Monday, 19 December 2016

2016 in review: music

Look at me, making blog posts and not acknowledging the fact it's been radio silence from me for the past three months. Well, they've been shit anyway and I don't like to dwell on negativity. So without further ado, here's some of my favourite music from this year! I may want to leave most of 2016 behind, but these albums will accompany me into the new year as welcome friends.

Dodie - Intertwined (honourable EP mention no.1)

I've been watching dodie (aka doddleoddle) for several years, seeing her grow in confidence and popularity on youtube. Last month she finally released her first EP, and it leaves you with the exact same feeling that her videos do - it's like she's talking (or in this case singing) right in front of you, face to face. In the most powerful songs, 'Sick of Losing Soulmates' and 'When' she explores topics of mental health and modern romance with remarkable eloquence and honesty, and tops it off with gorgeous harmonies and resonant backing vocals, taking a step away from her usual minimal style. It's incredible and inspiring to see how far she's progressed; I feel as proud of her as I would of any one of my 'real life' friends. Her sense of humour and mischief also still makes an appearance in fan favourite 'I Have A Hole In My Tooth.' No matter which song you picked, it could 100% be in the background of an indie rom-com, akin to Alex Turner's sublime soundtrack for Richard Ayoade's Submarine. Short and most definitely sweet, this is a warm hug and mug of tea in musical form.

Hayley Kiyoko - Citrine (honourable EP mention no.2)

In 2016 I let go of my inhibitions and admitted to myself that it was OK to like pop music, and Hayley Kiyoko is probably the best example of that. I first discovered her through her iconic music video for 'Girls Like Girls' and fell completely in love. The song was definitely not a one-hit wonder; Citrine is a sugary, poppy delight with back-to-back singable hits. (Also still releasing incredibly enjoyable music videos for her new releases, by the way) She's doing wonders for the visibility and positive representation of both young women of colour and bisexuality/sapphic relationships; I wish people would stop being bitter about how much they hate Halsey and go listen to Hayley Kiyoko instead. She may have started off as a Disney star, but she's becoming one of the most exciting young female pop artists there is.

Lady Gaga - Joanne 

After the failings of her last full-length effort ARTPOP, it became clear that Lady Gaga needed to make some changes, and that she did in Joanne. But the most refreshing thing about this record is that it's clear all these changes were made of her own free will. This is the most personal Gaga has ever been in her music, and for a woman (in)famous for making outrageous 'statements' that is even more impressive. The record may not be her most cohesive or her most catchy, but it gives the most insight into a person who has, until now, only been seen as a soulless conduit for contemporary social issues and 'culture'. Not every song is a hit, but there's so much range of musical style on Joanne that there's bound to be a song you'll enjoy. You might find the transition between the dance-floor beats of 'Perfect Illusion' and the pensive piano chords of 'Million Reasons' jarring, but in this album, it's clear that Lady Gaga is finally an artist who is exploring and owning her originality, rather than playing and manufacturing it. 

Childish Gambino - Awaken, My Love!

It's official, Donald Glover can do anything. He sneaked in right at the end of a shitty year with the hotly anticipated follow-up to 2013's because the internet and decided to change genres completely. The result is is a sensual, spiritual, funky, soul-filled explosion, wholly unexpected and yet totally Gambino. He still effortlessly combines the old and the new; influences from legends like Clapton, Hendrix and Prince are clear, but injected with a modern twist complete with distortion, artistic auto-tune and excellent production value. True, you still might not know what he's on about when he sings about a peanut butter chocolate cake with Kool-Aid, but who cares? Not many people can make singing about the boogie-man sexy, but this man can.

