recitativeWe're watching Tales of Hoffmann from the Powell and Pressburger DVD set that pennski bought me for Christmas a year ago.
On the upside, it has some fantastic set design, special effects (for 1951 anyway) and direction.
On the downside, as operettas go, it's not really terribly tuneful. There's more recitative than songs and given that I'm not much of an opera fan I could do with a few more tunes!
It's very pretty though...
I saw the third Brendan Fraser 'Mummy' film on one of the flights in Australia. And do you know? As 'Belated sequels to old film series that no one really wanted to see resurrected' films go it's actually a better film than Indy 4. There's words I never thought I'd see myself type.
Both start from a similar premise (post-WWII, heroes work in intelligence during war, grown up son involved), and the Rachel Weisz replacement has the problem of, well, not being Rachel Weisz frankly, but where Mummy 3 has the advantage is that it doesn't look as cheap. There are parts in Indy 4, particularly the jungle scenes, which (especially on second viewing) look horribly studio-bound.
While, honestly, neither are great films by any means, but overall Mummy 3 looks less tired and more like people are having fun.
This is pretty much business as usual. What has made it tough is that I've got deadlines coming up for my design for the next phase of the project which I've been getting stressed with the process of finding the time to write it. I got where I wanted to in the end but it was hard work. By the end of play yesterday I was feeling pretty much like I'd had several rounds in the ring with someone much bigger than me...
Having finished Season 2 of Battlestar Galactica, last night we watched The Golden Compass (on BluRay no less!). It zipped along nicely, in the main looked great (the polar bears were fine in close up but weren't always composited onto backgrounds very well). Dakota Blue Richards may an effective (if not tom-boyish enough) Lyra, Sam Elliott was smashing as Lee Scorsby and, unlike others, I liked Daniel Craig as Asriel. The weakest piece of casting was Nicole Kidman who was frankly just not charismatic enough for Mrs Coulter (as pennski put it at one point - apart from because it's Nicole Kidman, why is everyone doing what she says?) The chopped off ending was hugely obvious - leaving the story without an effective climax. But the main problem was that it was so compressed that it felt like a 'greatest hits' of the book. This served the character relationships particularly badly, but worse removed much of Lyra's agency - people kept on telling her what she needed to do next instead of her working it out. Any watcher who hadn't read the book was going to be fairly confused. So an interesting failure, I guess, but certainly had some moments that had me grinning like a loon.
Today I went out on a run with pennski (after her triumphant 35m time in the Race for Life last week) and I ran for 19 minutes without stopping, then after a little walking ran for another 11 minutes and shortly afterwards another 8 minutes. That's 38 minutes out of around 55 - probably more than I have run since I last had to do a cross-country at school. And most of the time I managed to find a comfortable rhythm so it didn't feel too difficult. My chest was fairly sore by the end but I didn't cough at all. So I am feeling very pleased with myself. Not that I'm going to be running any marathons any time soon...!
Anyway, off to a party in a little while!
Non-work wise, I finished Devil May Cry 3 on the PS2 yesterday, which was fun overall but even on easy mode had some horrendous, temper inducing sections!
Also yesterday I finished George R. R. Martin's A Feast for Crows which was as always hugely enjoyable. I couldn't help but snigger a little at the author's note at the end which said that the next book, A Dance of Dragons (or something along those lines) would be out the next year. This note was written in 2005 and the last publication date I saw for the book was spring next year.
Also much enjoyed was Soundings, Gary K. Wolfe's collection of reviews and Bryan Talbot's Alice in Sunderland, which I mentioned a few days ago.
We've been watching Studio 60 from the Sunset Strip, the already cancelled Aaron Sorkin show. Overall I have been very much enjoying it, Matthew Perry particularly is surprisingly good, but I can understand a little why it was a flop. For a start off the bits of the comedy show we see are just not that funny. Harriet, the woman who is the lead in the comedy show is as dull as dishwater. Nothing against her performance, but Amanda Peet seems far to young to be convincing as a studio president. But the biggest problem I have about the show is this: the 'show within the show' is supposed to be a topical comedy programme, but the whole 'show outside the show' is given the same serious treatment (bordering on portentousness) of The West Wing, which seems to be over egging the pudding, frankly.
Still, I'm am enjoying it in spite of my reservations.
Oh yes, and we've just come back from seeing Harry Potter V, which actually does a good job of slimming a hugely over-written book down to something that is both manageable and quite entertaining. Mind you, it didn't escape our notice that the small children sitting behind us were getting rather audibly bored...
Alas, we did not get to the cinema as often as we would like to this year. I don't really know why - just apathy I guess. Of the films we did see:
Pirates of the Caribbean 2 was fun, but could have been greatly improved by having half an hour trimmed off the running time.
Superman Returns was beautiful to look and oddly affecting, but could have been more exciting - I'd like to have seen the director give more of his own stamp to it, rather than slavishly trying to mimic the first Christopher Reeve film.
But by far and away the best film was The Prestige. A marvelous piece of filmmaking which manages to make a good adaptation of a difficult novel and still be a classy piece of film-making in its own right.
A mixed year for TV viewing. Battlestar Galactica continued to push the envelope of TV sf drama, but still remains a show to admire more than to like. Smallville had an okay year - still remaining 'The show most dangerous to recommend to other people' on the grounds that amoung some really good episodes, there is an awful lot of formulaic crap.
