Doctor Who series 7 trailer

Just found this and I thought it was worth posting.

Normally the new series starts at Easter time but this year it appears that we have to wait until the Autumn for the first few episodes, wave goodbye to the Ponds and then get a new companion on Christmas Day.

Upstairs Downstairs 6 and not watching Titanic

I had a bit of a dilemma on Sunday night. Which is overstating things a little. But anyway. Here it is: Do I watch the last episode of Upstairs Downstairs or the first episode of ITV’s Titanic. Well I’ve been interested in the sinking of the Titanic for many years so it was a no-brainier.

After two minutes of Titanic I decided it was the wrong decision and quickly changed over to BBC1. There was Hallam’s angst-ridden face filling the screen. Excellent.

While the ITV Titanic was approaching the iceberg (or not) Eaton Place was preoccupied with the small matter of the approaching war. Prichard was still AWOL. Johnny and Spargo had army medicals to go to. Wedding plans continued for the Beryl/Spargo union.

Meanwhile here comes the laundry. Agnes decided to pitch in and read the note from the laundry people. It goes something like ‘sorry we can’t get the lipstick off’. Next thing you know there’s a Persie-Agnes fight. Then it turns out that Persie has been spying or something. She is friendless and alone.

There was a nice little moment with the staff walking out of the house on to the street to watch the blackout start.

Don Draper made a guest appearance. Not really, but that American was driving along to see Agnes and he was wearing sunglasses and I thought, ‘hey, it’s Don Draper’.

Spargo got the marriage licence sorted and ran back to the house. Beryl was getting her wedding dress fitted. ‘Get us the pruning shears, Spargo, they’re in the living room, where Persie is sitting alone’.

‘Ok’ says Spargo. So now I know someones getting shot.

In the living room there’s Persie with a gun. ‘Give us the gun’, pleads Spargo. In walks Beryl.

Bang!

Beryl is shot! (But it’s just a flesh wound. And she gets better.)

In the middle of the Beryl-being-shot situation Persie calmly walks out to the balcony and topples over to her doom. They all get over it quickly.

But here comes the war.

The Chamberlain speech on the radio announcing the war didn’t sound right. I think they got some actor bloke and recorded a new one. What’s next for series three? Recording new versions of Churchill’s speeches by Hugh Grant?

But overall it was an entertaining episode and I look forward to series three if it happens, and hopefully Jean Marsh will be feeling better by then. Nice to see her, albeit briefly, in this episode.

I should note that every now and then I would turn over to ITV to see it the Titanic was sinking. However my brief glimpses only showed me adverts, rich people dancing, more adverts, and more rich people. No sign of the ship actually sinking. Epic fail ITV.

The Thing remake/prequel DVD review

I’m a fan of John Carpenter’s The Thing, itself a remake of a 1950s movie, which in turn was an adaptation of a short novel by John W Campbell. I also enjoy stories set in the Antarctic so I had two reasons to anticipate seeing the new movie that came out last year. I was however defeated by my local cinema which neglected to show the movie. Now the DVD is out in the UK and I bought it on the day of release.

The story is essentially a prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter movie and is set in the Norwegian research station that Kurt Russell and the others visit early in the movie. Right at the start of the movie text on the screen pleasingly informs us that it is 1982. Then we get to see the Norwegians (in a shock move played by actual Norwegian actors!) discover the creature in the ice and what follows as it infects the personnel.

Rather than have the whole movie subtitled with everyone speaking Norwegian the makers have wisely added a few characters from other nationalities, the principal being Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s scientist Kate Lloyd, who is taken down to Antarctica to investigate the “specimen” that they have found.

The movie works well as both a prequel and as a remake. It makes sense that the characters at this earlier camp experience broadly the same sequence of events that will happen later to Kurt Russell and the others at the US camp. However its prequel credentials are intact. There has been a lot of care and attention to recreate the Norwegian camp before (and after) the fighting and fires start.

One of my favourite scenes in the 1982 movie is the “paranoia” scene where they survivors have to work out who is infected and who isn’t. There is a nice version of that scene in this one. The lab has been destroyed so Winstead’s character has to come up with a low-tech alternative test and her idea is ingenious in its simplicity.

Of course it’s inevitable that the creature will be portrayed by CGI. I was surprised to see on the DVD extras that they had actually created practical animatronic creatures for use on the set because by the time the CGI has been added it all looks a little too clean and polished to me.

One nice addition to the movie is a climactic scene in the alien spaceship buried under the ice. It doesn’t add a lot to the story but it’s nice that they made the effort to give the audience something that wasn’t in the 1982 movie.

I’m trying to decide if I fancy Mary Elizabeth Winstead. She’s not exactly my type but I have a feeling that if I was stuck in an abandoned Antarctic research station for the winter and I only had her for company then I wouldn’t be complaining too much.

She gets to do some Ripley stuff as well, taking over the flame-thrower when needed and not afraid to use it. She’s also smarter than everyone else on the base combined, even if only for asking “are you really sure that’s a good idea” when the main scientist guy is about to take a sample of the creature in the ice.

