2017: 100 Book Challenge

Uncategorized

Hello!

Welcome to another 2017 round-up post. I’ve already done a post about my favorite and least favorite movies of the 2017 and now it is time for my list of book for this year. I don’ really post about books on this blog (I write short comments about them on Instagram as @sharingshelves) but since a lot of the books I’ve read are movie related (novels and comics that are adapted into films or non-fiction works about movies), I thought that some of you might be interested in my suggestions/recommendations. Also, I wasn’t planning on repeating the challenge but I managed to finish 100 books again this year (did the same in 2016). I have to promise myself that I’m not even going to attempt to read this many books next year, as when I have a certain numerical goal in mind, the reading experience does become more about quantity than quality.

Before I give you the list, here are a couple of general notes about it:
• From the 100 books this year, 10 were in Lithuanian (my native language) and 90 in English – I’m reading less and less in my native language every year.
• Most popular authors were Galbraith/Rowling for novels and Ennis, Bendis, and Snyder for comic books.
• I’ve read more graphic novels this year but fewer non-fiction books. My most often read comic book characters were Batman and Wonder Woman.
• I didn’t do an author break down by nationality but a general overview is this – I mostly read books by English-speakers. I didn’t even read a single book by a Lithuanian author (one by an author of Lithuanian descent was on the list, though).
• I’ve read mostly stand-alone books this year: if we’are not counting the comic book series, I’ve only read one full novel series.
• The 20th and 21st-century books were my most preferred for leisure reading, while for my English course, I’ve jumped around all time periods, but mostly focused on the literature of the 19th century.

Anyways, here is my list of books divided into the different genres. In every part, I’ve highlighted a couple of my favorites! I have also linked some movie reviews next to the relevant books. Enjoy!

Non-fiction:

  1. S. Cain – ‘Quiet: The Power of the Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’
  2. W. Isaacson – ‘Steve Jobs’ (adapted to film)
  3. R. Roll – ‘Finding Ultra’
  4. P. Pfitzinger and S.Douglas – ‘Advanced Marathoning’
  5. F. Hufton – ‘Running: How To Get Started’

Fiction:

  1. D. Brown – ‘Digital Fortress’
  2. M. Zusak – ‘The Book Thief’
  3. W. Carther – ‘Death Comes For The Archbishop’
  4. Z. N. Hurston – ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’
  5. N. Gaiman – ‘American Gods’
  6. N. Gaiman – ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’
  7. S. Meyer – ‘ The Chemist’
  8. A. Huxley – ‘Brave New World’
  9. A. Huxley – ‘Island: a novel’
  10. I. Welsh – ‘Trainspotting’ (adapted to film)
  11. J. Moyes – ‘ The Girl You Left Behind’
  12. L. Groff – ‘Fates and Furies’
  13. R. Galbraith – The Cuckoo’s Calling’
  14. R. Galbraith – ‘The Silkworm’
  15. R. Galbraith – ‘Career of Evil’
  16. L. Moriarty – ‘Big Little Lies’
  17. A. Burgess – ‘A Clockwork Orange’
  18. G. Orwell – ‘Animal Farm: a fairy story’
  19. G. Orwell – ‘1984′
  20. D. Eggers – ‘The Circle’ (adapted to film – review)
  21. J. le Carre – ‘The Night Manager’
  22. E. Morgenstern – ‘The Night Circus’
  23. L. Evans – ‘Their Finest’ (adapted to film – review)
  24. M. Bulgakov – ‘The Master and Margarita’
  25. D. O’Porter – ‘Goose’
  26. C. Palahniuk – ‘Fight Club’
  27. C. Bukowski – ‘Post Office’
  28. N. Larsen – ‘Passing’
  29. G.R.R. Martin and G. Dozois (as editors) – ‘Rogues’
  30. D. Gibbins – ‘Crusader Gold’
  31. R. Sepetys – ‘Between Shades of Gray’
  32. B. Ridgway – ‘The River of No Return’
  33. F. Molnar – ‘The Paul Street Boys’
  34. T. Parsons – ‘Starting Over’
  35. T. Capote – ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’
  36. A. Christie – ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ (adapted to film – review)
  37. A. Thomas – ‘The Hate U Give’
  38. P.K. Dick – ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ (adapted to film – review)
  39. S. King – ‘It’ (adapted to film – review)

Cinema related books:

  1. G. Jenkins – ‘Empire Building’
  2. J. Luceno – ‘Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel’
  3. A. Freed – ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ novelization (film review)
  4. C. Fisher – ‘Postcards From The Edge’
  5. C. Fisher – ‘The Princess Diarist’
  6. C. Fisher – ‘Wishful Drinking’
  7. D. O’Neil – ‘The Dark Knight’ novelization
  8. C. Clark – ‘The Prince, The Showgirl and Me’
  9. C. Clark – ‘My Week with Marilyn’
  10. J.K. Rowling – ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ script (film review)
  11. A. Kendrick – ‘Scrappy Little Nobody’
  12. S. Nathan and S. Roman – ‘Frozen’ novelization
  13. S. Bukatman – ‘Blade Runner – BFI Film Classics’

English 3rd year degree books:

