Posts Tagged ‘martin freeman’

whiskey tango foxtrot

Kim Baker (Tina Fey) is a journalist who writes for the taking heads on television.  In 2003, while most journalists are covering the war in Iraq, Baker is asked to go to Afghanistan, and become a war correspondent.    Baker decides to go, leaving her serious boyfriend, Chris (Josh Charles) behind. Shortly after arriving, she meets her translator Fahim, (Christopher Abbott) the head of security detail, Nic, (Stephen Peacocke) and fellow female reporter Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie)  She starts out as a Marine Embed, and gets stories from Afghan women, and eventually get to interview the Afghan Attorney General Ali Massoud Saddiq.(Alfred Molina)  Baker is staying in Afghanistan longer than expected, and that takes a toll on her relationship at home.  She finds out that Chris is cheating on her, and starts thinking about starting a relationship of her own. Reeling from the end of her relationship, Baker finds solace in the arms of Iain McKelpie (Martin Freeman) a lecherous Scottish journalist who hits on any woman in the country.

Despite her interviews with solders, and high ranking government officials, Baker gets scooped by Tanya, who gets caught in the crossfire of a U.S. drone attack, and whose video of that attack goes viral.  Baker needs a big story to keep her job, she turns to Iain, who is working on a story about Chinese involvement in Afghanistan, that could be huge.  But while Iain is working on that story, he is kidnapped a held for ransom.  Baker has to use all her connections in the Marines and to the Afghan government to try to get Iain back, and if she does so, she could score the biggest story of her life.  Does she succeed in helping to find Iain?

I did not like Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.  It tries to do too many things, is it a war movie, is it a comedy, is it a relationship movie?  It tries to be all of these things, and does not succeed at any of them.  It has to be a war movie, because Kim baker is a war correspondent.  But it tries to be too irreverent, by sending Baker to parties and weddings, and even throwing in some unnecessary bathroom humor.  A war comedy is a hard trick to pull off, Doctor Stangelove and MASH were probably the two best ones, and this does not come close to that.  The story becomes about the reporters and how competitive they are to get a story, and that should not be the central theme in a story about the war in Afghanistan.  War correspondents have a dangerous and sometimes deadly job, this film did not portray that aspect of Baker’s job well enough. Ultimately, none of the characters are very likeable, so there’s no one here to root for.

Tina Fey tries to be funny, and hip, and self-deprecating,  dropping one-liners in her trademark style, but ultimately the script fails her, and she is left to flounder in a semi-serious half-baked comedy. Margot Robbie livens things up as a seasoned Aussie reporter, who will do almost anything for a good story.  She is not really a good person in this role, but she plays the role of frenemy well. Robbie has played a lot of different roles in her short career, and is building a versatile resume, as either a comedic or serious actress.  Martin Freeman tries to play the smarmy love interest here and that’s a bridge too far for him.  I will always consider him a good guy, and he should stick to those good guy roles.  Alfred Molina is a dubious choice to play the Afghan attorney general, and the script makes him do insulting things, so it’s not a shining moment for Mr. Molina. Very few of the Afghan roles are played by Muslims, so this is another case of Hollywood whitewashing.

The direction is ok, the pacing is slow,  this is the directing team who have directed such movies as I Love  You Phillip Morris Focus, and Crazy, Stupid Love.  The pacing was slow they only got a good performance from Robbie.  There were also no great visuals in the film, so the direction is nothing notable.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot:  WTF indeed.

sherlock the abominable bride

In 1890, 5 people are dead, and the suspect is the ghost of a bride named Emelia Ricoletti (Natasha O’Keefe) who has a big hole in the back of her head.  Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Dr. Watson (Martin Freeman) are asked by Scotland Yard to investigate. Sherlock is skeptical that the murders have been committed by a ghost, but Watson isn’t quite sure.  Shortly after the murders, Lady Carmichael (Catherine McCormick) reports to Sherlock that her husband Eustace (Tim McInnerny) is being haunted by Emelia Ricoletti. Eustace later dismisses his wife’s concern, but Sherlock wants to use Eustace to bait the apparition.  Complicating matters, Mary Watson (Amanda Abbington) is working for a corpulent version of Sherlock’s brother Mycroft (Mark Gatiss) and she attempts to solve the murders, putting her life in mortal danger.  Does Sherlock save Mary? Does he solve the murders?

