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Unique ID Code: 0000105630
Added by: David Beckett
Added on: 20/7/2008 21:28
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    What I Watched This Week (w/e July 20th 2008)


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    The Wire: The Complete First Season - Chalk this up to the enormous list of television shows that I completely missed when they were broadcast but, through reputation and/or a decent price have bought on DVD. I'd heard that this was good - it was mentioned a couple of times in Sight & Sound and there was a full article on it an issue or two ago - so decided to see what all the fuss was about and added seasons 1 and 2 to my collection. It was a decision that I have not regretted as, and I don't say this lightly, The Wire is one of the greatest television dramas ever made. The writing, acting, direction and all-round quality of the show is up there with the best that you can see in the cinema. In terms of the story, it bears startling similarities with American Gangster as it follows a group of detectives trying to bring down an untouchable drug dealer with the lead detective taking a very personal interest. I have to say that I found this a better piece of work than Ridley Scott's epic - impressive as it is - but then again, you're able to do so much more in terms of character development and weaving a labyrinthine plot in 13 hours than in 2 ½. It's a fantastic show and one to see if you haven't already done so and I'll watch season 2 next week. :D

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    The Man Who Fell To Earth: The Criterion Collection - As a big fan of Nicolas Roeg's work, I'd missed out on this completely but decided to splash out on the Criterion Collection release. I read the book that came as part of the package a week or two ago and was extremely impressed by Walter Tevis' mixture of science fiction, mystery and political intrigue. As the book was published in 1963, it was a wise decision by Paul Mayersberg to jettison all elements of the novel that may have dated the film and keep its essence. In his film debut, David Bowie, with his angular face, bright red hair, pale skin and androgynous appearance, is ideally cast as Thomas Jerome Newton, the alien who comes to Earth with patents to make him rich enough to make a space craft that would enable travel between his home planet and Earth. Keeping the Icarus metaphor, Roeg shows how America would look to an alien visitor with his usual brilliant visual stylings and superb use of cross-cutting and lighting. The commentary, with Roeg, Bowie and Buck Henry (who plays Farnsworth), isn't as interesting as I would have liked and would have preferred Roeg with a film critic/scholar but it is still a decent listen and there are some revealing pieces on the second disc. This is a great film that I really liked and the overall package is superb. :D

    Maid Marian and her Merry Men: The Complete Collection - Review here.

    Isle of Man TT Review 2008 - Review here.

    The Producers - Review to follow.
    Le Mans 24 hour 1981-3 - Review of the three DVDs to follow.
    Stories from the Dakar Rally - Review to follow.


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    WALL-E - I would definitely put this in Pixar's top 4 along with Toy Story 1 and 2 and The Incredibles. It's beautifully written, has a very emotive score by Thomas Newton and extremely well directed by Andrew Stanton, who did a much better job than he did with Finding Nemo. It's funny, moving and thoroughly involving - even the film snapping about ¾ of the way through, causing a 10-15 break in the screening didn't spoil the enjoyment. The references to 2001: A Space Odyssey didn't feel tacked on and WALL-E seemed a cross between Johnny 5, R2-D2, the robots from Silent Running and the parking meter from the Wallace and Gromit short, A Grand Day Out. I laughed most of the way through and even had a tear in my eye at the end. As usual, the short before was brilliant - a laugh out loud piece about a magician and his bunny which was slapstick comedy at its best.

