of critics of Scientology; its battle with the US’ Inland Revenue Service demanding tax-free status; allegations of human rights abuses and forced ‘disconnections’, and of course, controversy over the church’s endless lawsuits to keep the secret origin story involving a galactic overlord, Xenu out of the public domain.

Closeted Scientologists

Among the salacious rumours circulating about Scientology, none is more persistant than the one that suggests that some of the Church’s most high-profile members are closet homosexuals blackmailed into continued involvement.

Though the Church’s current leadership dispute claims that it harbours hostile attitudes towards gays and lesbians, Hubbard’s writings – which are the foundations of the Church’s beliefs – are clear: homosexuality is an illness which can be cured with the intervention of Scientology.

Dianetics, the book which launched the Scientology movement, states: “The sexual pervert… is actually quite ill physically… he is very far from culpable for his condition, but he is also far from normal and extremely dangerous to society…”

‘Clearing’ Homosexuality

Hubbard expanded on this in 1951’s Science of Survival, introducing a concept called a ‘tone scale’, a numerical value for assessing a person’s emotional state. The scale runs from 40.0 at the top (‘Serenity of Beingness’, the most desirable state), to Body Death at 0.0 and then all the way down to minus 40.0, ‘Total Failure’.

Homosexuals are considered a 1.1 on the scale: “covert hostility”, which Hubbard calls “the level of the pervert, the hypocrite, the turncoat… the subversive.” Such people are “skulking coward[s] who yet contain enough perfidious energy to strike back, but not enough courage ever to give warning.”

The 1.1 is only capable of negativity and subversion and needs the intervention of Scientology, by way of expensive and time-consuming ‘auditing’ (a process of semi-counselling where adherents are hooked up to a device called an E-meter), to clear themselves of such dysfunction.

Hubbard’s message seems clear: homosexuality is a symptom of inner inadequacy and with sufficient help from Scientology, one can be cured.

 

Was Quentin Hubbard Gay?

It is unclear why Hubbard reserved such specific animus for homosexuality, though it is not unusual for religions to be homophobic – especially ones with a such a 1950s flavour as Scientology. One popular rumour suggests that Hubbard’s own son, Quentin, whom he groomed to succeed him before his death, was actually gay.

Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, claims that Quentin made up this rumour himself to discourage women who were only interested in him because of his father.

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L Ron Hubbarb and family. From the left: Suzette (4), wife Mary Sue, Quentin (5), Arthur (1) and Diana (7)

Whatever the truth, in 1976, after a brief disappearance, Quentin was found comatose, and naked, in a parked car near a Las Vegas airport. He died in hospital two weeks later.

An initial autopsy reported the cause of death as asphyxiation from carbon monoxide poisoning and also noted that semen was found in Quentin’s rectum. Mary Sue, Quentin’s mother arranged for a further three autopsies to be carried out, eventually telling fellow Scientologists that her son died of encephalitis.

Scientology Sanctioned Anti-Gay Discrimination

Despite the Church’s attempts to pitch itself as an organisation dedicated to championing human rights, the story is markedly different according to gay members of the Church.

In 2012, former Scientologist Keith Relkin told the Village Voice that before he was permitted to attend auditing (a form of Scientology counselling) in the 1980s, he was made to sign a notarised form stating that

he would not engage in any “homosexual acts” during his time in the Church. Relkin also said that he was told numerous times that his “abberated” sexuality would make it impossible to attain OT (or ‘Operating Thetan’, a spiritual state which purportedly gives devotees “knowing and willing cause over life, thought, matter, energy, space and time.”)

 

Paul Haggis Speaks Out

One of Scientology’s most damaging high-profile defectors in recent years, Million Dollar Baby director Paul Haggis, said that the final straw for him was the Church’s refusal to speak out against Proposition 8, California’s anti-gay marriage legislation .

In an explosive open letter to then Church spokesman, Tommy Davis in 2009, Haggis (who has two gay daughters) recalls how he was “stunned” to discovered that the San Diego Church of Scientology had publicly sponsored Prop 8. He demanded that Davis speak out publicly against the support of Prop 8. After inaction by Davis, Haggis wrote an open letter saying that the Church’s silent refusal to denounce the actions of San Diego was “cowardly” and that he could no longer be a part of it. His defection – and his open letter – made headlines around the world.