I love Sherlock and this episode is no exception, I’ve always thought that the episodes were like little movies and this episode, even more so.  This episode had the requisite mystery, overlaid by a supernatural element, which made the episode even more fun to watch, the writing is crisp, and crackles off the page.  The writers deal with the fact that the majority of the episode takes place in the 1890’s cleverly.  The characters are funny and engaging, the only flaw with this episode was the writers attempted, rather clumsily, to turn Sherlock into an action hero for a few seconds, and then realizing the futility of that endeavor, drop the idea immediately.

The acting is superb.  The chemistry and timing between Cumberbatch and Freeman is amazing,  They really work well with each other, sometimes friends sometimes rivals, good naturedly poking fun at each other while solving the mystery.  Natasha O’Keefe is sufficiently creepy as the ghost bride, Mark Gatiss is mostly comedy relief, but also plays Mycroft as a thorn in Sherlock’s side.  Amanda Abbbington is funny as Mary Watson, and Catherine McCormick is intriguing as Lady Carmichael.

The direction is great, visually arresting, great cinematography like a little movie. The director also gets great performances from  everyone in the cast, and keeps thing moving at a brisk and exciting pace.

Sherlock:  The Abominable Bride.  Wed yourself to the television for 90 minutes and enjoy.

 

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) is terrorizing the town of Laketown, raining fire on its inhabitants as they struggle to vanquish him.  Even if Smaug is vanquished, Laketown and Lonely Mountain are beset by problems, because of the gold in Lonely Mountain, and its strategic position, both dwarves and elves claim the mountain as their own. Thorin, (Richard Armitage) King of the Dwarves is struck with dragon sickness, and is willing to fight to the death to keep the gold with the dwarves.  Thranduil (Lee Pace) desires a necklace of white jewels from Lonely Mountain.  Bilbo (Martin Freeman) has the Arkenstone and is willing to give it back to Thorin, to avoid war between the Dwarves and the Elves.  What neither the Elves nor the Dwarves know is there are two Orc armies massing to battle the Elves and the Dwarves and take over Lonely Mountain.  Will the Elves and the Dwarves unite to fight the Orcs, and defeat them?

This was the only film of the trilogy that I was waiting for, the one I watched two dull movies to watch. But, the final installment of the Hobbit trilogy is oddly flat.  I had no emotional attachment to any of these characters, the battle with the Orcs was inevitable and anti-climactic.  The love story between Killi and Tauriel, kind of a middle earth Romeo and Juliet , held no romantic resonance.  Compared to the Lord of the Rings, which had an outstanding buildup and conclusion, this trilogy lacked any complexity or ferocity.

The acting is ok.  Martin Freeman, who got top billing, really ended up being a supporting actor.  Orlando Bloom had a very small part and did nothing significant until the very end.  Richard Armitage is no Viggo Mortensen, and Ian McKellen is absolutely wasted.  Aidan Turner and Evangeline Lilly don’t really have any chemistry together and so you have a good cast with a tepid adaptation of a good book.  I haven’t read the book, but the movies felt long and drawn out.

Ultimately, Peter Jackson has to take responsibility for this lackluster trilogy.  What should have been the pinnacle of the trilogy feel more like an afterthought.  He co-wrote this  trilogy, and dragged the audience through two slowly paced movies.  He was probably pressured to make a trilogy by the studio, but honestly he should have made two great movies and left it at that.  He can’t have the excuse that there were too many characters, because there were just as many characters in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and that trilogy was very exciting.  I’m at a loss for why this trilogy was so dull, but it was.

