Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Sky satellite movie channels

A while back Sky Television revamped their film channels and I had a little moan at the time; things have become even worse since. Although there are now a minimum of eleven channels (laughingly dubbed Comedy, Action, Classic, etc.) showing movies 24/7 (plus a +1 channel and various HD channels), they manage to show the same films over and over and over again. The so-called Premiere Channel features five "new" films a week, but whereas even when there were fewer channels the monthly average of films new to satellite was higher in the past, there are now only very occasionally first showing films on the other ten. This week is fairly typical of the sorry fare on offer:

There is always at least one film of the five that I have viewed previously and this week's is "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" (2008) which I saw on a flight and which I have touched on before. Since in-flight movies leave much to be desired, I did watch it again and found it vaguely amusing as Jason Segel goes to Hawaii to get over being dumped by Kristen Bell, only to find her there vacationing with new beau Russell Brand. Some child is rumoured to have asked of Brand recently, "What is he for?", which is a good question; I can only say that he is marginally more watchable than other "national treasures" like Ricky Gervais and Stephen Fry.

Then there were two late-night "horrors" in both senses of the word, the American "Pathology" and the British "Doomsday", both from 2008 and neither, as far as I know, blessed with a theatrical release. The former followed the nasty exploits of a bunch of medical interns, including Heroes' Milo Ventimiglia, as they played a sick game of seeing which of them could best get away with murdering the patients in their care without being discovered. Makes you wonder! The other was rather more imaginative but absolutely stupid, as action heroine Rhona Mitra and her fellow-soldiers are dropped into Scotland (which has previously been quarantined from the rest of the country) to find a cure for some grotty plague which has now broken out in London. The survivors she finds -- a remarkably high number given the plague's history -- seem to be divided into two groups. The first centred in Glasgow consists of all-the-same-age heavy-metal punks; the second in the Highlands, led by renegade scientist Malcolm McDowell, has recreated a medieval microcosm with knights in armour and trial by combat. The film doesn't address minor issues like how petrol manages to be available some twenty-odd years after civilisation has effectively shut down or where all the consumer gear comes from; the filmmakers don't seem terribly bothered by the nonsense and illogicalities on display and expect the viewer to have a good time.

There is usually one film a week aimed at children and this week's is "The Spiderwick Chronicles" (2008) which I again saw much of on a flight. Likeable British child actor Freddie Highmore dons a suitable American twang to play twins, one adventurous and one studious, who move to a creepy old house with their older sister and recently-separated mom, Mary-Louise Parker. There the more forward twin discovers a journal written by a great-great-uncle (David Strahairn) some 80 years earlier categorising all of the unseen denizens with whom we share our world: fairies, goblins, elves, and ogres to name a few. He disappeared all those years ago leaving his young daughter to grow up into the aged Joan Plowright (now consigned to the local loony bin). When the big bad local ogre gets wind of the book's emergence, the family is under attack by a variety of beasties until young Freddie manages to save the day. It's all imaginatively put together with the now visible demons not overly scary for younger viewers, although as they say, parental guidance is probably advised. This one would make a good double bill with "The Water Horse" which I touched on last week.

That leaves something called "How She Move" (2007) to complete the week's tasty treats (not). As far as I can establish this is yet another 'black' dance movie and while I shall probably watch it on principle, I expect very little. Such are the trials of being such a completist!

The other satellite film channels other than the new French channel, also show little to tempt me. TCM in Britain seems to re-show the same fifty or so films -- I get very frustrated when I read details of their more imaginative U.S. programming including a large number of silents -- and Film Four since it moved to Freeview (with frequent ad breaks) seems to have cut back on films which have not previously been shown elsewhere. However, I notice that next week includes some new offerings from Iran, Paraguay, and Chad, so we shall try to retain our optimism and enthusiasm. Meanwhile I shall continue to scour the various schedules in pursuit of the elusive.

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