Another Night Run 2016 

Sports

Hello!

About a month ago, I told you about a charity night run that I participated in. Well, yesterday, I did another night run and I would like to share this experience with you.

This particular night run was organized by the same people who arranged last year’s end of summer night run. In 2015, all of the participants ran 8km: the route started in the Nemunas Island and spanned throughout the whole Old Town of Kaunas.

This year, the athletes and running enthusiasts could choose one of two distances – 4km (2 laps) or 8km (4 laps). The location of the event was also changed – it was held in the closed territory of this outdoor shopping centre/hangar market, called Urmas. It is a popular shopping destination in Kaunas, so this whole running event was either a brilliant marketing scheme or a huge and lucky coincidence.

It was weird running during the night because it was actually really dark – we only set off at 10pm. It was quite scary to run in a complete darkness during parts of the race – I was afraid I would hurt my feet or ankles. Other parts of the route had enough lights to run safely. After and before the actual run, the participants could listen to live music or watch the laser show. All of the runners, on top of receiving their runner’s number, got glow-in -the-dark bracelets.

The start signal of the run was really cool and fitting for the night run – it was a firework! Nobody wanted to run as soon as it started – everybody wanted to fully see it before setting off on the run.

I did the 4km distance and was quite happy with my time. This run was more like a rehearsal run for a big competition I’m participating in next weekend.

I enjoyed running my small distance as usual. I’m not the fastest runner but I always love the feeling I get after I finish the distance.

Bellow, I will include some photos from the event and the video of the start signal – the firework.

Movie review: Florence Foster Jenkins 

Movie reviews

Good morning/day/evening!

Although the awards’ season doesn’t fully start until the late fall, some potential awards contenders have already had their premieres. I was lucky enough to attend one of such screenings, so, let’s talk about a movie that could possibly get some high brow nominations just because of who is involved in it, both in front and behind the camera. This is the review of Florence Foster Jenkins.

IMDb summary: The story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York heiress who dreamed of becoming an opera singer, despite having a terrible singing voice.

Writing

Florence Foster Jenkins was written by a TV screenwriter Nicholas Martin. This British comedy was based on a quite fascinating true story. The film mainly focused on its titular character, so the writing for the movie was essentially the writing for a specific character.

Florence Foster Jenkins is not a character or an actual person that anyone can like but that anyone can be intrigued by. She was a sweet eccentric. The first act of the film kinda made her into a laughable caricature – a singer that didn’t know that she couldn’t sing. However, the following two acts really added depth to her character and showed that she was actually a caring, friendly and generous individual that had been hurt in the past but didn’t allow these past troubles to define her. Of course, these positive appearances and the optimistic aura were only kept up because she was sheltered from all criticism. Moreover, nobody ever said no to her. Was that because she was sick or because she was rich? The cynic in me is leaning towards the second option but I really do hope that Florence had people in her life, who were taking caring of her out of the goodness of their hearts and not out of the emptiness of their pockets.

I, as a realist/pessimist, don’t think that being exposed to only good things is beneficial to anyone. However, it was advantageous to Florence – she lived her dream and died in it. She might haven’t known how to sing but nobody can’t say that she didn’t sing. I haven’t seen many films who presented music and life in a way that Florence Foster Jenkins did.

Directing

The film was directed by Stephen Frears, who previously directed such pictures as 2006’s awards contender and winner The Queen, 2013’s awards’ contender Philomena and last year’s Lance Armstrong biopic The Program. I wouldn’t be surprised if Florence Foster Jenkins gets a few nominations as well because it is a solid comedy with a very specific atmosphere. This atmosphere will either make you hate or love the movie. Basically, the movie Florence Foster Jenkins was oversaturated with poshness and aristocratic and rich aura. The sense of entitlement and high-class privilege were also abundant. This whole thing was quite laughable in today’s time or in any time for that matter. Since I don’t come from a background like this, that whole affair made me chuckle more than a couple of times. That’s why I think that Florence is a picture for a very specific audience, which is hard to define. If you come from a middle-class background, you will either love the movie and laugh a lot or you will hate it and be offended by it. I wonder how would the viewers from the upper class feel about it – would they see themselves on screen and love it? Or would they see this film as making fun of them?

