Film & TV Weekly Round-Up (22/8/14)

Last Saturday I watched The Sea Wolves. Based on a true WWII story I imagined it to be some sort of colourful adventure about a bunch of retired soldiers making one last raid. It stars David Niven, Trevor Howard, Gregory Peck and Roger Moore. Which made it seem promising but, what seemed like hours later, I felt quite bored. The beginning of the film spends a lot of time following around Peck & Moore (serving soldiers) as they put the plan in place. But it’s all very sluggish and uninteresting, and Moore just feels like Bond, but in a slightly different outfit. It gets more interesting when they actually put the retired soldiers together and get them on their way, especially because David Niven is just more watchable than Peck or Moore. But the whole thing is very, very flat. I was entertained in brief moments by trying to work out who the men in the background were (the guy out of ‘The Avengers’, that guy out of ‘Fawlty Towers’), but ultimately it just felt like a big waste of a film and the talents of the actors involved.

I managed to salvage my Saturday by watching the rest of ‘Parade’s End’. I watched it, originally, on BBC and really liked it. So I Sky+’d the whole thing on the Drama Channel and after watching the first episode on Friday night, I did what everyone else would do and watched the last 5 hours of it on Saturday night. And this time I liked it even more, wish I hadn’t erased it from the Sky Box now (but it was filled with pesky adverts, and I did miss the first 15 minutes). It’s the complexity of the story that is really special. It seems like a straight forward love triangle, with Christopher Tietjens at its heart. But it’s really about the pretence of people’s lives which, in the pre-WWI, was especially important. The standing of these characters in society is all that matters, and there’s a constant tug of war between what they are meant to be, to be acceptable, and what they truly want. Each character has their own struggle, a struggle which is eventually put paid to by the change of times that came with WWI. I really want to watch it again now, you should go watch it to.

On Sunday afternoon I watched ‘Battleground’, an Oscar winning film about the 101st Airborne’s time in Bastogne (during the Battle of the Bulge). I’m a great fan of ‘Band of Brothers’ so I was really looking forward to this. And despite some really dodgy acting in the opening, I quite liked it. Not to say that I was in any way blown away by it. It was well-made and interesting, and probably more realistic than most war films. It paid great attention to the time inbetween raids and bombings, the time in the Bulge where soldiers milled around in the snow, wandering into enemy territory, and were missing proper clothing and food. Bastogne was an endurance test for these soldiers, and although ‘Band of Brothers’ probably does a better job of portraying it I’d say this film gives it a good try, considering its 1949 production. All that being said, I wouldn’t recommend you watch it. It’s interesting, but that’s about it.

On Sunday night I watched ‘Divergent’. I’m a little bit in love with ‘Divergent’ and am very annoyed that when it was released people criticised it for ‘not being as good as The Hunger Games’. Which is completely unfair. This is a completely different story. People have this peculiar idea that if a film contains a teenage girl living in a future dystopia then it has to be compared with other similar films, the way ‘The Hunger Games’, on its release, was compared with ‘Twilight’ simply because the protagonist was a teenage girl caught in a love triangle. People don’t compare films about warring neighbours, or eccentric families, or mistaken identity films, of which there are multiple versions. But for some reason, a teenage girl in the future? That needs to be quantified and qualified against its peers. Why is that? And even though I can see the similarities (obviously) that’s no reason to say that a film is bad, just because it’s not as good as something brilliant. I should stop ranting now… I really do like ‘Divergent’, I like that Tris is confident, that she is fearless, and that we don’t spend half of the story wondering which guy she’s going to get together with. It’s more simplistic than ‘The Hunger Games’, I agree, but THIS IS NOT ‘The Hunger Games’, so why does that matter? I really do wish society would judge films on their own merit. But they won’t. Because you can’t market a film on ‘similar to ‘Hunger Games’ because it has a teenage girl living in a dystopian future, but is really based on a utopian idea, and the girl actually has a loving family…’. Doesn’t quite work does it?

This week I started watching ‘Scandal’. I kept seeing this trailer for the third season and found it very cool and exciting. Luckily for me SkyOnDemand have all of seasons 1 & 2 available until the end of August, and I have gotten slightly addicted. The best way I can describe it is as a generic US law drama, but with more complex storylines, a bit of ‘West Wing’ thrown in, a few good laughs, a sexy romance, and a kick-ass female lead. Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. I’ve just started season two.

This week I had a real ‘blown away by the force of film/TV’ moment when I watched ‘Masters Of Sex’. This season has taken a while to get going. But this episode was just incredibly brilliant. It’s been a while since my brain fell so silent. Almost the entire episode took place in the hotel room where Bill & Virginia meet to do their ‘research’. It was all about what it means to be a man, but also about what people hold back or give away in relationships. What do things really mean? Do they attack because they don’t like you? Do they attack because they feel threatened? It was very, very gripping. At one point Virginia is telling the story of her first love and I completely forgot myself. This episode stands as a credit to the writing, directing and acting in this show. I’m glad to see it back on track.

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