Film & TV Weekly Round-Up (11/07/14)

I know, I know. I have no business calling this a weekly blog when I’m taking such liberties with the timing of them. But I’ve been away for two weekends in a row. And to be fair, the majority of my recent new film & tv watching took place in the first week of the three I’ll be talking about. So this won’t be really be any longer than normal.

The first Saturday night I tried to watch ‘Clear History’. I saw it on the Sky tv guide one night, and thought ‘a tv comedy movie written by Larry David, starring Jon Hamm? That looks good’. The title and synopsis led me to believe it was going to be like ‘How To Get Ahead in Advertising’ or something like that. But when I eventually got around to watching it (I’d Sky+’d it) I was really bored and very disappointed. It’s about a guy in marketing who doesn’t like the naming of the company’s new electric car, so leaves, the company inevitably becomes very rich and famous off the car. Larry David was in the main role and it was just not very interesting. It might have gotten interesting, but I gave up after 20 minutes. There was a time when I would have forced myself to see it through, these days I know better. I decided to salvage the night by watching another of my Sky+ offerings. A version of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ filmed at Shakespeare’s Globe. And it was really great. It was almost four hours long but it was really great. I’m a great fan of Shakespeare’s comedies, and have watched many versions of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ but I think this was my favourite. I have to admit I was slightly pulling in by the thought of watching Charles Edwards as Benedick (yes, that’s Benedick, not Benedict as everyone keeps saying, why is that?). He and Eve Best (who player Beatrice) were incredible, but I think it was the direction that really set it apart. It was directed by Jeremy Herrin, and he really added a lot of texture and interest to the play without messing about with dialogue or inserting anything that wasn’t already there in the first place. I know this doesn’t really fall under film & tv, but it appeared on tv so there. Thank goodness for Sky Arts. If you’re at all interested, I was deeply disappointed with Joss Whedon’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. 😦

Now my next film is probably something you’ve never heard of, but think that you should’ve. It’s something called ‘Stalag Luft’ and I only heard about it myself quite recently. It came up in some kind of recommendations page on imdb or LoveFilm. I only had to wait a couple of weeks to get it from LoveFilm, probably because no one else knows it exists. It’s an early nineties made-for-tv comedy movie about a camp of British POWs. They’re trying to get out, the Germans want to go with them, but once the Germans are gone they decide to stay put. It stars Stephen Fry, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Geoffrey Palmer and Hugh Bonneville. Yeah, why haven’t we heard of it before? It’s actually a very good film, it’s only problem lies in which direction it wants to go. On one level it is a kooky comedy, on the other hand it’s a very dark look at the effects of class and power. But because it doesn’t go fully in either direction it all feels a bit of a waste. But it is, if anything, very interesting, and worth a watch if you like this sort of film.

I’m looking at my list now and realise I’ve just written ‘Storage Hunters’. This might have something to do with the fact that for about a week I watched A LOT of ‘Storage Hunters’. You’ll have heard of it. One of those programs on Dave where people bid for storage units. It’s a good bit of fun, handy that it’s on when I’m eating lunch or dinner. I don’t watch the news anymore as I tend to shout at it.

On the Tuesday I finally went to see ‘The Fault in Our Stars’. Now, I’m not sure how to express to you how much this film has become part of my cultural sphere. You see, I’m something called a Nerdfighter. Basically I’m part of a community started by John & Hank Green, they make YouTube videos, and write music, and in John’s case, write books: ‘The Fault in Our Stars’. So, of course, I’d read the book, and watched with great anticipation over a year or so as John followed the adaptation of his book into a film. I was intrigued, not very excited, because it’s a sad story, but I was looking forward to it. I foresaw a lot of crying, so I went to the cinema properly equipped. But y’know what? I didn’t even cry that much. In fact the whole thing was just sort of, ‘there’. I wasn’t happy about the film, but I wasn’t disappointed either. It was just what it was. Also, there were a few sticking points for me. I didn’t like that Hazel looked so incredibly healthy, and that whereas in the book she would spend days reading books, after meeting Gus, in the film she was constantly checking her phone like any other teenage girl in any other romantic film. The whole film was just a bit to brightly coloured and glowing for what it was supposed to be. Or what the book had been. But I sucked it up and thought, this doesn’t have to make sense. A book is brilliant, because it is, because the story is great, the writer is talented etc. etc. But an adaptation of the book is a whole different ball game. It is made by a bunch of people, all with different ideas and images, and levels of talent, it will never, ever be the same. It’s as John has said, when we read ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ we all have our own versions in our heads. And when a film is made it decides on one person’s vision, one person’s version of the story, so, of course, we’re not all going to agree on it. Which makes sense. But I think Josh Boone (the director) and the screenwriters really missed a trick. Maybe to people who haven’t read the book the film is pretty powerful but, to me, I think it missed the point. If you’d like to watch some of John & Hank’s videos follow the link.

