Making things happen in 2016

January 1, 2016 in Blogging, Freelance, Misc

2016

I’m writing this post as we count down the minutes to 2016.

2015 has been an interesting and somewhat tumultuous year for me, with the usual ups and downs but with higher than usual highs and lower than usual lows.

As usual, I started off the year with big ambitions, though it didn’t take long before I sunk back into laziness and getting sidetracked by excuses. The first three-quarters of the year was not particularly eventful. I sleepwalked through my job, stayed fit for the most part, did some reading and not as much writing as I wanted to. I watched TV shows, loads of movies, and spent a lot of time with the family and the kids. I was content with my situation but not content with my usual lack of motivation to move forward. The most eventful change was probably the decision to switch my movie reviews to http://spoilerfreereviews.pacejmiller.com/.

And then, as often is the case, life threw me a curve ball. The website where I had worked for nearly four years suddenly got shut down, and I had a big decision to make: to be transferred to a group like everyone else, or venture out on my own to be a full-time freelancer. I chose the latter. In many ways, the decision was made for me because the powers that be were so incompetent that I lost all faith in the promises they were making about the transition. As far as I know, those suspicions turned into reality.

Around the same time, family things — like death and health problems to loved ones — put my life in a bit of a tailspin, and for the first time in a very long time I fell into a mini-depression, albeit one I knew was temporary.

Once the smoke cleared, things started to turn around, and I haven’t looked back. When bad things happen it puts things in perspective, and the last couple of months have been super busy but also really fantastic. I feel like I’ve finally found the passion for my work again because I actually care about what I’m doing. The amount of effort I put into my work actually affects my income, which hasn’t been the case for years.

Business as a freelancer has been surprisingly good right from the get-go — perhaps a little too good because I haven’t found time to write at all — but obviously I shouldn’t complain. I’m looking forward to staying busy in a spectacular 2016 — settling into a routine, growing more efficient, reading every day, writing every day, getting back into fitness, watching a lot of awesome movies and TV shows, and spending plenty of time with my family.

That’s all for now. I’m going to let my actions do the talking.

Happy New Year!!!

Hello, 2015

January 1, 2015 in Blogging, Misc, On Writing

new-year-eve-2015-sydney-australia-photos

Well here we are. Another New Year. 2015. They just go by so quickly, don’t they?

For some reason, the most apt thing I can think of to say in this post comes from, like most apt things, Seinfeld. Instead of what Jerry said about birthdays, however, I’d like to tweak it to make it apply to New Years.

Well, New Years are merely symbolic of how another year’s gone by and how little we’ve grown. No matter how desperate we are that someday a better self will emerge, with each New Year’s fireworks display we know it’s not to be. That for the rest of our sad, wretched, pathetic lives, this is who we are to the bitter end – inevitably, irrevocably. Happy New Year? No such thing.

Don’t get me wrong. 2014 was a great year. A fulfilling year in terms of getting fit, getting healthy, spending time with family, watching loads of movies (around 160 by my count!!!) and TV series, and reading about 3/4 of the number of books I intended to get through (15/20).

In terms of what I really wanted to get done, and have been saying so for more than a couple of years — ie, writing — well…it was a disappointment once again. I did a little more than previous years but still nowhere near as much as I wanted.

Some of the issues can’t be helped, but much of the problem is the usual laziness and lack of motivation, fear of starting something, fear of finishing something, fear of it being no good, fear of having to do too much to fix things up, etc etc.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past year it’s that waiting till you’re fully ready and in the mood to do something never works. Because there’s always an excuse — unexpected, made up or otherwise — to hold you back. Like exercise, which I have pretty much gotten the hang of now, writing needs to be a habit. You need to do it even when you don’t want to. Especially when you don’t want to.

So that’s my only real goal of the year. To make writing (non-work or blog related, that is) a habit. If not daily then at least 3-5 times a week. I think I can manage that. I made a pact with a friend to get something done by the end of 2015 and the clock’s already ticking. A little more discipline at work will help, but I think I’m ready for the challenge.

PS: I still want to read at least 15 books this year, watch 100+ movies and continue improving my all aspects of my health, from taking my vitamins to exercising regularly and cleaning up my gruesome diet.

