Benedict Cumberbatch

The Jungle Book

There is a down and dirty street fight a-rumblin’ between The Jungle Book and The Jungle Book: Origins. Both are adaptations of Rudyard Kipling‘s classic boy-meets-bear novel “The Jungle Book.” Both are releasing within a year of each other, with the former (backed up by Disney and director Jon Favreau) coming next October, and the latter (WB and Andy Serkis) set to launch next next October. Prepare yourself for at least a solid year of back and forth Three Stooges eye-gouging between the two. Today is the first meeting of finger and soft, unguarded eyeball. The Hollywood Reporter has the first piece of casting for Serkis’ Jungle Book: Origins, and it happens to be really, really stellar casting: Benedict Cumberbatch will play the skulking, boy-hungry tiger Shere Khan. Picture in your mind’s eye, a staggeringly lifelike digital tiger, a la Life of Pi. Except when he opens that fanged maw, a regal Smaug smoothness pours out (probably not as deep in tone as Smaug’s was, but you never know). As he pads about, the slinky English lilt in his voice barely disguises how much he would enjoy disemboweling and consuming us all.

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The Imitation Game

Plink. Plink. Plink. Plink. Plink. What’s that? Oh, just the sound that signals that a serious, dangerous, historical trailer is coming on through (consider it on par with the “brrrrannngghhh” of setting a mood). Plink. Plink. Pllllunk. The Imitation Game is indeed serious, dangerous, and historical — fortunately for all involved, it also looks pretty good. After years of development back and forth (remember when Leonardo DiCaprio was going to star in this?), Graham Moore‘s Black List script about the life of Alan Turing (“the father of computer science”) is finally an actual movie with a bunch of actual stars and enough street cred to push it into “hey, maybe we need to think about awards or whatever” territory. Cool beans, and maybe it will get kids interested in computer science! It’s a win-win! (Although we wonder what kind of kids will be checking out the historical Benedict Cumberbatch film this fall, but c’est la vie.) The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing, with Keira Knightley on board as his best pal/early cool coding girl Joan Clarke and Matthew Goode, Charles Dance and Mark Strong around to add some gravitas. Ready your ears for the plinking, after the break:

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Ben Affleck in Gone Girl

Now that 2013 is coming to a close, let the opening salvo of 2014 be a slew of furrowed brows. In the first looks for their upcoming roles, some of 2013′s most talked about actors look very concerned. Two of them may be concerned because they are taking on roles for major names in the field of directing. Ben Affleck can be seen in the first still from David Fincher’s drama Gone Girl, while Christian Bale is playing Moses is Ridley Scott’s upcoming epic Exodus. And while master detective and part-time dragon Benedict Cumberbatch may not be getting the same directing pedigree in The Imitation Game, he does get to play famed codebreaker Alan Turing for the immensely talented Morten Tyldum, who directed the underseen Headhunters. All in all, there is great cause for concerned glances as we gaze upon these first looks.

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singing ringing tree

After all the thrill and adventure of The Desolation of Smaug, you’re going to wish there was more to watch. Well, there is, only it’s not necessarily more of The Desolation of Smaug (not until the extended editions on video, anyway). Instead, it’s other movies that I’ve selected as necessary viewing for those who’ve seen the new Hobbit movie. It doesn’t matter if you liked Smaug or not, because many of these titles are preferred predecessors and alternatives, anyway. Others consist of early movies starring prominent members of the cast or just movies that I was personally reminded of and have now made the excuse to share. From the very well known to the very obscure, the long and the short, there’s bound to be at least one title here for you to enjoy in however much time you have leftover following another lengthy trip to Middle-earth with Peter Jackson. This weekend’s list includes 13 titles, one for each of the 13 dwarves in the movie — though not every selection is necessarily tied to a dwarf. That was just my idea of being clever, plus the fact that such a long movie with a lot going on naturally got me thinking of more movies than usual. Check out my recommendations below and share any others you believe are relevant to mention. There are plot SPOILERS for Smaug after the jump, of course, since many of these picks are relevant to various parts of the movie.

