Weekly Photo Challenge: Cover Art

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As someone who loves to read and as someone who designs magazines I have to admit that I sometimes pick the books that i buy based on their cover. Sometimes it’s the title of the book, sometimes it’s the blurb on the back but sometimes if I like the look of a book I may just pick it up and purchase it.

Now I know that many believe you “cannot judge” a book by it’s cover, but I don’t believe that to be true, if I don’t like the dustcover, if it doesn’t speak to me or if it shows me that the book is based in a specific genre I do judge a book by it’s outer appearance, whether or not that is a good thing.

And yes, maybe I don’t end up reading some very good books because my method of choice rules them out, but sometimes I end up reading surprisings ones, ones only end up on my shelf because I like the look of them.

Very elegant, reflecting it's title.

Very elegant, reflecting it’s title.

I love the black lined pages

I love the black lined pages

The spine repeats the simple design

The spine repeats the simple design

Film Review: This is where I leave you

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maxresdefaultAfter the abysmal August Osage County, This is where I leave you is another painfully humourless attempt at a family drama.

When Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) walks in on his wife Quinn (Abigail Spencer) having sex with his boss (Dax Shepard) he unravels, unsure of who is and what he wants in life.

In the midst of his depression Judd’s father dies and his grieving mother Hillary (Jane Fonda) orders him back to the family home, to sit Shiva with his siblings.

For seven days they must spend time together with their mother as the matriarch at the helm. The siblings fall back into their family roles: big brother Paul (Corey Stoll) as the annoying bossy boots: Wendy (Tina Fey) the nagging, over-protective sister; baby brother Philip (Adam Driver) who still gets away with murder and Judd the odd one out.

Childhood sweethearts show up, family secrets are exposed and old wounds are reopened, but instead of being a bittersweet tale of drama and love This is where I leave you is a mess of bad one-liners, weak characters, predictable plots and a lot of overacting.

This is where I leave you is a film better left unwatched, but if you must see this humourless piece by director Shawn Levy, be warned as it could leave you feeling a little nauseated and bereft for the time you wasted.

Film review: The Book of Life

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The-Book-Of-Life-Poster-Anime-Movie-Images1The Book of Life is a quirky animation film by director Jorge R Gutiérrez, celebrating Mexican folklore and the Day of the Dead.

The story begins outside a dusty old museum with a rag-tag bunch of temperamental children showing up for a tour and delightful guide, with long hair and a sexy smile showing them a hidden doorway.

With the help of wooden puppets she begins telling the old Mexican folktale of Manolo (Diego Luna), Joaquin (Channing Tatum) and Maria (Zoe Saldana).

As children the three are the best of friends, playfully teasing each other, both boys already in love with Maria, but on the Day of the Dead the stunning La Muerta (Kate del Castillo), the ruler of the Land of the Remembered, bets Xibalba (Ron Perlman), the lord of the Land of the Forgotten, that one day gentle Manolo will marry Maria.

Xibalba champions the adventurous Joaquin and decides to stack the odds in his favour, so he cheats and gives Joaquin a mystical medal.

The children grow up, each following the path their parents envisions them too, but when Maria returns from boarding school, things change, rules are broken and death happens.

But in this charming story, death isn’t permanent, love triumphs and staying true to oneself is the biggest victory of course there is a happy ending, moral and all.

The Book of Life is an original take on a predictable tale with the colourful take on Mexican artwork adding to its appeal. The figures look like they have been carved from wood and painted in as many colours as possible, but tasteful and endearingly so.

And even if the adventure down to the land of the forgotten may be a little scary for some of the more junior viewers, the happy and huggable Candle Maker (Ice Cube) lightens the mood ensuring that darkness never prevails for long.

With it’s 3D imaging and unusual design The Book of Life is an enjoyable film for everyone in the family and a brilliant Halloween treat.

Film review: Serena

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Wrapping in 2012 Serena has sat on a shelf until now, and maybe it was better that way. Director Susanne Bier’s disjointed anti-romance starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper may be highly anticipated but doesn’t seem to capture it’s audience quite as hoped.