Adding to the notion that there is an undercurrent of homophobia in the Church are the statements of another defector, Jason Beghe who said in an interview that he “never heard the word ‘faggot’ more than when I hung around people at Gold [Base, the church’s international headquarters].”

Travolta Threatened

Author Lawrence Wright states that when allegedly gay A-list actor John Travolta expressed a desire to leave the Church, a fellow Scientologist was assigned the task of compiling a “black PR package” filled with all the secret confessions the star had revealed during ‘auditing’ sessions.

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A fresh-faced John Travolta using an E metre in a Scientology publicity still

Wright claims that Travolta was threatened with the release of the package, which allegedly contained all the potentially damaging information gleaned during his auditing sessions, if he left Scientology.

This was allegedly used to solicit the star’s continued public involvement in the Church. In the documentary adapted from Wright’s book, former Inspector Gen
eral of Scientology’s Religious Technology Center Marty Rathbun claimed that this sort of relationship is mutually beneficial. “As far as Travolta’s concerned you could say ‘well, there’s all things we know about, that have been rumoured in the tabloids’, but in fact it’s more of a two-way street,” Rathbun said.

“He’s provided with an auditor whose shoulder he can cry on but also provided with the muscle of the church in the form of myself and Mike Rinder [former Executive Director of Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs].

“On many occasions we were sent out to get with his publicist, to get with his lawyer and and to help squash or intimidate these people who were making accusations against him.” After this, Wright says, Travolta was the church’s “captive”. The actor continues to be an active member in the Church of Scientology.

 

‘Fair Game’ Or Blackmail?

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Griffiths giving a talk about Scientology

According to the documentary, the church does not consider such acts blackmail, since no money is being demanded and anything done in service of Scientology is ‘fair game’.

By speaking out against the Church of Scientology at Irish schools, Pete Griffiths believes he became a target of this ‘fair game’ policy, which states that any “enemy” of Scientology can be punished and harassed using any and all means possible. When dealing with critics, the church’s stance is: “don’t ever defend, always attack.”

Writing in 1967, church founder L Ron Hubbard stated that opponents who are “fair game” may be “tricked, lied to, sued or destroyed.”

Court Cases

Griffiths brought a defamation case against Zabrina Collins seeking damages in the amount of €50,000. Collins counter-sued Griffiths and another former Scientologist John McGhee for assault and battery. Collins alleged that McGhee had attacked her as she and fellow Scientologist Michael McDonnell were handing out fliers on behalf of the Church, while Griffiths filmed.

Both cases were heard consecutively. Judge James O’Donohoe told Dublin’s Circuit Civil Court that Collins’ allegations were “largely untrue and grossly defamatory”. He noted that although Collins’ repeated queries about Griffiths’ suitability to work with school boys were “distasteful” she had stopped short of calling him a paedophile.

Griffiths was awarded €5,000 by the court for the defamation, but was also ordered to pay damages of €2,000 against Collins and McDonnell for the assault.

Church Surveillance

Griffiths believes that he is under online surveillance by the Church (“there was, or is, a Scientologist in the UK whose job it is to spy on me”), and this is how the talk at St David’s – which he uploaded to YouTube – came to the Church’s, and Collins’ attention.

Of the fair game policy, where opponents of the church allegedly may be tricked, lied to, sued or destroyed, Griffiths says: “They did three of these things to me. I was not destroyed, though.”

The Church of Scientology Ireland did not respond to our request for an interview.

This article originally appeared in the September issue of GCN (321), which is available to read online here.

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TV

8 Greatest LGBT TV Characters

There was a time, gentle reader, when LGBT representation on TV was restricted to offensive stereotypes: the campy sex-pest, the angry lesbian, the greedy bisexual etc.

 

Thankfully things have move on a bit and now there’s a wealth of well-rounded queer characters out there in TV land to love (and loathe).

So, I’ve selected some of the best ones appearing on TV screens over the past 2 decades.

Omar Little, The Wire

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“It’s all in the game, yo..”

Without a doubt one of the stand-out characters in a stand-out show. Fierce and fearsome Omar (played by Michael K Williams) is a Robin Hood-esque stick-up man who relieves Baltimore’s drug dealers of their wares.

