Thursday, 31 January 2013

Park It!

#8 Parked
#8 Parked: My sister loves Colin Morgan... she's a little obsessed, so she was happy enough to force me to watch this for what was her 3rd and my 1st time!
It's slow... like a lot of indie dramas tend to be, but this lacked the sparkle that makes slow special! It's definitely near the bottom of my top low budget Irish films list... i've seen around 4!
Morgan gives an excellent performance and the characters are pretty well developed, but the pace just killed it for me.

Film: Parked
Director: Darragh Byrne
Released: 2010
Watched at: Broadroad Lodge (The Parents' House)

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Letters to a Young Gymnast

Nadia Comaneci was the first gymnast to score a perfect 10. She soared into the hearts of millions overnight when she appeared on the competition circuit at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
Raised in a tiny village in Romania, she was sent off to a government run Gymnastics school after being discovered by Béla Károlyi, argubaly the sports most famous and conroversial coach. He, a Hungarian born national, coached the Romanian Gymnastic team until his defection, along with his wife, to the USA in 1981. After having trained many American gymnasts to Olympic glory, he was made National Team co-ordinator in 1999.
His wife Marta now holds this role and helped put together last years' 2012 Olympic gold medal winning line up of Maroney, Wieber, Ross, Raisman and Douglas. The Fierce Five, as they have now been dubbed brought home team gold for the first time since the magnificent seven  in 1996. (When the Karolyi's were at their coaching prime)

This book is not so much a story of Nadia Comaneci's career as a gymnast as a story of what life in Romania was like. There was lots of gymnastics, but none of it inaccessable to non specialists. I found it difficult to read in places, because although Nadia now lives in the United States with a American husband and their child, I still felt like I was reading a book in broken English at points. The gramatical structure of many sentences was basic and stilting in parts. However I still found this book interesting and enlightening, but then again I will read anything about gymnastics that I can get my hands on!
Expect a few more gymnasts' autobigraphy reviews because I have some more on my to read pile!

Blurb: In Letters to a Young Gymnast, Nadia Comaneci tells how she found the inner strength to become a world-class athlete at such a young age. Now a woman of tremendous poise and self-assurance, she offers unique insights into the mind of a top competitor. From how to live after you’ve realized your dream to the necessity of “a spirit forged with mettle,” Comaneci’s thoughts on athleticism and sacrifice are eye-opening.
Title: Letters to A Young Gymnast
Author: Nadia Comaneci
Medium: Paperback
Publishing Details:
Stars: **/*****

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Enough films for a short film festival!

I'm going to need to make a habit of blogging my films immediately after I see them, or this year is going to be quite unsuccessful!
Last week I watched 4 films, and this week, owing to a family tragedy I have spent a lot of time in the house with my cousins needing some light entertainment, explaining films number 6 and 7!

#2 Cat on a Hot Tin Roof:  This screen adaptation of Tennessee Williams' hit stage play features Elizabeth Taylor with an immensely skinny waist and dresses to make any girl jealous. This is the first 'old' film I think I've watched on purpose. And I must admit I quite enjoyed it.
#2 Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Film: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Director: Richard Brooks
Released: Sept 1958
Watched at: Home

#3 Charlie Wilson's War: I honestly have no idea what to say about this. I was bored from start to finish; its only saving grace was the fact that it was only 97 minutes long! I'm not opposed to political films, in fact I quite like them, but I found this slow and clumpy. Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts just didn't do it for me!
#3 Charlie Wilson's War

Film: Charlie Wilson's War
Director: Mike Nichols
Released: 2007
Watched at: Home

#4 The Great Gatsby: One of my favourite books of all time, so it's a surprise I haven't actually seen this before. Robert Redford and Mia Farrow in all their beauty do a good job at portraying the hopelessly obsessed Jay Gatsby and the beautiful but unhappy Daisy Buchanan. The glamour and lose morals of the extravagant 20's and 30's. Very true to the book, which at times was to its detriment as the story was dragged out at points. Overall an enjoyable watch and left me very much looking forward to Baz Luhrman's offering later this year.

#4 The Great Gatsby

Film: The Great Gatsby
Director: Jack Clayton
Released: 1974
Watched at: Home

#5 The Dungeon Masters: I do love a weird documentary and they don't get much weirder than this one! The film follows a number of 'gamers' as they play Dungeons and Dragons, a popular strategic RPG (Role Play Game) It looks at how they cope as their fantasy lives clash with the real world. Slow in places, this documentary lacks the compelling narrative that other documentaries of this nature need. But overall and interesting look into this strange world.

#5 The Dungeon Masters

Film: The Dungeon Masters
Director: Kevin McAlester
Released: 2008
Watched at: Home

#6 My Big Fat Greek Wedding: A firm favourite of mine, it's a bit like a big tub of Ben and Jerry's and a class of Coke- ultimate comfort viewing! The sugary sweet and predictable narrative always makes me laugh and the Greek family reminds me a lot of my own crazy extended family, living in each other's pockets and sharing all elements of our lives. A 4* rating from me :)
#6 My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Film: My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Director: Joel Zwick
Released: 2002
Watched at: Pancake House

#7 RV- Runaway Vacation: Robin Williams stars in this silly family comedy. 'Peeta' from the Hunger Games and 'JoJo' of noughties pop fame play Williams' disconnected kids. Familiar faces also pop up in the form of 'Spencer' from Criminal Minds and 'Annabeth Schott' from the West Wing. This silly, slapstick comedy had us in stitches- exactly what we needed this week. But no amount of tragedy could convince me to give me this film more than 2 stars!

