Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Before I Go to Sleep- who needs rest when you've got a good read?

When I wake-up, my first thought tends to be about how snugly and warm my bed is.  Other times, I will have an instant flashback of a part of my dream and try to piece whatever happened together to make some sort of sense.  For Christine, she will wake-up and be met by many questions.  Who am I? Where am I? Who is that lying next to me? Before I Go to Sleep is the tale of Christine who suffers a type of amnesia that makes her forget her entire identity overnight.

Thinking she is in her late twenties with her whole life ahead of her, it comes as quite a shock to Christine when she wakes up one morning to see a middle aged woman looking back at her in the mirror.  After having her life briefly explained to her by the man claiming to be her husband, Christine receives a phone call.  A man, calling himself Dr Nash, says that she has been meeting with him in secret for the past few weeks so that she could try to piece her identity back together.  A doubtful Christine is told by Dr Nash that she has been recording a journal in which she writes down what she knows at the time, anything from small details about herself to paragraph upon paragraph of old memories.  Finding the journal in her wardrobe, Christine wonders whether she has found the key to unlock her past and begins reading...

Before I Go to Sleep is a brilliantly structured psychological thriller that will have you itching to carry on reading late into the night.  It is important to remember that this is S J Watson’s DEBUT novel, as there are authors that have written book after book that could not write a thriller anywhere near as gripping as Watson did.  The book is structured into three parts:  ‘Today, The Journal of Christine Lucas and Today’ which are key in demonstrating the different levels of dependence on the journal and her husband she experiences.  The plot twists and turns to make you question what you thought you thought was true, allowing the reader to have an insight into what Christine had to go through day by day.  What left me utterly gobsmacked but nonetheless in awe of Watson, was how he manipulated the pace of the novel so that it felt calm and slow to make you think the drama was over- when in fact it hadn’t even begun.

I must commend Watson on the level of expertise he encompasses in Before I Go to Sleep because he uses his knowledge from working in the NHS to make the character of Christine feel real to us and to make Dr Nash seem like a credible doctor who has worked with amnesiacs time and time again.  Christine’s husband, Ben Lucas, is a character that was brilliantly put together because there are times that as the reader, we see him as the perfect husband for her, and yet there is always that existing doubt in our minds of whether he is solely trustworthy.

Before I Go to Sleep is a novel that will have you hooked and desperate to carry on reading, whatever your taste may be.  There is not a single aspect of this book I can fault as Watson did everything right.  If you’re a bit of a softy and like some romance within a novel, then look no further as Before I Go to Sleep includes underlying romances that are fundamental in making the story what it is and allowing the characters to grow.  On the other hand, there is a more brutal and hard edge to the book because we see the pain that Christine- a representation of many amnesiacs that Watson worked with- has to go through day by day to figure out what is her present, what was her past and what will be her future.  Going back to when I read the novel, there were times when I was positive I knew what would happen next, absolutely sure that because Y followed on from X, surely Z should be the next most logical scenario.  However, my logic failed me and Watson would throw a spanner in the works, leaving me gawping at what happened, but appreciating his ability as a writer all the more.

Although I love reading one good book after the other, I think that Watson has set the standards extremely high with Before I Go to Sleep and I can only name about five books that compete with his level of suspenseful and considered writing.  The last few years have seen me take a liking to the thriller and crime genre and I can only hope that someday I will be able to write a thriller as captivating but nevertheless hard hitting as Before I Go to Sleep.

Rating: 10/10

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

‘An adventure worth having is one that teaches you that life usually doesn’t make much sense... so you might as well just laugh at it.’

When going out with my friends, I have to admit that we are not normally very adventurous.  The majority of the time, we will stay well within our local area and only occasionally venture out to the realms of Birmingham.  However, like Christopher Columbus, myself and my best friend Chelsea decided to go afar and see what we could find.... in Stratford.  Admittedly it wasn’t much further than Birmingham, I know, but the long train journey made us feel like we were travelling to another world- well, another county, at least.

After a train journey consisting of a woman shouting at us- don’t ask- which resulted in us moving seats in what felt like a dreary game of musical chairs, we were happy to finally be in Stratford-Upon-Avon.  The main purpose of the day was to see a performance of the Shakespeare play ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.  This all sounds quite pleasant, I am sure, but we faced one problem when watching it that threw us off guard.  The play was an adaptation of the normal story, but more importantly.... it was in Russian.

Of course there would be subtitles, but the play itself was like nothing I had ever seen before.  Normally, A Midsummer Night’s Dream revolves around the adventures of four young lovers in a forest- Hermia & Lysander and Helena & Demetrius- who end up falling in love with the wrong people due to the interference of Puck- a mischievous fairy servant.  On top of that, the King of the Fairies- Oberon, is jealous of the attention his queen Titania is paying to a human boy she is taking care of, and decides to get Puck to use a magical flower that will make her fall in love with the first thing she sees.  This hilariously results in her falling madly in love with Bottom the weaver, who at this point has the head of a donkey due to a spell that Puck cast upon him.  Needless to say that none of this happened in the performance that I saw.

