Friday, April 20, 2018

Simon

People come and go, you've got to accept that as fact.
I'm pretty sure Simon has gone and it's something I'm not overly happy about but I don't think it's something I can change.
Yeah that comes across as a bit mysterious and melodramatic.
Simon is someone I've known for quite a while, I actually don't remember exactly how long, and someone whose views I always valued. He also pushes me.
I think everyone needs someone who tries to make you a better version of yourself. He's very switched on and has a steely constitution, though I have seen it crack once or twice to remind me he is actually human.
He's emotionally strong, I find it hard to be sometimes.
I'm not sure exactly where along the way we started to move in different directions, though I suspect it's more him moving and me staying put. Eventually, I couldn't keep up.
I'm not blaming Simon for anything. If there is blame to be thrown around it's likely it should be shot back at me. And it's a shame.
Ultimately any relationship, be it professional or personal, lives and dies through how much attention it is given and as much as I hate to say it....
Cheers, Simon. I never quite felt good enough to be in the inner sanctum. I'm just sorry I was right.

The 2017 Raymo Awards

It started with Passengers and wound up with Jumanji, and now’s that time to review the year in film in between.
I saw 45 films at the cinema this year (and as always a big thanks to JAFFA and Reading Cinemas) and overall I think it was a solid year. And just like last year 24 movies were rated 7.5 or above, of those scoring 6 or below there were only seven so that’s less than 2016.
Quality drama rose to the top this year and yet again super hero movies were prominent, for the most part they were very well executed too. The reboots/sequels etc didn’t shape up on the whole with a couple of minor exceptions.
Without further ado, here’s my 2017 in film.
1. Lion (10/10)
Nobody would be surprised to see this dramatised version of Saroo Brierly’s true story top the list. And it’s an Australian film too! Lion starts in India and we meet a young Saroo (played amazingly by Sunny Pawar), who is lost while tagging along with his older brother and winds up 1000s of miles away from home. He’s eventually adopted by a Tasmanian couple and grows up there. The second half is the story of how an older Saroo searches for his lost family. It’s stunningly made, emotional in the right spots and everything a good drama should be. Easily the best movie of the year.
2. Manchester By The Sea (9/10)
An acting tour de force by Casey Affleck that rightly won him an Oscar for Best Actor. This is a heavy film, as you’d expect for a movie about grief. Affleck plays Lee, a handyman carrying a heavy burden from his past who, when his brother dies, is called on to be guardian for his teenage nephew Patrick. He reluctantly moves back to Manchester where he’s confronted with his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams, also outstanding) and the past he’s running away from. There’s some wrenching drama in this film and if you’re left wondering why Lee doesn’t pull himself together the answer is in one line in the movie – ‘I can’t beat it’. Brilliant.
3. Wonder (9/10)
For a PG movie, Wonder came as quite a surprise. Auggie (a brilliant turn by Jacob Tremblay) begins the fifth grade, his first time in public school, but people can’t seem to get past the scars on his face that were the result of a number of operations due to a rare condition. He likes to get around wearing an astronaut’s helmet and he finds school as confronting as the children find him. It’s treated with warmth and supporting roles from Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson as his parents add depth. It’s also told from a few perspectives which was interesting. If you missed it, it’s well worth it and don’t think it’s a tearjerker – though I can’t promise you won’t shed one!
4. Wonder Woman (9/10)
Who would have thought DC would produce the best super hero film of the year?! Why they didn’t do it before Dawn Of Justice is anyone’s guess but the origin story of Diana Prince (played with class by Gal Gadot) is all quality. When Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes near the mysterious island of Themyscira he brings the real world to the Amazons. Diana is convinced the god Ares is responsible for the conflict and leaves to take the fight to him and save the world from war. She’s brilliantly na├»ve early on and there’s plenty of awkward humour that’s been missing from the DC films. My only gripe is that she’s yet to be referred to as ‘Wonder Woman’ in any of her appearances. But it’s a fantastic super hero entry.