The Hobbit:  The Battle of the Five Armies.  Smaug and Mirrors.

desolation of smaug

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is continuing his trek to Lonely Mountain, accompanying Bilbo are the 13 elves,  Gandalf (Ian McKellen) the wizard, and Thorin (Richard Armitage) the King of the dwarves. Once they find the mountain, they have to use the Key of Thorin to open a door carved into the Lonely Mountain. He must also find the Arkenstone, the royal gem of Erebor, and take on Smaug, the dragon. And he must do all this before sunset on Durin’s Day. Before he gets to Lonely Mountain, there are many obstacles in Bilbo’s way.  He seeks refuge with Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt) and then has to fight giant spiders in Mirkwood Forest.  They escape the spiders only to be arrested by the Elvin King, Thanduil. (Lee Price)  Bilbo and company escapes the Elvin prison in barrels only to run into a band of Orcs.  The attack is repelled by Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly)

Meanwhile, Gandalf has split from the group with Radagast (Sylvester McCoy) to find the Necromacer, also known as Sauron. Before getting to Lonely Mountain, Bilbo and the dwarves must go through the burgh of Laketown with the help of Bard, (Luke Evans) to get weapons.  Thorin also tries to negotiate the return of Laketown to the dwarves, Thorin promises to share the gold from Lonely Mountain with the people of Laketown.  They accept Thorin’s proposal. By the  time Bilbo and the dwarves gets to Lonely Mountain, the sun is setting, and they cannot find the keyhole.  Bilbo has the ring which gives him invisibility, but will he get a chance to use it against Smaug?  Does Gandalf find Sauron?

The last 40 minutes if the Desolation of Smaug is well worth watching.  The chemistry between Freeman and Cumberbatch crackles with tension.  Getting to that last 40 minutes, however is a long, hard slog.  Peter Jackson has again taken a simple story, and made it a bloated, unrecognizable mess.  He could have scaled back on Legolas and Tauriel, he could have scaled back on Laketown and skipped the love triangle between Legolas, Tauriel and Kili altogether, but all the minutia was there.  I haven’t read the Hobbit or any other Tolkien, but all the minutia made for dull watching.  The problem is, every sci-fi movie since Star Wars has to be an epic trilogy, the Lord of the Rings was an epic trilogy, so the movie makers, for purely pecuniary reasons, made the Hobbit a trilogy, and it’s the audience who suffers.  The Hobbit movies also suffer by comparison to the Lord of the Rings trilogy which was a rich tapestry of story and characters, which built to an incredible climax, the Hobbit will never match the magic of the Lord of the Rings movies.

The acting is fine, especially by Cumberbatch, Freeman, and Ian McKellen.  The movie is best when the three are on screen.  When the movie shifts away from the three characters they play, the movie suffers.  Evangeline Lilly and Orlando Bloom do their best, but their storyline just didn’t interest me.   Richard Armitage is pretty forgettable as Thorin.

The pacing is very slow at points, and I noticed that the landscapes, which were pretty spectacular in the first Hobbit movie, were somewhat ordinary, the CGI budget seemed mostly to be poured into the talking spiders, and Smaug, and I must say, Smaug is a special effects marvel, but still not spectacular enough to maintain a 2 hour and 20 minute movie.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  Still draggin’ along

 

the-worlds-end

Gary King (Thomas Law, Simon Pegg) had four best friends in high school.  Andy (Zachary Bailess, Nick Frost) Oliver (Nick Bromley, Martin Freeman) Peter (James Tarpley,  Eddie Marsan) and Steven (Jasper Levine, Paddy Considine)  The high point of Gary’s high school life seems to have  been the pub crawl he and his pals started but never completed.  Now, pushing 40, and fresh out of an AA meeting, Gary wants to do another pub crawl with his four best friends again, and he wants to finish this time.  Trouble is his friends have grown up, moved out of their hometown, of Newton Haven, and gotten responsible jobs.  Peter’s a car dealer, working for his dad. Steven’s a foreman at a construction site.  Oliver is a real estate agent, complete with Bluetooth device, and Andy is a corporate lawyer.  None of them wants to see Gary or do the pub crawl, known as the Golden Mile, but Gary manipulates and cajoles them into showing up.

