Film & TV Weekly Round-Up (30/5/14)

So, last Friday I watched ‘Saving Mr Banks’. And what I can I tell you? It’s exactly what I thought it was going to be. Most of the time I watch a trailer and get an idea of how a film has been produced, and who is in it etc. I can develop a good idea of what it’s going to be like. People think this is somehow being superficial or bloody-minded, but it’s a fact. I can tell what a film is going to be like, because I’ve watched so many? Because I’ve studied the subject so much? I don’t know. What I know is that I thought ‘Saving Mr Banks’ would be an interesting story, a bit more sentimental than it should have been, with a background story that kind of confused the main point of the film. And that’s what I got. I’m not gonna lie, I found it very interesting. But I think many people would have found the interesting parts to be those about Travers’ and Disney’s relationship. It’s good that the filmmakers tried to really understand why Travers was the way she was, and why Mary Poppins meant so much to her. But the fact is all the back and forth to her childhood in Australia really interfered with the main story. If the film had simple relied on what was an excellent construction of 60s Hollywood, and the problems that faced the production of one of the world’s most beloved films, it would have been a damn sight more entertaining. All this her with dad when she was a kid was understandable, but was laid on far to thickly. I would have much rather watched Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks, than Colin Farrell’s drunk acting. That’s not to say this early part of her life wasn’t important. But by not keeping it in the background it just made the main narrative falter. That’s not to say I don’t want you to watch it. Just flick through all the sunny Australia stuff. Trying to sentimentalise what is quite dark subject matter, and for such a considerable amount of the film, meant the filmmakers just disrupted the main thread of the film.

‘Britain’s Got Talent’ semi-finals are on this week, and yes I do watch them. But I get so pissed off with the judges. Show one bit of creativity and individuality and you’re a problem. Come to the show with a reasonably good voice and a sob story and you’re in. In fact, you can hit some flat notes if you want, just be a kid or have a sob story and you will not have a problem. I’ve only voted once, for Lettice (the posh violinist), because I was so annoyed that the judges don’t really seem to respect her. But the little kids? Oh, they always love the little kids. Can you see my grumpy face in this typing?

On Sunday? Monday? Can’t remember when, I watched the documentary, ‘The Ukes in America’. It was a great program about the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain. I came across the orchestra’s Sydney Opera House performance on Sky Arts a few years ago, and have seen one of their British concerts on the same channel some time last year. They are such a fun group. There are about eight of them. All ukelele players of different shapes, ages and sizes, and they just have such a good sense of humour about the music. Added to this they are in fact great musicians. The documentary covered a tour they did of the US a year or two ago. It wasn’t as informative as I would have liked (I would have liked to learn more about their personal stories, but it was more of a showcase than a biography), but it featured some of their greatest pieces, plus some I hadn’t seen before. I don’t know why it’s never occurred to me to look them up on YouTube, but now I have. Unfortunately embedding has been disabled on their videos, but if you follow this link you can watch them perform ‘Shaft’ at the 2008 Cambridge Folk Festival.

I finally watched the first episode of ‘Penny Dreadful’. It was okay, enough to make me curious. And I did have a lot of respect for it not immediately going into ‘Rape & Dragons’ country, which a lot of these shows are doing these days. I was surprised not to see a whore house throughout the whole episode. Although, there was a short sex scene a few minutes in. But the female character involved seemed to enjoy it, knew he was a scoundrel etc. so I’ll excuse them that one. There was certainly no nudity for nudity’s sake, or even any nudity at all (take note ‘Rape & Dragons’). I wasn’t really sure about it but there were some incredibly well-directed scenes, I did at one point cover my eyes, so I’m definitely gonna give episode two a go.

‘Hannibal’. Have I told you how much I love ‘Hannibal’? Oh, I have. Well, let me tell you again. It is just so great. That rich, clawing dark atmosphere. It’s fantastic. It’s brilliant. You kind of have to have a strong stomach to watch it, but give it a go.

‘The Time Machine’ was on this week. The Rod Taylor, 1960, ‘The Time Machine’ that is. I’ve seen it quite a few times, but on this occasion I Sky+’d it for posterity (or until I get the DVD). It is just such a wonderful film. Not only is it a great film in that it creates excellent tension, but it keeps you interested in George’s story, and George’s world. You’d be surprised how many films just pick one of the three. What is more it really goes into the philosophy of time travel. Because it asks whether you should really travel into the future; would you be frightened by what you saw? And should you travel into the future, would you bring the information you learnt back to the past? Layered onto this adaptation of H.G.Wells’ story is the 60s preoccupation with the Cold War. The world, in this version of the story, is destroyed in a nuclear war when George arrives in the 1960s. Imagine watching this film in the 60s? How much more frightening it would have been? I haven’t got around to reading my copy of ‘The Time Machine’ yet so I can’t tell you which bits are from the original story and which were created by the filmmakers, but the era in which this film was made definitely played a part in its narrative. I must admit, if there is one fly in the ointment, to always being a bit disappointed with the future George ends up in. The Eloi and Morlocks always seem to me something that Wells couldn’t possibly have come up with. But, of course, he did. Unfortunately the 60s fascination with a certain kind of science-fiction aesthetic makes this last part of the film seem sort of silly. But I live with it, because I find the earlier sections so brilliant. Apart from narrative there are some excellent early special effects, you have to be nice about them, Hollywood wasn’t as technologically evolved as it is now… I will probably only ever be this definite a couple of times so listen closely. Watch ‘The Time Machine’, it is a brilliant film. Do not! watch the recent Guy Pearce version of ‘The Time Machine’. Funnily enough it was also on this week. But I wasn’t going to try and watch it again. Because it’s utter pants and I’ve never made it through the first half hour. So remember this, Rod Taylor? Yay! Guy Pearce? Nay!

In other news? I watched the last two episodes of the second series of ‘Derek’ and almost coughed up a lung with crying. I do think that Ricky Gervais is guilty of making the world too sentimental in ‘Derek’, but the thing is, so many tv shows are clambering over each other to be the darkest and most realistic, why not have something that looks on the brightside? I don’t love it, but I like it enough to look it up on 4OD each week. And I do have to give credit to Ricky Gervais, he sure knows how to push people’s buttons. Maybe it’s for the best he isn’t making more ‘realistic’ tv shows, as no one would ever watch them for fear of crying.

That’s all for this week. Getting myself psyched up for the return of ‘Orange is the New Black’ next week. It is an excellent show. I had to watch a few episodes before I realised that the reason I loved it was because there were so many interesting female characters to watch. You don’t realise how few interesting female characters there are on tv until Joss Whedon drops one in your lap. Or in this case, when Netflix drops a crowd of them on you. The second season is starting next Friday on Netflix, so if you haven’t seen season one I suggest you do. It’s only £5.99 for a month’s subscription. That’s the two seasons for six quid, which ain’t to shabby.

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