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Tag Archive: Jared Harris


Review by C.J. Bunce

When next surfing your next adventure on Netflix, fans of seafaring stories will want to make sure they save some time for the 2005 television mini-series To the Ends of the Earth, one of the best accounts of the brutal, nasty, ignoble, and vile side of life in the early 19th century.  In what would be a relatively simple flight across continents today on a jet plane was a life-risking venture on the high seas in 1812, as a young British aristocrat named Edmund Talbot travels by a converted ex-warship to Australia, and learns more about social positions, decency, military discipline, and character than he contemplated when he booked his voyage into politics around the globe.  As with the recently reviewed series The Terror, To the Ends of the Earth is a grimy, authentic look at life below deck for the several tiers of passengers (a mirror of British society) in a classic man-of-war.   But where the production for The Terror looks gorgeously historic, it’s the stench that seems to permeate this tale in a way unmatched by The Terror, the A&E Horatio Hornblower series, Master and Commander: To the Far Side of the World, or Kenneth Brannagh’s Shackleton. 

Sometimes just plain gross, but never in a gratuitous way, To the Ends of the Earth is a smartly written story in the same serial delivery as the Hornblower series, this one three 90-minute chapters for a total of 4.5 hours.  Based on a trilogy of novels from the 1980s by Nobel Prize-winning Lord of the Flies author William Golding, for fans of modern film and modern takes on Sherlock Holmes, the series is a great, early pairing of the BBC’s Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch, and the big screen Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadow’s Moriarty, Jared Harris.  Although his fictional story is less popular an his voyage less memorable, Harris elevates his layered Captain Anderson to a naval leader comparable to Forester’s Pellew and Foster and O’Brian’s Aubrey (and a comparison of his captain then to his The Terror captain 15 years later is also worth the watch).  A younger Cumberbatch also shows his acting chops and foreshadows his later rise in filmdom, carrying each scene for nearly the entirety of the series’ 4.5 hours as the show’s tour guide, Talbot.

Flies.  Rotted food.  The stench of the wounded and the dying in close quarters.  The constant rocking of the ship, inability to walk, or sit, or drink, or sleep without getting sick, wet clothes, rashes, injuries, preparing for battle, losing men overboard–this film stinks (well, almost) like no other, and thankfully without the addition of Smell-o-vision.  Add to that being lost, the uncertainty of ever landing anywhere, distrust, embarrassment, mutinous types, savvy sailors and poor sailors, alcohol, drugs, sex, and no doctor or surgeon in sight for six months.  Oh, the good ol’ days, right?  We must take the books’ author and the studio’s word for it as to true authenticity, but the costumes and treatment of the human condition seems completely spot-on.  Thomas Hobbes’ life outside society as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” has hardly been more plainly laid out.

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Sometimes writers find the right obscure but fascinating event of the past to tap for the next fictionalized tale.  The Terror, a new series beginning tomorrow on AMC, has the potential of being the next clever idea in the historical horror category.  By all accounts it looks like a secret prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing (just as the movie Split was a secret film in M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable saga).  That’s not really the case for this suspense-thriller, supernatural-horror series despite its similarly chilling, desolate, Arctic setting, blood and gore horrors, and lurking menace.  It’s a fictionalized account of actual events from 1845-1848, written by author Dan Simmons in his 2007 novel of the same name.  But it couldn’t look more like a John Carpenter creation.  It begins tomorrow night on AMC.

