Sunday, 28 August 2011

Doctor Who 'Lets Kill Hitler'

I managed not to write anything about the first seven spidodes of the current series but I'll hopefully be able to make an effort for the rest of the episodes.

But what an episode to begin with! Let's put it this way, this is not an episode to use as an introduction to the show.

The last episode shown was 'A Good Man Goes to War' where there was a cliffhanger of sorts. Amy's baby had been taken by The Silence to be used as a weapon and we discovered that Melody Pond = River Song so Alex Kingston was actually Amy and Rory's kid.

The new episode kicks off with the introduction of Amy's old childhood friend Mel who we have never met before. In an enterataining sequence we see her being a bit of a trouble-maker at school with young Amelia and Rory. She turns up with a gun and hijacks the Doctor and the Tardis, and forces the Doctor to take her to 1938 Berlin to kill Hitler.

This is where things get a little bit complicated.

Because also in 1938 we meet the miniaturised crew of a human-shaped space ship tha travel through time to punish war criminals. They are here for Hitler but get sidetracked when the Tardis delivers a better catch.

Mel gets shot and STARTS TO REGENERATE! Next thing we know Alex Kington is back.

Mel is Melody is River. 'You named your daughter after your daughter,' the Doctor tells Amy.

This River does not yet call herself River so we've gone right back to her first meeting with the Doctor. Probably.

And now things get complicated. Again. Because Mel/River tries to kill the doctor and ends up poisoning him with her lipstick. But that actually makes sense if we remember that The Silence took her and programmed her to do that.

In the end Mel/River uses up her regenerations to heal the Doctor, although we are reminded that he will get killed in Utah by the Astronaut in the lake.

So overall it was an entertaining episode that answers a few questions about the River Song saga, but obviously raises a few more. I expect it will be worth rewatching when the series is finished in a few weeks time.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Camelot, the once and future series

Last night Channel 4 showed the final episode of Camelot Series 1. Which is also the last episode of Camelot ever, seeing as the second series was canceled.

Given that there is not much on TV during the summer I thought I'd give this a go. At first I was a bit "meh" about it but as the weeks went by I found myself enjoying the show a little more and then one day I realised that I was actually looking forward to the next episode.

The first episode opened with king Uther Pendragon getting poisoned by his shape-shifting daughter Morgan, played wonderfully by Eva Green, who thinks getting her hands on the crown is a done deal.

But Morgan didn't figure on Merlin (played by Joe Fiennes) coming up with a secret Pendragon offspring called Arthur. In the best Star Wars/Harry Potter tradition the infant Arthur had been spirited away to be brought up in secret and in safety by Sean Pertwee.

Merlin installs Arthur in the ruined castle of Camelot while Morgan glowers and plots from Castle Pendragon.

As this production comes from the people that gave us The Tudors you can be sure of the requisite amount of naughty bits, especially when Arthur and Guinevere head down to the beach for some quality time in the sand.

And this is a neat twist on the King Arthur legend which has Arthur being betrayed when his wife Guinevere hooks up with Lancelot. In this version it's Arthur doing the betraying as Guinevere is to wed Leonties who by all accounts is your trademarked Decent Chap.

I found the last few episodes particularly gripping. At one point Morgan captures Arthur's mother Igraine and shape-shifts to look like her so she can go plant some discord in Camelot. Claire Forlani did a great job playing Morgan pretending to be Igraine, even getting a little Eva Green inflection in her voice.

She lets slip to Leonties that Guinevere and Arthur were doing the naughty stuff and that manages to cause a lot of tension among Arthur and his knights as they go off to defend Bardon Pass from some bad men that Morgan sent to attack the fort.

And what of Arthur himself? Jamie Campbell Bower has been the recipient of a lot of criticism, mainly to the effect that he's "just not right for the part". But I think that's the whole point. We're seeing Arthur start from being a young guy who has grown up without much of a care in the world. He's told he has to be king and has to grow up fast.

There was a noticable transformation in Arthur in the last couple of episodes when he sent his men away from Bardon Pass while he stayed behind to single-handedly defend the fort out of guilt. I think if we had seen seasons two, three and four we would have seen more of a transformation.

But overall I'll miss Eva Green's Morgan the most, constantly scheming how to get the people to love her more than Arthur, willing to sacrifice anything and anyone to get her way.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Game of Thrones episode 1

I finally got around to watching the first episode of Game of Thrones recently. This is the HBO epic fantasy drama that was made in Northern Ireland last year. It's a bit odd to think it was made where I live and not Vancouver or Prague. (I've read that some of season two was shot at Downhill Strand a week or two ago. That's just up the road from me.)

Anyway I enjoyed the first episode very much. There's not a lot of fantasy elements as such. To me it feels a litte more like Dune in the sense that you have different families, or houses as they are called, vying for power and influence. Sean Bean plays Lord Eddard Stark who guards the colder lands to the North on behalf of the king. The northern border is marked by the Wall, a vast man-made ice barrier that was built to keep something out.

