Break out the tea towels! Filming on Series 4 of Downton Abbey has wrapped, and though those of us Stateside won't be able to catch up with the Crawleys until January, photos from the production have been released to whet our appetites for the many heated arguments about the propriety of white-tie attire versus black-tie attire to come. Specifically, we're getting our first glimpse of the three new men in the life of Michelle Dockery's Lady Mary, following the death of her husband Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) at the end of Series 3. “We do see quite a bit of the Mary she was before she met Matthew, that icy iron-maiden quality," producer Gareth Neame tells TV Guide. "It's going to take an awful lot to get her back to life." Let’s get to know the three gents in her orbit better.
Jack Ross (Gary Carr)
The dashing young jazz singer from Chicago, pictured above, meets Lady Mary in the third episode, after Branson, Rose, and Aunt Rosamund force her finally to leave Downton after her extended period of mourning. They take her to a swinging club in London called the Lotus, where Ross helps her come out of her shell. "The spine of the new season is how Mary moves from total bereavement into turning to life again," Neame says. "Ross is very positive, ambitious and charming. And we get to see him perform."
Lord Gillingham (Tom Cullen)
Around the same time, Lady Mary reacquaints herself with old family friend Lord Gillingham at one of Downton’s lavish parties. He helps her out with the tangled mess of inheritance taxes surrounding Matthew’s assets. "Mary is not looking for anyone to replace Matthew, but she is, of course, a beautiful, eligible young widow, so inevitably there is going to be quite a lot of male interest," Neame says. "Gillingham is a very useful friend to Mary at a time when she's not able to make decisions."
Charles Blake (Julian Ovenden)
Remember Evelyn Napier? He was the Crawley family friend who introduced them to Turkish ambassador Kemal Pamuk — who died in Lady Mary’s bed — way back in Season 1. Well, he’s coming back. And hopefully the friend he’s bringing with him this time has a healthier ticker. Evelyn’s pal is named Charles Blake, and he’s full of ideas about how to run Downton more efficiently…just like Matthew was before his untimely end. But unlike Matthew Mary despises him. However, if you think about it, she wasn’t really keen on her eventual husband at the start of Season 1, either. "There's a bit of a difference," Neame says. "Mary objected to the law making Matthew the heir to Downton. Blake is someone she just doesn't like. He's modern-thinking but does not share the family's sentimentality about the past."
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More: ‘Downton Abbey’ Season 4: 10 Spoilers About What’s Next for the Crawleys Why Are All the ‘Downton Abbey’ Maids Redheads? Stephen Colbert Mashes Up ‘Downton Abbey’ and ‘Breaking Bad’
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David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.