More Black Widow poster goodness

Six new character posters for The Avengers have appeared featuring an interesting design gimmick. Each poster focuses on one Avenger with a second team member appearing in the background. The result is that two of them are Scarlett Johansson flavoured.

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Nuff said.

Upstairs Downstairs series 2 episode 3

I found two thirds of this episode watchable and one third less enjoyable.

Surprisingly the bit i didn’t enjoy involved alex kingston and Emelia Fox snogging each other. Frankly it all got a bit boring and you could see how it was going to turn out from a mile off. “Emelia is going to stay with her husband and keep you as a bit on the side, which wont be enough for you,” I screamed at the TV after five minutes of it. Well, not screamed, more like thought disinterestedly.

Oddly the bit I enjoyed most was the storyline given to the nursery maid Beryl. Somehow (I’m unsure of the details) she and the other maid Eunice ended up getting more duties for no more pay. And to cap it all off they are forced to spend their single afternoon off attending some ladies’ fitness activities.

Incidentally the ladies’ fitness class was slightly disturbing to see. All the ladies were wearing identical semi-fascist uniforms with bare legs. With the addition of 1930s hairdos it was a less attractive sight than that description makes out.

All this work and exercise given Eunice a sore arm (or leg or something) so the concerned Beryl goes in confidence to some society or other that helps girls in service. The lady she talks to turns up at Eaton place and speaks her mind about the working conditions and lack of a bed for each girl. Its 1939, not 1899 apparently. Then she drags Eunice off to the dentist. It all seems reasonable enough but Art Malek shouts at Beryl about disloyalty, probably because he has nothing else to do in this episode.

So I enjoyed that story for its mundanity. It could easily fit in the old 1970s series.

The other storyline I enjoyed involved bad girl Persie. She discovers she’s ‘expecting’ and wants Hallam to arrange an abortion. No, it’s illegal, he explains. Then Persie attempts being thrown from a horse but it doesn’t work. Eventually she orders the chauffeur to take her to an illegal abortionist and then to a hotel. She’s clearly unwell so he gets Hallam. Hallam turns up and spends the night watching after her.

To cheer her up he tells her a story of how he got a prize of a box of Huntley & Palmer Afternoon Tea Biscuits at school for being helpful,. Well, he had to share it with another boy. The other boy, let’s call him fatty, got all the biscuits and Hallam kept the tin to put his stuff in. The story had a sad ending as Kelly Hawes eventually chucked it out.

After Persie recovers she gives Hallam an identical tin as a thank you. Aw, must be love.

So in summary, BBC: more stuff about working conditions, Persie being bad and period biscuit tins. Less fitness classes and Alex Kingston snogging. I thank you.

Any excuse to show a photo of Lara Pulver

I’ve liked Lara ever since seeing her as Isabella in the BBC’s Robin Hood back in 2009, almost three years before her revealing appearance in Sherlock in 2012. Just see my numerous posts on my old blog for proof: burstsofenthusiasm.blogspot.com

Does that make me a long time admirer? Probably.

So I don’t really need an excuse to include a photo of Ms Pulver here.

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I found this one at pictures.metro.co.uk captioned “All New People Press Night”. At first I thought it was an event to show off some “New People”, perhaps replicants or clones or something. Disappointingly it seems its just a play.

Rather less disappointingly Lara looks lovely and her cheekbones are as wonderful as always.

Hannibal TV show

I just spotted this news from a couple of weeks ago. It appears that NBC is going to make a TV series based on the Hannibal Lecter novels by Thomas Harris.

My first reaction was a bit of mental eye rolling. But then I discovered that the show will apparently feature the Will Graham character from the first Lecter novel Red Dragon.

This gets me interested because in my opinion the Red Dragon novel is the best of the bunch. Also it was the basis for the best Hannibal Lecter movie.

Or rather I should say the best Hannibal Lecktor movie because I’m talking about Michael Mann’s 1986 film Manhunter with William Peterson as Will Graham and Brian Cox as Hannibal, rather than the Red Dragon remake from 2002 with William Norton and Anthony Hopkins.

