Pan Am Review – Episodes 9 and 10

So Pan Am returns on BBC2 for an hour and a half of agreeable escapism on Saturday evening. Last night’s double bill started with episode 9 where most of the main characters flew off to London.

The sister who is a spy, Kate, got her new mission. She has to take a fake list of spies and give it to the MI6 guy Anderson who will substitute it for a real list of spies. The lives of agents depend on the list getting exchanged. So I wonder why MI6 cant just make up their own list and need the CIA to send one over. Never mind.

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On the flight there is a different pilot than usual. He likes telling old war stories, but worse than that, he likes to check out the stewardesses in an inappropriate way. Laura, the sister who isn’t a spy, catches him looking down her blouse and spills coffee on him. He’s angry and says he will report her but the copilot Ted says something to change his mind.

Meanwhile the main pilot guy Dean took the French stewardess Colette for a flying lesson, which turned out to be an excuse to introduce her to his parents. Unfortunately his dad could only glower ‘Where’s Bridget? Is this Bridget?’ Colette runs off to the barn where the pilot guy ‘makes up’ with her in a way that doesn’t involve flying.

There’s another plot involving Maggie, who it turns out is the character played by Christina Ricci, where she gets together with a pro-nuclear bomb senator even though she hates his politics.

But back to the spy mission. Kate is supposed to distract the enemy agent who is a jeweller while the MI6 guy is swapping the lists at the jeweller’s office. But the jeweller goes back early and Kate follows. When she arrives she sees A Big Fight in progress. I was hoping for some Jason Bourne action, or maybe the fight in the stairwell in Casino Royale. Not quite, but I’ll accept any 1960s spy fight.

Anyway, a gun is produced and knocked to the floor. The MI6 guy is about to be stabbed by the jeweller so Kate lifts the gun and pulls the trigger. Screen goes dark. End of episode.

So on to episode 10.

As expected Kate shot and killed the jeweller. A week later she is told MI6 want her to take a polygraph test to see if she’s telling the truth about what happened that night.

The problem is she isn’t telling the truth as the MI6 guy Anderson says he shot the jeweller. He says he will be protected because he’s an MI6 agent whereas if they knew it was Kate that did the shooting they would let het take the fall. Seems a bit risky to me as she could then tell everyone she worked for the CIA, but never mind.

So Bridget s back. She wants Dean back. He says no. She makes up a story about being sick, where she got some unspecified terminal disease but ‘got better’. Dean says no. She says ok, I was a spy. Dean says no. She says tell me you don’t love me and they’re off to her hotel room.

Meanwhile down the corridor Colette is in her hotel room crumpling up two tickets for The Beatles (quite popular,I understand says the hotel reception guy) as she know Dean is off with Bridget. I thought maybe she was going to do The Acting, perhaps collapsing onto the floor thus displaying inconsolable grief. But the scene ended. Oh well.

There’s another plot where Ted wants to marry this girl and Laura’s starting to feel Conflicted as Ted has been nice to her, even buying her a proper camera for her to take photos with. Ha, Laura has changed her tune! I remember when they were in Berlin and he tried to hold her hand while listening to Kennedy’s speech.

Anyway, back to the spy story. Kate passes the polygraph as Anderson teaches her to beat it by answering another question in your head. It actually kind of makes sense but I doubt it would work in real life. Kate wants out of the spying but he seems to convince her that she’s a good agent.

I would say the episodes are instantly forgettable except I’ve remembered them well enough to write this the next day. I do think the show would be livened up with a few hijackings and mid air collisions. But its diverting enough entertainment for a Saturday night.

I note that the Radio Times listings suggest that there are only 14 episodes, so I assume there are only 4 more.

Robert Ludlum’s The Janson Command by Paul Garrison

Last night while browsing around Amazon UK I saw a listing for a new novel by Robert Ludlum.

Correction, I should say a new Robert Ludlum novel by someone else. Ludlum died in 2001 but since then there have been numerous novels by other authors under his name, most notably the continuation Bourne novels by Eric Lustbader.

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This new book is called The Janson Command and is a follow-up to the Ludlum novel The Janson Directive published around 2003. I was going to ignore this new book but I thought I’d see who the publishers had got to write the thing. The name on the cover was Paul Garrison.

Well, that changes everything.

Because Paul Garrison is a pen name used by Justin Scott, and Scott is one of my favourite authors, responsible for, among others, the shipkiller, normandie triangle and a pride of kings. A quick check of his website www.seastoriesbypaulgarrison.com confirmed he was the author so this moves the book very high up the list of what I want to read this year.

The uk publication date is given as 1 March, which through coincidence or design is the same day that The Thief by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott is published. That one is the newest entry in Cussler’s Isaac Bell series of adventures set in the early 1900s.