But Omar has morals; he may steal dealers’ money, but he doesn’t sell drugs, instead using them to bribe the city’s many crack addicts into providing him with safe-houses.

When the corner thugs hear Omar approaching, whistling his trademark tune ‘Bringing in the Sheaves’, they either hand over their drugs or sprint for cover. It’s clear to the audience before he appears on screen that Omar is not to be trifled with.

He is also openly, unapologetically gay. This irks his enemies no end (foremost amongst them gang honcho Avon Barksdale, who solely refers to him as “The Faggot”).

The torture and murder of his boyfriend Brandon at the hands of Avon is what motives him to exclusively target the Barksdale gang, and provides much of the drama during the show’s first series. Omar takes on the most powerful drug gang in West Baltimore, and effectively wins – all as revenge for his murdered lover.

The reason for Omar’s brilliance lies in the fact that he seems entirely comfortable with himself, despite constant abuse and widespread disdain because of his sexuality. But at no point does he seem conflicted or burdened by others’ opinions of him.

The contrast between Omar’s macho, masculine ‘career’ and his moralistic nature (he never swears, is kind to animals and never attacks those who aren’t in “the game” ) add layers to this multifaceted character.

Omar is the tender and the terrible in one scarred package, and possibly one of the best queer characters of all time. Even President Obama loves him, citing Omar as his favourite character on the show.

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Film

A Date For Mad Mary/ Young Offenders/ Sausage Party

Kicking off the month in fine style is Irish movie A Date for Mad Mary (September 2), winner of the Audience Award at this year’s GAZE festival.

The story follows the eponymous Mary upon her completion of a six-month prison stretch for a vicious assault. Returning to her home town of sunny Drogheda, Mary sets about rekindling her friendship with soon-to-be married ex-bessie Charlene. However, Charlene has outgrown Mary, as evidenced by her increasingly distant demeanor and her refusal give Mary a plus one to the wedding.

Unable to face her friend’s rejection, and desperate to prove her worth, Mad Mary sets about find a date for the wedding. After a parade of laughable losers she encounters lovely chanteuse Jess and a ray of hope penetrates her wounded warrior ways. Prepare for the feels, viewers.

And there’s another Irish film on offer this month (yay!), Young Offenders (September 16), this one inspired by Ireland’s largest cocaine seizure off the Cork coast in 2007.

The action centres on inner-city ne’er do wells Jock and Connor, typical Garda-baiting, bum fluff-sporting rascally teens.

When a boat carrying 61 bales of cocaine capsizes off the coast, the lads, hearing that one bale – worth €7 million– is missing, head to West Cork to find the missing coke.

But things are very seldom straight-forward when there’s a massive brick of cocaine involved and soon the lads and their supporting cast (featuring Naked Camera’s PJ Gallagher and Republic of Telly’s Hilary Rose) find themselves in some deep water. The gowls! Go see it and support Irish film.

Ostensibly a parody of emotionally-manipulative Disney Pixar flicks, Seth Rogan’s Sausage Party (September 20) gets a long-awaited release this month.

Rude, crude and full of epicurean entendres, Sausage Party centres on the anthropomorphic foodstuffs (voiced by Seth Rogan, Kristen Wiig and a host of others) in a supermarket as they alternate between longing to be picked up by a shopper and carried off to the Great Beyond, and longing to have sex with each other. This is a sexually charged supermarket – sort of like the Spar on Parliament Street after pub closing time.

Anyway, after learning the truth about what really happens to them once they’re carted off (geddit) by the shoppers – peeled, sliced, roasted and consumed – outraged Frankfurter Frank (Rogan) sets off on a quest for answers. Definitely one for fans of silly stoner fare.

This piece first appeared in GCN, September 2016

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Film, TV

Celebrity Big Brother Launch Highlights

It seems as if every season of Celebrity Big Brother kicks off with the audience saying ‘Wasn’t this just on?’

 

Well, ‘yes, sort of’ is the answer to that: the last Celeb season wrapped up in January with toothsome geordie Scotty T crowned winner, and the normal people (I use this phrase loosely) Big Bro wrapped just 2 days ago, which seems like hardly enough time to de-scumify the house after a dozen party-loving, chore-hating reprobates living there for 8 weeks.

