Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (Review)

Now it's no shock to anyone who knows me that I'm a massive, ginormous, ridiculous fan of The Hunger Games books, and that the film adaptations so far have really impressed me. They are everything book-to-screen transformations should be and the writers really respect the source text, which these days is a rare thing indeed. I have all too often seen books I love bastardised on the big screen, and it doesn't feel good.

Perhaps my favourite thing about the third instalment is that we are taken out of the Games format and into the wider world of a real-life war zone. The main focus of both the first half of the novel and the first live action instalment of Mockingjay is Katniss's experience with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and director Francis Lawrence devotes pretty much his entire film to this. Many would present it superficially or glaze right over it, but this hits hard. Jennifer Lawrence does an amazing job portraying this and it wasn't long into the film before I had a sizeable lump in my throat. She has that effect on me as it is but hearing her sing the haunting Hanging Tree song from the novels just about did me in.

The cast was, as usual, a tad hit and miss, but some new faces helped refresh things. I wasn't sure about the introduction of Natalie Dormer as Capitol camerawoman Cressida, but she really impressed me in the end and ended up a more three-dimensional character than she is in the novel.

Julianne Moore seemed at first an odd choice for the part of President Coin - I had pictured her stockier, more steadfast - however her rousing delivery of many a speech to the people of District Thirteen and her attention to detail in the performance meant I warmed to her eventually. The late Seymour Phillip Hoffman also shone in his own understated way. He could say more with the raise of an eyebrow than many could in an entire scene.

Nods should also be given to the film's cinematography and musical score. Scenes are at once both horrifying and beautiful, with the characteristic use of claustrophobic shots and awe-inspiring landscapes neatly linking visual style to both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire respectively. As usual the soundtrack was beautiful, and I would also highly recommend checking out the songs Lorde put together to accompany this. The whole CD gives me chills.

Where this film fell down for me slightly was the sheer amount of added material. It felt like the writers were so set on the exact moment they wanted to split the Mockingjay narrative that they were left with a lot of time to fill. The extras they added and the stories they expanded on were, luckily, very well thought out and as I'm led to believe also involved author Suzanne Collins to ensure their authenticity and faithfulness to her universe. 

Parts of the story that we don't see through Katniss's eyes in the novel, such as the rescue of Peeta, Joanna and Annie from the Capitol, are played out well and conveyed that terrifying sense of suspense and anticipation we know all too well from the first two films. Scenes from President Snow's office and across the other rebelling districts are also added but are so carefully considered that I was less offended by their presence and more grateful. They brought a lot more depth to the story and took us away from Katniss's insular point of view to present the bigger picture.

My only real gripe with this instalment is something that I could also apply to the other two - if you haven't read the books you might have a couple of questions at the end. District Thirteen is brought onto the scene with very little explanation and I feel more time could have been given to explaining this as it's fairly important to the narrative. Some of the novels' terminology is also thrown in with little elaboration leaving some bewildered. This is the price paid for condensing hundreds and hundreds of pages into a film.

All in all the Hunger Games films continue to impress and while it was difficult to ignore that the added footage and 123 minute run time have turned the franchise into a bit of a cash cow, I can't bring myself not to love it.


Image credit: Lionsgate Films


Thursday, 20 November 2014

Birchbox November - A Cosy Night In!

Holy Moly, it's Birchbox time again! I cannot believe it's November already and the long nights and Christmas stress are well and truly here. In keeping with this, this month's theme was 'Cosy at Home', with some luxurious skincare taking centre stage and a few other luxury beauty goodies thrown in to boot. The HUGE toner made this month's box well worth it, and I've made a couple of nice discoveries from the samples too. Check out my contents:

English Laundry Signature For Her Fragrance (£60.00) I adore English Laundry scents, really I do, however I find there price tags are generally a little out of my current tight budget.

Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle (£14.00) I didn't know if I would get on with this stuff as to be honest the packaging doesn't scream 'luxury, well performing hair brand' to me, but I love it! It smells gorgeous and really helps me get a brush through my mop while also acting not unlike the Aussie serums in adding a bit of softness and shine.

Lord & Berry Mini Bronzer in Sienna (£19.00) It seems it's a month for disappointing packaging as this little bronzer comes in a deceptive box containing an Easter-egg style plastic casing for the bronzer pan. While this cheapens my first Lorde and Berry experience somewhat the bronzer is a nice shade which would probably be suitable for most people, the finish is matte and this works well applied as both a contour and an all over bronzer.

Weleda Wild Rose Body Oil (£19.95) I am slightly weary of body oils as the last time I used one it was on freshly shaved legs (yeah, idiot or what?) and it really stung and gave me a right old rash. However this stuff, when used on non-freshly shaved body parts as intelligent people will of course do, is lovely. It doesn't sink in to the point you'd forget you'd applied it, however there is no greasy slime.

Dr. Jart + V7 Balancing Toner (18.00) I was very impressed to see this full-size toner in my box! Dr Jart are a brand I've been itching to try for a while. This toner smells lovely, comes in a luxurious glass bottle with a pippette lid and feels amazing on the skin after cleansing. As an oily skinned girl I'm not so sure about this product's claims to balance the skin (it seems oiler during the day if I use this in the morning), however I use this at night with an eye cream rather than suffocating my skin in night cream and it seems to be doing a lovely job here.