I’m still here, I really am

February 28, 2013 in Blogging, Misc

Man I feel like an In-N-Out Burger

Man I feel like an In-N-Out Burger

It’s been a while since I’ve posted and I just want to assure everyone that I am still here with a quick post.

In short, it’s been hectic. All plans and dreams of settling into a routine have been trampled, spat on and stuffed into closet of dirty wet rags. The major culprit is this freelance gig that’s been tearing me apart! It was supposed to be an easy proofread for a government tourism booklet — at most a light copyedit — but instead it has become a full-scale rewrite and retranslation that’s taking me far longer than I could have ever expected. I’m nearly there, but not quite there because there are always potential spanners when it comes to government agencies. You know how it is, and if you don’t, you should.

The other thing was the Oscars on Monday (Taiwan time), for which I was very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to participate in a one-day gig helping out as a translation/film consultant for the local TV broadcast. It was a long day but it was fun and exciting, and I got to meet a lot of wonderful people, all of whom I hope to cross paths with again soon. I’m going to write up a post on that experience pretty soon along with my thoughts about the Oscars in general (including host Seth MacFarlane). It’s gotta be done.

Anyway, much of the time before that day was spent trying to catch up on the movies nominated for the Oscars, in particular the best picture titles. I never ended up getting through all of them, but I still intend to do so. There’s only Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild left for best picture, but I’m also hoping to be able to get to The ImpossibleThe Master, Flight, Moonrise Kingdom and The Sessions as part of my Oscar movie blitz. I’ll be reviewing all of them, along with the other nominees I’ve already seen, such as Django Unchained, Silver Linings Playbook, Lincoln and The Invisible War. I’ll get there…someday.

Work has also been somewhat of a nuisance because I’ll be very busy here for the next couple of weeks. It was unavoidable and certainly foreseeable, but still, it sucks feeling like you’re running on adrenaline most of the time.

That’s all for now, but as a butt-groping, nanny-impregnating governor once said, “I’ll be back.”

Top 10 Films of 2011!

December 30, 2012 in Best Of, Movie Reviews, Reviews

It had to be done. My list of 10 favourite films of 2011. Actually, I cheated. It’s really 11 films because I didn’t feel it was right to leave one of them out, so I made them both equal 10th.

In the end, after going through all 110 films I watched from that year, I came to the conclusion that 2011 was a fairly decent year in cinema. Not necessarily a lot of extraordinary “all-time “films but a fair number of very very good ones. Also a lot of 4-star films and a couple of films higher than 4 stars that unfortunately couldn’t make the cut.

Again, this list is based on the ratings I gave when I initially reviewed the movies. It is also a list based on the films I liked the most as a casual filmgoer, rather than a list of films judged the best by some sort of objective standard.

Without further ado, here goes. (Click on the titles for the full review)

10 (tied). The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

We're in the top 10 films of the year, Snowy! Let's celebrate!

We’re in the top 10 films of the year, Snowy! Let’s celebrate!

I felt compelled to include this one in the top 10 because it’s one of the best animated films I’ve ever seen. I know cartoons can do cute and comedy, but this is the first time I found an animated film so exhilarating to watch. A bit long, of course, but a remarkable and landmark achievement in motion capture animation features.

10 (tied). Moneyball (2011)

Our movie's pretty awesome, chubby!

Our movie’s pretty awesome, chubby!

I don’t think you need to love baseball to love this film, which I found insightful, amusing and moving in a strange kind of way. It might have moved a little slow for some but the pace was just right for me. And kudos to Kerris Dorsey for stealing the show as Brad Pitt’s daughter, especially for her sweet rendition of Lenka’s “The Show.”

9. The Ides of March (2011)

Vote for me or I'll stomp your head in

Vote for me or I’ll stomp your head in

I’m a sucker for political dramas/thrillers and this was another one brilliant one that just happens to star three of the best actors in Hollywood — George Clooney, Ryan Gosling and Philip Seymore Hoffman. Far from perfect but in many ways it comes across as a more stylish version of Primary Colors, still one of my faves from the 20th century.

8. Mission Impossible — Ghost Protocol (2011)

I'm on a date with Robin Thicke's wife!

I’m on a date with Robin Thicke’s wife!