David Bowie - Blackstar

'When a man sees his black star, he knows his time has come...' these lyrics come from an Elvis Presley song, and could have been one of Bowie's inspirations for this album, released just days before his death. There have been countless fan theories and 'explanations' surrounding this album, its release, its cover art and its 'meaning'. You can't blame them; it's been a way to keep him alive. I've never been more than a casual fan of David Bowie, but the day he died, I lay on the couch and cried for hours. I couldn't understand what was wrong with me - I think maybe it was disbelief, that a man who had not seemed like a man at all, was in fact devastatingly mortal just like the rest of us. Although I've not got involved in the discussions about the big puzzle that is Blackstar, I believe that's maybe what he was trying to communicate in this album - his humanity and mortality. It doesn't have the accessibility of pop hits like 'Heroes' or 'Fame'; it's murky and moody and thoughtful, and real. You probably won't want to sing along to this album. Instead, you'll hear the words 'look up here, I'm in heaven' and you'll probably cry a bit. But not all music needs to make you feel good. It just needs to make you feel

Jamie T - Trick

Jamie T, the marmite of the UK indie kids' music tastes.  Thankfully, I love marmite. I'll be the first to admit that I was doubtful when I heard the first single 'Tinfoil Boy' which sounded like it could have been written by a bunch of drunk neds on the last train home, but thankfully the rest of this album is an absolute treat. Although there's less rambling about his wild night outs in London town, Jamie returns to the excitement and gutsy sound that was largely missing from 2014's Carry On The Grudge, and instead opts to tell the tales of various historical misfits such as Joan of Arc, Solomon Eagle and Robin Hood. It's definitely his most ambitious record to date, combining a host of musical styles into a dozen songs. Songs like 'Tescoland' and 'Sign of the Times' will undoubtedly become staples on Jamie's setlists for his incredible live shows (you'll come out battered and bruised, but it's worth it). He's back to his old brilliance and I hope he never stops.

Frank Ocean - Blonde

If you'd told 16 year old Kirsty that her favourite album of 2016 was Frank Ocean's Blonde, she'd probably laugh in your face. In fact, she'd probably say, 'Who's that???' Yeah, I'll admit it - I only started listening to him last year. At this point I was really excited because I heard he had a new album coming out. Then it got pushed back. And pushed back. And I basically lost hope that it was ever going to get released. Then magically a feature length video-album was uploaded - I started an Apple Music membership for this man. Soon after, Blonde was released. I cleared my schedule and did nothing but listen to it from start to finish. It was a fantastic decision. This is an album designed to be listened to in full; each song fades into the next effortlessly, and if it doesn't, there's an interlude to lull you over. The album is incredibly intimate - the fact that his own mother's vocals are more prominent obvious than that of Beyoncé or Kendrick Lamar (both of which I didn't realise actually featured on the album until I was reading up about individual tracks) displays this pretty well. In a world where police brutality, wrongful incarceration and demonisation of black people is all too common, Frank Ocean showing his emotional fragility is a radical act. His vocals are stronger than ever, showcased on songs like 'Self Control' and my personal favourite 'Seigfried.' I'm so glad I've become more open minded in terms of my musical tastes in order to enjoy triumphs such as this. 

Until next time,

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

movies with kirsty: kubo and the two strings

I went to the cinema yesterday on a whim to see Kubo and the Two Strings. I knew next to nothing about it, other than that it was made by Laika who also produced Coraline, one of my favourite animated movies. I had probably seen one, maybe two posters for it on the side of a bus. Once the film started rolling there were probably only around half a dozen people sharing the room with me. All I want to know is, why isn't this film getting more recognition? Why isn't it being advertised everywhere? Why isn't everyone having conversations about Kubo?

This film is honestly, truly magical. Never before has stop-motion seemed so beautiful, engaging and quite honestly breathtaking. If your childhood was comprised of watching every single episode of Wallace and Gromit (as mine was) and marvelling at the dedication of the artists once you discovered they were made out of clay, Laika is about to blow your mind. The sheer amount of detail is astounding; it is not just the people who are bursting with individuality and character but the animals, the buildings, the elements of water and fire, and of course Kubo's paper creations. Any previous problems with stop-motion animation have been resolved with the help of technology - the action taking place in front of a green screen allowing for smooth day to night transitions and explorations of all sorts of climates, whether it be a snowy tundra, tempestuous ocean storm or a hazy dreamland. The opening line of the whole film is 'If you must blink, do it now.' Indeed, the scenes that unfold in front of you will make you regret closing your eyes for even a second.

