Film Review: The Maze Runner

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The_Maze_Runner_13734231234328A mix between Lord of the Flies and The Hunger Games, the latest YA book to receive a Hollywood makeover is The Maze Runner. Like so often the story is set in a post-apocalyptic world and author James Dashner refrains from any vampire fangs or werewolf bites and centers his trilogy around a group of young boys.

Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) wakes up to find himself in a vacant filed surrounded by a group of modern day lost boys. He tries to make a run for it but soon discovers that the field is surrounded by towering stone walls with only a tantalizing gap into the unknown as a way out. But before Thomas can escape the boys catch up with him and he discovers a whole new problem, his memory has been wiped.

As Thomas struggles to remember, the boys explain that they all arrived exactly the same way he did, and they are trying to find a way out. This new found tribe have created their own form of society every one has tasks, everyone has rights but there are rules to follow too, the main one being: only runners are allowed into the maze.

Quickly Thomas adapts to this new world but as he learns about the maze hidden behind the walls, the Grievers that kill whoever ventures inside after dark and the mysterious letters W.C.K.D he decides he needs to leave and rescue everyone.

But when he breaks the rule and runs into the maze the carefully crafted world the boys have created threatens to collapse. And then, without warning, a girl is left for the boys to find, Theresa (Kaya Scodelario) and she seems to know more than they do.

The Maze Runner is a better than your average YA film, and it’s low-tech vibe and handcrafted charm adds to a retro feel, making it more believable than it’s excessively CGI’d contemporaries. The cast is well picked, teeny heartthrob Dylan O’Brien stepping out of his sidekick role in the 80s throwbacks Teen Wolf, makes for a strong lead and a buff hero. Camp bully Gally is perfectly played by Will Poulter, Ami Ameen cuts a good figure as the mature leader of the group Alby and lovable chubby kid Chuck is brilliantly captured by Black Cooper. Only the stunning Kaya Scodelario seems out of place as Theresa. But that may not actually be her fault as she is not really needed for the plot and has no real input to any of the twist and turns The Maze Runner takes.

Director Wes Ball has done well in translating James Dashner’s book onto screen, but he does take his time in setting up the story, giving background and building characters. However once the Grievers make their long legged, metallic scorpion-like appearance and the Maze begins to reveal its secrets the plot picks up speed. But since it is the first of a trilogy the ending is left open and those few YA who haven’t read the books are left wondering what the whole thing was really about.

The Maze Runner is enjoyable, just not really much more than that, it holds no real surprises and doesn’t really vary too much from any of those other blockbuster YA films out there. But if you like teenage action and a enjoy a bit of escapism, The Maze Runner may be just perfect for you.

‘pee’ enhancing decision making

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Ever had to make a decision about something and before you could make up your mind that tiny pressure from you bladder forced you to abandon your task and seek out the bathroom. Studies show however we should hold it in until we’ve made that decision.

If feels counter-intuitive but the urgency to pee actually enhances our decision making ability as researchers Mirjam Tuk and colleagues found out.

We all know that it isn’t wise to go food shopping with a grumbling tummy as we end up buying more, and often the food we buy turns out to be junk food: high in sugar and fats. And everyone knows that in the throws of passion all reason goes out the window, often leading to very poor decision-making.

The reason for this is that our minds react to certain visceral states (visceral states are characterized by intuition or instinct rather than intellect) and needing to ‘pee’ is one of them. But opposed to hunger or lust, the urge to relief ones bladder leads to a sense of urgency that encourages better decision making.
 
In tests Mirjam Tuk and her colleagues found out that the group who drank a lot of water, scored higher on the Stroop task (this is the exercise where you say the colour not the word the colour is written in ie: RED = blue not red)
 
The people with the full bladder were also better at making long term decisions. The test groups where asked to answer questions and could either receive a smaller monetary reward straight away, or wait three months and get the double amount. Those needing to pee were more willing to wait for the higher reward, which financially is the smarter decision.
 
And when given a word search puzzle, the group doing the “pee-dance” found it easier to find words, particularly those related to urination, like bladder, toilet etc.
 
So while we have all known that our visceral states influence what we do it now is clear if you need to make a decision, drink lots of water, clench those legs together and let your bladder decide for you.
 

It is only in our decisions that we are important.

Jean-Paul Sartre

my nephews birthday

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Today is my youngest nephews birthday, he is turning three and he is a proper big boy now.

When I went over to Germany to visit my family in August he demanded that I should tell him some stories. And since he was (and still is) in a pirate-phase I invented a pirate called Captain Funny One Tooth and made up adventurous tales to go along with him.

