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Movie Review: "The Look of Love"

Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Length: 101 minutes

Release Date: July 7, 2013

Directed by: Michael Winterbottom

Genre: Biography/Comedy/Drama

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Paul Raymond (Steve Coogan) went from a humble beginning to emerge as one of the most notorious men in recent British history. He did so by opening England's first strip club, which made him enough money to go on and become a very successful real estate developer and publisher of pornographic magazines, the latter cemented his place as one of the richest men in the country. The story of his rise to fame, infamy, and fortune is at the heart of "The Look of Love."

Raymond opens that first strip club under fire because lots of people think he is bringing down decency standards and changing the fabric of society. Raymond disagrees with these assertions and uses some of the money he earns from his highly successful club to start a publishing empire, releasing titles such as Men Only and Escort among others. He smartly diversifies his holdings, investing in real estate all over the Soho neighborhood of London, which is how he gets the heady moniker, King of Soho. He throws lavish, hedonistic parties full of drugs and booze and with women who aren't bothered by the fact the reputed lothario has a wife and child waiting for him at home.

While Raymond is busy being the King of Soho to the outside world, things aren't so sunny in his personal life. His wife Jean (Anna Friel), tired of his constant philandering, takes him to divorce court where a bitter battle for his millions ensues.

He begins to groom his beloved daughter Debbie (Imogen Poots) to take over the company when he is ready to retire. Debbie, fighting demons of her own, tragically dies of a heroin overdose before she can take over the keys to the kingdom. This sends Raymond into a tailspin from which he may never recover. Sure, he has two sons, but he is never as close to them as he was to Debbie, who was the light of his life. Even with his remaining two children supporting him, Raymond becomes a shell of himself, putting his entire publishing and real estate empire in jeopardy.

Coogan turns in a fantastic performance as Raymond, who was one of the most powerful men in all the UK in his heyday. He gives a performance worthy of that power, portraying Raymond's often hedonistic ways with ease. Coogan's performance is finely layered, as the audience is acutely aware that no matter how crazy Raymond occasionally acts at a party, he always knows what he is doing. The man is always in control, even in drunkenness, because he doesn't really know any other way to be. Coogan delivers his lines with the cool confidence of someone who is always aware of his surroundings and what everyone is doing. This is Coogan's fourth film with director Michael Winterbottom, who previously directed him in "24 Hour Party People," "A Cock and Bull Story," and "The Trip." This is arguably the most complex character Coogan has had to play in any of their collaborations, but his familiarity with and trust in Winterbottom helps coax out an outstanding portrayal.

Another reason Coogan succeeds is because he has good material to work with in the form of the film's screenplay. Writer Matt Greenhalgh has slowly and quietly made the transition from television writer to screenwriter, with "The Look of Love" being just his fourth full-length movie script. Though he also occasionally dabbles in directing shorts or being an assistant director on larger productions, it is fairly clear that he is a writer at heart. It isn't easy to write a film based on a real person, especially one as notorious as Paul Raymond, but much ink had already been spilled over the man and the many myths surrounding him, so Greenhalgh had plenty to work with. Some of the stories about Raymond contradict each other, but Greenhalgh is careful to put together a script that lays out a clear picture of the man. The script is crafted well and paced perfectly for a film in this genre.

Raymond was known for bringing nudity to Great Britain and was a notorious womanizer to boot. Some may think that this made him a misogynist, but the opposite was actually true. He loved strong women and surrounded himself with them, not the least of which was his wife Jean, who is played by Friel with guts and gusto. Though Coogan's performance obviously stands out here, it is important to note that the women of this film nearly steal the show with feisty performances that are a happy revelation in a surprisingly good film.


How to Get Selected to Participate in a Reality Show

With television turning more and more toward reality shows, it has opened up the world of entertainment to you and me, common viewers. Suddenly, anyone can participate in show biz, but you are going to have a lot of competition. So, how do you manage to get selected to participate in a reality show? There are a few tricks that will help put you in the running.

Read the Instructions

The most important part of trying out for a reality show is to make sure that you read all the instructions first. These will go over the rules and what is required of you, a potential participant. Since a lot of people will mess this simple step up and not follow all the rules, leaving some things out, you'll find that you have a far better chance of beating out the competition if you ensure that your application conforms to everything they've asked for.

Practice, Practice, Practice

If you are aiming for a reality show that requires some talent, like American Idol or America's Next Top Model, then you need to start practicing now. Learn that song by heart and work out all the kinks before the audition. Strut your stuff up and down your living room until you have the diva walk down. Previous episodes of the reality show will give you pointers on how you can improve.


This might sound suspiciously like the previous tip, but there is a difference. While practice might make perfect, you will find that some reality shows like Project Runway, will require you to have things prepared. For example, you'll need to have some very well made garments ready to show the judges if you're going to be trying out for Project Runway!