As I have mentioned, I laughed a lot during this film. Not only did the actual singing scenes and the whole atmosphere were both funny – the reaction shots of the other characters were hilarious as well. Florence Foster Jenkins was both a feel-good and a heartbreaking movie that made me laugh and then put a sad smile on my face. It was nicely tied up with the photos of the real-life Florence during the credits.

Acting

Meryl Streep, of course, is the main awards’ whisperer for this film. She has been nominated for an Oscar 19 times and has won 3 times, the last one being in 2012. I would not be surprised if she gets another nomination because she was is magnificent in the film. It was very interesting to see arguably the best actress of this and the previous generation playing the role  of a terrible actress/singer. My first introduction to Streep as a performer was in the movie musical Mamma Mia – my favorite guilty pleasure film. In the past few years, she has gone back to this genre, with 2014’s Into The Woods, 2015’s Ricki and the Flash and now with Florence Foster Jenkins. Streep has also proved everyone that she can pick any role she likes and just nail it. I also think that if anybody else would have played Florence in this feature, I would have been super annoyed by her as a character. However, Streep added a lot of emotional depth to a seemingly vain caricature and actually made me care about Florence and her first world problems.

Hugh Gran starred as Florence’s last husband St Clair Bayfield. Their relationship was extremely interesting. Throughout the movie, I couldn’t fully figure out if St Clair and their whole friend circle were gold-diggers or did they actually cared about Florence? St Clair did have a girlfriend on a side but he was also always there for Florence – even on her death bed, so there are arguments both for and against the matter. A few of Grant’s films that I have been watching lately were Sense and Sensibility from the 90s as well as the last summer’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. He also has co-starred in one of my favorite films of all time – Cloud Atlas.

The last main member of the cast – the pianist Cosmé McMoon was played by Simon Helberg. His reaction faces were both super awkward and marvelous. The way he was trying not to laugh was also amazing. I felt that the character of Cosmé was a stand-in for the viewer in the picture. The actor who played this role – Simon Helberg – is a talented TV comedian that has been part of the critically acclaimed The Big Bang Theory since 2007. 

In short, Florence Foster Jenkins was an extremely entertaining film that also made me think. I still have conflicting feelings about it and its narrative. I do wish that somebody would have told Florence the truth but, at the same time, I am happy that nobody did it and that she was allowed to live happily and freely as long as possible.

Rate: 4,5/5

Trailer: Florence Foster Jenkins trailer

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Movie review: War Dogs

Movie reviews

Hello!

Another buddy comedy has hit theaters, so let’s review it!

IMDb summary: Based on the true story of two young men, David Packouz and Efraim Diveroli, who won a $300 million contract from the Pentagon to arm America’s allies in Afghanistan.

War Dogs is kinda similar to the other to buddy comedies of this summer – The Nice Guys and Central Intelligence, in that they all have a contrasting duo in a lead. The film also shares some topical similarities (greed) with Pain & Gain and even The Wolf of Wall Street.

Writing

War Dogs was written by Stephen Chin, Todd Phillips, and Jason Smilovic, based on Guy Lawson’s book Arms and the Dudes, which was inspired by true events. The film’s narrative was fine – it had a few clever things to say about war, mainly, that was is an economy. It also explored the greed of people and portrayed it as the biggest flaw of humanity. Lastly, the movie touched upon the performative aspect of communication – War Dogs showed how specific individuals can read other people and modify their own manners and appearance to fit the vision that the others have of them.

The first act of the film felt a bit choppy – I couldn’t figure out where the story was going, but in the middle of the 2nd act, everything started to flow nicely. War Dogs also had a lot of narration and, while, to my mind, it worked well, to a lot of movie-goers it is a bad thing. The picture’s ending was a bit abrupt, though. I did not feel that there was a full resolution and I also thought that the two criminals got away way too easily.

Directing

Todd Phillips of The Hangover trilogy was at the helm of this picture and did a good job. War Dogs was quite a slow but really well made and entertaining film. I wanted to see a bit more action but I guess they decided to go the drama route and explore the relationship between the two characters. The intro montage set the stage for the upcoming story neatly and explained the premise clearly and concisely. I also liked the structure of the feature – how it was divided into a bunch of  vignette-like parts. The names of these vignettes, which were just random lines of dialogue, were also cool and perfectly summarized the main ideas of these specific pieces of the film. The soundtrack wasn’t bad either.