5. The Fate Of The Furious (Fast & Furious 8) (9/10)
I don’t know what to say, I’m a sucker for this series of films and they seem to get better and better (albeit more ridiculous). Having finally brought the family together in F&F7, Dominic Toretto is drawn away from the good side by a mysterious villain named Cipher (Charlize Theron). While I think she was a little underused it’s a great twist on the series forcing Hobbs, Letty and company to battle Dom and win him back. There’s also a fantastic dynamic between Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham that apparently has spawned a spin off that will delay F&F9 (not sure I’m happy about that). Great fun.
Honourable mentions: Spider-Man: Homecoming (9/10) is the Spider-Man film we’ve desperately wanted for years and Marvel nailed it with the casting of Tom Holland and the integration into the MCU. Just bumped out of the top five by Wonder. Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2 (8.5/10) fell a bit short of the first film, possibly because of the raised expectations, but stood up pretty well thanks to the dynamic between the main cast. There were a few surprises from leftfield and I bet a lot of you haven’t heard of these – A Ghost Story (8/10) sees Casey Affleck covered in a sheet for most of the film (as a ghost) after his character dies. He returns to try to comfort his wife and make sense of what happened. Paterson (8/10) is a simple film about a man (Adam Driver) who leads a seemingly mundane life but it’s a slow burn and is better on reflection as well. Baby Driver (8/10) was very cool and possibly rated higher had it not had about seven endings. A few others to note are 20th Century Women (8/10), Thor: Ragnarok (8/10) and War For The Planet Of The Apes (8/10) wrapped up the trilogy very nicely.
Surprise of the year: Goodbye Christopher Robin (8/10) is the story of how A.A. Milne created Winnie The Pooh and its beloved characters inspired by his son. My expectation wasn’t super high. Domhnall Gleeson plays Milne while Margot Robbie is his wife Daphne. Upon the birth of their son both parently basically ignore young Christopher Robin (who they call Billy Moon) for different reasons. When Milne is forced to care for his son it leads to him writing a book about him and his toys. It’s an excellent story and definitely one I wasn’t expecting.
Flop of the year: Downsizing (5/10). I did have reasonable expectations but it really let me down. The concept of people wanting to shrink in size to live a better life sounded like a fantastic idea. And it was for a while until it went in a rather boring direction and was reduced to, well, less than it should have been. Matt Damon does his best but the plot after a small twist doesn’t leave him much to work with and it just heads downwards. Shame.
The film I wanted to like more: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (7/10) came with huge expectation after a cracking trailer so was always going to be harshly judged. It’s divided fans a bit and as a fan, but not nutjob fan, I was disappointed with a few things. After setting up a number of burning questions in the Force Awakens it seems all of JJ Abrams’ work was swept aside by Rian Johnson to go in a different direction. When Mark Hamill says it’s not the Luke he knows it’s a worry. Then there was the Leia problem. We could argue black and blue here but it just should have been a lot better.
Letdowns: Moonlight won the Oscar for Best Picture but I thought it was average and definitely not what it was cracked up to be; same goes for Loving; Cars 3 was better than Cars 2 but pales in comparison to the original. Pixar on notice again.
What lies ahead? I’m keen for Black Panther and Avengers Infinity War and Ant-Man and the Wasp, Ready Player One looks cool – kinda Tron-esque. The Han Solo movie could go either way, there’s Jurassic World 2 and The Crimes Of Grindlewald (Fantastic Beasts 2), the latter of which I expect a bit from. Hopefully there are some great dramas, I’d love to see a return to the classic comedy genre (though hopes aren’t high) and I wonder whether they’ll get Aquaman right.
See you at the movies!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The 2016 Raymo awards

