Martin Freeman

Fargo Series Finale

There were few surprises in tonight’s series finale of Fargo. Maybe the biggest one was how Agent Budge (Keegan-Michael Key) repeated the riddle of the previous episode’s title, “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage,” rather than moving on to address the meaning behind “Morton’s Fork,” as this installment was called. But maybe that served its own purpose. Morton’s Fork is a matter of choice in a situation where you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. For instance, if the show had Budge go over the meaning of the episode’s title, I probably would have criticized its consistency, yet with the discrepancy I question the reason. On a larger scale, the fork applies to a number of outcomes that a show might have where fans will be disappointed. Most television series these days have to deal with the dilemma when finishing up. Audiences are so hard to please at the end of a long-term investment, and at 10 episodes Fargo might have been just long-term enough to face that kind of scrutiny. Plot-wise, what might have satisfied the majority of viewers? Deaths of certain characters? Answers to questions about a particular character’s mortality? Do we ever have expectations for heroic outcomes anymore? The conclusion of this series is more interested in resolving the arcs of its good guys, and those resolutions are only satisfying on paper.

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Keith Carradine and Billy Bob Thornton in Fargo

This week, for the penultimate episode of Fargo, I’d like to start with the title. I normally leave that for the end of the recap, but for once I found there to be a very clear meaning as it relates to the plot of the show. The name of tonight’s installment, “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage,” is one variation of a classic riddle that most of us probably heard in elementary school. I don’t have to state the idea behind it, because for the second episode in a row we got to hear Agent Budge (Keegan Michael Key) lay the title’s origin out directly. The main thing is it’s about trying to keep predators away from prey (or more simply, keeping one thing from another thing that the first thing would eat) while transporting them all together. Similarly, the premise of this episode involved multiple situations where characters kept nearly coming into alignment where one of them would have been killed. That caused this to be the most suspenseful episode yet. Especially after some new characters were eliminated rather quickly (so much for my excitement with Stephen Root‘s joining the cast, though he was good while he lasted) and this being so close to the end of the show, it just seemed more deaths could come at any moment. I took it as though showrunner Noah Hawley and director (and former child actor) Matt Shakman were dealing with their own variation of the riddle, where they had to maneuver the characters around in ways to […]

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Fargo "The Heap"

First off, I want to note that I’m not going to put forth any more claim that this show has left the shadow of the Coen Brothers influence. Last week, I personally felt that it was standing enough on its own that I was no longer looking for or noticing references, but of course I was pointed to a couple fairly significant instances of quotation. I still feel like it’s departing from the pastiche, though, and that’s a good thing. But sure enough, it continues to make certain connections and allusions now and then. I did sense a Barton Fink homage in tonight’s episode with the close-up on a poster of women walking on a beach. And there’s an image of Molly (Allison Tolman) midway through that easily reminds us of Marge in the Fargo movie. More on that in a moment. Because of the narrative course of this week’s episode, titled “The Heap,” I do think it continues to break free in a way that makes it plausible that the series could continue beyond this mini run. The world of the show is strong enough. At the same time, this sure could have been a great series finale. You’ve got a kind of closure on some story lines, even if they’re not necessarily satisfying to the characters, or maybe some viewers. And then you have a device that pushes the plot forward in a way that we’re used to only seeing done in the very last episode of a show. Or, […]

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Adam Goldberg in Fargo

In many ways, I liked this week’s episode of Fargo, titled “Buriden’s Ass,” as much as I disliked last week’s (both of them were directed by Colin Bucksey). It wasn’t perfect, but it had a good deal of action and racked up a serious body count. Not that deaths make a good show, but it was enough that stuff was happening. And much of that stuff led to conclusions for certain characters and questions for and about others, questions that are intriguing rather than frustrating. Some characters make really dumb choices, as is expected in this series, but interestingly Lester (Martin Freeman) was not one of them this time. He finally made decisions that indicate he could just make it through the finale alive, after all. There are two moments in the episode where characters are shown to be really thinking about what to do next. For Lester, it’s with a surprisingly lengthy close-up on Freeman’s face as he works out his plan. And by episode’s end, it seems to have been a good plan, albeit one involving a very cliched escape scenario and a few too many instances of illogical luck (why did no one from radiology look for their scheduled patient? why did Lester’s nephew do nothing when he saw the guy creeping around the house?). Then there’s Stavros (Oliver Platt), whose thought process was accompanied by those annoying reminder flashbacks. And by episode’s end, it seems his decision was not a good one at all.