  1. Aeschylus – ‘Prometheus Bound’
  2. C. Marlowe – ‘Doctor Faustus
  3. J. Milton – ‘Paradise Lost’
  4. M. Shelley – ‘Frankenstein; 1818 text’
  5. R. Henryson – ‘The Testament of Cresseid’
  6. D. Defoe – ‘Robinson Crusoe’
  7. N. Shephard – ‘The Quarry Wood’
  8. N. Larsen – ‘Quicksand’
  9. A. Carter – ‘The Bloody Chamber and other stories’
  10. C. Bronte – ‘Jane Eyre’
  11. E. Bronte – ‘Wuthering Heights’
  12. A. Bronte – ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’
  13. G. Elliot – ‘The Lifted Veil’
  14. G. Elliot – ‘The Mill on The Floss’
  15. C. Dickens – ‘Great Expectations’
  16. H.G. Wells – ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’
  17. B. Stoker – ‘Dracula’
  18. W. Collins – ‘The Woman in White’

Graphic novels:

  1. Various authors – ‘Marvel Platinum: The Definitive Doctor Strange’ (film review)
  2. D. Abnett – ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Rocket Raccoon and Groot steal the galaxy’ (film review)
  3. G. Ennis and S. Dillon – ‘Preacher: Gone To Texas’
  4. G. Ennis and S. Dillon – ‘Preacher: Until The End Of The World’
  5. G. Ennis and S. Dillon – ‘Preacher: Proud Americans’
  6. G. Ennis and S. Dillon – ‘Preacher: Ancient History’
  7. G. Ennis and S. Dillon – ‘Preacher: Dixie Fried’
  8. B.M. Bendis and M. Gaydos – ‘Alias: Volume 1’
  9. B.M. Bendis and M. Gaydos – ‘Alias: Volume 2’
  10. B.M. Bendis and M. Gaydos – ‘Alias: Volume 3’
  11. B.M. Bendis and M. Gaydos – ‘Alias: Volume 4’
  12. G. Rucka – ‘Wonder Woman Rebirth: Volume 1 The Lies’ (film review)
  13. G. Rucka – ‘Wonder Woman Rebirth: Volume 2 Year One’
  14. G. Rucka – ‘Wonder Woman Rebirth: Volume 3 The Truth’
  15. M. Finch and D. Finch – ‘Wonder Woman: Resurrection’
  16. S. Snyder and G. Capullo – ‘Batman: The Court of Owls’
  17. S. Snyder and G. Capullo – ‘Batman: The Nights of Owls’
  18. S. Snyder and G. Capullo – ‘Batman: The City of Owls’
  19. S. Snyder and G. Capullo – ‘Batman: Endgame’
  20. J. Tyrion – ‘Batman Detective Comics Rebirth: Volume 1 Rise of the Batmen’
  21. G. Morrison and A. Kubert – ‘Batman and Son’
  22. T. S. Daniel – Batman: Battle for the Cowl’
  23. A. Conner and J. Palmiotti – ‘Harley Quinn Rebirth: Volume 3 Red Meat’
  24. J. Hickman and C. Pacheco – ‘Ultimate Thor: Volume 1’ (film review)
  25. M. Wagner – ‘Trinity’ (film review)

And that is it for the books I’ve read this year! What was your favorite book(s) of the year? What are you planning on/excited to read in 2017?

Leave a comment below and Have a Happy New Year!

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Movie review: T2: Trainspotting 

Movie reviews

Hi!

What an amazing time to be living in Scotland! This is the review of T2: Trainspotting!

To note: I don’t have a nostalgic connection to this property – I’m coming to it as a complete newcomer (have seen the original, though). So, this could either mean that I can be more objective than the fans or this could suggest that I might not get the movie fully.

IMDb summary: A continuation of the Trainspotting saga reuniting the original characters.

Writing

John Hodge, who wrote the first film, penned the script for its sequel. Both screenplays have been based on the books by Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting and Porno, respectively). I, personally, had mixed feelings on the writing for the film.

I didn’t think that T2 worked as a standalone film, however, maybe it should not have as it was a sequel? It heavily relied on the plot of the first film and created some new material to spring-board off (but not enough to work on its own). It was certainly a continuation of the original narrative – a sequel for the insiders. One could indicate that this movie wasn’t made in Hollywood, as they always try to create sequels which can attract and appeal to the new audiences.  I, personally,  never really believed that Trainspotting needed a sequel but it was definitely nice to catch up with these characters. I just wish the picture was more than the catch-up, because, essentially, just like its characters, the movie was living in the past. And yet, its setting was really contemporary – I loved the moment with the EU loan. It was a super clever and a really modern jab in the post-Brexit world.

To my mind, the best writing moments of the movie were: the writing for Renton – his true backstory (nothing really happened in the film until he told the truth about his past 2 decades) and the ‘Choose life’ speech (I always wanted that t-shirt, but now I definitely need it); the writing for Spud – I loved that he was the one who threw the last punch (with a toilet bowl – neat callback to the toilet scene in T1), thus, subverting the first picture’s notion that he never hurt anybody. I also liked the fact that he was made into a writer, so Spud was kinda a stand-in for Irvine Welsh. It was also interesting that the picture picked a clearer bad guy this time. In the first film, all of them were criminals but they were all sort of likable. This time around, Begbie was clearly supposed to be seen as the antagonist.