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Sherlock

Are you ready for more of the BBC’s Sherlock? I am. Particularly because it has been so long since Benedict Cumberbatch has donned a scarf and delivered the wit to his trusted friend Martin Freeman. Sure, these two have been busy teaming up with Peter Jackson to make the latest film in The Hobbit trilogy, which not accidentally hits theaters this week, but I much prefer their Sherlock/Watson duo to their Smaug/Bilbo. Plus, I’m not such a glutton for CGI as I was when I was a younger man. To the rescue comes an emotional trailer for Sherlock‘s third series. Set two years after the events of the Reichenbach Fall, we see Sherlock planning his surprise return to Baker Street, John’s new facial situation and plenty of Mycroft sass. It’s all quite titillating, if you ask me. So much so that I can’t wait until the show premieres on PBS January 19, 2014. For now, this trailer will do.

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CUMBERBATCH_STAR-TREK-INTO-DARKNESS

When Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof finalized the script for Star Trek Into Darkness, they made a bold decision (presumably under the guiding hand of J.J. Abrams) to include a twist not based on information delivered in the movie itself, but based on real-world knowledge of the series’ history. When the destructive John Harrison reveals himself, in fact, to be Khan midway through the story, it’s an unnecessary twist designed specifically and solely for fans who knew who the hell Khan was to begin with. In an alternative universe where the simple act of making a Star Trek sequel didn’t bring Khan to every film journalist’s mind immediately, it could have been a magic moment, but it was also always destined (in every universe) to be a head-scratcher for those outside the know. They didn’t spend the movie building up the mythos of Khan — they spent the movie displaying how vicious “John Harrison” could be and then revealed, gasp, that he had another name! It was a reverse Keyser Soze. Just like that — poof — John Harrison was gone. Which is what makes Abrams’ room temperature regret about lying to the press about Benedict Cumberbatch playing Khan leading up to the film’s release all the more bizarre.

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The Fifth Estate

Editor’s note: Our review of The Fifth Estate originally ran during this year’s TIFF, but we’re re-posting it as the film opens today in theatrical release. If nothing else, Bill Condon’s tone-deaf and inept The Fifth Estate will make plain the impact that the controversial Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks have had on modern journalism, the Internet, and whistle-blowing in general. Unfortunately, little of the depth and power of Assange’s work is conveyed via adept filmmaking, instead the facts have to speak for themselves, and it’s to their credit alone that they manage to emerge from the mess Condon’s film has made of a compelling story. Thank goodness Benedict Cumberbatch is there to make an otherwise shockingly uninspired biopic even remotely interesting.

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Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 1.07.36 AM

Coming off the highly marketable Twilight movies, director Bill Condon decided to go a bit more mature but stick with a pasty pale figure that strikes fear into the heart of many: Julian Assange. It’s fitting Condon’s approach is radical in its own way. Assange himself has publicly taken issue with the film, and when you see the warts and all portrait, you’ll understand why. Thus far the movie has been as splitting as the man in question. Critics have been mixed, including our own Kate Erbland who reviewed the film at the Toronto International Film Festival, and it’s the reaction Condon expected. It’s probably not the response he wanted, but, as he says, it happens. Condon sat down with us to discuss those responses to the film, as well the battle between great characters and real life.

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It’s not exactly a secret that Julian Assange and the rest of WikiLeaks are displeased with the upcoming Assange biopic The Fifth Estate. They’ve leaked the screenplay, described the film as “irresponsible, counterproductive and harmful,” and even released a two word mini-review of the film via Twitter. Those two words: “it’s bad.” It turns out that the rabbit hole goes even deeper; in January, Benedict Cumberbatch (who plays Assange in the film) contacted the man behind WikiLeaks and asked to meet with him. Today, WikiLeaks has published the letter that Assange sent back. It actually starts off rather fondly: “My assistants communicated your request to me, and I have given it a lot of thought and examined your previous work, which I am fond of. I think I would enjoy meeting you.” But after a few compliments to Cumberbatch’s character and acting ability, the letter takes the turn down Righteous Fury Lane that we were all expecting it to take.

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Umberto Cabbagepatch

Would anyone really have the urge to punch Benedict Cumberbatch in the face? Sure, he was the villain in Star Trek Into Darkness, but even then he was far too grandiose to really deserve a bop on the head. And besides, Kirk tried more than once and just ended up tiring himself out. Well, the teaser for Little Favour does what Kirk never could – give Cumberbatch a serious case of facial bruising. There’s more to Little Favour then just repeated face-punchings, however. Cumberbatch stars as Wallace, a former British military officer suffering from PTSD. He recieves a call from an old army buddy (Nick Moran), but somewhere along the line things go very, very wrong. Go ahead and check out the film’s teaser below.