Anyway, on to the show, in which eternally elegant Emma Willis wheels out a collection of semi-recognisable rejects from Geordie Shore, Ex on the Beach, porn, youtube, the ’80s and er, Storage Hunters.

First in was eternally upbeat panto Dame and bona fide reality TV veteran, Christopher Biggens. Biggens has done it all: Panto, Porridge, more Panto, and I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.

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“A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man”

Most Likely To Say: Some obscure Bette Davis quote
Least Likely To Say: “The level of intellectual discourse in this house is stimulating” followed immediately by “OH, NO IT ISN’T!”

Next in was the obligatory Loose Woman, Saira Khan, who is a bit of an Annie McNoFace to be honest.

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Sair-a later, snoozezilla

These Loose ladies always make the mistake of trying to interview everyone constantly, but most CBB contestants have the emotional range of a basketball and so do not make good interview fodder. Anyway, she was in The Apprentice, describes herself as “gobby” and immediately got Arianna Grande’s name wrong so I sort of like her a bit.

Most Likely To Say: “Let’s have an in-depth chat about Brexit ?”
Least Likely To Say: “I just want to sit in a state of silent contemplation now”

Next in, Frankie Grande ‘Youtuber’ (yes, this is a valid career now apparently) and brother of infamous donut-licker, Arianna Grande, who EXPLODED on to the stage in a cloud of glitter and fierce posing.

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Literally, he moves around too much to get a good screen shot

I want to be snarky, but his entrance was so ebullient that it was fabulous. High energy housemates are annoying to live with and this makes them TV gold. PLUS as an American (who has already appeared in the US BB) he is more aware of the game-playing needed to win.

Most Likely To Say: “Sissy that walk! Purse first!” before cartwheeling around the house
Least Likely to Say: “No thanks, I have enough glitter on already.”

Next in was Ricky Norwood, aka Fat Boy from EastEnders, who was booted from the show after being caught doing something sexy while smoking a spliff on Skype (I don’t want to Google the exact details, thanks).

Big Brother’s Bit on the Side aficionados will recognise frequent panelist Ricky, as he is a legit BB super fan who’s been angling for a spot on the show FOREVER. This could work against him though: the more familiar a contestant is with the show, the more likely they are to be undone by hubris. Yeah, I said it. Remember John Partridge?

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Fat Boy: a potential winner

Most Likely To Say: “I’m just here for the experience”
Least Likely To Say: “Add me on Skype”

Next, another total blank: Renee Graziano, who apparently appears in a show called Mob Wives.

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Look at this ass!

If I remember my Sopranos correctly, the mob operate under a similar system to Fight Club, with rule number one (apart from ‘snitches get stitches sleep with fishes’) being never, ever admit to the existence of the mafia.

So why hasn’t anyone put a hit out on her and her gravity-defying derriere?

Most Likely To Say: “Pass the gabagool”
Least Likely To Say: ‘No’, to more ass implants.

Next in was generic Geordie Shorer Marnie Simpson. Blah.

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Oh, a finger in the mouth! How sexy.

She’s a bisexual, she “speaks her mind” (like, haven’t they realised yet that the people who keep their mouth shut last the longest?) and has the “best looking vagina in Britain”. She was surprisingly modest outside of the VT though, so maybe she won’t be so terrible?

Most Likely To Say: “Does my vagina look big in this?”
Least Likely To Say: “No, thanks – I’ve had enough to drink.”

Next in was this season’s obligatory troll, DJ James Whale (sample quote: “men and woman can never be equal.”)

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Literally, a dick-head

Is only in the house because first-choice Nigel Farage (Whale’s bestie) wanted a whopping £750,000 to appear. That’s five times more than Biggens, this year’s highest-paid star (£150,000).

Most Likely To Say: “I’m not racist/sexist/homophobic BUT…”
Least Likely To Say: “Three cheers for intersectionality!”

Next in was Aubrey O’Day, who you might remember from such things as 2004’s Making the Band (she ended up in P Diddy-managed girl band Dannity Kane).

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This is where a degree in Political Science gets you. Don’t stay in school, kids

She has a degree in political science (!), she’s 32 (“so I get Botox”) and hates Donald Trump, so I guess she’s not all bad? American housemates are always the best, and they usually stick together so let’s hope for a Grande-O’Day-Mafia wife alliance!

