Archives for posts with tag: benedict cumberbatch

MV5BMjMyNDkzMzI1OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODcxODg5MjI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Or, Thor: Ragnarok.

So. The Thor movies might be my favorite, as an oeuvre, because the Iron Man movies start out over-written and the Captain America movies become tedious. The Thor movies are just kind of joyously bad.

Except this one, which is joyously rather good.

Odin (Anthony Hopkins) dies, which depresses his sons and releases his daughter, Hela (Cate Blanchett), from imprisonment. She is the goddess of death, and she wants to take over Asgard. She manages to banish both Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) to a garbage planet on which Thor becomes an enslaved gladiator and Loki becomes a member of the local dirtbag elite, because of course. This planet is managed by Jeff Goldblum (Jeff Goldblum), who runs the fights and has a hilarious and bloodthirsty assistant, Topaz (Rachel House). Also there is Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), an angry drunk lady (Tessa Thompson), and a sentient walking rock called Korg, who is voiced by Taika Waititi and exists solely for comic relief. He is terrific.

Naturally much of the film is the attempt to get back to Asgard and deal with Hela, but, unlike other Marvel movies which would take the “dead dad” and “goddess of death” and “fraternal friction” tropes and go to a miserable place of tiresome angst, Ragnarok keeps it light. That is not to say that this film does not take things seriously–it does, but with Waititi’s deft touch it does not get bogged down in the gravity. The movie is a little too long, but the pacing is sufficiently frenetic that this rarely grates.

And the soundtrack is great. It’s not trying too hard to motivate a specific kind of nostalgia (Guardians of the Galaxy, I’m looking at you), but is instead humorously on-the-nose: Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” for Thor’s theme or “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka during what seems like an acid trip.

Stray observations:

  • “I’m not a witch.” “Then why are you dressed like one?”
  • Is Loki ever going to get a real person haircut? Also: this was a return to the original Thor‘s endless string of squirrelly Loki faces and I am at home for that.
  • I’m glad that Idris Elba isn’t too proud to continue being in these movies. A soupçon of Heimdall is very welcome.

Director: Taika Waititi
Rating: PG-13
Length: 130 minutes
Score: 4/5

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If you want to watch this for Benedict Cumberbatch, he’s great in it, but be warned: to play Christopher Tietjens properly, he abandons almost all of his vanity and makes his face as unattractive as he is able, and attempts to make his body appear hulking and clumsy.

Ford Madox Ford’s tetralogy Parade’s End, as is usual with Ford Madox Ford, has an unbelievably acute sense of how humanity operates, and is not hopeful about it. People cheat, and then manage to be worse to each other when they are not cheating. Totally inaccurate gossip ruins lives because of malice and laziness, not necessarily in that order. And despite the monumental efforts of many, the Great War was unfairly, desperately, but also bureaucratically, horrible. Somehow, Tom Stoppard’s screenplay manages to capture almost all of the novels’ uncomfortable perspicacity without stumbling into clumsy exposition. But that is perhaps unsurprising, because Tom Stoppard is a genius.

Christopher Tietjens (Cumberbatch) holds a minor but important position in the Department of Imperial Statistics. He is a large blond man from Yorkshire, scrupulously, even maddeningly exact, and unwisely generous. His wife, Sylvia (Rebecca Hall), is a perfect portrait of the type of woman who can get away with everything from general obnoxiousness up because she is so exceedingly lovely. She runs away with a poor sap called Potty Perowne (Tom Mison, with a fussy mustache). Christopher always thinks ahead and is unfailingly decent to and about her; that, in combination with her beauty, means that everyone thinks that she is a saint. The same people immediately believe that Christopher has any number of mistresses, including a young suffragist called Valentine Wannop (Adelaide Clemens).

He of course does not. He would like to, but he is too much of the Tory, and nothing at all of the hypocrite. Instead, he does his job, lends money to his friend McMaster (Stephen Graham), helps everyone he can, and finally becomes a reluctant but capable officer. He sounds perfect, perhaps, but there is an excessive rigidity about him that is troubling–in Ford’s perfect description, he is the type of Tory who would never lift a finger except to say “I told you so.”

The production is near-perfect. Time passes in the shapes of skirts and hats; Morris wallpapers cede to muddy trenches; a glitzy party in what I believe is Lord Leighton’s house gives way to a sad billet near the Front. One might find the pacing slightly slow, but it is in the service of actual drama rather than the manufactured kind. As with Brideshead Revisited, a feature film of this would be heavy-handed and dreadful.

Cumberbatch gamely wears a uniform two sizes too large and screws up his face so that it is not ludicrous when Miss Wannop tells him he is not so terribly ugly after all. Hall’s glorious halo of hair makes her believable as the spiteful femme fatale who is never so recognized. Graham and Anne-Marie Duff (as his wife), are by turns arrogantly social-climbing and cringingly pusillanimous. Not grateful parts, but well-acted. The rest of the large cast also performs admirably; a few are in parts that, even in the novel, are slightly two-dimensional to throw the three main figures into sharper relief.

It’s terrific.

Stray observations:

  • Every single thing Rebecca Hall wears is beautiful.
  • Rufus Sewell is perfectly cast as the gorgeous but deranged and oversensual Fr. Duchemin.
  • Denis Lawson has a small part!

Director: Susanna White
Rating: equivalent to TV-MA, I’d definitely say
Length: 287 minutes
Score: 5/5

If the spirit–or the internet–moves you to investigate Benedict Cumberbatch’s back catalogue, I don’t recommend this entry. [NB I was investigating Shaun Evans’s back catalogue, and so I’m not embarrassed.] This is the sort of movie in which everything is shot in poor lighting and nothing makes sense, in the name of verisimilitude. Probably in the name of realness, actually; verisimilitude isn’t a verisimilitudinous word. At any rate, prepare yourself for shots of wedding rings and stained glass in close up. This is deep.

Dawn (Claire Foy) and David (Mr. Cumberbatch) are married, have recently moved back to his childhood home in the country, and are trying unsuccessfully to have a baby. His brother Nick (Mr. Evans) arrives unannounced, with a penchant for petty larceny and an untreated case of PTSD. You will be shocked to learn that Dawn and David’s marriage starts to fall apart, but it’s not really for the reasons you’d expect or believe. People have kept secrets, people do rotten things, yadda yadda yadda.

But here’s the thing: you don’t care. You feel sorry for Nick, but his PTSD is played exclusively and reductively for pity. He’s just a wounded animal, and everyone treats him like an incontinent child. Dawn and David are ostensibly very much in love, but they mostly just mope and look bitter; David particularly is a cipher with occasional flashes of unlikely, exaggerated emotion. Motivations in general are barely sketched in, which is not what I’d call good story-telling. Dawn is the main character, I suppose, but things just happen to her, for no particular reason, and her own actions have no rationale. We cannot see into her head; still less into anyone else’s. It’s profoundly unsatisfying.

This is exactly the sort of semi-verité that everyone makes all the time now, and it’s slightly worse than all the rest. If you want your life to be made a misery, with a blue filter over the camera, inexplicable shouting, and unpleasant squalid love scenes, go ahead and watch this, but otherwise…

Director: D R Hood
Rating: R?
Length: 85 minutes
Score: 2/5. And probably only 1/5 if I hadn’t got to watch Claire Foy chuck an egg at somebody.

Twitter blurb: Wreckers: Baby-crazy pair lives in country; man’s brother shows up with PTSD and all explodes. Don’t keep hens or secrets, or sing in choirs.