Top 5 Worst Films of 2014

Following on from my Top Ten films of 2014, here’s my picks for the Top 5 Worst Films of 2014. (I didn’t have enough for a list of 10. I have some very mediocre films this year, but they’re not quite bad enough to make this list!)

  1. Transcendence

I don’t think Transcendence deserves anywhere near the level of critical shame that appears to be attached to it – I don’t think it’s a bad movie, per se – but it is a disappointment. Everyone expected big things from Wally Pfister’s (Chris Nolan’s director of photography for the Dark Knight trilogy, among others) directorial debut – especially when coupled with a star cast, and what looked to be a good script. Instead we are given a film that can’t decide if its action, drama, or science fiction, a shining example of spectacle over story. It’s beautifully shot, but entirely underwhelming, and that is why it makes this list.

  1. Dracula Untold

The start of Universal’s shared monster universe, I think many had high hopes for Dracula Untold. Audiences were promised a new take on Dracula, examining the life of Vlad III, the man who would become Dracula. What had initial promise is merely another unforgettable mess of special effects and very little story

  1. The Amazing Spider-man 2

A perfect example of how studio-interference can ruin a film. Following the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sony was just one of several companies who decided they’re superhero properties should co-exist, and tie in to each other. The only issue? Unlike Fox, who own the rights to X-Men and the Fantastic Four, or Marvel, with their huge back catalogue of characters, Sony only own the rights to Spider-man – any shared movie universe that they create can only feature characters from his back story. Before The Amazing Spider-man 2’s release, Sony announced their plans for a spin-off featuring the Sinister Six, a team made of Spider-man’s enemies.

It seems that director Marc Webb was dealt a rough hand: Sony was relying on ASM2 to set up their comic book movie universe, and in doing so, force him to shoehorn in unnecessary plot lines and characters. What could have been a great film instead becomes a spiralling mess, even its strongest part, the chemistry between Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacey is diminished.

This is far from the movies only flaw – it is overly long, filled with plot holes and questionable logic, a weak script and poor characterization, and some very questionable acting – but it is the most glaring, Sony’s decision to place their Spider-man­ plans on hold, and hold talks with Marvel about returning the character rights to Marvel, and using Spider-man in the MCU shows how badly they misfired.

Had Webb been able to focus on cementing the story instead of setting up a sequel it could have been a great film – instead it is tied with Spider-man 3 as my least favourite film of the Spider-man series, and one of the biggest disappointments of 2014. At least they got the suit right.

  1. A Million Ways to Die in the West

I may be in the minority, but I still enjoy Family Guy and I really enjoyed Ted. I don’t even mind Seth McFarlane as an actor. I had hoped that A Million Ways to Die in the West would follow the highs of Ted and be another laugh filled comedy. Instead AMWtDitW is sadly lacking – in jokes, acting, and story. Perhaps if I hadn’t had the jokes spoiled in all the trailers I would have found this a better film – but as always, the studios ruined them. I understand trailers are there to get people to see the film, but showing all the best jokes before you have seen the film leaves it empty, by the third of fourth time the trailer has been played, the jokes have gone from being laugh out loud funny, to barely eliciting a smirk. This can be said of all comedy films – but the key difference between a good comedy, and a bad one – is having a good enough mixture of jokes and story that the studio doesn’t have to cherry pick the best ones for the trailer.

1.Transformers: Age of Extinction

After Transfomers: Revenge of the Fallen, I didn’t think there could be a worse film. Then Dark of the Moon was released. Michael Bay announced he was taking a break from the franchise, as was his main star, Shia LeBouf. Finally, I thought, we might get a decent Transformers film, with a director who is able to film a fight without a million and ten different angles, who doesn’t put explosions, special effects, and product placement above everything else. Then, after Pain and Gain (which I accidentally enjoyed – rare for a Michael Bay film) Bay announced he was returning to Transformers. I don’t think many rejoiced, but I did hope that after a few years break, and with a new cast, Transformers may improve. It wouldn’t take much. I couldn’t have been more wrong, Age of Extinction is an overly long mess of a film, with more plot holes, bad acting and unbelievable stunts, then explosions. This started out as so bad its good – but it surpasses that, and goes full circle to being so bad, it is truly awful. I can honestly say I would rather eat my own shit than waste another three hours watching this truly awful film.

The worst part is knowing that as the top grossing film of 2014, it is all but inevitable for another sequel, that more and more people will flock too – and the cycle will repeat, and Michael Bay will make even more money raining shit on what could be a good franchise – in the right hands.

Some honourable mentions: TMNT (I haven’t seen this, and having heard my friends opinions, have no plans to) Lucy (that was a bit of a mess, but not bad enough to warrant the list) and The Inbetweeners 2 (you can have too much of a good thing)

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Top Ten Films of 2014

So, as promised in my previous post here is the list of my Top films of 2014.

Some notes before we get started – I am not a critic and these are just my opinions! I am only ranking films that I saw in 2014. My list will no doubt be different to many others – but they will have seen a lot more films than me. You won’t find The Imitation Game, Only Lovers Left Alive, or the Grand Budapest Hotel on this list as I am yet to watch them. Similarly, Her makes the list despite its 2013 release date, as I watched it in 2014. Some films, such as Nightcrawler, and Birdman, were released last year yet I only watched them in the last week, in 2015. They may appear on 2015’s list – but they won’t appear on this one. But without further ado… Here’s the list:

  1. X-Men: Days of Future Past

Adapting what is possibly the most famous and well-loved storyline from the X-men’s 50+ year history is a difficult task – especially when you have the added challenge of blending the two casts of the original X-men trilogy, and the soft-reboot of First Class – it could have been disastrous. But it wasn’t. Bryan Singer created a solid film, mixing the two casts expertly, combining the two timelines with skill, mixed with solid performances and stunning special effects means X-Men: DoFP males # 10 on my list. The fact that it essentially retcons X-Men: The Last Stand out of existence is a definite bonus, too!

