Benedict Cumberbatch

April 14, 2016

Trailer Hot Take: Doctor Strange (Teaser Trailer)

Hey kids, Matt back again with another “Trailer Hot Take.” I really don’t pay much attention to network TV anymore, and I had no idea a Doctor Strange teaser trailer was dropping on “The Jimmy Kimmel Show” yesterday, so this was a little under my radar. But now that it’s on  EVERYONE’S radar, let’s jump right into the stills:

 Not much here, just the cool title card
The accident that likely begins Stephen Strange’s journey
Could this be Clea…which would eventually lead us to Dormammu?
Well, you have to hand it to him…..
What could this seal mean?
The Ancient One is here!
And The One knows what’s up…..
Mads Mikkelsen and his disciples….but who could he be playing…
Baron Mordo, but what are his ambitions this time around….
Marvel always knows how to give you those money shots…the cloak and the Sanctum Sanctorum
Overall a nice little tease of what’s the come, but we’ll see how the magic element is played up, and the lack of Wong in this trailer is a little odd, but whatever. This might be Marvel’s biggest gamble to date. Introducing magic was always a little risky to the MCU, but people thought introducing space with “Guardians of the Galaxy” was crazy too.
kthnxbye.
September 20, 2015

Black Mass

UNEASY

Johnny Depp was never really on my radar of great actors until he put on the gold teeth and somewhat affected swagger of Captain Jack Sparrow.

Oh, I had seen him in films like Donnie Brasco and Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands.  However, I never really appreciated him as my kind of actor until he disappeared into the role of Captain Jack.  A role that truly made him an icon.  Then Depp began to make choices, mostly prompted by his friend and frequent collaborator Tim Burton, that turned his unique ability to disappear into a role a bit of a criticized trope.  Odd because the more he did what we kind of wish all of our actors would do, disappear into a role, the more we criticized.  Whether that be Dark Shadows, Alice In Wonderland, Mortdecai, The Lone Ranger, or Into The Woods.  It has been a somewhat unfair appraisal of Depp because it is obvious in hindsight that those films as a whole are the main problem.  The common denominator of those films and criticized Depp performances are also that they are light hearted tales.  People who still championed Depp hoped for him to do what he does best in more serious films.  The totally unremarkable Transcendence was not light hearted, but the film seemed to neuter every bit of personality or nuance Depp has.  Depp’s career seemed to be in critical limbo.  Fortunately for Depp, the film Black Mass has come along to not only break him out of that limbo but remind us how talented of an actor Depp is when put in the proper project.
Black Mass is the not-so-thorough true story of Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger and how his shady alliance with members of the FBI made him one of the most powerful criminals in the country.  If you have seen The Departed before going into this film, you will realize coming out how much director Martin Scorsese and actor Jack Nicholson borrowed from this infamous gangster’s life.  Since the backstory of Nicholson’s Frank Costello took kind of a backseat to Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon’s characters, I was delighted to hear that a film about the real Whitey Bulger was coming out and would hopefully fill in all those gaps.  Regrettably, As you can tell from the “not-so-thorough” descriptor in my opening sentence, Black Mass does not really flesh out Whitey as much as I or most would like.  Black Mass feels more like a collection of scattered moments, very well shot and well performed moments, that serve to drive the point home as to how scummy and terrifying Whitey Bulger was.  
What Black Mass lacks in specificity, it makes up for in its performances.  Johnny Depp certainly is the standout.  A performance that is worth the price of admission and worthy of Oscar consideration.  Thankfully, Depp is not alone.  Joel Edgerton, who is having a pretty good year with his earlier sleeper hit The Gift, matches Depp’s seductively slimey performance with an entertainingly sad and humanized one of his own.  Where Matt Damon’s character Colin Sullivan comes off as more a comically wormy character in The Departed, Edgerton’s version of a corrupt and desperate law enforcement official under Bulger’s thumb comes off as more real and relatable.  Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Whitey’s brother Billy, impressed me since I was a little wary of how he would fit into this film and how well his Boston accent would hold up.  Cumberbatch nails every scene he is in, which left me wanting more insight into him, given how compelling a story it is to be the legitimate brother to a illegitimate gangster.  But the big names aren’t the only ones who shine.  Rory Cochrane, Corey Stoll, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard, Juno Temple and even Dakota Johnson are compelling in their limited amount of time in the film.  
Whether it be Out Of The Furnace, Crazy Heart, or Black Mass, Scott Cooper seems to be making a career of helming films where the performances are stellar but the films themselves end up being only so-so.  It shows that as a director, Cooper knows how to get the best out of his actors, especially Johnny Depp.  He just needs a bit more polish and terms of telling a complete story in my opinion.  He knows how to create the tense and UNEASY atmosphere Black Mass needs.  I just hoped for a more indepth look at the man Depp creepily embodies.  Cook up your steaks, don’t give away the family secret, don’t put your wet fingers in the peanuts, don’t tell Whitey Bulger that you’re coming down with something, watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.   
November 1, 2014