The novel is such prime fodder for a novel it’s incredible it hadn’t been adapted before in this way.  In the real world the British Captain John Franklin was leading an Arctic exploration for the Northwest Passage with two ships, the HMS Terror (The Terror!  Yes, really!), and the HMS Erebus (in Greek mythology Erebus was a primordial deity representing the personification of deep darkness, shadow, and chaos).  It is no secret that the expedition is noted in history books as a famous lost expedition.  The British character names sound like you’d expect in a fictional seafaring crew penned by the likes of C.S. Forester, Patrick O’Brian, or Robert Louis Stevenson: Commander James Fitzjames, Dr Harry D.S. Goodsir, Cornelius Hickey, Seaman Magnus Manson.  Playing Captain Franklin is Ciarán Hinds, the brilliant character actor we’ve loved in everything from Mary Reilly and Jane Eyre to The Sum of All Fears, Road to Perdition, The Phantom of the Opera, Munich, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, The Woman in Black, John Carter, and Shetland (and he was the voice of Steppenwolf in Justice League and starring now in Red Sparrow).  The captain of the Terror is played by Sherlock Holmes film star Jared Harris (Far and Away, Last of the Mohicans, Lady in the Water, The Riches, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Fringe, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.). Fitzjames is played by Tobias Menzies (Star Wars: Rebels, Outalnder, Casino Royale, Law & Order: UK, Black Mirror, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones).  Alistair Petrie (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Victor Frankenstein, Hellboy) plays Dr. Stanley.  And Greta Scacchi (Emma, The Player, Presumed Innocent) plays Lady Franklin.

The production for The Terror looks gorgeously historic, the ships and costumes as intricately crafted as those in the A&E Horatio Hornblower series and Master and Commander.  The show’s production design is by Jonathan McKinstry (known for the original Total Recall, Band of Brothers, Penny Dreadful, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, The Borgias, and Sphere), with supervising art director Matthew Hywel-Davies (Doctor Who, Torchwood), and set decorator Kevin Downey (Mary Shelley, King Arthur, Penny Dreadful, Little Women).  Costumes were created by Annie Symons, who designed the wardrobes for King Arthur, The Woman in Black 2, and TV shows The Hollow Crown, Doctor Zhivago, Sweeney Todd, Dracula, and Great Expectations.  Showrunners are David Kajganich (In the Clouds, A Bigger Splash) and Soo Hugh (The Killing, Under the Dome, The Whispers).  The fact that Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Alien: Covenant, Coma) is executive producer has been heavily marketed.

Here is a preview for tomorrow’s first episode of The Terror:

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THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.

Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s almost a shame this weekend’s big screen release The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a retelling of the 1960s television series.  It’s an adaptation in that it takes the framework of the show—an American and a Russian working together as Cold War era spies—yet director Guy Ritchie makes this work stand completely by itself.  The fact that it’s based on a classic series may turn away viewers who may be tired of other remakes of 1960s shows like Get Smart and The Avengers (both of which were good standalone films).  But that would be a great loss, as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is not only as stylish as advertised in our favorite trailer of the year, it’s a classy and smart story and a superb re-creation of the early 1960s.

It’s no surprise that this film relishes its Bond influences–Henry Cavill’s character Napoleon Solo was created by Ian Fleming, the same Ian Fleming that created Bond.  Yet the movie is fresh and new.  The story and Cavill’s performance evoke Matt Bomer’s role of stylish and cocky ex-art thief-turned government man on TV’s White Collar.  In fact Cavill is a dead ringer for Bomer.  Likely it’s just a coincidence but if you loved White Collar you’ll love this film.  And any doubts you may have as to Cavill’s acting because of the poorly written part he was stuck with in Man of Steel will be wiped away with his confident and suave Solo.  Even better is Armie Hammer’s performance as Illya Kuryakin.  Any doubts you may have as to Hammer’s acting from his lead role in The Lone Ranger will also be wiped away.  Hammer’s performance as a KGB agent in need of some anger management is nuanced and layered.  The idea of putting some Ennio Morricone musical queues behind Hammer and adding a Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry twitch are simply inspired.  This is a great team and a film that sets itself up for an exciting sequel.

Cavill Debicki Man from UNCLE

As commanding a presence as Cavill and Hammer have, they are almost upstaged by the equally important roles played by Alicia Vikander as the German daughter of a rocket scientist and Elizabeth Debicki as the ultimate Bond villain.  The villainy in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is surprisingly as powerful, seething, and fun as any 1960s Bond film.  All of this is a credit to Ritchie’s bankable directorial and writing prowess.  A fan of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Ritchie knows how to get the best out of partnerships here, just as he did with his Sherlock Holmes movie series.

