400 And Counting: ‘Week’ 19 (I Don’t Wanna Holiday in the Sun)

March 30, 2015

So, it’s been a long couple of weeks. I’ve had some big life milestones that have kept me busy. Despite that, Don (our very own editor and newsman) asked if I would be taking a break with the blog while I started a new job and went to New Zealand. I foolishly brushed the thought aside and arrogantly proclaimed that I would continue the blog without a break.

That was three weeks ago. Silly me.

So yeah, I finished working at the cinema I’ve worked at for about six years and have started working at a different site at a higher position. It’s been challenging to say goodbye and to learn a new job. However, a challenge is good. You know what is also good? Burgers in New Zealand. If you’re ever over there, be sure to check out BurgerFuel, some of the best burgers I’ve had in a while. I also visited Hobbiton and played some Magic. Good times.

Oh right, movies.

Project Almanac (2014)
Directed By: Dean Israelite
1:46:00 (Completed)

Project Almanac is a found-footage time travel film about a group of teenage nerds/misfits who find a time travel device in one of their basements.

I didn’t find the handheld camera too annoying, despite it being super old hat. It’s also produced by MTV Films, so naturally one of the centerpieces is at a music festival. On top of that, some of the time travel logic seemed a little wonky (Side note: Looper is honestly one of the best time travel movies and has a great scene which basically says, ‘It’s time travel, who cares about the actual logic because time travel!’).

Project Almanac plays into cause and effect in a rather heavy handed way, but despite that, the logic, the handheld camera and the MTV-ness — despite all this — I still enjoyed it.

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
Director: Sergio Leone
2:55:00 (Completed)

This, as the title suggests is a western by master director Sergio Leone. It’s a tale of the railroad and bandits and lone lawmen in the wild west.

This is a long film. A really long film. It’s beautifully shot and epic in scope (the blink and you’ll miss gunfights are as impressively shot) but it’s not an easy watch. It is very sparse in dialog and one of the musical cues repeats over and over again; I had to take an intermission during watching this. A couple of the characters looked pretty similar, to the point where I had two characters confused for a while. But again, really beautiful.

This seems to be the sort of film that would of been incredible to see at The Astor (or any theatre really). The Bluray experience was good, but you have to be prepared and in the right mood.

A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)
Director: Seth MacFarlane
1:56:00 (Completed)

As much as I love watching movies in the cinema, there are just some films that are better on TV, and this is one of them. I mean, this is basically a long episode of Family Guy which means you already know if you’re going to like it.

Sheep herder Albert (MacFarlane) is a coward trying to survive in the dangerous-yet-boring wild west. Thrown into the mix is a tale of lost love, gunfighters and a chance of redemption.

I like Family Guy, and really like American Dad, so this was a rather easy sell for me, even if I didn’t bother to see this at the cinemas last year. A laugh.

Nightmares in Red, White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film (2009)
Director: Andrew Monument
1:36:00 (Complete)

By now you should all know that I enjoy watching docos. Documentaries about films is no exception. This is a brief but interesting history of American horror films. There were plenty of great interviews (John Carpenter, George A. Romero and Roger Corman to name but a few) and plenty of movie clips to keep it visually interesting.

The film didn’t really break that much new ground, but it still felt like a worthy celebration of the genre.

Hobbiton 2

That Sugar Film (2014)
Director: Damon Gameau
1:30:00 (Completed)

So, sugar is bad for you. Or rather, the kind of sugar that is put into most processed foods is bad for you. Damon Gameau takes a Super Size Me style journey to find out just how bad sugar can be by going on a two month challenge: Eat a high sugar diet just containing food perceived as healthy.

It’s an interesting and entertaining film that, while not convincing me to give up sugar, did inform me about the dangers and what to look out for (when I actually decide to look after myself). One interesting example: Low fat food basically means high sugar content.

There were some powerful scenes in this film which makes it worth watching.

Focus (2015)
Directors: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
1:45:00 (Complete)

Will Smith is a con man. Not a sleazy low-life but a high rolling cool-kat who’s awesome. At least that’s who he’s playing in Focus. Maybe I’m being a bit hard on old mate Will here — he’s actually decent in this film. And to be honest, I enjoy con artist stories, my favourite being Matchstick Men. This is a good, light hearted popcorn film that’s enjoyable. It’s nothing special, but it is fun.

Life Itself (2014)
Director: Steve James
2:00:00 (Complete)

That’s right, it’s another doco! This time about film critic Roger Ebert. I know of Ebert and read some of his reviews, but I’ve never really followed his work with great detail. Despite that, I found his life, he’s struggle with illness and his passion for movies both engaging and inspiring. His involvement with the doco, both in a narrative sense and as a creative was different interesting. A must watch for movie fans.