Like T1, Trainspotting 2 tackled variety of conceptual topics, like friendship, revenge, addiction, exploitation, betrayal, and opportunities.  It also touched upon the themes of a father-son relationship and the super topical economic migration. Lastly, the main idea of the picture was nostalgia (loved the lines about the characters being ‘tourists in their own youth’ and ‘the world changes even if we don’t’) and the questions whether the characters have wasted their lives and how can they move forward.

Directing 

Danny Boyle came back to direct the sequel to a picture that put him on the map. After the success of 1996’s Trainspotting, he has really made a name for himself with films like 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire (a huge Academy Awards winner), 127 Hours, and Steve Jobs. Although I thought that T2 was slower and more depressing than the original, I still enjoyed it. Plus, this less upbeat tone fit the stage of life that these characters were in. In addition, this time around, Boyle didn’t really go for the shock value – T2 was tamer and less messed up. There weren’t any scenes equal to ‘the baby’ or ‘the worst toilet in Scotland’ sequences from the first one. What stayed the same was the setting of the film – it was realistically gritty – set in the true social reality rather than a cinematic one. And even though the style of directing was less snappy, it was still a visceral experience to watch the film, which was mostly due to Boyle’s impressive and unique camera angles and montages.

I had a variety of favorite moments from the film. I adored the wide shots of Edinburgh, especially during the run sequence. Renton’s and Sick Boy’s lecture in front of the TV was really fun too. I laughed the hardest during Renton’s and Begbie’s first encounter – the divided screen and the toilet cubicles were an amazing setting both from the practical and the narrative stand-point. In general, I loved all the visual references to the T1. The finale was also really well-directed. I really liked the fact that this time around train tracks and trains played more of a role. Also, I though that having all 4 characters come together only in the finale was a cool choice. Lastly, the film’s soundtrack was magnificent. Both familiarly upbeat and a bit more lyrical this time around.

Acting

The original cast came back for the sequel: Ewan McGregor (Angels & DemonsSalmon Fishing in the Yemen, Our Kind of Traitor, soon in Beauty and the Beast) as Renton, Ewen Bremner (soon in Wonder Woman!?) as SpudJonny Lee Miller (Elementary) as Sick Boy, and Robert Carlyle (Once Upon a Time) as Begbie. All of them are still great actors – they have indeed matured in their craft during these past 20 years. My favorite encounters between characters/actors were all the scenes between Renton and Spud and between Renton and Sick Boy.

Kelly Macdonald (Anna Karenina) also appeared briefly as Diane Coulston. Her inclusion was the only thing that seemed like an afterthought. The new female lead – Veronika – was played by a Bulgarian actress Anjela Nedyalkova. She was great in the film – I also really liked the fact that they cast a foreigner in the movie to reflect the actual population of Britain today (and this comes from a foreigner studying at Aberdeen Uni, where one might get 2 Scottish people to every 20 foreigners. Fun fact – the book version of Renton went to Aberdeen Uni too!).

In short, T2: Trainspotting was a great sequel that required the previous knowledge of the material in order to be enjoyed. The direction was still great even if a bit different, while the acting skills of the cast have definitely improved.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: T2: Trainspotting trailer

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Day Trip to Loch Ness

Sightseeing

Hello!

Welcome to another short post of the sightseeing variety. On Saturday, I went to probably the most famous tourist attraction in Scotland – the Loch Ness lake. I didn’t find the Loch Ness Monster (also affectionately known as Nessie) but I did manage to have a great time on this one day trip.

I, and the group of students from my university’s International Society, set off from Aberdeen at around 8am in the morning. On our way to Loch Ness, we stopped at Inverness for food and other supplies. Before noon, we reached the lake itself and paused to take pictures of its northern side, where River Ness flows into Loch Ness.

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The first proper attraction on our list was Urquhart Castle or the ruins of it. Situated on the shores of the lake, this castle was a perfect stronghold for various Scottish lords and clans, until it was destroyed at the end of 17th century. Nowadays, the ruins are an excellent place for historical sightseeing – they are massive and it takes at least and hour to walk around the remains of the castle and check out all nooks and corners of it. There is also a cafe, a gift shop, and a film theater, which screens a short movie on the history of the castle, nearby.

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Next stop of the trip was the tiny village/settlement of Fort Augustus, located at the southernmost point of the Loch Ness lake. Not only does this tiny town is super cute to walk around and has an amazing view of the lake, it also the place of the Caledonian Canal – a massive structure of locks, bridges, and aqueducts used to regulate the water levels in the surrounding lochs. Speaking abut the stunning views – during our visit to the town, it started to rain a bit and the sun was also shining quite brightly (it was starting to set), so, we managed to catch a glimpse of a full rainbow above the Loch Ness lake. I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen a full rainbow, especially in such an open and unobstructed place. The sight was magical and I couldn’t stop taking photos. Fort Augustus also had a gift shop, in which I treated myself and my family to some souvenirs.

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The following photos are of the postcards and other gifts that I purchased. I got a variety of cards to add to my collection as well as few to send to my aunt and a friend. Also, I got a fridge magnet for my parents and a plushie of Nessie, because it is the stupidest and the cutest thing ever and I couldn’t just not buy it.

