Tag Archives: Martin Freeman

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” – new trailer unspools the awesome

I want to go to there…

Happy Wednesday, fellow nerds, geeks and devotees of pop cultural badassery – there’s a new “Hobbit” trailer online.  Fire up the download accelerator of your choice and get stuck in.

“Quick – look enigmatic, the camera’s on…”

I’m not sure that it will quell the grumpy dismissal of hardcore Tolkien scholars, but for those of us who just want to get lost in Peter Jackson’s vision of Middle Earth for a few more hours, this two minutes and 31 second trailer will fill your face with fantasy eye candy quite agreeably.

So, when do I get to on holiday to Rivendell, then?

Action, comedy, spectacle, short people, trolls, orc-type dudes, Andy Serkis‘ famous alter-ego and New Zealand will enthrall your eyes and make you count the days until the middle of December, when this first salvo in the new trilogy opens (and hopefully answers some questions about which sofa they’ve found the rest of the story down the back of…).

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How this blog exploded.

Mr Watson and friend solve problems via the medium of genius...

So, this is what it’s like to be popular.

You write one post on “Sherlock” season 2’s finale (and season 3’s green-light) and it goes – as they say – viral.

I thought that something was going on when I looked at my WordPress site statistics and noticed a bit more traffic than I usually get in the middle of the week.  This happens from time to time, but the visits that I was getting were skewing ever higher.

My fatalist brain suspected hacking or spam-bot infiltration of some kind but the truth was rather more benevolent – the BBC’s “Sherlock” mini-site had automatically selected my post and put it up in their blog buzz section, which caused views to go utterly hat stand for the best part of a day.

Fame! Sweet, small-time, nerd-o-riffic Internet Fame!

Things are now getting back to normal and the view count has chilled a bit – which is probably how I like it.  Imagine the pressure of having to entertain people day in, day out and not having the first clue about how you’re going to go about it!  It doesn’t bear thinking about…


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Moffat confirms “Sherlock” season 3

Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC drama "Sherlock".

Oh, that sneaky Steven Moffat.

After THAT ending to season two of “Sherlock” – which, if you haven’t seen it, I wouldn’t dream of spoiling – Steven Moffat put on his best showman’s hat and confirmed that there will be a third season of the BBC Arthur Conan Doyle update.  All that we have to do now is get two parts of “The Hobbit”, the next series of “Doctor Who”  and “Star Trek 2” out-of-the-way and all concerned in front of (and behind) the camera can give the further adventures of Holmes and Watson their fullest attentions.

And, exhale.

I think that this is a show which benefits from being revisited, so I don’t think that I can really properly review the last episode without seeing it again – so many twists, reversals, clever bits and devilish misdirection make it the kind of programme that you have to see again with the knowledge that you carry forward from an initial viewing.

It was tremendously exciting TV from the outset, with killer acting from Cumberbatch, who’s entirely prepared to be true to Holmes’ character and make him an insufferable ass, cruel to those to care for him but never so devoid of humanity that he becomes absolutely unsympathetic.  In an age where reality TV wants to smooth out imperfections and make our heroes and heroines ciphers who don’t offer complex contradictions or, well, recognizable human quirks lest they not be immediately telegraphed for instant understanding, this iteration of Holmes is incredibly refreshing and compulsively watchable.

Fantastic, too, was Martin Freeman as Watson – he shows us that he cares deeply for Holmes (which his brilliant friend appears to misinterpret as caring more about the public perception of the duo – public image and the way in which it is manipulated by the tabloid press was a theme running throughout the storyline) but does this with tremendous subtlety and grace.   He’s a far more accomplished dramatic actor than I gave him credit for, having really only seen him in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” film adaptation before he appeared in this film.

We only get three episodes of “Sherlock” every eighteen months or so, but when they are this consistently good it feels quite churlish to complain about perceived brevity – if the alternative is a generous abundance of mediocrity, I’ll take being (relatively) short-changed by the number of episodes in a series any day of the week.


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Trailered: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

Not going to lie, I'm indecently excited to see this next December...