One thing I like about Manhunter was that it was more faithful to the book when showing us Lecter’s cell. I remember the book describing the white walls and Lector’s white uniform. Of course the ‘other’ movies gave us a fairly unbelievable badly-lit dungeon with stone walls that I never bought as a suitable place to incarcerate a serial killer.

Also I just love Brian Cox’s droll interpretation of the character. His Lecter comes across as slightly bored but you feel him getting under Graham’s skin.

But I digress. Time will tell if this series will be any good. Which for me will be if it’s anything like Manhunter.

The Avengers + UK = Avengers Assemble

And all of a sudden it’s just a couple of months until Marvel’s The Avengers hits the big screens.

Sorry, I should say Avengers Assemble, as apparently that’s what the movie poster will say in the UK. I assume this is to avoid confusion with TV shows that feature bowler-hatted gentlemen with umbrellas and cat-suited ladies fighting.

Actually this movie will have a cat-suited lady fighting so I guess they might be on to something there. In any case I think I like the title, although I’ll probably still refer to it as The Avengers.

On to the poster itself…

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Honestly I’m left a little underwhelmed. It just feels like Michael Bay was the art director and left a memo on his desk saying ‘We need LOTS of STUFF BLOWING UP!! And make sure Robert Downey Jr is at least TWICE AS BIG as everyone else.’ I’m reminded of the story about James Cameron’s reaction to the Aliens poster. He apparently said he could do better and came up with a black poster with the word ALIENS on it. The thing is it worked! Brilliant.

At least Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is just about visible and is in a normal pose. There was some hilarity online last week when a poster appeared in which she managed to show off her button and top bits at the same time.

Apparently there’s a new trailer tomorrow…

Upstairs Downstairs series 2 episode 2

Do you remember that scene near the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind? The mother-ship has finally set down and done the thing with the music and lights. It all goes quiet. Then the door opens and a bright light floods out. And inside the light you can just make out silhouettes.

You can? Good. Hold that thought.

Sir Hallam is holding a dinner party for ambassador Kennedy and his family, including his son ‘Jack’. At the dinner party Kennedy senior offers Sir Hallam a job in the States and the rumour soon spreads downstairs that the family may be leaving Eaton place. When Prichard appropriates the cook lady’s biscuits to serve to the guests it’s the last straw and she quits and heads off to stay unannounced with her nephew’s family.

But Sir Hallam has other things to worry about, namely Percie deciding that life in the Third Reich isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. He has to try to get her out of the country.

The family also collectively get upset at the plight of the Jews in Germany and start work to get some Jewish children out of the country and to safety in England. Cue shots of Alex Kingston pushing pins into a map of England to the strains of Jerusalem.

Really. Bloody hell.

The culmination of their efforts is a train that arrives at a London station late one evening. Expectant foster parents peer anxiously at the carriages. The platform is flooded with steam as the doors open. Though the brightly backlit steam we can see silhouettes appear.

Bloody hell, it’s Close Encounters. It looked a lot like this…

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I even expected the dum, dum, dum, de dum theme to play.

If I have a criticism of this episode is that there’s not enough stuff going on in the house, which is the whole point of the show.

Next week (according to the trailer) the nursemaid gets into some unspecified bother and Alex Kingston snogs Emelia Fox.

Bloody hell.

Pan Am episode 14

So what is likely to be the final episode of Pan Am limps onto our tv screens and it’s an underwhelming experience.

Rather than pick up the action on the day that JFK is shot we have moved forward to New Years Eve 1963. Each of our characters is given their own little sub-plot.

Dean is grounded and forced to attend a board of enquiry about the events in Haiti where a passenger died and was left on he runway so the place could take off. Dean gets off though.

Maggie has some plot with that other pilot that Dean punched, you know the smuggling one. It has something to do with smuggling jewellery but to be honest I wasn’t really paying attention. In the end Maggie is seen lying on a bed throwing money in the air in a very 1960s fashion before grabbing the other pilot guy.

Colette is being wooed by the Italian prince but his family need to investigate her background. They turn up the fact that Colette is actually Jewish and her parents were not in the resistance but were taken to the death camps. However there is a photo of her family that includes a baby brother. ‘I will find him’ she vows and Dean says he’ll come along too. How those crumpled Beatles concert tickets are forgotten.

