Sunday, September 27, 2015

Getting real

Haven't been on here for quite a while but now is the time.
It's been a challenging period over the last six months or so for reasons which I may go into at another time.
What has happened though is that I have lost focus, lost sight of a lot of things and become caught up in bad habits.
One in particular can be very damaging. I have developed a worrying habit of playing poker machines that I am eager to curtail and for good.
I understand the reality of those machines - that they are designed for you to lose. You can have wins but ultimately you will lose.
Now I don't know why I'm doing this as I am not really in a position to go throwing away money. Who is? Even if I go to spend just half an hour there it can end up a couple and you just end up chasing your losses.
So I'm writing this as something of a reminder to myself that I need to get my act together and move away from this habit.
If you have any suggestions please feel free to leave a comment.
I very much dislike the way it feels when you lose. It seems simple to think if you don't like the way something makes you feel then stopping should be easy. Somehow it's not that simple.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The 2014 Raymo Awards

It's that time of the year again! Margaret and David may be gone but here's my take on 2014 in film.
I saw 33 films at the cinema this year (thanks as always to JAFFA and Reading Cinemas) and I have to say the quality was mighty high.
Of the 33, 12 films scored 8/10 or above (six over 9/10) and another 11 scored 7/10 or better.
There were a couple of stinking lows that I'll get to later but for me the highs far outweighed them.

So, here's the top 5 of 2014 according to yours truly....

1. Whiplash (10/10)
I knew this was going to be good but it still took me by surprise. The story of an aspiring jazz drummer (Miles Teller) and his combative relationship with his teacher, played brilliantly by JK Simmons. The music is outstanding, the acting (particularly Simmons) is first class, there's tension, humour and just a damn fine script. I reckon it was the first time I've ever been to a movie and actually leaned forward while watching. If I could give it more than 10 I'd think about it. A worthy 'best picture' for me.
2. Her (9/10)
Actually the first movie I saw in the year and I knew then it was going to be hard to beat by the end. Joaquin Phoenix produces a great turn as a writer who falls in love with the voice in his new computer operating system (yeah, that's right). It's quite a touching film and Scarlett Johannson is perfectly cast as the OSI voice. Possibly a bit hard to describe but it could be a peek into our future and I challenge you to watch it and not take something out of it.
3. Guardians Of The Galaxy (9/10)
Attention idiots! Who would have thought a movie about a half-human outlaw, a green killing machine, a way too literal muscle man, a tree and a racoon would be so awesome? Proving Marvel can't do anything wrong with their Avengers series, I can't believe how much fun this is. Backed by a great 70s/80s soundtrack, a very witty script and not taking itself seriously, Guardians is just a blast.
4. The Fault In Our Stars (9/10)
Pretty much every year there's one of these movies (e.g. Perks, Spectacular Now) that stands above the standard weepy teen/college rom-com. This one's about cancer sufferer Hazel (Shailene Woodley) and the relationship she strikes up with cancer survivor Gus (Ansel Elgort) after they meet at a support group. She's just trying to survive and he wants to live life (thumbing his nose at cancer by occasionally putting unlit cigarettes in his mouth). It just works. The characters are engaging (including some of the support ones) and you'll almost be going for the tissues, if you're that way inclined, at the end.
5. Gone Girl (9/10)
I must admit I got this one wrong. After watching the trailer, which I lamented seemed to give everything away, I was quite shocked with what unfolded (having not read the book of course). Another 'good' Ben Affleck film. When his wife (Rosamund Pike) disappears all the fingers are pointing at him but there's so much more to this one than the uninformed could ever expect. So many turns and shocking moments, I was enthralled in this one and it is a deserved top fiver.

Well, that leaves Captain America: The Winter Soldier as just outside the top five. I tossed up between it and Guardians as the better Marvel movie and I have to say one isn't necessarily better than the other. I think Guardians just surprised me more. Cap lived up to expectation.

Honourable mentions: In hindsight Nightcrawler (8.5/10) should have got a 9 but I have to go with what I rated it. A super and chilling performance from Jake Gyllenhaal as a paparazzi-style cameraman who really pushes the envelope for a paycheck; Dallas Buyers Club (8.5/10) produced two spectacularly deserved Oscar winning performances and an outstanding film; Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (8.5/10) was easily the best film I've seen with an ape as the lead character.