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I highly recommend you visit this superb place if you get a chance. The more of Scotland I see, the more I fall in love with its nature. Last spring, I went to the Isle of Skye and Glencoe Valley and blogged about it, if that interests you.

Have a great week!

In preparation for Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them!!!

Movie previews

Hello!

Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them is coming out in less than a month, so in order to get myself ready for its release, I decided to read the extra Harry Potter material that I missed or didn’t get a chance to read before now and I would like to share my thoughts on it.

I have always been a huge fan of the main HP series, I have re-read all the main books more times than I can count – they were literally my bible growing up and kinda still are now. Harry Potter fandom was also the first fandom that I’ve ever joined. The last movie of the main series – The Deathly Hallows Part 2 – marked the first time when I genuinely cried in the cinema because I didn’t want to leave that world behind. As a kid, I would also imagine myself in that world – I used to play pretend that I was a student at Hogwarts, even made a wand out of two pencils and some tape. My mom’s bathrobe worked well as the uniform robe too. Nowadays, I express my inner fan of HP more subtly – I have a Hogwarts Alumni t-shirt, a Fantastic Beasts t-shirt, a Ravenclaw pin on my bag and a Time-Turner necklace because a)I would love to turn back time (although, The Cursed Child kinda made me doubt that) and b)I’m basically a muggle reincarnation of Hermione Granger. Plus, I recently order a Golden Snitch bracelet. Last year, I have also visited a few outdoor filming locations – the bridge that was used as the Hogwarts Express viaduct (Glenfinnan Viaduct) and the lake that doubled as the Black Lake (Loch Shiel). I made a blog post about that trip, you can find it here. Next spring, I plan on going to the actual tour of the studios in London as well as the King’s Cross.

Okay, that’s enough of my personal story, let’s now discuss the textbook that the upcoming movie was inspired by as well as other extra books from the HP world.

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, written by Newt Scamander a.k.a. J.K.Rowling is an amusing little book. It was first published as a novella for the UK charity Comic Relief in 2001, so the number of the printed books was quite limited. I managed to get one copy from a local library because I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on it – the books from the first few printings are super expensive on eBay and their prices have been increasing steadily because of the upcoming movie. The book will be rereleased next year as a hardback but who wants to wait that long?

Recently, Warner Bross and J.K. Rowling announced that Fantastic Beasts franchise will have 5 movies in it. The original book consists of less than 100 tiny pages but I can see a lot of potential in it. You can basically just pick one beast that is described in it and come up with an adventure story revolving around it. I also imagine that the filmmakers and J.K. Rowling, who will be writing or at least overseeing the scripts, will pull some extra stuff from the Harry Potter lore on Pottermore or from the other 2 short novellas (which I will discuss bellow). Moreover, since J.K.Rowling is so involved in the creation process I don’t have any problems with her coming up with new stuff – all the fans were super happy when the HP 8th book was published.

Fantastic Beasts not only has a lot of cinematic potential but it is an extremely easy and enjoyable read by itself. The novella is funny, witty and has quite a few easter eggs in the form of Harry’s or Ron’s handwritten notes.

Quidditch Through The Ages

Another Comic Relief book from 2001, Quidditch Through The Ages also has a lot of cinematic possibilities just like Fantastic Beasts. I can definitely see this novella being adapted into a magical sports drama. I think a lot of people would be interested in this type of property, as the Quidditch scenes from the HP films have always been well-accepted. In addition, I think a lot of fans (I included) were quite disappointed when the filmmakers cut the majority of the Quidditch World Championship from the 4th film.

On a side note, Quidditch Throughs The Ages also did a very good job in adding a global aspect to the magical world, as it spotlighted the traditions of Quidditch around the world. I even found out that my native country of Lithuania has a Quidditch team in J.K.Rowling’s mind, called Gorodog Gargoyles. I was so excited after I read that paragraph that I’ll almost let it slide that Rowling used words with Russian language roots (‘gorodo‘ means ‘city‘) to name a Lithuanian team (my country’s and Russia’s common relations are not great due to history).

The Tales of Beedle The Bard

The newest of the charity books, The Tales of Beedle The Bard has been published in association with Children’s High-Level Group in 2008. This short story collection is J.K.Rowling’s magical take on the old-school fairytale genre. Among other stories, the book includes The Tale of the Three Brothers – a myth that played an important role in the final HP book. The short novella also contains Dumbledore’s notes on various tales: these writings not only give us more context and background regarding the magical world but also provide an insight into Dumbledore’s personality. These notes might be useful in kickstarting a Dumbledore-centric film plotline, as it has been speculated that the young version of the character will show up in the future Fantastic Beasts movies.

Finally, one last note on the charity books – I think that they are an amazing idea and that more authors should use their talents for writing to help others. J.K.Rowling not only created more stories for the fans of Harry Potter but actually did something good that will benefit people around the world. Basically, I hope more writers will try to cleverly utilize their fandom for philanthropy.

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child

The last of the books that I’m gonna talk about today is, of course, the new HP book. Written in a play format for the West End and released in a script form, The Cursed Child tells a story of Harry, his family, and friends 19 years after the demise of Voldemort.

