Me Before You – movie review

„Knowing you still have possibilities is a luxury.”

Ever since I saw the trailer for the movie this last spring, I knew it would at least have to set the right mood for the story. Then I heard the song “Photograph” by Ed Sheeran and I was pleased to see that at least they got a few things right. So we started on a good path. That song fits so perfectly to the whole story and its vibe.

I already wrote about the book because I read it before seeing the movie, but if you’ve not seen or heard what “Me before you” is about yet, here is a little snippet of the story:
Louisa Clark has been living all her 20+ years in the little town she was born in, with her parents, sister and grandfather. When the charming coffee shop she has been working at, helping her family financially, closes, she needs to finds a new job ASAP. The only thing she sees fit for her and her only option in that small town is caring for a young man that after a terrible accident has been left a paraplegic with limited to no use of his hands and several connected health issues.

She is put in charge of morale, this proving to be a more challenging task than it seems at first. Will Traynor is understandably sad and lacks the will to socialize or involve himself in activities that might benefit his state of mind. He used to be an energetic, adrenaline junkie, adventure seeker type of person and so, the accident put an end to his exciting lifestyle.

Will Louisa be able to improve Will’s life and make him enjoy it again? You’ll have to read the book or see the movie to find out. Or you can just google the ending and spoil it for eternity.
When I read a book that is about to be put on the big screen, I do get excited to see the result, but I try to keep expectations as low as possible to avoid being disappointed or ruin the experience of the movie as it is.

This adaptation, though, hit all the right buttons. Emilia Clarke was very fit for the role of Louisa Clark with her big smile, highly expressive eyes and with hunting eyebrow moves. Jokes aside, she really did a good job portraying lively, childish and kindhearted Louisa.
Will Traynor is played by Sam Claflin who manages to embody, quite convincingly, a challenging character that faces the terrible aftermath of an accident and also a controversial decision.

Emilia Clarke, better known as badass, mother of dragons Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones, has good on screen chemistry with Sam Claflin, who we previously saw in Hunger Games, the two sharing their fair share of emotional scenes, their special relationship being managed quite convincingly too. Even though I knew the story and knew what was going to happen, emotions still got to me and crucial scenes got me on the verge of crying. Honestly, I did fight some tears away, I won’t deny that.

Every important scene from the book was there, all essential characters were present and also memorable lines from the books got to shine. The soundtrack was spot on, they also got right the feel of the book and even though a certain element of the story was only slightly mentioned and not so much focus was put on it, through all the drama it still kept a light note so you wouldn’t leave the cinema heavy-hearted.

Did you see the movie already?

„The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything”

It’s one of those TED talks that got viral and it’s still appreciated by every person that stumbles over it or finds it shared on social media. “Why?” you might ask. Because it tackles a subject that affects us all: education.

In “The Element: How finding your passion changes everything“, Ken Robinson makes a case about how education should change from the “one size fits all” approach: from standardized to customized education. It should be “elemental”. Furthermore, Ken Robinson defines the element as: ”The meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion” where you feel like your most authentic self, times passes differently when you are “in the zone”, focus is better and you feel more alive.

He also shares many stories of people that became successful after having found what they were really good at and also loved doing. Not all mentioned people were school misfits if that’s what you’re wondering: some did great in the standardized system, while others needed adjustments or abandoned it all together and took another path.

What they all have in common is that they all were “lucky” enough to find the thing that made them feel complete, authentic and fulfilled. But that activity isn’t necessarily a job or the main source of money. The Element and its practical function, beyond the psychological benefits, is not the same for everyone as Robinson points out.

What stands out again and again through many of his examples like Paul McCartney, Arianna Huffington, Paulo Coelho, Meg Ryan, Aaron Sorkin, is how life-changing it can be to find, what he calls, the element, hence the title.

If you turn your element into your work then it probably won’t be a burden anytime soon because you’ll be doing what you’re good at and what you love at the same time and the minutes and hours pass at a different pace because you are able to get into that very hunted state of flow.

