400 And Counting: Week Four (The Post PAX Blues)

November 9, 2014

This week was all about PAX Australia: The preparation, attendance and the recovery from the dreaded but not unexpected conflu. This year’s PAX was a different experience to last year’s. Back then, I took care of the show’s coverage, so lots of interviews, first impressions and indie coverage. This year I did some of that as well but I also filmed a number of Magic: The Gathering events. Last year I had time to draft, this year I certainly did not.

PAX was busy, frantic, stressful, exciting, joyful and fun. PAX was a lot of things, but it wasn’t great for watching movies. I managed a grand total of three films this week and only one of them was on the SBS On Demand service. On the plus side, all three films were interesting, engaging and vastly different.

Death of a President (2006)
Director: Gabriel Range
1:32:40 (Completed)

This film is a mockumentary, but not in the sense of This is Spinal Tap or Borat – It’s not a funny film. It uses the documentary format to tell a fictional story. It is very similar to a film called C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America, a ‘documentary’ about how the South won the American Civil War.

Death of a President tells the ‘story’ of the 2007 assassination of President George W. Bush. It features interviews with his ‘staff’ and ‘Secret Service’ agents, shows the violent protests taking place in the lead-up to the ‘event’, the assassination itself and the hunt for the killer.

The film uses stock footage, it looks and feels real. You could believe it. At least, I could, for a while. The film started to lose me after the first hour. Yes, there was more story about tracking down his killer, the effects of the Patriot Act III and so on, but I feel it would of been a stronger film if it had ended after an hour.

Still, Death of a President is a very interesting watch for those interested in docos.

Whiplash (2014)
Director: Damien Chazelle
1:47:00 (Completed)

Whiplash is the story of the ‘little drummer boy’ if he went to an elite music academy and was taught by a teacher that makes the Full Metal Jacket’s drill sergeant look like a friendly, reasonable teacher.

Andrew (Miles Teller) is a young drummer studying at a music academy, working his way up the ‘ladder’ in order to perform under Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), the teacher you hate (he is a mean son of a bitch) but makes you the person and musician you’re today. Teller and Simmons put up great performances; Teller looks to be a world class drummer.

On the surface, Whiplash is a movie about music, jazz and drumming. If you think this doesn’t sound that great, you’d be wrong. This is a tense, heartfelt drama about the struggle for greatness, what it takes and how far you can be pushed to be the best and what it will cost you.

The film showcases the commitment, effort and focus it takes to be a professional musician. This film makes me want to play the drums again, so I guess that tells you something about the film and how inspiring it is. Let’s be honest, I’m never going to pick up a drumstick (apart from the ice cream) again, but I do want to buy the soundtrack, the first since Guardians of the Galaxy and I don’t even really like jazz. A really great cinema experience.

John Wick (2014)
Directors: David Leitch and Chad Stahelski
1:36:00 (Completed)

Keanu Reeves is a badass.

John Wick (Reeves) is a retired hitman mourning the death of his beloved wife. As her final gift, she arranged a puppy to be delivered to him. So naturally the spoiled son of a Russian mob boss Wick used to work for (Alfie Allen, you know, Theon Greyjoy) breaks into his house, kills his dog, steals his car and leaves him unconscious.

What follows is a rip roaring action film that’s the closest we’ve gotten to Taken or Dredd. The action is hardcore and full-on as Wick hunts down all who wronged him. The film becomes more violent as he slips deeper and deeper into the dark and grimey underworld. Shoutouts to Ian McShane who cameos as the owner of a ‘neutral ground’ hotel. He’s pretty great in everything he’s in, including Deadwood, 44 Inch Chest, Lovejoy, Cuban Fury and even the terrible Pirates of the Caribbean 4. The pacing is great, with everything driving forward as John Wick hunts his way through an army of thugs and gangsters.

The problem I had with John Wick was I kept hearing how good it was. Damn you high expectations! So while I enjoyed this, it would have been better if I came into it knowing nothing.

My goal for next week it to get my viewing numbers back on track. It’s less about trying to hit 400 films and more about the real goal of the challenge: To watch a heap of new, interesting and unexpected films. Watching Hollywood blockbusters doesn’t really help, but in saying that Interstellar was just released, Let’s Be Cops comes out next week, and then Horns and the new Hunger Games, so I guess there won’t be a shortage of films to watch at the cinema.

I’ve just got to make the time — rather than find it — to watch more films I’ve never heard of. Expect more than three movies next week.

Film of the Week: Whiplash
Movies Watched This Week: 3
Did Not Finish (DNF) This Week: 0
Time Spent This Week: 4:55:40
Total Movies Watched: 24/400
Total DNF: 1
Total Time: 39:53:15

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