So here we are again, it’s time for the rundown of 2016 in film.
I saw 42 films at the cinema this year (as always a big thanks to JAFFA and Reading Cinemas) and the quality was mixed. It was strong early but fairly solid in the last few months.
A respectable 24 movies were rated 7.5 or above but 10 received scores of 6 or below.
It was a big year for super hero movies, sequels and rather pedestrian reboots. But I guess we’re stuck with that for the time being.
Here’s the highs and lows of 2016.
1. Spotlight (10/10)
Both brilliant and chilling, the true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered an extensive paedophile ring within the Catholic Church. I knew this was going to be a standout and it lived right up to expectation, possibly exceeded it. A great cast including Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo (who was amazing) and it holds up to a second and third viewing. Not the easiest watch of the year but clearly the best film and deserved Best Picture winner. If you haven’t seen it, make sure you do.
2. Captain America: Civil War (9/10)
Marvel knocked DC out of the park with their film pitting good guy against good guy - the main difference being there was an actual reason to be split. Still very much a Cap film, though, we’re introduced to a few more characters in the MCU highlighted by a very cool Black Panther and the MCU version of Spider-Man and he is a real winner. Marvel keep getting it right and while the luck will eventually run out as the cast moves on, most likely, Civil War is pure entertainment, witty and in keeping with what the series has been doing.
3. The Big Short (9/10)
Another early standout film. This one focuses on the housing crash in the mid-2000s and again features an excellent cast with Christian Bale and Ryan Gosling starring. Though they are upstaged by Margot Robbie’s cameo explaining the intricacies of the financial world while sipping champagne in a bubble bath. Not quite as accessible as Spotlight but still easily one of the better movies of the year.
4. Doctor Strange (8.5/10)
Yet another Marvel entry and, a bit like Guardians Of The Galaxy and Ant Man, it was a risky film that they managed to pull off. Granted it started a little slowly but stacked with the humour and witty script we’ve come to expect from Marvel, and some solid leads in Benedict Cmberbatch as the Doctor and Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, it works and brings the mystical world into the MCU. Plus there’s a cracking credits scene! Hard not enjoy this one.
5. Eye In The Sky (8.5/10)
Many may have missed this one but it really had me hooked. Focusing on a remote military strike on a terrorist base in Kenya, tensions arise when an innocent girl wanders into the kill zone. This triggers a moral debate about whether to proceed with the mission. Outstanding performances from Helen Mirren, the late Alan Rickman and Aaron Paul drive the film and it’s definitely worth seeing.
Honourable mentions: Solid bunch. The Accountant (8.5/10) fell just short of the top five but was excellent and a great performance from Ben Affleck. I enjoyed Deadpool (8/10) as most did (pressure on the sequel though) and Suicide Squad (8/10) and Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them (8/10) was a refreshing entry to the Harry Potter world (love the jewel thieving critter). Quality dramas like The Girl On The Train (8/10), Room (8/10) and 10 Cloverfield Lane (8/10), the latter a chilling turn from John Goodman though the ending could have been better. Nocturnal Animals (8/10) will probably get better with a second viewing, I had high hopes but it was quite complex. A charming Maggie Smith in The Lady In The Van (8/10) was a delight and in outer space Star Trek Beyond (8/10) was up to scratch. Then, let’s not forget Rogue One (8/10) which proved a worthy entry into the Star Wars universe.
Surprise of the year: The Shallows (7.5/10) proved that you can still make a ‘shark’ film gripping and they certainly achieved it here. Pretty much just a cast featuring Blake Lively as a surfer who lands on a remote beach her mother talked of and finds herself in a battle with a rather fiesty shark. It’s hard to keep the attention and the tension up with such a simple premise but it worked and encouraged me not to go back into the water all over again.
Flop of the year: I could easily say Ghostbusters (4/10) but I knew it was going to be rubbish so the award goes to….The Revenant (4/10). I know a lot of people liked this one but I’m sorry it didn’t do anything for me. Leonardo DiCaprio grunts and crawls his way to a Best Actor Oscar. Please! It was too long, too dour, and ended with a massive cop out. And Tom Hardy deserved an Oscar much more than Leo.
The film I wanted to like more: Definitely Nocturnal Animals (8/10) as mentioned above. The trailer had me intrigued and I very much like Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal, both of whom were excellent by the way. It’s a story within a story and that made it complex and hard work to follow. High quality no doubt and once I see it again I’m sure I’ll rate it higher, especially since it’s one of those films where the ending is left up to your imagination, I guess is the best way to it.
Letdowns: X-Men: Apocolypse should probably kill off that series, it was pretty ordinary, and you would have thought Underworld: Blood Wars would do the same though it was left right open for another. Jason Bourne was pretty average as well and as much as I’m a Jack Reacher fan, Never Go Back wasn’t the best book to base a second film on. I suppose I could add Batman vs Superman into that as well but I didn’t expect it to be that great anyway (that said it wasn‘t as bad as expected).