‘Hannibal’ is still busy being brilliant, but you knew I’d say that. This series will end soon, but then ‘Masters of Sex’ will be back on so I can go on to you about that instead. Despite my insistence on watching programs when the moment is right, and Sky+ing a lot of things, I’m finding that I am actually spending Tuesday nights waiting for ‘Last Week Tonight’. It’s great and you should give it a go, here’s a link to John’s interview with Stephen Hawking.

Then over a week passed with nothing very interesting except watching people do stupid things on ‘Celebrity Masterchef’ and some great BBC Four offerings. Well, to be honest Michael Mosley’s ‘The Story of Science’ is a repeat, but I didn’t get to see it first time around (even if I had, I would probably be watching it again, I do love his shows). Also, they’ve been repeating Suzannah Lipscomb’s ‘Hidden Killers of the Edwardian Home’, which I’ve been watching again, and which is really interesting and strangely entertaining. Dr. Pamela Cox’s ‘Shopgirls’ feels like a BBC Four show but has been showing on BBC Two. And to be honest although it’s kind of interesting it hasn’t really presented me with anything surprising. So I would say watch it for the history, but don’t expect to be very entertained.

On the weekend I finally watched ‘Despicable Me’. People had been saying for years what a great film it was, and the sequel was supposed to be fantastic but um… well. It was okay, but it didn’t really do it for me. I stayed the course ’cause I thought it would get funnier, but it didn’t. A lot of my disappointment might have been in the fact that people had hyped it up a bit too much to me, but it might also be in the fact that it’s an okay movie and that’s about it.

I’ve spent this week watching season 5 of ‘Parks and Recreation’. I just love that show so much. I started watching it when the BBC began showing it on BBC Four. I’d heard about it for years in US entertainment news and I was very excited to see it. The first season was kind of disappointing, but then it got REALLY good. You will hear many people say that ‘Parks and Recreation’ really found itself with its second season and then just got better. But you should probably still watch the first season, so you get an idea of what is going on. It’s basically a comedy set in the Parks and Recreation department of the Pawnee, Indiana council (no wait, what do they call them in the US?…Don’t know). The ensemble cast is led by Amy Poehler who plays the eternally optimistic Leslie Knope, and she’s just great, on all the many levels. What sets this part from many comedies is its good heart. The characters are sweet and interesting, and develop over time, all the while still being just 2-dimensional enough that we can stand apart and laugh at them. The BBC have only shown the first three seasons but you can get seasons four and five on LoveFilm.

Just today I’ve finally started watching old films on the BFI player. And when I say old films I don’t mean old feature films. They’ve put a lot of archived documentary film on the player, British Pathé have done a similar thing on YouTube, but it’s taken me this long to take a look at it. If you have a minute, take a look. Here is what I think is a really interesting film of a tram journey through Rochdale. I don’t think he knew it at the time, but this cameraman was really smart, what better way to record a moment in a town’s history?

That’s all I have to say for now. Except that I went to see Monty Python at the O2 on the weekend and they were superb. If you’re a fan I heartedly recommend you go and see the cinema showing on the 20th. Also, it’s my birthday next week… just in case you were thinking of getting me a present. I would really like the BFI ‘Ghost Stories For Christmas’ box set. 😛

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