On the way to the Golden Mile, Gary gets pulled over by a cop, and gives him Peter’s name. Andy has been sober for 16 years and drinks water at the first pub. They meet Oliver’s sister Sam (Rosamund Pike) at the second pub, she has a thing for Steven, but Gary propositions her in the ladies room, and gets slapped.  Gary’s banned from the third pub, but drinks a pint outside. In the fourth pub, something happens to Gary that changes the whole mission of the evening.  What happens to Gary?  Do Gary and his friends finish the Golden Mile?

I will admit it, Simon Pegg makes me laugh, hysterically. It all started with Shaun of The Dead.  Hot Fuzz was funny, but not as funny as Shaun. Run, Fatboy Run was funnier than Hot Fuzz, but not as funny as Shaun.  The World’s End is as funny as Sean of the Dead, with more clearly thought out themes  It is similar to Sean of the Dead, the threat is existential, and much of the action takes place in the small towns and pubs of England.  The themes reflect the importance of friendship, the importance of non-conformity, even the standardization of the look of pubs. It is much better than the often disjointed This is The End starring Seth Rogan, and James Franco.

Simon Pegg is hilarious once again, as the AA dropout, whose only goal in life is to have fun, preferably by the pint. Pegg’s character shows more depth than in other movies.  He’s the friend who wants to bring all his friends back together, despite the fact that no one wants to see him.  All his friends want to get together, but they’re too busy trying to fit in to meet up.  Pegg plays the non-conformist perfectly, he;s got nothing to lose, so why should he try to fit the usual mold? Pegg has lots of help, Martin Freeman of Sherlock and Hobbit fame is really funny as Oliver, the most conformist of all of Pegg’s  friends.  Nick Frost was in Hot Fuzz and Shaun of The Dead, so they have camaraderie already, again funny as Andy, the guy who wants to see Pegg the least.  Paddy Considine also in Hot Fuzz, was good as Pegg’s friend and romantic rival. Eddie Marsan is also funny as Peter, Pegg’s mild mannered pal.  Rosamund Pike does a nice comedic turn as Pegg’s romantic interest.  A really good ensemble cast, with really good chemistry.

The writing by Pegg and Eric Wright is very funny.  Wright co-wrote Hot Fuzz, Shaun  of The Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.  Well two out of three isn’t bad.   If there’s one thing I didn’t like it was the length, two hours is too long for a comedy, but all two hours are filled with jokes, so the length isn’t too taxing.

The World’s End.  Raises the bar on comedy.

 

the hobbit

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) has a great life, he’s got a nice house, given to him by his Hobbit ancestors, lots of food, and the beautiful surroundings of the Shire.  One day, Bilbo is visited by Gandalf the wizard (Ian McKellen) who wants him to go on an adventure.  Many years before Gandalf visited Bilbo, Thror, the king of the elves, started hording gold, in his castle on top of Mount Lonely A gold loving dragon named the Smaug chases the dwarves off Mount Lonely  and stays in the castle, surrounded by heaps of gold  Gandalf wants Bilbo to help him retrieve the gold.  Bilbo flatly refuses, so Gandalf invites 13 dwarves, including their leader, Thorin (Richard Armitage) to eat Bilbo out of house and home.  Bilbo is still adamant about staying put in the Shire.  Bilbo finally relents, when he realizes the elves are going without him.

Gandalf shows Bilbo a map of Mount Lonely, but the dwarves can’t read it, because it’s in Elvish, so Gandalf takes them to Rivendell, where Elrond (Hugo Weaving) reads the map and tells the dwarves of a secret passage to Mount Lonely. Bilbo and the dwarves decide to take the secret passage, but don’t know that the goblins are lying in wait.  The elves  and Bilbo get separated and Bilbo falls into a cave with Gollum,(Andy Serkis) a creature driven mad by the ring he possesses, and the power it gives him.  Bilbo takes the ring, and sees that it gives him the power of invisibility.  Bilbo has a chance to kill Gollum, but pities him, and sneaks out of Gollum’s cave unseen.  Thorin can‘t believe his eyes, but near Mount Lonely, he sees Azog (Manu Bennett) who killed Thorin’s father, and who Thorin thought was long dead.  The two battle, but who is victorious?  Does Bilbo survive his first adventure?