On Friday when I spoke to my nephew, he told me that I needed to write down the stories because his silly-billy parents didn’t know them. So yesterday, I sat down and wrote him a birthday story, a new story, one I hadn’t told him yet.

And to go along with story, since he can’t read, I drew him some pictures on my computer. I am particularly proud of the captain himself … and I hope my little nephew will like him too.

Captain Funny One Tooth - wearing his favorite T-Shirt

Captain Funny One Tooth – wearing his favorite T-Shirt

Weekly photo challenge – Nighttime

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I took this while in Finland. A Friend took me out to their cabin in the woods. After a long and very sweating time in the sauna I went down to the lake for a cold dip,  and my only company was the moon

I took this while in Finland. A Friend took me out to their cabin in the woods. After a long and very sweating time in the sauna I went down to the lake for a cold dip, and my only company was the moon

Last year I went to Rome and on my first night I took this photo of a lamp up near the Spanish Steps

Last year I went to Rome and on my first night I took this photo of a lamp up near the Spanish Steps

A few years ago a friend and I went on a trip down the Nile, it was a wonderful holiday filled with mystical adventures and tales of the ancient world. Every night we would make our way down the Nile on a lovely cruise ship and the sun setting over the water would always make me dream

A few years ago a friend and I went on a trip down the Nile, it was a wonderful holiday filled with mystical adventures and tales of the ancient world. Every night we would make our way down the Nile on a lovely cruise ship and the sun setting over the water would always make me dream

I am particularly proud of this photo. I took it while in St Petersburg and somehow the light was just perfect. I rested my camera on teh bridge I was standing on, terrified I'd drop it into the water, held it with my left hand , took the shoot with my right hand and hoped the picture would be clear. I think it worked quite well

I am particularly proud of this photo. I took it while in St Petersburg and somehow the light was just perfect. I rested my camera on the bridge I was standing on, terrified I’d drop it into the water, held it with my left hand , took the shoot with my right hand and hoped the picture would be clear. I think it worked quite well

 

it is done – the birdhouse has been hung

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birdhouseIf you read my post this morning (sunny Saturday) you’ll know that I wanted to hang up my birdhouse today. It has been long overdue and the little bakery (Backerei is the German word for it) has been making me feel guilty ever since I unpacked it after my trip to Germany in August.

So now I feel very happy that when I look out of my study window I see the little birdhouse perched on the wall, waiting for some hungry sparrows, cheeky starling, sweet blue and green tits and with lots of look maybe even a robin will venture by.

But since I do live very close to town I’ll have to just wait and see if those few feathered friends I have seen in the past find this new feeding place.

sunny Saturday

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Dublin seems to have decided that it is summer again, with temperatures above 18 degrees and the sun having fun high in the sky it really doesn’t feel as if October is just a few days away.

And while I should be sitting at my desk and working the sun keeps tempting me out. And since there are probably only a few days like this left in the year I think I may just be naughty and enjoy the nice weather.

So in a little while I will wander down to the garden, or maybe I’ll go to the beach, but for now I will do something I have been meaning to do for  quite some time now.

For Christmas last year I got a birdhouse, but since I was over in Germany and my suitcase was too heavy I had to leave it tucked away at my sisters. When I went over to see my siblings and other clan members in the summer I Was able to take the birdhouse back with me. And since then it has been patiently waiting for me to hang it up.

But that sounds more simple than it actually is, after all the birdhouse was designed to sit on a pole dug into the earth. My tiny back yard has no earth, no flower beds, nothing hat would allow me to dig a hole in.

So I have been trying to find a way to attach the house to the wall and the only thing I could come up with was a bracket. So I am going to give it  a go and see it it works. And hopefully, if I hang it they (the birds) will come … after all I would love to watch those feathered friends feed outside my window and entertain me.

A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.

writer Maya Angelou

a tasty treat

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oreo cupcake

After my letters filled with delightful surprises in the morning, yesterday afternoon continued on its delicious path.

Yesterday, while lecturing, I had to not only change classrooms, but buildings too. As I hurried down Castle Market, one of those tiny little streets you’ll find all over Dublin, I saw a few vendors setting up their stalls.

One lovely bearded man was organizing a mouthwatering selection of cookies and cupcakes: red velvet, blueberry, vanilla, coffee, chocolate, just to name a few of the flavours that were on display.

The cupcake dealer must have seen the glint in my eyes, or maybe a little droll in the corner of my mouth, because he called me over and offered me an Oreo cupcake. It was new in his range and asked if I’d like to give it a taste.

