Any Rentals For Ben?

Instead of writing about the DVD release of Working Dog‘s latest movie feature Any Questions For Ben?, I thought I might change things up and write about  how I viewed it.

You see, I never got the chance to see AQFB at the cinemas when it was released nationwide. I had plenty of opportunities to check it on the silver screen, but due to a hectic schedule, I missed out on taking 2 hours out of my life to sit down with a frozen coke and popcorn. So, I had to opt for the rental release.

While there’s many rental release options available, I had moved interstate and at this present time, not able to sign up to my local rental store. Nor do I have the extra $30 a month to pay for a DVD mail rental service. All I wanted to do was rent AQFB and enjoy the film comfortably from home.

Straight away, I’d think of iTunes for the rental. But my computer doesn’t necessarily agree with iTunes eating up the memory of my CPU. It wasn’t until one Sunday night, I was waiting for Channel 9’s telemovie Howzat! – The story of the late Kerry Packer developing World Series Cricket starring Working Dog‘s friend Lachy Hulme as the big man himself, I had to kill time. Plus there was another dodgy installment of Big Brother on the screen. Do I dare sit through that to get to the telemovie of the year?

I killed time by surfing YouTube and searched for interviews of Rob Sitch covering AQFB. What I found (other than interviews of Rob and Josh Lawson) was the rental for AQFB.

Why not? I’ll check it out on YouTube as this seems to be where you go to for anything anti-iTunes. I’ve rented through iTunes before, so I’ll try YouTube for something different. In order to make the rental work, I had to sign into my YouTube account and and make my purchase via Google Wallet. This meant I had to go to my Gmail account and set it up through there. Within 2 minutes I was up and ready. There was only one type of renting quality available, which YouTube claims is ‘near DVD quality’. I paid my $AU5.99 and my access was activated. YouTube movies has the exact same of rental times. Roughly 30 days to download access, and 48 hours to watch.

I had two hours to kill so the 1 hour and 54 minute movie was a perfect fit. Time to activate!

Any Questions For YouTube?

Going by what I was promised of “near DVD quality”, I was thinking that this would equal to roughly 1.5GB quality of video that I’d be downloading. According to a Firefox browser add-on, the movie came in at 642MB. Make sure you have decent bandwidth and download limit before purchasing. I had to wait only a few seconds until I was able to start watching the beginning of the film, which defaulted to a semi-large screen.

YouTube default setting

This was easily adjusted by clicking on the full screen option. But it occurred to me: what was the exact resolution? It turns out it was 480p. Decent, but not the “near DVD quality” I’d hoped.

Clear, but not DVD res clear

Clear, but not DVD res clear

Don’t get me wrong though, the visual quality didn’t deter me from enjoying the film… which brings me to a quick summary of the film in my own point of view.

Directed by Rob Sitch, Ben (Josh Lawson) is a 27 year old who enjoys partying, job hopping, partying, women, partying, travelling, partying, and just having a great time. He is successful at what he does – brand managing. It isn’t until Ben is invited by the Principal (Rob Sitch) to do a careers speech at his former high school, he bumps into former students Alexis (Rachael Taylor) who is working for the United Nations in Yemen, and Jim (Ed Kavalee), an Olympic Archer who earned (Bermagui) bronze. After Alexis gives a riveting and insightful speech about her work with the UN, the crowd is hungry for more to ask Alexis more questions. When it comes to Ben’s speech, he somewhat fumbles and over-exaggerates on his story. When the floor is opened to ask Ben any questions – no one is interested.

This leads to him realising his life isn’t as interesting as it should be and while all his friends are accomplishing life challenges and settling down (close friends Nick (Daniel Henshall) and Emily (Felicity Ward) getting more serious), he’s out bedding the next hottest chick who flirts with him. This includes bedding number 16 world champion tennis player Katerina (Liliya May) and slightly self-indulgent Kelly (Jodi Gordon) – with the encouragement of his ‘forced’ mentor, wealthy cafe owner Sam (Lachy Hulme) trying to look out for him. Even turning to his parents for support – Rob Carlton as his Dad, and Tracy Mann  as his Mum, both don’t really give him clear advice, just something to bounce off for ideas.

After having a lunch with Alexis, Ben discovers that he connects a lot better with her than any other girl he’s met. But as he tries to pursue a relationship, Alexis is back to Yemen, and whom he promises to stay in touch. But his partying ways and laziness gets the better of him, in which he fails. This continues on and on, and while the world spins around him and people move on, Ben is stuck in the same pattern. A pattern he needs to break before it is too late.

The whole film itself is a total step away from Working Dog‘s other films (The Castle, The Dish) so do not expect anything as funny bone laughs to come from AQFB. Being a non-Melbourne resident, the film covers Melbourne and its indistinguishable features in a remarkable way, especially with a killer soundtrack that is roughly 3/4 made up of Australian musicians and bands. Each scene though tends to be joined by a time stamp of “A Few Hours / Weeks / Months Later” or segued by a eagle-eye view of the metro district and a modern tune playing for about 10 seconds. While other reviews and feedback tend to criticize the lack-of jokes and story line, the film comes across as three genres: Comedy / Drama / Romance. Or at least, a romantic dramedy aimed at the modern white-collar male who is about to hit their 30s.

The acting alone is smooth, with Lawson showing off his chiseled jawline and blue eyes, and Taylor looking stunning as always. The supporting cast blend well together, just like they are mate in the first place. Naturally, Hulme tends to be the scene stealer when he appears (anyone else get a smile when Sam says to Emily in his nightclub “You are a very beautiful woman!” – subtle Jane Kennedy reference? Probably not)

Overall, AQFB is a positive simple film which tends to promote the city of Melbourne in a partying lifestyle way, with shots of rooftop cult cinemas, cafes in their famous alleyways, and trendy apartments. Even the very touristy shot of snow skiing in Queenstown, New Zealand, and the bungie-jumping was on the verge of a beautiful plug. But I thoroughly enjoyed it. I now have an itch to go!

While AQFB wasn’t a blockbuster hit, this could be a winner for the film if it manages to get screened overseas. Indeed, the Australian Tourism Board should hire Rob Sitch and Co to develop something quite glamorous and visually startling.

This is still going into the pool-room as part of the Working Dog collection.

As for renting it on YouTube, I might stick to a DVD purchase.

PS: While viewing it on YouTube, I noticed some other ‘recommendations’ – one being Shortbus. How spooky! #GetThis

Other “Recommendations” are not for everyone…

(and if you’ve gotten this far reading, going back to my Howzat! rant – while Hulme played Packer in Howzat! and Carlton played Packer in Paper Giants: The Birth Of Cleo, both Hulme and Carlton are in this film. Packer-rama!)

You can rent Any Questions For Ben?  on YouTube or in various resolutions for rent and purchase on iTunes.

You can also rent the DVD / Blu-Ray at any good rental store, and purchase at any good retail stores. Check those stores for prices.

..and.. you can purchase the 30 track soundtrack on iTunes. It’s a ripper!

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