Movie review: I, Tonya

Movie reviews

Hello!

Just in time for Winter Olympics 2018 in PyeongChang, I got a chance to see a biopic of a former Olympic figure skater. This is I, Tonya!

IMDb summary: Competitive ice skater Tonya Harding rises amongst the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but her future in the activity is thrown into doubt when her ex-husband intervenes.

Writing

I, Tonya was written by Steven Rogers – a writer of mostly romantic comedies and dramas. I thought that he did quite an excellent job with a new kind of story for him – a biographical black comedy. Of course, a lot of the appeal of the writing came from the peculiar and fascinating subject matter itself – Tonya Harding’s life. I really liked the structure of the film: the 4th wall breaking interviews + flashbacks. This type of structure didn’t make the movie feel choppy at all but added a layer of almost documentary-like authenticity. I also liked how the first’s part of the movie explored Tonya’s life prior to the event and only the second part focused on the event and its aftermath. By not making the whole movie about the incident with Nancy Kerrigan (who, btw, only showed up briefly – this picture was, truly, Tonya’s story and I’ve seen some supporters of Nancy complain about that online), the filmmakers really made this movie into a well-rounded biography of Tonya’s rather than just a retelling of a single event in her life. I also found the themes that the movie explored very interesting: the two major concepts that the picture looked at were family and sport – both of which intersected in Tonya Harding’s life.

Lately, ‘sport’ movies have been about so much more than just sport (like, Battle of the Sexes, in addition to I, Tonya). Gone are the days of basic inspirational sports movies of underdogs succeeding. Now, the underdogs don’t always win and the hurdles in their way are even higher and more complicated (less black and white too). Also, a recurring topic that I’ve noticed in the latest ‘sports’ movies was elitism in sport, which was explored here through the need of a ‘wholesome American family’ for a world-class skater and in Borg Vs. McEnroe through a need to come from a certain class (the higher the better) to be able to play tennis.

Looking for parallels with the other movies further, interestingly, Tonya Harding wasn’t the only real-life movie heroine this awards’ season who was told all her life that she wasn’t good enough (Molly from Molly’s Game was too). There is no question that her mother was a horrible and abusive parent. However, did that abuse really made Tonya tougher and a champion, as her mom asserted? I’d disagree, as it seems that Tonya went from one abusive family to create an abusive and dysfunctional family of her own. And yet, was she only a product of her upbringing and circumstances? Or whether some of it was completely on her? Was she inherently violent or did she learn violence? Either way, while the movie raised a lot of questions for me (as evident in this paragraph), it did provide me with one clear answer: Tonya deserved better. Also, I do believe that Tonya wasn’t to blame as much as she was blamed (she wasn’t completely blameless either). However, it seems that the skating world really could not past up an opportunity to avenge themselves not only for the incident but for her whole attitude towards them.

But, this is only my takeaway from the film. Other viewers might have understood the message differently and that’s okay because, as the movie itself stated at the very beginning: there are different versions of the truth. However, I do believe that there is a consensus among the viewers about who was the most despicable character in the film. If you didn’t think it was the bodyguard, then you really shouldn’t read this review further. I absolutely hated his character not only for his final actions that damned everyone else but just how he weaseled himself into that situation in the first place. He was truly an idiot, and that special kind of idiot, that, I’m sad to say, only seems to come in the US. Another very American aspect of the movie was the public’s reaction to the incident: Americans are a special nation who love to love celebrities as much as they love to hate them. Though it looks like this trend (of love and hate) is spreading to other parts of the world now too, mostly because of the social media.

Directing

Craig Gillespie (of The Finest Hours and Million Dollar Arm) directed I, Tonya and did a stellar job. He paced and edited the movie really well. The cinematography was great too – I loved how close and intimate the camera was during the skating sequences. The head replacement effect was noticeable in some of those sequences but not as much as to take the viewer out of the movie. The setting of the period was realized spot-on. The breaking of the 4th wall not only during the interview sequences but during the flashbacks was great too and fit the black comedy/’so crazy it has to be true’ tonne of the film. The picture was also incredibly funny but in that ‘I feel horrible for laughing’ kind of a way. I loved its irony and that satirical feeling.  The mirrored visuals in the ending, with Harding twirling on ice vs falling in a boxing, were amazing and quite sad as well.