There is a lot of back story to this tale. Some years previously the reigning Targaryen king was deposed and his family slaughtered. Across the sea Viserys Targaryen plots to be returned to the throne and marries his sister Daenerys off to the warlord Khal Drogo to gain an army. I felt very sorry for poor Daenerys as played by Emilia Clarke. I'm particularly interested in seeing how her story plays out.

The episode has a shocking ending but I won't give it away. Lets just say that some of the Lannister family are quite nasty people.

There are a few "naughty bits" in the episode, but it didn't feel like HBO were including them for the sake of it. It always felt important to the character and plot development.

I bought the tie-in edition of the novel a while back and finally got reading some of it. In fact I had pretty much read the material that was covered by the first episode. So what I'm going to try to do is read the book just ahead of each episode. I think I've covered the material of the second episode so I'll treat myself to watching it very soon!

Worth mentioning is the opening credits sequence. The music is memorable and the animation of the castles and landscape is pretty unique.  Here's a youtube video but it doesn't really do it justice. You need to see it on a widescreen TV with the volume up.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Lara Pulver in Sherlock

I'm happy to read that, as well as appearing in the upcoming series of Spooks, Lara Pulver will be appearing in the new series of the BBC's modern take on Sherlock Holmes.

She will be playing Irene Adler, a character that originally appeared in Conan Doyle's story A Scandal in Bohemia. If I recall correctly she has the distinction of managing to best Holmes. The first line of the story reads,

To Sherlock Holmes she is always THE woman.

I look forward to seeing how she is used in the new version.


Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Captain America

I finally went to see the new Captain America movie last night. initially I was a bit “meh” about a movie based on this character but as time went on I wanted to see this movie more and more, I think partly to do with the world war two setting.

Some spoilers may follow but I’ll try to keep them to a minimum

I have a general knowledge of the character but nowhere near as much on say spider-man or the x-men. But I knew enough to hope that the movie might end with Cap being frozen in ice with a view to him being thawed out in time for next year’s Avenger’s movie. So I was surprised and quite happy to see the opening scene set in the present with a team in the Arctic finding the wreckage of a mysterious aircraft frozen in the ice.

Then we go back to the 1940s and encounter Hugo Weaving as Johann Schmidt, a Nazi looking for a cosmic cube left behind by the gods. He is head of an organisation called Hydra and harnessing the energy of the cube through science will give him ultimate power to remake the world in his own image. When he finds the cube in Norway there is a nice little nod towards Raiders of the Lost Ark when Schmidt says “and the Fuhrer is too busy digging for trinkets in the desert”.

Then over to 1940s New York where we meet a very weedy Steve Rogers is trying to enlist, somewhat unsuccessfully given his long list of ailments. There’s a nice glimpse of the Marvel version of the period with the Expo display of future technologies and Howard Stark's flying car. I’m very intrigued how they did Chris Evans as a wimp. I’ll need to look it up. It’s extremely well done though.

Eventually Steve gets picked for the super soldier programme and gets turned into a taller and less weedy version. It’s now that we meet Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter who works for the research organisation behind the super soldier program. It’s nice to see her with an English accent because it give the SSR an allied component rather than being purely American.

While he wants to serve his country on the battlefield it is felt that Steve would be of more use in the propaganda war. Cure a very entertaining sequence with Cap on tour to raise money for war bonds in a cheesy costume. It’s mounted as a full musical number in the middle of a World War Two superhero move. Wonderful!

While on tour to troops in Europe Steve finds out his old friend Bucky has been captured by Hydra and with a little help from Peggy and Howard Stark he goes alone behind enemy lines to rescue them. I’m not sure why Schmidt is so quick to blow up his own base when the prisoners escape but I’ll overlook it. It’s now that Schmidt is revealed to be the Red Skull, Captain America’s nemesis.

Some of the prisoners cap frees become his team, a combination of the Howling Commandos and The Invaders from the comics. I know because I looked it up.

The action moves to an embattled London where our heroes plan to take out the Red Skull’s other bases. Here I have a couple of niggles. For example a newspaper headline reads “London burns”. I think the people of London would have noticed. Later a voice is heard on a loudspeaker telling citizens to stay indoors until the all clear. Surely they would have known about the all clear after however many years of war. But those are nitpicking niggles.

Without giving too much away the Red Skull and Captain America are fated to meet again on a large flying wing aircraft. (Another Raiders reference I wonder?)

I was a little disappointed by the music by Alan Silvestri. There was no identifiable “Captain America” theme and it was all fairly forgettable.

Overall I enjoyed the movie very much. I think it stands as one of the best Marvel movies so far.

If you sit through the end credits you will be rewarded with a tiny glimpse of a movie coming out next summer. Plus you get to hear the musical number again.