Another year coming up littered with sequels, both deserved and not so deserved (see Trainspotting). High hopes for Guardians Of The Galaxy 2, Spiderman: Homecoming and Wonder Woman in the super hero genre. DC look to have Wonder Woman right so a lot hangs on this one for their universe. Of course there’s Star Wars Episode 8 and it’s going to be bittersweet with Carrie Fisher’s recent passing. And how could I forget Fast and Furious 8 (Fate Of The Furious) which looks awesome. Hopefully there’ll also be some quality drama/thrillers out there too.

See you at the movies!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Self improvement drive

Friends, now is the time to get serious. Actually, it's well past the time but better late than never.
After a discussion with a mate last week I've decided to have a red hot go at making improvements and shaking off the bad habits.
I'm not going to set a particular day to day plan right now, that may come later, as it is not a 'specific number of days' challenge.
1. Learn how to be good to yourself. This means put some effort into looking after myself physically, mentally and aesthetically. The latter is a strange one, but it basically means pay a bit of attention to grooming. Present well.
2. Tidy up. My room is a bit of a mess and it probably is a reflection of where things are.
3. Exercise. I'm never going to be a buff gym toned Adonis but I can make an effort to be better. I don't know why it is so easy to fall out of the habit of something as simple and good for you as exercise. Sure, I've had injury issues recently and that's starting to have an effect via lack of conditioning, but it should be a no-brainer.
4. Try new things. I went to the theatre the other night and it's something I should consider doing a bit more of.
5. Don't be ashamed. Speaks for itself really.
6. Shed bad habits. Probably unrealistic to say I won't have any bad habits but I do need to make a big effort to stop gambling on the machines. I know you can't win and I have had periods of abstinence but I can do better than that.
7. Do things I enjoy.
8. Learn to talk more. I tend to be on the quiet side most of the time, it's almost like I don't know how to do small talk and it is a hindrance in social situations.

Let's see how I go. Surely it can only be good for me.
Feel free to offer any suggestions or encouragements or anecdotes.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

All talk, no action

It's funny how you can look back at what you've written previously, promised yourself I guess, and you realise that you did nothing about it.
All talk and no action.
So it seems I'm on a vicious circle posing as a merry-go-round.
This. Must. Stop. Here.
I've identified a few areas that have to change and, surprise surprise, they aren't new.
Thanks to an adverse reaction recently to trying something that was ill conceived in some ways I've gone back a few years. If only it were possible.
1. Attitude.
I've become a little grumpy, easily angered or annoyed, short fused if you will and it frustrates me greatly. Ultimately it is my reaction to outside forces that is responsible, not the forces themselves. Whether it is incompetence, apathy or ignorance of others it is up to me as to how I react.
And I react wrongly. I react in a way that only gets me flustered. This is not going to be an easy fix but I think it is the most important.
2. Focus
There are so many distractions out there. Quite often there are distractions from the things that distract us. Over the last year or so I've found my ability to focus on one task has diminished a bit and I feel it is the rise of many distractions that is contributing. Again this is not going to be an easy fix. Little things like taking the time to read the paper, read a novel will help.
3. Purpose
Am I interested in what I do? Sometimes I ask myself this question as it often seems like a real chore even though what I do for work is also a major hobby. Yes, I'm lucky in that respect and, given the number one problem, sometimes it is easy to forget that. But am I interested in anything else?
4. Straight and narrow
I've been battling a particular issue with gambling and at a time when I thought I had it right I ruined all the hard work I'd done and am back at square one with it. It serves no good purpose, and is one of the aforementioned distractions.
5. Don't be so afraid
Part of being in that vicious circle is it never lets you go until you force your way out. I haven't been good at that when it comes to particular worries/fears and it's proven costly in some respects.

That's a good start point. It's not easy to change but it's time to stop talking and to start some action.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The 2015 Raymo Awards