  1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

After Rupert Wyatt’s departure following Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I had some trepidation of what was next for Caesar and the apes – but my worries were unfounded. Matt Reeves excellently continues the story in this sequel set a decade after Rise, dealing with the aftermath of the simian flu, and the simultaneous rise of the Apes, and decline of humanity, masterfully building the tension until the inevitable clash between the two civilisations.

The mixture of award worthy performances and stunning special effects, combined with memorable characters and locations, and a tense, action packed script, make Dawn a film that surpasses its predecessor on every level.

  1. Edge of Tomorrow

 

Seeing Earth invaded by aliens, Cruise’s propaganda officer stumbles into the ability to reset time after his death, whilst retaining the day’s memories. Teaming up with Blunt’s bad ass veteran, he tries to stop the invasion, and save Earth. Edge of Tomorrow’s time loop plot might sound by the numbers and gimmicky, but it remains fresh throughout. The performances are excellent, even from Cruise – who I sometimes feel can’t act his way out of a paper bag, as are the special effects and action set pieces.

Edge of Tomorrow looks likely to be one of the most overlooked films of the year, and that’s a shame – more than just a way to see Tom Cruise repeatedly meet his doom, Edge of Tomorrow is one of the better time-loop Sci-fi films of the last few years. Do yourself a favour and watch it.

  1. Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer may have an unbelievable premise – that scientists attempting to stop global warming inadvertently cause the next ice age, and all that remains of humanity now survive on a huge train, that circles the world on the railway tracks, complete with a class system placing elites in the front and the lower downs at the back. Snowpiercer follows the tail inhabitants’ rebellion, as they work their way forward to capture the engine, and take the train as their own.

What sets Snowpiercer apart from other post-apocalyptic dystopian films isn’t just the unique setting – it’s the script, direction, cinematography, action and acting. Tilda Swinton’s performance as the villainous Minister Mason may stand out amongst the international cast, but all are excellent. Likewise the action sequences – particularly one brutal set piece as the train enters a tunnel, are immaculately planned and executed. All in all Bon Joon-ho’s first English language film is an overwhelming success.

  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The Russo brothers take over the reigns from Joe Johnson in this comic book sequel, tackling the Winter Soldier, one of Captain America’s most famous story lines, adapting it into a blend of political thriller and superhero action movie. Winter Soldier sees Cap facing an enemy from his past, whilst trying to find a role in the modern world that seemingly has no place for a super soldier any more – and its twists and turns forever changing the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Winter Soldier has all the staples of a Marvel film, the underlying humour, great acting, and excellent special effects, but that is not what makes the film great – it’s the suspense, intrigue and character moments that make Winter Soldier not only one of the best films of the MCU, but one of my favourite films of the year.

  1. Lone Survivor

Find my full review here – if you can bear reading the same phrases over and over – despite my bad editing, the point I was attempting to make is a valid one. Lone Survivor is brutal. It is intense. And it is shocking. Given the stars, and director, you wouldn’t expect much of this film. I expected a film like Shooter, mindless entertainment. Instead what I found was a brutal look at war, and the cost of war. I claim in my review that Lone Survivor is one of the greatest war films ever made, even surpassing Saving Private Ryan. I stick by this sentiment. To this day, I am yet to see a same reaction in an audience watching a war film – a stunned silence that lasted till we left the cinema.

  1. Her

Her is the story of Ted, a lonely divorcee who finds love with his new digital assistant – OS1. Her is refreshing in its portrayal of Ted, Spike Jonze could have presented Ted as a loser, someone to pity, ridicule or laugh at, but instead gives a touching romance with a surprising amount of depth and realism.

Find my full review here.

  1. The Lego Movie

The Lego Movie follows Emmet, an average, everyday guy. He is not special, but when he fumbles his way into finding the ‘piece of resistance’ and is sucked into a battle between the evil Lord Business and the Master Builders, Wildstyle, the blind wizard Vitruvius, and Batman. What sets The Lego Movie apart from its seemingly generic heroes tale is its turning of genre tropes on its head, and its simple message – you don’t need to be special, even the smallest, most average person, can change the world.

Taking full advantage of Lego’s vast back catalogue – everything from 1980’s spaceman Benny, to Superman, Gandalf, Dumbledore and Milhouse featuring in the film – Co-writers and directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have created a masterpiece, with stunning scenery, great characterization, and constant humour, and an annoyingly catchy soundtrack, The Lego Movie succeeds as one of the best films of recent years – Everything really is awesome.

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy

With Guardians of the Galaxy James Gunn had the monumental task of introducing both the cosmic-side of the Marvel universe, and the relatively unknown superhero group – The Guardians of the Galaxy, featuring a talking racoon and walking tree. At the start of the year many were worried about GoTG, seeing it as a true gamble for Marvel, maybe their first real flop in years. The trailers showed promise, but trailers can lie – as my comments on A Million Ways to Die in the West details… Despite this, Guardians was released to critical acclaim and commercial success – what many saw as a risk went on to be the second best grossing film of 2014, only surpassed by Transformers: Age of Extinction (Side note: how? It is shockingly awful.)

Guardians of the Galaxy is a rip-roaring success, a blend of action, comedy and space opera, with a dash of superhero and a whole lot of heart – with one of the best soundtracks for years. Gunn surpasses all expectations, not only introducing a new team of players to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but cementing their place as a mainstay in its future.

