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Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

The First Men In the Moon (2010)

In based on novel, BBC, feel good, film, out of this world, period drama, Recommendation on 27/07/2011 at 7:37 pm

A BBC Four adaptation of H.G. Wells’ beautiful tale of who really were the first men to fly off to the moon.

First of all, the cuteness factor of this film is tremendously high. This probably isn’t suitable for sci-fi pundits. The tale – just think aliens instead of fairies and it’s a fairy tale – is one deserving to be told and retold as many times as possible, for it’s such a perfectly fantastic story.

The film begins with a little boy who gets lost on a fairground and meets a very, very old man. It’s 20 July 1969 and the first moon landing in history is about to take place. The old man, however, begs to differ, and he tells the young boy about his adventures. The story is as magical as it is because it takes on human prejudice, it deals with greed as an incentive, overcoming natural fear, and finally, how knowledge can create as well as destroy entire societies.

Mainly though, The First Men in the Moon is just a lot of fun.

 

 

Hawking (2004)

In Amazing, BBC, film, out of this world, period drama, Recommendation on 24/07/2011 at 3:16 pm

This BBC film tells the story of Stephen Hawking’s first years of great accomplishment at Cambridge, which coincided with the emergence of the auto neurone disease that left him almost completely paralysed today.

Even if time, space and the beginning of the universe aren’t your favourite topics, this film is a beautiful watch. Benedict Cumberbatch, who won a Golden Nymph and was nominated for a BAFTA for this part , plays a convincing and compelling young Stephen Hawking as he is confronted with this terrible disease and quite rapidly loses control over his muscles. I had to watch an episode of Sherlock to convince myself that Cumberbatch is still quite capable of walking and talking as well as any healthy person.

The now celebrity theoretical  physicist and cosmologist  Hawkins gained fame with his contributions to science, mainly to do with gravity, black holes, the Big Bang theory, the time-space continuum and other things we still no too little about. Needless to say, this scientist has been a great inspiration to all science-fiction writers since the late 1960s.  He is now almost entirely paralysed and communicates through a device which he can only operate with his cheek.

 

 

Silk (2010)

In Amazing, Crime, Law, Recommendation, Review, series on 23/07/2011 at 4:40 pm

An impressive six part series written by Peter Moffat, mainly about two barristers battling for Silk status (or QC – a much desired position of privilege in law acquired by merit).

Martha Costello (Maxine Peake) is an arrantly dedicated defence lawyer who holds strong beliefs in the workings of the system. Her convictions are often challenged, as is the path she needs to follow to take Silk. Her more playful colleague, the womanising Clive Reader (Rupert-Penry-Jones), while prodding and teasing Martha’s ways, ends up facing his own existential challenges. Perhaps equally important to this drama series are the two interesting and handsome young pupils, Nick (Tom Hughes) and Niamh (Nathalie Dormer).

The focus on Silk lies on the drama, not on the criminal justice system. The pace of this series is quite high (that means you need to pay attention not to lose the plot) and it takes highly unexpected turns. What worked out best (hence my mentioning the writer) is the immediate impact the characters make. Only half way through the first episode, all four of them get to you. Each of them with their own charms, faults and quirks.

The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006)

In film, period drama, political, war on 22/07/2011 at 6:01 pm

This is an important film. It’s a beautiful film. That’s probably why it won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. It’s also an unsettlingly violent and sorrow film, which I, for the sake of my sanity, didn’t watch in one go.

The Wind that Shakes the Barley is an Irish marching song, and this film is set in the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921) against their British oppressors, as well as the Irish Civil War (1922-23). The main character Damian (Cillian Murphy) at first reluctantly gives up a promising career in medicine to join the Republican Army. Then he gets so entangled in the strife that there’s no way out. Damien and his brother Teddy (Padraic Delaney) are allies in the first war, and enemies in the next.

Director Ken Loach undoubtedly deserves all the credit he got for this film and it tells a story that desperately needs to be told. Still, I don’t know whether I’m recommending it. I wonder if the brutality this film portrays is the best way to tell the story.

Do tell me what you think.

 

Sherlock (2010-)

In Amazing, BBC, Crime, Recommendation, Review, series on 20/07/2011 at 11:42 pm

When Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes in 1887, he surely would have never ever have imagined the amount of times this hero’s stories would be told, over and over and over again, on stage, on the radio, in film and on television. He would certainly be positively flabbergasted, if not baffled and confounded too, to learn that Sherlock is now in possession of an iPhone.

BBC’s terrific new series created by Steven Moffat was an instant success, with the first episode pulling 7,5 million UK viewers. Rightfully so, because modernising such a legendary nineteenth century character without altering it disturbingly is quite an art. The credit goes to rising star Benedict Cumberbatch, who is an overwhelmingly charming and astoundingly intelligent yet chilly, pigheaded and arrogant Sherlock Holmes. Martin Freeman is Dr John Watson precisely how he should be.  Meanwhile, it’s London in 2010: there’s CCTV, modern policing, smart-phones; all of it. Big kudos to the production designers who maintained Sherlock’s style without making him look old-fashioned or stuffy.