Acting

The two leads of the movie were played by Jonah Hill and Miles Teller. Their characters were both clever idiots, only Hill’s character was the more crazy and greedy one, while Teller’s character was presented as the protagonist, the everyday-man that the audiences are supposed to root for.

Hill was amazing as the selfish Efraim Diveroli, the only element of his performance that annoyed me slightly was that laugh. He played a similar character in the already mentioned The Wolf of Wall Street. In addition, Hill isn’t new to the buddy comedy genre – his big break was in Superbad (the teen comedy about two guys), while in the recent years he has returned to the genre with Changing Tatum and 21+22 Jump Street. Now, Hill replaced Tatum with Teller but, thankfully, Hill’s and Teller’s chemistry is as good if not better.

Miles Teller was also great in the role of David Packouz. I’ve told you numerous times that I’m a fan of his and was extremely soud after Fantastic Four turned out the way it did. I hope that Teller will start clicking with the audiences soon, because he is a really talented actor. If you don’t belive me, just watch Whiplash. He was also good in small comedies 21 and Over, Two Night Stand and That Awkward Moment. Going forward, Teller has a boxing movie coming up as well as a drama and an action flick. I don’t know if he will return to the Divergent franchise as the last installment of that series is still up in the air and will probably go to the TV.

An important supporting role was played by Bradley Cooper who also produced the picture. Cooper was fine in the movie but I was actually much more interested to find out that he produces basically all his big films like Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, and American Sniper. Going forward, he has a few voice roles for Marvel/Disney and Universal.

In short, War Dogs was a fine summer picture that had a great release date – if it would have come out earlier in the summer, it would have probably been burried underneath the big blockbusters. The film had okay directing and writing, while the standout feature of the movie were the performances of and the chemistry between the two leads.

Rate: 3,5/5

Trailer: War Dogs trailer

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Movie review: Finding Dory

Movie reviews

Hello!

The summer is coming to an end but the summer movie season is not over yet, thus, allow me to review another movie. This time, it’s Finding Dory!

IMDb summary: The friendly but forgetful blue tang fish begins a search for her long-lost parents, and everyone learns a few things about the real meaning of family along the way.

I’m a huge Pixar fan (who isn’t?). I have seen all Pixar feature film multiple times and enjoyed the viewing experience immensely, time and time again. Growing up, I would constantly rewatch Monsters, Inc., The Incredibles, and Finding Nemo and these 3 movies are still at the top of ‘My Favorite Animated Pictures of All Time’ list. I was really happy when Monsters Inc got a prequel in 2013 and wasn’t disappointed by it and I also cannot wait for 2019’s The Incredibles 2. I have been waiting for the Finding Nemo sequel for more than a decade, so I was more than excited to see it. Sadly, due to the awful international release schedules, I had to wait 2 months more than the rest of the world. But, the wait is over, so let’s go and find Dory!

The screening of the picture that I attended mostly had kids in the audience. The majority of them weren’t even born when Finding Nemo came out. Needless to say, this kinda made me feel old.

Piper

Before I talk about Finding Dory, I want to briefly touch upon the animated short Piper that they showed before the feature. It was made by Alan Barillaro and was absolutely amazing. The animation looked extremely realistic. The actual plot of the short film was really cute and sweet but still had an important message – it encouraged the viewers to be brave and step out of their comfort zones.

Writing

Finding Dory’s screenplay was written by the director of the film Andrew Stanton and TV writer Victoria Strouse. Stanton wrote and directed Finding Nemo, A Bug’s Life, and WALL-E and has also helped out with the scripts of  Monster’s Inc. and all 3 Toy Story pictures. He is also set to co-write Toy Story 4, while Strouse will be penning the live-action Tinkerbell’s screenplay. I really enjoyed the narrative that they created for this film. The story was both simple and clever, funny and genuine. The character development was never forced but came out organically during the dialogue. The set up for the big adventure was a both obvious and logical. As usual, Pixar also pulled on its viewers’ hearts strings. The jokes worked too even if they got kind dark at times (that bucket of dead fish).

