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.

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!