The Year of Watching Dangerously
Tis the last few days of 2016 and I know we are all saying where did the heck did the year go?
On the 31st December, as we bid this year goodbye, many of us will make resolutions. So I'm going to suggest one resolute promise that we might make good on: let's create one act of extra kindness a week. I suggest this because I've become even more aware of how important kindness and generosity are after writing The Troubles Keeper, in which my character Rory Fine devotes himself to taking away people's troubles, believing that one act of kindness can change a person's day, and sometimes their life. We may not stay on a diet, or keep up that exercise or give up that bad habit, but I think we can do this. We could send a message to someone to remind them of why they are special. We could donate to charity, speak kindly and forgive when it may feel like the last thing we would like to do, and we can offer to help someone who is in need, emotionally or physically. Each time you do this, remind yourself you've fulfilled your promise for 2017, and you might even like to keep a note. One extra act of kindness might make a huge difference in another's life, as well as yours. Then you can feel triumphant next New Year's Eve that you have kept your resolution: one extra moment of kindness a week. From me, a massive thanks for being along for this amazing year of my writing career. More than 100,000 Susan May thrillers have made their way on to eReaders, been held in hands, and heard via Audibles. This success has been so unexpected and humbling I find it hard to believe. I look forward to continuing the journey in 2017 with more books, short stories and audibles on the way. Oh, and lots more competitions and giveaways. I wish you a wonderful new year celebration and here's to a big 2017 for all of us. And to you 2017, slow down a little, will ya ... Susan May
P.S. I've moved radio stations for 2017. I'm now on Capital Community Radio 101.7. They have a huge listener base and play the same kind of music as CurtinFM. I enjoyed a wonderful fun two years opposite Jenny Seaton and I've learned a lot from that wonderful, smart lady.
Remember too, that you are invited to join my Facebook group Susan Mayhem Gang. The place is a happening club with all sorts of activity every day, not to mention giveaways, so come meet us there. https://www.facebook.com/groups/ReaderMayhem/
The year of watching dangerously
(meaning it hasn't been a brilliant year for film)
Normally when I’m asked to list my favorite films of the year the usual choices spring from those I’ve seen in the latter few months of the year. This is when the studios release their awards’ hopefuls and Academy nominee star-vehicles. Not so for 2016. This has been the weakest year for standouts since I began reviewing more than half a decade ago.
Most of the films populating my favorites list are from the beginning of the year and those films fell into the 2016 Academy awards as nominees and winners. So I’m not able to give predictions for the upcoming 2017 Golden Globe and Oscar awards.
Even though The Revenant was my favorite film for last year, it could easily slip into this year as the Leonardo DiCaprio Oscar winner was released in Australia 7th January 2016. Spotlight is another fabulous film released in January revealing the true-life story of the Boston Globe’s investigation of the Catholic church’s cover-up of the local archdiocese’s child molestation case. I walked out of that film speechless. The Big Short another true story, which artfully and in a surprisingly comedic way explores how the financial crisis evolved and damaged so many lives.
These were in January this year and then other than the engrossing Helen Mirren modern wartime drama Eye in the Sky, and a couple of others, the rest of the year has been mostly okay, peppered more than normal with dull, drab and dastardly film watches.
My top film in the second half would, without a doubt, be the Australian-made crowd-pleaser Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge. Fingers crossed Hollywood politics don’t prevent the Academy from recognizing Mel Gibson’s inspiring and incredible war film. I liked the more recent Sully and Allied as solid dramas too. Disney’s Queen of Katwa is also a true gem.
If we are talking comedy and family films, I thought Central Intelligence with the perfect pairing of Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart was a real winner. I’d sit through that one again. Eddie the Eagle, mid year, was also a goodie for the whole family, and Disney’s Zootopia was a lovely animation.