Not wanting to decline his offer but unable to lecture with cupcake in my mouth I was uncertain. But my bearded hero popped the cupcake concoction into a little plastic container and I was able to enjoy the unexpected gift later that afternoon.

So since yesterday was filled with so many lovely surprises I am not sure how today is going to compete. But who – knows maybe I should wait and see, after all there are still many hours left before the sun goes to bed, and a few hours in which the moon may encourage some excitement.

Thursday morning delights

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rosesWhen I came down for breakfast this morning the roses I bought myself yesterday greeted me, and their unusual colour, a dusky purply-pink, was even more stunning in the early morning sun. But that wasn’t the only thing that was waiting for me.

With a smile on my lips and a happy mood in my heart I went to check my mail and a few surprises awaited me. Between a few flyers, a bill and a bank-statement was a large silver envelope and a small brown one.

The large enveloped contained a night out – it’s contents were two tickets to next weeks cinema premier of Gone Girl in my favourite cinema the Savoy. Thinking things couldn’t get much better than that the small brown overdevelop was going to prove me wrong.

Inside was a cheque, one I have been waiting for for a while, but the surprise was that the figure printed on it was a lot higher than expected. And while it may not be millions, not even thousands, for me this pleasant surprise helps me with my October budget.

But Fortuna wasn’t done with me yet,  when I opened my emails I found my latest payslip and it too showed a higher figure than anticipated. What a way to start a day!

And since I meeting up the girls tonight the day promises to end as beautiful as it began, with lots of smiles, laughs and a skipping heart.

tickets

Film Review: Get-On-Up

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get-on-up-movie-james-brown-storyFunk, swagger and a lot of hair add up to the biopic that is Get-On-Up, a story about the life and music of the legend that is the “Godfather of Soul”: James Brown.

Raised in South Caroline Brown grew up in poverty, was handed around from relative to relative and at the age of sixteen he ended up in jail. His love for music was rooted in gospels but he found his first success through R&B and later established funk.

Working off no consistent timeline Director Tate Taylor jumps around Brown’s life story, throwing in bits of his early childhood, his troubled youth, his rise to stardom and his demise. It is a colourful potpourri of James Brown in his constant reinventions. But what makes it hard to follow is the array of characters that appear but are then never seen again.

And while the film is unapologetic about Brown’s flaws, his erupting temper, his drinking and drugs, his inability to stay away from beautiful women (he was married three times and has more than the nine children he acknowledged) over all it doesn’t really do the Icon James Brown justice.

However, whatever might be said of Get-On-Up ,one thing is certain, Chadwick Boseman’s performance as James Brown is magnificent to watch. He’s got the moves, the look and while he is mostly moving his lips to Brown’s vocals he definitely does capture those mesmerizing performances that made Brown famous.

As far as biopic go Get-On-Up isn’t bad, if a little messy but one thing is for sure, its star Chadwick Boseman and the music is worth the watch.

Film Review: The Equalizer

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Denzel-Washington-The-EqualizerA remake of a 80s TV series The Equalizer is familiar ground for Denzel Washington. The aging action hero, unlike Liam Neeson, has been saving the world from bad guys since the beginning of his career and his latest collaboration with director Antoine Fuqua is no different.

Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) works at a hardware store by day and sits and reads in a Hopperesque diner at night. Sticking to a routine is obviously some sort of coping mechanism but when McCall meets prostitute Lena (Chloë Grace Moretz) is tightly wound world begins to unwind, and all it takes is 28 seconds.

McCall decides to help Lena and takes out Lena’s Russian pimp but by doing so he unwittingly gets involved in a massive Russian crime syndicate. Unhappy about his loss of revenue the head of the organisation, Puskin (Vladimir Kulich), sends his enforcer Teddy (Marton Csokas) to kill the unknown troublemaker and soon people are killed, things are blown up and body parts end up where they really shouldn’t.

As the plot slowly lumbers on to a showdown in the hardware store you can’t help but wonder about the invincibility of McCall, could a 59-year-old really be as deadly as Denzel unwaveringly portrays him to be?

And that sums up The Equalizer’s weak spot: it just isn’t believable. While Denzel does cut a good figure as a close to retiring age ex CIA agent, his shirts can’t quite hide his middle-age spread and this doesn’t really convince us that he could highhandedly take down the Russian Mafia.

But the action sequences are entertaining, the showdown shot in a very unique location and Chloë Grace Moretz tugs at your heartstrings as call-girl Lena.

The Equalizer is engaging enough but just can’t quite reach the needed sizzle to make a really good action film. But it is obvious that there is an intention to follow The Equalizer up with a sequel, and who knows maybe the next storyline will be kinder to the aging action hero.

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