The third story in the play is the one that the Russian actors and actresses portrayed in their performance.  A basic overview is that a group of workers are rehearsing a humourous play about two lovers, Pyramus and Thisbe to perform for the Duke Theseus on his wedding day, only they are ill prepared and things begin to go wrong.  When the actors and actresses initially came out on the stage, bumbling and making the audience laugh, I sat back, thinking that this would be an easy play to watch.  Oh how wrong I was.  The thespians left the stage, only to return half dressed, carrying their trousers, shoes and other clothes and for five minutes, we watched them awkwardly get dressed in front of the audience.  The majority of these people were middle aged to old men- so you could imagine my discomfort.  I understand that they were playing characters that were unprepared for the performance of Pyramus and Thisbe, but I could have done without seeing some half naked fifty year old men and their hairy legs, thank you very much.

As the play progressed, I began to wonder which man would play Pyramus, whilst it was fairly obvious that the only woman on the stage would be playing Thisbe.  Once again, I was wrong.  The actors started huddling around what looked like the bags criminals shove dead bodies in when you’re watching a crime film, pottering around and putting different parts together.  Bewildered as a cat when it sees its reflection in the mirror for the first time, I watched them attach different pieces of old metal together to make a giant person, which I then realised was supposed to be Pyramus.  They did the same for Thisbe, the actors using metal rods to make it look like Pyramus and Thisbe were interacting with each other.  I was slightly annoyed that there was no dialogue between the two and only the giving of flowers, but a little, energetic Russian actor described what happened after each interaction, to my relief, so things began to make sense.

However, like a flash of a light, my little Russian friend had disappeared and I was left to work out what was going on by myself, which at times, was impossible.  In fairness to the actors that I saw, they did tell the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, however it was only when I read in depth about the story afterwards that the play I saw began to make even a morsel of sense.  At times, I would look around the theatre in search of anyone else who was as baffled as I was.  In a sea of delighted and sometimes nodding appreciatively elderly folk, on the upper tier I noticed a man with his two sons.  These boys couldn’t have been any older than eight or nine, and their expressions of utter confusion brought joy to my eyes.  Yes, they were only children who had no hope of understanding the play, but I felt like I wasn’t alone- there were others who didn’t get it! I continued looking around the audience to see a teenage boy, about my age, looking just as puzzled as me, possibly questioning if he was actually seeing ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and not a different, very weird, play.

Towards the end of the play, I saw a bit of hope when my guardian angel returned, saying- in Russian, of course- that they would now translate what had just happened so that it would make a bit more sense.  My prayers had been answered; the last hour of operatic singing between two mechanical people would finally make sense.  One by one the thespians returned to the stage, but to my dismay, began making all sorts of strange noises that were in fact complete gibberish. 

If you’re looking for a moral to the story, maybe it could be to check whether a play is in your language or if it is going to make sense to you before you see it. Despite spending the rest of the day in a state of confusion, I can’t deny that Chelsea and I had a great day.  We had ventured out to an unknown land, found our way around this mysterious place and seen a hilarious play- even if it was only hilarious because we couldn’t understand it.  I take my metaphorical hat off to those Russians- never before have I watched a play I didn’t understand and come away from it with a big smile on my face.  In my day at Stratford, I learnt that an adventure worth having is one that teaches you that life doesn’t make much sense... so you might as well just laugh at it.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Ted- the bear with a difference

When we mention teddy bears, we think of soft, fluffy toys that although inanimate, bring so much joy to children’s lives by the strength of their imagination.  As children grow up, they normally say goodbye to their teddy bears in favour of another toy, or with the thought that they are simply ‘too old’ to have one.  However, for John Bennett, getting rid of his bear isn’t an option.  Ted is a tale of a grown man who just can’t let go of not only his teddy bear, but his childhood best friend. 

Ted was given to John at Christmas when he was a child and whilst John loved him, he longed for Ted to be alive, so that he could have a friend.  By the power of a child’s wish on a shooting star, that very thing happened.  John woke up to find his teddy bear alive, but more importantly realised that he had a friend who, despite being slightly unorthodox in his appearance, cared for him.  The film flashes forward to 2012, where we see an adult John living with his girlfriend of four years, Lori, and of course- his best friend, Ted.  The couple’s relationship becomes strained when Lori is looking for something more from John and feels like they can’t move on with their lives with Ted still in the house, who is now a lazy, pot smoking, foul-mouthed bear.  From then on, we see Ted trying to make his own way in life, with all sorts of hilarity ensuing.   

Written and directed by the founder of Family Guy and American Dad, Seth MacFarlane, Ted is cleverly written and acts as a reminder of why his work has been so popular for so long.  MacFarlane wrote and voices the character of Ted a lot like Peter Griffin- the main character of Family Guy- with blunt sarcasm and the right amount of black humour without being too offensive, so that the film would feel somewhat familiar to fans of MacFarlane’s hit comedy.  An example of this is the use of flashbacks and similes in Family Guy and Ted as strange but funny comparisons of events. Making his feature length film debut, MacFarlane did everything right to make Ted an original comedy and at the same time, seemed like a complete professional rather than a novice at film directing.