Most Likely To Say: “One more procedure and I qualify for a free nose job!”
Least Likely To Say: “I recognise almost everyone in this house.”

Next in was visibly coked-up energetic Ex On the Beach bum, Steve Bear.

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*ape-like snort*

In his VT he was confident and flirty, but when he came out on stage he was so PUMPED UP that he looked like he might throw Emma over his shoulder and climb to the top of the house while fighting off by-planes. And he said he thinks the earth is flat (seriously), all while wearing sunglasses at night. Terrible.

Most likely To Say: “Seriously, the earth is flat. Seriously.”
Least Likely To Say: “Sunglass at night make me look like a twat, right?”

Next in was ex-X Factorer Katie Waissal. Remember? She was the one who was always forgetting her words and breaking down on stage? Her granny was a prostitute who accused her of ruining her career by drawing too much attention to the family? Anyway, she came across as nervous which is always a bit endearing.

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She doesn’t want to talk about nana’s knocking shop, thanks

Most Likely To Say: “I don’t want to talk about the X Factor…”
Least Likely To Say: “Check out my nana’s sexy PoF pics”

Next in was Lewis Bloor, another chiselled but rather generic TOWIE-r. Yes, he’s handsome and he likes the ladies, but so does literally everyone else on these shows.

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Ain’t I ‘andsome, though?

What else is there to say? Apart from the fact that he went into the house in Patrick Bateman cosplay, which I guess is sort of unique?

Most Likely To Say: “Hand me my filofax”
Least Likely To Say: “No thanks, I’ve seen enough boobs for one night”

Next was Grant Bovey, formerly Mr Anthea Turner. I recognised him because I’m over 30, but I’m betting at least 98% of the other viewers didn’t.

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*caption not found*

The best thing about Grant’s entrance was that, like Darren Day, he went in saying he just wanted to correct “public perception” about him being a love rat, etc, but unlike Darren Day, no-one had a clue who he was, so it was totally pointless. And hilarious.

Most Likely To Say: “I was Anthea Turner’s husband? Remember?”
Least Likely To Say: “I’m the poor-man’s Darren Day.”

This next housemate in was Farrah Abraham-alike Chloe Mafia, who you might remember from her brief stint on X Factor. She was the one who, post-X Factor, made the transition from £160 prostitute to founder of a million-pound webcam business. Good for her.

Next was a guy called Heavy D, who apparently is from Storage Wars. Or Storage Hunters. Something storage-y.

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B(l)oooooom(ing annoying)

Heavy makes his own clothes (and needs to go back to tailoring school since the crotch on his bespoke Ice cream suit was sagging). He’s a “geezer”, the “king of banter” and loves to roar his catchphrase “BOOOOM”.

He sounds like a Tom Hardy character, looks like Jack Black and is very, very loud.

Most Likely To Say: “BOOOOOOOOOOOOM!”
Least Likely To Say: “Give me a pie before I glass you in the boat-race, geezer”

Finally, after what seemed like an unending parade of semi-recognisable faces came a final recognisable face: ’80s siren Samantha Fox, who was no doubt eager to give TV clip-shows a new clip to replace the one of her as a belligerent pissed Dracula on ITV’s short-lived The Club. She seemed nervous, which is always sensible.

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What does the Fox say?

Most Likely To Say: “Touch me! Touch me! I wanna feel your body!”
Least Likely To Say: “Pass me the proscecco and fake Dracula fangs.”

Phew! So many housemates! It’s not a great bunch (and where the hell was Mrs Dog the Bounty Hunter?) but who cares, as long as they fight!

On a semi-serious note: there’s been a real shift in the Celebrity BB vibe since Channel 5 has taken over the franchise.

Whereas once all the contestants were washed-up has-beens desperate for another bite of the fame cherry, enduring the humiliation of BB was a sort of penance necessary for winning back public favour. Appearing in it meant that you had reach your career nadir and knew it.

Now there’s an air of legitimacy to the proceedings: it’s seen as just another reality TV show with no more or less stigma attached to it than to Geordie Shore, Ex on the Beach, TOWIE or the I’m a Celebrity (Just Kidding I Slept With A Footballer) – Get Me Out of Here.