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    Hancock - This begins, as The Incredibles did, with a superhero being subject to civil litigation for damage caused in his crime-fighting exploits. Apparently written in 1996, this is a really interesting opening with the hero as a care-free drunk who doesn't mind verbally abusing the general public. Having saved the life of Jason Bateman's PR executive (and shown what really happens when an invincible man stops a speeding train), he is persuaded by Bateman's character to clean up his act and go to jail and wait for the city to come crawling back. This is all interesting and funny character driven material but the film, just as The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man did, collapses once you introduce the second super hero (whose identity you guess in less than five minutes) and is a real shame. In one of the oddest of all odd casting decisions, Eddie Marsan plays an LA super villain for reasons best known to those involved in the casting process - aren't there any American actors?! :|

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    The Chronicles of Narnia - Prince Caspian - Despite being far darker than The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, this still feels a bit like Lord of the Rings-lite. When the Pevensie children are transported back to Narnia they find much has changed as centuries have passed and the land is now under the rule of the Telmarines - descendants of Spanish Conquistadors, even down to the Iberian accents and armour - it is down to the plucky Monarchs and the titular Prince to restore Narnia to its rightful rulers aided, of course, by CGI animals and trees including the Puss-in-Boots influenced Reepicheep, brilliantly voiced by Eddie Izzard. It's a bit long at over 140 minutes but Peter Dinklage is great, it is satisfying and on a par with the first in the franchise. Given how old Anna Popplewell and William Moseley look, it's hard to see how they'll fit into the next one (if at all) and I doubt they can keep the children in beyond the next film. :)


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    The Beach - With the usual collaboration of a book by Alex Garland, written for the screen by John Hodge, produced by Andrew MacDonald and directed by Danny Boyle, the obvious step would be to cast Ewan McGregor in the title role for which he was perfectly suited. However they went for Leonardo DiCaprio, seen as box office gold after his success in Titanic a couple of years earlier. The film is gorgeously shot and Boyle effortlessly changes the tone, with the early shot of tourists watching Apocalypse Now not meant flippantly as the Kurtz analogy is plain to see. A fine film but I was left with a feeling of 'what if...?' as I'm sure that McGregor would have made a better Richard that DiCaprio did. :)

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    The Verdict - This has some big names: Sidney Lumet, David Mamet, Paul Newman and James Mason, directing, writing and acting respectively. Many thought Newman was a shoo-in for an Oscar for his performance as a burnt-out alcoholic who takes on a difficult case against a high-powered legal team. As courtroom dramas go, this is very good with top performances by everyone and fine direction by Lumet. :D

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    Australia vs. South Africa - The third game in this year's Tri-Nations saw the Springboks, fresh from a victory over New Zealand, travel to Australia to face the Wallabies who haven't played an international under the ELVs. I thought this would be an easy victory for the 'Boks but they were far from convincing against an Australian side which took its chances for a tight victory to leave the table tied with each team having won one game.

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    Danny Williams vs. John McDermott - Britain's current heavyweight champion and most inconsistent fighter took on the English champion who, in his last challenge for the Lonsdale belt, froze and was dispatched by Matt Skelton in about 80 seconds. The fight was eventful to say the least with Williams out on his feet in the fifth and had three points deducted but was the one with his hand raised at the end in one of the most controversial fights I've seen for this belt in a very long time.

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    F1 German Grand Prix - This could have been very boring indeed if Timo Glock hadn't suffered a rear suspension failure and slammed backwards into a wall, necessitating a safety car. With McLaren surprising choosing not to pit Hamilton, it looked like Massa might take an unexpected victory, but the Briton made short work of him and Nelson Piquet's Renault to deservedly win the race.

    Your Opinions and Comments

    David - you just reminded me to dig out Roeg's 'The Man Who Fell to Earth' ...a great film! I'm a huge Bowie fan but have to say that this was his only credible movie outing. Perfectly cast, it really played on Bowie's 'other worldliness'. Roeg's finest hour!
    posted by Stuart McLean on 21/7/2008 20:12
    10 / 10
    I quite liked Bowie as Pontius Pilate in The Last Temptation of Christ - his accent seemed to be an inspiration for Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd! I don't know whether The Man Who Fell To Earth is Roeg's finest hour as Walkabout, Performance and Don't Look Now are all masterpieces. He is arguably Britain's greatest living director and one of the finest modern day auters.
    posted by David Beckett on 21/7/2008 21:58