Friday, 19 April 2013

bahrain grand prix

Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend.

I'm not expecting it to be a particularly good one, as it's not a circuit that generally produces much overtaking.  Saying that I have a weird memory that it did produce a good race last year (one of these Arab races did, but I forget which).

I've grown increasingly behind with my recorded TV.  I would usually listen to the practice, qualifying and race when they're not showing it live, but that eats up quite a lot of time.  As such I made not do that this weekend in order to spend some of that time catching up (or working out if I can delete a few things - I found a few duplicates the other day).

Most of the stuff recorded are dramas.  I've gotten into a bit of a habit of recording all the episodes for dramas and then marathoning them.  The stuff I tend to watch live (or as close to live as I tend to get) are one off things and documentaries.

Part of my logic for that is that dramas you need to follow the plot so if I watch the first few and then can't watch the last few until weeks/months later, it spoils the fun a bit.  For the things I do watch they're obviously self-contained as a program and while there may be multiple episodes it doesn't matter if I watch the next one weeks later.

I've actually got some leave coming up and I'll use some of that time to plough through some of these dramas.  I'm only really going away for a couple of the days (the wedding for the guy whose stag I went to and down to my Dad's - more on that next week) so I should have a chunk of time available, though I wanted to watch some of the Blu Rays I've been building up.  Unlike with DVDs I don't have a mechanism for copying Blu-Rays so I can't really e-bay them until I've watched them so they're starting to take up a huge amount of room that I don't have.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

sherlock holmes: game of shadows

This wasn't a rental but a film I got for Christmas (which shows how long I take to watch things and then write a review!).

I've actually recently been listening to the Sherlock Holmes stories on audio book while I do my walking.  Only a handful of them are novel length, which I haven't been listening to, and the vast majority are short stories.  As such you can kinda see why they tend to stick them together or come up with original stories when they make films.

In the case of these Downey Junior films in some way they're more of the "inspired by" the originals than adaptations.  The Moffat BBC series is similar in this sense - the stories are inspired by Holmes and just take bits of the original plots and weave them together.  One of the big differences is that the BBC series is set in the modern day where the Downey Jr ones are set in the correct time period - turn of the century England.  This gives them both a distinct feel, but also makes you think the Downey Jr ones are somehow "closer" even though really they're more divergent.

However, one thing that has struck me about the originals is how inconsistent they are with each other.  In the stories themselves the chronology of events is confused (cases are referred to in the wrong order of occurrence on multiple occasions - to the degree that it's really noticeable), but also the character of Homes is all over the place.

One thing I particularly noticed is that early on he's referred to as going round solving mysteries that relate to royal houses in Europe - something that would surely bring him a degree of fame - but in later he is shunning fame, going so far as to get Lastrade to pretend he'd solved cases, and later still he's so famous in the fictional world that everyone knows who he is.

A particularly frustrating thing for anyone creating an adaptation must be the inconsistency and short-lived nature of key characters.  So Moriarty, the apparent arch-criminal and rival is basically only referred to in one story (Reichenbach Falls) in an active sense and then referenced as the ultimate bad guy in subsequent stories - yet he never appeared before that.  Irene Adler, who is inflated to a love interest in a lot of stories, is in just one story.  There are also the Baker Street Irregulars who pop up in a vague handful of stories but are inconsistently used and then basically forgotten about and then in later stories he acquires a page, an assistant and all sorts, even though many of these stories are apparently set during others where they're not mentioned.

I appear to have gotten very side-tracked.  The point I was trying to make is that when you really read the stories you can kinda see where they're getting a lot of the stuff from in these films.  In particular, the plot of this second film is grown out of short story that appears quite late on and dabbles with political intrigue.  It blends this with Moriarty to form what is a quite satisfying story.

On that front, and in others, this film is actually much better than the first.  By using Moriarty and tying it to a meaty plot it feels firmer and is more enjoyable than the first.  There's also quite a bit more humour than in the first, some of which is surprisingly surreal, and the action is just that bit more satisfying.