I enjoyed season 2 (and what has been shown so far of season 3) of Lost. I'm still not convinced that the show-runners have an overall plan but its an entertaining journey nevertheless. But, please God, no more flashbacks for Jack, the most annoying leading character in a tv show ever!
Eureka was silly and quite formulaic but again very entertaining in its own way. In these days of moral ambiguity, it is nice just once in a while to have a show with some genuinely likeable characters.
I'm still not quite sold on Torchwood. I wanted to love it so very badly and the most I can stretch to is liking it. One of the reasons that Doctor Who has been such a success is the genuine warmth the makers seem to have for the characters. Torchwood suffers from a bunch that are either not terribly likeable or are ciphers. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for complex characters, but I'm struggling to find something to latch on to. Still, there have been some good episodes: the P. J. Hammond 'fairy' story, the one with the plane that travelled back in time from the 1950s (so sad) and the one where Suzie gets resurrected. But I could write an essay about everything that they got wrong in the one where they try to do a Love and Monsters (outsiders viewpoint) and fail.
The best stuff:
Spooks had an excellent year; nicely complex and no easy answers.
Veronica Mars season 2 was also very good indeed. Among other admirable things it still is the tv series that has the most realistic view of the US class system (from what others have told me, anyway, not being from there myself!).
After the first time through I was a little disappointed with season 2 of the new Doctor Who. It had some stuff I loved (School Reunion for my inner fanboy and The Girl in the Fireplace for my inner romantic, a great end-of-season story) and I really like David Tennant. But something didn't quite hang together as well as the first season. But having recently watched the whole thing again I have to say it has grown on me considerably. And I have really taken to Love and Monsters, Russell T. Davies' love-letter to fandom. Okay, I still feel that the ending was a little silly, but it also has some great performances (particularly from Marc Warren & Camille Coduri) and some of RTD's best writing. What is so nice is that the people looking for the Doctor are not geeks or idiots; they are all real human beings who bind together through a common interest but grow beyond that initial link. Sounds like my fandom, for sure! (And that, by the way, is what Torchwood got so wrong: in the equivalent episode the viewpoint character is just a geek, with no real reason given why we should like him).
Next year is going to be a tough one for the show-runners, though, in having to replace Billie Piper. I wonder how many of the viewers watched it for Rose as much as for the Doctor? Quite a few, I imagine.
Okay, even I have to admit that my postings have been a bit wingy recently (and I'm not going to mention the thing that happened at work today which could potentially double my work load over the next three or four weeks...).
So, on a different theme some more fun stuff.
( Vaguely spoilerish stuff behind cut )
A few comments behind ( cut )
Overall I really enjoyed it, but it is a glorified b-movie.
And I'm sorry but it just isn't natural for someone to look as much like his dad as Colin Hanks does now. I suspect there's cloning involved somewhere...
not been posting much recently. This is in part due to work, and part due to (possibly work-related) tiredness.
I've been having one of my tired weeks: getting home from work and feeling absolutely shattered and not feeling up to much beyond eating, watching some TV and sleeping. I'm not sure whether this is the remnants of the Glandular Fever still hanging around, the stress levels at work, or whether I'm sickening for something. I've had a bit of a sore chest for a couple of weeks now but it doesn't seem to become anything more serious.
We spent much of the evenings last week watching season 6 of The West Wing on DVD. This was very much enjoyed - a step up from the previous couple of years, with only really one minor dud episode (if I had more brain I'd have more to say...).
Haibane Renmei volume 3 arrived finally last week, but we've not had the chance to start it yet - since we finished WW6 we've been catching up on the stuff we've recorded from the television (Spooks, The Dead Zone, Carnivale, etc).
I've been keeping up with the gym, which has been good - my weight is back in the single figures of 12st now.
We were originally planning to go to the Norcon convention this weekend but didn't get organised. Given how tired I've been, perhaps it is as well.
Recent reading has included Tim Power's first novel The Skies Discrowned which is okay, but very old-fashioned. Currently, I'm two-thirds of the way through the second volume of Mike Ashley's history of science fiction magazines. Fascinating stuff - the only bad thing is that it tempts me to start trying to get hold of obscure magazines...
Saw Pride and Prejudice at the cinema yesterday - much better than I was expecting but still not as good as the BBC production of a few years ago. The problem is that the restricted running time means that it feels like the 'Cliff Notes' version of the story. In particular it is difficult to see why the various couples fall in love with each other.
Anyway, that's it for now. More when I have more brain!
Got back to the gym at lunchtime - although I am currently banned by the doctor from doing any weightlifting of any kind due to a pulled muscle (ibuprofen is a wonderful thing...). What I was pleased with was that I decided to do a 15 minute session on the treadmill instead and managed it with no problems. Not that long ago I would have been coughing myself silly from that (I've always had a bad chest when it comes to running).
Currently reading Iain Banks' The Algebraist and to be honest I'm rather struggling with it. I can't really pin down why, but I'm finding it easier to put it down and not pick it up again than usual.
Went to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory yesterday. Most if it was very good - I particularly liked the portrayal of Charlie's family in the first section, and the fates of the different children was very faithful.
But I'm afraid I really couldn't take to Johnny Depp's Willie Wonka. Too fey and repressed (it was a Tim Burton film so the presence of the adult who hasn't grown up shouldn't have been a surprise). Willie Wonka needs to be someone fairly elderly and 'twinkly' - someone like Joel Grey would be perfect.