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast (Ep. 32) Halloween Edition 2014

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY

On this Spooktacular Halloween edition of The Simplistic Reviews Podcast, the boys welcome back JD Duran from Insession Film.  Other than further corrupting this classy professional podcaster…the boys talk about Marvel’s HUGE announcements, DC’s HUGE announcements, gush over The Flash, bitch more about Gotham, comment on the Boardwalk Empire finale, Walking Dead premiere, and consider NBC’s Constantine.  JD also gets to moderate our second ever draft, which this time involves the boys trying to make their best monster squad.  It’s a razor ‘blade in the apple’ sort of show that you don’t want to miss.

SHOW NOTES
Insession Film
Cenobites
The Monster Squad
Marvel Film Slate
DC Film Slate
Age Of Ultron Teaser
Age Of Ultron Extended
Ever See Chinatown Motherf@%ker?!
Skinny Zach Galafanakis
Jason Biggs pissing on Chelsea Handler

MUSIC NOTES
“Nightmare On My Street” By DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
“Autumn Thunder” By Sam Spence
“My Flows Is Tight” By Lord Digga
“Inside The Actors Studio” By Angelo Badalamenti

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June 20, 2014

Simplistic Sneak Peek Ep. 5

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY

Simplistic Sneak Peek is back and better than ever.  In this episode the boys take a look at some animated features and some 80s action stars WITH animated features.  Sinbad, The Ultimate Warrior, Dane Cook and a Holocaust amusement park all come up in this irreverent return of Simplistic Sneak Peek.  You can watch this episode’s trailers below then click video above to hear Matt, DJ and Justin’s thoughts on them in real time.

Planes: Fire & Rescue

Penguins Of Madagascar

The Expendables 3

Bonus Trailer

January 11, 2014

August: Osage County

FAMILY
Of all the films being discussed during award season, August: Osage County seems to be the one being forgotten.  It has the award recognition somewhat, but it is hard to hear anything about it over the publicity noise of films like Wolf Of Wall Street, American Hustle, and Gravity.  And this is a film with Meryl Streep and Julia f@%king Roberts!  Two of the most iconic female actresses I’ve watched in my lifetime.  What was it about this film that keeps it flying under the radar?  Then I thought about the subject matter.  It isn’t as captivating as a sexy scheme set up by quirky con artists in the 70s.  It isn’t as outrageous as a cocaine fueled crook living to excess in the 80s and 90s.  It definitely isn’t as thrilling as watching a woman struggling to survive in an endless abyss in the present.  It is merely about FAMILY.  All the love and hate and insane dysfunction of FAMILY.  It isn’t a two hour long dose of good ol’ escapism.  It shines a light on an all too familiar life that most would try and have tried to escape from.  
Don’t get me wrong.  This is not a fun for the whole FAMILY film.  August: Osage County is the film adaptation of writer Tracy Letts’ play of the same name.  It centers around a small town FAMILY reuniting after the sudden disappearance of the FAMILY‘s patriarch.  And the fact that this film was a play will not come as a shock once you watch it.  At the end of several scenes, you’ll catch yourself waiting for the curtain the drop and the applause to start before you realize you’re still sitting in a cineplex.  I made a critique of the aforementioned Wolf Of Wall Street in my review a few weeks back.  That critique was that the film seemed more like a collection of amazing scenes instead of a well structured story.  Yet, I wasn’t sure if that was entirely a bad thing for me.  August: Osage County made me start to feel the same way.  But that way of storytelling works fine for a novel or a play.  That is what’s tricky to me about adaptations.  Do you want them to stick with the same format the novel or play or television show had at the expense of structure?  Or do you want to mold it into something more film friendly?  I personally don’t know.  It changes for me on a case to case basis.  I do know I loved both Wolf Of Wall Street and August: Osage County because of the TREMENDOUS scenes and TREMENDOUS performances in them.  I just feel that their previous roots show a little too much for me to call them perfect “film” adaptations.