The story itself is also full of wonder and fantasy, although perhaps leans too far towards whimsy on occasion. It tells of young boy Kubo, hunted by his evil grandfather and aunts who wish to steal his other eye (they already succeeded in taking one when he was a baby) in order to make him immortal, yet unfeeling and heartless to the world. He must find his father's armour in order to defeat them, and is accompanied and helped along the way by a surly yet caring monkey, a forgetful yet charming man cursed to live as a beetle, and a small paper warrior who is mute yet helpful. In a nutshell, this is your typical hero's journey, complete with orphaned protagonist, comic relief sidekicks and plenty of convenient plot developments/deus ex machina. The film often makes reference to stories and their construction, Kubo as the 'hero', suggesting self-awareness, but in some points it is not too subtle, and seems like the writers just wanted to create a good story with a beginning, middle and end. There is a strong plot arc, even if it's resolved pretty quickly to make for a good conclusion. And there's nothing wrong with that - at the end of the day it is a family film. If you want something complex you can watch Memento.

The movie definitely benefits from its setting in ancient Japan, allowing for some satisfying details and magical realism to emerge. Kubo's enchanted shamisen (his stringed instrument) and origami-that's-not-quite-origami are two particularly fantastic elements which are both relevant to the plot and pay homage to traditional Japanese culture in a respectful way. Although it would have been especially brilliant if they had carried this on by casting more Japanese -or at least Asiatic- actors in major roles, those actually in the film do a good job. The emotive and imposing Ralph Fiennes is of course a particular stand-out as the Moon King - he just does a villain so well. Art Parkinson, recently of Game of Thrones is endearing and enjoyable as protagonist Kubo, despite his occasional slips in accent. And you'll be happy to know George Takei gets his signature 'oh myyyyy' in, although his character has very little dialogue. (Side note. Charlize Theron's voice is just way too sexy for a monkey.)

Overall, this is a simply stunning film, with themes of grief, family, destiny and retribution throughout. It will amaze you, amuse you, and it may even make you cry (I definitely shed a few tears at the end). If you're a parent, please take your kids to see it, and if you're not, go see it anyway. Supporting films like this is so important! They can't get made if we don't watch them.

Until next time,

Thursday, 18 August 2016

my favourite youtubers

I have been watching youtube videos for about 7 years. Times have definitely changed since the only person I watched was charlieissocoollike, and certainly not always for the better. However, there are a few creators that keep me coming back to the website time and time again. (I appreciate the irony of doing this in blog post form... although I've always wanted to, I'm not confident enough to make videos myself.) So today I'm going to talk about some of my favourites - hopefully I might mention someone you've not heard of and could enjoy too!

agent XPQ / tales of mere existence

Agent XPQ or Lev uses his channel to talk about moments in his life, and animates them by drawing on tracing paper in a basic, cartoonish style. Both the topics and the animation are simplistic, as banal as visiting the supermarket. However, Lev's thought process leads us through crazy tangents and turns these simple things into musings about life and the state of the world today (spoiler alert: it's kind of a mess). The tone of his videos is often hopeless, depressing and even nihilistic, but they're also infinitely relatable, witty and hilarious. His artistic style is very accessible and enjoyable, and it's great to see how inventive he gets to portray certain things with only a pencil and paper.

angelina / albinwonderland

Ang is just the loveliest. Her videos with the most popularity are the ones about her pink hair, but her channel is so much more than a beauty blog (although her hair/makeup/cosplay tutorials are also completely wonderful and mesmerising and I love her look and style so much). I first discovered her through a video on 'Fake Geek Girls' and discovered her to be an incredibly intelligent woman who could talk about feminist issues in a way that was relatable and funny. She unashamedly calls herself a geek and enjoys so called 'nerdy' things, while simultaneously calling out the problems within the culture. As if that weren't enough, she's also an incredibly talented artist, an active part of the LGBT community, speaks about her mental health issues candidly, and just seems like she would be an amazing friend.  Also she is absolutely beautiful and the aesthetic of her videos is so adorable. Watch her right now.