I have nothing to fault with the story line itself as it had the cinema constantly laughing and waiting eagerly to see what would happen next.  Admittedly, the film was slightly vulgar and is not for the faint hearted, but you’re not going to get rainbows and kittens in a MacFarlane comedy.  Ted pushes the boundaries and will make you cringe, however that is part of the reason why I thought the film was such a success.  Sometimes I did question if elements of the film didn’t fall into the 18 rating rather than 15, but a lot of what happens in the film is extremely unrealistic and would not influence an audience to try and reflect Ted’s nature in what they do.  

All of the characters had something about their person that made them relatable and no-one faded into the background.  John was the man refusing to grow up for his girlfriend Lori, who was the feisty female character trying to get solid commitment out of a man who was only committed to a bear for the majority of his life. Whilst Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis gave excellent performances as John and Lori, I have to give praise specifically to Giovanni Ribisi who played Donny, a crazy psychopath who was obsessed with Ted.  As a child, Donny saw Ted on the television and desperately wanted him.  When John and Ted meet Donny and his son Robert, Donny expresses an interest in buying Ted for his destructive son.  Ribisi is a recurring, unpredictable face throughout the film and brilliantly added so many layers to a character that if played by another actor, could have been a lot simpler but not have the depth that Ribisi gave.

Although it hasn’t even been a week since I saw Ted, I would happily see it again as it made me cry with laughter- something that doesn’t happen very often.  All of the actors and actresses were a credit to the film and their characterisation was brilliant, particularly Giovanni Ribisi.  It was very easy to forget that Ted is a bear and not a human, which is a testament to Seth MacFarlane’s script for giving Ted a voice and personality and also the CGI team for giving him so many human attributes.  Yes, Ted is a film for young adults and not children; however, the start and end give the film the warmth and foundations needed to make it memorable as an endearing story about the friendship between a man... and his bear.

Rating: 9/10

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Baby hatches- the abandonment of not only babies, but our fighting spirit

Children are said to be a gift from God; with so many couples today unable to conceive naturally, people blessed with children should count their lucky stars and be grateful for what they have.  In recent years this concept has taken a bruising and battering as so many girls in their teens have carelessly got pregnant, many of those girls having abortions so casually like they were going food shopping, this being a mockery to those that desperately want children, but are unable to have them.  However, society has not stopped at this level.  Earlier this week, I was horrified to hear in the media about ‘baby hatches,’ a hatch that allows mothers to abandon their newborns anonymously outside a hospital or social centre if they are struggling to cope with motherhood.  Whilst some deem this acceptable, I sat there in dismay, unable to comprehend that people are being encouraged to take the easy way out and abandon their newborn babies so abruptly after birth.  What was even worse was that although baby hatches are illegal in the United Kingdom, there is every possibility that in the upcoming years they could be judged as legal.

Baby hatches have existed in one form or another for centuries.  From 1198 in Italy, a foundling wheel that women could leave their child in secret was set up so that they wouldn’t have to kill their babies.  A foundling wheel was a cylinder set upright in the outside wall of a building, similar to a revolving door so that mothers could place the child in the cylinder, turn it round so that the baby was inside the church, and then ring a bell to alert caretakers.  In modern society, baby hatches were originally created when mothers had their children out of wed-lock, but today they are primarily aimed at women who find it difficult to cope with having children and want to give them up without exposing their identity.  Currently, baby hatches are legal in Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Japan and Belgium.
Usually consisting of a door or a flap that mothers can leave their babies in, a carer will be immediately notified when a baby has been placed in a baby hatch so that it can be collected and taken care of.  My first concern when I heard about this was that the babies could easily get ill if the hatches were outside, newborns immune systems not being anywhere near as strong as ours are.  However, my mind was put at ease when I read that the babies are placed on a soft, warm bed that has a sensor so that the carers are alerted immediately when a baby is in the hatch. 

Although I am aware of the positives, the ‘Negative Nelly’ within me is struggling to avoid the downsides of these hatches.  One of these is that after birth, women often experience post-natal depression and whilst they may want to give up their child there and then, in a few weeks time they could realise the mistake they made but not be able to do anything about it as their child would have a new home.  After the first ever baby hatch was created in Germany, by 2010, 14 of the 38 babies left in the Hamburg baby hatch had been reclaimed by their mothers- as babies can be reclaimed within the first 8 weeks of being left in the hatch in Germany- demonstrating how decisions can be so easily regretted.
My main concern though, is that baby hatches are a way of saying to people ‘GIVE UP.’  Some of the pregnant teenagers around the world will look at them and think ‘This is my escape plan.’  They will forget that all important concept ‘Children are a gift from God,’ and will instead see the baby hatches of the way to quickly get rid of their child without having to go through the pain of abortion or adoption.  Yes, you could argue that the baby will go to a loving home, but I look at baby hatches and I think that society is encouraging women to give up.  Be it young mothers, women that thought they would cope, or simply women that don’t know what to do, society is telling them that they can quickly but safely abandon their babies in the hatches so that they will never have to see them again.  What happened to having a fighting spirit? What happened to the motivation and inner drive that made people want to carry on when times were tough? Is it the fact that people have become lazier since times of struggle, when carrying on was the only option?