I’ve been watching John Wells work for a majority of my life.   Shows like ER and Southland and now Shameless really show how the man can make real people just feel real on screen.  How he can create dramatic tension through stillness and subtlety instead of jarringly acrobatic camera moves or set ups.  One might assume that his visual technique for this film was just a “point the camera and walk away” style because of the actors he had it his disposal.  However, there is a slick sense of simplicity and sneakiness in how he shoots these scenes, puts you in that house, and puts you in those moments.  For a film like this, it is all about creating an environment where actors can flourish and bring their characters to life.

Who are the actors at his disposal?  Holy crap!  Well, I’ve already mentioned the two cinema Godzillas of Meryl Streep and Julie Roberts.  And trust me, it is their film to own.  But the top notch performances here are ubiquitous.  Yeah…I said ubiquitous.  It means “everywhere”.  I looked it up because I wanted to find a word that could properly illustrate how great everyone is in this film.  I haven’t seen Roberts this strong and fearless since Closer.  And Streep literally roars reminders at you that she is the best actress walking the planet.  But then you have Chris Cooper chewing scenery throughout the film, with Margo Martindale chewing it up right alongside him.  Benedict Cumberbatch and Juliette Lewis show up out of nowhere and devour every line they have.  Abigail Breslin knocks one out of the park for kicks.  Ewan McGegor and Dermot Mulroney slides in great showings too.  Hell, Sam Shepard gets one scene and delivers some of the film’s best lines in that time.  It is practically a smorgasbord of acting on display.  Though, I wanted to single out Julianne Nicholson’s performance because it may be the one overlooked the most.  She isn’t the biggest name in the cast but she holds her own with everyone.  Before you know it, Nicholson will be the one you feel for the most and the one who will pull your heartstrings the hardest.

August: Osage County is not only deserving of its praise, but deserving of more attention.  It might be better suited as a play than a film.  However, there is no doubt that the writing, directing, and acting are still good enough for you to enjoy the hell out of it.  Sit down with your FAMILY…if you dare…watch it…hope to God that your FAMILY isn’t as crazy as theirs…then tell me I’m wrong.  

  

January 7, 2014

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

RESURGENCE

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Resurgence

Two films down, one to go.  Peter Jackson’s second epic trilogy where he re-visits Middle Earth continues as Bilbo Baggins and his gang of dwarves travel ever closer to The Lonely Mountain and their encounter with the fire-breathing dragon, Smaug.  In “The Desolation of Smaug” you see glimpses of what Jackson did with “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.  There is a resurgence if you will, in this penultimate film that features some great action set pieces, and little more dwarf history, and the best performance by a dragon you’ll see all year.

“Smaug” is a vast improvement over the first film, “An Unexpected Journey” which was a slave to having to re-create a world where there was no fellowship, no imminent danger, and for lack of a better term, no real protagonist that you can relate to.  Granted, it might be hard to relate to a reluctant king, an elf princess, or a hard drinking dwarf, but at least there were recognizable characters that you could root for.  To be honest, I have a hard time remembering any of the dwarves in Thorin Oakenshield’s company outside of the aforementioned dwarf leader.

