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Great idea, but why add the implausible dramatic events
I enjoyed Mars, mainly because I like space exploration and the tech involved. The mixing of documentary footage, interviews of real people and then hopping forward in time to the fictional mission worked quite well. What I didn't like were the implausible series of disasters besetting the crew.
During the Apollo era every activity to be undertaken either in the spacecraft or on the surface in EVA suits was meticulously planned and rehearsed hundreds of times. How likely would it be for a situation to arise on Mars where they would bungle sorting out their power supply, and have that happen right when the worst dust storm in history occurs... Like they would not have seen the weather system developing in time to bring forward the power cable work, or have extra people out there for such a mission critical EVA?
And the lack of dual airlocks in the plant laboratory for dramatic license when the plant guy goes bananas... Not to mention that no one noticed he was that far over the edge until too late.
A real shame they did not focus on the science on Mars and the real issues, rather than trying to make it into a TV movie.
Three Part History of British Art Collections
This was a very insightful and well presented documentary on the history of British art collecting and the wealthy men behind the great collections in England. I knew a bit of the background to this history, including the 'grand tours' and the snapping up of art bargains from France after the fall of the monarchy there, but I never had the understanding of the personalities involved, the fabulous houses built specifically to house the art collections, and the founding of the National Gallery. The presenter was knowledgeable, and she had a good rapport with the people she interviewed. A great series. Highly recommended.
Fantasy-Violence Tattoo-Solving Soap Series
This show is so riddled with implausibilities and continuity stuff-ups. Like most overly violent American crime series, there is too much gratuitous killing of extras, particularly 'civilians' and, disturbingly, police officers. Huge gun fights where all the bad guys die and a token flesh wound for the heroes. Long savage fist fights with minimal injuries to the heroes. Small nicks and cuts on faces that heal overnight - in reality they would be there for several weeks. Preposterous solving of the tattoo riddles at precisely the right time every episode to solve the crime that is just about to take place. Improbable relationships in the work place for all the main characters. Genius computer woman who can type at 500 words a minute and knows everything from IED defusing to on-the-fly EPROM burning via mobile phone call... Pitching the CIA as deadly rivals of the FBI, really.
The writers are enjoying themselves coming up with this stuff, the actors seem half-hearted in their roles. Why did they even bother. It would have been far better as a first person shooter X-Box game story-line.
The Culture High (2014)
A Must See Documentary
I watched this documentary last night. Wow, it nails the reasons why marijuana is illegal in the USA. There are two very powerful lobby groups at work - the pharmaceutical industry who stand to lose billions if the natural plant gets a medicinal foothold - and, surprisingly, the US private prison system whose profits are in serious jeopardy if possession is decriminalized. Some states in the USA have legal contracts with minimum quotas of prisoners to supply to these commercial prisons...
Few politicians are brave enough to tackle the issue, and Obama has turned out to be the most manipulated President in history on this issue.
Not just the subject material, this is a really well made documentary that has meticulously sought out relevant archival material and conducted many interviews with experts and retired law enforcement personnel who can now speak their minds. A riveting two hours that really held my attention. Seek out this film and watch it.
Le regard (2005)
Excellent film about photography, memory and regret
I am surprised that no-one else has commented on this film as of yet. I found that it contained many different threads, all intertwined in a subtle way to make the film what it is. The power of a photograph to evoke memory and emotions - even after fifty years. The still bitter memories of some former independence fighters towards the French. The carefully drawn minor characters such as the photo shop owner and the aspiring dancer. And most of all the passion that makes some people want to be photographers and to document the lives of people and the events they go through. The old magic of developing a print in a darkroom is well shown here. As is the main plot line of an old man wrestling with a dark secret from his youth and finally coming to terms with what occurred - in this case in an uplifting way. I recommend you see this film.
Local Hero (1983)
A slow languid film that grows on you
I first saw this film on it's original theatrical release and again once on TV years ago. It is not available on DVD and is now very hard to get. This is a great pity as it is a wonderful film with a marvelous performance by the ensemble cast. Filled with quirky characters, harsh Scottish coastal scenery, and human warmth. A real feel-good movie. The soundtrack by Mark Knopfler is excellent and I have listened to the CD many times over the years.
The standout memories for me: Burt Lancaster as Happer the zany astronomer/oil tycoon, Gordon Urquhart the pub owner and his wife Stella, the Russian fisherman, the scenery, the slow pace and charm of the film.
Life of Brian (1979)
The Ultimate Parody Film
Carefully showing Jesus Christ in several scenes so that there is no confusion over who Brian really is, this movie truly showcased the writing and characterization talents of the Monty Python team. John Cleese, Michael Palin and Graham Chapman were brilliant. One of the few films I have ever seen where I know most of the lines by heart. A talented writing team bounced ideas off each other and fueled each other to really come up with a winner. The desert location filming really made this film, it would not have been the same on fake back-lot sets. The faith of George Harrison in the Python team ensured that adequate finance was put into the production. Our lives would not have been the same without the Life of Brian always there to watch again on a rainy Sunday afternoon with our feet up!
Let It Be (1970)
Fly On The Wall Doco
This documentary film showed the warts and all frictions that were beginning to creep into the band's interactions. The film was initially going to document the lead up to a live performance, but seemed to lose direction mid course as The Beatles could not agree on what direction to take it. The lack of re-release on DVD is not an issue for me. I would like to see the original unedited footage re-cut to showcase far more of the impromptu jamming at the studio and the ENTIRE uncut rooftop concert sequence, all in modern surround sound. Paul McCartney has the biggest say in what will happen to the film, for now we all have to make do with old copies of VHS versions of the original film.
Maroc 7 (1967)
Good locations and fashions of the 60s
Three things stand out in this film. The filming on location - including interior scenes, the Moroccan desert, and the wonderful 1960s fashions/hairstyles. An enjoyable film only marred by the weak storyline and implausible ending. I wish that more films would make use of real locations for interior scenes. Actually seeing the real world out of the hotel room window, hearing the echo in voices due to being in a small room, genuine ambient background sound - all these ingredients help to 'put you there'. If this film had been made in the mid 70s or later it would be completely forgettable. But being made in the swinging 60s gives it something... Worth a look.
A Boy, a Girl and a Bike (1949)
Interesting post-war British comedy/romance/drama
Quite a nice film about a long lost past which although sombre for those without much money, was socially rich and enjoyable. Pursuits were predominantly outdoors (no TV), and the Saturday night dances. Others have commented about Diana Dors in this film. I personally thought that the then 22 year old Honor Blackman was the belle of the film, with a passable local accent.
The film has a somewhat rushed ending, with some plot lines not being resolved, while others are brought to fruition. For me, another ten minutes to better resolve the ending would have helped. This is a shame - perhaps the producers ran out of money or a key cast member had other commitments elsewhere?