Map to the Stars (2014)
Director: David Cronenberg

This was a strange film full of mostly unlikable characters, but I guess that’s Hollywood for you. Map to the Stars tells a story of various Hollywood actors who struggle with fame, getting older and landing that big break and other vastly ‘important’ things

So yes, the characters are unlikeable (of course there is a Justin Bieber-like character) but the plot and the dialogue had me invested, oh and the fantastic cast list, including Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack, Olivia Williams and Robert Pattinson.

Cronenberg is known for the dark and twisted, and his look at Hollywood is no exception.

Kidnapping Mr Heineken (2015)
Director: Daniel Alfredson
1:35:00 (Completed)

This was a cool movie about the kidnapping of the CEO and founder of Heineken by a bunch of working class guys doing it tough. It’s an interesting look at what it takes to push one to crime, as well as the effects and pressure kidnapping takes on regular captors.

Despite the European location, none of the actors really tried to do an accent; it felt like an Australian movie at times, especially with Sam ‘I can’t hold an accent for a full sentence’ Worthington and Ryan ‘They didn’t ask me to put on an accent’ Kwanten.

All in all, a cool heist/kidnapping movie, with Anthony Hopkins in fine form as Mr Heineken.

Hobbiton 1

Dumb and Dumber To (2014)
Director: The Farrelly Brothers
1:39:00 (DNF)

I love the original Dumb and Dumber. I think it’s a modern classic and one of the best comedies, up there with the likes of Flying High. This belated sequel (with original cast and directors) is just woeful. It has none of the charm. It feels worse than soulless — it feels mean. I was watching this on a plane back to Melbourne and about half an hour in, my elbow hit the armrest and went back to the main menu.

I wasn’t too upset.

Kill the Messenger (2014)
Director: Michael Cuesta
1:52:00 (Completed)

This is the movie I watched instead of finishing Dumb and Dumber To. Jeremy Renner stars as an investigative journalist who uncovers the CIA’s alleged role in importing crack cocaine into America — at great personal cost.

It’s a decent story and a decent film, but it never really got to a spot where I was hugely invested or really cared about Renner’s character breaking the story. Kill the Messenger never got close to being great, but it was still good.

Chappie (2015)
Director: Neill Blomkamp
2:00:00 (Completed)

I really liked Neill Blomkamp’s District 9; rather, I loved the first three-quarters of it, when it was a really interesting semi-doco exploring the impact of an alien landing on South African culture (and the obvious historical mirror). It’s a shame it turned into a boring action film that I just didn’t care about. In saying that, it has been a while since I’ve seen the film, so I should go back and rewatch. I thought Blomkamp’s next film Elysium was okay, but it never hooked me like District 9.

And now we come to Chappie, his third film, still set in South Africa, this time featuring the members of popular rap group Die Antwoord (who can’t act) and a robot (who can).

The film follows a weapons company’s rival engineers, Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) and Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman). Both have different ideas of where the company should invest its research money. Deon’s scout AI robots are a successful arm of the South African police force but he wants to make a more thinking, more alive, more human robot. What follows is an action film that explores the idea of humanity, nature vs. nurture and class warfare.

While it’s not a great film, it’s a more worthy successor to District 9 than Elysium.

Run All Night (2015)
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
1:54:00 (Completed)

Since 2008’s Taken, Liam Neeson became cinema’s newest badass character actor. However, most of his follow up films failed to get even close to the tension, the excitement or the break-neck pace of Taken. Thankfully, Run All Night isn’t one of them.

Neeson plays Jimmy Conlon, an aging, drunk, washed up former mob hitman, estranged from his grown-up son and whose only friend is mob boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris). One night, both Conlon and his son Mike (Joel Kinnaman) are involved in an event that causes the death of Maguire’s son. This isn’t a spoiler, it’s right there in the trailer.

The film becomes a manhunt/escape/revenge action-thriller, and I really enjoyed it. It doesn’t become too over the top, the Conlon’s don’t instantly bond and the action and pacing were good. A really enjoyable movie.

I’m all caught up on my movie viewing and blog writing from these last few exciting weeks. Thank you kindly for your patience and for reading. I shouldn’t have any long unscheduled breaks like this again, so look forward to the normal schedule.

Australia has Netflix now, so we might do some spotlights on some of those movies when I finally get around to getting that. In the meantime, we will be filming a new movie segment on New Game Plus that will include a giveaway — keep an eye out for that.

Until next time.

Film of the ‘week’: Life Itself
Movies watched this ‘week’: 13
Did Not Finish (DNF) this ‘week’: 1
Time spent this ‘week’: 23:05:00
Total movies watched: 105/400
Total DNF: 3
Total time: 216:24:32

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