I think one of the traps this trilogy has fallen into is its reliance on fanboy love.  The beauty of “LotR” was the fact that even if you didn’t read the books, or knew little of J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings, the story was strong enough to bring moviegoers who were dying for an epic three-part adventure, that for my money, still can’t be beat.  “The Hobbit” trilogy lacks what made “LotR” magical.  At times it lacks any originality for the most part where you find yourself visiting many places you saw before, and the pacing is painful at times.  However, Jackson certainly learned his lesson from his first film in the trilogy, and while it might piss off die-hard fans of the book, he;s made “Smaug” a far more entertaining watch.

First of all, the action is pumped up quite a bit.  While the escape from The Goblin King and his minions might have been exciting in “Journey” it was the highlighted action piece.  In “Smaug” there is the wine barrel chase, a ton of hot Elf-on-Orc action, you get to see Gandalf be a bad-ass again, and of course all of the scenes with Smaug, voiced excellently by Benedict Cumberbatch.  The film also marks the “return” of Legolas and the introduction of a new character, Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lilly.  People have been pissed about the addition of these two, but I’m trying to understand why.  Legolas brings something to these “Hobbit” films; nostalgia, whereas as Lilly brings a little sex appeal to the proceedings, and I might add, she does make a sexy elf and I wouldn’t be surprised if “female elf” is one of the top Halloween costumes in 2014.

The biggest gripe that many people have is the fact that Jackson strayed too far away from Tolkien’s material.  I’d respond with “Thank God!”  Without these additions to the film, I might go as far as saying these films are pretty unwatchable.  They are tedious exercises in exploiting a beloved book while trying to extort more money from nerds who can’t get enough of The Shire and Hobbit feet.  You might think, “Matt!  I thought you liked this film better than the first one?!”  I do like “Smaug” better than “Journey” but that still doesn’t make either one great.

All in all, “Smaug” is the shot in the arm the trilogy needed.  It finally introduced the aforementioned Smaug with all the bravado that it deserved, and it ended in a way that will FORCE people who have already invested over five hours of their time into investing another nearly three hours later this December.  “The Hobbit” films might have their problems and shortcomings, but at least Jackson got this one right, even if he had to piss some book fanboys off in the process.

Fun Fact:  Published in 1937,  many critics believe that Tolkien’s novel, “The Hobbit” was based on his experiences in World War I.   

May 22, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness (Matt’s Take)

Star Trek Into Darkness – Something

SOMETHING


The Summer Movie Season has finally kicked into high gear.  Sure, you might have called “Iron Man 3” the start of the Summer Movie Season, but it left some people, including me, to an extent, underwhelmed.  And while you aren’t supposed to be moved or left with a feeling other than adrenaline after walking out of a Summer movie, there are times where you are left with a feeling where you can still get Summer Blockbusters with a little heart; just a little something extra that you wouldn’t get out of your typical Summer fare.  That something is “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

Now the extent of my “Star Trek” knowledge only encompasses “Wrath of Khan,” and the 2009 re-boot, but to be honest with you if you have that knowledge already, there is no way that you won’t enjoy this film.  Even to a lament of the “Trek” universe, I jumped right into the re-boot and enjoyed it for what it was; a sci-fi epic with familiar names of characters and a cool cast that fit the characters, from what I know them as, to a tee.

“Into Darkness” is more a celebration of the series, whereas the re-boot was more of a way of getting footing and setting up a world, that while familiar, was brand new to people that either didn’t grow up watch the 1960’s TV show or familiar with any of the films.  In this adventure, The Federation is under attack by a rogue Starfleet Member names John Harrison, played by Benedict Cumberbatch.  After the attack, Capt. James T. Kirk, and his crew of The USS Enterprise take on a mission to bring Harrison to justice for his crimes.  Of course nothing goes right for the Enterprise crew who face overwhelming odds, pissed off Klingons, and angry ancient warriors out for revenge.

What makes the film work for both devotees of old school and new school “Trek” is the direction.  What happens when you take a geek and have him geek out in a giant geek-fest?  You get a giant geek orgasm with fan service to spare, and tissues are included, which are for dual purposes.  The casting is once again spot on with everyone returning, and as a bonus, you even get Peter Weller.  Yes, Robocop is in this movie and he is awesome, as he is everything he does.  He meaning Robocop, but Weller is pretty good too.