Surprise of the year: The Double (7.5/10) is another I'd rate higher in hindsight, it gets better the more you think about it. Jesse Eisenberg takes a gritty turn as an overlooked government worker whose world is turned upside down when a lookalike, who is much more successful and liked, comes on board. Directed by Richard Ayoade (Moss from the IT Crowd) it may not be for everyone but it is something quite different and thought provoking.
Flop of the year 1: Biblical epics. Yep, that's you Noah (4/10) and Exodus: Gods and Kings (3/10). How can they get stories like these so wrong. Rock angels helped Noah build the Ark! We had Batman and a bunch of drag queen Egyptians fight over freeing the slaves. Please!

Flop of the year 2: Wolf Creek 2 (2.5/10). I can't let this go without saying how crap this sequel was. Hello, suspense! Really just an awful film. And having the bad guy sing classic Australian songs to his victim wasn't amusing, and was probably the scariest thing about it.

The film I wanted to like more: The Maze Runner (7.5/10). This could have been a much better movie than it was had they not simply used it to set up the trilogy. Brilliant concept, a somewhat futuristic take on Lord Of The Flies, with a good cast of up and comers and while I did like it I just wanted more than what we got.

Letdowns: Muppets Most Wanted (6/10) - the Muppets aren't dark characters, it just didn't work; Bad Neighbours (6/10) - just about all the good bits were in the trailer; Interstellar (6/10) - if you've seen it you'll know why.

What will 2015 hold? It looks like a ripping year and I'll be busy in the next six weeks or so with so many promising films (and one nostalgic sequel) coming out. Then we have Avengers 2, Fast & Furious 7, Star Wars 7 and a heap of other anticipated sequels.
See you at the movies!

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Every now and then you meet someone that has a huge impact on your life.
You know that idea that people are around for a reason or a season etc etc?
Well, earlier, I was reminded of a friend whose name is Craig and to be honest I have no idea what he's up to now.
We fell out of contact a few years ago now, I guess it was, and I guess it is just one of those things that happens. In a way I always knew he was a 'season' friend, I always felt like he lived a life that was well above mine as he comes from an affluent background.
But for a good couple of years we were great friends and his friendship was one that was very valuable at a very tough time.
I won't go into the details of why.
I always enjoyed the times when we'd catch up over in the eastern suburbs, where he lived at the time, and we'd have dinner or go for a walk at Bondi beach and the conversation was significant. Craig's advice was priceless to me at the time and I took great encouragement in the friendship that we built up.
If we weren't able to catch up in a week we'd have these great conversations on the phone and, for a while, I really did miss them.
In a way he's a little responsible for the position I'm in now, in a very good way.
I'm sure he'd be married by now, unless his work life is as demanding as it used to be, and he could be anywhere from Sydney, the Gold Coast or overseas. I really don't know.
I also don't really mind.
That might sound bad but we have both moved on.
I hope life is good for you Craig. Cheers.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Fault In Our Stars

What a surprise The Fault In Our Stars turned out to be!
I must admit I didn't know a lot about it until I saw the preview and upon seeing it I thought it looked good but not engaging, warm, funny and emotional.
It's of course based on the book, which I have not read so didn't have any attachment to it.
We meet Hazel Grace (Shailene Woodley) as she daydreams about a 'normal life' without the constant presence of the cancer she is basically letting run its course.
In an effort to get her to live her life a little, Hazel's mum sends her off to a support group where other young people discuss their own battles, and victories, with cancer.
One of those is Gus (Ansel Elgort) who proclaims that since he has beaten cancer, which claimed one leg, he's going to be remembered for something great. He carries with him, somewhat ironically, an unlit cigarette as a symbol of his victory.
Along for the ride is Gus's friend Isaac (Nat Wolff), who is going blind but has fallen hard for a girl who would eventually break up with him because she couldn't stand the thought of him going blind.
The plot is your somewhat typical teenage love story (that's really generalising) but what stands this out is the stunning performances from and chemistry between the two leads. I hadn't heard of Ansel Elgort before but he's the star of this show, make no mistake.
I was simply fixated on the story and the twists and turns in the lives of the two leads, plus Isaac who has a couple of very funny scenes regarding his break-up, and while I'm sure there were holes I didn't really notice them.
I'd rank this up there with a couple of similar films over the past couple of years, the likes of Perks Of Being A Wallflower and The Spectactular Now (which Woodley is also in) and if you need a ranking I'd say in between the two. (I did give Perks a 10).
Sure to be one of the top five at the end of the year and, be warned, if you tend to cry in movies then you're going to need the hanky.
A 9 out of 10 and an absolute (heartbreaking) delight.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Reset & recap

So it's been quite a while between posts and I guess I lost a bit of interest.
I think it is good for me to continue to share things on this blog so I've decided to reboot and will make an effort to be fairly regular.
Habits can be harder to form than you'd think but writing this blog is a good habit and hopefully it will encourage me to pick up other good habits. Feel free to interact.