Science fiction and fantasy films abounded this year. The biggest release being Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, an offshoot of the Harry Potter franchise, with the screenplay written by J.K. Rowling. This one the first of five. Arrival, an alien contact drama, was a reviewer favorite film and the just released Passengers is another flashy and stylish futuristic vehicle for the two charismatic stars Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, who do that thing they do so well—charm us.
For the super hero fans, we were inundated this year with the start or really the second start to the DC Comics world of Justice League with Batman v Superman (following 2013 Man of Steel) and the box-office killer Suicide Squad. Marvel furthered their franchise world with the fun, if not a little repetitious, Captain America Civil War, the anti-hero Deadpool, and the surprise of the year, the super-interesting but unknown until now, hero Doctor Strange.
Probably in my top ten films of the year are three Australian documentaries, Sherpa, Chasing Asylum, and Embrace. Sherpa an Australian production told the incredible and tragic story of the Sherpas of Mount Everest. Chasing Asylum exposed a terrible truth about Australia’s treatment of Asylum Seekers or should I say the government’s treatment. I don’t think Australians would want anyone treated in what was shown in this behind-the-scenes film. Embrace produced by Taryn Brumfitt taught us why we should love ourselves no matter what and this film made me proud to be Australian.
Most disappointing film of the year would be Star Wars Rogue One, leaving us all feeling as though ‘we had to like it because its Star Wars when, in reality, it was only okay. And my least favorite films were A Pigeon Climbed out onto a Branch, Queen of the Desert, Girl Asleep, and the deplorable Bad Santa 2, along with any that fell into the category of silly American films, which celebrate binge drinking, swearing and sleeping around. Ugh, they are just boring and unfunny.
After much thought, and if I ignore all those films that have already been nominated and won Oscars, I would have to say my three favorite films of the year are Eye in the Sky, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Central Intelligence just because they offered something different and memorable.
Of the current releases for December and January, with the school holidays in full swing, you can’t go wrong with Disney’s Moana and it’s fabulous animation. However, I think Sing with such great voice talent like Scarlett Johansson, Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane and many others, along with snappy pop songs and a simple story, will capture the hearts of both young and old. For a great drama, A United Kingdom or Allied, and if you can handle the bad language Why Him? is funny. I could probably say of Red Dog: True Blue that it's not up to the story-telling quality of its predecessor, although many who have seen this enjoyed. I think the makers would have been better to let sleeping dogs lie, but money calls.
2016 wasn’t a great film year for us reviewers. After seeing, for myself, 137 films on screen, I think we groaned more than we cheered. Still I don’t think many will pity our tough breaks. Sitting in a darkened cinema munching on popcorn is never going to be called a hard slog. Here’s to a richer cinema experience in 2017.
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As I was changing radio stations I didn't write up reviews for all the films I saw in the last few weeks. However, I'd already written a review for Sing, so here it is ...
Sing ✪✪✪✪ Opened December 26
Sing is a delightful film with the cream of voice talent. Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johannson, Seth MacFarlane, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Saunders, Nick Offerman transform what might be a very simple story and a film easily dismissed as just another kids' animation into one heck of a toe-tapping, enjoyable event.
While this film won't win awards for innovation or extraordinary animation, Sing sticks to the tried and true device of cute animals portraying realistic human situations and emotions. What might allow Sing to surpass the box office of the oh-so-slickly animated Disney holidays' musical offering Moana is the choice of using well known recent musical hits and springing for top-notch voice talent. Kids and parents can easily recognize these songs, and two days later I still can't get Taylor Swift out of my head. This has a great message, well delivered and without any ten minute navel-gazing lag in the second act.
What I found most incredible, and why I've given the film four stars, is that the preview I attended was filled with young children. Yet there wasn't a rustle or a cry through the whole one hour forty-eight minutes. This never happens, not even in well known franchises like Ice Age. Kids are always bored after forty odd minutes and up and down the aisles. Not so here. I was also told by a grandma nearby that her twelve year old loved it. So not just little kids. This one is a safe bet.
A koala impresario stages a grand singing competition for the world's animals in order to save his elegant theater in this quirky animated musical.
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