It's been a bit of a whirlwind weekend, catching a late night flight back from Shannon airport in Ireland to Ol' Blighty on Friday which got me home quickly and efficiently not long after midnight, and with a return flight that means a taxi is picking me up at 4.00am tomorrow (Monday) morning :-O.
Aside from packing and some rather tedious research and preparation for next week at work, it's been very much a 'chill out in front of the big(gish) screen' couple of days.
Saturday's highlight was a draw between the DVD of Notes on a Scandal and the transmission of the latest Doctor Who episode, written by Stephen Moffat. Moffat has proved he is light years ahead of most of the usual Dr Who writers with the episodes he's written so far. Saturday's episode, coming right after Paul Cornell's excellent two-parter, didn't disappoint and shows what can be done with the format when you have someone who doesn't assume to know what four year-olds want to see (and target his scripts accordingly). Alas it looks like we're back to Billy Bunter's usual infantile awfulness with the remaining episodes, at least if next week's trailer is anything to go by. Fortunately I'll be in Ireland next Saturday and won't feel obliged to watch it.
Notes on a Scandal has been described by some as 'a masterclass in acting' and I find it hard to disagree. I've never really been a big Judy Dench fan (she always plays the same person), but have to admit she surprised me with her performance here. I'd go so far as to say that she was robbed of the 'Best Actress' oscar even if the eventual winner of that award did deliver a strong performance in the extremely over-rated The Queen. Even putting aside Dench's career-best performance on show here, there is the added treat of Cate Blanchette who never disappoints. Add in an excellent supporting performance from Bill Nighy and all the kids involved, and you have a wonderfully under-rated film that's a 'must see' on DVD. Highly recommended!
On Sunday I had brunch with Brian and David before going to a cheap matinee performance of Half Nelson at The Clapham Picture House. The film stars Ryan Gosling as a drug-taking school-teacher who has his life put back on course by one of his 13 year-old students who herself is struggling with difficult family problems. Gosling was nominated for 'Best Actor' at this year's oscars for his performance here, and it's not hard to see why, although the cast are uniformly excellent. However I was disappointed with the film, which was over-long, self-indulgent and far too clearly 'indie' for too much of its running time. I can cope with a low budget when the cast are this good, but there was precious little 'story', and the shaky camera-work and extremely slow pacing became very irritating after a while. Critics generally have raved about this film, with even the poorest reviews giving it four stars out of five, so maybe my expectations were set way too high. Gosling is the latest 'new Marlon Brando' Hollywood pin-up boy with a lot of the media (a little premature surely?!), so it will be interesting to see what other films he stars in over the coming months, but admittedly he gives a blisteringly good performance in this film.
I will only have internet at work over the next couple of weeks, so I'm not sure when there'll be a new blog post here, but I'm back in the UK in a fortnight's time and hope to have some pictures of Limerick and more reports to post then, if not before. For 'down time' I'm taking the complete Season 2 of Rescue Me with me to watch on my laptop. This is an excellent, gritty HBO TV series about a group of fire-men in New York post 9/11, which I think only Sky are showing in the UK. It's the sort of ongoing drama series (The Sopranos, Huff, Lost, 24, Nip/Tuck, Battlestar Gallactica and Heroes being just some of the others) that put British drama offerings to shame, at least if the first season was anything to go by. Season 3 of Rescue Me has just been released on high-definition Blu-Ray disc (and, surprisingly, it's region free), and it's interesting to see TV shows leading the way on the high definition formats (The Sopranos and Smallville have already made their debut on HD-DVD, with Heroes about to debut on HD-DVD and Nip/Tuck doing the same on Blu-Ray) so I have some serious catching up to do.