We are all built differently.  I know that some women will cope with motherhood, whilst others won’t, but I simply don’t believe that baby hatches are the way forward.  Letting women who have only recently given birth make such a life changing decision isn’t the answer.  It is a way of announcing to the world ‘Give up when times get tough,’ and I see it as an insult to people that can’t have children, as they are trying so hard but are seeing the ones lucky enough to have children, giving up. 
I can’t change the fact that baby hatches exist, but I just hope that the government don’t make what I see as a catastrophic decision to make them legal in the United Kingdom.  There are better ways of giving your child the opportunity of a good life by saying goodbye to them and putting them in a baby hatch.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

A Day in the Life of a Revision Hermit

I don’t usually consider myself as somewhat of a hermit.  Like any other teenager, I go out with my friends, have a laugh and enjoy being in the company of others.  But in the blink of an eye, that disappeared and I was inside the house, fresh air and daylight being a distant memory.  A force that I was powerless to overwhelmed me, controlling my every move like I was a robot, a machine designed for one sole purpose. I knew they would come around, of course they would- there’s no escaping the sudden regimentation they gave my life.  This regimentation fired up from the realisation.... that my exams were in one week and consequently, I became a revision hermit.

Whilst I am aware that a ‘revision hermit’ cannot be defined by the Oxford dictionary- or any dictionary for that matter- I think that it should be under the subheading ‘revision’ as a noun that can be defined as ‘A person who structures there life entirely by revision so that they do almost nothing else, leading up to a form of examination.’ I think this because at some point, people experience the feeling of being a revision hermit, the feeling that exams are dominating their lives and should in all seriousness, have a way of voicing their feelings.  Some may be revision hermits through ‘cramming’ two days before their all important exam, whereas for me, it was the complete opposite.

On a day where I told myself I would do revision... I would do revision.  Like being at a military boot camp, I would be very strict with myself, remembering that revision was my priority and had to somehow get into the mindset that ‘EastEnders’ could wait. Of course I gave myself breaks where I would sit and eat the entire contents of my kitchen, but thoughts about revision would linger like a bad smell.  After a mini feast usually consisting of an assortment of delicious biscuits, the sergeants’ whistle would blow in my mind and it would be back to the cave I would go.  Apart from times where I would emerge from the darkness, going out with my friends or family, up until my exams I took part in a mixture of cramming and doing productive revision that left me in an almost zombie like state.

I could rant about the government not giving us an official study leave; I could also rant about how our exams are all grouped together so that we have to revise for what feels like a million exams in one week.  However, I believe that we live in a society fuelled by examination and pressure, pressure that is unnecessary and can leave us feeling like we need to be constantly achieving.  Being young is the time to have fun; we have limited responsibility, aren’t tied down by a job or a marital commitment and should be enjoying our lives whilst learning about it as we go along.  Examination is necessary and is right, but sometimes I feel as though we are tested too much and that we are made to think that our whole future depends on exam results, when they are only a small part of what will shape us as a person.  Employers want to know what we are like as people; they want to see what we have to bring to their line of work besides a string of letters known as our qualifications.

I am not proud that I became a revision hermit, oh no.  Now that my exams are over and I am literally free, I have had the time to reflect on what I was like so that I can in some way, help others that become engrossed by revision to the extent that they become a ‘revision hermit.’ For this reason, I have created below, the Mullaney Mini Guide to Revision Hermits.

You know you are revision hermit if:

1.      Your thoughts are consumed with mostly revision and the work you should be doing.

2.      You don’t want to go out as much in the fear that you are wasting revision time.

3.      You read this article and think; I am just like how Sarah was.

You can stop being a revision hermit by:

1.      Doing work in half an hour slots and giving yourself good, fun breaks with some lovely FOOD!

2.      Giving yourself something to look forward to.... even if it is catching up on the latest EastEnders.

3.      Remembering that exams aren’t everything and you should be out there living and enjoying life.

As I sit here typing away on a day where I would normally be at school if I hadn’t have left, it gives me comfort to know that time is now on my side as I have months until I am to start preparing for AS exams, meaning that for now my inner revision hermit has no opportunity to surface.  Goodbye revision hermit... hello life!

*This article is slightly exaggerated, so please remember this as I don’t want you all thinking I am a crazy mad woman, because I’m not (yet).

