Saturday, 22 November 2014

Mockingjay Part One: Film Review.

 Release Date (UK): 20/11/2014
 Rating: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Phillip Seymour-Hoffman, Julianne Moore.

Caution: Contains spoilers for the other books and films.  
When I started reading the Hunger Games back in early 2010, I never imagined it would produce a set of blockbusting films in the subsequent years to come.  Not to say it wasn't worthy of a book to film deal, the story, characters and plot are incredible; I just didn't imagine it.  I remember being recommended the book by a fellow book blogger, Sophie, on one of her mailbox posts and I was thoroughly intrigued.  A book about the future, a book about a dystopian society where inhabitants are split into districts, serving a power-hungry and oppressive capitol. A book about a society which makes young 'tributes' fight in a dangerous and televised battle to the death?  

So, three books and two films later; here we are.  Whilst I did enjoy the first two films, The Hunger Games and Catching Fire; Mockingjay was truly something else.  I elected not to review the first two films (you can see my book reviews on my alternative blog for books here (The Hunger Games) and here (Catching Fire)

 I remember taking an age to read Mockingjay, because I was so worried about how it would end.  It was a book that broke my heart into a million pieces for many reasons.  Part one of the film, has done the same; here's my review.

On a freezing, rainy Friday morning I got up to see Mockingjay: Part One at the cinema in the midlands, where I live.  It's one of those fancy cinemas with comfy, nice seating and leg room.  Coffee in hand, I prepared myself, as I've done for so many of the final films in my favourite series', for a few hours of immersion in fantasy. Catching Fire taught us one valuable lesson: the victors of the Hunger Games, who are promised prized fame and fortune, never truly escape; because no one escapes these vicious games.  The Mockingjay book already set the bar quite high - watchers and fans of the series and those who had seen Catching Fire, already know that this book/film is where all the events come to a head; when secrets are realised and a fresh rebellion is ignited.  

Katniss is now in District 13, a district that everyone thought was destroyed in the last uprising with a band of rebels who formulated a plan to get her out.  Katniss is now a symbol of a new uprising, a new rebellion.  But where is Peeta?  The Capitol is angry and it's only a matter of time before fresh conflict begins...

This film was absolutely astonishing.  I really don't know how else to describe it. Whilst the first two films and books have all the action and emotion of the games and of Katniss' new relationship with Peeta; this is something else.   Where the districts were once silently oppressed and tributes made examples of, in a war raging arena serving as an example to all, the threat of war and rebellion is echoing in the districts.  Katniss is to be the face of a cause, but with her spirits diminished by the last games and Snow's silent menacing threat of retaliation, it's difficult to see if she will be able to hold up.

Speaking of holding up, Jennifer Lawrence is one of the clear victors (no pun intended) of this film.  I doubted her abilities as Katniss in the first film, was more swayed in the second.  As a fan of the books previously, I always envisioned my own Katniss - and I found Lawrence a bit wooden in some scenes in the first film. But Lawrence employs the range of difficult emotions that Katniss experiences - from memories of terror to anger to grief.  She's believable, she's raw.  The emotion is almost tangible from the screen. 
Haunted by her own grief and guilt at leaving Peeta behind and pushed into the underground, structured routine of District 13, Katniss is not the girl on fire that everyone knew - a point made by President Coin (Julianne Moore). But I'd argue if she ever was that girl, unless inspired by the suffering of other people, like in the hospital bombing scene - she can't make it up on screen to be the face of the revolution, she has to be faced with real tragedy to become the girl they want her to be.
 Plutarch Heavensbee (the late, great Phillip Seymour-Hoffman) reassures her that given the right circumstance, she is the face they need to lead the campaign. Moore and Hoffman deliver in this film, Seymour-Hoffman's Plutarch Heavensbee almost menacing, propaganda-spinning genius waging to fight a rebellion.  Coin's deadpan, almost cold attitude is well acted by Moore.

Everyone steps up in this film, Gale is finally given purpose in the all-out invasion to save Peeta's life and Liam Hemsworth delivers Gale's usually longing puppy-dog looks with a new edge of raw emotion in scenes with Katniss. He delivers the heart-wrenching line about Katniss only noticing him when he's in pain; I thought it added an extra dimension to his character and their relationship.  Then there's Peeta, poor Peeta, who is now the Capitol's pawn - Josh Hutcherson's aching, wounded, weary acting is just incredible.  You'll have to watch it to see what I mean.