In what has apparently become the week of the year when the movie studios unleash all of their biggest movie trailers at once – Bam! “The Dark Knight Rises”! Bam! “Prometheus”! Bam! “Wrath of the Titans”! – New Line, MGM and Warner Brothers have now thrown the first teaser trailer for the first part of Peter Jackson’s adaptation of “The Hobbit” into the mix.

So, small fry, then.

It's Ash - run away! Sorry, wrong returning, nerd-bait, 2012 franchise entry...

Though it would have been intriguing to see what once-incumbent director Guillermo Del Toro did with the Tolkien source material (he does get a credit, per the contractuals at the end of the trailer), this first look does a lot to establish that it’s poetic that Jackson gets to return to the worlds he so convincingly realised on film in partnership with Phillipa Boyens and Fran Walsh – it just looks and feels right.

Anybody else want to up sticks and move to Hobbiton?

There’s just the right balance in this teaser between story and visual candy – much of it is scene-setting stuff with Gandalf assembling his collection of Dwarves and other Middle Earthians (amazingly, the WordPress browser spell-check informs that ‘Earthian’ isn’t a word.  Who’d’ve thunk it?) with the odd blink-and-miss-it battle with trolls chucked into the mix.

I'm no scholar of the "Rings", but that looks like Sting to me.

The first film opens on December 14th 2012 with part two, “There and Back Again” following a whole bloody year later.   Give them to me, now – project them directly into my waiting eye holes!

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Wanting to see “Sherlock” season 2? Is January 1 2012 early enough for you?

Guess they survived that bomb blast, huh?

Per a story at Den of Geek today, you’ve got one good reason to be sober and upright on January 1st 2012 – season two of “Sherlock” will be investigating your mind grapes from 8:10pm on the first of the year.

Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ really bloody excellent modern update of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective icon will again be back for three episodes in this run, but let’s not be greedy about the skimpy episode numbers and instead relish the quality of the awesome, shall we?

Steven Moffat – is there nothing he can’t do?  Other than have fashionable hair, obviously.

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Bonfire of the Nerderies – “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy”

Mos Def and Martin Freeman in "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy"

Where do you start with “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”?  Do you talk about its place in the great tradition of pomposity-puncturing, absurdity worshipping British Sci-Fi?  Do you try to decode the almost dizzying cross-continuity which exists between differing versions of the story?  Do you mumble something about always needing your towel and then move on?

It’s a tale which has seen iterations on radio, as an increasingly inaccurately numbered trilogy of novels, a fondly remembered BBC TV series, stage plays, comic books, a beloved PC game and this most recent of adaptations in 2005.

There’s something about it, a unique selling point which survives translation to different forms of media, in different decades and manages to appeal to generations who weren’t even a blip in their parents DNA when Douglas Adams began writing the BBC radio show in the 1970s.  It’s always potent, slightly counter-culture, wonderfully humane and surprisingly moving.

A Vogon demolition squad, pictured next month during the inevitable end of the planet…

At its core, “The Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” is a simple tale of friendship, intergalactic travel, planetary strife, adventure, universally translating fish and invaluable towels.  The tone and humour of the stories is quintessentially British, but manages to be reasonably accessible and doesn’t require a hard-won degree in science fiction arcana to be able to understand it – it’s a common misconception, I think, that the “Hitchhikers” series requires the audience to do a lot of heavy lifting to follow things.

The story’s hero Arthur Dent is very much an Every Bloke and, therefore, an audience identification figure.  He’s a not terribly successful, unlucky in love but generally decent.  Arthur’s previously unadventurous and stultifying  path through life is rudely interrupted one morning by his best friend Ford Prefect who rocks up just in time to save him from the planet Earth being demolished to make way for an interstellar bypass (on that last point, I’m sure that some would say ‘not before time’…).

In the film, which I’m primarily basing this post on, Dent is played by Martin Freeman, an English comic actor most recently seen in Steven Moffat’s update of “Sherlock” but still perhaps best known for his role in Ricky Gervais’ doc-com, “The Office”.  I say ‘perhaps’ here as I’ve never seen “The Office”, in either the Gervais original or the American Steve Carell-fronted version.  Seeing this film was really the first major exposure that I can recall having to Martin Freeman, and I feel that he made a difficult role his own.