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Cumberbatch Knightley

Well this is interesting. After appearing on The Black List in 2011, Graham Moore’s The Imitation Game was going to tell the story of computing pioneer Alan Turing under the wing of Leonardo DiCaprio and Warner Bros., but the studio dropped the project in August 2012. Black Bear Pictures (Broken City, A.C.O.D.) took over production duties and then signed Morten Tyldum (Headhunters) to direct, but things have been quiet for almost a year. This week, news broke that Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley would star in the film — playing Turing and code-breaker Joan Clarke respectively — and now we can report that principal photography has actually started as of yesterday. The film focuses on Turing’s life, particularly during WWII when he and a team were attempting to crack the Nazi Enigma Code, and it also stars Matthew Goode, Mark Strong and Rory Kinnear. Obviously a lot of events from 2011 are culminating into an interesting project here. Black Bear was launched that year, Moore’s script hit The Black List then and Tyldum’s breakout Headhunters premiered at festivals in 2011 as well. It’s excellent to see this vision finally come to fruition, and it looks on track for its planned 2014 release. Now if they can only get the movie to trick people into think it’s a sentient being.  

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cumberdict

It’s not often one gets to write a story that includes so many names that geeks adore, but here we go: Tom Hiddleston is going to be replacing Benedict Cumberbatch in a Guillermo del Toro movie. Let’s back up a bit though. First, the actors in question. Benedict Cumberbatch, he of Sherlock fame, has been a very busy guy lately. So busy, in fact, that just this week he’s been the subject of a million rumors connecting him and the new Star Wars movie, and he’s signed on to star in a Percy Fawcett biopic called Lost City of Z. Eventually something was going to have to give in his schedule, and it looks like that something is the movie he was going to do with del Toro, Crimson Peak (okay, it was said that he’s not dropping out because of another project, but that could just be because they’re not admitting that he’s in Star Wars yet). Tom Hiddleston, he of Avengers fame, is an actor who is every bit as charming and every bit as British as Cumberbatch, so when faced with the task of finding a replacement for Cumberbatch in his film, he’s the guy del Toro decided to call. Well, Heat Vision is reporting that the deal is done, the day is saved, and del Toro has his charismatic, British centerpiece. Tim Hiddleston is all signed up to star in Crimson Peak.

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Percy Fawcett

Benedict Cumberbatch may not be in the next Star Wars film (at least, not according to his spokesperson), but apparently he’s still intent on starring in every other movie being released until the end of time. And it seems like 2014 will be the year of Cumberbatch biopics: he’s already slated to star as WWII codebreaker Alan Turing in The Imitation Game and rumored for a role in Flying Horse, about photographer Edweard Muybridge.

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12 Years a Slave Violin

12 Years a Slave will be making some seriously big waves this fall. The early festival reviews for the film have heaped endless praises on to director Steve McQueen, the cast, the cinematography, and anything else you could possibly heap praises upon. The film releases on October 18, and until that time we can expect more and more critics to adore the film, while those of us who’ve seen Shame (McQueen’s last film) and don’t have access to early screenings will gnash our teeth and wait it out impatiently. Now Yahoo! Movies has the first featurette from 12 Years a Slave, entitled “A Portrait of Solomon Northrup,” and one which features a lot of crucial basic information. It includes the history of real-life protagonist Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man living in mid-19th century New York who was kidnapped and spent those titular years forced into slavery, along with some details on some of the film’s supporting characters, why McQueen pursued this particular story, and what makes his take on American slavery unique. But what this featurette primarily offers is oodles of new footage for those who’ve only seen the first trailer and are aching for more. We get a glimpse at nearly every face in the film’s near-endless cast (only Brad Pitt and Michael K. Williams are absent this time around) and get to hear the sweet strains of Benedict Cumberbatch‘s believably authentic Southern accent. Go ahead and check it out below:

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It’s been two years since WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange warned us about widespread survillance on our tech devices, and the world is still fascinated with the silver-haired whistleblower. While the real Assange is still camped out in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Benedict Cumberbatch is stepping into his shoes and bleached hair for Bill Condon‘s The Fifth Estate, which focuses on Assange’s partnership with Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl) and the rise of the mighty WikiLeaks. Though we already got a glimpse of the film and Cumberbatch’s excellent Aussie accent from the trailer (which our own Scott Beggs wrote about here), the film’s team has some released new stills and posters – unfortunately they’re not giving us much to work with. There’s Assange on camera during an interview, a group of concerned Suits in a situation room probably learning about a new leak and a truly terrifying close-up of Peter Capaldi looking into your soul as if you’ve done something personal to offend him. Check them out after the break, and head on over to The Playlist for some futuristic-looking posters.