The melodrama is set in America in the 1930s and tells the story of logging baron George Pemberton (Bradley Cooper). When Pemberton’s timber empire begins to crumble he leaves the beauty of the North Caroline Mountains to seek help from big city bankers. While sipping cocktails he spots Serene Shaw (Jennifer Lawrence) riding on the back of a white stallion, the wind in her hair and he instantly falls in love.

After a short and passionate courtship, they marry and George returns home to his trees with his beautiful bride in tow. His colleagues aren’t very welcoming but that doesn’t deter the outdoorsy and very capable Serena to soon take over.

Buchanan (David Dencik), Pemberton’s main partner and best friend, isn’t the only one who feels that Serena is overstepping her boundaries, but he is the most vocal about it and a rift between the friends appears.

Serena suspects that Buchanan has homosexual feelings for Pemberton and when George’s ex-lover returns Rachel (Ana Ularu) with a lovechild on her hip, distrust grows just like Serena’s own baby bump.

Trying to keep Serena happy and battling it out with the local sheriff and conservationist McDowell (Toby Jones) proves hard work and expensive business as Pemberton pays off local authorities to keep his timber mill running. But when a violent murder occurs things begin to unravel and the couple drift apart.

Serena takes a long time to get the plot moving, and even when it does everything feels disjointed and superficial. The characters aren’t given the space to develop and their motives are never truly exposed.

Lawrence succeeds to straddle the line between siren and madwoman, her locks perfectly preened, her looks full of emotion. Cooper is the perfect counterpart to her silky presence in his tweeds and the chemistry they displayed in Silver Linings Playbook is evident in Serena, too.

The costume and set design are wonderful, capturing an era long gone, and one can’t help but admire the beautiful Czech landscape that fills in for the unspoiled North Caroline Mountains of the 1930s. But with all this splendour and brilliant acting Serena can’t disguise the fact that it doesn’t take the time to tell the story. Quick edits and abrupt direction changes make it nearly impossible to connect with the characters leaving the viewer somewhat unemotional about the outcome.

Overall Director Susanne Bier has created an anvantgarde-esque film that shows beautiful images but leaves its audience cold, so maybe Serena should have just stayed on that shelf.

a long day

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Before the day has even started I feel tired just thinking about it and the end is a  long, long way off.

First I am helping out a friend and colleague and taking over her hour of teaching, adding to my already heavy load of five hours, six hours of lecturing, no break, no chance for a breather.

Straight after my class I will wander up to meet a friend, who has said she’d feed me, and then the two of us are going to see a film, one I need to write a review about.

So while the day may end on a pleasant note, I won’t be home until late and with the weather being so miserable and wet it means trudging trough the rain, getting wet and yearning for cups of hot tea.

The one ray of sunshine will be knowing that once I have survived today the weekend is only two days away, and it’s a long one at that! Monday is a Bank Holiday and maybe, just maybe I’ll finally get to wake up without having to set an alarm … it would be the first time in weeks.

You know it’s going to be a long day when you yell ‘Seriously?!?’ at your alarm clock.

Film Review: One Million Dubliners

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one-million-dublinersNamed the “Best Irish Feature Documentary” at Galway Film Fleadh back in July One Million Dubliners finally hits cinemas this month.
The documentary tells the story of Glasnevin Cemetery (officially Prospect Cemetery) and the 1.5 million people that are buried there. And since there are more bodies in the ground at Glasnevin Cemetery than people living in the whole of Dublin almost everyone has a friend or relative buried next to some of Irelands most historic figures.
Director Aoife Kelleher intertwines personnel stories with historic facts and creates a unique insight into a world only few of us truly know. And instead of being morbid or depressing the film is funny, interesting, sometimes a little sad but always entertaining.
“To bury people of all religions and none” was Daniel O’Connell’s mission when he established Glasnevin cemetery in 1828 and this is still very much at the heart of the trust today. This means that loyalists and revolutionaries lie side by side, WWI and WWII soldiers lie next to de Velera, Parnell and Collins.
But One Million Dubliners doesn’t just look at the past and Kelleher lets staff and visitors alike share their thoughts on life and death and why Glasnevin plays such an important role in their lives.  Florists, gardeners, historians, tour guides, mourners, and grave diggers all get their say, and even a mysterious French woman, who lays roses on Michael Collins grave, talks about her ongoing love affair with a dead man.
Kelleher uses these different narrative strands to link the past with the present and the future. One of the main narrators is tour guide and resident historian Shane MacThomáis and the camera follows him as he brings groups around the cemetery, enthrals them with tales and historic facts. But MacThomáis  also speaks directly  to  the camera and talks about his father, who was also a tour guide, and about his own connection with the cemetery.  He explains how his father used to tell him that a great tour needs four things to capture it’s audience: tell them something they know, something they didn’t know, something to make them laugh and something to make them cry.
This is the formula that Kelleher also seems to be following as she not only enchants her audience with beautifully shoot images of Glasnevin Cemetery but lets them rediscover what they have seen before, learn what they have never known, laugh at the oddities and cry at the unexpected.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Refraction