Montezuma Chocoalte bar (£2.39) I'm sure you can guess why this wasn't pictured. I arrived home mid-week to my Birchbox and any sweet treats inside weren't going to last 5 seconds. Yummy, organic and not too heavily sweetened. Fab.

You can subscribe to Birchbox here* for a monthly box, and don't forget to visit the store for free delivery on this month's brands!

*This link is my referral link - You don't have to click it but I will get some extra reward points if you do!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Two to Try: Berry Lipsticks

I've really gotten into experimenting with more colourful lip products lately, and with the Autumn/Winter season well and truly upon us, two shades in particular are getting a lot of wear. If you're looking to venture into more seasonal, daring colours these two are a fantastic starting point!

Always Plum from the Maybelline SuperStay 14hr range is a real favourite, with a fairly nude hue darkened by brown and pink tones. Applied fully the colour is fairly dark but still safe enough for daytime wear and compliments autumnal clothes wonderfully. I also dab the colour on with my finger for a stained look if I don't want to wear anything heavy. It has to be said that the formula feels thick, but it really does have great staying power.

I usually lean towards a matte finish when it comes to lip products, however Rimmel's Lasting Finish Lipstick in shade #30 has proven that your average-finish lipstick can look great. It's not overly shiny and the colour packs an insane punch. The bright berry is probably best saved for night wear for the less daring, but again looks great applied as a light stain for daytime. The staying power is good however there's a lot of transfer so beware of accidental smudging. It's definitely best applied with a brush which can be tedious but the colour pay-off is so worth it.

I've swatched them here: L-R Always Plum (full), Always Plum (stain), #30 (full), #30 (stain).



Monday, 10 November 2014

Three Masks for Blemish Prone Skin

My skin has really gone through the motions over the last six months. I have no idea why, and while keeping hydrated and trying to eat well have also done my skin some good, products also play a key roll. This trio of masks are not something I use together, rather at different stages of a breakout.

Just to give you a quick idea of what my skin is like, it's very oily and prone to blackheads and large zits which take a looong time to calm down, but also can get dry and sore in patches. Basically a nightmare!

The Body Shop Blue Corn 3-in-1 Deep Cleansing Mask is something I use once every 1-2 weeks at the weekend for a really deep cleanse. Apply it gently when using as a mask and allow it to get to work for 5 minutes. You can literally feel it working and that tingly feeling takes some getting used to. Then either remove with a cloth or scrub off. Results are instant with skin looking much clearer, and it really helps keep breakouts under control. I would only recommend this mask for normal/oily skin types as it's properly too potent for dry or sensitive skin. I keep this stuff well away from any dry patches like the ones I get around my nose.

If things are particularly red and angry I'll also go in with Lush's Catastrophe Cosmetic mask straight after. This mask is really gentle and cooling and works amazingly to calm redness. I would recommend this to anyone with problem skin! I tend to wash this off with my hands over the sink as it feels so soothing I'd hate to ruin the experience with a rough cloth.

For midweek congested skin I use Boots' Tea Tree & Which Hazel Peel Off Mask. It literally pulls the dirt and dead skin away and can really help during the week if you wear make up to work. This range is really affordable and suitable for all so I'd highly recommend it for those who are on a budget but want to give their skin the treat it needs.

What are your favourite products for keeping breakouts under control?

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Gift Ideas: Books!

I'm a firm believer that there's a book out there for everyone, even if you don't like reading that much! Whether it's fiction, a cookbook, an autobiography or something else entirely, a well selected title can make the perfect Christmas present. It shows you know someone and gives them something they can get hours of enjoyment from. Here are some of my top book picks for giving this Christmas:

If someone in your life loves to indulge in a bit of girl power, Lena Dunham's newly released and much talked about 'Not That Kind of Girl' is just perfect. Advice, anecdotes and some feminist thinking make this the perfect gift for a sister or lady friend.

From Alice in Wonderland and Wuthering Heights to Dracula and Frankenstein, the Waterstones Clothbound Classics range is ideal for the book lover in your life. The cover designs are just gorgeous and if you know a bookworm whose copy of Great Expectations is a little worse for wear this will give their favourite story a new lease of life.

For the cooks among us there is a lot to choose from this year. Great British Bake-Off books are everywhere, but I always find myself particularly drawn to books like Jamie's Comfort Food - these books have a little of everything, cover a range of ability levels and are really accessible. For someone who wishes they could cook but wants it made easy for them, Lorraine Pascale's How to be a Better Cook is here to save the day. Plus there's always the hope the recipient will want you to sample their creations!

If there's a fitness fanatic in the family then this year they're spoilt for choice. Run or Die by Kilian Jornet is a great choice for a runner. Motivating and awe inspiring, this book is the autobiography of the world's most famous ultra-marathon runner. Bike Fit is also ideal for a cycling fanatic, with input from the one and only Chris Hoy on how to get the most out of your bike.

So there you have it. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the huge range of books out there that would make the perfect Christmas gift, but I hope I've managed to give some of you some inspiration!

Happy Shopping!

Image taken from Google.
© kelly anne rist

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