Finding your element can be a coincidence, a stroke of luck or it can be facilitated by someone that can observe and sense, notice what might suit you best, that can guide you towards this epiphany and achievement. You might be lucky enough to stumble over such a mentor that might be of great help in this endeavor we all find ourselves in at some point in life.

There are many issues with standardized education because for some of us it’s not the proper environment to know ourselves, know what we want and get to explore and discover our passion and further grow what is our element. The insights Ken Robinson offers in the book are thought provoking and will hit close to home for many of us that feel could’ve done better with a more customized way of education from a certain point or at least could have been much better off having a mentor to guide us. I sure know I could’ve used one.

The success stories are always nice to read and inspiring and maybe are providers of hope for those of us who are still struggling. But that’s all there is. I do not find anything else to take from these stories, but then again I guess there aren’t guidelines either to help replace the success stories and help us achieve the same level of fulfillment if not success. Only pieces of advice.

The book is catchy up to a point, but then I felt it tended to fall flat. If you already watched or listened Ken Robinson’s talks on YouTube you will feel this book is repetitive, a bit redundant and I am not sure what the impact would be because he mostly shares stories of people who found their element and how accomplished they feel because of that. I should’ve expected that because of the title of the book and shouldn’t complain, right? I got what I was promised in that sense. Also, as I’ve mentioned before, he made the case for customized education and working towards finding your own element through the help of mentors maybe or paying attention to what you enjoy most and expand on that further and also how important it is to meet like-minded people.

Truth be told I was, as probably many readers were, influenced by that famous TED talk I mentioned at the beginning to read this book and also because when I flipped through its pages at a book fair at the Okian booth I noticed that he wrote about Aaron Sorkin (who is the writer of The Newsroom which is one of my favorite TV series ever). This book will probably satisfy your need for inspirational stories if you are into that, with a touch of education related eye-opening insights that many of us, who didn’t feel like they fit in the standardized school system, will approve of.

Did you hear about „The element” before? Are you tempted to read the book?

Alice Through The Looking Glass

Has it really been six years since the previous “Alice in Wonderland” came out? Oh my God! If you would’ve asked me I would’ve said it’s been at most three years. I remember so vividly the scene where the blue butterfly, Absolem, came “out of the screen” at the end. Time flies so fast.

Funnily enough, time is the main theme of this movie, but also a real character. Real in Wonderland of course. A character that speaks English with a German accent. Nice touch, right? He lives in this cool place, where he keeps tabs on people and their time with his little helper seconds and his, a bit bigger helpers formed by seconds obviously, minutes.

It’s 1875 and from the very beginning we get a very different, but fitting and expected sight of Alice: she’s a captain now of her own ship and she proves to be a great and respected leader for her crew. She wants to sail the seas of the world and live the adventure, but funding stops and her mother also wants her to stop and just settle down and have a family.

But mundane issues will have to wait, as Alice is summoned once again in Wonderland. Her task is seemingly much harder this time around as one of her best friends, The Mad Hatter, is in great danger. Alice must do something very important for him in order to save him and put things on the right track. At first, even Alice thinks that what the Hatter asks of her is impossible, but in true fairytale fashion things turn out to be much more possible than initially believed.

As is said in the trailer, saving the Hatter is only a matter of time. Alice will have to make use of time in an uncommon way to put the pieces of the puzzle, she has to solve, together. But with time not being on their side, literally (I already told you that time, here, is a true character), Alice and her Wonderland squad are in a real race against him/it.

While there are many puns and jokes regarding time, with a couple of minutes dedicated specifically to make fun of it/him, we are also shown how serious the matter is. I think the scene where we are shown how someone’s clock is moved to another chamber as it stops and Time says “I hope you used your time well” will strike a chord in many of us.

In spite all sadness and feelings of regret we might feel regarding the way we manage our own time, what’s also worth mentioning is how obvious it is that Alice wants to stand as a role model for girls: the way she is headstrong, does not give in or give up for that matters or what her heart wishes and she wishes to do for her life. How brave she is facing all the horrors that Wonderland holds for her and how dedicated and loyal she is to her friends and how she would try literally the impossible to help them.