PJ liguori / kickthepj

PJ is one of the most creative people online at the moment. Not only does he create short films with captivating plots, unique characters and otherworldly creatures; he also takes run-of-the-mill videos and puts his own spin on them, creating content that is simultaneous satirical imaginative fun (eg. 'my first girlfriend' or '10 things I look for in a girl'). On his channel you can also find original music and themed Q&As that are genuinely enjoyable. PJ also has a second channel called PJthekick where he often details his creative/thought/organisational process, has an informal chat, or just uploads some weird shit. In general, all of his videos are innovative, colourful and unique, and he really inspires me to create more.

dodie clark / doddlevloggle

No, this is not a typo or a mistake. Dodie is most successful on her main channel doddleoddle where she mostly posts original songs and covers - which are all completely amazing! She creates wonderful harmonies and has a lovely soft, calming voice. But her second channel is really special to me. You will also find music on doddlevloggle, but often pieces that are not as polished or perfected. This vibe is continued in all her videos on this channel - it's the unfiltered Dodie. Her discussions on mental health, although occasionally upsetting, are refreshingly honest and true. So are her videos talking about youtube 'culture', the creator/viewer divide and making money on youtube. I also love Dodie's informal, unscripted chats and her monthly vlog series that she occasionally uploads. It may sound dumb, but this channel makes me feel so much closer to her as a human. Doddleoddle makes me envious of her talent, but doddlevloggle softens that completely and just makes me want to have a cup of tea and a chat with her.

just between us

You may recognise Gaby and Allison from old Buzzfeed videos. They have since progressed and now run their own show on youtube; advice videos on Mondays, comedy sketches on Thursdays. They are best friends IRL anyway, so their natural chemistry is reason enough to watch them. They constantly play on the shipping culture that's so prevalent on tumblr, using lots of clickbait thumbnails and 'will-they-won't-they' moments. It's all the more believable due to the canon they've invented for their channel - or is it actually real? Was Gaby really in love with Allison at one point? The 'characters' they play in their videos simply seem to be exaggerated versions of themselves, so sometimes it's hard to tell which stories are true or false. No matter what, their content is consistently current and hilarious. Although I love their youtube channel, I can definitely see them going on to bigger and better things.

This post could go on forever, so I'll just list some more honourable mentions:

  •  Olan Rogers - possibly the most likeable man in the world. The best laugh, behind only Seth Rogen.
  • Savannah Brown - poetry, music, feminism and all sorts of lovely stuff
  • Nathan Zed - social commentary that is both laugh-out-loud funny and honest
  • Darksquidge - the dude behind asdfmovie getting real about his mental + physical health and life in general
  • Lex - her brand of sardonic, dry humour is a constant in her videos and my absolute favourite

Until next time,

Friday, 12 August 2016

where have I been?

This is my first post in around 5 months. I wish I had a good reason for abandoning my blog for this long; I was writing my first novel; I was inspired by a youtube video and made a split-second decision to stop using the internet; I went on a trip around the world in an effort to find myself. However, none of these are true - to answer the question in the title of this post, I have not been anywhere. In many ways, I feel like I have been sitting still for too long. (Remember that scene in Twilight: New Moon when Edward left and there was a montage of the seasons changing as Bella sat in the same seat for months on end? I used to make fun of it, but...) As I'm sure you'll agree, I've decided I really don't want to follow in the footsteps of Bella Swan, so I've been trying to sort out all the nonsense in my head - hence the long-awaited blog post.

