My 5 Worst Films Of 2015 – A review of the Year, Part 1

Posted on by 5WC in Film
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While I may not have watched anything like the number of films during 2015 that I did during 2014 (it’s still an impressive 134 so far), the year has produced a lot of memorable moments for both good and bad reasons. As I did last year it seems, as Christmas fades into memory and you start to hear people bemoaning “I can’t believe it’s 2016 already, that year flew by”, only right to look back over the best and worst films the year had to offer.

So, starting with the worst and, in no particular order: Read more

Alice In Wonderland At The Watermill Theatre

Posted on by 5WC in Stage

Hidden away on the edge of Newbury is a wonderful, small, independent theatre called The Watermill. Each year over the festive period they put on a ‘Christmas Production’, last year was Peter Pan, the year before Pinocchio and, as it 150 years since the original publication, this year was Alice in Wonderland.

I have been to quite a few now as it has become a bit of an annual family tradition that we would attend. It almost signified it was Christmas when we’d go out and watch a production. Originally, just my family (my older brother, parents and myself) would go, but over the years aunts and uncles have joined us as well. Sadly, with my brother now living outside the area and no extended relatives visiting this year, it was just me and my parents making the annual trip but, nevertheless, I was looking forward to it as much as always. Read more

Book Review: The Secret Life Of Pronouns by James W. Pennebaker

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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You’ve probably guessed from the fact that I write a blog and read books that I like words. There is something magical about finding a synonym you’ve never seen before or how emotions and feelings can be so richly and vividly brought into being through simple expression and context alone. How language, whether used poorly or perfectly, can reveal so much about both reader and writer is something I find truly fascinating.

In the last of the book recommendations taken from a fellow blog, The Secret Life Of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us,  James W. Pennebaker takes a look through how the words we use, whether written or spoken, act almost as powerfully as fingerprints in being a definable marker to individual identity. Specifically how different types of word can reveal our mental health, our personality and even our location. The book is a demonstration that the power of words, and how the amount, order and structure in which we use them can reveal so much more about a person than you could ever realise. Read more

Book Review: What Makes Your Brain Happy by David DiSavlo

Posted on by 5WC in Book

It was bound to happen eventually, that I would find a psychology book that I just didn’t get on with. That my reliance on a stranger’s blog for book recommendations would turn up something that left me as bored as it did disinterested. And sadly, that book was What Makes Your Brain Happy And Why You Should Do The Opposite by David DiSalvo.

The title is quirky and fun, and the idea behind the book seems sound. Our brains’ long to be happy, that they will, where possible, swerve to the route leading, ultimately, to “their” increased pleasure and how, actually, that may not be what is best for “us” as a whole. The problem, though, is with DiSalvo. To quote him, he’s “not a psychologist or psychiatrist [or a] …neuroscientist and would not claim to possess a grasp of neural dynamics”. What DiSalvo is, as he goes to on state, is a “science writer”. And that is the fundamental flaw in the book he’s an interested amateur rather than an academic authority. Read more

Book Review: The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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There is probably something ironic and researchable about choosing to read psychology book based upon a blog post by someone you’ve never met. That because they say “here are the books I like” you accept them as gospel and read them without question. You may have noticed that over the past few months, as a side effect of starting a psychology degree, I have been reading more books about the mind and, confession time, the way I have chosen those books has been exactly the scenario I just described. I’ve essentially stolen recommendations from a blog. I’ve let somebody else choose for me.

One of those entries was The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar and, as is beginning to happen more and more, it overlapped massively with many of the other psychology books I’ve read, especially: Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and The Compass Of Pleasure by David J. Linden. This meant that a lot of the studies and examples it cites I’ve come across before and while great for reinforcing their ideas also meant in total the book lost a pinch of interest due to its lack of originality. Read more

Film Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Posted on by 5WC in Film

It is fair to say that, in a year which has given us a new James Bond movie, the reopening of Jurassic Park and the insane re-imagination of George Millers Mad Max franchise, one movie has stood head and shoulders above all else. Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I don’t think I can remember a movie being as anticipated and pedestaled in the way it has. To say the pressure of expectation upon its shoulders has been immense would be an understatement and a half.