One thing the first did well was that the action was often quite grounded and physical - people beating each other up, rather than flying through the air on wires - and this continues, but it's also tied with a more clever take in some scenes.  There's also a part in a forest I won't spoil that is probably one of the best action sequences I've ever seen.

The only thing I was disappointed by was the treatment of the aforementioned Addler - the way that part ends is very unsatisfying.  Again, I won't spoiler, but I thought it undermined the first film quite badly, though when you think about it, it wasn't definitive, so it could be developed further, but if it's taken as face value (and little hints otherwise) then I found it quite disappointing.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

the ides of march

The 15th of March.

Technically that's what the title means.  The romans used to count dates in a bit of a weird way and the ides was (basically) the middle of the month.

However, what the title is really referring to is the assassination of Julius Caesar, which happened on the ides of March.  I have to confess the title is a little esoteric in relation to the plot - nobody actually gets assassinated, as such, though there is a bit of metaphorical assassination, and perhaps a bit of "death of faith".

Ides is a political film.  It's surprising how few big political films there are.  I guess a big part of the reason for that is that if you come down on one political side you're essentially alienating half (or more) of your audience.  I don't mean films with politics in them, btw, I mean serious films about politics - set in the world of politics and exploring it.

It's like The West Wing is one of only a handful of political TV shows.  Comedies are more common, I think, particularly as satire is generally focused on politics.

Ides of March is quite complex, but there's not a lot I can say that won't give the good stuff away.  It's not too complex that you won't understand it, though.

I've kinda already mentioned the crucial bits - the meat of the plot is about ideology hitting reality and faith in a person hitting the reality of people.  What is quite clever, though, is the way that actually two plots are inter-linked and intertwined in such a way that they are together, but can also be compared and contrasted.

The differences between them are intriguing, but the similarities more so.  In particular the way in which the main character treats the plotline that affects him directly and that affects him more incidentally is very revealing.  When you think about it the film then boils down to hypocrisy, both willing and forced.

And when you start to look at it in that way it's clever how the film sets up all sorts of mirrors at different levels to make the same point.  I mean, it's not really judgemental about it, it's just presenting a reality.

I mean many people will say they hate politicians; that the way they flip-flop and compromise is terrible, yet that is the heart of politics - you compromise on things to achieve consensus.  It is the essence of us as social animals.

I've gotten quite deep there, and a clever thing about the film is that you can enjoy it without having to delve too deeply into that side, although in some ways that is also its flaw.  Because you can enjoy it in this way it could seem relatively flippant - the depth needs a bit of teasing at to really be apparent.

Also, it's not really saying anything you probably didn't already know, unless you were relatively new to this sort of thing.

Monday, 15 April 2013


The Chinese grand prix was quite a good one.

I have to say I think the DRS actually doesn't help in China.  The problem with it is it makes overtaking too easy and on the straight, rather than proper battling overtakes into the corner.  This is particularly the case on the long straight that then goes into the big horseshoe corner.

This has always been a place where overtaking has been possible, but with the DRS it means they overtake on the straight before the corner, rather than going into it.  Now I don't think it means there's more overtaking than there would otherwise be, but it does mean the overtakes aren't quite as interesting.

There was also plenty that happened in the race.  When it turned out one of the tyres behaved more like a qualifying tyre than a race tyre I was a bit worried it would be fairly predictable - if the tyres are closer or there's more of an advantage revealed during the race then it can throw strategy into disarray, which makes things more interesting.

However, as it happened it didn't seem to be a problem.  Indeed, the end was made quite exciting because Vettel changed onto the soft tyre and was hunting Hamilton and Kimi down at the end.

The BBC coverage was also quite extensive.  It's weird - they seem to have ramped up the coverage on the races they do in full, despite supposedly scaling it back previously to save money.  The practices were even shown live on BBC 2 where usually they would be on the red button, so they had to ramp up what they did.  Usually when it's just red button they just commentate on the broadcast - no extra bits.

I'm increasingly convinced that a big part of their decision was the Olympics - both in terms of airtime available and the expense of having to give them full coverage sucking cash away from other sports.

Anyway, it's a double header next weekend with Bahrain.  Bahrain is usually a pretty dull race, and it's one the BBC is just doing highlights of.