An Education (2009)

In Amazing, feel good, film, period drama, Recommendation, romantic on 17/07/2011 at 10:06 pm

Danish director Lone Scherfig and writer Nick Hornby made a film about a young girl who is seduced by an older man and falls in love with him. Lolita-esque: yes. Another coming-of-age tale: indeed. A very good film? That too.

Teenage girl Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is a very talented musician as well as bored out of her mind, until she meets this interesting grown-up character who seems to open all possibles doors to an exciting and sizzling life. An Education shows two sides of the 1960s: the stuffy, conservative environment of Jenny’s parents and teachers, and the daring, emancipated and glamorous world of her older seducer David (Peter Sarsgaard) and his friends Helen (Rosamund Pike) and Danny (Dominic Cooper). A film full of beautiful characters, great acting and delicious production design, which is also a well told, moving story. That’s quite a lot of kudos I’d say.

Jekyll (2007)

In Amazing, BBC, Recommendation, series on 13/07/2011 at 9:05 pm

Rarely have I seen a miniseries as outrageously brilliant as Jekyll. Most of this awesomeness can be accredited to James Nesbitt, the Irish actor who pulls off playing both modern versions of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (for which there is no excuse for not reading, by the way) with near to no trickery. The gentle husband and dad Dr Tom Jackman and his uninvited maniac alter-ego Hyde share the same body, but not the same life. The Hyde character is frightening and immensely cruel as well as terribly funny and sometimes even devilishly attractive.

Both Jekyl and Hyde remain equally interesting and the plot is utterly unpredictable. The intriguing question throughout is: can Jackman/Jekyll survive Hyde?

PS. Wouldn’t recommend watching this alone at night.

Ashes to Ashes (2008-2010)

In Amazing, BBC, Crime, period drama, Recommendation, series on 11/07/2011 at 9:04 pm

This brilliant series comes after Life on Mars (read that first, pretty please?) and takes us back to the glitzy 1980s at its best. This time, DCI Gene Hunt is faced with an even greater challenge to his set policing ways. He gets to deal with DI Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes), a psychological profiler. And a very attractive one too, for that matter. Hunt believes psychology is for nancies and he gets to do even more of his hilarious and highly creative ranting.

Meanwhile, Alex Drake was shot in the head in 2008 and needs to get back to her daughter Molly – unless she’s stuck in some freakish idea of afterlife. Ashes to Ashes is a bit more psychedelic and tense compared to Life on Mars. Also, the production designers went proper wild and Keeley Hawes makes the 1980s look smashingly fabulous.

Life on Mars (2006-2007)

In Amazing, BBC, Crime, period drama, Recommendation, series on 11/07/2011 at 8:41 pm

Nope, this isn’t sci-fi; the title is a David Bowie song reference.  Life on Mars is the story of Sam Tyler (John Simm) who ends up in a car crash in 2006, and somehow wakes up in 1973. He is still a detective (although degraded from DCI to DI), but everything else has changed. He desperately needs to find out what happened and how (if possible) to get back to his own time.

Meanwhile, crime and policing goes on. Life on Mars is an amazing trip back to the 1970s, when the police would manhandle witnesses, be openly so sexist it makes your pants drop and smoke at least two packs of fags per person in a working day in the station. Antagonist DCI Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) (who is absurdly hilariously effing brilliant, by the way) gives Tyler a very hard time about being such a sissy because the latter believes one shouldn’t randomly punch people in the face. Furthermore, Life on Mars’ production design is awe-inspiring and so is the soundtrack.

Oh yes, to figure out the whole story, you’re going to have to watch all three seasons of Ashes to Ashes as well. Which is hardly punishment, I thought it was even better actually.

Another Year (2010)

In Amazing, film, Recommendation, Review on 10/07/2011 at 8:38 pm

Mike Leigh‘s latest achievement is, more than anything, deeply moving. Another Year follows the lives throughout a year of middle aged couple Tom and Gerri (they laugh about it too) and their friends. Jim Broadbent (Tom) and Ruth Sheen (Gerri) are that older couple everybody wants to be eventually, but most young city dwellers have ceased to believe in. They have been married for ages and they are absolutely devoted to each other and genuinely happy. What’s more, they’re educated (a geologist and a psychologist), but rather than being pretentious about it, they surround themselves with people who are in various ways utterly lost. This makes for charming, embarrassing, loving and quite hilarious situations.

Mike Leigh is one of Britain’s most original and exceptional directors (all his films shall be on here at some point). That said, his style might not appeal to everyone. His films explore everything remarkable about human beings and how they interact within our society – at a gently trickling pace. These stories aren’t made to please, they’re meant to be told, all in their own magnificent way, by every one of the (I’m running out of superlatives here) outstanding actors in his films.