I must admit, this unironic verve does reduce the schaudenfreude somewhat. But it also means that the contestants are seasoned reality TV stars: they know that the public like sexy shenanigans, beaucoup bitching and fights that get so intense viewers start wondering if they should call the cops.

Viva la Big Brother!

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Film

Suicide Squad/ Mike and Dave Need Dates/ David Brent: Life on the Road

Kicking off the cinematic shenanigans this month is Suicide Squad (August 5). Given that this is a hot contender for ‘Most Hyped Movie Of The Year’, I’ll dispense with the laundry list of A-listers appearing (Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie etc) and get down to the plot.

Super secret government agency A.R.G.U.S, led by Amanda Waller (The Help’s Viola Davis), compiles a all-star squad comprised of incarcerated super villains. Their mission? To undertake various shady black-ops missions in an effort to chisel time off their respective sentences. Sounds legit.

But will Suicide Squad be fitting apology for the disappointment of Batman VS Superman: Dawn of Justice? And will Jared Leto ever be able to scrub off those henna tatts? There’s only one way to find out!

Released mid-month is Mike and Dave Need Dates (August 10) starring Zac Effron.

I already know what you’re thinking; this is obviously going to be some sort of crude, semen-scented dude comedy, but please observe the casting of the females leads. Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick are not super sexy vixens (though they are attractive, of course) but are well regarded for their comedy chops, more so then their sex appeal.

The story is simple: hard-partying brothers Mike (Modern Family’s Adam DeVine) and Dave (Efron) are instructed by their sister to find appropriate dates for her upcoming Hawaiian wedding, in order to prevent them from ruining the big day with their excessive joie de vivre.

So, they appear on a TV show appealing for dates, which puts them into contact with slovenly hucksters Tatiana (Plaza) and Alice (Kendrick) who set out to trick the guys into believe they are respectable, Charlotte from SATC types, perfect for a family wedding. And they succeed, but the guys soon learn the truth about the girls after spotting them smoking weed from a hollowed out apple on the beach. Comedy ensues.

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It’s called an apple bong, if you’re wondering

After Bad Neighbours, I began to come around to Zac Effron. He’s not terrible at comedy you guys, even if his attempts at dramatic pathos are so terrible they make Joey from Friend’s ‘Smell the Fart’ acting style look like Laurence Olivier.

Nonetheless, this has got something for everyone: brainless laughs, Audrey Plaza and Zac Effron for the (sorta) sex appeal, and a capable, familiar cast.

It’s difficult to believe that it’s been 15 years since the world’s cringiest mockumentary boss awkwardly danced his way onto our TV screens and into our hearts. It has been, though, and somehow the world has managed to continue spinning after the end of The Office in 2003 (and the end of the show’s surprisingly good American remake in 2013).

With such international turmoil and global instability, the world needs the return of David Brent now more than ever. And luckily, there’s beaucoup Brent in the form of David Brent: Life of the Road (August 15).

The finale of the show’s brief run (which lasted only two seasons and a two-part Christmas special) saw Brent fired from the titular office before capitalising on the z-list fame generated by the mockumentary by engaging in a series of humiliating public appearances at Slough’s nightclubs.

David Brent: Life on the Road picks up the action 15 years after the events of The Office. Brent, now a nomadic office supplies sales rep selling paperclips and tampons, embarks on a tour with his band Foregone Conclusion. Deluded as ever, Brent believes the filming of the tour (which he is funding out of his pension) will be a Scorcese-esque portrait of a genius on the road, when in fact it is a ‘where are they now’ follow-up on the ludicrous (deludicrous?) Brent.

There’s clearly a bit of wish fulfilment going on here; although it’s all very tongue-in-cheek Gervais, whose ’80s new-wave band Seona Dancing scored a hit single in the Philippines, is clearly enjoying the chance to play a (albeit clueless) strutting rock star, singing songs co-written by Coldplay’s Chris Martin.

But will it be any good? Too early to say: for every ‘The Office’ Gervais creates there’s a ‘Life’s Too Short’, but the chance to hear him wheel out cringy classics like ‘Free Love Freeway’ and Paris Nights is almost too much to resist.

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Orange Is The New Black S4
TV

5 Funniest Moments from Orange is the New Black Season 4

The latest season of Orange is the New Black is the best one so far, hands down.

