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.

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

Craig

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.