If you were letdown by “Iron Man 3” and thought the newest Marvel adventure was a misfire to start the Summer, have no fear; the Summer has “officially” begun with the arrival of “Into Darkness.”  Set Warp Speed for the cinema, and set Phasers to “Fun.”

Fun Fact:  The first appearance of Khan Noonien Singh was in the “Star Trek” TV show episode titled, “Space Seed” in 1967.

May 19, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness (DJ’s Take)

FUN

Look.  I’m going to make this fast.  One, because I’m on the way to go watch this movie for a second time.  Two, because I want to try and stay as spoiler free as I can.  With a little introspection brought on by something well put from MovieBob Chipman in his own negative review of this same film, I’ll admit my duty and privilege as a reviewer is to tell you if I thought a movie was good or not and to tell you why in either case.  It is not to preserve secrets, not to geek out, and not to just relegate myself as a proverbial cog in the already powerful marketing machine of said movie.  However, my objectivity sometimes waivers when a movie manages to personally effect me either emotionally, nostalgically, or both in this case.  So, I’m hesitant to just come out and say that Star Trek Into Darkness is the most FUN I’ve had in the theater since Skyfall.  I’m hesitant to just come out and say that it is the best Star Trek film I’ve seen since…you know what.  I’m hesitant to just come out and say that it gave me everything I wanted and so much more.  I’m hesitant to just come out and say that it will probably be the best summer blockbuster you’ll see this year…PERIOD.  Hesitant not because it isn’t all of those things.  Hesitant because if I do you’ll chock it up to just tiresome Trekkie hyperbole.  But I’ll risk it because…Star Trek Into Darkness is worth the risk.

To get into plot points of Into Darkness would ruin some of the films best moments.  So, I’ll put it like this.  Into Darkness takes the best parts…THE BEST PARTS…of the original franchise’s BEST films and literally puts them all into one balls to the wall action sci fi space adventure.  AWESOME!  It takes those nostalgic moments that fans loved from the originals… cleverly and surprisingly turns them on their ear…which somehow makes it suddenly into a new and equally rewarding experience.  BRILLIANT!  It managed to give me the FUN and the humor that Iron Man 3 gave me, but also give me the stakes and gravitas that Iron Man 3 didn’t.  THANK YOU!   It surpasses all the best moments of the 2009 remake, which I loved by the way, in under twenty minutes.  STUNNING!  It, despite my  preconceived notions to the contrary, has some of the best 3D conversion shots I’ve seen…um…ever.  BEAUTIFUL!  And flatly, the film just works.  No matter what nit-picky flaw you could conjure, no matter what prejudices against Star Trek you carry, the film just works.  I attribute this to two overall things.  The cast and the director.

Whenever I see a tv show or film where the cast just doesn’t fit or when I’m trying to explain actor chemistry to someone, I seem to always bring up Star Trek 2009.  When you have perfect casting in not just a film, but an iconic franchise, your stories can be literally about anything.  Hell, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home had the original crew go back in time and save whales for crying out loud.  And it was the highest grossing Trek film until 2009.  Why?  Mainly its because you just want to see these guys hang out and share their adventures.  That is why casting for the new franchise was, ironically, paramount.  With Into Darkness, the cast has bonded even more.  Even the tiniest interaction between two characters, whether it be Kirk and Spock, Bones and Sulu, or Uhura and Scotty, just seems to hit the mark every time.  The uninitiated can’t help but feel the chemistry and the die hard Trekkie can’t help but smile at the homages.  That is a testament to Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe, Karl, Simon, John, Anton and Bruce.  They understand their characters and have totally made them their own now.  It’s house money the writers are playing with, and thankfully they don’t just rest on their laurels with it.  The story and the dialogue is strong enough for each of the characters to shine brightly.  What about the newbies?  Well, Mr. Cumberbatch was an addition that I knew would be amazing, due to his previous efforts as Mr. Holmes.  Any amount of screen time for him is always going to be too little for me.  However, it is the performance by Peter Weller that is really going to stick out after you watch this.  Robocop himself, is so very strong here that  I found myself wondering why he doesn’t work more.  Its a small role, but he totally knocks it out of the park.