‘Difficult’ in this context as to a certain generation of Brits, Arthur Dent is Simon Jones, from the BBC TV adaptation.  He’s so ingrained in my consciousness that I tend to hear his voice, or David Dixon as Ford, when I go back to reading the Douglas Adams books.

Arthur Dent, in the British gentleman's armour of choice, a comfy dressing gown.

Freeman captures Dent’s bemusement at the incomprehensible world that he’s forced to leave and his wonder at the wider galaxy that he finds himself hurtling through.  He’s not an actor who mugs desperately to wring laughs where none exist but one who finds the funny in quiet moments and expertly conveys Arthur’s slightly creepy neediness when he meets the proverbial dream girl who got away, Trillian  and tries to win her back.

Trillian, played by Zooey Deschanel. If you just marked off "Intergalactic hipster glasses" on your bingo card, congratulations!

A tough job normally but one which is made exponentially difficult by the fact that Trillian is travelling in the presence of errant Galactic president and twin-headed alpha male Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell, channelling equal parts David Lee Roth and Bugs Bunny).  He’s  the kind of guy that will seduce your girl/boyfriend, steal your spaceship, kidnap himself and generally do his best to destroy your life, sometimes for kicks, mostly because he’s bored and hey, that seems like kind of fun thing to do.  Pan-cosmic sociopath or excessively fun dude – I’ve never made up on that one.

Arthur, then, is roaming the galaxy in the company of a gang of weird-beards, a depressed automaton, the girl of his dreams and knocking heads with the Vogon race who initially destroyed his planet.  Along the way, there’s a bit with a galactic religious cult leader (John Malkovich) which isn’t in the books (and doesn’t really go anywhere – perhaps a set-up for the sequels which should have followed this film?) and a visit to the smartest machine in the universe, Deep Thought (voiced by Helen Mirren).

My favourite bit in this adaptation?

Hey, hey! It's Bill Nighy!

Yep, Bill Nighy plays Slartibartfast – slightly hippy-ish builder of the Earth and other planets (So, Bill Nighy and a quiet big-up to Atheism in the same scene? No, I can’t think why I like this part of “Hitchhikers” so much…) and takes Arthur Dent  to his shop floor…

Arthur & Slartibartfast go to work...

…which results in one of the more underrated bits of (literal) world-building in recent science fiction cinema.

to quote another favourite film of mine, "They should have sent a poet..."

It’s this part of the film which has my favourite moment in the film – and possibly in pop culture – which hinges around Slartibartfast’s philosophical approach to some of existence’s more difficult-to-grasp vagaries:

“Perhaps I’m old and tired, but I think that the chances of finding out what’s actually going on are so absurdly remote that the only thing to do is to say, “Hang the sense of it,” and keep yourself busy. I’d much rather be happy than right any day.”

Those, my friends, are words to live by.  There’s nothing to look forward to after this comparatively short life  ends, much as we might want to believe there is.  There’s only the here, the now and how we treat each other whilst we’re fumbling around for meaning in a world which resolutely defies any attempts to understand it.  And that’s what this movie gets so right,  in my opinion – though this film was in development for decades, with countless script drafts and iterations discarded to time, so much of Douglas Adams’ singular voice and humanity survived the process and made it through to the final film.

Though the film wasn’t successful enough to justify Disney subsidiary Touchstone Pictures green-lighting further adaptations of the novel series, director Garth Jennings and his producing partner Nick Goldsmith can be justifiably proud of what they achieved here.

The S.S. Heart of Gold. Ain't she purty?

The span is galactic, but the characters are very human.  The story zips about all over the place but never really loses focus.  Changes are made to the core story but the story’s concerns and truths are not jettisoned to make things more accessible to a mainstream audience.

I love this version still, and was more than happy to watch it again as I wrote this piece.  Here’s hoping that some upstart film maker manages to build on this foundation in the future and revive the stories for a new generation – I really, really want to be able to see Disaster Area rock out on-screen one day…


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