Acting

Margot Robbie (Goodbye Christopher Robin, Tarzan, The Big Short), who has been steadily increasing her mainstream fanbase with every movie she has starred in, especially Suicide Squad, did an absolutely stellar job as the titular character. She not only acted in the film but also produced it. This role of hers reminded me of Charlize Theron’s performance in Monster, as both actresses got really de-glamourized in order to portray their respective characters. I also loved how Robbie was able to portray Tonya as a graceful dancer who wasn’t girly but rather more masculine. I thought that Robbie’s best scenes in the film (the ones that were definitely in her awards reel) were: 1)her just looking at the mirror before the 1994 Olympics and 2)her reaction to the sentence of the trial. Fun fact: the girl who played young Tonya was Mckenna Grace. In addition to playing the younger version of an actress who is Harley Quinn, she has also starred in Gifted alongside Captain America, a.k.a Chris Evans.

Allison Janney (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, The Girl on the Train) was also incredible in the film and is deservedly getting a lot of awards recognition for it. I wish that Sebastian Stan, who played Tonya’s husband, would have also gotten some awards nods because he too was excellent in the film. Stan has been steadily building quite a successful career for himself too, like Robbie, by starring in the supporting roles in smaller/awards films (The Martian, Logan Lucky) and by portraying a fan favorite character in a big franchise, a.k.a. Bucky in MCU (who was last seen in Civil War plus, a certain post-credits scene in a certain movie.

In short, I, Tonya was a great film with a fascinating subject matter and a stellar execution.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: I, Tonya trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Early Man

Movie reviews

Hello!

While some people flocked to the theater to see the last Fifty Shades, I joined my favorite demographic – kids – at the cinema. This is Early Man.

IMDb summary: Set at the dawn of time, when prehistoric creatures and woolly mammoths roamed the earth, Early Man tells the story of Dug, along with sidekick Hognob as they unite his tribe against a mighty enemy Lord Nooth and his Bronze Age City to save their home.

  1. Early Man was written by Mark Burton (comedy writer) and James Higginson and directed by Nick Park (Chicken Run director). This animated feature comes from Aardman – one of the few stop-motion animation studios still working in the mainstream (the other studio being Laika). I have always loved this type of an animation style and the aforementioned style was one of the factors that drew me into the cinema to see Early Man.
  2. Having seen the trailer numerous times (they were showing it literally before every movie here in the UK, Aardman being a British company), I vaguely knew what the story was going to be and wasn’t certain how to feel about it. Part of me was thinking that it’s a good thing to educate children on the origin of humans but another part of me (the anthropology student) wasn’t sure how the film would handle the ideas of a ‘primitive’ (can’t stand that word anymore, thanks, anthropology). Anyways, Early Man’s solution to the tricky representation was to just make every character into an idiot and also, have the movie to turn out to be about something completely different: not the origin of humans but the invention of football.
  3. The whole football storyline (which was, basically, the main plotline) was where the movie shined. All the real world comparisons and jabs completely worked: starting with the instant replay puppets, unfair referee, players acting as if they were hurt and ending with Lord Nooth being a corrupt sports manager (‘Voluntary contribution…everybody has to pay’ was such a great oxymoron of a line). This whole idea to focus on football (or soccer for the US) also seemed very British/European. South America enjoys football too, so maybe this film will be financially successful down there. In addition to smart jokes, Early Man also had a plethora of really stupid ones, which I didn’t care for, but the primary audience (a.k.a. children in my screening) absolutely loved.
  4. The animation of the picture was really great and the character design stayed within the Aardman brand (more round, obviously clay-like characters in contrast to Laika’s more spindly and weirdly shaped ones). The pacing of the movie was good too and I did appreciate how quick and short it was. As all sports-movies (yes, Early Man is a sports movie), this film had a fun and quite inventive training montage. Lastly, I’d love to find out whether any of the football players in the movie were based on real athletes.
  5. Early Man’s voice cast featured some incredible British A-listers (their involvement was the second major draw to the movie for me, personally). Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts, The Danish Girl, Jupiter Ascending) was great as aloof, optimistic, and infectious lead Doug, while Tom Hiddleston (Thor 3, Kong, High-Rise) sounded like he had fun embodying such a caricaturish old-school villain. Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams was basically voicing an animated version of Arya (only obsessed with football, not revenge). While one could definitely recognize the voices of all the actors, their accents did sound a bit thicker than usual, which seemed like an intentional choice to go with the overall tone of the film.

In short, Early Man was a lovely and neatly animated movie with a nice message of writing one’s own story. It also kinda made me want to watch a football match or even kick a ball around for a bit myself.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Early Man trailer

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Movie review: Stronger

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of the second Boston Marathon bombing biopic. It’s Stronger.