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This week I have been feeling ‘fractured’ myself, between putting a magazine to bed, lecturing, watching movies to review and playing host to my cousin and her daughter my time has been not my own and my mind has been fractured by many thoughts.

But since I can’t really show this so I decided that this photo of the Reichstags Kuppel in Berlin will have to fill in for the image of my fractured mind … so many thoughts, so many things to do all filling in the spaces.trichter1

porridge and tea

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We all know that “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” or so they say. I have no idea if that is true or not but I do know that the word break-fast literally means to interrupt those hours of non-eating.

The benefit of that is that this kick-starts your metabolism which in turn raves-up your engine, so to speak,  burning calories and setting the pace for the rest of the day. Of course this does depend on what you have for breakfast, a sugary donuts or a muesli bar isn’t really going to work, but wholegrain toast, sugar-free muesli and porridge, fruit are just a few options that do.

I like a little bit of variety in the mornings but I do tend to tend to stick to muesli or porridge. And especially now, with the weather being so wet and miserable outside, a hot bowl of porridge with some cranberries and cinnamon and a steaming cup of tea always seems to warm my spirits and my tummy at the same time.

 

I went to a restaurant that serves ‘breakfast at any time‘. So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.

Comedian Steven Wright

a trip to the dentist

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Last week I started to feel a bit of an uncomfortable twinge on the left side of my jaw and panic set in.

I hate going to the dentist, have an absolute fear of those strange people who work all day with face-masks covering half their faces burrowing around in other peoples mouths. I avoid going as long as I can and then sit on the chair with sweaty palms and my heart beating faster than I ever think possible.

So when my jaw started to hurt I went into panic mode. But deciding to take a  plunge, things weren’t going to get better by ignoring it, I went to the dentist yesterday, dreadingly, images of root canals psyching me out.

But when I was there I found out that while yes, I do have a small cavity easily filled, no big deal, but that wasn’t what was bothering me, the source of my pain was my wisdom tooth.

In my late teens I had all four wisdom teeth removed, they hadn’t fully developed yet and since my jaw very tight there was no room for them to come out. I remember it well, it was painful  and really no fun.

Several years later a dentist told me that my upper left wisdom tooth was making an appearance, peaking out to view the world and I discovered that somehow I still had one of those buggers … either it redeveloped or I had five, which can happen.

For years now the wisdom tooth has been hanging around, half in half out and not really bothering me at all, except it was always hard to reach with the toothbrush. But now the tooth made the not so wise decision to fully erupt and cause me pain.

Since there is no space for it the tooth is gnawing at my cheek, irritating the gum, causing it to swell and become a little bit infected.  So now it needs to come out and a tooth extraction is now a feature in my calendar. And since the dentist couldn’t see if the root of this wisdom tooth reaches all the way up to my sinus it looks as if a specialist will be taking care of it. And I am so not happy about any of this, but I don’t have a choice.

The next few weeks will now be filled with nightmares, terror moments and panic attacks while I debate the question if I should chose to have sedation or not. Sadly they don’t give you the option to sleep through it at all, not even a wallop over your head is allowed.

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