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Fargo The Six Ungraspables

For an episode that rounds out the first half of a series, “The Six Ungraspables” is a surprisingly uneventful affair. I think it might be Fargo‘s worst, because as much as it moved the plot forward, it did so at a very slow pace and not in any way that added to the characters or their storylines. Or maybe I missed something. Maybe I didn’t grasp enough this time. Maybe I was too annoyed with the unnecessary opening sequence to appreciate much else in the hour that followed. One of my biggest issues with Fargo so far is its occasional hand holding. Another is its occasional lack of logic for the sake of convenience. This fifth episode was basically all about how Lester’s Macbethian hand injury fits into both of these criticisms. After last week’s opening, I got excited when it became apparent that this too was beginning with a flashback. And to a time without snow on the ground! Silly me even thought maybe there’d be a link to O Brother, Where Art Thou? this time because of the bluegrass music. Unfortunately, all this sequence did was show us how Lester (Martin Freeman) came to own a shotgun and illustrate as plainly as possible how that shotgun later caused the festering wound in his hand. Was there anyone who was watching and hadn’t understood what that injury was from or that there was still a pellet lodged in there, one that would easily lend itself as evidence that Lester was present during Chief […]

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Colin Hanks in Fargo The Muddy Road

I can’t help but think Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) is a very careless criminal. The third episode of of the TV series Fargo, titled “The Muddy Road,” begins with the character kidnapping a man from his office during work hours in broad daylight for all to see. He’s also captured doing so on surveillance cameras. He may not show his face completely, but this is a guy with a pretty distinct look, and witnesses and closed-circuit video are easily going to be enough to put him in a tight spot. You’d think. Is he just that lucky? In the pilot episode he visits the man he’ll later murder in order to get a look at him, but everyone else there gets a good look at him, too. At the end of the same episode, he runs a stop sign in a stolen car after having murdered a couple people, including a police chief. Sure, he’s intimidating enough to get off on a warning without showing identification, but he’s eyeballed pretty good. And now, this week we also see him slip into the home of the Supermarket King (Oliver Platt), after having killed a dog in plain view outside, and just slowly and confidently continue his scheme even while the man of the house is audibly walking nearer and nearer to where Malvo is standing. There’s some nice tension there for the audience in the shot where you can see Platt walking down the hallway towards the kitchen, where Thornton is […]

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Billy Bob Thornton in Fargo Episode 2

As noted in my review of the pilot last week, the second episode of Fargo promised some more references to various Coen brothers movies, namely Raising Arizona and Burn After Reading. The former was in the form of Oliver Platt‘s “Supermarket King” character. He owns a chain of stores called Phoenix Farms and wrote a book called “American Phoenix.” I guess showrunner Noah Hawley didn’t want to go too on the nose by naming him Stavros Phoenix, though. Instead, his last name is Milos. As for the latter homage, there wasn’t much to it other than Glenn Howerton playing a personal trainer. Meanwhile, there were allusions to The Hudsucker Proxy (the man scraping the name off the police chief’s office door) and I’m gonna say A Serious Man, as the scene with Colin Hanks spying on his orthodox neighbor undressing reminded me of a scene from that film. The Easter eggs are fun but also a little distracting, particularly because I’m looking for more in every scene and wondering whom each newly introduced character might be based on. Has there been a deaf guy in any of the Coens’ movies, for instance, or is deaf actor Russell Harvard playing a wholly original part? Was the blackmail note a direct reference to The Big Lebowski or is it supposed to be just the stereotypical ransom sort seen in countless movies? The hunt might have been more consuming this time, because there wasn’t a whole lot going on in a focused manner in this episode, titled […]

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Allison Tolman in Fargo TV Series

It may not be the best movie of 1998, as its Best Picture honor claims it to be, but Shakespeare in Love is a delight for any drama nerd with a boner for the Bard. Hardly acceptable as a true account of the inspiration for and writing of “Romeo and Juliet,” John Madden’s film is really just a celebration of the work of William Shakespeare by being a pastiche of themes, tropes and lines from his plays. Another proper title for the movie would be “Mark Norman (and Tom Stoppard) in Love With Shakespeare.” In their script are direct reverential references — some of them nods of foreshadowing for things later to be written, others familiar devices employed as general homage — to “Hamlet,” “Twelfth Night,” “The Merchant of Venice” and more. Some of it is kind of silly if you find that sort of celebratory amalgamation and obvious, literal allusion to be a cheap reduction of an artist’s genius (at least Shakespeare got off better than The Beatles did in Across the Universe), and now that same kind of imitative collage is being done for Joel and Ethan Coen in the new TV series Fargo (making them modern day equivalents of the Bard, apparently deserving of equal admiration and tribute). Despite sharing its name with the filmmakers’ 1996 Best Picture nominee, the FX show is not quite an(other) adaptation or spin-off or remake of the story of Marge Gunderson and Jerry Lundegaard. It is not even set in the same Minnesota […]

