Tag Archives: Benedict Cumberbatch

Eggsbenedict Londontumbler reads Dante Alighieri.

Here’s Benedict Cumberbatch reading excerpts from Dante’s “Divine Comedy.”  (I’m sorry; I cannot resist making fun of this man’s name.)  I don’t know how Cumberbatch’s quotes were compiled for this … Maybe they were taken from a documentary about the “Divine Comedy” that he narrated?

By far the most interesting is the quote from Canto 3 of “The Inferno.”  It’s compelling in light of what’s transpiring in America, and it reminds me of my favorite quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer — “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless.  Not to speak is to speak.  Not to act is to act.”

Canto 3 in its entirety is below:

“Master, what is it that I hear? Who are
those people so defeated by their pain?”
And he to me: “This miserable way
is taken by the sorry souls of those
who lived without disgrace and without praise.
They now commingle with the coward angels,
the company of those who were not rebels
nor faithful to their God, but stood apart.
The heavens, that their beauty not be lessened,
have cast them out, nor will deep Hell receive them –
even the wicked cannot glory in them.”
And I: “What is it, master, that oppresses
these souls, compelling them to wail so loud?”
He answered: “I shall tell you in few words.
Those who are here can place no hope in death,
and their blind life is so abject that they
are envious of every other fate.
The world will let no fame of theirs endure;
both justice and compassion must disdain them;
let us not talk of them, but look and pass.”

 

A spoiler-free review of “Sherlock” Season 4

I actually can understand why some “Sherlock” fans were less than thrilled with its fourth (and apparently last?) season.  (I’ve read that the final episode received the lowest ratings in the show’s history.)  Even if Season 4 wasn’t quite as strong as past seasons, however, I’d still give it a 9 out f 10.

The narrative style and the content of this three-episode arc changed drastically.  The detail and methodical pace of past seasons gave way to a faster, looser narrative that made the show feel more … mainstream, in a way.  These episodes felt more like the standard adventure tales that you’d expect from any television thriller, and far less a genuine homage to the literary source material.  At times it was a little sloppy, with bombs, disguises, false memories and other over-the-top plot devices that were sometimes pretty implausible.  The final episode even seemed directly inspired by a series of horror films not known for being critically acclaimed.

The writing and directing wasn’t as clean, either.  This was easily the most surreal of the show’s four seasons — especially if you count the standalone “special,” “The Abominable Bride,” which preceded the official initial episode.  There were some overly stylized flashbacks, spliced scenes, and other departures from a linear narrative.  (I can’t be more specific without spoilers.)

The tone of the humor changed, too.  Some of the droll, dialogue-driven British humor was replaced by the zanier, crowd-pleasing stuff that you would expect from a more mainstream television comedy.  (One lamentable scene involving the outcome of a car chase, for example, was entirely too silly.)

At the same time, this was the darkest season yet.  The goofier humor was juxtaposed with story elements that were hard-hitting, sad and occasionally frightening.  When one character delivers the line, “Maintain eye-contact,” it was chilling enough to stay with me hours after the show aired.  There was some scary stuff this season, on a couple of different levels — the second episode, in particular, superbly delivers creeping psychological horror, then tops if off with a chilling story resolution.

And here is where Season 4 shined.  At one point, I asked myself, “When did ‘Sherlock’ become a horror show?”  But it was shortly thereafter that I realized that I absolutely didn’t mind.

The season’s success boils down to three things.  The first is the darker story content, which I thought was a bold and surprising choice for what is probably the show’s last season.

The second is the quality of the writing.  I realize that sounds strange, given my above criticisms above, but it is still a superbly scripted show.

And, third, the performances from its principal actors were still uniformly excellent.  (And when they combine via some great dialogue, “Sherlock” still hits it out of the park.)  Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Amanda Abbington were all at their peak — particularly since their characters have evolved now to what is probably their culmination.  This last  season was easily the most personal and character-focused, and sees these protagonists finally complete their individual arcs.  Sherlock is finally sufficiently humanized, Mary’s development finally reaches full fruition, and Watson has finally grown into his own man.  If I had quibbles about Holmes and Watson’s portrayals in past seasons, it was that Holmes was too much of a jerk , while Watson was merely a weak, even neutered foil for him.  Holmes was never such a heel in the stories I loved a boy — neither was he in the film adaptations.  And I found the far stronger Watson in “The Abominable Bride” to be truer to the stories as well — not to mention reminiscent of my favorite Holmes films, like 1976’s “The Seven Percent Solution” or 1979’s “Murder By Decree.”

The villains were damn good too.  “Sherlock” has always excelled at bringing believable, well scripted and creatively conceived bad guys, and this season was no exception.

All in all, this was still terrific television, despite its relative flaws.  I heartily recommend it to Holmes fans.

 

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A tiny review of “Dr. Strange” (2016)

So Dr. Strange was pretty good — I’d give it a B+ for being a competent superhero origin movie that mostly handles its fantasy story devices quite well.  The script smartly translates the story’s magical elements for the average viewer by having them articulated in language that sounds rational, and the rules seem consistent throughout.

It still strays occasionally into cartoonishness.  (The astral projection sequences seem silly enough for 1995’s “Caspar the Friendly Ghost.”)

The  film has three terrific leads in Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton and Mads Mikkelsen.  (The first two are allowed to shine; the third seems underused.)

The special effects are dazzling — I remember thinking inwardly throughout the film that an alternate title could be “Better Inception,” at least as far as its visuals are concerned.

All in all, it’s a by-the-numbers superhero origin story that’s still fun — and the special effects alone make it worth seeing.