I did have one little niggle towards the end of the movie. I kept thinking “the other movie starts with a dog being chased by a helicopter and I don’t see it happening here.” Fear not, as the closing credits start we get the dog, the helicopter and the John Carpenter music. Brilliant.

In summary, not as good as the Carpenter version but a welcome companion piece to it and I predict they will make a fun double-bill.

Carte Blanche paperback cover

The paperback cover art for the latest James Bond novel, Carte Blanche by Jeffrey Deaver, was revealed this month.

I say art, but in this age of photoshopped images the word is debatable. Anyway here’s the cover…

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As soon as I saw that I thought it was surely influenced by the desert scenes in Quantum of Solace.

The paperback comes out on 24 May 2012 in the UK.

Weekly dose of Scarlett Johansson lovelyness

Regular visitors to my blog will know I have been posting images of Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow from the upcoming The Avengers movie. Today is no different, except that Scarlett looks particularly lovely in this newly released photo.

If you heard a noise just then it was the sound of my head hitting the table.

Upstairs Downstairs episode 5 (and 4)

I couldn’t summon the energy to write anything about last week’s episode at the time. There was a boxing match and Spargo won the love of Beryl. Also Lady Agnes was getting close to the American guy from a few episodes back and Sir Hallam decided Persie was looking quite appealing.

In last night’s episode it was the turn of mister Prichard to find love with Sarah Lancashire, only she dumped him when she discovered he didn’t fight in the great war and get himself killed in the process.

Agnes took herself and the kids off to the country to avoid German bombs, leaving Hallam to continually enter a room and awkwardly realise Persie was lounging on a settee.

Spargo asked Beryl to marry him and made plans to go to America. Hallam was upset as it seems it’s every Englishman’s duty to stay and get killed in the upcoming war. Sounds like he would get on well with Sarah Lanchishire.

Persie was jealous to hear of the impending Spargo-Beryl nuptials and gave Beryl some night-wear, specifically a garment she had worn herself. So when Beryl goes into Spargo’s room that night wearing said garment he understandably yelps ‘Persie!’ Beryl is not amused to discover hey had ‘done it’. ‘But it was in series one’ he explains.

Next week it appears someone gets shot. I’m reminded of the old saying that goes something like if you show a gun on the mantelpiece in act one you have to use it by act three. Episode one introduced us to the fact that Hallan gave his gun to Art Malek to shoot Germans. Place your bets.

Robert L Duncan Checklist

Recently I’ve got back into an author I discovered about 20 years ago.

Back at the end of 1991 I remember finding a newly published paperback called The Serpent’s Mark by an author called Robert L Duncan. The subject matter appealed to me. This was a book about a detective hunting for a serial killer, and remember 1991 was very much the era of The Silence of the Lambs. In any case I bought the books on the strength of the cover, the blurb and the fact that the author used the word ‘ostensibly’ on the first page.

I enjoyed the book but as I was reading it I had a hunch the author had written a previous book with his detective Stein character. Sure enough he’d written a book in the 1980s called In the Blood with Stein hunting a killer called W. W. Burr.

From then on I always kept an eye out for his books when browsing through second-hand books shops and gradually built up a collection of his out of print books. Some I read such as Firestorm, Brimstone and The Queen’s Messenger. Others I never got around to reading.

Now 20 years on I’ve finally read The February Plan and have re-read In the Blood, a novel that would put most of today’s thriller writers to shame with the compulsive way the minds of the killer and the detective hunting him are described.

Here’s the list of the novels that I’m aware of, although I believe there may be some other, earlier books.

1964 – The Q Document (as James Hall Roberts)
1966 – The Burning Sky (as James Hall Roberts)
1967 – The February Plan (as James Hall Roberts)
1970 – The Day the Sun Fell
1975 – Dragons at the Gate
1977 – Temple Dogs
1978 – Firestorm
1980 – Brimstone
1982 – The Queen’s Messenger (as W R Duncan)
1985 – In the Blood
1985 – In the Enemy Camp
1988 – China Dawn
1990 – The Serpent’s Mark

Books for March 2012

Quite a few books that I am interested in have been appearing lately.

The main one I’m looking forward to is The American Spy by Olen Steinhauer, the third in his Milo Weaver “Tourist” series. I’m waiting on my copy from Amazon.

I’ve just bought The Bloody Meadow by William Ryan. This is a mystery set in 1930s Russia where the detective character has to not only hunt for a murder but survive Stalin’s purges. It’s a follow up to The Holy Thief that I read last year and enjoyed.

(Incidentally there seems to be a bit of a sub-genre with mysteries set in Stalinist Russia. There’s a series by Tom Rob Smith, but to be honest I found the books to be a bit overrated. There’s another series by Sam Eastland that I liked, although Stalin does come across a bit like a mildly eccentric uncle.)

Also just out is the paperback of A Dance With Dragons, the fifth volume of George R R Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. Or I should say paperbacks as the publisher has split the thing in two as it is so long. Clever, it means they can charge £8.99 each. However I paid £7 for both in ASDA. Of course I still have to read the first four. I’m presently approaching the mid-point of the first volume A Game of Thrones.

I’ve also picked up a non-fiction book called Scram! about helicopter pilots in the 1982 Falklands War.

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