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Pompeii image

Years ago I had the great fortune of living in Vancouver, Washington, across the beautiful Columbia River from Portland, and every day I watched the skyline of Mt St. Helens as I drove to work downtown.  Fifty years before that, my dad peered up at St. Helens as he walked to school in that same Pacific Northwest town.  The big difference of what he saw–compared to what I saw–was the top of the mountain was gone, destroyed more than 15 years before I got there when the volcano reared its force across southwest Washington, devastating the forests and towns and lives of several people nearby, killing nearly 60 people, nearly 7,000 deer, elk and bears, and 12 million fish.

The eruption was still a topic of conversation years after the blast.  Vancouver had been covered in ash.  People shoveled ash like it was snow, and it even looked like dirty snow.  Vancouver and towns closer to the blast zone’s 230 square mile destruction area were just plain lucky the 24 megaton blast of energy didn’t stretch any further.  Even 20 years after the blast, remnants remained.  We were having our home re-roofed and a worker fell through into our family room pulling with him pounds and plumes of ash that had sat quietly in the shingles and attic all those years.

Mt St Helens 1980

As a kid watching the blast on TV, I learned a new word: pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, a disease from inhaling the ash and in its plural form the biggest word in Webster’s Dictionary.  The blast also brought memories from my dad about his service days around the city Pompeii, including reviewing his photos of the aftermath of Mt. Vesuvius and solidified stone tombs still documenting the last acts of the townspeople.   With 1,934 years removed from the tragic event, it’s easy to marvel at how interesting these people looked.  Yet I had a newly found sense of horror last week, reading the New York Times front page news of Syria. Horrific photos showed the gassed suburb of Damascus, with families also found dead in various states of simply living their lives, left in this strange, unreal-yet-too-real and disturbing way.  These people were of course murdered, in contrast to the Vesuvius natural disaster, but both events are similarly shocking.

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Matt Smith as 11th Doctor

BBC announced yesterday that Matt Smith’s last episode as the 11th Doctor on Doctor Who, the oldest series on television, will be this year’s Christmas episode to air on Christmas Eve.  He’ll also appear in the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who episode this fall.  For those of us who never would have given Doctor Who a try but for Matt Smith, he will be sorely missed.  Without Matt Smith’s energetic and brilliant performances, we wouldn’t have seen how awesome David Tennant was as the 10th Doctor, met Christopher Eccleston’s 9th Doctor and his long-running companion Rose, or checked out the numerous audio books, or even peeked at those earlier “other” Doctors.

But just as we quickly have embraced his new companion with Jenna-Louise Coleman’s Clara (Amy Pond who?) after we thought we’d met the best companion ever, life goes on and so will the Doctor’s next incarnation as he takes the form of another actor… or actress?

So who should be the next Doctor?  Matt Smith has given us some brilliant performances.  If you aren’t a Doctor Who fan and wanted to sample some of the best of Matt Smith’s Doctor, try these:

The Eleventh Hour

The Eleventh Hour.  We meet Matt Smith’s Doctor for the first time as he must save the world in 20 minutes with a wrecked TARDIS and broken sonic screwdriver and with the help of Amy Pond–the girl who waited.

The Beast Below

The Beast Below.  The Doctor and Amy travel to a future where residents live on a spaceship called Starship UK.  We meet a future Queen and learn the terrible truth about what keeps the ship–and all its inhabitants–alive.

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If this film doesn’t scream Oscar nominee I don’t know what will.  And no, we’re not talking about the film about Lincoln as a Vampire Hunter.  This afternoon Steven Spielberg released the first trailer for his film Lincoln, a big-screen account of the last days of President Lincoln and the U.S. Civil War.

Check out the supporting cast: Sally Field (The Amazing Spider-man), Tommy Lee Jones (Men in Black, Captain America), David Strathairn (Alphas, Memphis Belle, Sneakers), Hal Holbrook (The Fog, Into the Wild, All the President’s Men), Bruce McGill (Star Trek Voyager, Animal House), Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Dark Knight Rises, Looper), Jared Harris (BBC’s Sherlock)… Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

Guy Ritchie’s 2009 movie Sherlock Holmes partnered Robert Downey, Jr.’s Holmes with Jude Law’s Dr. Watson, and the result was a superb, entertaining action caper.  This weekend Ritchie’s sequel, Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, although not as great as the 2009 film, is a satisfying follow-up and equally entertaining.