I was super excited when I heard that the script of the play will be published as I knew that I wasn’t going to make it to London to see the theatrical production. I absolutely loved coming back to this world and catching up with the character that I grew up with. It was also really nice to see them as proper adults: while their characters as children acted as my personal examples on how to be a child, The Cursed Child can basically act as my guide into adulthood.

I also found it interesting how we got to see a few alternative futures of our beloved characters. In addition, I liked the fact that Rowling picked the Time-Turner from the 3rd book to be the focus of the 8th story – she has taken a supposed plot hole of a previous book and made it into a plot-point. Now, nobody can complain that they should have used the Time-Turner to kill Voldemort in the first place, as the consequences of that could have been even worse. Basically, the main message is DON’T MESS WITH TIME. Also, I liked how she took other familiar bits and pieces from the previous books and presented them in a new way, like the Triwizard Tournament from the 4th book.

The format of the play took some getting used to, as the narrative would jump around in time very quickly. However, that added a quickness and a non-stop pace to the plot, which was quite nice and different. Nevertheless, I did miss the extensive descriptions that would take up a lot of space in the previous novels. The main topics and values like family, friendship, the fight between good and evil, the sacrifice, and the prophecy – the staples of HP – were present and welcomed in The Cursed Child as well.

A few last notes of the book: I really liked how J.K. Rowling managed to resurrect popular characters for the 8th book, by that, I, of course, mean Snape. Reading his lines and imagining Alan Rickman in my mind made his passing even sadder and more heartbreaking. To end this short review on a happier note – I liked how in this book, Draco and Ginny were kinda included into the main trio. This reminded me a lot of the 5th book, which was my favorite because it had more of the main characters. Don’t get me wrong, I have always loved Harry, Hermione, and Ron together, but I also liked seeing them interact with other characters as well and The Cursed Child gave me more of that.


After reading a new HP story and 3 supplementary novellas, I feel quite prepared and in the mood for the new film. I loved the casting choices, especially Eddie Redmayne in the lead, I’m excited about the new U.S. setting and the trailers have also been promising. My review of the film will be coming out the same weekend as the movie hits theaters.

Bye, and Thank You for reading!

Movie review: Hell or High Water

Movie reviews

Hello!

Today, we are talking about one of the most critically acclaimed indie films of 2016. It’s the review of Hell or High Water.

IMDb summary: A divorced dad and his ex-con brother resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family’s ranch in West Texas.

Writing

Actor-turned-screenwriter Taylor Sheridan wrote Hell or High Water’s script and did an amazing job. This screenplay was actually the winner of 2012’s Black List and I’m really happy that it was turned into a movie, even if 4 years later than it should have been. Sheridan also penned the script for last year’s Sicario – a standout movie of 2015. Both Sicario and Hell or High Water share some similarities: the two stories are both set in the southern states of the US and the particular setting has a role in the narrative. Also, both movies are quite slow – the plots are allowed to unravel by themselves, the films are never rushed and the important moments aren’t just montaged through.

Hell or High Water’s story is also really successful in its emotional appeal. It deals with the universal topic of family and explores the relationship between two brothers superbly. It also does a good job of making the viewers sympathize with all the characters. I, personally, wanted the brother to succeed, even though they were criminals, and I also wanted the two rangers to succeed in their quest.

These sympathies arose from the subtle character development, which was dispersed throughout the whole film. By listening to the dialogue and seemingly random banter we find out a lot about the characters: we discovered the reason for the heists and why the brothers seemed to have an estranged relationship. The friendly teasing between the rangers helped us to get a few hints into the history of the two law-enforcers – we uncovered the ancestry of one of them and the approaching retirement of the other.

Lastly, I really loved the way the ending of the film was written. I always enjoy this type of open-ending when it is done right. Sometimes, when the movie just ends abruptly, without answering any questions, the whole story falls flat but, when the film leaves you with just one or few unresolved issues, like Hell or High Water did, the narrative both finishes and is permitted to live on in the minds of those who witnessed it. Both the characters and the viewers will be haunted by this story.

Directing

A Scottish director David Mackenzie did a magnificent job directing Hell or High Water. He utilized the setting of Texas splendidly and showed the rural areas, the open spaces and the little beat-up towns in long and extremely long tracking shots. He also gave the story a lot of breathing room – although every scene was carefully and beautifully crafted, the movie seemed to flow very organically and naturally. The feature’s color plate was also really nice – warm tons filled the screen and made every shot look like an old vintage photograph.

I also loved all the shots were the modernity and the traditional old-school ways of life were juxtaposed. The setting of Texas, where people still live in old ranches and work with cattle and horses but also have modern gas pumps, was an appropriate location for this juxtaposition. To me, the scene in the gas station was amazing – not only did it have us that unexpected fight but we also got a frame with both a horse and a cowboy and a new sports car with two fake gangster youngsters. Lastly, the fact that everybody seemed to have a gun in the film was not only a funny aspect of the movie but also a very realistic one.

Music

Hell or High Water’s soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis really added to the atmosphere of the film. Fitting to the setting of Texas, the film’s visuals were accompanied by cool country music. The picture also had this really nice instrumental theme to supplement the long tracking shots of the characters driving or moving through a frame in any other way.