I enjoyed “Alice through the looking glass” very much with its odd characters, various themes and heartfelt story. I enjoy how it so efficiently transports you into Wonderland and gets you wrapped up in its atmosphere and also how it gets you attached to its quirky characters. Mia Wasikowska does a great job yet again as Alice being equally charming with her cute smile and determination to bring peace for Wonderland’s inhabitants once more.

Great friends are hard to find

Great friends are hard to find and maybe even harder to keep. You can ask anyone and I think you’ll receive an answer close to that. Through different age stages we might even have and lose several friends and therefore relationships that we’d thought would last much longer. People grow apart or friendships can naturally fall apart because you might end up going to different schools at one point, move to another city or you might find you belong and feel more at ease in different groups and so there are less and less interests in common. I think many of us can relate to that.

Think about your best friend now: when did you met him or her? I am genuinely curious in your answers. I met my best friend in high school. She was one of the new classmates and we gradually started to know each other very well and bonded easily. We finished high school together and we even chose the same university, so basically we went through 9 years of school together. I am not going to be cheesy about this because it’s not really me, but I am thankful for everything that we’ve been through together: many laughter sessions ended in tears, for the holidays and sleepless nights and also our low times in life when we could rely on each other as listener and for the occasional piece of advice.

She recently got married and I was one of her bridesmaids. We didn’t discuss about weddings when we were much younger or dreaming about the princess gown, big wedding and the knight in shining armor (or I can’t remember doing that) as probably many girls do waiting for the big day. It was still a bit of a surreal experience. I am not a sentimental person, but even as soon as I saw her on her final fitting for her wedding dress I knew it would be one of those significant moments in life that I will never forget. You know it’s a sight that you only get to experience once in a lifetime.

Early on the day of her wedding close family and friends got together at her house and seeing her all glammed up and looking gorgeous I couldn’t get the smile off my face. She was very stressed and nervous, as I hear is normal, and maybe I shouldn’t have smiled so much and try to be more reassuring that the day will go down well. It obviously eventually did. It went by very fast for her, being an eventful wedding, but I was surprised to realize how fast it went for me too. It felt a bit overwhelming to be in charge of certain details like welcoming the guests and walking them to their table, but I ended up enjoying that too.

Everything came down beautifully and it was one of the best weddings I attended, the location being very dreamy and fit for such an event. It will surely be something we’ll talk about for some time and remember fondly through the years. Now I can’t wait to see the “official” photos and especially the video from the event and notice all the little details and moments we might’ve missed through the rush of that day.

If you’d like to see my look from the wedding you’re in luck, as I took some snaps on location to be able to also share them with you. Hope you like them!

X-Men: Apocalypse

“Those who are the strongest protect the ones who aren’t.”

The most recent X-men movie is the third of the First Class trilogy, and probably not last X-Men movie, which was preceded by “X-men: First class” and “X-Men: Days of future past”. I cannot say which one is my favorite of the three because the previous two aren’t very recent in my memory, but overall the third one had some very good moments, many thanks to the good acting and special effects that were pretty captivating.

“X-men Apocalypse” kicks off with a flashback to ancient Egypt where we are presented with the first ever mutant, called Apocalypse, and how he went into some sort of hibernation until the humans of the 80’s accidentally woke him back to life after thousands of years of being trapped underground. Apocalypse is on a mission to gather troops again, “clean” the world and reinstate himself as leader of humans and mutants too.

Back to Charles Xavier’s school, new recruits are being brought over in order to learn how to control their powers without causing any harm. Hank/Beast is still working close to Professor X while Raven/Mystique has the role of recruiter, saving a young mutant from 80’s East Berlin, where fights between mutants were held for entertainment purposes in shady locations. Magneto seems to be living a happy and fulfilling life with his wife and daughter in rural Poland, keeping a low profile and making efforts to be a part of the community. While old and new, anxious faces team up to fight against the big threat that Apocalypse poses to the world, Magneto faces his own personal drama that brings him to the edge yet again.