  1. Boyhood

What can be said about Richard Linklater’s Boyhood that hasn’t already been said? Its critical acclaim is entirely deserved. Boyhood follows Mason (the previously unknown Ellar Coltrane), from a 6-year-old boy to a 17-year-old college attendee. Unique for a coming-of-age film, Linklater uses the same actors, filming for a few weeks each year over a 12 year period, examining the lives and experiences of Mason and his family as they grew up. Ethan Hawke, who plays Mason’s father, puts it best –

‘Doing a scene with a young boy at the age of 7 when he talks about why do raccoons die, and at the age of 12 when he talks about video games, and 17 when he asks me about girls, and have it be the same actor—to watch his voice and body morph—it’s a little bit like time lapse photography of a human being’

Boyhood is a true masterpiece, a groundbreaking piece of cinema, intimate despite its epic scope, masterful storytelling and drama rolled in one, it deservedly sits as my number one film of the year.

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15in15: The List

As my many failures in my original list, found here, and subsequently explained here… 52 challenges is a lot. Too many, in fact.. So here is a revised list, of new challenges for this year… 15in15

  1. Continue with the saving goals set out in 2014.
  2. Apply for at least one job a month, in attempt to start career, even if it doesn’t seem it will happen, there’s no harm in sending in an application! (0/12)
  3. Get fit in preparation for the Nuts Challenge in March, Tough Mudder London West in May, and Tough Mudder London South in September. (Take photos/keep diary to show progress?)
  4. Beat the targets reached last year
  5. Drink less on nights out to make less of a fool of yourself. My birthday is the exception as I will be 25, and a milestone like that is an excuse to get wasted 😛
  6. Book a trainee diving experience in the summer in order to prepare for a potential diving holiday later this year
  7. Read the books from the 52in14 list – or at least 3 of them!
  8. Do weekly water changes on Fish Tank, and Monthly Filter Cleans – exception if away for a week or more, do a major water change before leaving and on return (0/52) (0/12)
  9. Cut down on shit food
  10. Try to meet with friends socially at least once a month
  11. Complete Season 2 and 3 of Zombies, Run!
  12. Watch at least 24 films at the cinema using Unlimited Card to make the most of membership (3/24)
  13. Pay off debt, don’t let it get so high again!
  14. Begin saving to move out
  15. Properly try on-line dating

Pretty straightforward, you would think… but some extra explanation… #1 is pretty straightforward, and directly links to 13 and 14, and in a way, #2. I intend to save up this year regardless of finding another job – if I find another job that pays better, than no doubt I will put a larger percentage of my earnings into my savings, but if not, the current saving goals are both doable, and realistic – I am putting an additional £50 a week into my savings at current – it is easy enough to increase this number if I find a new job. The more I save, the more realistic #13 and #14 become.

Similarly, #2 is pretty integral – I have no idea if I will even find one job each month that I am able to apply to, but the more I apply for, the bigger chance I will have at actually getting a decent job, a decent wage, a career, and I get closer to my eventual goal of moving out, and having my life somewhat on track!

#3 and 4 directly follow on from last year. The one problem I found with training in 2014 was the big gap between events, and in turn the lack of motivation. It’s a similar thing to tackling an essay at university. No matter how much you are sure you will write it as soon as you see the essay questions, in the first week of term, despite all the promises you make to yourself, it never really happens… It’s only in the last week, when the pressure is building, that I found myself able to write the essays. It’s similar with training – if I was only running Tough Mudder in September, then I’d find it hard to motivate myself now. Skiing at the end of the month, running the Nuts Challenge in March, and Tough Mudder in May and September should hopefully give me enough motivation to train throughout the year. If nothing else it should mean I achieve #4 – beating the total distance I have run in 2014! I intend to use the Zombies, Run! app to do so, so serious inroads to #11 should be made as well!

#5 May just be a sign of old age – I am nearly twenty-five, and it’s definitely time to start acting a little more grown up, and making less of a fool of myself when I’m really drunk. I don’t intend to stop drinking, not at all – but I do want to remember my nights out. Paying between twenty and thirty pounds to see a gig, plus the same in travel, that you don’t remember because you spent even more on alcohol is a bit of a downer… As is making a fool of yourself in front of people you barely know. A little more self-control is not a bad thing!

#6 Is quite straightforward, and directly tied to a challenge from last year, and my intention to go on a proper diving holiday – though as Alex quite rightly pointed out, if you get out there and hate it, then you would have wasted a lot of money. By booking myself on a tester day, for only 30 quid or thereabouts, if I don’t like Scuba, then I am saving a lot of money. If I do, it gives me first-hand experience of what to expect, and one way or another will cement my decision on going on a diving holiday!

#7 is again straightforward. The books listed on my list for 2014 that I purchased in 2013 and never finished are all good books (or are critically acclaimed at least) and once I have finished my current book, I fully intend to start one of those listed. I hope to read at least three of them this year. If I hit them straight away, not picking up any other book between, this should be an easy challenge. Famous last words, eh!

#8 is something I really should have included in the 2014 list. It is not a hard challenge to complete, at least in theory – it should be something I am doing weekly anyway. I have challenged myself to do it so I have another reason to ensure I do. I don’t want to lose any fish this year because I have slacked on changing the water or cleaning the filters.

#9 Cut down on shit food. Rather vague sounding, I know, but what this essential means is if I feel the craving for a midnight snack, instead of several crackers and pate, or a load of biscuits, have a banana. Instead of having a packet of peanuts, or crisps, as soon as I get to the pub, have something healthier. Don’t always have takeaway food every Friday night at work. Once in a while is not a bad thing, but every week is a bit extreme, try some healthy alternatives!