Here’s the blurb for The Janson Command

Reformed from his days of assassination and international conspiracy, Paul Janson has a new mission and a new partner. Working with kickass sharpshooter Jessica Kincaid, he helps other disenchanted covert operatives to be rehabilitated and create new lives. He also accepts independent jobs, but only missions he believes will contribute to the greater good. Janson takes the job to rescue a doctor who has been kidnapped by West African rebels during an ambush of an American oil service boat. At first, it appears that the doctor’s life was spared in order to treat the rebels’ wounded leader Ferdinand Poe, a beacon of hope against a cruel dictator. But when the mission goes haywire, Janson realizes he’s in the middle of something much bigger. The puppet dictator has anonymous backers with designs on the oil reserves of this struggling nation – and Janson may find he’s been fighting for the wrong side the whole time.

I note there is another book in the series called The Janson Dilemma due for publication in 2013.

Avengers Black Widow cover on Empire mag

Just spotted this news over on marvelousnews.com. Empire magazine is doing four different character covers for the new Avengers movie, namely Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and Black Widow. Oddly enough the Black Widow cover featuring Scarlett Johansson is the one that got my attention.

You can see the other covers by following that link above or go to the horse’s mouth at www.empireonline.com.

Now, I used to be regular reader of Empire and bought it just about every month since around 1990(!) however in the last year or so I pretty much stopped buying it regularly, although I would pick it up on special occasions.

Yes, I think this counts as a special occasion.

The new issue is out this week. Note the March cover date. That sounds about right as it’s still January.

Pan Am back on the BBC

Back before Christmas the BBC was showing Pan Am on Saturday evenings, two episodes at a time. Then they must have run out of episodes because it vanished from our TV screens.

To be honest it isn’t exactly a ground-breaking piece of drama, but to my surprise I discovered that I was much happier watching two episodes of a light and frothy 1960’s set show with unconvincing CGI jets on BBC2 than turning over to BBC4 to watch a Danish crime drama with people going to political meetings and discussing stuff.

Plus Pan Am features four pretty stewardesses in 1960’s Pan Am uniforms. On reflection its possible that might have had something to do with it.

In any case it’s a watchable little show and it’s back next Saturday on BBC2. The blurb I read says that Maggie get involved with a senator on her flight. Now, it’s been so long I’m not even sure which one Maggie is. But I’ll watch it and find out.

Who’s with me?!

Scarlett Johansson Black Widow poster from The Avengers

A friend just emailed to say they saw a bunch of Avengers movie posters featuring the individual character displayed in the cinema. So my first thought naturally is something along the lines of “is there a poster of Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow?”

After a quick bit of online research I have confirmed that such a poster does exist. And I like it.

The Black Widow has long been one of my favourite Marvel characters so I was pleased when she appeared in Iron Man 2. To be honest I wasn’t quite sure about the casting of Scarlett or the look of the character in that movie. As it turned out I think Scarlett did a good job with what she was given to do. Also I think she looks more like the comic character in The Avengers.

Anyway, here is the poster. It’s why we’re all here.

Yes, I could have mentioned the other posters and included them here, but I’m only interested in Scarlett. And who can blame me.

The Avengers opens in the UK on 27 April 2012.

PS All the individual character posters can be seen here: http://collider.com/avengers-haywire-movie-posters/133351/

Rise of the Planet of the Apes movie review

Last week I watched Rise of the Planet of the Apes on DVD. I wasn’t expecting much from it to be honest, but it looked vaguely interesting. I stuck it into the player expecting to watch maybe 30 minutes of it. In the end it was quite entertaining and I ended up watching the whole thing.

In a nutshell it’s a prequel story setting up how the apes got intelligent. Never mind that the third movie in the series established a terminator-style time loop where Roddy McDowell’s ape went back to the 1970s.

In the new movie we have James Franco (Harry from the Spider-man series) trying to develop medicine that will cure people from alzheimer’s disease. He has a personal reason for doing so as his father (played by John Lithgow) is deteriorating from the condition.

The medicine is being tested on apes to whom it gives a greater than normal intelligence. He has promising results from a female ape he calls “Bright Eyes” but the research gets halted. He takes her baby ape Caesar home and realises the intelligence has been passed on to him.

The apes all appear to have beon done by CGI and it’s pretty impressive. Much screen time is taken by Ceaser and his ape followers and the performances are good enough to forget you are watching an extended visual effect.

There’s lots of nice little nods to the original movies. I probably missed some but here are a few of the ones I caught.