I’m not a diehard fan of the franchise. I’ve seen both the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy. I hold both in equal measure, liking them but not really loving with them. I find them inoffensive and easy to watch. To me they are just fantasy escapism, I’ve never got caught up with the deeper political messages littered within. As a result, they will never be my first choice movie to watch, yet even so, I have felt the butterflies in my stomach as the franchise was above to scream back into life. It is the final film of my “10 films of 2015” I’ve been waiting to see and, as the marketing machine has saturated my life, for the first time ever, I’ve truly felt the pull of the franchise – the speciality and charm it has to offer. Read more

Film Review: Bridge of Spies

Posted on by 5WC in Film

I mentioned in my review of ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King how, in my mind, I liken King to Steven Spielberg. That they have reached the pinnacle of their industries and, as such, command respect and admiration through sheer reputation alone. To borrow a sporting term “they are a safe pair of hands”, however, this idealistic thinking forces their association to raise expectations. Whether justified or not.

The reason I say that is because the one Stephen King novel I’ve read I didn’t really enjoy, and Spielberg has produced an interesting reel of films over the last decade that seem to swing wildly in quality (Lincoln versus War of the Worlds and the 4th Indiana Jones film for example). So maybe the mental image I hold, that they can produce no wrong, is in fact, not entirely right? Read more

Film Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

Posted on by 5WC in Film

The Hunger Games saga seems to have been around forever. Trying to think back to when I first saw Jennifer Lawrence arrive on the big screen as Katniss Everdean, fighting for her life, in the opening salvo of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy, it seems like a life time ago. Apparently, it’s only been 4 years, but it’s reached such a saturation point that I would have sworn it was longer.

I remember that opening movie well because I had turned my nose up to it for a long time (it was teenage dystopian nonsense after all) but watching it, it provided so much more, and me so wrong. It sucked me in and, while it pre-dates the reviews on this blog, won me over with the deep emotive messages it so easily conveyed. It felt real and scary, had me panicked and on the edge of my seat. Yes, it’s teenage dystopian nonsense, but it is nonsense about characters I inexplicably came to care about. I wanted them to be safe. So when Catching Fire arrived I was expecting a lot, only to be left disappointed by a film that felt beyond the “difficult second album”  and instead appeared disjointed and unconnected to the level or depth and empathy the first film had created. Read more

Book Review: ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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In my mind Stephen King is to writing what Steven Spielberg is to film making. He is “A-List Royalty” and, whether you like his work or not, you have to accept him as being at the very pinnacle of his industry. He, like Spielberg, simply commands respect through what he has achieved.

I’m not the biggest horror fan – I don’t really like scary movies and I try not to read scary books –  so the musing’s of King are not a natural draw for me. I think the reason for my slight dislike towards all things “scary” is due to a TV mini series in the mid 1990s called The Langoliers. Ironically, it was an adaptation of the King’s novella and it scared the heck out of me! Since then I have just never seem why people would actively go out of their way to be frightened for enjoyment and so, have always shied away from it as a genre. It wasn’t until I read King’s On Writing that I felt even the slightest draw back to the area. And then it was only because I wanted to see King “praise what he preached” more than the story itself. Read more

Film Review: Carol

Posted on by 5WC in Film

It is fair to say that Carol, Todd Haynes first film since his strange Bob Dylan biopic ‘I’m Not There.’ in which 6 different actors all played the titular role (including Cate Blanchett), is never going to be a mainstream movie. Its appeal will never be broad and I fear it’s going to be forgotten long before it’s time. And that, in part, is a shame.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a cult classic waiting to be discovered, there is no rough diamond in need of a polished. What there is, however, hidden beneath a ponderous exterior, is a very thought provoking look at not only the power within a relationship, but also, the power within forbidden love and the psychology of desire, lust and passion that encompasses it. While they approaches these subjects from very polaristic starting points, I came away from Carol thinking it’d make a great companion piece of The Duke of Burgundy. Read more