Friday, 27 April 2012

The vicious circle of teenage judgement

Eyes peeled, a slight glare, like a lion targeting its prey.  Baring its teeth, it comes closer towards you.  You look around.  Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, you have been cornered.  Your eyes meet again, the sinister stare that signals you are in trouble.  Prepared to pounce, ready for the kill, there is no escaping the vicious circle of teenage judgement.

As a teenager, I will admit that I judge many things and as you have probably guessed from the majority of my articles and videos, I am rather opinionated.  I am not out to offend or upset- that is my last intention.  At this age, I am not as blunt as an elderly person when passing an opinion (who is?), but I do like to share my thoughts about everything with the world.  However, imagine many teenagers doing so.  Imagine everyone having an opinion about everything, judging just one aspect of something and using that judgement to justify having a negative opinion.  This is what I like to call, the vicious circle of teenage judgement.

Teenagers judge everything- that is what we do.  The sad truth is that we will instantly make up our mind about something, and for the majority of the time, stand firm with our views even when we ourselves might know that they are wrong.  Take parties for example, if you don’t drink alcohol you are deemed as ‘boring,’ but if you drink a bit too much then you are branded as ‘attention seeking’ and ‘pathetic.’  I myself don’t really see the hype about drinking alcohol at my age, but know that people will consider me ‘boring’ and a ‘killjoy’ for saying so.  I am not insulting others who may like a drink; I just don’t like the idea of being at an amazing party and waking up with a hangover and no memory of the previous night.  I don’t mind saying this here, but I know that if I said it at school I would receive many ‘Wow, you loser’ looks, as well as witnessing people whispering in the shock of my sweeping statement.

Teenage girls are constantly being thrown in the vicious circle more and more.  If you aren’t being judged on your appearance, then it is your interests, your personality, your educational ability- the list is endless.  Whilst girls are naturally vicious- let’s not lie, we know we are- I don’t think it is fair that they mainly judge others by their appearance.  I’ve heard the bitchy comments about clothes I have worn in the past, clothes that I felt confident and happy in.  Don’t get out your tissues yet guys, because I must confess that I am one of the many guilty people that have ‘slagged off’ someone’s outfit behind their back.  I am not proud of it as I know what it is like to be on the receiving end of the commentary.  However, what I hate the most is when girls judge others on how they look.  ‘The one with....’ ‘fat legs’ ‘a big nose’ and ‘wonky teeth’ are just a few examples of the phrases that girls and guys can use to distinguish one another, phrases that are demeaning and actually quite cruel.  It is one thing criticising an outfit, but the last thing anyone wants to hear is that they aren’t the right size for everyone- that is just unacceptable.

Celebrities in their teenage years often experience a lot of hate from the public.  This could be due to how annoyingly talented they are...... or how simply annoying they are.  In the case of pop stars like Rebecca Black and Cher Lloyd, whatever it was that teenagers disliked fuelled them to send hateful messages to them and even death threats.  I do admit that I like neither artists music, however I don’t agree with the level of abuse that they received and don’t think that they did anything to deserve hate mail and death threats.  A certain thirty something year old woman who had a short romance with a certain member of One Direction received a lot of flack (sorry, had to put the pun in somewhere) over Twitter and was sent a string of abuse by teenage girls.  It is important to remember that the majority of the so called fans would have never met any of One Direction and without knowing them properly, have no right to dictate who they should and shouldn’t be going out with.

Although it is primarily their own peer group that teenagers judge, adults do too experience the wrath of the vicious circle.  One of my pet hates is when people try to outsmart others in a position of authority, so I go livid when people at school treat the teachers like they are nothing and act as though they can teach the lessons themselves.  It is quite obvious that pupils can’t teach themselves; hence them being the ones sitting at the tables listening to the teachers do their job and teach them.  I struggle to not let out a slight bit of laughter when the pupil is convinced they are the new Einstein and are better than the teacher and then the teacher proves them wrong and demonstrates that the know it all doesn’t actually know that much.

I am not perfect.  I say I hate judgemental people and I am kind of judgemental myself.  I get annoyed when I see chavs being chavs and I sigh when I read about insane Justin Beiber fans climbing over his car in the hope that they will meet him.  As a human being I will continue to have opinions and views all throughout my life- that’s natural.  Nevertheless, I want people to stop being so bitter and horrible in their judgements.  It would be lovely to hear talk about other people’s attributes that others like, rather than the fact that they might be a bit overweight or have a style that others don’t like.  Then we plummet back to reality, remembering that to get everyone to change would be an impossible task, but getting a few people thinking ‘I want to be a nicer person’ would make me feel like I’d done my good deed for the day.

