Tag Archives: Benedict Cumberbatch

Villainous lines series

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All-time favorite quote

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Quick ‘n’ Dirty: January at the pictures

In a vain attempt to keep up with all the films I watch I came up with this new series of posts. The idea is to bundle up speedy reviews of the movies I saw at the cinema and at home for which I have neither the time nor the inclination to write a full critique. The posts will be distinguished in two types: “at the pictures” and “at home”. So, without further ado, here’s January selection of films:

 

The Lobster: intrigued by a quirky trailer and some good reviews, I went in with high expectations for a captivating indie movie with a great cast. I came out sorely disappointed and confused. The film starts with an engaging premise of a near future society with a little twist in its social mores but, then, it loses momentum making the plot more complicated and without a clear direction or thesis. Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz gives solid performances but it’s not enough. Missed opportunity —4/10

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Black Mass:  it aspires to be a new Goodfellas but doesn’t have the guts to go all the way. Irish mob in the seventies fights the competition with the help of complacent FBI agents: it sounds good on paper but it doesn’t fully deliver. Johnny Depp’s chameleonic transformation into James “Whitey” Bulger, who ascends from petty criminal in South Boston to FBI’s most wanted status, is convincing but lacks bite. Notwithstanding the efforts of a great cast, Joel Edgerton and Benedict Cumberbatch in particular, the film has an uneven pace and not enough tension to win me over. I wonder what Scorsese would have done… oh wait, he made The Departed! No guts, no glory —6/10

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 2: typing this long title makes me already weary! First off: splitting the last part of a trilogy in two just to milk every possible dime from the audience is not cool, especially when there’s no real need for it. The story picks up exactly where it left off but a year of waiting it’s way worse than commercial breaks to get back into the rhythm and care for the characters. So Katniss and her ragtag gang of heros need to kill President Snow to finally end the civil war in Panem and it seems that they go at it all the wrong ways; I haven’t seen so many useless deaths since George Clooney’s in Gravity. Anyway, the good guys wins but there’s a price to pay…duh! It felt flat and unengaging and the multiple endings do not help.  Watch on TV —5/10

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The Big Short: Adam McKay takes on the not easy task to explain the root causes of 2008 financial crisis using as a starting point the eponymous book wrote by Michael Lewis. He takes a few liberties with the source material but he succeeds in getting through the most important facts and information with clever and funny breaking-the-forth-wall speeches and using Ryan Gosling’s character as guide for the audience. With a stellar ensemble cast at his disposal, McKay skillfully tells the story of a few individuals who saw the end of the real estate bubble coming and all the problems connected with financial derivative products. Despite the complicated and, some might say, dull subject the film is well-paced and funny with convincing performances. Special kudos to Christian Bale! Relevant and entertaining —7.5/10

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August: Osage County

Director:  John Wells, Main Cast: Meryl StreepJulia RobertsChris CooperMargo MartindaleEwan McGregorSam ShepardJulianne NicholsonJuliette LewisBenedict Cumberbatch;

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Tracy Letts adapted his Pulitzer winning play for the screen and it is a very interesting study of characters and family dynamics. With John Wells at the helm, an old and honest hand at the craft, we get, alternatively, dark, stuffy interiors and burning summer light on the plains of Oklahoma, nice juxtaposition that underlines the inner turmoils and difficult relationships of the Weston family. The family members reunites under rather gloomy circumstances: the disappearance and then death of the patriarch, Beverly (Shepard). It appears clear to his eldest daughter Barbara (Roberts) that he committed suicide, having made arrangements such as hiring a help for his cancer-suffering, pill-popping wife, Violet (Streep), two days before vanishing. The audience slowly learns about the past of each character and how they became what they are, in particular we get an deep insight into Violet: the harsh childhood and difficulties of her early life, and her sister Mattie (Martindale), turned them both into strong-willed, unforgiving women and relentless mothers and wives. It is a rather dismal portrait of what people can do to the psychological health of their children. Barbara is the eldest and clearly the favorite but, being an opinionated, strong woman herself, keeps locking horns with her mother, unfortunately, in turns, she is alienating her soon-to-be ex-husband Bill (McGregor) and teenager daughter (Abigail Breslin). Ivy (Nicholson) is the mild-mannered, submissive daughter, who does everything to help her mother (she is the only one who lives nearby) and avoid confrontations (which seems a self-defense technique). Karen (Lewis) is the free-spirit but insecure one, always undervalued and dismissed by Violet, who either runs away from her problems or desperately tries to fix them finding the “right” man. Among this gallery of “terrible” women the men seems both helpless (and hapless) and the only ones who can achieve some redeeming qualities. While longtime alcoholic and poet Beverly finds that the only way through is to walk out of this raw deal, his brother-in-law Charlie (Cooper) attempts to be level-headed, patient and kind, proving to be the most balanced person of the whole family. Little Charlie (Cumberbatch) is the most pitiful of the lot: disliked and verbally abused by his mother Mattie, with zero self-worth and self-esteem, still shows a gentle nature and a kind soul. As always, family reunion will bring up old stories and things that rub the wrong way, including long-kept secrets. It is very far from the Brady bunch and not a edifying picture of familiar relations but, nonetheless, an amazing study of human nature with all its ordinary flaws. The cast as an ensemble is spectacular and makes the film, the lion share is, of course, taken in equal parts by Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, both stretching their acting chops very effectively. Special kudos to Cooper and Cumberbatch for their portrayal of decent men. Intriguing —7.5/10