The film isn't without humour (as found in the loveable Effy Trinket) but packs more heart this time around.  Yes, it's been made into two films (a lot of people don't agree on this decision) but it's worth it - Part One shows us a rebellion and the beginnings of a difficult end, but it's Part Two that will surely pack the biggest punch.  Check out the trailer here:

Lushy goodness: Lush mini-haul.

One of my favourite brands of bathing, skincare and haircare is Lush.  I absolutely adore most of their products. I love the fact that their vegetarian and partly vegan and they don't test on animals.  Here's a cheeky mini-haul and part review of what I got from Lush this week.

 Firstly, I wanted a natural moisturiser that was a bit lighter, I've been using Soap and Glory's Sugar Crush Body Butter (the scent is amazing) but it feels a bit heavy on the skin for an every day use.  I tried a bit of this in the shop and the scent is sweet but subtle.  I tried it when I got home and it feels really light on your skin and the scent lasts all day.  I found this ideal in a moisturiser.  It's £12.95, so a tad pricey for every day use but like most things with Lush, you get what you pay for, and this is divine; it's vegan too.  

I also bought a Rose Jam bubbleroon but I used half of that in the bath last night.  This smells like my all-time favourite Lush scent of the same name, Rose Jam.  It's a lovely rosy, sweet floral scent.  I love Bubbleroons, they're like the perfect hybrid between a bath bomb and bubble bath itself.  

I also bought a Yuzu and Cocoa Bubbleroon.  I can review that right here and now because it's another one of my favourites.  It's meant to be a citrus scent with chocolatey undertones and has cocoa butter and grapefruit in it.  However, I think it smells of a zingy, sweet, orange chocolate type scent.  I only use half a Bubbleroon at a time (unless you want a supremely bubbly bath, then go for it!) but this makes it last and go a bit further.  My skin feels really soft and nourished after using both Rose Jam and Yuzu and Cocoa Bubbleroons, they're both great for a relaxing treat after a long day at work. 

I bought Big Blue, a bath Ballistic which smells very fresh and sort of ocean-y.  This has seaweed, seasalt, lemon oil and lavender; can't wait to try it.  It smells lovely.

Lastly and certainly not least; I bought a solid shampoo.  I was chatting to a lovely Lush sales lady about solid shampoos the other day, when she brought my attention to some new products.  They've released four new shampoo bars, one of which smells like my favourite Rose Jam scent.  Sold!  I picked up a bar of Jason and the Argan Oil (which shares its scent with Rose Jam Bubbleroon, the no longer available perfume, shower gel and Ro's Argan Body Conditioner) and can't wait to try it.  Apparently they have 23% less sodium laureth sulphate in than previous bars, so might not foam as much and maybe not cause as much of a hoo-ha over using such synthetics!  They're great value for money, either way, and with less chemicals - bonus!

That was this week's naughty Lush haul.  If you're a follower or a fellow Lush fan, get in touch with what you've tried and tested and if you have enjoyed any of the products in my haul.  It's always great to hear from people!

Thanks for reading!

N x

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The trip of a lifetime.

In February of next year I will be embarking on my first lone travel experience.  I've travelled to different countries in Europe and various cities in the UK; but this will be my first trip outside of Europe.  I'm embarking on what is essentially the trip of a lifetime.  It's expensive and has taken some careful, regimented planning on my part.  But I feel it will be totally worth the effort.

For years I've wanted to travel.  I considered going to Nepal, India, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.  All these countries appeal to my interests.  My dream, since I was a small child, was to visit Machu Picchu.  My mum has this big, coffee table style aerial photograph book.  It was full of pictures of the incredible ancient Inca sites.  I was instantly hooked.  This mysterious, incredible place was somewhere I simply had to go.

After seeing some friends of mine travel around South America, I decided to have a think.  I'm 25 years old, I've never travelled - and these realisations stirred something in me.  My previous partners loved travelling, but never seemed to have the interest or time to do it with me.  I found myself considering exactly what I was waiting for.  There is this great big, incredible world out there; and I realised I was missing it all.  I see the same things everyday, dull, UK life.  It was time for a change.  So I looked at a few trips, asked a new friend of mine (who loves travelling) for some advice - I picked up the phone a few days later and booked a deposit for a tour company to travel to Peru and Bolivia and experience the wonderful lands and ancients sites of the Incas.