Wearing the Depression Hoodie™️
Around this time last year I was getting ready to move into student halls in Edinburgh for my first year at university. Overall this was an overwhelming, exciting and fairly positive experience. On my course especially I found lots of people with similar mindsets, beliefs and interests - a complete novelty for me. I found myself gaining confidence to speak in tutorials and even a couple of lectures, because I felt reassured and comforted by my peers.


So, I would leave my university campus feeling energised - then I would go back to halls. Which leads me to the other side of the double-edged sword that I have not yet mentioned. On one hand, uni was a great -perhaps the best- opportunity to meet new people and friends (which I totally have, by the way). However, it was also all to easy to completely isolate myself from everybody. When you aren't close to anyone around you, there is nobody to check up on you or chastise you for being antisocial. Initially I found this deliciously freeing - I had an entire city to explore and I could do it all by myself! I walked absolutely everywhere, getting my bearings, finding shortcuts, discovering hidden gems in a capital city.
Furthermore, since my flat's communal area was harsh, cold and decidedly inhospitable I could go full days without having a proper conversation with another human being. I justified this by telling myself I was practising self-care; I was just having a 'me' day. I have now realised that having five of these in a row is not self care, and can in fact be pretty unhealthy (not just in the mental sense, but also in the 'if I'm not leaving the house I may as well just order 2 for Tuesday pizzas from Domino's and eat them for the next 3 days' way).


On the other side, the literal distance between me and my schoolfriends was not helping. Not only I am notoriously bad at virtual conversations, but I became increasingly paranoid that they had all lost interest in me and consequently lost the courage to message them out of fear that I was irritating them. Days of not speaking turned into weeks, which turned into months. I am aware that this is mostly my own fault for being ridiculous - which makes it more frustrating that I have lost people I cared about.

By the end of the 'school' year in April I had grown closer to my new friends and participated a bit more (it's definitely easier once you turn 18) but I didn't have enough money and hadn't planned far enough ahead to stay in Edinburgh for the summer. So I got a job and moved back into my bedroom at home. Objectively I have not had a very good summer: it has either been spent working, watching Big Brother (shameful I know) or burying myself in books. However, all this time spent alone has led me to think a lot about who I am as a person, what my limits are, figuring out what makes me happy, what my best selfie angle is...


Although I don't have all the answers yet, I'm certainly on my way to figuring out who I am. I've certainly learnt that although I enjoy spending time alone, I can't blame introversion for isolating myself from everybody. Although it doesn't make me unhappy, it's also true that it doesn't always do wonders for my mental or physical health. In fact, I would say my creativity especially has suffered lately. So I'm going to try (no definite promises) to make a bit more of an effort this year - making friends, making art, making memories. They're all important - hence this blog post. Hopefully see you again soon!


Wednesday, 9 March 2016

feminism and 'responsibility'

As much as I wish I could say that I was disputing gender roles from my pram and questioning patriarchal values in the playground, I'll admit that I only started thinking about these concerns in the past few years. The internet made me a feminist - something I'm sure I have in common with others of my generation. I read incredible, moving pieces on tumblr, I realised some of my former favs were problematic, I cried at Emma Watson's UN speech.

Even more recently, the internet challenged me to consider intersectionality. It's changed the way I see the world, the way I read history and the way I address others. It's made me realise that other women experience sexism in vastly different, and increasingly troubling, ways. Most of all, it's made me acknowledge just how lucky I am.

art by jamie kapp

I live in a developed country, I'm from a (lower) middle class family, I'm white. This means I have it better than a lot of people! Accepting your privilege is important, but it also sets up various conundrums, especially online. What right do I have to complain about a builder cat-calling me on the street when girls across the world are being denied education, forced to become child brides or enduring FGM? Should I even attempt to discuss these things if I (or nobody I'm acquainted with, for that matter) have never, and will never experience them, or will I simply sound ignorant? DO I HAVE TO TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING ON TWITTER IF I CLAIM TO BE AN INTERSECTIONAL FEMINIST?