 

 

A spoiler-free review of the “Sherlock” Christmas special (2016).

What can I say about the “Sherlock” Christmas special, “The Abominable Bride?”  Extremely little, for fear of spoilers.

I will say that I loved it — I’d rate it a perfect 10, as I would just about any episode of this amazing TV show.  Also, as good as the trailer was … I can say that it offers much more in its story than you’d expect.

I’d also say that it strongly, strongly parallels a movie that I happen to love — right down to its surprise plot device, key character interactions, and a symbolic act by the main protagonist in the climactic scene.  The similarities are just too much for this to be a coincidence — it’s just got to be a well done (and a damn fun) homage.  It’s unexpected, too, as the film I’m thinking off probably appeals to a different fan base.  “The Abominable Bride” also cheerfully skewers another excellent recent film and the twist employed there.  [My blog posts link automatically to Facebook.  If you see this via my page, then PLEASE do not name the movies you think I’m talking about.]

There’s some terrific acting, especially between Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) and our main villain.  And the dialogue is as sly and superbly delivered as always.  I don’t think I’ve ever watched a new episode of “Sherlock” and not laughed out loud at least once.  The stronger, more assertive John Watson (Martin Freeman) that we see is damn terrific.  (There’s a compelling and sensible reason why this iteration of Watson seems a little different than our usual mild anti-hero, but I just can’t say why.)

My quibbles were wholly forgivable.  I thought that the Victorian versions of Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) and Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss) were just so cartoonish that they seemed right out of a “Saturday Night Live” sketch.  It “took me out of the movie,” and hampered my willing suspension of disbelief.  It felt more like farce and silly sight-gags, instead of the dry, dialogue- and character-driven humor that the show is known for.

I also though that the climactic scene occurring among three primary characters, felt a little … off.  Was it just not staged right?  Was the pacing off?  Maybe I got the sense that I was looking at a soundstage?  I’m not sure.

Finally, I am an inveterate horror movie fan, and I might have liked to have seen the director and screenwriters play up the horror story elements just a little bit more here.  The mystery for this episode was a jewel of an opportunity — a garish, fearsome “ghost bride” that assassinates men.  It could have been just a little scarier, given that story.  I know that “Sherlock” is not a horror show, but its creators did just fine in making their adaptation of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” both a bit frightening and a proper mystery.

But, again, those are just forgivable quibbles.  This show remains the best thing on television!

[Update: there’s a direct reference to “The Five Orange Pips,” but we see little parallel with the story shown.]

 

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The “Sherlock” holiday special trailer is here!!

It’s brief, but it makes the program look damn good!!

Will this period story be an alternate interpretation of the character by Benedict Cumberbatch?  The little dialogue we hear from the detective sounds a bit more poetic and introspective than the snide analyst we’ve seen in the show’s modern incarnation.

“We all have a past, Watson.  Ghosts — they’re the shadows that define our every sunny day.”

Could this be a take on the character that’s closer to other film versions?

First footage released for the “Sherlock” Christmas special.

It’s indeed set in Victorian London — I guess this means, of course, that it will have no continuity with the regular program.  (It seems like a show like this wouldn’t resort to something as campy as a dream sequence.)

The clip here is only a minute and a half, but it’s great fun seeing Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the classic Sherlock Holmes setting.  The props, costuming and the set look terrific.  I guess they needn’t have altered the building facades on “Baker Street” if they are period buildings?

It’s funny too.  When talking about Watson’s accounts, Sherlock says that he is “hardly in … the dog one.”  If you’ve ever read “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” Holmes actually is absent for much of it, with Watson investigating.

The story doesn’t suffer from Holmes’ lengthy absence — Watson is a great reader surrogate, and the novel still a fun, moody, creepy mystery.  And it made THE MOORS nice and creepy a hell of a long time before “An American Werewolf in London.”  (Stay off them, by the way.)  Read it on a park bench on a late Autumn, gray-clouded day, with a decent overcoat and some strong coffee.  That’s how I did it.

Why Smaug is the Perfect Diction Dragon.

I really must have been asleep at the wheel when I reviewed “The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug” (2013).  It escaped me entirely that the titular dragon was voiced by none other than the immeasurably talented Benedict Cumberbatch, and that that Tauriel was played by “LOST” alumna Evangeline Lilly.  (I never could quite make out her name in this film, as characters seemed to keep saying it in different accents.  For a while, I thought she was named “Ariel,” then I settled on “Thoriel.”)

Cumberbatch was perfect.  (At this point, can we expect anything less?)  I am sure I am not the only nerd in fandom for whom Smaug’s scenes are now made funny, given the legendary friendship between “Holmes” and Martin Freeman’s “Watson.”

Lilly was damn good too.  She always was a good actress; LOST did something great in giving her her breakout role.

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I taught Benedict Cumberbatch everything he knows.

Well … maybe not, as I am not even certain he’d been born yet when I was in college.  But I did a fine job of channeling Christopher Plummer.  I was into Sherlock Holmes about 20 years before it was cool.

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I believe all that coolness rubbed off from a double-dose of Nate.  Pictured here are Nate “The Amazing Nate” Leslie and Nate “The Great Nate” Wade.  Nate L. is now a critically acclaimed author and a professor at Northern Virginia Community College.  Nate W. is now a public defender in Pima County, Arizona.

In place of hair, I wore a Tribble from the original “Star Trek” series, as was popular at the time.

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No one can forget the time when Carroll O’Connor (aka Archie Bunker) stopped by to prepare barbecue for us …

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Finally, no Mary Washington College post would be complete without a shot of the legendary Len Ornstein (far left).

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Or the mythic James A. Cordone.

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