Nuanced, intelligent and utterly captivating, this season focuses less on Piper and her coterie of ladies and focuses more on the grown racial discord among the prisoners.

It also contains a particularly upsetting death rendered all the more tragic by its societal relevance beyond the walls of Litchfield…

But it’s not all heartbreak! So, here are some of the funniest moments from Season 4.

Piper inadvertently becomes the head of a White Power prison gang
The end of Season 3 saw perennial sour-puss Piper heartlessly sacrifice her tattooed Aussie sheila in the name of cementing her rep as number one knicker-sewing king pin (or in prison parlance, the HBIC). But, Bea from Prisoner Cell Block H she ain’t, and no amount of surly Hawaiian muscle can disguise it.

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When she attempts to rally the white ladies in the face of the new Latino prison majority, she inadvertently kick-starts a White Power movement (“White Lives Matter!”) The lack of overt gang affiliations up to this point (Litchfield’s inmates group themselves among racial lines broadly, but no ‘name brand’ gangs are evident) has always seemed kind of a strange omission for a prison drama.

Piper quickly learns that race-hate isn’t an easily-wielded weapon and before long she’s smoking crack and getting branded with a swastika. (Bonus points go Ruiz for pointing out that direction of the swastika is important.)

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“Uhh….”

The look on Piper’s face – imminently punchable in its smugness at the best of times – as the meeting careens away from her is priceless.

Judy King gets King-ky with Yoga Jones and Luschek
I suppose I should’ve seen where it was going when the polyamorous Martha Stewart-ish cookery guru stockpiled a few pills (of Molly, which is what American’s call MDMA, for some reason) ahead of a prison-wide lock-down in episode 11.

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King, who has already made apathetic slacker guard Luschek her unwilling portly paramour, really embraces the lawless vibe. When some serotin-induced reassurance (“For your ages you’re both beautiful women!”) turns to sloppy smooching things get, well, weird. It’s a big ol’ slacker-hippy-polyamorist sandwich.

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“okaaayyy…”

“Two Beards, Actually….”
This season’s hard-assed captain of the prison guards is man-mountain and Zangief from Street Fighter look-alike, Piscatella. And he’s as gay as he is a harsh disciplinarian, outing himself to Piper in the most hilarious way possible after she flirtily compliments his beard. “I’ve had a beard since tenth grade. Two beards, actually. The one on my face, and the one I took to junior prom,” he tells a sort-of shocked Piper.

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“Yeah, I like dudes.” And just so she gets the message: “I will never find you adorable. Keep that in mind.”

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(Also: his put-down game is on point, like when he asks Luschek how he ended up working in a prison when he “so clearly belongs in a Game Stop”. Classic!)

Sister Ingalls punches Mendoza
Sister Ingalls (star of one of my favourite sight gags of last season when the viewers are shown a copy of her autobiography titled: Nun Shall Pass) is desperate to check in on poor, forgotten Sophia in the SHU. When a distraught Ingalls tells Mendoza that, as a peaceful activist, she has no idea how to get thrown into lock-up, Mendoza urges her to think of the greater good.

So, she punches a stunned, but impressed, Mendoza in the face before uttering a hilarious, though less-than convincing, parting shot: “And I’d do it again…Latino!”

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Palestine VS Israel
Recent convert to Judaism Black Cindy is less than thrilled to be paired with Muslim Alison Abdullah (whom she calls ‘Scarfy’) in episode 2. Soon, a squabble over whether Abdullah can leave her prison issue Crocs on the floor of the dorm prompts Litchfield’s very own odd-couple to engage in one of the funniest exchanges of the series.

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“…Unless the ‘V’ is like a five or something.”

When Cindy (who took the name Tova after converting to Judaism at the end of the last season) tells Alison “Oh, you and Tova got beef now,” Alison responds: “First of all your name ain’t Tova…black people been naming their kids some crazy shit, but Tova ain’t on the list.

“Unless the ‘V’ is like a five or something.”

Happily, all’s well that ends well between Abdullah and Tova and the pair eventually bond over their shared dislike of Scientology. Go figure.

Seasons 1-4 of Orange is the New Black are available on NetflixThis piece first appeared on The Outmost

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