Which leads me on to another reason I consider myself pretty lucky: although I'm sure it's has its perks, I'm glad I'm not a famous person with an online following...especially one that calls themselves a feminist. When the lovely Felicia Day spoke out about discrimination in the gaming community in 2014, she received an onslaught of abuse and threats. On the other side of the spectrum, Taylor Swift was recently called out for not vocalising her support for fellow musician Kesha in her trial against her abusive producer Dr Luke - despite the fact that she privately donated $250,000 to her. (We're not going into the other problems I have with TSwift right now.) Is social media now so important that any other show of solidarity is irrelevant? Do celebrities have a responsibility to address social issues rather than to promote themselves?

Freedom of speech and expression is a basic human right, but it can also be dangerous. (Exhibit A = Donald Trump.) We live in a curious state of limbo where we can post anything we want online, but censorship is still a major part of our everyday lives. Consequently when people -namely celebrities- exercise their right, but say/post something that's slightly out of line, there will always be others who freak out.

yeah!! topless mila kunis!! u cant see her nipples though. nipples are gross

Only two days ago, Kim Kardashian tweeted a (95%) nude photo online, provoking responses from fellow celebrities like Chloe Moretz and Pink that barely disguised their internalised misogyny. I was heartened to see most of my timeline defending Kim. (Again, the quarrels I have with the Kardashians surrounding their cultural appropriation etc are not being discussed today.) The negative comments I did happen across seemed to center around the fact that she 'has children', 'is a mother', 'has a responsibility.' Sorry, remind me what year it is? Is it really so difficult to believe that a woman can be a mother and take pride in her body? If I'm being honest, I can't put it better than Kim herself:


Kim's motives aside, I think the message here is important: allow people, and allow women, to speak for themselves. Although I agree that 'self-proclaimed feminists' need to be vocal to a certain extent, we shouldn't bully and victimise well-intending people for not immediately speaking out about an issue. Maybe their phone just ran out of battery. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that you can call people out on their bullshit, but give them an equal chance to explain their side or understand the problem. Who knows, maybe you'll even teach them something - being considerate really goes a long way. As my mother used to tell me, manners cost nothing.

PS. Yeah, I'm back. It's been a while.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

2015 in review

At the start of this year, I made a rather vague set of new year's resolutions. As we've only got one day left of 2015, I thought it was about time to revisit them!


The first thing I really wanted to achieve was my Goodreads challenge of reading 50 books. I actually exceeded my goal and extended my challenge to 60 books. Some people might say I'm a bit of a cheater since I study English at university, but I love reading so much that most of the books I read this year were for pleasure.
Here are some of my favourite reads of 2015, along with a tantalising one word review...

  • The Outsiders by S.E Hinton - stunning.
  • The Green Mile by Stephen King - heart-breaking.
  • Fingersmith by Sarah Waters - surprising.
  • The Princess Bride by William Goldman - ridiculous.
  • The Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling - ...duh.

hate to be that guy but if you've only seen the film, PLEASE read the book too

One of the major events in my summer holidays was my first ever festival, T in the Park. I had such a great time; some of my standouts were Kasabian, The Proclaimers and Jamie T. The constant mud, overpriced food and portaloos (which should probably be renamed death traps), I could have lived without...but it was all part of the experience. 

However, my favourite gig of the year was without a doubt Muse at the Barrowlands. They've been my favourite band for about 9 years and I'd seen them before already, but had resigned myself to the fact that I'd probably never see them in a small venue. I was wrong!!! I also had the opportunity to meet the band, which was so surreal and incredible. To top it all off, I ended up getting barrier! Probably one of the best days of my life, let alone of the year.