Another year has come and gone and we’ve arrived at the wrap of 2015 in film.
I saw 36 films at the cinema this year (as always a big thanks to JAFFA and Reading Cinemas) and it was a year of high quality and not so many stinkers.
Among the three dozen films there were 17 that rated an 8/10 or above, seven of those scored 9/10 or more.
The main letdowns were unnecessary sequels or reboots and I’m sure my lowest rated movie will cause some controversy.
Without further ado, here’s the highlights of 2015.
1. Inside Out (10/10)
Finally, a stunning return to form from the usually reliable Pixar studios. Some may argue whether this deserved a 10 but from my perspective it was close to faultless. Not a new idea, I’ll admit, but an idea done with humour and heart. We’re introduced to the emotions in Riley’s head - Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger - and are taken on a rollercoaster of discovery as they learn to work together to guide her through life. I must admit I enjoyed the Anger character particularly. Attention to detail is the key here and I simply had a ball watching this. Happy to say it was the best movie of the year.
2. Avengers: Age Of Ultron (9.5/10)
I know not everyone will agree with this one but, a bit like Inside Out, I very much dug the latest instalment of the Avengers series. Plenty of action as you’d expect, some great character development and interconnecting storylines and one liners made this a highly enjoyable experience. Perhaps I’m a little biased. We learned a lot more about Hawkeye in this one as well as being introduced to twins Scarlet Witch (who shares an excellent scene with Hawkeye) and Quicksilver. The former was well used, the latter a bit wasted I thought. Marvel simply keeps hitting the mark.
3. Still Alice (9/10)
The acting performance of the year from Julianne Moore and a very well deserved Oscar too. Alice is a brilliant linguistics professor who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. It’s terrifying to watch as Alice’s memory starts to fade, she forgets where she is at times and struggles with what the disease means. There’s a solid support cast including Alec Baldwin and Kristen Stewart but this is all Moore’s film and it is an absolute must see if you haven’t already.
4. Fast & Furious 7 (9/10)
I don’t know how but this series just keeps getting better. Acting takes a back seat to pure action entertainment and the seventh F&F would have been the toughest to make due to the death of Paul Walker while the filming was on a break. While you can tell in a few parts where they’ve used his brothers as stand ins it works and the ending is quite poignant too. There are some ridiculous scenes here but on the whole this is a tribute to Walker and just damn good fun too.
5. The Imitation Game (9/10)
Another fantastic acting performance from Benedict Cumberbatch as mathematician Alan Turing who is famous for cracking the enigma code during World War 2. A true story brought to life with a great script filled with tension and wit and a headline performance from its star. I must admit I didn’t know a lot about Turing going into this and it was a riveting story, it would have been highly controversial at the time too, and a riveting turn from Cumberbatch.
Honourable mentions: For nostalgic reasons as much as any I have to say Dumb And Dumber To (9/10) was an absolute riot. It may have been aided by being in a group who all enjoyed it as well and the fact the Farrelly Brothers stayed true to the innocent stupidity of Lloyd and Harry and didn’t plunge far into dirty humour as is the trend today. Birdman (9/10) is a ‘love it or hate it’ type of film but I thought it was just superbly shot, very smart and great performances from Michael Keaton and Edward Norton were standouts. Of the others Holding The Man (8/10) is a heartbreaking conversion of a heartbreaking true story that fell just short of being brilliant and Ant Man (8/10) continued the Marvel trend. Oh yeah, Star Wars: The Force Awakens (8/10) is familiarly entertaining.
Surprise of the year 1: Paper Towns (8/10) is a movie that I was sure told you everything in the trailer and as a result I almost didn’t see it. This was 2015’s teen romantic-comedy type film like The Spectacular Now, Fault In Our Stars or Perks Of Being A Wallflower and while it wasn’t quite up to those films it was simply charming. Quentin (Nat Wolff) sets out to find the girl of his dreams Margo (Cara Delevingne) when she runs away from home but finds so much more along the way.
Surprise of the year 2: Creed (7.5/10) resurrected the Rocky franchise with the story of the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed who seeks out Rocky Balboa to be his trainer and embark on a boxing career like his father. Michael B Jordan is outstanding as Adonis Johnson and Sylvester Stallone breathed new life into the retired Rocky. Didn’t expect to be riveted and the finale is outstanding.
Flop of the year: OK, controversy time. I just couldn’t get into Mad Max: Fury Road (5/10). I never thought Max would be a side character but he faded into the background as Charlize Theron’s Furiosa stole the show. I found the long chase storyline a bit boring and I just didn’t like it. You may disagree but this is my list! Honourable flop mention to Trainwreck (5/10), I’m sorry but Amy Schumer is simply not funny.
The film I wanted to like more: Foxcatcher (7/10), based on the true story of wrestler Mark Schultz, had all the elements of an excellent film but I thought it was let down by Channing Tatum’s disconnected performance. Maybe it was the character but I expected more.
Letdowns: Mainly the sequels like Pitch Perfect 2 (7/10) and Ted 2 (6/10) both of which were a big step down from the surprise excellence of their originals. Perhaps it was that nothing was expected of the first films and they were so vibrant and funny. Regardless they were cash ins.
I don’t have high expectations for 2016 on the whole. From the list for the first third or so there looks to be few highlights with more sequels and remakes to come. That said I can’t wait for Captain America: Civil War and Deadpool, while I suspect there will be at least one car crash with Batman vs Superman coming up. Hopefully there are some hidden gems out there.
See you at the movies!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Where do we go from here?

Yes, it's a classic line from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. We've reached a point where you can't turn around, move sideways or seemingly can't go forward.
Where do we go from here?
Stalling is very easy, there are a million ways to tread water and be unmoved.
I do that a lot.
So much has changed around me this year. I so much want to make some kind of change but I don't know where to start.
Where I live? Work? Interests? Lifestyle? Leisure?
I've clearly lost a bit of passion for some things I used to revel in. I lack focus, am easily distracted and don't seem to have enough desire to fix it up.
Where do I go? Where do I start?

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.