Finding Dory also did a good job of introducing new characters, while also giving some screen time to the old favorites. We did get Dory’s full backstory (prequel) as well as a Finding Nemo sequel (the next adventure). We also find out what happened to the dentist office’s tank gang from the first film in the post-credits scene. Of the new characters, Hank, the octopus, Destiny, the whale shark and Bailey, the beluga whale, were the most interesting and useful to the story. Through Destiny’s character, we found out how Dory learned to speak whale. Hank allowed the movie to move (literally – the octopus was the only one who could go on land), while Bailey was super helpful in the last act. I also really liked the fact that the majority of the new characters had disabilities, so, Dory wasn’t just the only one who was different. In addition, all 3 new supporting fish received small resolutions to their own stories, which tied up the movie nicely.

The overarching theme that was carried out from Finding Nemo was, of course, family. The main focus was shifted from Nemo’s to Dory’s family, but the message of the film remained the same or at least similar. The 2 ideas – that ‘parents have to let their kids go’ and that ‘friends can also become family members’ – were realized and portrayed carefully and cleverly. The ‘just keep swimming’ line (I still have it on my inspiration board, as I’m a competitive swimmer – it is both my motto for life and for swimming) as well as Dory’s philosophy to just kinda live spontaneously and without a plan were also great parts of the movie. Lastly, Finding Dory had a strong anti-captivity message. I wonder if they did that so that the clown fish and the regal blue tang population would not suffer, as this has happened in 2003 after the first flick came out and all the children wanted to have their own Nemo and Dory.

Directing

For the director Andrew Stanton, Finding Dory was his 4th Pixar film and only 5th picture altogether.  I think he did a great job with this project. To begin with, the actual animation of the picture was realized beautifully: the settings of the ocean and all the different aquariums were just absolutely gorgeous, while the character design was the right amount of cartoon mixed with realism. The young Dory was an extremely cute character – those huge eyes were adorable. I also really liked the fact that the movie knew that it was really cute and used to their own advantage – that moment with otters distracting the drivers with their cuteness was a bit meta.

Going back to the animated visuals – the movements of the octopus were so fluid and so real looking too. I also appreciated the fact that they showed so many different locations and even had a lot of action on land. That ending, though, was a bit much and too cartoonish. I know we are talking about a movie with talking fish, but that ‘jumping out of a truck with the slow-mo and that cheesy song’ type of an ending was a bit too out there.

One other criticism of the film was the fact that it did repeat more than a few ideas from Finding Nemo, while slightly repackaging them: once again, we got a lot of action in the aquarium, only this time, the tank stood in the oceanology institute rather than in the dentist’s office. The character traveled in the current with the turtles again. The bird was used for transport for the 2nd time too.

Lastly, guess whose song was playing during the credits? If you though Sia’s, you were correct. This time, it was the song Unforgettable, written especially for this film. Her songs have also been featured in The Shallows and The Neon Demon recently.

Voice work

Since animated movies are dubbed in my home country, I wasn’t able to hear Ellen DeGeneres as Dory, but I’m sure that she was great, like the rest of the cast. I also have to give props to the people who voiced the characters in the Lithuanian version of the film – they did a much better job than the people who dubbed the characters in The BFG film. Spielberg’s live-action fairytale was awful to listen to, while Finding Dory’s dubbing didn’t bother me much or even at all. Nonetheless, I still can not wait to get back to the UK, so that I would be able to enjoy the original English versions of the animated films.

In short, Finding Dory was another great film by Pixar. It wasn’t Finding Nemo, or as original and fresh as Inside Out but way better than the last Pixar feature – The Good Dinosaur. Only one question remains, where do they go now? Will there be a 3rd Finding picture since Pixar has started to dip their toes into the sequel business? Or is this the end for the fishy franchise?

Rate: 4.25/5

Trailer: Finding Dory trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Bad Moms

Movie reviews

Hello!

This summer, I have been watching a lot of newly released comedies and reviewing them. This is a bit unusual to me, as I would usually check them out on streaming without bothering to write any reviews. However, I have changed my way, so let’s talk about Bad Moms.  

IMDb summary: When three overworked and under-appreciated moms are pushed beyond their limits, they ditch their conventional responsibilities for a jolt of long overdue freedom, fun, and comedic self-indulgence.