Your eyes meet again, this time the lion looking at you as an equal predator, seeing you for what you are, accepting it and then leaving you in peace.  Within a second, it is gone, like the encounter never happened.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

May the odds be ever in your favour Hunger Games

‘The film of the year’- was the phrase I used to describe the Hunger Games when I left the cinema.  For a typical rom-com girl like me to say this about a sci-fi action film- a genre I usually tend to avoid- I am saying something.  Initially, I didn’t want to see the film but I am so glad I did because it was honestly the best film I have seen in a while.  The quality of acting, costumes, storyline, CGI and everything else all packed together makes this a film that you will lose yourself in, your mind solely focusing on The Hunger Games as if you were a tribute competing in it.
Set 74 years after a nuclear war in the future, the Hunger Games is an annual event where one boy and girl- aged 12 to 18- from each of the districts surrounding the Capitol, are selected to compete in a televised battle where they fight to survive and there is ultimately one winner.  When Katniss Everdeen, a feisty, intelligent 16 year old hears that her younger sister Primrose has been chosen to compete, she volunteers to fight in The Hunger Games to protect her sister from her likely death, knowing the possible consequences of her own actions.  Also selected from District 12, Peeta Mellark- a boy from Katniss’ school who is secretly in love with her- travels with her to the Capitol and then fight in the Hunger Games together.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to find an aspect of The Hunger Games that I can fault.  Before seeing the film, I was unaware of the large dependence it would have on CGI effects in order for the film to work but nevertheless, it did not disappoint.  The CGI used makes the Capitol look realistic and is perfect to every last detail.  Similarly, the costumes worn by the people living in the Capitol reflected their personalities perfectly.  The bright colours of their attire, somewhat comparable to what characters in Alice and Wonderland would wear, reflects their delusional positivity in the fighting and how they haven’t let the nucleur war defeat them, unlike the 12 surrounding districts that wear drab, old-fashioned clothing that are visibly deprived.  The teenagers participating in The Hunger Games wear clothing appropriate for combat- clothing that depicts being given a survival challenge, but not to the extent that it is over the top or ridiculous.
Jennifer Lawrence gives a memorable portrayal of Katniss, showing her pure grit and determination whilst simultaneously reminding the audience that she is still a human being who experiences physical and emotional pain throughout the whole film.  Lawrence demonstrates this diversity when Rue- her ally in the games- dies in her arms as though a part of her died with Rue, highlighting the emotional toll and stress The Hunger Games put on the tributes.  Josh Hutcherson was equally brilliant as Peeta, capturing the character’s desire to keep Katniss out of harms way in The Hunger Games and expressing Peeta’s undying love for Katniss so naturally and effortlessly, making myself as an audience member believe that he had always loved her and always would.
For those of you like myself who need a bit of romance to add more depth to a film, The Hunger Games holds the essence of young love, showing what both characters would do so that they can be with one another, without making you want to reach for the barf bag.  However, my one criticism is that the film glosses over the fact that Katniss was acting the part of a young girl falling in love to earn more gifts and it is unclear of her ulterior motives to gain the gifts.
If I were rating The Hunger Games out of ten (which I probably should be doing, seeing as I am being a reviewer), I would have to give it a nine simply for the sensational and believable acting.  I must commend the younger actresses who played Primrose and Rue as their portrayal of the fear their characters would have been experiencing was accurate and made me stop to appreciate the acting skills that they have acquired at such a young age.  I struggle to think of any other actors and actresses that could have played Katniss and Peeta even a fraction better than Lawrence and Hutcherson.  The Hunger Games has you sitting on the edge of your seat throughout, yet encompasses the humour, action and romance that we all want to see.  It is not often that I leave a cinema saying ‘I could sit here and watch that all over again,’ and I genuinely could with this film.  As I sit here typing away and feeling foolish for having not read the books, I am ecstatic at the thought of the sequel ‘Catching Fire’ being out at the cinema next year and if it is anything like what The Hunger Games was, I have no doubt it will be dramatic, sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat-entertainment that cannot be missed out on.  The odds are ever in your favour, Hunger Games.

Friday, 6 April 2012


In the dawn of time, when humans first stumbled along the Earth in caveman and cavewoman form, their basic instinct was to survive.  They would scour every place possible to find the animal that would be their next meal, whilst defending their lives in whatever way they could.  Every morning, food and their lives were the only things they would wake up thinking about........ Nowadays it is a completely different story.  Monday 2nd April was the first proper day of the Easter holidays and to celebrate not having to wake up at some ungodly hour, I slept in.  Only until 8.45 though (blasted body clock) and by 9.00, I had dragged myself out of the cave known as my bedroom.  However, unlike my caveman and woman ancestors, I did not get my breakfast.  I instead, chose to pick up the laptop and simultaneously check my emails, Facebook, Twitter and- of course- my website.  It was not long after that when I realised that I was prioritising my online life over my actual life where frankly, I needed some food.  This then lead me to question: Could I get up every day without seeing if I have any new notifications or followers?  And more importantly: Could I live without technology? The sad truth is no, but I’m sure most of you couldn’t either.