Despite all the hype, I did not like this movie.  I blame Peter Jackson, who wrote and directed this movie.  Jackson takes a relatively simple story about battling a dragon, and recovering gold, and turns it into a bloated, special effects laden three hour monstrosity.   This movie is one long battle scene after another, and when there are no battle scenes, there are overwhelming special effects, like the scene where two mountains fight each other.  It’s like after the success of the LOTR series, Peter Jackson felt pressured to make this movie into a three hour epic.  The difference between LOTR and The Hobbitt is that the  LOTR had plenty of material, the Hobbit is relatively short.  I don’t know about casting Martin Freeman in the lead role.   He’s great in Sherlock, but that is in a supporting role, and this movie seems more action oriented movie, that is maybe too physically demanding for Freeman.  Richard Armitage won’t make anyone forget Viggo Motensen.  All the good performances come from past cast members  of LOTR.

The Hobbit. Not Hobbit forming.

Episode 1:  A Study In Pink: Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Watson (Martin Freeman) meet for the first time.  Watson is a veteran, just returned from Afghanistan, and Holmes is a consultant to Scotland Yard.  They try to solve five seemingly unrelated cases, apparent suicides that are really murders.  A strange drug is found near each of the dead bodies.  Sherlock and Watson trace the murders to a taxi with an American tourist inside.  Is the tourist a serial killer, or is there some other explanation for the murders?

Episode 2:  The Blind Banker:  An Asian museum curator disappears, a banker and a journalist are killed.  Holmes and Watson track the murders and disappearance to a group of Chinese acrobats appearing at a London circus.  What do acrobats have to do with a string of unexplained murders?  Sherlock Holmes figures it out as only he can.

Episode 3: The Great Game:  There’s a killer strapping bombs to innocent people in London and daring Sherlock to solve previously unsolved cases or he will detonate the bombs.  At the same time there’s a fake Vermeer being shown in a London art gallery, and there’s a missing thumb drive with top secret British Missile Defense plans on them. Sherlock’s brother Mycroft (Mark Gatiss) wants Sherlock’s help on this.  Are these events related?  You bet they are.  Watch Sherlock deduce each piece of the puzzle.

Sherlock is a great show.  The first thing I noticed were the production values, the camera angles, the lighting, the direction.  These are not ordinary tv shows, these are like little 90 minute movies.  The show has a definite edginess to it. This is not your father’s tweedy, urbane Sherlock Holmes.  The character has been brought elegantly into the 21st century, he uses cell phones, and laptop computers, no more magnifying glass for this Sherlock.  There are lots of rivalries being set off on this show.  Sherlock has a doozy of a sibling rivalry with his brother Mycroft.  The police are decidedly not pleased to have Sherlock the “consulting detective” stepping all over their turf, and it’s not at all clear if Sherlock and Dr Watson are friends or rivals, they are alternately both friends and rivals.
Both the writing and acting are crackling good. There is actual banter between Holmes and Watson, they compliment each other and in turn hurl insults at each other, just like friends do.  Watson is more than an assistant and roommate here, he figures out parts of cases and is more than handy with a gun.  Benedict Cumberbatch is a fantastic Sherlock Holmes, as spry of foot as he is of mind.  Cumberbactch reminds me vocally of Alan Rickman. Martin Freeman is Cumberbatch’s equal as Watson, part friend, part sidekick, part protector, they have an amazing chemistry, like brothers or close friends, it’s hard to imagine such good chemistry with actors working together for the first time.  They are also very funny together and have superb comic timing. Sherlock is not to be confused with the American knockoff, Elementary, with the gimmick of a female Holmes, for the promise of some manufactured sexual tension.  This is the real thing, intelligent, stylish, and demanding of your attention.
Watch this show, you won’t be sorry.