Just when you thought Tom Cruise’s career was on the rapid decline path he churns out one of the best, if not the best, action movie of 2011 with fourth instalment of the Mission Impossible franchise, in my humble opinion the best one yet. Its simplified but intelligent plot and ridiculous action sequences provided a non-stop adrenaline rush and almost had me jumping on the seats like Cruise on Oprah.

7. Warrior (2011)

Bain vs Tom Buchanan

Bain vs Tom Buchanan

Take note, Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown — this is how you do an MMA movie. Actually, by infusing the narrative with a touching storyline and characters we can root for, Warrior is by far the best MMA movie of all time, and leaped onto my top 10 list of 2011 the moment the credits started rolling.

6. Super 8 (2011)

Look, it's E.T.!

Look, it’s E.T.!

My appreciation for Super 8 has perhaps waned a little since watching it more than a year ago,  but at the time I watched it I thought it was potentially this generation’s E.T. — the nostalgia it created was as powerful as anything I had seen in years. Even without it, the film was still highly entertaining and a lot of fun. A great family film.

5. Hugo (2011)

I heard the toymaker used to be Gandhi...

I heard the toymaker used to be Gandhi…

I can’t believe there are so many family films on my list, but there’s no way I could leave Hugo off this list. This remarkable Martin Scorsese film is rich and enriching, magical and emotionally rewarding. On top of that I found it incredibly impressive from a visual perspective and it’s also one of those rare films where the 3D was not detrimental to the overall experience.

4. Midnight in Paris (2011)

I wanna hug this movie too

I wanna hug this movie too (and Rachel McAdams)

If Hugo is for cinema lovers then Midnight in Paris is for lovers of literature. I had no idea what the film was about (thanks to the spoiler-free trailers) but was blown away by the clever script and the perfect tone created by Woody Allen in what must be his best film in years. Sweet, engaging and charming, it’s the best lighthearted movie of the year.

3. Drive (2011)

Yep. I'm Ryan Gosling and I can do no wrong.

Yep. I’m Ryan Gosling and I can do no wrong.

Drive might become my favourite 2011 movie when I look back years down the track, but for now, it’s no. 3. This stylish, ultra-violent neo-noir crime drama won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but for me it simply has the X factor. I was captivated by this film from its brilliant start (one of the best intros ever) all the way through to its powerful conclusion. I don’t really care if the movie has an underlying message — I just thought it was awesome to watch.

2. We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

Stop freaking me out!

Stop freaking me out!

Based on the acclaimed novel, We Need to Talk About Kevin haunted me when I watched it and still gives me the chills whenever I think about it. As a new father, this film, which is really a “horror” more than anything else, resonated with me in a way few films do and much of that has to do with the spectacular performance of Tilda Swinton, who absolutely should have at least had an Oscar nomination. The recent tragedy at Newtown has had me thinking about the movie a lot lately, which could be why it topped Drive for the no. 2 spot.

1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Get your dirty hands off my wand, Malfoy!

Get your dirty hands off my wand, Malfoy!

That’s right. My favourite film of 2011 is Rise of the Planet of the Apes. And if you don’t like it you can bite me! What can I say? I love those monkeys. Seriously, it may be an unconventional choice, but to me this was the best film of the Apes franchise (yes, including the iconic original) and may possibly be one of the best popcorn movies of all-time and one of the most entertaining movies ever. I’ve seen it more than twice and I still think its awesomeness is unparalleled. A cool premise, mindblowing special effects and the most epic action sequences of the year — who cares how much sense it made when it’s so much fun to watch?

Well, that just about does it. With less than two days to go in the year, it looks like this 2011 list will only be one year late instead of two. I promise my 2012 list will be posted during the first half of 2013! Promise!

Honourable mentions: 50/50, X-Men: First Class, Shame, The Descendants, Crazy Stupid Love, Snowtown, Limitless, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

PS: I just realized I never reviewed the Hollywood version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on this blog. I have no idea why, but from memory I gave it 4 stars and it would have missed out anyway, though it probably would have made the honourable mentions list.

Mega Catch-up Movie Blitz (Part 2)

April 28, 2012 in Movie Reviews, Reviews

Let’s get straight down to it. Part 1 is here.

The Awakening (2011)

This one’s not bad for a British ghost movie. Set in the 1920s, the lovely Rebecca Hall plays a supernatural debunker who has been called to boarding school to investigate a ghost sighting related to the death of a student.