Getting some credentials might help, as well. For example, many cooking shows look for chefs who have already studied and possibly even worked in a restaurant or two. You'll notice the token non-chefs in each show, but the majority of them have some credentials. This is all part of preparing for the audition process.

Make a Killer Application Video

Most reality shows require you to send in an application video before you will even be considered for an audition. There are a few things to keep in mind for the video.
Don't be boring. If you just stand there and talk or sing, chances are you'll be eliminated before you even get a face to face.

Be creative. The best videos are ones that show you from a unique angle and that capture the judges' interest right from the beginning. This isn't always easy, but if you are serious about getting on the reality show, then you can put in the time required to brainstorm a great video idea.

Keep it clean. A risque video might catch their attention, but in general, shows aren't going to be looking for the person with the best dirty joke or who bares all. Stay a little on the conservative side while having fun and you'll be more likely to get in.

Confidence Counts

Judges are far more likely to approve someone who is confident and friendly and who doesn't flip out over a little criticism, so take it easy.

There are many things that will help you get accepted for a reality show, but the best way to get on one is to simply make sure you meet the requirements. You might enjoy watching Top Chef, but if you've never cooked a meal in your life, it's probably not the best one to apply for. Instead, do your research and fill out your application carefully, following all the rules.


Movie Review: "Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me"

Rating: PG-13 (Drug references, language)

Length: 113 min

Release date: March 15, 2012

Directed by: Drew DeNicola, Olivia Mori

Genre: Documentary

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

"Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me" is a 2012 documentary film by directors Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori, which tells the story of a renowned Memphis band called Big Star. They may not have made it to the top of the charts, but the band certainly developed a cult following among country and rock fans. Although Big Star only produced three albums, those albums changed the course of music by influencing such music legends as R.E.M., Elliot Smith, and the Flaming Lips.

The life of a rock legend is often filled with controversy and drama, and that goes double for struggling musicians who never quite made it to the top. The documentary provides an interesting look into the mystery of success in the music industry. Big Star certainly wasn't lacking in talent and inspiration, as evidenced by their all-star list of fans. The film takes a deeper look inside the lives of Big Star's members and examines what they did wrong and, more importantly, all the things they did right.

"Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me" follows the journey of the band from their formation to the pinnacle of their success. The film includes testimonials and commentary from those who had significant roles in producing the band's music as well as famous artists who were influenced by Big Star's music. R.E.M., the Replacements, Pete Yorn, and the Flaming Lips are just a few famous guest appearances used to connect photos and videos of the band with a modern day audience. The directors managed to uncover large amounts of unseen footage, photos, and live performance clips, making "Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me" a definitive source for fans new and old.

Alex Chilton, the band's famous frontman, was no stranger to success. The documentary follows Chilton's musical career long after Big Star collapsed as a band, covering his reasonably popular 1978 single, "Can't Seem to Make You Mine." The song came out in the same year as the band's former guitarist, Chris Bell, produced his influential single, "I Am the Cosmos." The two singles are contrasted visually and musically, showing how unique each artist was and how they influenced the atmosphere of the band.

Directors DeNicola and Mori manage to do with this film what many documentary makers strive for but fail to accomplish. Even while discussing why Big Star failed to become a mainstream hit, the film focuses on the qualities of the band's music that inspired so many legendary musicians that came after them. "Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me" introduces Big Star's music to a whole new generation of music lovers while connecting the band's work with modern music tastes. Chris Bell, Alex Chilton, Jody Stephens, and Andy Hummel will resonate with fans of modern rock just as well as classic fans, thanks to the masterful job this documentary does of making their music come to life like never before. Big Star's music is remastered and their performances are shown in high quality that makes the audience feel as if they have center stage seating at a vintage concert.

"Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me" is the ultimate homage to the classic band. While Big Star had a short music career, their music affected the world of rock in such a deep way that their influence can be found in numerous modern bands and genres. The documentary highlights the ups and downs of their careers while focusing on the band members and their personal lives and struggles. "Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me" is a realistic, often gritty portrayal of what it meant to be in a rock band in the 1970s. While there are plenty of documentaries about bands who made it, this one is unique in that it focuses on a band that had all the right qualities that never quite got them where they wanted to be.

Strangely enough, "Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me" actually gives Big Star the recognition they worked so long and hard to achieve. While the band may not have multiple platinum records, it's obvious from the documentary that they have influenced the work of other musicians just as much as bands that reach the top of the charts on a regular basis. For this reason, DeNicola and Mori have earned their own place in the rock and roll documentary hall of fame. Whether you are a long-time fan of Big Star or simply a music fan looking to learn a little more about one of the bands who inspired the legends you love today, "Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me" is an entertaining and informative film to see.


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