 

  1. Bad Moms was a typical Hollywood comedy. And that’s not a bad thing. Yes, it was cheesy, predictable, full of cliches and some cringy moments. But it was also funny and entertaining. It made me laugh more than a couple of times. It was directed and written by the duo, who wrote the first The Hangover movie and had their directorial debut in 2013 with 21 & Over (loved this one).
  2. Bad Moms’ story proved one thing – I will never have kids. They can literally destroy lives. I don’t think that this was the intended message of the filmmakers, though. I feel that they tried to show how the role of the mother can be challenging, hard but rewarding and still worth it. The montage during the end credits with all the actresses and their mothers portrayed this idea nicely and was a sweet ending touch. I also appreciated the fact that Bad Moms showed that modern moms can have it all.
  3. My favorite part of the film was the supermarket montage. It was fast paced, funny, had the perfect amount of cheesines and a catchy soundtrack. I also enjoyed seeing SuperWoman a.k.a. Lily Singh in the film. She is a famous Youtuber that has an amazing comedy channel. Lily had like 30 seconds of screentime, but I hope that this cameo will help her get more work on the big screen because she is super funny and relatable.
  4. The lead of the movie was played by Mila Kunis, who nailed her role. She has always been good at both comedy (just watch Friends with Benefits) and drama (Black Swan comes to mind). Like any other actress working in Hollywood, she had a few missteps (Jupiter Ascending) but, on the whole, her career has been fairly successful. The two main supporting characters were played by Kristen Bell (Frozen) and Kathryn Hahn (She’s Funny That Way). Bell was great as the quiet, hard-working mom (she just played a similar character in The Boss), while Hahn played a completely opposite and crazy mother well. By the end of the film, these two characters kinda exchanged a couple of personality traits and that was a fine resolution to their personal plotlines.
  5. Other members of the cast included Christina Applegate, whose character was extremely annoying but served the purpose of the picture well. Jada Pinkett Smith (Magic Mike XXL) also had a small role, which, to my mind could have been played by anyone and I don’t know what Pinkett Smith was doing there. She is worth better roles and I also hope that she will return to Gotham as a series regular. The writer of Bridesmaids and Joy – Annie Mumolo – had a small and very stereotypical role too. I think that Mumolo is better off writing comedies rather than starring in them. Lastly, the compulsory love interest for the leading lady was played by Jay Hernandez, who was just in Suicide Squad as El Diablo (the standout character of that feature). I didn’t even recognize him!

All in all, Bad Moms was an entertaining comedy with good performances, solid writing and directing, and a few nice moments. It wasn’t unique or inventive, so I can’t really recommend it to everyone as a must watch.

Rate: 3.25/5

Trailer: Bad Moms trailer

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Volunteering at EHF Men’s 18 Handball Championship 2016

Sports

Good morning/day/weekend!

Around this time last year, I published my most successful non-movie related article on the topic of volunteering. Well, today, I’m continuing the tradition and writing about the behind-the-scenes inner workings of another sports event. As usual, the article will focus on my personal experience of the event and won’t be completely objective or universally truthful.

For the past week, I’ve been lucky enough to volunteer at EHF Men’s 18 Handball Championship in Lithuania. This was the first event of this kind for European Handball Federation since the new age group system has been introduced. The championship has been simultaneously held in 3 countries: Bulgaria, Georgia, and Lithuania. The winners of that part of the championship that was held in my country were the team from Israel, who won the final against Italy. The 3rd place went to Austria after they defeated the national youth handball team of The Netherlands.

After working as a team attaché for 2 weeks last year, I was quite sad to find out that I won’t be managing a team during this championship. Instead, I was supposed to be helping the officials of the EHF which seemed kinda sweet deal too. However, by the end of the first of the event, my job  became obsolete and I didn’t do much in terms of helping the local and foreign organizing committees.

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the championship. I loved spending some quality time with my volunteer friends, which I only see a couple of times per year. However, in terms of the actual volunteering, I felt that I didn’t do much. I was really looking forward to the experience of working with sports professionals from an international federation, but instead, I was just kinda picking up the trash because I didn’t want to just sit there.

The main problem I had, concerning volunteering in this particular event, was the fact that there weren’t any clear lines of communication between the organizers and the volunteers and only a small portion of the volunteers actually did some meaningful work. A proper training session wasn’t held and I felt that the organizers were thinking that since all of the volunteers had previous volunteering experience, they will know what to do. I wish that they would have put more trust in us/me and actually given clearer orders. You can only do so much on your own intuition and I don’t really think that it is up to a subordinate to constantly seek for tasks. Then again, the volunteers, me definitely included, could have asked more questions. This was probably an obvious example of miscommunication and two parties not knowing what to do with each other. I will definitely learn from this whole unfortunate thing.