Although Apocalypse does have a special ability that allows him to possess an insane amount of power and threatens and proceeds to ruin the world as we know it, by the time all the X-men get together and joining their forces, he doesn’t look so threatening anymore. But maybe that is how things are supposed to be, the X-men bring hope and salvation to the world even though at this point humans are still skeptical and maybe afraid of their role and abilities respectively. The thing is, reading that Apocalypse is one of the biggest enemies of the X-Men in the comics, if not THE biggest enemy, I expected a bit more in terms of his character.

I really liked how well Jennifer Lawrence fits into her role here as a person to look up to for the young, reminding us a bit of her Mockingjay role from the Hunger Games. As a rebel character herself, it’s nice to see her turn into a mentor for the young mutants that study at Charles Xavier’s school. Michael Fassbender does a great job again as Magneto, but I was a little disappointed about how superficial his emotional journey is made to look in the end. I feel like the character deserved a bit more credit and deserved to not make it look like he changed minds so quickly over such dramatic circumstances.

All in all, the movie is entertaining, administering a fair shot of adrenaline and suspense, captivating special effects and acting and a well-balanced dose of humor amongst all the tragedy and drama. Although the ending is pretty much predictable, you do get a few surprises along the way towards the movie’s conclusion. You also do get to see your favorite characters from the previous two movies, doing all the superhero movie fun stuff, with some young additions to the cast that reprise roles of characters you might already know from older X-men movies.

Did you like X-men: Apocalypse? Are you a fan of the series?

May photo update

EN:  About a month ago there was this book fair in the city center where I was lucky enough to make some cool purchases. I mentioned about it on Facebook, but I never really got to show you what exactly I bought then. 

As you might have noticed from previous posts, I enjoy reading very much. I am always open to new genres and recommendations from people of books that I might like. If there is one that I want to read and I can find it in English then that is how I will read it. Especially if that is the original language it was written in.

Last summer, I made the mistake of reading a book by John Green translated in Romanian, “An abundance of Katherines”, and I thought it all sounded and fit together quite weirdly because of certain sayings and expressions that you can’t really translate into Romanian. Knowing how John Green writes in English, I could not stop thinking how the book actually sounded in English and hence I disliked the experience of reading “An abundance of Katherines” in Romanian. 

Therefore, I decided that wouldn’t happen anymore. So if a certain book is originally written in English, I will read it in English because the experience is much better and more authentic for me personally. 

I was happy to see that at the book fair I could find Okian, which is a bookstore with a large collection of books in English. I couldn’t pass on the occasion of buying a few books if I were to set my eyes on something good.

From Okian I bought two books in English, which you’ll see in the photos that follow: “Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking” by Susan Cain and “The element: How finding your passion changes everything” by Ken Robinson. I set my mind on them because of TED talks that I will insert right after the pictures.

The third and last book I bought is a book I heard only good things about and had it on my “to read“ list for a while, but this one I bought  in Romanian:  “The elegance of the hedgehog” by Muriel Barbery (the original is written in French).

With the books in my bag, this past weekend, I decided I would go to the park and take some snaps of me and the books I bought to show them to you guys. It was such nice weather and the pictures turned out to be quite nice too. I hope you like them too.

RO: Acum aproximativ o lună a fost, în centrul Clujului, târgul de carte “Gaudeamus” unde am mers cu mare entuziasm și speranța că o să pun mâna pe câteva cărți bune. Am vorbit despre asta pe Facebook, dar încă nu vi le-am și arătat.

După cum probabil ați observat deja, mie îmi place tare mult să citesc și mă bucur când descopăr genuri noi, iar prietenii îmi recomandă cărți care ar putea fi pe gustul meu. Când vine vorba de citit, prefer să citesc în engleză, mai ales dacă limba în care a fost scrisă cartea inițial e limba engleză.