#10 – This is another repeat from last year, and it actually seemed to work, so hopefully doing it again should give similar results!

#11 – Complete Season 2 and 3 of Zombies Run! See #1 above

#12 – Again, a repeat from last year. But I do want to get the most of my money, and using my card twice a month ensures I do. I’m not off to a bad start so far, I have seen Paddington, Birdman, and Big Hero 6 in the past weekend – which means in the first week of the year I’m already 3/24 – or 8% there!

#13 & 14 – see #1 above

#15 – This is a pretty straightforward task. I have used apps like tindr etc in the past, and am on a few sites with an incredibly basic profile. Maybe if I put in some effort into a profile I may actually be able to get somewhere…

So that’s the Challenges for 2015… 15 should be a lot simpler! I intend semi-regular updates, guess it depends on anything notable happening along the way! Either later today or tomorrow I’ll do a few posts of my Best and Worsts of 2014; be they film, video, or TV, so until then, wish my luck!

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52in14: A Year in Review

So, a year in review. (Or 3 months, anyway…) Its 2015 now, and time to look back on the 52 challenges I set myself in 2014. First, let’s have another look at the list, here, and now below, in an updated form. I have commented on the challenges after each section, but suffice to say I failed the majority.

Finance
1. Put one pound away each day of the year, ten pound every week of the year, and twenty pounds every month of the year
2. Complete the 52 Week Money Challenge
3. Save all coins over £2 and under 5p for 52 weeks.
4. Pay all my debt

Not a bad start, in all respects, 2/4 is a good beginning! If I had just saved money with these goals and not repaid any of my debt, or spent any of my savings for holidays, or Christmas, then I would have around £2,500 saved up – as it is I have about half this, but, crucially have paid for a holiday, and repaid the majority of my debt. I finally threw off the curse of my overdraft around June, however quickly replaced that debt with new debt from a credit card! I have never maxed it out, but have about 600 pounds on there to pay – not bad seeing as how before Christmas it stood at over double that – thank you Christmas parties and tips! I’m not overly worried about the credit card debt seeing as its Interest free through to December – I intend to pay the majority long before then! Saving coins and the like never really happened, I meant to get one of those money pots which need a tin opener to open, but never got round to it.

So like I say, 2/4 in regards to the saving goals, not a bad start.

Books
5. Read one book every week for 52 weeks (37/52)

Read the following: Pwned, The Villain’s Sidekick, Fool’s Assassin, The Expanse quadrilogy, Two Brothers, Star Wars: Scoundrels, The Maze Runner trilogy + prequel, The Divergent Trilogy, The Harry Potter series (Books 1-7,) Lightbringer Book 3: The Broken Eye, Now is Good, The Fault in our Stars, With the Old Breed, CHERUB: Lone Wolf, Ready Player One, The Walking Dead Volume 21 & 22, Saga Volume 3 & 4, Sex Criminals Volume 1, Manhattan Projects Vol 1, Kick Ass 3 and The Wicked and The Divine vol 1.

  1. Before buying any new books, Finish all of the following books that I have bought but am yet to read or finish: (0/7)
    – The Nights Dawn Trilogy Books 2 and 3 – The Neutronium Alchemist and The Naked God – and the associated short story collection ‘A Second Chance at Eden’ all by Peter F Hamilton
    – Ancillary Justice by Ann Lecke
    – The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
    – The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams
    – The Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erickson
    7. Write a short review of each finished book.(2/52)
    8.  Read at least one non-fiction book a month (1/12) 
    9. Re-read A Song of Ice and Fire from the beginning to refresh my memory for the Winds of Winter (0/7) 
    10. Actually try and do NaNoWriMo this year didn’t happen

I did better than I thought in regards to #5, having read the following between January and December. I had hoped to do better, and had I stuck to shorter books, I am sure I could have met the target – however I read the books I wanted to. I have included several graphic novels below, which boost my total slightly – but these are all adult orientated, not the Beano! I probably read more books than those I have listed – these are simply the ones I can remember, and found on my bookshelves!

After #5 however, my reading goals go seriously downhill…. #6 was a complete write off, I don’t think I even picked up any of these books again – however I do intend to actually read at least one of these after finishing my current book (Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey) at which point I intend to begin Ancillary Justice. As with my film reviews (see below) #7 again never really occurred – as you can see by the measly 2 book reviews written out of a total of 37 read! I read one non-fiction book, Eugene Ledge’s ‘With the Old Breed’ (One of two memoirs on which the HBO miniseries ‘The Pacific’ was based) and began, but never finished, ‘Helmet for my Pillow,’ by Robert Leckie, the other. I never did get round to re-reading ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ and while unfortunate as I fully intend to reread them at some point –preferably before ‘Winds of Winter’ is released –they would have taken up a lot of time to read.  

As for NaNoWriMo, it never happened – I always intend to begin this, but given that planning really has to be started months in advance, none of which I began. November came and went way too quickly, regardless of having a writing challenge to complete as well!