As you would expect, The Awakening has an abundance of chills – nothing new or innovative but there are so few well-executed ghost movies these days that it was actually refreshing to see some old-fashioned scares. The setting of a spooky boarding school full of pale English boys helped a lot, especially when most of them head home for the holidays and there’s nothing but a whole bunch of echoes.

The gradual change of Hall’s character from sceptic to believer was done very well, and both Dominic West and Imelda Staunton do great jobs in supporting roles. The ending was a little out there even for me but on the whole it’s certainly a worthwhile movie to get on a DVD night.

3.5 stars out of 5

ATM (2012)

Slasher film starring Alive Eve and two blokes set in an ATM room in some random parking lot. If that sounds stupid to you it’s because it is.

The three co-workers leave a function together and one of them has to go get some cash from an ATM in one of those isolated little glass rooms. A crazy dude dressed like Kenny from South Park starts terrorizing them and killing people who may be able to help them. Why? Who knows and who cares?

This is one of those films where the main characters deserve to die for continuously doing really stupid things that make no sense whatsoever. The premise is so preposterous that it drains all the fun out of the film – which is mainly just a lot of panicking and screaming and ending up back in the same place. Instead of being scared by their predicament I was more annoyed by how moronic they were being.

Interesting idea to try and make a slasher film in such a confined space but they really should have put a little more effort into the script and the execution. And a scarier antagonist with a little bit of personality wouldn’t have hurt either.

1.25 stars out of 5

We Bought a Zoo (2011)

My sister kept raving on about what a great movie Matt Damon’s We Bought a Zoo was, so I had to check it out, even though I’m not ordinarily a fan of family films. It’s supposedly based on a true story (albeit set in the UK, not the US, but I supposed it worked just as well) about a grieving widower who decides to start over and buys a zoo. Not a tank of fish, but a full-blown zoo with lions and everything.

The movie focuses on Damon’s character and a bunch of zookeepers, led by Scarlett Johansson, who are trying to keep the animals alive and the zoo licensed on very little money. Meanwhile, Damon has to deal with the rebellious activities of his son, who is still struggling to cope (his cute younger daughter loves it though).

I think that gives a fairly complete picture of what to expect from this film. Kids and people who like animals will probably enjoy this feel-good film. I’m not saying I don’t like animals or that I didn’t enjoy it, but I simply didn’t think it was anything special. Part of it is because it felt too much like a kids’ movie – everything was predictable and flowed too smoothly; even when there was conflict you knew it would all turn out rosy in the end. On the other hand, I did find parts of it quite uplifting, and it’s always a pleasure to see Thomas Haden Church (whom I’ve been a fan of since the Ned and Stacey days) and John Michael Higgins (my third favourite lawyer from Arrested Development), two of the best three-named actors around.

3 stars out of 5!

The Darkest Hour (2011)

I remember when I saw the trailer for The Darkest Hour and I thought to myself – this looks pretty interesting. Plus it had Emile Hirsch, who I’ve been a massive fan of ever since Into the Wild, one of my favourite movies of all time. Instead, The Darkest Hour should have been called The Darkest Hour and a Half, because that’s what it felt like watching this piece of trash.

The story is about two young Americans who travel to Russia to pitch a social network idea and find out they’ve been screwed over — this was the best joke of the movie because one of the Americans is Max Minghella, who was the non-Winklevii dude from The Social Network.

They go to some Russian nightclub to drown their sorrows, meeting a couple of girls (Olivia Thirlby and Rachael Taylor), and then some invisible aliens attack, turning humans into dust everywhere.

Now, when I first saw the trailer, I thought the idea of an invisible enemy was kinda cool, and certainly very scary. I was wrong. The invisible alien thing sucked badly precisely because you couldn’t see it. It became just a bunch of losers running around screaming. The worst part of it is that when you finally see how lame the alien is you wish you never saw it in the first place.

For a sci-fi thriller I found The Darkest Hour inexplicably boring and completely lacking in excitement. This probably could have worked with a better script and better direction (it’s directed by Chris Gorak, a former art director who had only previously been at the helm of one other film), but unfortunately it ended up being one of the most disappointing films of the year.

1.25 stars out of 5!