Acting

  • Jeff Bridges as Marcus Hamilton, a Texas Ranger was amazing. The way he delivered the jokes and teased other characters was truly enjoyable to watch. It’s probably one of Bridges best performances out of the recent years because he did have a few flops lately, like The Giver or Seventh Son. I hope this role is the signal that he is back on track and I do hope that his contribution to Kingsman 2, coming out next year, will be worth the wait.
  • Chris Pine as Toby Howard was also really good. I’m starting to like Pine more and more in these rugged, less clean-cut and more challenging roles. Yes, he is also good in Hollywood blockbusters, like Star Trek and Into the Woods, but is more fun to see him try something different. A few recent smaller films of his that I suggest you watch are Z for Zachariah and The Finest Hours. Of course, let’s not forget to check out his blockbuster work too – Wonder Woman is only 10 months away.
  • Ben Foster as Tanner Howard was also really good. I’ve only recently started noticing him in films, the last one being The Program, in which he played the lead role of Lance Amstrong. In a few weeks, Foster will also play the main antagonist in Inferno, which I’m also looking forward too.
  • Gil Birmingham as Alberto Parker, Hamilton’s partner was also really good. I hope that the teases that his character received weren’t too offensive to both Mexicans and Native Americans. I really loved his speech about how the white colonialists took everything from his character’s people, only to lose the winnings of the pillage to the banks.

In short, Hell or High Water is one of the best films of the year so far. It’s masterfully crafted and slow, but immensely engaging. The acting is amazing, the writing is spectacular and the directing – excellent. A must watch for any fans of Westerns and heist movies.

Rate: 5/5

Trailer: Hell or High Water trailer

P.S. Weirdly, my next movie review will also be that of a Western – The Magnificient Seven.

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Fall Run 2016

Sports

Hello!

Welcome to the last sports update post this summer. Well, it’s technically no longer summer, but, to me, the autumn doesn’t start until I leave for Scotland and that’s only happening on Tuesday.

Anyway, today’s entry is dedicated to another running event I participated in – in my native language, it’s called Azuolyno Begimas which loosely translate to Oak Grove Run (it is held in an Oak Grove park). This is the 4th running competition of this kind and it usually happens twice a year – at the beginning of autumn and at the start of spring.

All of the participants (around a thousand of them) could choose from a variety of distances. The professional runners or more athletic people were able to run 15km, 10km or 5km, while the beginner runners and amateurs could try their hand at a free 3km Fun Run. There were also special distances for pupils, kids, families, and pets with their owners.

This particular run was quite special and interesting because I did something that I’ve never done before – I ran two distances in a single day during the same event. I did the 10 km distance – wasn’t really happy with my time or the state of my legs and feet – and I also accompanied my aunt on her first ever run – we did the 3km together. The second run was much more pleasant – not only shorter and easier but way more enjoyable too – I liked helping my aunt achieve her own personal goal.

The weather for running was quite good – the temperature was around 15 degrees Celsius and it was quite cloudy, so the sun wasn’t shining into one’s eyes or adding any unnecessary heat and warmness. However, by the time I was finishing the 10k, it started to rain which wasn’t that great or comfortable, especially when running with glasses.

All of the runners received their runner’s numbers and commemorative wooden medals. The participant’s package also included a discount card for hummel sneakers, a free entry to a sports center, a month’s subscription to an online exercise platform, an energy drink and a pot of quickly preparable porridge.

Since I’m going back to Aberdeen in a few days, I will miss out on quite a few running events in my native country. In a few weeks, a memorial run organized by a local university will be held, while a week after that there will be a walking/hiking event. The first week of October would have been reserved for a charity run to raise awareness for breast cancer if I was still living in Lithuania. However, I’m excited to get back to the UK and to start a new year at university. I also hope to find some running events in my ‘other’ hometown.

Have a great week!

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Sightseeing: Isle of Skye & Glencoe

Sightseeing

Hello!

I haven’t done any sightseeing post in a while because I haven’t travelled anywhere, except flying between Scotland and Lithuania. However, this past weekend, I channelled my inner tourist and visited the Islands & Highlands of Scotland or Isle of Skye and Glencoe valley, to be precise. So, I’m guessing by this point you know what this post will be about – I will tell you about a few of the many beautiful places of Scotland that I had a chance to visit.

I was travelling around Scotland with my university’s international society, whose sole purpose is to help international and home students to see more of the country and make unforgettable memories. I’m sure that after you read this post, you will be able to recreate the trip to the smallest detail if you wanted.

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This is an approximate map of my trip. The lines definitely do not represent the actual roads that we took, they only show you the order of the trip. Red lines and red dots represented the distance we covered and the objects/places we visited on the 1st day of the trip (Friday), Blue lines and dots – Saturday (2nd day) and the Green dots and lines – Sunday (the last day).

We set off from Aberdeen early in the morning – around 6am. At around 9-10 am we stopped on the outskirts of Inverness to buy some food – especially snacks and a lot of water. Then followed another 1.5h on the bus before we reached our first location for photo opportunities – Loch Carron.