So from the books section I have completed a grand total of… 0. No challenges, leaving me with a running total of 2/10 – that number looked a lot better as 2/4, but regardless, onto section three, Video Games:

Video Games
11. Complete all video games bought in 2014 (15/?)  
12. Complete at least 20 of the 68 games in my Steam Library (13/20) 
Completed 13 – Borderlands 2, Game Dev Tycoon, Injustice, Lego Marvel Super Heroes, Mass Effect, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Saints Row IV, Civilization: Beyond Earth, South Park: The Stick of Truth, Walking Dead Season 1, Wolfenstein: The New Order, X-Com, Plague Inc 
13. Finish at least 3 of the following games started in 2013 (0/3) 2/5
– Deadpool
– GTA V
– Lego Marvel Super Heroes
– Lego Lord of the Rings
– Sonic Generations
– The Walking Dead Season 1

The one category I really didn’t think I would have any issues with, is one of the worse – I didn’t finish any of the challenges! I am not sure on how many games I truly completed that I purchased this year, but from memory I can recall 14, but I am unsure of how many I have bought that I have yet to finish or play – Far Cry 4, Lego Batman 3, Endless Legend, and Borderlands: The Pre-sequel are just a few I’m either playing or have recently purchased in the steam sale and are next in the list. Either way, I definitely haven’t completed all of the games I purchased in 2014, so that’s a fail.

I completed 13 games from my Steam Library, however some of these were bought this year, so I am unsure if I can really count them… again, another fail. Just look at my SteamCalculator results:
Untitled

‘Games Owned: 98 Games unplayed: 52 (53%)’ I hope to get this number down in future, but some of these are games I got as part of the Humble bundle and have already played, such as the Arkham games, or games that I seem to have acquired from somewhere and don’t think I’ll ever play – I’m looking at you Sacred 2, The Bard’s Tale, and Eets. (Saying that, a quick google shows reasonable reviews, so maybe I will check them out!) Either way, 13 out of 20 doesn’t cut it, so another fail.

As for the games bought in 2013 and never finished, I think 2 of 3 (Lego Marvel Super Heroes, and the Walking Dead Season 1) isn’t bad – I always intended to go back and play/finish all of these, and am sure I will with at least one more on this list this year – GTA V after its PC release. Either way 2/3 is a fail.

So that brings me to a grand total of…. 2/13. Excellent so far, eh! Hopefully Films will bring me up a little further…

Film
14. Make the most of my Cineworld unlimited card by seeing at least 30 films in the cinema this year (31/30) 

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies, The Inbetweeners 2, Guardians of the Galaxy x3, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Wolf of Wall Street, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Lone Survivor, Robocop, Lego Movie x2, The Monuments Men, Non Stop, Captain America: The Winter Soldier x2/3, Amazing Spiderman 2 x2, Godzilla x2, X-Men Days of Future Past x2, Edge of Tomorrow, 22 Jump Street x 2, How 2 Train Your Dragon 2, Lucy, Dracula Untold, The Maze Runner, Interstellar, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay and Transformers: Age of Extinction

  1. Watch 12 Non-English language films. (0/12)
  2. Watch 12 2014 Oscar or Bafta nominated films (8/12)

12 Years a Slave, Captain Phillips, Gravity, The Wolf of Wall Street, Her, Frozen, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Butler, Despicable Me 2, Before Midnight, The Book Thief, Saving Mr Banks, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Iron Man 3, Monsters University and Rush

17. Watch at least 100 of the 600 films in my collection. (115/100)
18. Review each of these films in at least a single paragraph (16/?) Life overtook

So film, a category in which I finally have a successful challenge! #13 Use my Unlimited Card 30 times. Throughout the year, I used it 31 times, to watch 24 films. (I watched some several times. So sue me, I still used my card, so it counts :P) After challenge 13, it soon goes down hill… I didn’t watch any foreign language films, despite finding several with high acclaim, I never got round to watching them. As for Oscar/BAFTA nominated films, technically I watched 16, completing the challenge – however I only watched 8 of these in 2014, so another fail.

#17 brings another success however – just going through the new additions to my collection over the year, not the pre-existing films, and going through the reviews, I count 115 films. If I spent the time going through every film in my collection, I am sure it would be more than this, but either way – a success!

#18 on the other hand – was a failure. I could probably spend sometime now writing single paragraph reviews for the 24 films I saw at the cinema, and maybe a few lines for each of the 115 films from my collection, or that I’ve streamed from Iplayer/4OD etc – but it’s too late. I intended to write a review for every film I watched, and kind of wished I had. I have lists of my Best and Worst films of 2014, and only two of these have a full review written out (Spoiler: Her and Lone Survivor) Why did I stop? Life got in the way, basically… bit of a cop out excuse, but each review took in the region of 1-2 hours to write, plus editing (which, upon rereading, I should have spent more time on,) and ultimately other things took priority. For my top films I’ll write short paragraph recap/reviews, but that’s about it – the problem with this task was my underestimating the amount of time required – in order to review all 150 or so films I have watched this year I would have needed 2-300 hours, between 8-12 days… So yeah, that didn’t happen.

So at the end of the film section, I finally have some more successes! Two more in fact, for a grand total of *drum roll please* 4… 4 out of 18. *ahem… looks at floor* Moving on…

Television
19. Watch the first series of the following: (2/5)
– Young Justice
– Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes
– The Wire
– Hell on Wheels
– Rome
20. Finish watching at least three of the following previously started TV shows: (0/3)
– Bones 
– Boardwalk Empire
– Eastbound and Down
– Defiance
– The Borgias
– Farscape
21. Rewatch all series and specials of ‘NuWho’ (7/7)

You would have thought that watching 78 episodes of television throughout the year is no big ask… but it would appear otherwise, judging by the lack of progress in #19. Of the 5 Television show I tasked myself to watch the first season of, I only watched Young Justice, and Rome (Incidentally both brilliant shows! Young Justice is one of the best animated shows I’ve ever watched, tied only with Avatar and Korra – all shows I discovered in 2014 but am 100% going to rewatch in the future.) Either way, #19 is a failure.