Here's a quick recap of the films I've seen this year minus the latest one which will gets its own review.
Her - 9/10. Amazingly original.
The Wolf Of Wall Street - 8/10. Enjoyable, though over the top, even for someone not a fan of Leo.
Last Vegas - 7/10. Hangover for seniors. Good fun.
12 Years A Slave - 8/10. Hard work but rewarding.
Dallas Buyers Club - 8.5/10. Oscar worthy performances.
Wolf Creek 2 - 2.5/10. Unnecessary, cheesy, sequel.
Noah - 4/10. Good effects, poor overall.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier - 9/10. True to form.
The Lego Movie - 6/10. Fun but over rated.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - 6.5/10. Wasted talents on unnecesary reboot.
Transcendence - 7/10. Very interesting but not exceptional.
Muppets Most Wanted - 6/10. Fun as usual but lacked something.
Bad Neighbours - 6/10. Crude, had its moments, but disappointing.
The Grand Hotel Budapest - 6/10. Too clever for its own good.
The Double - 7/5/10. Bold, exceptional performance, original.
X Men: Days of Future Past - 7.5/10. Worthy addition to series.
Maleficent - 7/10. Brilliant performance, dark, compelling.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Making a change

It's not a matter of just want, or even need. I must change.
To put it very broadly, I'm 39 shortly and I'm not particularly happy with things.
Being a bit more specific, though, I need a whole change of attitude, of outlook and of shape.
It was actually last night when I looked at myself that it occurred to me that I'm not getting any younger and I'm starting to look it.
I've met a few people along the way, around my age and even a little older, who seem to have it right and I have to admit to a certain amount of envy and - to put it a weird way - desire.
And let's face it, sometimes I don't feel desirable.
There are no fountains of youth, I know that. But by looking after myself more I am certain I can turn some things around. It's not about age, by the way.
So the most immediate thing I can do is to make sure I am getting a decent amount of exercise every day. Be it simply by walking to the train station instead of driving or getting to the gym more (though that has proven tricky at times as I tend to keep getting an injury which stops me from going thus adding to the problem) it is a must.
I have done it before as well, eating a bit less and more of the good things plus consistent exercise and I should see results semi-quickly.
So that's one part.
I must have a different attitude when it comes to a number of things. Given I work in a largely negative atmosphere it is easy to let that slip under your skin.
It's hard to keep my mouth shut when I, quite regularly, encounter incompetence or just apathy. That too can get the better of you.
I've become a little reckless - or at least careless - in other more intimate areas and that's an issue at times. And I wonder what will happen when I fix the first problem - will it actually cause this one to snowball.
Probably a risk worth taking because health is important and it should go double for me. It's funny that during a period of a few years not too long ago I was not once concerned about weight increases and was focused on making sure I wasn't losing it (long story, genuine reasons).
I must ensure gambling isn't hampering my lifestyle. I very much enjoy a flutter and I know that one side of it is very much in control. Another side has proven problematic at times but someone said something last night that hit home a bit for me and, as much as I do enjoy the odd machine play (especially when you win) life would be a lot healthier if it can go.
My outlook isn't always great. Sometimes I feel like things go around in circles and while consistency is excellent it can also hold you back. There have been several consistencies in the last decade or so and I often wonder what might happen if one or two changed. Not that I've instigated any, though.
I know I can be better, have more vitality and enjoy myself.
This was the first step. 
The second step happens tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The 2013 Raymo awards

Another year at the movies is done and dusted and this year I saw a slightly below average 33 films at the cinema (thanks Reading and the JAFFA club).
Overall I think the quality was a little below average as well - I had 13 score an 8/10 or more (no 10s this years) and another seven score 7/10 or more - but it did pick up towards the end. I also had a frighteningly lowest ever score awarded in 2013.

