Film and telly ramblings

It's been a hell of a long time since I posted anything on here, as Geeky Tom pointed out yesterday. Rubbish excuse, but I have been meaning to post for ages (I even started one on Pixar's UP a few months ago but got sidelined partway through and never finished). So to try and make amends, here's a bumper post on all the film and telly things recently viewed, in a not-very-concise-at-all manner.

First up - the latest Steven Soderbergh film, THE INFORMANT.

Based - loosely - on the story of real life corporate whistleblower Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon), who discovers his agro-chemical company are involved in international price fixing. He turns spy for the FBI, but it becomes apparent over time that Whitacre is a fantastist (perhaps even bi-polar) - and not the most trustworthy of informants...

Damon is excellent as the moustache-sporting, lumpenly egotistical Whitacre, demonstrating strong comedic chops after honing his action hero skills as Jason Bourne. Soderbergh's eye for detail and careful production design lovingly re-creates the look and feel of a midwestern US office in the early 90s, making it seem every bit as historic to us now as the 1960s and 70s. Unfortunately, the satirical schtick only goes so far to make this an entertaining dark comedy, and Whitacre's unreliability as a narator and constant evasiveness make it difficult to engage as a viewer. There's also too much repetition of the central conceit, causing the movie to lag in the middle. Ultimately, The Informant is an exercise in style over substance, lacking a much needed bite of meaty drama.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a preview screening of highly-anticipated Spike Jonze feature WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. Having read a couple of swooning reviews and an interesting feature on the genesis of the movie and the 8 foot tall puppets created by the Jim Henson Company, I was looking forward to this film a lot - perhaps too much. Hearing something's praises sung to the highest heavens does tend to create unrealistic expectations, and while I truly liked this undoubtedly bold, brave, singular movie, I didn't quite feel the sense of magic, of being transported and uplifted, that I secretly wished for.

Nonetheless, I don't have anything bad to say about this movie and it does achieve something really hard to come by in Hollywood movies - a true sense of originality and artistic vision. Max Records gives a wonderful, unreserved performance as 9 year old Max, riven with feelings, fears and impulses he can't fully express. The adult actors, from Catherine Keener as his harried single mother, to James Gandolfini, Paul Dano, Forest Whitaker and Catherine O'Hara who voice the astonishing puppets are by turns endearing and scary. And a special mention must go to the beautifully atmospheric music created by, amongst others, musicians from the Yeah Yeah Yeah's, The Raconteurs and Queens of the Stone Age.

Some have said Where The Wild Things Are is about childhood but not for children, and it's hard to see what young viewers used to live action kids' movies and animated family films will make of this. But it does convey the tumultuous and volatile feelings of growing up in way that does justice to Maurice Sendak's bestselling book, with no Disney-fied sugar coating to sweeten the pill.
Go see - and in the right mood, you might really feel the magic Jonze has laboured to create on screen.

This post has run away from me, but in brief then, TV I have been watching recently that you too should be watching:
E4's Misfits - acerbic, dark, funny, self-deprecating and very British;
Sky's Modern Family - best new US sitcom this year;
Glee (coming to E4 next year) - a mix of comedy, drama and musical that is original and joyous;
Mad Men - 60s set ad-men drama continues to scintillate;
Vampire Diaries (ITV2 in Jan) - chiselled teen vamps with enough lust and angst to tide you over til True Blood returns;
Fringe - mind-boggling sci-fi drama brimful of inventiveness;
The Good Wife (More4/C4 next year) ER alumni Julianna Margulies plays a woman who stands by her adulterous US State Attorney husband in this finely-crafted drama;
Flash Forward - it aint Lost, but it's getting better all the time;
V - loved the pilot, not sure I've been convinced by the subsequent three but will persevere.
Finally - it's not current but I've just finished The West Wing and it's now in my all time top shows. If you've never seen it, it's sublime - invest in the box set.

That's it for now...over and out.


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