#20, Finish three of the six listed television shows I previously started and never finished, again ends in failure – even with Eastbound and Down, of which I have only 9 or so episodes to finish, I did not. I did finish Bones (All 9 seasons) however, that was the only one of the six in challenge 20. A success is found, however in #21 – rewatch all series and specials of ‘NuWho’ (Dr Who, since the 2005 relaunch) I finished watching these early this year, and watched the new series and Christmas special last year, (although only once, so not technically a rewatch…)

So at the end of the TV section, and nearly halfway through, I have progressed to a 5 out of 20 completed challenges – a 25% success rate, so not overly bad I guess? I did intend to watch all of the TV above, but got distracted watching new series, and re-watching old ones, just some of what I watched instead:

Misfits Series 1-3, Dead Like Me (Complete) Californication (Complete,) Band of Brothers/The Pacific, Justified Season 1+2, Avatar: The Last Airbender & Legend of Korra, Happy Endings Season 1-2, House Season 1-6, Stargate: Atlantis (Complete)

Travel
22. Go skiing
23. Go diving
24. Go to Amsterdam
25. Go somewhere I’ve never been in the UK
26. Go somewhere I’ve never been overseas

I’m not sure how many of these I can really count. We booked Skiing in 2014, but we’re leaving in a few weeks, at the end of January in fact, so I don’t think I can really count it. Diving was again something we talked about, but even then it was discussed into going this year, in either March or September, not last – so those we can write off.

As for #24, Amsterdam – this shouldn’t have been a problem. It was all booked, I had the time off all ready, had my euros nearly all sorted, and was all ready to go – what I wasn’t counting on was coming down with Glandular fever, which involved hot and cold sweats, no sleep, ‘The worst case of tonsillitis’ the Nurse had seen out of hospital, an ear infection, and feeling the weakest I’ve ever felt. So not nice – and crappy timing, as it was just a few days before I was due to go that I came down with the symptoms. So #24 never happened.

#25 – I am not sure if I did this or not, I know for a fact I went places I had never been in the UK, but I am unsure if they truly count, as I am sure I intended more than going to a new persons house, or a venue I hadn’t been to, and the like. I did go to HevyFest, where I had never been, and featured a zoo, so I think that may count… and as such consider it a success! #26, on the other hand definitely doesn’t count – I didn’t leave the country all year!

So the running total at the half way mark? 6/26… or 23.07% – dropping steadily!

Exercise
27. Run 10 Miles a Week to make 520 Miles this year (150/520) and Run 10 Miles in a Single Run/ (0/1) 
28. Swim 25 Miles this year (0/25) 
29. Fix my bike/get a new bike and cycle 750 miles this year (?/750) 
30. Run Tough Mudder in under 2 Hours and a Quarter
31. Do 15 Sit Ups and 15 Press Ups a night for 52 weeks (?/10920) 
32. Win at least one game of Squash against Rob, Ben, and Alex (0/3) 
33. Climb a 6b route clean 
34. Go climbing outdoors at least three times (0/3) 

Exercise… I get the feeling this is another example of a category with zero successes…. Let’s start with number 27 – Run 10 Miles a Week, to make 520 miles, and run 10 miles in a single run. I know I failed this one. I fully intended to run every week at the start of the year, however things get in the way – namely illnesses, which wrote me off for about six weeks of anything overly physical (thank you Dr’s orders!) various injuries to my ankles, and legs, and the lack of a head torch and darkness at the end of the year. Still I am pretty happy with what I managed, over the space of 43 runs, from the 11th January through to the 9th of November, I ran 43 times, a total of 133.27 miles, and a total time of 23.50.43 – nearly 24 hours running! And that is just the stats I tracked from the ZombiesRun! App (find my profile here.) This doesn’t include times not using the app, or the Obstacle courses which I ran, The Nuts Challenge in March (14k) and Tough Mudder in October (12 miles, give or take.) Counting these, and the runs which didn’t track, or are tracked on other apps, I estimate somewhere around the 150 mile mark. Nowhere near my initial target, but still not bad. I even got a pace of under 8 minutes a mile, at one point – that I was really happy with, although it didn’t track as I didn’t stop the tracker quickly enough after stopping! (8.0.2 or similar is the recorded pace… I’m counting that as under 8 minutes!) I suppose I can technically count Tough Mudder as a run off over 10 miles, but that was the only half the challenge – so a fail regardless!

The rest of the challenges in this category really do not hold up that well… I didn’t go swimming once, so #28 is a definite write off. I did fix my bike for #27 – well bought a new one for a very good price – and then used it once, before getting a puncture that I never repaired… so #27 is another failure!

#30 – Run Tough Mudder in under 2hrs 15 minutes – I think our eventual finish time was somewhere between 3 and 4 hours, we were slowed down, and unfortunately had to leave a few team members behind due to injury and lack of training. I was quite pleased with my performance however- I found it so much easier than the year before, and didn’t struggle nearly as much. Despite being shocked several times, the only real annoying thing was Alex beating me over the finish line by a hair, when I had been beating him since around the 8-9 mile mark!

#31 never happened. It started off well, but lack of space in my room, combined with varying bed times, varying sleeping places, and other factors, effectively failed this one. I think it was abandoned somewhere around March, after realizing I would never hit the initial target.

#32-4 can be summed up pretty easily as a group of failures, for one main reason – we only played squash a few times in 2014, the courts being closed for half the year for redevelopment being one of the major reasons why, everyone finding a day that we could all play on was another reason we failed. 33 and 34 failed for similar reasons, although these are completely due to our own fault – we didn’t climb at all in 2014, indoors or out!