Since I was born, technology was there and I used it without thinking.  I can remember going on my parent’s somewhat prehistoric computer at an early age, likewise with watching the television.  This demonstrates that when technology is there, we as humans cannot resist it.  Take Facebook, as an example.  Even if I am not putting a status or talking to anyone, I still want to check Facebook.  Although I am not quite an addict yet, I still want to be able to log in and see what is going on- as nosy as that may sound.  Facebook is seen as somewhat the ‘in thing’ to be a part of amongst young people and it identifies who we are and what our place is in teenage society.  To fulfil this feeling of having an identity and an online life, we feel the need to keep checking our accounts on Facebook, Twitter and all forms of social media.  I believe that this makes us feel like we have a place on the map or a rung on the social ladder.  What I don’t understand though, is why we need a website to make us feel like we have a place to voice our views without the world being on our backs if we say them.  Why does it make us feel good when twenty people will like our status, when we are only close to about two of these people?
I’m sure I can speak on behalf on many people when I say that technology has replaced so many daily activities that were and are still considered to be normal.  I have never been a fanatic for reading the paper, I’ll admit.  However, as soon as I discovered that the Daily Mail and the Guardian had their own websites, I began reading the paper online.  Some may argue it is because I am too lazy to pick up an ordinary paper and read it.... and I would agree with them.  I much prefer to scroll down the side of the page and see the previews of different articles before reading them, than begin reading them in the paper to only discover half way through that it wasn’t what I wanted to read or was uninteresting.  What started out as the tradition of going out to buy the paper has like many other ‘normal things,’ been given a digital alternative so that we don’t even have to move to find out what is going on.  Additionally, rather than seeing a child/teenager outside playing football getting some good ol’ vitamin D, they are more likely to be inside playing a video game.  I am in no way criticising video games- I played a very competitive game of Mario Kart with my brother earlier, I’ll have you know.  Whilst video games are fun, some children would rather play them than go outside on a hot sunny day, which just goes to show how dominant technology can be in our lives.
Although I do love the fast paced nature of the technology we have today, I do think it would be beneficial if the world could have a week without certain aspects of technology, simply to highlight how dependant we are on it.  A traditional letter would replace a Facebook conversation; children would be forced to go outside and find their own entertainment instead of playing video games.  That way, they will be getting the vitamin D they need and that thing called ‘exercise’ that P.E teachers seem to go on a lot about.  However, we are a world revolving around technology and I don’t think we could even spend a single day without it.  Even though my family and I are too lazy to get out the Wii Fit board, we still feel the need to have it.  My Dad still manages to get lost with his SAT NAV, I can’t be bothered to knock my friends front door, so I instead text them to say ‘I am at your door.’  The purpose of all this technology is to make our lives easier and quicker- and yet it is doing the exact opposite.... and is making us LAZY.  A word we do not want to admit to but we all know is the truth.
What could possibly happen if you didn’t have your phone? Would your head explode simply from the shock of being away from your trusted companion? Or would your fingers start twitching from the urge to text someone?  What about your X Box? Would you survive in the real world with real interaction rather than cyber interaction? If you even think of answering ‘No’ to any of these questions, then I think it is safe to say U R ADDICTED TO TECHNOLOGY.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Incapability to form a sentence and a Blackberry phone at eight- what has happened to British children?

When I was five years old I was a happy little school child.  A year on, I was a slightly taller, happy little child who enjoyed progressing with her reading and writing.  At seven years old, I had an assortment of barbie dolls.  They would accompany me in the basket of my barbie bike whilst I would cycle around, regularly falling off and obtaining bruises in all the colours of the rainbow.  Looking back, it was clear I was a child capable of many things....... and wearing a nappy and being changed by a teacher is something that I can happily say I never had to go through like the children of today.

Yes, you heard me correctly.  In many primary schools across the country, children as young as five years old are still wearing nappies and need to have these nappies regularly changed by the teacher, children I hasten to mention, without a medical condition.  There is no denying that children are going to have 'a little accident' every now and then, but it is astounding to think that teachers are forced to constantly interrupt their lesson to clean up after the youngsters that they are supposed to be teaching.  After doing my research through a variety of sources, I have been led to believe that children today lack the fundamental life skills that they should learn within a few years of their lives- some incapable of forming proper sentences- and therefore, we as a nation need to do something about it.

Technology is a rapidly moving part of our lives and of course, will further progress in the following years- that's unquestionable.  However, it pained me yesterday to hear of a six year old with four blackberry phones (I don't want to state the name of the programme, but it rhymes with The Lonely State their Ethics).  Four blackberry's for an six year old?! Has she got such a hectic social life that she needs four blackberry's? Has she got that many friends that they can't even fit on a single blackberry contact list? Or is she aspiring to have a different blackberry for every day of the week? I don't know.  What I do know is that this is a key example of how children are changing.  No longer does a brand new bike or toy make a child the envy of all their peers; instead it is the latest item of technology they have seen on the television that makes their eyes light up and their smile beam with happiness.