IMDb summary: Stronger is the inspiring real-life story of Jeff Bauman, an ordinary man who captured the hearts of his city and the world to become a symbol of hope after surviving the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

Just last year (or at the beginning of this year, depending on the location), Patriot’s Day premiered in theatres. It recounted the events of the 2013 Boston Bombing from the perspective of the law enforcement officers. Back then, I questioned the morality of the cinematic adaptation of such a recent event. Nevertheless, my questioning did not stop Hollywood from making a second biopic centered on the tragic terrorist attack. This time around, the event is portrayed from the viewpoint of a supporter (almost a passerby) who got injured in the attack.

Writing

Stronger was written by John Pollono (actor mostly but he has written some short films before), based on the biography of the same name by Jeff Bauman (portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal in the film) and Bret Witter. I thought that the writing for the picture was quite interesting. To being with, the set-up for the main character was really effective – in just three scenes (Costco, bar, and home), Jeff’s whole background (work, relationships, family) was established. Speaking of his family: their reaction to his injury (trying to almost benefit from it) was infuriating but, sadly, realistic. Having said that, his family, especially his mother, can’t really be blamed for being unequipped to deal with such a tragedy: nobody is ever prepared for such an incident, moreover, his mother seemed to have had her own personal issues and problems.

Bauman’s relationship with his on-and-off girlfriend was fascinating too. Just the idea that he usually did not show up for anything but the one time he showed up he got hurt was so unreal that it had to have been real (one cannot fictionalize coincidences like this one). The fact that the girlfriend felt to blame for the incident because he showed up for her was also hinted at in the film.

Although Stronger was a personal story of recovery, it also explored the society’s reaction to both the Boston bombing and its victims. The film portrayed the celebration of victims as well as their heroization – two developments that are so peculiar but undeniably real. I wish that the film would have explored PTSD a bit more broadly but, I guess, since Bauman himself was in denial about his state, if the film would have explored the issue more, Stronger would not have been Bauman’s authentic story anymore. What the movie did explore was the meaning of saving (how saving another saves oneself too) and it also touched upon the concepts of wholesomeness and masculinity very briefly.

 

Lastly, the film hinted at the idiotic ideas of conspiracy that surrounds global disasters like this one. It also had an overall nice message about staying strong in the face of a tragedy. Nevertheless, it would be much better if we didn’t need messages like that altogether, but, I suppose, the idea that terrorism might not exist one day is just pure wishful thinking on my part.

Directing

Stronger was directed by David Gordon Green, whose previous film was Our Brand Is Crisis (a fictionalized account of a real political election). I thought that he did a good job with Stronger. The pacing of the film was good for the most part, though, it started dragging slightly at the very end. The emotional core of the story was visualized very well. The scene at the hockey game was brilliant – it felt psychotic and full of anxiety – all the feelings that Bauman himself felt in that moment. The other sport-related scene – the final ceremonial pitch at the Red Sox’s game – acted as a nice conclusion to the character’s journey. Overall, it was very interesting to see how sporting events were/are such a big part of the identity of Boston and the Bostonians. I also appreciated the fact that Stronger focused a lot on the medical procedures and the practical difficulties that somebody with a disability encounters – becoming disabled doesn’t mean just losing a body part but losing one’s whole way of life too – and it was really great that Stronger emphasized that.

Acting

The whole film was mostly carried by three actors. Jake Gyllenhaal (Southpaw, Everest, Nocturnal Animals, Life) delivered an incredible physical and emotional performance as Jeff. Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany was also amazing as Erin, Jeff’s girlfriend: the scene with Jeff and Erin screaming at each other in the car was so emotional. Miranda Richardson also delivered a very grounded performance (one that would fit a social realism indie) as Jeff’s mother.

In short, Stronger was a deeply human story, brought to life by brilliant performances and solid directing.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Stronger trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Borg vs. McEnroe

Movie reviews

Hello!

Sometimes, I go to the cinema without any prior knowledge of a film. This was exactly the case this weekend, when, after watching the other UK wide release – Kingsman 2 – on Thursday, I chose to see Borg vs. McEnroe on Saturday, just because I saw it advertised at the box office.

IMDb summary: The story of the 1980s tennis rivalry between the placid Björn Borg and the volatile John McEnroe.

