Monday, 31 January 2011

The Challenge Part 1

One day, I'm going to die. So are you. I was reminded of this at Christmas, when I was given the latest edition of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. I love making lists of films to watch, tracking them down and crossing them off gives me the kind of pleasure most people only experience in bed, bungee jumping or finding out they have superpowers. But, as this book clearly points out in the title, I'm going to die. There is a finite amount of time I have left to watch these films, films that I must watch before I die, else my life be not deemed worthy of the cinematic Gods.

Now, this would mean nothing to most people. Yes, we're all going to die, but there's not a whole lot we can do about that. Look around you, if you can't see twenty things that could kill you, you're dead already. But, and this is where I ask you to bear with me for a moment, when I was younger, I had a dream. In this dream, I was told I would die when I was 28. I'm 23 now, meaning I have at most 5 1/2 years to live, and therefore 5 1/2 years to watch all of the films on the list that I have yet to see, not counting those in the editions as yet unpublished. I don't normally believe in the whole dreams and destinies thing, but dammit I want to watch the films, and this gives me some kind of a goal, something which, my girlfriend will agree, is missing from my life.

So, I'm setting up a plan to watch all those films left in the book I've yet to watch. Without counting, I'd guess I've seen about 200, leaving 800-ish, but I have other similar books too. On top of this pile I'm going to add the Total Film Top 100 Movies of All Time, Empire Magazine's 500 Greatest Movies of All Time and Empire's 5-Star 500 (2010). I have no idea how many this is going to make without counting, as I'm sure an awful lot will be duplicated. But as soon as I know, I'm gonna start watching.

The deadline is set, February 1st, 2016, every film mentioned in those books will have been watched, else my life, as deemed by those that know films better than I, will not have been worth living.

Second Chance: P.S. I Love You

For every good film, there must be an equally bad film (Newton's Third Law of Motion Pictures). Like most people, I tend to not watch a film if I hear that it's bad, even more so if this opinion comes from a review. But a review is merely one person's opinion, and I'm not going to agree with them all the time, surely? So in this column I'll be providing badly reviewed films with a second chance, seeing if they are as bad as everyone seems to think.

Total Film: 3/5
Empire: 2/5
IMDb rating: 6.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 23%

Before even watching P.S. I Love You, I got the feeling I'm not going to like it, as it's a modern rom-com featuring Gerard Butler, which trailer-wise are generally terrible (The Ugly Truth, The Bounty Hunter), but the whole point of this is to give film's the benefit of the doubt. So, even though my girlfriend likes it (generally a sign that I won't) I sat down and gave it a try.

It started off well enough, and my spirits were lifted by the depiction of a fairly realistic couple (Butler and Hilary Swank, dabbling in light material for a change), living in a cramped apartment, not knowing where they're going in life or what they want out of it. Even the realisation that relationships don't always work out is relatively original in cinema, with Butler's Gerry passing away from a brain tumour early in the film. After this though, the film follows standard romantic comedy guidelines: the holiday to the idyllic country, the various eligible bachelors in Swank's life, even the bossy sister and sassy friend (Lisa Kudrow having fun with this).

All in all, it wasn't a terrible film, better than expected, and there were times when I actually laughed, but there's not a lot new here, and  the only thing I took away from the film was that, comparatively to Butler's note-leaving, holiday-planning, life-improving Irishman, I am a terrible boyfriend.

4/10 Choose Life

Wednesday, 19 January 2011


Last night, I experienced the long-awaited and highly anticipated joy of watching Exam, the 2009 writing and directing debut of Stuart Hazeldine. Looking at his earlier work, dabbling in the scripts of such cinematic highlights as Knowing and the remake of the Day the Earth Stood Still, expectations should not have been high, yet due to word of mouth and some decent reviews, I had been looking forward to watching the film for quite some time.

The basic premise, and anything more would spoil the fun, is there are eight candidates from various backgrounds, all applying for a high-end job in a secretive company. They are given 80 minutes to answer a question, and asked to abide by a strict set of rules, with any failure to do so ensuring immediate disqualification. The only hitch is, there appears to be no question to answer.

Billed, not incorrectly, as a blend of the Apprentice, Saw and the Usual Suspects, and largely playing out in real time, Hazeldine keeps us guessing all the way through, carefully introducing new elements and revelations without the feel of being cheated. Praise too is deserving of the cast, all relative unknowns save for Jimi Mistry (2012, the Guru, err... Strictly Come Dancing), and most deserving is Luke Mably as White, somehow making a devious bully sympathetic.

With Exam, set in a future-time of 'soon', Hazeldine poses  the question of, in this tough economic climate, how far would you go to get a job? Would you lie? Betray? Cheat? Kill? And would it be worth it in the end? Whatever the answer, and indeed whatever the question, I look forward to Mr. Hazeldine's next effort. Any questions?

See this film if you liked:
The Usual Suspects
Fermat's Room

Best watched:
Alone, in a darkened room, possibly with a slightly-too-loud ticking clock in the background.