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Favorite quote of the moment

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Favorite quote of the moment

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12 Years A Slave

Director:  Steve McQueen, Main Cast: Chiwetel EjioforMichael FassbenderLupita Nyong’oBenedict CumberbatchBrad PittPaul Giamatti;

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Steve McQueen likes to deal with complex material. After Shame, he decided to “lighten up” by telling the story of Solomon Northup, a free-born african-american from Saratoga NY, who was kidnapped in 1841 and sold as a slave. As you can guess from the title, after years of tribulation and pain, he manages to get back to his family. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon is intense and carries the film on his shoulder, aided by a very strong supporting cast: Paul Giamatti as slave dealer, Paul Dano as creepy, vengeful carpenter (is it my impression or does he seem to play more and more creepy characters lately?), Benedict Cumberbatch as the sympathetic and kind master, Michael Fassbander as the harsh and unforgiving master and Lupita Nyong’o as prized slave. Good acting notwithstanding, the pace of the film is uneven, it tells the beginning of the story as a flashback but the director can’t wait to get to the cotton fields and the lashing. There are also the long scenes to drive home the brutality and the hopelessness of Solomon’s situation, which are quite effective but still feel a bit disjointed from the narrative. On top of all this we have the villain, master Ebbs (Fassbender) who is cruel, unrelenting, possessive and utterly controlling… basically there is not a speck of decent human qualities in him, and this is what really makes me lose interest in the story: it’s too black and white (pun intended!), too linear and uncomplicated, it seems such an easy solution to paint all the slavers black, even the supposedly “good” master (well… except the carpenter who helps Solomon but he doesn’t count being Canadian).  I understand, the film is based on Solomon’s view so we do see the world through his eyes but it left me a little detached and I’m sure that’s not what McQueen was going for, especially considering how emotionally taxing and absorbing was Shame. I was expecting much more —7/10

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Sherlock (season 3)

Main Cast: Benedict CumberbatchMartin FreemanAmanda AbbingtonUna StubbsRupert GravesLouise BrealeyMark Gatiss;

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The world most renown sleuth in my favorite modern incarnation (sorry Jonny Lee Miller but you come second) is back, played wonderfully by Benedict Cumberbatch! After his “death” in the Reichenbach Fall everybody wanted to know how he did it and throughout the first episode we get several versions of the deed, especially from Anderson and his club of believers (in Sherlock, of course!), some with hilarious implications. Naturally John Watson (a glorious Martin Freeman) is rather upset with Sherlock for keeping him in the dark for two years but there’s nothing like mortal danger to reconcile old friends. The dynamic between them is sparkling and entertaining as ever but we also see more character development and a more “human” Sherlock. All the usual suspects are back (Mrs. Hudson, Lestrade, Molly, Mycroft) but we get two great additions: John’s fiance, Mary (Amanda Abbington), who is far more intriguing than meets the eye, and a cunning new villain. There are some lulls in the tight paced tales that might seem to drag down the overall good quality but the viewer is compensated with quite a few memorable moments. Steven Moffat (another evil genius of the small screen) and his partner in crime Mark Gatiss did it again, bravo! Three episodes aren’t enough so to while away the hiatus…let’s play murder! —8.5/10

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Director: Peter Jackson, Main Cast: Ian McKellenMartin FreemanRichard ArmitageOrlando BloomEvangeline LillyLee PaceBenedict Cumberbatch

We pick up the story of our brave 13 dwarves plus a hobbit and a wizard exactly where we left a year ago. This time around they meet Beor the skinchanger, evil giant spiders while walking through the Mirkwood, get captured by the elves, arrive by very unusual means at Esgaroth on the Long Lake and finally get to Erebor. Most of the times Bilbo is the one who saves the day while Gandalf has gone south on his own mission against the dark power that is growing in Dol Gurdul a.k.a the Necromancer. In this second installment Peter Jackson takes far more liberties from the original story and there is an excess of orcs and elves for my liking, yeah they look cool when they fight but after a while it gets irksome. I find even more irritating the whole part about Gandalf, it feels kind of deja vu (Isengard, Saruman etc., right?) and too much an add on that has no support from Tolkien, even if we consider the appendix in the Lord of the Rings (White Council and such). Anyway we finally see the dragon and that’s something! The cast does a great job, the costumes, settings and special effects are gorgeous but I’d cut 20-30 minutes of the film and the 3D is completely useless, no point to it. I’d expected better, hopefully next year we get a grand finale. —6/10

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