Travel insurance, vaccinations, expensive flights, currency, safety, equiptment and various other planning later - there's three months to go and I simply can't wait.  The trip begins in Lima, Peru, taking on tours of the city before travelling into the Amazon to visit lakes and ancient ruins, the jungle and then beginning the three day trek to Machu Picchu, staying in South American houses, camping and much more before finishing in La Paz.

I simply can't wait and I wish I'd done this sooner!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Leaving home and leaving the past behind you.

 In April of this year I moved to a new city, got a new job, a new house and reconnected with one of my best friends, when we'd previously been drifting apart.  I was stuck in a rut, doing the same work, shifts ruled my life and a monotonous endless daily commute was pretty much taking over.

Even though work can be hard, I actually think leaving my home city was one of the best decisions I've made. I've made new friends, discovered a new city and become closer to one of my best friends (and now housemate). I'm planning trips halfway across the world and getting excited about festivals and the future. I've realised you don't really need a man or an excess of friends to be happy, you just need the right people, yourself and the right state of mind to succeed. I don't need the past, I don't need what was painful and difficult, but I'm grateful for everything I've experienced, because I'm stronger as a result.

I miss my family and my two other best friends like crazy, but of course, they all have lives without me.  But I don't really miss anyone else. Maybe one or two others.  I doubt anyone else misses me or gives me a second thought. But that's fine, that's life I guess.  I've learned that the people who care, the people who deserve to be in your life will make the effort to do so and everyone else will just fall away.  But if they forget about you and ignore you, if they breeze in and out of your life like an errant breeze, were they ever worth your time anyway?  Probably not, so I won't waste another minute thinking, blogging or status updating about them. 

So here's to a new future, to making plans, to celebrating life and health and being grateful for what you've got. 

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Lost in the wilderness of life.

Today I travelled to work like any other day. It was cold, it was wintery, it was windy and dark.  It was 6 am and I noticed a pigeon huddled on the floor in the train station, very still, very fragile, not flinching from those who stepped over it.  I noticed how it didn't move, I noticed how people didn't even pay it attention or glance at it.  I'd had four hours sleep and was working back to back long shifts and I still SAW it and realised something was amiss.  Now pigeons are frequently called 'sky rats' and 'vermin', more often than not by idiots who don't care to understand them, much less appreciate that they're extremely intelligent birds who are forced to live in our urban environments every day.  They're normally the people who let their children chase the pigeons, drop their hideous litter and force these birds to scrape a living from scraps of McDonalds burgers and Greggs' sausage roll pieces.  They're the people who don't think outside the box.  I digress. 

Something urgent startled me by this pigeon.  Most pigeons run out of the way when humans plunder towards them.  He/she stayed deadly still.  I knelt down to see if I could see any noticeable injuries, apart from some green bird poo, there was nothing. So I looked at him a little more, he cocked his head to one side in some strange form of understanding.  Then I had to get my train.  I could have hung myself for being so selfish and not helping him further.  I rang my mum and burst into tears on the train because I was so guilty.  I then proceeded to ring the RSPCA and tell them about it.  As I was nearly at work and not at the scene, the woman I spoke to explained she couldn't send anyone out but they would monitor and listen for more calls and I should check the area on my way home (which was another 12 hours later).  I did check, he/she had gone. 

At work I was greeted by the fact that foxes and pigeons are 'vermin'.  I could have screamed.  

I feel like the people who call them this must have some bigger part of their soul missing. To not feel for a creature on the basis that ignorance and peer pressure and media attention has given you reason to hate them, it's ridiculous.  I read an article the other day in the Guardian that basically said, we don't understand animals, they're not any less intelligent than we are, we just don't UNDERSTAND them.  Or we don't try to.  I sometimes think it's the latter. 

I'm trying desperately not to get bogged down by the terrible things that happen in this world. Even normal, every day people can come out with such crap!  My point in the pigeon story was how terrible I felt, how I just walked away.  Animals are our friends. They have a natural order, a circle, a beginning and end that doesn't involve prolonging life to extreme states.  It doesn't involve families have more and more children whilst those in third world countries struggle to grasp onto their lives.  We're destroying this planet, we're blundering through resources and fuels like there's no tomorrow.  Even more cures for cancer? More children? Where will these people fit, how will we support them?  The prospect of life and a life well lived isn't of value, it's how much we can prolong and extend it, irrespective of quality or what happens to the generations after it.  A certain proportion of people need to die for population control. It's not cruel, it's fact, it's natural selection, it's a means to stop the whole world suffering.   

Now tell me that fox or that pigeon is vermin. They're far more intelligent than us.