Loch Carron is both the name of the village and the narrow lake in the Highlands – only a short drive from the bridge to the Isle of Skye. We took photos from a few angles but all of them very equally beautiful.

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Then, we went to a few locations on the actual Isle of Skye. First, we drove and walked (around 1 mile through hills and valleys) to the Claigan Coral Beach – the view was absolutely stunning – the sand and corals were pure white – and the water – light and deep blue. The weather was also spectacular – sunny with a few clouds in the sky.

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Next, we drove pass the Dunvegan Castle (sadly, we didn’t have time to visit it) to the south of the isle – the Glen Brittle glen, where we hiked to the Fairy Pools. The view was magnificent, the weather – pleasant (sunny but a bit windy) and the path to walk on – interesting. We had to jump over quite a few streams or use stepping stones to cross them. I wish we would have had time to reach the actual bottom of the mountains, though. Nevertheless, I enjoyed seeing all the waterfalls and pools.

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After visiting the Fairy Pools, we drove back up north to the town of Portree (King’s port). There we spent the night at an independent hostel. The hostel’s building was really cute (light yellow colour) and the actual hostel was clean and comfortable. In the morning, I went around Portree to get some water for a trip, some money from an ATM and I also bough a few postcards. Basically, the town is full of all the necessary shops and the major banks.

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We started our second day of the trip with the hardest challenge of all – a hike to the Old Man of Storr. When we started our hike the sun was still shining, however, the higher we walked, the worse the weather became. By the time I actyally startedclimbing up the mountain, it started to snow and hail. The wind was also crazy. Nonetheles, the extreme hike was worth all the energy, becase the actuall rocks of top of the hill were really cool and the view from the mountain was also nice, In addition, after climing this hight – this was the highest hike I have ever done – I felt a sense of accomplishment. Moreover, for me as a cinephile, it was really nice to be standing in the place where Ridley Scott shot the opening of Prometheus.

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When we climbed down and got back to the bus, the clouds cleared and the sun appeared, so our drive back to the Highlands was pleasant. Although we were all quite cold, since we were soaking wet and frozen after that climb through a hail storm.

At around miday, we reached the Eillean Donan Castle, which is located in the meeting pint of three lochs – Loch Duich, Loch Long, and Loch Alsh. It has been destroyed at the begining of the 18th century and rebuilt between 1919 and 1932. Now it is used as a tourist atraction – various collections are on display. The historical kitchen model is also recreated and displayed. The castle also serves as a filming location for movies and TV shows. One of the films that was shot there and that I’ve seen is Highlander. The castle has a big gift shop full of iconic Scottish souvenirs, so I picked up a fridge magnet – the most stereoytipacl souvenir of all.

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After visiting the castle, we drove down south to a very special place to me – the Harry Potter filming location. I have always been a massive fan of both the books and films, so standing in the place where the movies whre shot was surreal. We visited the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which serves as a bridge that leads to Hogwarts. On the other side  of the road from the viaduct, there is a beaituful lake – Loch Shiel or the Black Lake/Great Lake that is near Hogwarts and was mostly shown in the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire film, during the 2nd event of the Triwizard torunament.

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By this point, we were all pretty tired, so we just sat silently or napped on the bus on our way to Glencoe, were we stayed at SYHA hostel in the middle of nowhere. The hostel was surrounded my hills and mountains and all sides. The rooms were comfortable, the kitchen and bathrooms – convenient and clean.

On Sunday, we didn’t have any plans as a group, so all of just basically divied into pairs or smaller groups and when for a walk or a bike ride (there was a little vilage near by where you could rent a bike for 10 pounds) around the Glencoe valley. Films like Braveheart, Higlander and even Skyfall where shot around those parts. This valley is also famous for being the location of the real life Red Wedding. The Masscare of Glencoe in 1692 was the event that inspired Goerge R.R. Martin wen writing the Song of Ice and Fire.

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At around 3pm we left Glencoe and headed back to Aberdeen. We made a short stop at Perth for some food (McDonalds) and reached the city of Aberdeen at around 8pm. I was home by 8.30 pm and extremely tired, so I just caught up on the news, took a shower and went to bed.

Although the trip was echausting, I enjoyed it immensely. Rocky mountians and water (oceans, lakes, rivers and seas) are my two favorite things to visit in nature, so this trip was perfect for my taste. I highly suggest that you at least visit the places that I have mentioned if you ever in Scotland. There is so much more to visit, though, and I know that I will defintely be going back to both the Islands and Higlands of Scotland. They are quite hard to reach via the public transport, so I would suggest for you to either rent a bus and find a group of friends or just get a car and go solo. This trip would also requre you to be able to walk or hike quite a lot, so remeber to wear comfortable clothes and shoes and bring lots of fluids.

What was the last place that you have travelled? Have you ever been to Scotland or are you plan on visiting it ? Bye!

Happy Easter 2016!!

Sightseeing

Good morning my dear readers and Happy Easter!

I just wanted to quickly wish you a happy day even if you don’t celebrate Easter! I hope that either your Easter Sunday or just normal Sunday will be full of joy and happiness whatever you do!