I figured that this was going to be JJ Abrams mic drop as he exits the franchise for a galaxy much farther away.  And boy you can tell.  For those of you who were worried he’d sleepwalk through this after being given the reigns to Star Wars, fear not.  Abrams throws so much into this film it is amazing.  The action is flabbergasting.  Especially because I didn’t figure there’d be so much of it.  However, Abrams does manage to let you catch your breath for the comedy and some really solid emotional moments.  He brings…I don’t believe I’m saying this…balance…proper balance to this film.  My colleague Matt Stewart did say that this was going to be our best first look at what JJ will have in store for us in Episode VII.  And if that is true, The Force has nothing to worry about.

Star Trek Into Darkness is not only a great Star Trek film, but an action blockbuster that can hold it’s own against any blockbuster film that has come before it (Sorry Iron Man 3) and will come after it (Your move Man Of Steel).  My favorite film of the year so far.   It has a lot of moving parts but never forgets to stay true to the thing that James T. Kirk covets above all things.  FUN.  Set course for it…maximum warp…chase it ’round the moons of Nibia and ’round the Antares Maelstrom and ’round Perdition’s flames…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

April 5, 2013

Simplistic TV: Hannibal, Season One Premier

Hannibal – Mulligan

When trying to adapt a specific character from another medium, say literature or film, to television, its always a tricky proposition.  Since the character is already established in said mediums you have to know the audience that already recognizes the character and make them believe the transition is seamless, while still exposing the character to a new market, fans, critics, etc.  One of the most recognizable characters in modern crime novels is Hannibal Lecter; the psychiatrist/cannibal that haunted our dreams through the words of Thomas Harris.  Even if you’re a “lament” you’ve heard of Lecter in some way, shape, or form.  Now we get to see Dr. Lecter on the small screen as he assists criminal profiler, Will Graham, from the novel “Red Dragon” to try and track down serial killers.  While the premiere episode of “Hannibal” was bumpy, at best, I’ll still give it a mulligan for what its trying to accomplish, at least for a few more episodes.

If you’ve seen, or read, “Red Dragon” or “Silence of the Lambs,” you pretty much know the deal.  There is a killer on the loose, in this case a killer impaling young girls on antlers, and on occasion one or more of their organs missing (see where I’m going with this).  Will Graham is on the case, commissioned by Special Agent Jack Crawford, played by Laurence Fishburne, to find the killer.  Crawford brings in another consultant, Hannibal Lecter, a respected psychiatrist from the Baltimore-area.  Graham and Lecter seem an unlikely duo at first with each one trying to outwit the other, but Lecter sense a kindred spirit in Graham with his ability to empathize with the killers he hunts.

Despite my misgivings about this show, the more I think about it, the more I want to see where it goes.  You know the end of the journey for both Will and Hannibal, but now its the journey of how they both got there.  It’s the cat-and-mouse game that will guide the show onward, which isn’t that bad when you think about it.  With so much fervor on origin stories about mythological characters (just look at every Marvel Studios Phase 1 film) “Hannibal” has a chance to succeed with an audience that wants to know; Why? and How?

While I’ve talked myself off the ledge about the storyline of “Hannibal” my main concern is the casting; namely Mads Mikkelsen as Lecter.  For starters, I like Mads, I think he is a solid actor who knows how to play a villain and steal scenes on occasion.  But I just feel that he is wrong as Lecter.  For starters, he LOOKS like a killer.  The thing about Anthony Hopkins playing Lecter, or even Brian Cox for that matter, was that he didn’t look the part of a psychopathic, narcissistic, cannibal.  He was a posh doctor with a penchant for opera, fine dining, and drawing.  Hopkins was the ultimate wolf in sheep’s clothing.  Mikkelsen, on the other hand, is a wolf in wolf’s clothing. If I saw him walking down the street I would run the other way because I knew I was only a remark away from being served with a nice Chianti.  I also found myself struggling to understand Lecter when he spoke.  Since Mads has a pretty thick Danish accent, not all the dialogue came through clearly which isn’t great when you are trying to hang on to everything Lecter is saying to get deeper into his character and motives.