Cosmetic surgery is in reality, a solution to women that are insecure with themselves and their bodies and is an indication of wanting to seek perfection.  The hardest thing for me to say is that girls as young as seven are being given birthday presents of 'A voucher for a boob job in seven years' and even a voucher for liposuction when they are old enough.  I find it repulsive to hear that girls mothers are teaching them at an early age that they are not yet what is deemed to be 'perfect,' and need to change themselves to be a walking barbie doll.  Women insecure with themselves shouldn't delude their children into believing that they aren't good enough, this is is a foundation for insecurity and all kinds of psychological and physical problems with people.  And for your information, a Barbie's head has a bigger width than its waist.... that's just weird.

Who is the real culprit of the change in British children?  For one, I say the incontinent parents who shove their child in front of the television, expecting them to realise how to correctly hold a knife and fork when truth be told, the children have no clue.  Children for the best part of four years, are solely reliant on their parents and can't just be expected to teach themselves what numbers and colours are.  It is through experience and listening that they gradually develop an understanding of things, the reason why parents can't let their child watch the Tweenies, feed them and then tuck them into bed.  The earlier they can teach their child the basic life skills, the less likely the child will be a cartoon watching zombie that grunts when they want their next meal. 

Not all children are like this, oh no.  I have some family friends with very bright and intelligent young children who will go far in life.  However, I feel it important to reiterate the fact that many children aren't as capable as they used to be and if we don't do something soon, we will have a generation of far less able people who are only reliant on each other and not themselves.  Life skills was a lesson I had in key stage three telling us how to be responsible young adults; I genuinely believe that young children need this lesson, but to teach them how to do the most basic tasks like opening a book- if the parents won't teach them then the schools should.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Arrogance is ugly...and there are a lot of frightful sights out there.

We all know these people.  The condescending 'Look what I have and marvel at my brilliant life peasents' people.  The sort of person that makes your blood boil and your body tense up just at the sight of them.  Be it an annoying colleague or 'friend' you are lumped with as an adult, someone who thinks they are 'too good' to speak to you, or in my case, the people that do nothing for their exams and then mock you for working hard, we all have people in our lives that we just want to hit over the head with a mallet seem to do no work and yet 'life's a breeze' and are ultimately- the complete pinnacle of arrogance.

There are no escaping these specimens.  Wherever you go, even if it is to the 'Land of No Fault,' you will meet a big headed person.  When I talk about 'arrogance' I use my fifteen years of experience to describe the people that are happy not do any work or that don't express that much of an interest even in working... because they assume that their families money will get them through life easily.  Yes money can buy you the material possessions that are apparently more important than your own family (so I have been lead to believe), but to all the egotistic people out there.... money won't get you a job. At the end of the day, jobs are given to people with actual qualifications and genuine people who seem to care about the job.  Not the people that choose GCSE subjects based on ease and then what can only be described as 'slag off' their teachers for making them do work.  'Oh my god, how can she expect us to do all this work?' people will say, whilst I want to jump up in front of the dimwits shouting 'That's why we're at school for 30 hours a week you utter...' I'll let you finish that one off.  I understand that not everyone will talk about school enthusiastically and not everyone will get amazing grades, but I cannot tolerate the ones that ridicule others for trying and don't put any effort in at all, just so that they can fit in with the cool crowd.  Additionally, I thought that in our last year of secondary education this concept would be fairly obvious to sixteen year olds: school is not a nursery.  We don't attend school to their sit drooling with our mouth open, cry when we don't get our own way and have a nap time (.........although I may benefit from a nap every now and then).

Looking at who you may see as Mr or Mrs Perfect, believe me- THEY ARE NOT.  I know they will show off to you about how amazing their life is, but the constant desire to impress that they are demonstrating highlights that all is not well.  Power, possessions and perfection are all a mask to hide someone who is actually very insecure and wants to be accepted.  Don't worry BWW readers, I am not going soft on you, this is still a Mullaney rant.  However, it needs to be remembered that the people parading around on their high horse are often the ones that at some point, have fallen off.  Showing off about their latest gadget for example, is their way of making you believe that they are happy and have a great life, because they feel overshadowed by others and are craving attention.

As hard as it may seem, the best way to deal with these people is to learn to laugh at them.  I don't mean just walk up to them, laugh and walk off (although there is no denying that would be hilarious); I mean that when they are doing your head in about their useless drivel, remember that you don't care, which is why it's so funny that they are trying to impress you.  Alternatively to laughing, try confusing them- unintelligent arrogant people can't cope with 'big words,' or cleverly worded sarcasm.

I am in no way saying 'Be a mean bitter person and treat them badly,' because then you are just sinking to their level, which is the worst thing that can happen.  Simply be polite- good manners cost nothing after all- without being overly friendly and turn the other cheek.  Why you may ask? My answer being that these people will eventually get their comeuppance and when they do, they will be jealous of you.  They will be jealous that you have worked hard and are succeeding, whilst their money could only get them so far in life.  If you remember to learn to laugh at them, you'll be having the last laugh.  After all, I'd rather be the loser who worked hard for her GCSE's and did well, than the cool-kid who couldn't care less and did rubbish.