In the end, I can’t be that mad with the organizers because they did thank us for helping with the event and gave us commemorative gifts and Thank You notes/certificates. I did, however, felt that I didn’t really deserve any of it. Then again, I came to the championship every day and was always ready for work.

Speaking about handball as a sport – I wasn’t familiar with it at all. My background is in swimming and running, so handball was a completely new territory for me. I don’t know if I am completely sold on it as an enjoyable sport but I will definitely give it another shot – will either watch it or ask for one of my friends, who (I think) used to play handball, to teach me the basics.

Bellow, I will include some photos from the event, a picture of the volunteer’s T-shirt and the thank you gifts and any other random bits. In addition, here are the links to the pages of the European Handball Federation, the Lithuania Handball Federation, the actual event, and the Union of Sports’ Volunteers of Lithuania.

Have a great week!

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Movie review: The Shallows

Movie reviews

Hello!

I’m more than a month late to review this film, but you can blame foreign release schedules for that. Without further ado, let’s talk about The Shallows – that small Blake Lively thriller .

IMDb summary: A mere 200 yards from shore, surfer Nancy is attacked by a great white shark, with her short journey to safety becoming the ultimate contest of wills.

I have seen this movie being described as a sum of a few already made films. Some said it was 127 hours in water with sharks, others that it was Shark Week: the movie. Personally, The Shallows reminded me a bit of Soul Surfer (the family drama, the surfer being attacked), Jaws (similar filming techniques from the shark’s perspective so as not to show the shark) and Piranha (the horror elements in the few scenes).  The main thing that attracted me to this film was the fact that I really want to learn how to surf. I already spend a lot of time in the water since I am a competitive swimmer (or used to be one), so transitioning from swimming to surfing would not be that big of a stretch.

Writing

Anthony Jaswinski wrote The Shallows’s script and did a good job. I really liked the way he presented the main character’s backstory – the viewer found out all he/she needed to know in 3 dialogue scenes: the one with the driver, the phone conversation and during the small talk with the other surfers. I also liked her backstory by itself – she was a medicine student so her knowledge of that field helped her survive – she was resourceful and quick-witted. The writing for the big finale was a bit weak though – for such a realistic movie, I had a hard time believing that the shark would meet that kind of an end.

Directing

Jaume Collet-Serra, a mainly thriller director, did not disappoint with another project in his preferred genre. To begin with, the filming locations really helped him – the beach and the ocean were magnificent. Also, the beauty of nature was effectively contrasted with the terror of the situation that the main character was in. The photos that would pop-up on-screen were also a great tool for backstory, so as to make those 3 scenes of dialogue more visual. The effects, mainly the shark CGI or a model, also worked – he did seem real. The glowing jellyfish were also gorgeous. Those seagulls that were keeping Blake Lively company really reminded me of the seagulls that live in Aberdeen, Scotland (my second hometown) because they weren’t afraid of people and seagulls in Aberdeen can literally attack anyone that is passing them by.

The handheld camera was also good (and that’s coming from a person who hates shaky cam) – the mobile frame and the close-ups depicted the fact that our character was alone on a sea really well. This feeling of fear and loneliness together with the sense of suspense made watching the movie an engaging but not a comfortable experience. The hardest scenes to watch where the actual shark attack sequence and the ‘surgery’ scene. The Shallows also had a couple of jump scares that were effective. If we would have gotten more jump scares I would accuse the film of going the easy cliche route, however, since the picture had just the right amount of jump-scares, I was okay with them. The technique that I thought was a bit overused was the slow motion – it overdramatized an already dramatic and scary situation and pushed it towards a cliche, over-the-top cartoon level. The surfing montage at the beginning was cool but the music choice was a bit cheesy – Trouble by Neon Jungle, really? The other song that I remember from the film was Sia’s Bird Set Free. It was a good song for the credits. Sia’s music have been featured in at least 4 films this summer, she is really making her mark in Hollywood. The Shallows instrumental score was great too – it helped a lot to build an anxiety-inducing atmosphere.