Ted decides not to marry the lady who likes ladies and declares his love for Laura, who finally has admitted that she Likes Ted. They snog. Happy ending, right? Then the fiancé shows up at his place with the bombshell that is a pregnancy announcement. Ted of course wants to do the Right Thing so it looks like the wedding is back on.

I bet she was lying though.

I’ve left Kate’s story for last as it was the potentially most interesting. Her CIA contact guy turns up at her apartment, wounded. We have a standard spy story involving microfilm and someone on the inside betraying him. You know, ‘I can’t trust anyone in the agency, you’re the only one I could turn to’. Really the story can write itself. He tells Kate that whoever asks her if she has seen him will be the traitor. So Kate walks out of her apartment and there’s the MI6 agent Anderson asking her about him.

Now, this makes no kind of sense whatsoever. If Anderson was working for the other side why bother fighting that jeweller guy in London for example? (Well, actually I can think of lots of convoluted stuff, such as Anderson betraying the Russians as well as the CIA and then the jeweller guy finds out. After all we never saw how the fight started…)

In the end Anderson gets captured in a railway station and the CIA guy tells Kate she should train to be a proper spy in the new year.

So that’s kind of it. While not yet officially cancelled most observers believe that the show will be unlikely to return. It’s a pity because while the show was far from perfect it had potential. I think in time the writers would have realised that it had to be ‘about’ something and would have served up something more substantial.

With spies.

Upstairs Downstairs series 2 episode 1

So upstairs downstairs returns for six full episodes from under the looming shadow that is the hot-air-filled balloon of Downton Abbey. Right away I note with satisfaction that there are no dogs being walked in the grounds of a sunlit stately home garden so we are ahead on points.

There have been some changes at 165 Eaton Place. Lady Maud is deceased (the actress and co-creator not wanting to return) and Ross Buck is absent with tuburcolocious (the actress and co-creator having had a stroke). Oscar Wilde would probably say to loose one co-creator is unfortunate, to loose both is careless.

In their place is Alex “River Song” Kingston playing Sir Hallam Holland’s half sister who has inserted herself into the household. Also present is Sir Hallam’s Downs Syndrome sister Pamela who it appears is going to be a regular character. Kudos to the show creators.

The backdrop to the episode concerns the belief that war with Germany is imminent. Barrage balloons blot out the sky over the park. Civilians are told to collect their gas masks. A reassuring information film informs us that the filter in the gas masks contains blue asbestos. That’s comforting.

Lady Agnes takes her newborn baby home and is concerted that there is no gas mask for the infant. So head butler Prichard goes off and returns with a prototype gas-proof pram, complete with a window for the infant to see out of and be reassured.

The young servant boy Johnny is unsure how effective the pram will be and decides to test it. He puts Lady Maud’s monkey inside and leaves the pram in the garage with the car motor running.

As expected the monkey does not survive the experiment.

Yes, it sounds a bit extreme, but I have to say there was something horribly credible about the whole scenario. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to read that things like that actually happened.

If that’s not bad enough the new nurse maid reveals later in the episode that her mother has died with gas poisoning. But it might not have been suicide she suggests unconvincingly, as her head wasn’t the whole way in the oven. She might have fallen.

But back to the monkey. The young guy wot did it figures he’s for a police cell. But then somewhat unexpectedly Prichard steps forward to claim responsibility.

While in the police station his own past comes to light. He was a contentious objector in the Great War. The police office is not impressed. I left half my toes in France he splutters with indignation at one point. (The image of Wet Matthew from Downton Abbey being paralysed and then ‘getting better’ is happily banished from my mind.)

Art Malek’s character is similarly unimpressed to discover Prichard didn’t fight in he war, to the degree that he takes his bosses gun out to the garden and Shoots Stuff. He looks like a beardy James Bond and I’m reminded that he was in The Living Daylights.