Easter is quite a big family celebration in my native country. This year I’m not going home to celebrate it, so I’m stuck alone in my room on campus. But I can’t say that I mind that very much..:)

In Lithuania, we have a tradition to color eggs for Easter and we call them ‘marguciai’ (translated as colorful Easter Eggs). So, even though I now live in a different country/time zone/continent(almost), I decided to continue this tradition.

First of all, let me present you the Easter Egg with ‘Easter Eggs‘ (aka references) on top of it. I hand-painted (my skills are rubbish, but I think it turned out nice) various symbols of nerdiness. From the top left corner we have my blog symbol, Wonder Woman’s symbol, Black Widow’s symbol, The Avengers A, Batman v Superman logo, Daredevil’s double D logo, Deadpool’s symbol, Captain America’s shield, the nerdfighteria’s acronym DFTBA, and the Star Trek logo. I really wanted to include references to Harry Potter, Lord of The Rings, Star Wars and Game of Thrones, but I either ran out of space or just couldn’t come up with a simple enough symbol or logo.


Next, I did a United Nation/Countries/Flags Easter Egg. This one was partly inspired by a globe-like Easter Egg that I made last year.


The countries that I managed to include were: Lithuania (my native country), Scotland (my current home), United Kingdom, United States of America, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Spain, The Netherlands, Greece, Brazil, South Korea, South Africa, Japan, India, and Denmark. That’s basically all the countries that I would like to visit (and whose flags are quite easy to draw/paint).

I also coloured two other eggs. I just put some zigzag lines and dots on one of them and rolled the other one in nail polish. They turned out okay.


Once again, have a Happy Easter if you celebrate it, while I am going back to bed to eat chocolate eggs and other sweets!

Easter 2014 post – here.

Christmas Run: Aberdeen Santa Run 2015 

Sports

Hello!

Welcome to another post about a running event! My last post on running was published  back in September, when I participated in the Night Run just before I left Lithuania, and you can find it here. Since then, I have literally been jogging only 3-5 times, so I wasn’t in my best shape for this run. Nevertheless, I had a great time and I want to share my experiences with you!

Aberdeen Santa Run 2015 was an annual charity run organized by WildHearts charity. This was obviously my first Santa Run in Aberdeen (since I’ve only moved there 4 months ago) as well as my very first Christmas Run in general (although, I think I will participate in a Christmas-y Run in my hometown of Kaunas when I get back to Lithuania for a Christmas break). Speaking about Santa Run in Aberdeen: all the proceeds from this event went to the aforementioned WildHearts charity and will help to fund various projects that this charity undertakes. Next weekend, a different WildHearts Santa Run will take place in the nearby town of Inverness, so, if you are in the area, I highly suggest that you participate! It’s not only a fun afternoon activity but a great charity event for an amazing cause!

I, personally, found out about Aberdeen Santa Run through Facebook and instantly decided to register. The standard payment for the run/donation was 15£. For this price, upon arrival, all the participants received a full, one-size-fits-all type of Santa Suit (trousers, jacket, hat, beard and  belt, which I have lost while running) and a number card. After the run, all the runners received a commemorative medal, a goodie bag with snacks (caramel bar, coconut chips, yogurt raisins and shortbread cookie) and a bottle of water. The youngsters could participate for a cheaper price -10£- they received a special event T-Shirt, a hat, and a number.

The run started outside the Pittodrie Stadium and the route ran  by the beach and the seafront. Throughout the whole run, I could  see the North Sea, so, from my running experience, this was definitely the run with the prettiest view. Having said that, running by the sea was not easy because of the harsh wind! However, the sun was shining the whole time and there were zero clouds in the sky, so it was a nicely balanced weather.

The organization for the event was really good, except for one mishap with the first turn in the route. All the runners (725 runners participated in the run) divided themselves into two groups and took two different paths, however, we managed to join back into one crowd fairly quickly. The whole mass of runners was also accompanied by a group of men in Santa costumes on motorbikes – that was an amazing spectacle as well.

I was quite happy with the time that I’ve managed to finish the distance in. This event wasn’t meant to be a serious competition. It was just a super fun Sunday afternoon, doing something good both for one’s own health and a bigger cause. It also helped me to get into a Christmas Spirit.

If you want to find more information about the event, you can click here. Bellow, I have also included a few photos from the actual run, a photo of the Santa Suit, a number and the medal. The snacks are already in my stomach, so I can’t show you those!

Have a great week!

Aberdeen’s Christmas Trees

Sightseeing

 Hello!

I hope that all of you are getting into the Christmas Spirit. I, personally, can’t wait for this year’s Christmas, because I get to go home to visit my family: finally, the song ‘Driving (or flying) home for Christmas’ will actually be meaningful. Anyway, in this post, I just wanted to share a few photos of my town’s Christmas Trees, so as to lift up your mood or pass on the contagious Christmas Spirit. Don’t worry about the deadlines and the exams if you are a student – bad grades do not mean that your life is over. If you are out of school and in the workforce – try to enjoy the things you do or be brave enough to change them – end 2015 the way you want to live the rest of your life!

A few sentences about the photos: the first Christmas Tree stands on campus of University of Aberdeen, the second one – the book tree and the third – the plastic tree are both in the university’s library (The Sir Duncan Rice Library) and the last one is the city’s tree – it’s located on the corner of Union street and King street.