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The Fifth Estate

Why wasn’t the trailer for The Fifth Estate leaked? Seems like DreamWorks missed a great opportunity there, but they definitely didn’t miss the opportunity to capitalize on a world-altering event with a really bad haircut. With Bill Condon at the helm, Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Julian Assange in a story that focuses on his relationship with early supporter Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl) and the rise of Wikileaks as a thorn in the side of governments everywhere. The trailer feels a lot like The Social Network, and there’s a lot of prestige opportunity here, but at the very least it’ll make a great double feature with We Steal Secrets. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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trailer hobbit 2

There are so many directions one could take an introduction to the first trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The obvious one would be to rail once again against Peter Jackson‘s (and the studio’s) at least partially greed-based decision to split a 350+ page book into three movies. Or we could simply remind people how underwhelming and dull the first film, An Unexpected Journey, actually was. Or we could make a joke about Smaug the dragon (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) actually being John Harrison. Or maybe we could find some thematic connections between Jackson and Smaug… both big, lonely creatures sitting atop mountains of gold earned off the efforts of so many others. But instead, we’re just going to acknowledge that The Desolation of Smaug looks to be a far more exciting ride than the first film, and that combined with Evangeline Lilly‘s elfen beauty may just be enough to make this one a must-see. Check out the first trailer below.

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Star Trek Into Darkness

After four years of waiting and anticipation, geek honcho J.J. Abrams has finally given us the sequel to his 2009 box office and critical hit. And it is … serviceable. Abrams’ new movie is as sleek and shiny as his first Star Trek picture but lacking much of its charm. The novelty of seeing these characters coming together is gone, the villain is lackluster in bizarre ways, and the high-flying pacing is absent, making many of the film’s logic gaps even more head-scratching. And there are indeed some real head-scratchers. Choosing emotion and spectacle over logic can work, and it does in the last Trek outing and the first half of Star Trek Into Darkness, but this time around Abrams and his screenwriting team can’t gloss over all the leaps in logic and other narrative problems. What starts off as another thrilling Abrams movie ends up turning into a mess by the end. Here are some (spoiler-y) questions which arise out of that mess:

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stid 05

Please note, this piece is to be read by those who have either seen Star Trek Into Darkness or who don’t mind having its various plot points spoiled for them. It is a frank discussion of what works and what doesn’t work in the film and will include descriptions of all the major beats, including the ending. Let me start by saying that I quite like Star Trek Into Darkness. I have now seen the film three times and while I don’t quite love it like I love the 2009 Star Trek – director J.J. Abrams‘ first attempt at boldly going and so on — I did enjoy it. The first film certainly has problems of its own, but several things keep you from stopping to think about the film’s issues, mainly the breakneck pace, the incredibly charismatic cast, Michael Giacchino’s fantastic score and, yes, even Abrams’ direction. In fact, it’s most of those same things that help keep Star Trek In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida afloat. But the cracks in the hull are far more apparent this time around, and the whole thing could have easily been a disaster. After the jump I review the downsides and then move past them to highlight the upsides.

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review star trek into darkness

2009′s big screen Star Trek reboot was a success on just about all fronts thanks to director J.J. Abrams and friends’ delivery of an exciting and entertaining adventure that managed to overcome large script flaws with personality, fun and a real sense of energy. It was a hit with audiences and critics alike and left many people genuinely interested in a follow-up. Four years later and Star Trek Into Darkness is finally here, but instead of taking that time to strengthen the area of their first film’s biggest weakness (the script) they’ve actually made things worse. Fresh faces, dazzling lens flares and witty one-liners were enough to distract before, but this time the script’s egregious efforts to pillage the past for story ideas and even lift whole scenes has resulted in a hollow shell of a film that thinks ticking recognizable boxes is a valid substitute for earned emotion and engaging narrative. After a brief pre-title card scene on a primitive alien planet where the Prime Directive is seemingly redefined, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and his pointy-eared second in command Spock (Zachary Quinto) are called before Admiral Pike for punishment. Kirk is demoted, but when a terrorist attack in London leads to a deadly assault on Starfleet headquarters he’s quickly de-demoted and sent after the suspect, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). Himself a member of Starfleet, Harrison has gone rogue for reasons unknown, but when the Enterprise follows him to a Klingon planet the truth is revealed and endangers everyone aboard.

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