But even Prichard surprises. Early in the episode he is seen in his Air Raid Warden outfit apparently relishing the chance to shout stuff through a megaphone. But later in the episode we discover he wasn’t exactly a coward. He had served with the Red Cross to avoid military service that would be inconsistent with his Quaker beliefs, but when friends were jailed for being contentious objectors he declared himself the same out of solidarity.

Meanwhile Sir Hallam is at the Munich talks. He implores Prime Minister Chamberlain to not water down the agreement to suit Hitler. Chamberlain listens carefully and ignores the advice. He lifts a pen and carefully draws a line through another clause while the German contingent look on impassively.

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A despondent Sir Hallam returns to his swastika-bedecked hotel and spots a familiar face in the bar. It’s Agnes’ sister Percie, the centre of male attention. As he walks her back to her house he implores her to come home. But she says she like it in Berlin and then gives him a proper full on snog. He doesn’t protest though. Looks like he’s being caught by her bad girl spell also.

The British contingent return to England where there is a recreation of the ‘peace in out time’ speech, Chamberlain clutching his little bit of worthless paper, Sir Hallam standing behind by the door of the airplane, looking glum.

Back at Eaton place the family and servants listen to the speech on the radio. Everyone is relieved that war has been averted. Only Agnes looks similarly glum as she rips down the blackout curtains and spots a barrage balloon on the horizon.

There’s more gravitas in 5 minutes of ‘Stairs’ than in a whole series of ‘Abbey’

If I have a niggle with the show it may be the inclusion of historic figures. Chamberlain and Lord Halifax I think they can get away with, and thankfully Hitler didn’t make a cameo at the talks, but next week promises a guest appearance by Jack Kennedy if the trailer is to believed.

The Black Widow Strikes – Avengers prequel

Black Widow Strikes
Sure looks like Scarlett...

A press release has revealed that Marvel Comics are releaseing a three-part miniseries based on the movie version of the Black Widow character from The Avengers movie. A look at the promotional art confirms that they certainly are going for Scarlett Johansson’s likeness.

The comic will be set between the events of Iron Man 2 where she made her first appearance and The Avengers, with the Black Widow “running down some loose ends … namely some bootleg Stark technology that Justin Hammer made. It’s her and Agent Coulson going into Russia, but you’ll also probably see Nick Fury and the other heroes as necessary.”

Whatever. It’s a Black Widow comic. I’ll buy it.

You can read the press release on marvel.com.

Pan Am episode 13

Do you remember when you’d been watching a show for years, right from episode 1 probably, and one day you’re get a glimpse of an episode from the first season? You would think ‘Wow, they look so young! Were their voices actually that squeaky? Were the stories actually that, well, naff?’

Welcome to episode 13 of Pan Am. Because its not episode 13, it’s actually an episode from earlier in the series that somehow had the decency to get skipped. Perhaps it fell down the back of the sofa. In any event it has been found and was shown out of sequence. So now Laura runs away from a photographer before they do The Business because she’s a virgin, even though she lost her virginity to the sailor ages ago. She lets the photographer take the nudie photos even though they were on display in an art gallery last week. And Kate is still seeing Goran From ER even though he’s been back in Croatia for weeks.

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That’s about half of the plot described right there. The rest of the story focused on Dean and Colette who at this stage are still just ‘friends’. Dean has been having a fling with Ginny, the girlfriend of a Pan Am executive who is himself married. Ginny follows Dean to Rome and when he rejects her she does what any girl would do and smash her head through a glass window.

Meanwhile Colette has to chaperone an annoying boy who falls for her so badly he breaks into her hotel room and watches her sleeping, not unlike Chandler’s creepy roommate from that episode of Friends.

The only nod to an espionage plot is when Kate is in Rome and is knocked to the ground by a Bad Man. ‘Stay away from Goran from ER,’ he snarls. Probably. Kate is shaken and in what is actually a nice little scene phones her CIA handler from a pay phone. She’s looking for reassurance that her identity as an agent hasn’t been blown. She fumbles her coins as the phone runs out of money and almost has a breakdown right there in the phone booth.

So with just one episode left JFK is hovering between life and death and Laura is about to meet Andy Warhol. Tune in next week for the conclusion.

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