In addition to Downey and Law, Rachel McAdams returns as thief and on-and-off-again love interest to Holmes, Irene Adler.  Reprising their supporting roles are Kelly Reilly, as Dr. Watson’s fiancée Mary, as well as Geraldine James as Holmes’s landlady, Mrs. Hudson, and Eddie Marsan as Inspector Lastrade.

Also returning is plenty of Holmes’s slow motion fight scenes, both real-time and shown in flashback, to sort of rub our noses in the fact that no one, not even the viewer, can keep up with the preparation and advance planning done by our hero detective.  There may very well be even more of these scenes, even longer than in the 2009 film, because I found myself comparing Holmes and Watson to contemporary variations on the duo in each of the slow-mo battles.*

As foreshadowed in the first film, Holmes now takes on nemesis Professor Moriarty, who is set up as an incredibly brilliant villain mastermind, teaching at university while also orchestrating arms deals and terrorist attacks as part of a business case to become even more wealthy, regardless of whether he starts a war to take down all of Europe in the process.  Moriarty is played well here by Jared Harris (The Riches, Madmen, Fringe, Far and Away, Last of the Mohicans, Lost in Space, The Other Boleyn Girl, Without a Trace, Lady in the Water), who gets to show some good acting chops possibly courtesy of shared acting genes from his father, legendary thespian Richard Harris (the first Professor Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series, as well as King Arthur in Camelot, Richard the Lionheart in Robin and Marian, and key roles in Patriot Games, Unforgiven, and The Guns of Navarone).  Harris plays Moriarty probably too subtly here, he hints at a dark side akin to Will Patton’s General Bethlehem in The Postman, but most of this is through the story build-up and not through his character onscreen.  We’re left wanting a bit for some more evil and brilliance to counter-balance that of Downey’s Holmes, who again here is perfect in nearly every scene.

Noomi Rapace (the lead in the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels), unlike typical casting of Hollywood model types, is well-cast as a gypsy woman, but unfortunately she only gets a few good scenes, both of them running from first Russian then German mercenaries and the resulting fight scenes and bullet dodging.

Game of Shadows, as a sequel, reminded me of a sequel like the non-stop action-filled Die Hard 3, and happily not like sequels that hit with a thud such as Downey’s Iron Man 2.

Key creative and impactful scenes include McAdams’s character encountering the full weight of Moriarty’s Godfather-like influence, Watson and his new wife’s train ride to their honeymoon, lots and lots of cannons, and Holmes’s fascination with what he calls “urban camouflage.”  There is a bit to say that doesn’t work in this sequel, the story skips around a lot, the plot itself is lacking and seems to be a bunch of stitched together scenes and you may question why they move on to the next location and think “maybe on re-viewing it will make more sense.”

But of all the positive in the film, nothing matches the introduction of a new character, Holmes’s smarter brother Mycroft Holmes, played beautifully and brilliantly by comedian and actor Stephen Fry.  Fry is an actor that seems to only get better and more brilliant every time he appears in a new film.  Known early on as part of a comedy troupe with Hugh Laurie (House, M.D.), he also had key roles in Peter’s Friends, V for Vendetta, Gosford Park, A Civil Action, I.Q., and A Fish Called Wanda, and he will be appearing next year as the Master of Laketown in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  As the “other Holmes,” Fry gets some funny, key scenes and hopefully will have even more screentime in future sequels.

*These included:  Hugh Laurie’s House and Robert Sean Leonard’s Wilson in Holmes/Watson roles on House, M.D., against their own Moriarty, Forman; on the TV show Psych, James Roday and Dule Hill’s Shawn Spencer and Burton Guster, particularly with Shawn’s observation skills; Jeffrey Donovan’s Michael Westen and his sleuthing spy work voice-overs on Burn Notice, the current equally superb BBC series Sherlock, and Batman’s detective stories, which are often written mentioning the original, classic detective’s influence on Bruce Wayne.

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