~ enjoy my shitty gig photography ~

For my 17th birthday, I received the Buffy the Vampire Slayer boxset - the show rapidly became my favourite thing in the universe and I got so excited before watching new episodes, especially around season 5. SO GOOD. But that's not to say I let it stop me from getting addicted to multiple new TV shows - some more things I watched this year include Buffy's spin-off, Angel, Parks and Recreation, How To Get Away With Murder, Daredevil, The Mighty Boosh and Master of None. Right now I'm really into Reign and Gilmore Girls. 


Okay, so my life has changed a lot in a year. I moved away from home, started university at Edinburgh Napier, made new friends, and got my first job. Most of it has been a huge learning curve for me; I'm more independent and confident now than ever, which I'm really glad about. However I've became so comfortable in my own company I think it's made me a bit antisocial, so I'll need to work on that. 
Lastly, I did keep my diary all year! I didn't write every day, but every month of 2015 is down in writing and I'm pretty proud of that. 

I hope 2015 has been a good year for you, and if it hasn't, don't worry! 2016 will be better.

Friday, 18 December 2015

movies with kirsty: the force awakens

First of all, breathe. If you've been worrying whether Episode VII will live up to the hype or not, set your mind at ease. For the first time in over 30 years, I think we can finally agree - Star Wars is back.

The traditional opening credits and music give you an immediate sense of familiarity that stays with you throughout the film. It's not just the reintroduction of the characters you know from the original trilogy; The Force Awakens induces a unique kind of déjà vu through plot points, in-jokes in the dialogue and even camera angles. Some people might argue that JJ Abrams is pandering to his audience with the sheer amount of fan service, but there's no denying that warm fuzzy feeling that the references give you.

Of course, it was unbelievably emotional seeing beloved characters like Han, Leia and Chewie on screen and back together again. But the new introductions did a remarkable job of slotting in to the formidable franchise and interacting with both each other and the veterans. John Boyega is a particular standout as Finn/FN-2187, revealing his uncertainty - and slight dorkiness - even in his initial introduction whilst wearing a Stormtrooper uniform. Oscar Isaac's Poe Dameron is instantly charming, although his motivations remain unclear along with complexities of character - by the end of the movie, he still appears to be just a damn swell guy and a great Resistance fighter pilot. Similarly, we are left with several questions about Rey, although Daisy Ridley's performance is sensitive and authentic.

Rey, Finn and of course the adorable BB8
Unless you've really done your research or are incredibly skilled at voice recognition, you'll be hard pushed to recognise big name actors such as Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis and Lupita Nyong'o, although I suppose they add more appeal - if that's even possible for perhaps the most publicised movie ever. I was also left slightly disappointed by the role of Captain Phasma, played by the delightful Gwendoline Christie. Her character's appearance on the poster is slightly misleading, as she has limited screen time and doesn't play a very active role as an antagonist. I suppose there's only so much you can fit in one movie!

Thankfully the Dark Side is well represented in the sneering General Hux, enigmatic Supreme Leader Snoke, and of course, our major villain Kylo Ren. Played by Adam Driver, he provides a multi-dimensional and complex villain for the Star Wars franchise - a refreshing change from the all-conquering 'I'm so evil' vibe of Vader (yeah so the prequels humanised him, whatever). I'm intrigued to see how the events of The Force Awakens take their toll on him in episode VIII.

every story needs a good old-fashioned villain with a cool black helmet and a cape

My favourite thing about this film was definitely how really, truly funny it was. Han Solo has always provided some witty and dry remarks, but he seems to have taken on more of his actor Harrison Ford's personality, becoming a hilariously grumpy old cynic. His interactions with new recruits Finn and Rey make for some great entertainment.

Admittedly, minute details are kind of glossed over in this film; the intentions and rulings of 'First Order' who are now in control remain out of focus, other than that they're obviously oppressive. However, it's true that jokes, fast action scenes and lightsaber battles are a lot more entertaining than talk about politics and dictatorships. Overall, JJ Abrams did a terrific job of reintroducing Star Wars to the world in a way that honoured the originals but created a fresh and exciting new film. I can't wait to see what will happen next - after all, this is only the beginning.