Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Things we noticed watching tv this week - whilst mostly sitting on a plane

I'm back. And soon it's gonna be like I've never been away. Back to the real world and there is already a lot on. But it's mostly good stuff, so I'm not complaining. I'm definitely busier though than when I started this blog and although I'll keep blogging regularly, one thing that probably won't happen quite as often is the Things we noticed watching tv this week schtick. Firstly, I am not watching TV as it happens as much, with more and more stuff being stored up for a quiet hour here and there. But secondly, Dan Owen does it better, and more frequently, than anyone else around. (ahem) However, I will still pipe up from time to time with shows he's not covering, like Spooks (bizarrely) and Cast Offs (haven't started watching it yet, any good?) But I'll get to them in due course.

I also don't get to sit down and actually watch movies nearly as much as I would like. So even though I hate flying, the one plus side is the chance to catch up on some films!

First up was Into The Storm, the follow up to the exquisite The Gathering Storm. I'm not sure why Albert Finney and Vanessa Redgrave didn't reprise their roles as Winston and Clementine Churchill, but Brendan Gleeson and Janet Mcteer are so good, the transition is almost seamless. One person who did reprise his role was screenwriter Hugh Whitemore. Although I preferred the first film, simply because it depicted a far lesser known time in both Churchill and England's history, both films are superbly written and delightfully evocative of the period. (Like I've said before, everyone treats period piece as the taboo genre but when they are this good and this well received, it makes a mockery of that.) Whilst this was the more familiar territory of Churchill the war leader. But what has been so effective about both films is the characterisation of its famous lead. There is no sugar coated national treasure or hero worship here. This was a man, warts and all, who channeled both his negative and positive traits to lead a country. To the film's credit, most of the time you are a little embarrassed by Churchill's behaviour, like when he needless bawls out a servant. But what this does is make those key moments, when we're allowed a glimpse of the brilliance of the man, all the more powerful.

Next up was, well, Up. I'm not sure this is Pixar's finest movie, but then again no one has set the bar quite as high as them. Nevertheless, this is a wonderful movie with a much talked about opening ten minutes that is a lesson in visual storytelling. And it's the visual detail that really makes this film special. Yes the plot is good fun, although not quite as tight as Monsters Inc and Nemo. Yes the characters are memorable, although not quite up there with Woody and Buzz. Yes it's funny, but again not quite as much as those that came before it. But. It's so visually rich, bookended by two key sequences. The first is when Carl's house takes off for the first time, lifted out of the air so majestically by all those balloons. The second is the climax involving much action and adventure on Charles Muntz's huge zeppelin like airship, which echoed Jabba the Hut's spaceship cruise liner in Return of the Jedi.

On the return journey I watched Julie and Julia and District Nine. And I'll be blogging about them tomorrow!

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