#7 RV- Runaway Vacation

Film: RV- Runaway Vacation
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Released: 2006
Watched at: Pancake House

Friday, 11 January 2013

Domestic Abuse

There was once a girl who lived in a city that she loved very much.
The city had been battered and bruised, but with the past 15 years the bruises had been yellowing and fading. For many they were a story, a distant past no longer relevant or present in their lives.
But then one day things changed.
Some people started staying out late at night and holding up the traffic.
The policemen stood on the streets day and night, accepting all manner of missiles thrown at them. The ugly bruises and scars that had been buried in a shallow grave resurfaced in a blur of red, white, blue and yellow. 
Fires across the city, contained in little bottles, raging on public busses and inside wheelie bins smatter the news bulletins;
unable to be extinguished by the tears of the girl who lived in this city.
But still she cried.
She cried from frustration, that years of peace had not been enough for people. That there is still discontent simmering under the skin of this place.
She cried as she watched her city held to ransom by people let down by the system. She sighed deeply in bewilderment but not disbelief, that a small piece of cloth could cause so much heartache.
She cried for the people who had missed the memo that this place was going places, it was on the map, the tourists were coming, there would be new jobs.

And tonight she prays that the damage is not irreconcilable.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013


This. film. is. incredible! I felt like at the beginning I took a deep breath and didn't breathe again until the credits rolled!

Based on the true life story of Maria (Naomi Watts) and Henry Belon (Ewan McGregor) along with their three children who, whilst on holiday in Thailand, survived the earthquake and tsunami of Boxing Day 2004. The Impossible is well deserving of it's critical acclaim and unending 5 star ratings.

#1 The Impossible

Much has been discussed around this release about the ethics of capitalising on such a disaster; but this film was perfectly made and brings home the humanity of this type of suffering. Yes, the director made the creative decision to tell the story of rich white, English speaking tourists (the original family were Spanish) and the plot was obviously manipulated for effect in places, but it does a good job of displaying the scale of the devastation. 
So often I think we can see disasters like this on TV, on our news screens, in the papers and recognise the tragedy but still remain disconnected from the utter devastation and ruination of hundreds of thousands of lives, both claimed and forever changed by natural disasters. This film addresses that. It forces its viewers into a position where they are powerless to help the victims and must be content with watching their suffering and anguish play out in front of them, praying it will be ok- but knowing that for so many people that day there was no happy ending.

I cried, I watched through gaps in my fingers, I gasped, I winced, I even retched in one place and in the end I left the cinema, feeling like I had been through an ordeal, but also feeling a little more connected to the suffering of people on the other side of the world to me. That is the beauty of good art!

Film: The Impossible
Director: Juan Antonio Bayona
Released: January 2012
Cinema: QFT

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Death by Crime Fiction

There are a lot of things I immensely enjoy in life. Some of these are perfectly reasonable and normal things like spending time with friends, red wine and travelling. Some are slightly more unusual; board games, playing violin and McDonald's chips dipped in McFlurry's.
Then there are my guilty pleasures; those things you really shouldn't love but can't get enough of and are beyond the point of caring. I have a fair few of these but this post deals with two specifically;

Crime Fiction and anything about the Amish!

Imagine my excitement when I found a crime fiction series where the police detective grew up Amish and all the murders involve this small, curious, Pennsylvanian Dutch speaking community in Ohio!
#2 Gone Missing by Linda Castillo
I devoured this in two days of light reading and I'm not ashamed to say that I enjoyed every second of it. Even when I felt like i'd read the same evidence about three times, told in three different ways and the police still hadn't clocked it (I'd nailed the murderer in the first chapter for pete's sake!)

This book is really everything guilty pleasure crime fiction should be; terrible one liners, cliche relationships and a few too many murders than a small town should really have (a la Midsommer!)

In a few weeks the details will blur and the characters will depart my mind and it shall just be another notch on my crime thriller bedpost!

Title: Gone Missing
Author: Linda Castillo
Medium: Paperback
Publishing Details: 2012, Macmillan
Stars: **/*****

#1 Safe House by Chris Ewan

The first book I read this year was also a crime thriller. Set on the Isle of Man, this one was more literary than the one above. The characters were multi-dimensional and they operated within a much tighter plot with more twists and a case that kept you guessing to the end. Safe House by Chris Ewan is one of those CT's that can trick you into believing it's Pulitzer prize worthy!

Title: Safe House
Author: Chris Ewan
Medium: Kindle
Publishing Details: 2012, Faber and Faber
Stars: ***/*****

The 50/50 Project

I like projects... I like challenges... I like being being busy for a purpose.

Last year I decided that I would run a marathon. This entailed me clocking up an average of 45 miles running a week for almost 6 months. That's a serious time commitment, but in May I ran 26.2 miles and raised a lot of money for charity. The next six months just seemed to be spent attending a lot of sporting events as a spectator including the Olympics, Paralympics, World Cup Gymnastics and numerous Ulster Rugby matches!

In 2013 I am going to congratulate myself by spending much more time on the sofa. I have dubbed my venture the 50/50 project.
I pledge to read 50 books and watch 50 films and in doing so write more (as I will be forced to blog them to prove to everyone i'm not cheating!)

You can follow me on Twitter @katie_cloud or by the hashtag #5050Project

Please feel free to join me on the hashtag! I'll also need some suggestions of books and films to read and watch; you know what to do!