  1. Borg vs. McEnroe is a Scandinavian movie (more specifically a Swedish one), written by Ronnie Sandahl and directed by a Janus Metz Pedersen (who is Danish rather than Swedish). This is where my level of knowledge ends: I haven’t seen a lot of films from Scandinavia (have seen a couple so that’s something) nor any of the previous pictures by these filmmakers. Pedersen has directed some episodes of the second season of True Detective, though, but I’ve also yet to watch it.
  2. No matter how unfamiliar I was/am with these filmmakers, I have always/universally enjoyed the genre of sports dramas, especially its entries who make me appreciate a sport that I had no prior interest in or make me root for athletes whose names I didn’t know before. I rarely watch tennis on TV and I have maybe played it for fun once or twice in my life. Not surprisingly, I didn’t know anything about Bjorg or McEnroe (I barely know the tennis stars of today). And yet, this film made me care about and also educated me about both the sport and the people involved.
  3. The narrative had an effective structure: at the center of it was the 1980’s Wimbledon tournament, while the scenes from the athletes’ personal lives and flashbacks from their childhoods were interspersed throughout the runtime of the movie.  Thematically, Borg vs. McEnroe touched upon the pressure of the high-level professional sport (the pressure from family, friends, coaches, the public or the pressure that one puts on oneself), the fame that comes with it,  the emotions that runt through it, and, lastly, its pillars of sportsmanship and friendship. The film also mentioned a very interesting idea about tennis being a sport exclusive only for a certain cast/elite group. Later in the fall, Battle of the Sexes will explore how tennis is a gendered sport. My only critique of the script is the fact that I wish they would have situated tennis in a context of all sports, rather than put it on a pedestal as the ‘it/best’ sport.
  4. The directing of the picture was really good. The emotions as well as the intensity were palpable throughout the whole movie, but especially in the 3rd act recreation of the final match. The fact that the movie used a lot of dialogue in the Swedish language (rather than just English, like so many films do in order to reach a wider audience) added a level of authenticity too. The 80s setting was also well-realized and highly appreciated somebody who does wear a headband to gym and has a few color-blocked sweatshirts in her wardrobe.
  5. The two leads: Sverrir Gudnason and Shia Lebouf did a very good job both with the dramatic scenes as well as with the sports scenes (or they had amazing body doubles). Lebouf’s real-life eccentric personality fit his character perfectly. Stellan Skarsgård (one of the few Swedish actors that I know, mostly because he works in Hollywood more than in his native Sweden) was as good as he always is. Tuva Novotny also had a small role in the film, for the first half of it, I mistook her for Noomi RapaceRobert Emms also cameoed as Lithuanian-American tennis player Vitas Gerulaitis, who I’m only mentioning because of the shared heritage between him and me.

In short, Borg vs. McEnroe was an entertaining, informative, and emotional sports drama, with a neat message about rivalry and friendship in a sport: ‘Former Rivals, Best Enemies’.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Borg vs. McEnroe trailer

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Movie review: Baywatch

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of one of the first comedies of this summer’s movie season – Baywatch! Even though the online discussion around this movie has died down before it even started (the film flopped at the US box office), I still decided to see it because of the cast and the brand-recognition! Also, I’m almost 3 weeks late to the aforementioned discussion cause the movie only came out today, where I’m currently staying (the joys of international release schedules!).

IMDb summary: Devoted lifeguard Mitch Buchannon butts heads with a brash new recruit, as they uncover a criminal plot that threatens the future of the bay.

I vaguely remember watching some episodes of the original Baywatch TV series at least a decade ago. Besides, I have always wanted to be a lifeguard myself (especially during the summer), so seeing the shenanigans of the lifeguards had a personal appeal.

Writing

Baywatch’s screenplay was a mixed bag, like so many blockbuster scripts nowadays. What is for sure – the movie definitely did not need 6 screenwriters. The screenplay credits were awarded to Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, while Jay Scherick, David Ronn, Thomas Lennon, and Robert Ben Garant supposedly contributed to the story. Bear in mind, neither of these writers are proven or trustworthy (they haven’t had any big hits yet).

The narrative that these 6 gentlemen crafted for the film was fine. It didn’t make the most sense but I didn’t expect it too. The opening sequence worked (technically) – cause it set up the whole plot neatly (literally, every scene either introduced a character or a plotline – everything happened super mechanically and by the numbers – there was no breathing room) but it wasn’t the most interesting thing to watch. All the different plotlines – the drug smuggling, the lifeguard investigation, the lifeguard v police fight, Efron’s character’s redemption, Johnson’s character’s personal arc, the two (three?) romantic duos – did not really gel at times. The ending was also cheesy and illogical but since it was kinda entertaining and mostly funny rather than cringe-y, I could forget the storytelling flaws.