So after the exercise category I am still looking at a total of 6 challenges complete of 34 – but in this category I don’t mind so much. I’m happy with my running progress, and whilst I’m disappointed in the lack of progress in the other challenges, after seeing the improvements running alone made to my Tough Mudder progress, I am definitely ready to start again for 2015… The fact I’m running Nuts again, and 2 Tough Mudders this year is not nearly as scary thanks to what I accomplished last year – and an unexpected bonus, I know have some targets for 2015, that I really want to beat!

Health
35. Reach my target weight of 12 stone (6/35 pounds lost) got to 13.5, hovered between there and 14 since then
36. Go to sleep before midnight for a week straight (0/7) Didn’t happen
37. Go to the Dentist for a checkup every 6 months (0/2) Didn’t happen

Health… 35 I definitely didn’t succeed in. I lost a lot of weight – I was down to below 12 stone briefly, when I was ill, but this was soon put back on. I am pretty certain I have lost several pounds since last year, so a success in that respect – even if the challenge itself was failed. 36 and 37 I 100% failed – I know I didn’t spend an entire week sleeping before midnight – even if I did I have such disjointed sleep these days I wonder if it would have helped at all! I still need to register at a dentist as well, so 37 is again, a failure.

Health then is three for three…. Well three for three failures, keeping my total at 6/37. Let’s move onto Food and Drink!

Food and Drink
38. Go one month without each of the following 
– Alcohol 
– Chips 
– Pizza 
– Sweets 
– Fizzy Drink
39. Drink no more than 1 Fizzy drink a week 
40. Eat at least two pieces of fruit or veg with each meal 
41. Cook one new recipe every month (0/12) 
42. Eat one new food item every month (?/12) 

A mixed bag here – I know I definitely went without Fizzy drink for a month, and through till at least March had only two fizzy drinks since the New Year – something I am reasonably proud on. Everything else listed in #38, I am also certain I failed. I am equally sure that after April I had more than one fizzy drink a week, particularly when working two shifts in a week at the pub! I like to think that I completed number 40, but its pretty hard to judge! I cannot be sure, so it’s a fail. As for 40, a definite failure, I don’t think I cooked anything more complex than cake or freezer food really – and as for new foods, in #42, I honestly don’t know. I am sure I tried somewhere in the region of 6-12 new things, at the very least… but without any real figure, it’s a failure… leaving me, again, with no successes… and a running total of 6/42

Happiness, Well Being and Social
43. Do not be in this job at the end of the year. 
44. Find a date for the weddings (0/2) 
45. Go on at least 5 dates this year (?/5)  
46. Take one selfie every week, in effort to reinforce need for neat and tidy hair and beard. (9/52)
47. Go out socially with friends at least once a month
48. Go to the West End and see a show 
49. Eat at Dans Le Noir 

Happiness, Well being and social… an interesting name for a category, and the first in a while to have a successfully completed challenge – two in fact! But we’ll get to those… Firstly #42 – this didn’t happen, I applied for various jobs, and had an interview in March that I hoped was going somewhere –but it never happened. Hence I am sat at my desk at work, typing this up! A kind of promotion I guess, in that I moved onto office work, finding stock and dealing with purchases, not that it involved any pay rise! This is one challenge I’m definitely going to continue into this year!

#44 and #45 are somewhat linked… #44 is a definite failure, as I didn’t have a date to Rachel and Adam’s wedding, unless you count Alex. Prior to this however, I did meet a friend of a friend, who I went out with a few times. I did not have a date for Alice’s wedding either – although I did meet a young lady there who I would then go on a few dates with, ultimately leading to nothing – but bringing the number of dates to over 5, I don’t know the exact amount, but am sure it was more than this. So #44 is a failure, but 45 is a success!

#46 was well-intentioned, and in addition to enforcing the need for tidiness was intended to give me a series of pictures to edit into a time-lapse type video to show how I aged over the year. Great theory, didn’t really take into account losing my phone, how unphotogenic I am, or one crucial thing in video time lapses of that sort – taking a photo in the same position each day. Great if you have a webcam or other stationary camera… not if you’re using a phone. So a failure, both for a timelapse video thing, and as a challenge.

in #47 – even if we were only going to the pub, I am almost certain I met with my friends socially at least once a month! Maybe not all of them, and different groups – but another successful challenge, huzzah! #48 and #49 definitely didn’t happen – perhaps if more luck was had in the dating department they may of – but there’s always next year! *cue All by Myself*

We finally have a few successes! Huzzah! However they are still outweighed by failures, the running total now up to 8/49… a total that doesn’t look to increase!

Language and Skills
50. Learn to play one song in full on the guitar (0/1) 
51. Learn to speak one foreign language at a conversational level using this guide  (0/1) 

To be honest, with the Languages and Skills challenges I ran out of free time, and ended up putting these back as other priorities took over. I was doing reasonably well with the French using an app and e-book on my phone – until it was stolen and I was left without for a few weeks, never picking it up again to continue. The learning method itself, using flashcards and the like, was very useful, and I intend to take it up again over the next week in the hope I may be able to get a basic knowledge for going to France at the end of the month! It will be interesting to see what I remember. Either way #50 and #51 are both failures, so the running total is 8/51

This Blog
52. Update at least once a week with progress reports, book and movie reviews, and selfies per #7, #18, and #46 (9/52)

Updating a blog once a week is hard work. You don’t really know what you’re letting yourself in for, especially when you’re including book and film reviews. I regret not updating this nearly as much, but it changed from something I actively looked forward to writing, to a chore, and as such definitely failed. 9/52 is still one more weekly update then challenges completed – so that’s something… but still a failure.