Acting

Blake Lively starred as the lead, named Nancy, and did an amazing job. She basically carried this whole movie. She was believable as a sporty surfer and was amazing in all the suspenseful scenes. I especially liked that close-up reaction shot where she supposedly saw the shark attacking that drunk guy. Lively just starred in the new Woody Allen film Cafe Society. She was also really good in last year’s Age of Adaline (that picture have been doing great on streaming). Lively has definitely shed her Gossip Girl persona and is probably doing the best out of all her former castmates. A few unknown Spanish actors, as well as a few familiar faces from TV, played a couple of small supporting roles but, honestly, none of them had enough of screen time for me to talk about them.

In short, The Shallows was an unexpectedly entertaining film, one of the hidden gems of this summer. Blake Lively shined and finally proved herself to be a great actress. The writing and directing were also good for the most part.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: The Shallows trailer

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Sightseeing: The Old Town of Warsaw

Sightseeing

Hello!

A few weeks ago, I told you about my experience attending ANTI World Tour in Warsaw. While going to Rihanna’s concert was my main reason for traveling to the capital of Poland, it was not the only thing I did there. After partying with Riri on Friday and wasting the night watching the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics, I spent the whole of Saturday walking around Warsaw’s Old Town.

With the help of Google Maps, I strolled by the Presidental Palace, the Royal Castle, the Old Market Place, the St. John’s Archcathedral, the barbican of Warsaw, the St. Anne’s Church, the Grand National Opera Theatre, the Palace of Culture and Science, the University of Warsaw, the Nicolaus Copernicus Monument, the Fryderyk Chopin Museum, the Carmelite Church, the Mermaid of Warsaw next to the Świętokrzyski Bridge and many other sights and buildings that I can’t name.

I also really wanted to visit the Copernicus Science Center, however, the queue was huge, I would have probably waited at least 3 or more hours just to get inside. Moreover, due to the overflow of people inside the building, they had temporarily suspended the sale of tickets, so I might have spent the whole day just waiting. Well, at least now I have a reason to come back to Warsaw.

For lunch, I went to this nice restaurant where instead of chairs they had swings next to the tables. To remember Warsaw, I bought 3 postcards to add to my collection and a few fridge magnets. One of the magnets has a picture of the stadium where the Rihanna’s concert took place.

The weather for my walk wasn’t the greatest – it rained occasionally, however, at least it wasn’t unbearably hot. I will take rain and fog instead of boiling hot sun any day.

Warsaw has almost 2 million inhabitants and it is also the capital of Poland. I could definitely tell that the city was alive and buzzing even on Saturday – while the streets were mainly filled with tourists in the early morning, after midday, the actual citizens of Warsaw started taking  to the streets. I saw some kind of protest as well as preparations for either a running or cycling marathon being carried out.

Bellow, I’ve included a few galleries with the photos from my walk. I love old European cities and I felt extremely lucky to have gotten a chance to see another one. The features of Warsaw that I especially liked were all the buildings with patterns and a few modern construction dispersed in between the old structures.

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Movie review: The Secret Life of Pets

Movie reviews

Good morning/day/evening!

The animated movies have been really dominating the box office this summer, so, let’s review one of the latest additions to the genre – The Secret Life of Pets.

IMDb summary: The quiet life of a terrier named Max is upended when his owner takes in Duke, a stray whom Max instantly dislikes.

Recently, there has been quite a few animated pictures about talking animals – we just had Zootopia and the new animated musical SING also has animals as its characters. This concept has always been popular and it is definitely not going anywhere. While the idea to show how animals act when the humans are not around is cool and clever, it is not the most original. Another recent animation that kinda did the same thing was Bolt. So, since the TSLOP can count on originality, it is all about the execution.

Writing: story and ideas

The Secret Life of Pets’ script was written by Brian LynchCinco Paul, and Ken Daurio. This trio has previously worked on other Illumination Entertainment projects like the Despicable Me films and Minions. I’m a fan of the main Despicable Me franchise but can’t really stand its spin-off. I feel like with TSLOP movie, the screenwriters mixed everything I loved about the first property with the things that annoyed me about the second brand.

The positives: 

  1. I liked how the animal characters had both animalistic and human-like features and manners. I also enjoyed how the various stereotypes were played up. Sometimes, human stereotypes were used on animals as a joke: for example, in the scene with the white Pomeranian and the telenovela. In other instances, these stereotypes were subverted and made for an even funnier moment: the poodle who likes rock music was a nice idea and the main antagonist of the film – the anarchist bunny – was also an unexpected and subversive addition to the picture.
  2. I loved the little relatable moments like the scene with the cat and the turkey. That tiny inside competition between the cats and the dogs was also a great real-world tie-in. The inclusion of concepts like the cat videos on YouTube and the vacuum cleaner to be used to get rid of the pets was neat as well.
  3. The idea to make the barking of dogs their language was obvious but still nice and super funny when showed visually on screen.