  • At the start of the movie apes are hunted and captured in a jungle much like the humans are in the first movie.
  • Obviously naming the main ape Caesar.
  • His mother is nicknamed Bright Eyes – What Charlton Heston’s astronaut character was called by the apes in the first movie.
  • A female ape called Cornelia is mentioned.
  • Caesar makes a model of the Statue of Liberty.
  • In the ape house a nasty keeper shouts “It’s a madhouse!”
  • He also gets Hestons’s other famous line “Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!”
  • Caesar gets hosed with water in his cell.
  • We see Caesar ride a horse near the end of the movie.
  • Towards the end of the movie a space mission blasts off for Mars. Later contact is lost with the crew. Is an astronaut called Taylor on board?
  • We get to see chimps, an orangutan and a gorilla – the three “castes” of apes from the original movies.

I suspect the movie may have had it’s ending altered to not be quite as bleak as it could be. We discover that the aerosol medicine that makes the apes more intelligent causes the death of at least one human lab worker when he gets infected. Before he dies he managers to sneeze blood over another human, the implication being he infected him as well. I assumed the movie would end with humans either subcuming to the illness or survivors becoming less intelligent.

However it was an entertaining movie well made. I suspect I’ll watch it again before too long.

Update. It turns out there is a further scene during the closing credits that does give the movie a bleak ending. The infected neighbour (played by David Hewlett from Stargate Atlantis) is an airline pilot and brings his infection to the airport, thereby spreading it throughout the world. So that’s jolly.

Agent Pierce from Burn Notice aka Lauren Stamile

Over the last year or two I was introduced to the solid piece of TV entertainment that is Burn Notice. The show is set in Miami and features Michael Westen, a former CIA spy who was “burned” by the Agency. He spends each season getting closer to the truth about why he was burned, and also manages to help people.

The opening credits are endlessly quotable, and the show has given us such memorable lines like “Chuck Finlay is forever”.

Anyway, on to the reason for this post. The recently completed season 5 gave me an additional reason to watch the show, namely Michael’s new CIA handler Agent Pierce as played by Lauren Stamile. I kind of liked her in a vague way to start with but by the middle of the season I was watching out for her and hoping she would be in the episode.

Therefore Lauren is the first recipient of my occasional “I Like Her, She’s Pretty” award.

 

Apollo 18 movie review

Recently I watched the movie Apollo 18 on DVD and I thought I’d write up my thoughts about it.

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The movie is made in the style of The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield as a documentary that has been put together from some recovered footage. In this case the footage is from a secret Department of Defense Apollo mission to the moon in 1974.

Most of the footage is made up of video camera images from inside the lunar module and 16 mm camera footage that the astronauts take when outside on the lunar surface. There has obviously been a lot of effort from the filmmakers to get the footage to be as authentically 1970s looking as possible. Their efforts have paid off as it looks indistinguishable from the actual Apollo footage dropped in here and there.

The story itself is faily slight. The astronauts have been sent up to the moon supposedly to set up some Cold War monitoring equipment. While there they discover some footprints that lead them to a Soviet lunar lander and a dead cosmonaut. Strange things happen such as the American flag disappearing and the lunar rover being flipped over.

Basically it transpires tha some moon rocks are not rocks at all but nasty little creatures that manage to infect one of the astronauts. Will the other astronaut make it home?

Visually the recreation of the moon and the hardware is impressive. The moon looks suitably grey and it’s nice to see the Russian lander look much like the the actual one that was developed in the 1960s and revealed years after the space race was over.

Allow me a little nitpicking though. We hear sounds such as the one that accompanies the charging of the astronaut’s strobe light. (Although perhaps we’ll ignore that as he may have had it wired into his suit.) Also the astronaut runs from danger at one point. In all the Apollo footage I’ve seen the astronauts had to “bunny hop” to get around. And without giving too much away the 16mm footage appeared to be destroyed at the end of the movie. So how did the documentary makers get their hands on it?

In summary a technically interesting little movie that’s worth a look but I doubt I’d want to watch it often.

The Innocents by Gerald Seymour

For the last year or two I’ve been posting the occasional piece of book related news to my blog, Books What I Like. Now I have this WordPress thing up and running perhaps it makes sense to post things here.

So here’s my first piece of book news. Gerald Seymour’s next novel has been listed for publication on Amazon UK. It’s titled The Innocents, although the blurb seems to imply it might be called The Graveyard Team.

Based on the blurb the book appears to focus on the fight against organised crime.

The book is due for publication on 5 July 2012 by Hodder and will in fact be the fourth Seymour novel to be published by Hodder since 2009.

All Seymour’s novels are high quality and mark my reading highlight of the year, but 2011’s A Deniable Death was outstanding even by his standards and will be a tough one to follow.

You can read the blurb on Gerald Seymour – The Art of Danger.

March update. Now the title seems to be Outsiders. Time will tell.