So here's the top 5 of 2013:

1. Trance (9/10)
With not a huge expectation this film blew me away. Starring James McAvoy as Simon, an art dealer, who has misplaced a stolen painting after suffering a blow to the head in the process of stealing it. He is forced to undergo hypnotherapy by his cohorts and therapist Elizabeth (an excellent Rosario Dawson) becomes entangled in the mess. You have to really pay attention and, having now seen it twice, I'm still not sure you can pick what's going on even when you know. I left the cinema a little exhilarated after seeing this and since then has been the benchmark for the year.
2. The Spectacular Now (9/10)
Not a major release, I came across this one a little by chance but I'm glad I did. It helped that it's a little in the vein of last year's top film The Perks Of Being A Wallflower and, like Perks, has an engaging lead actor. I'd never heard of Miles Teller before but he played teenager Sutter Keely who parties his way through life always intoxicated and taking little responsibility - and he was mesmerising. The morning after one of his benders he meets Amiee (Shailene Woodley), the 'nice girl' who nobody really knows or likes, and his world is rocked. Also like Perks this doesn't sound awesome as a summary but it is all in the charm of the actors and the characters. Loved it.
3. Prisoners (9/10)
It was great to see Hugh Jackman not playing a superhero and if Prisoners is any guide he should play less of them and more 'real people'. Jackman is Keller Dover, a small town father whose world is shaken when his daughter Anna and her friend Joy are abducted. Frustrated by what he sees as the assigned detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) not doing his job Keller takes it upon himself to find the missing children. He drags Joy's father Franklin (Terrence Howard) into it when the police fail to detain the prime suspect, a mentally disabled man Alex (Paul Dano) and the lengths he goes to reach scary heights. This was a gripping film, much better than the trailer made it look, and even at over two and a half hours it didn't feel too long. That's the sign of a very good movie.
4. Rush (9/10)
Yes it is a car racing movie but one that completely surprised me. Though it looked good in the trailer the story of the rivalry between 1970s Formula 1 drivers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruel) was riveting. I must admit I wasn't aware of the story behind it so that contributed to the pleasant surprise and it is definitely not all about car racing - there's a human tale here about how far you would go to win. Hemsworth was pretty good but Bruel was awesome as Lauda, a man so bent on being the best he almost kills himself. The racing scenes are superb and, given it is a Ron Howard film, you wouldn't expect less. A must see if you haven't already.
5. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (8.5/10)
A sequel that was better than the original. While I found the book a little hard to get into the movie is much more engaging, though still a little slow to kick off. Now that they are winners of the Hunger Games, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) become targets of the Capital. Their rebellion in forcing the Capital to declare them winners by not killing themselves as seen an uprising brewing in the Districts and it is something President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is hell bent on controlling. A new game maker (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is brought in and all the living winners of the games are thrown back into the arena in an effort to kill off their 'species'. Now I have to read Mockingjay, the final book, in preparation for the next film which, frustratingly, has been cut in half. Thanks Harry Potter and Twilight!

Honourable mentions: Lincoln, Gravity, Fast & Furious 6 (who would have thought the franchise could get better!), Star Trek Into Darkness, Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise did a good job even though he looks nothing like Reacher)!
Surprise of the year: We're The Millers. Totally inappropriate but very, very funny and I loved the bloopers at the end as well (particularly the Friends one).
Flop of the year: Only God Forgives. Setting a new low with a 1/10 (largely out of sympathy for Ryan Gosling who I quite like) I can't believe how bad this was. I almost walked out but suffered through to the end. Can't believe the same team behind the awesome Drive could make something so boring.
Movies I wanted to like more: The Place Beyond The Pines had everything going for it cast and story wise but it just didn't quite gel; American Hustle was really hyped and it did have some very good bits but felt very long and again didn't quite come together for mine.

Other thoughts: Man Of Steel came close to ruining Superman and the fact they are doing a Vs Batman movie next (and dragging Wonder Woman into it as well) isn't encouraging for either franchise. Hansel & Gretel was awful as well and Disney is doing its best to damage the Pixar name by releasing pedestrian movies like Monsters University and Planes (they weren't bad just not up to standard).
So that's it. What will 2014 hold? Looking forward to Captain America's next outing and I'm sure there will be some surprises along the way.
See you at the movies!