The negatives:

  1. The film didn’t have the most original narrative – it was a basic save and avenge storyline. It was still an enjoyable adventure to watch but the viewer might feel that he/she has seen it before numerous times.
  2. The picture really got dark at times and I don’t know if those ideas had a place in the film. The picture wasn’t really that sophisticated and it was definitely on a more simplistic side and aimed at the younger audiences, so I don’t think that it was a good idea to show the suffering animals like the tattooed pig or the magician’s rabbit and talk about killing the owners. Don’t get me wrong, it is important to talk about the first thing – that people are not always the nicest to the animals – but I don’t think that a mainstream kids’ movie was a place to do that, maybe if it had a more serious tone, I would have had a different opinion.

Directing: visuals and animation

TSLOP was directed by Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney. Renaud has previously directed the Despicable Me films and has created the voice of the Minions, who he voices in all of the movies that they appear. Cheeny has only directed a few shorts up until now but he has been a production designer on the Illumination Entertainment pictures. I really enjoyed the directing of the film for the most part. I really liked the montages at the beginning which set up the independent world of pets nicely and it was also a great idea to end the movie with corresponding montages – it tied everything together perfectly. The actual animation was also spectacular – the fur of the animals looked excellent and the NY skyline was also realized beautifully – it is so iconic and recognizable even in animated form. The actual character design of the animals was cool and cute too. TSLOP also had a good complimentary soundtrack, I liked the inclusion of the Welcome to New York song. The only sequence of the film that I disliked was that Sausage World – I felt that it was too childish even for a light children’s film and, moreover, those sausages reminded me of Minions too much.

Voice Work

The actors who voiced the animals did a good job. The stand-out for me was Kevin Hart (he voiced the rabbit) – I could instantly recognize his voice and really loved the way he delivered the lines and the one-liners. His character was definitely the funniest and I think that that was because of Hart’s involvement. I’m definitely starting to become a fan of him after this film and Central Intelligence. The great comedian  Louis C.K. voiced the main character – a Jack Russell terrier, while Eric Stonestreet really fit the voice of his character – the large and furry mongrel. Steve Coogan was great as a Sphynx cat – the British accent was somehow appropriate. Lastly, Jenny Slate was a great choice to bring the Pomeranian to life. Slate has recently voiced another animal – a sheep – in Zootopia.

In short, The Secret Life of Pets was an okay film. It was as subversive or adult-friendly as Zootopia but it did make me laugh more than a couple of times and I’m sure that the kids would have a blast watching it.

Rate: 3.7/5

Trailer: The Secret Life of Pets trailer

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Sightseeing: Treetop Walking Path, Anyksciai, Lithuania

Sightseeing

Hello!

Moving to a different country (Scotland) really made me appreciate my home country (Lithuania) more. So, this summer, I tried my best to see more of it – especially its nature.

Hence, on Saturday, I took some time to visit the newly established Treetop Walking Path near the town of Anyksciai. It is basically a path through the forest that is raised around 20 meters in the air. The whole path is 300 meters long. At the end of it, there is an approximately 34 meters high watchtower that slightly shakes and moves when the wind is strong. Other than that, the path is completely safe to walk and enjoyable even for those who have a fear of heights.

The scenery looked gorgeous: it was lovely to see all the greenery and the river from above. I imagine that the view should also be awesome during the autumn, when the leaves turn brown and orange, or during the winter, when everything is covered by snow.

Another object that people tend to visit when they come to Anyksciai is the boulder of Puntukas. It is the second largest rock in Lithuania and is located near the beginning of the Treetop Path. Both of these attractions are surrounded by forests which are worth a visit too.

I suggest that you definitely visit the Anyksciai Treetop Walking Path if you ever get a chance. It would probably be a good idea to go there on a weekday since it was packed on the weekend. There was a 2km traffic jam/parking line just to get there. Needless to say, I did not expect there to be so much interest in the place. 

Bellow, you will find some photos from the location. Enjoy!