Vara trecută am citit “De 19 ori Katherine” de John Green în limba română și a fost o experiență tare ciudată pentru că pe măsură ce parcurgeam cartea îmi reprezentam în minte cum sună de fapt cartea în engleză și astfel am simțit traducerea foarte ciudată. Sunt expresii și vorbe pe care nu prea ai cum să le traduci și să le păstrezi farmecul, iar asta influențează cumva negativ experiența citirii cărții pentru mine.

Atunci am și decis că o să încerc cât se poate să citesc în limba engleză daca acea carte a fost scrisă original în această limbă pentru a surprinde mai bine ceea ce a vrut să zică autorul și experiența pe care a vrut să o ofere, mai ales dacă e vorba despre ficțiune.

M-am bucurat să văd că cei de la Okian au avut stand acolo la târg și am sperat să găsesc câteva dintre cărțile pe care mi le doream demult. Astfel, am luat două cărți și anume: “Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking” de Susan Cain și “The element: How finding your passion changes everything” de Ken Robinson. Aveam mintea la cărțile acestea două de când am văzut două TED talks pe care le veți găsi atașate chiar după poze. De la editura Nemira am pus mâna pe “Eleganța ariciului” de Muriel Barbery despre care am auzit numai laude și era cazul să intru în posesia ei.

Așadar, am luat cărțile cu mine și am ieșit duminica trecută la poze în parcul de la Iulius Mall, având în vedere că a fost așa vreme faină în Cluj. Mie mi se pare că pozele au ieșit destul de bine. Sper să vă placă și vouă!

The TED talks I was mentioning:

TED Talk-urile despre care vă ziceam:

Captain America: Civil War

Hello and welcome to yet another Avengers movie. Yes, a movie with almost all the Avengers plus some new additions, but I won’t spoil them for you (#spidermanisback). Can we now stop pretending this is a Captain America movie? Thank you.

This movie kicks off with the kind of “show your muscles” action scenes, which we expect to see in these movies, right from the beginning. We see that Captain America, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch and Falcon are on stakeout to catch a bad guy. As usual it all ends in major destruction and collateral damage, many innocent people being hurt and killed in the process. This kind of situation is starting to be seriously debated, probably for the first time during this series, and now the UN wants to keep an eye on the Avengers and regulate their activities. The Sokovia Accords are written and it basically says that the Avengers won’t be able to take any action without the UN giving their approval.

This splits the team in two as some of them lean towards signing the accords rather than being kicked out, agreeing to still remain at the talks table in order to at least be kept in the loop. Even Tony Stark/Iron Man agrees. Who would’ve thought he, of them all, would be compliant? But Captain America definitely doesn’t want to sign such a deal and nothing can change his mind.

Cap’s best friend Bucky/Winter Soldier is back into the spotlight because it is believed that he bombed the UN headquarters where the Sokovia Accords were to be signed on the same day. So Captain America is on a mission to find him, along with everyone else. But he wants to know the truth and also protect his best friend as opposed to others. Not all Avengers are on his side, half of the team not being so keen to accept Bucky’s presumption of innocence. Which all brings us to the big confrontation of old and new Avengers split into two teams: Team Captain America and Team Iron Man.

That’s not all there is to the plot. I’m not giving away why Captain America and Iron Man actually fight against each other, but I will admit it was a smart way to thicken the plot and loosen a friendship that was shaky to begin with. For that, you’ll have to either watch the movie or look for the big spoiler somewhere else.

This movie gathers some of our favorite Avengers, with a few surprises, delivering plenty of entertainment, action and humor that make this series even better and the characters even more likable. Squad goals, am I right? Romanians will be pleased to see that the character of Bucky/Winter Soldier embraces its actor’s roots, as Sebastian Stan was born in Romania. The movie’s action also follows Bucky in his home country, moment when many viewers showed their excitement in the cinema. All in all, I think the movie is good fun and I like the fact that it brings new dimensions to the characters and storyline besides the “we have to save the world from a bad guy” one.

Which team are you on? Team Iron Man or Team Captain America?