Running total 8/52

This one didn’t quite fit, but is here in spirit:

  1. Write a new list of 52 in 15.15 in 15 instead – less work!

And so we get to the last item, #53… even something this simple I have stilled failed! But a lesson has been learnt… at the start of the year I set myself 53 challenges. I completed 8 of them. That’s about 15% – A pretty poor success rate. But what I have accomplished, I am happy with, and I’ve definitely learned a few lessons… Namely keeping a blog is hard work. Keeping it updated whilst simultaneously attempting 52 varying challenges is even harder, particularly when they involve writing even more – setting aside two or three hours each week shouldn’t be that big an ask, but life has a habit of getting in the way sometimes. The truth is, I bit off way more than I could chew. I’m glad that I attempted this whole thing though, even if I overwhelmingly failed. I have a new-found appreciation for all those who actually succeeded in there challenges, or the majority of them! I have realistic targets to set myself for this year, as you can see in the new list…. 15 for 15.

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Update Ten

Placeholder for tomorrows post – this week has been too hectic/I’ve been to lazy, yett I’m counting this as one update, it has a selfie and everything… 😛 Tomorrow will be a full update!

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Update Nine

Nine weeks gone, this year is flying by! Notably events this week, include my 24th birthday, and the Nuts Challenge… which happened to coincide…

So the majority of my challenges remain unaffected by a week in which very little was achieved. My saving goals are continuing steadily, and I am slowly working off my debt… Slowly being the operative word – but it is dwindling steadily as my savings slowly increase.

I am still to get back into the swing of the several movie reviews I need to write – and whilst the corresponding challenge only requires a minimum of a paragraph, I think this is a kind of cop out really – the movies I need to review have all been reasonably entertaining, with the addition of The Monuments Men which I saw this week – that also had the benefit of seeing whilst on a date, leaving only four more dates to go on throughout the year until that challenge is done.

TV wise I have been slacking with Doctor Who – I am still on the second series, and haven’t really progressed, instead I have been binge-watching Californication and Adventure Time, two otherwise brilliant TV shows, with the only drawback being they are not on the list!

I failed the same challenge as last month, in that I have not learnt any recipes or cooked any new food this month, though I hope this will change this month… Perhaps I should have said cook 12 new recipes throughout the year, instead of one per month… On another note, now its March I am determined to finish my fizzy drink challenge, having slipped the last few months – only once in each month, but I want to go a full month without, and am determined to do so in March! Eating healthily is continuing, I have lost another pound or two this week, although I admit to having a bit of unhealthy food yesterday and today, following the Nuts Challenge I think I earned a pass!

Fitness wise, I have kept up the running rather nicely, in fact the distance was nearly double my weekly target of ten miles, in that I did two runs of 3.5-4 miles, and then the Nuts Challenge this Sunday, which was ridiculous. It was really good fun, but a single lap would have been another – completing 14k in 4 hours, 3 minutes, sounds pretty rubbish – its a third the length of a full marathon and the average person will do a full marathon in around that… But considering the constant obstacles, constant mud, cold, and wind, I am proud of the time – particularly given that the second lap was sheer willpower! Once the official pictures are up, I’ll see if I can post them, to show my suffering!

On the video game front I completed my first 3DS game, Pokemon X, and am close to completing Mario, so can tick 1 game of the 7 new games I have bought myself this year. Whilst I did get a new game for my birthday, I’m not sure if it counts towards that total as I did not purchase it myself! I did pre-order Yoshi’s New Island however, so the 7 has increased to 8 regardless!

The lack of progress on the guitar and french should be pretty expected by now, so I won’t really go into that one, but I will leave you with a selfie of my hair after the nuts challenge, showing the sheer amount of mud caked in… It’s not gel, it is mud!

Till next time…

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Update Eight

Eight weeks down, forty four to go…

So another week with no reviews or other postings, definite slacking… So what progress did I make this week? A little…

I read a few more chapters of The Redbreast, but didn’t get much further than that. I have progressed slightly further with the same reviews from last week, but haven’t really gotten that much farther. I have rewatched The Lego Movie and Wolf Of Wall Street, and saw Robocop last night, so will have reviews of those up eventually…

In the world of TV I finished watching Young Justice, and just as I predicted, became incredibly depressed and annoyed at its premature cancellation. I have now moved onto the new Doctor Who, and have reached the middle of the Second series. Slowly getting through them.

Eating healthily is going good, no fast food or any crap this week really. I did try a new food this week as well, in risotto, which it turns out I really like, having had a Sainsbury’s healthy meal option, I’ll definitely be looking it up next time I’m in a restaurant!

I’ve kept up with the running, having done 10.7 miles this week – actually made my target, which is nice! I kept the pace up for most of them, but the second of the three absolutely destroyed me… It’s the Nuts challenge this Sunday coming, so I have a lot of distance to make up on before Sunday… Something tells me that some runs of 3-4 miles won’t really prepare me for the 10 miles I’ll be doing, but its better than going in with no preparation at all!

My finances are slowly recovering still, the challenges still continuing reasonably unabated. I did have a slight PayPal issue, though luckily that was all sorted today. I also got a kind of promotion at work, which comes with a small payrise, which will definitely help! I did purchase a few more games for my 3DS, and pre-ordered Titanfall, so have even more games to complete now. I only have one level to finish on one of them, so I will play that now, and see if I can finish that before tonight, at least that way I’ll have crossed one off a list that seems to be getting far too long….

There’s not really any other progress on the guitar or French, so let’s keep this short and sweet and move onto the selfie, and sign off…

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