With that being said, I don’t blame the casting either.  If the creators are basing this version of Lecter on the novel “Hannibal Rising” it makes sense.  Lecter, by birth, was Eastern European, not British as some of us might assume.  While aristocratic, Eastern Europe, namely Lithuania, is vastly different than the British Isles.  Can Mikkelsen outshine Hopkins as a Hannibal Lecter for a new generation?  Well, we’ll have to see about that.

From a literary standpoint, the show sticks pretty close to the source material of “Red Dragon,”  which is good  in my opinion.  It sheds more light on Will Graham and his special gift for empathy, but it comes off as kind of a second rate Sherlock Holmes, more so the Benedict Cumberbatch version than the Robert Downey Jr. version.

Bottom line, I’m giving this show a mulligan.  I can’t judge a show that I have reasonably high hopes for by just one episode.  Sure, there are kinks to work out, and the show suffers from “a style over substance” problem, and if another network had the rights to Harris’ work, namely an FX or dare I say, HBO, maybe the show could push the envelope a bit more, but that’s not really the issue.  I think the biggest thing people are having a hard time wrapping their heads around are the casting choices and the overall mood.  We fear change, and we’ve been spoiled by the Hopkins’ Lecter for over 20 years so when this new, “exotic” Lecter comes along our first inclination is to bash him, and I fully understand why, but before we jump to conclusions, divorce yourself from preconceived notions of who Lecter was, and let this new incarnation do it’s own thing.

Fun Fact:  H.H. Holmes, who lived from 1861 to 1896, has been given “credit” as one of the first known American serial killers.  His crimes were an inspiration for the book, “The Devil in the White City.”

July 26, 2012

Simplistic TV: Sherlock

BRILLIANT

I am a big fan of Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes films.  That may be because I think RDJ is my favorite actor working today.  However, the best version of the famous detective is definitely the BBC series Sherlock.  It is possible to be a fan of both the way I am because they do possess significant differences.  And not the fact that the films are set during the 19th Century and tv show is set during modern day.

For example’s sake, here is Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock.  And here is Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock.  Robert Downey Jr. nails the manic and playfulness of Sherlock Holmes.  While Cumberbatch, an actor who will be a household name after next year’s Star Trek 12, nails Sherlock Holmes’s cold stoic BRILLIANCE.  Both work tremendously.  Downey Jr. gives Sherlock a bit of a giddiness at his own intellect when explaining clues.  Cumberbatch treats it more like an uncontrollable condition.  His delivery feeling similar to someone fed up answering a nagging five year old who constantly keeps asking “why?”.

Both Jude Law and Martin Freeman are equally great as Watson.  Law, mostly for theatrical sake, plays Watson a bit more over the top while Freeman keeps Watson’s frustrations with Sherlock more internal.  Though, we do see Freeman’s Watson at the beginning of his relationship with Sherlock while Law’s Watson is well used to him by now.

All that said, the most important thing in creating a great incarnation of Sherlock Holmes is getting the chemistry right.  And Sherlock does this as well if not better than the films.  While the films give you more style, the tv show gives you more substance.  Its mystery first and set pieces second.  Thats what puts this ahead.

The series does cheat its substantiveness a bit by having each season broken down into three 90 minute episodes.  They play like mini movies and are each enjoyably different while still connected through a ongoing plot thread.  Don’t be alarmed by the modern day setting either.  Sherlock fits into our world smoothly and creates interesting situations that 19th Century Sherlock couldn’t do.  Like interrupting a police press conference by texting all the reporters simultaneously the truth the police chief is leaving out.

That leads me to mention a storytelling device the editors use on the show.  To illustrate how Sherlock’s mind works, the show uses in scene captions to draw the audience to his conclusions instead of having him always explaining everything.  This is very well done, as apposed to how Tony Scott overuses it in some of his films…Domino comes to mind.

An American version of this modern day Sherlock Holmes is in the works now.  However, I am sure it won’t have the same quality acting, writing, directing, and teeth this show has.  You watch one episode and it’ll hook you.  Go ahead…watch one…I’ll wait…….still waiting……..see?  Tell me I’m wrong.

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