Another important aspect of the film, of course, this being a comedy, was the humour. Like the story, it was a mixed bag. Some jokes landed and seemed organic enough, while the others made the impression that the filmmakers were just trying too hard. My favourite moment, by far, was the scene where Johnson shouted to Efron: ‘Hey, High School Musical’. Actually, a lot of the nicknames by Johnson worked. The lunch table gag with the salad was good as well as the moment where Efron calls outs their plan for sounding like a plot of a TV show. Nice, 4th wall breaking wink, there. The pop culture references were mostly fine too. However, the whole arc of Ronnie (played by Jon Bass) was too awkwardly painful to watch. I really dislike cheap comic relief within a comedic movie.

The writing for characters was okay too, even if quite scarce. One thing that stuck out to me was the fact that Efron’s character – a swimmer – messed up in the Rio Olympics. That seemed like a jab at the actual real life US swimmer Ryan Lochte, who also got into a scandal in Rio. I might have been reading to much into it, though.

Directing

Horrible Bosses’ director and Pixels‘ executive producer (doesn’t sound too good, huh?) Seth Gordon directed Baywatch and was fine. The pacing was quite wonky – the film really slowed down before the third act, but the third act itself was entertaining enough. The other action sequences worked too – the nursery fight was fun and the lifeguard tryouts were cool – but the CGI could have been way better, the fire especially – it seemed so fake. The slow-mo – a staple of the Baywatch brand – was used extensively, but, in this case, I could let that slide. The final slow-mo shot with all of them running by the beach was actually quite cute, even if we have seen it in the trailers. The bloopers during the credits were also adorable – way more organic and fun than some of the actual jokes.

Acting

Baywatch had a really good cast. Dwayne Johnson (San Andres, Moana, Fast and Furious) basically played himself – a charming, likeable, and super fit man. Zac Efron also played a familiar role – he is always ‘less than clever but sweet guy that needs redemption’ in every comedy ever (Mike and Dave, Neighbours, We Are Your Friends). Efron’s and Johnson’s chemistry was okay but it was not as good as Johnson’s and Kevin Hart’s chemistry in Central Intelligence last year. Next for Johnson –  the Jumanji remake/sequel, while Efron is going back to his musical roots with The Greatest Showman.

Other supporting characters were played by Alexandra Daddario (also from San Andreas), a model Kelly Rohrbach (she was good as a replacement for Pamela Anderson – more natural looking too), Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra in one of her first Hollywood roles (she was fine but I could have done without so many lines stating that ‘oh, she is a woman’), Jon Bass (from Loving), Ilfenesh Hadera, and The Get Down’s Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (he is also gonna be in The Greatest Showman and also will have a role in Aquaman).

The two main cameos in 2017’s Baywatch were given to the two most important Baywatch TV series alumni – David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson. Hasselhoff’s cameo was better – he was written into the story, while Anderson’s appearance was just tacked on. Weirdly, Hasselhoff already had a cameo in a summer movie this year – he showed up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

In short, Baywatch is an okay summer comedy. It is not the funniest thing but not the worst either.

Rate: 2.75/5

Trailer: Baywatch trailer

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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!

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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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.

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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Swimming: Sudeikiai Open Water Marathon 2016

Sports

Hello!

This is the last short sport/swimming update post this summer. Today, I took part in the Sudeikiai Swimming Marathon and lost all my energy. Let me elaborate.

The Sudeikiai Swimming Marathon is the hardest one out of the 4 open water swims I do each summer. The weather is usually not the nicest as the marathon takes place at the end of summer. This particular lake, in which the swimming is actually done, also tends to have huge, almost sea or ocean-like waves. 

This year, the weather and the water’s temperature were both quite horrible. The waves were also way too big for a lake. It was hard to swim the first 500m (I did 2,5km distance, I could have also chosen the 5km distance) because I didn’t have a chance to properly warm up. The next 1000m were fine – not easy but not too hard or too energy consuming either. The last kilometre of the distance was the most horrible one – it was a long and losing battle against the waves. Nevertheless, I was quite proud of myself for finishing the distance in these awful conditions and I got even happier when I found out my time – it was way better than I expected or predicted.

I skipped this particular marathon last year because I had other priorities. However, I did participate in the event in 2014 and did a post on it – you can find it here.

Bellow, I will include some photos from the location of the event as well as a picture of the swimming caps that all participants got. All athletes also received free lunch, a bottle of water, and the competition’s certificate.