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la_ca_1016_the_hobbit

A dwarf named Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) sits in a pub on the cusp of trouble when a grey-bearded wizard named Gandalf (Ian McKellen) joins him. Words are exchanged, and Thorin is convinced of a plan to lead an expedition to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the dragon in its bowels and restore it as home to the dwarves. Twelve months later, per onscreen text (and a wink from director Peter Jackson showing viewers that he can make expeditious cinema when he sets his mind to it), we rejoin Thorin, Gandalf, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and a handful of unimportant dwarves right where we left them at the end of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The gang takes refuge in the home of a bearish man named Beorn, and the next day they enter the incredibly dangerous black forest on their way to the mountain. This is Gandalf’s cue to wish them luck, say he’ll meet them on the other side, and then leave the little bastards eating his pony dust. Typical dick move by Gandalf. The void left by his absence is filled with near death by way of giant spiders, moody elves, angry orcs, petty humans, and one eloquent but very ornery dragon named Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). The end.

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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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Martin Freeman Voorman Problem

Yesterday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences unveiled the semi-finalists for the Oscar in the Live Action Short category, and to many fans’ chagrin the shortlist did not include Jonas Cuaron‘s Aningaaq, the Gravity companion piece that also arrived online this week. So much for history being made (some thought the feature and its spin-off could win Best Picture and Best Live Action Short). I’d say that perhaps the voting branch didn’t have enough room in their hearts for two movies involving Inuit characters and preferred Miranda de Pencier‘s Throat Song. But that’s also one of two shortlisted films dealing with spousal abuse, so clearly they’re okay with overlapping themes. Rather than simply lay out the shortlist as it came to us from the Academy, with only title and director and no synopsis or other information, I’ve compiled a short guide to each of the contenders. Because it’s a more international group than usual (and yet not one Irish film for once!), some were harder to find details on than others, let alone trailers — some of which were found but not subtitled in English. Only one of the ten appears to be available to watch right now (and that might change if it’s nominated, so watch asap), and another almost doesn’t even seem to exist yet and has been shortlisted on faith in the filmmakers alone. If any others pop up online, even if it’s after the nominations are announced (on January 10, 2014) and its one […]

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THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the Shire, Warner Bros. has released the extended edition of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.The movie, which grossed more than a billion dollars worldwide is getting its second home video release in the course of the year, meant to prime the pump for the upcoming sequel in December. Director and all-around Tolkien movie guru Peter Jackson joins with his production partner Philippa Boyens to dissect the first installment in The Hobbit trilogy. It’s a long one, clocking in at just about three hours, the commentary was recorded in the summer of 2013 while they were in post-production of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. This commentary track is exclusive to the extended edition of the film, and there is none available for the theatrical version, which came out in March of 2013.

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worldsend08

It’s pretty clear that Edgar Wright and his sometime co-writer/star Simon Pegg are movie junkies. Their series Spaced was all about allusions to their TV and film favorites, while the first two installments of the “Cornetto trilogy,” Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, were tributes to zombie and action flicks, respectively. With The World’s End, the homage and referencing continues. Even though the message of the movie is to move forward not backward, and even though it’s apparently a veiled criticism of Hollywood’s own nostalgic impulses, it’s okay for a movie this clever to have its influences and predecessors as long as the acknowledgment is through nods to the past works rather than a recycling or cloning of them. One key difference between what Wright does and what the remake/reboot machine does is he provides a gateway to older movies and the machine creates a substitution, a replacement. As a true movie lover, Wright is known for hosting programs of beloved classics and cult classics, usually in hopes of introducing his fans to stuff they’ve never seen. He also likes to name other films that have informed his work and are worth checking out either prior to or after seeing his movies. The following list is not all selections that he has credited nor that he would necessarily endorse. It’s a combination of some of his picks (found mentioned elsewhere) and some of my own, some obvious and some not, some great and some just worth a look for […]

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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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Pacific Rim

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly column recapping news, updating you on the trends of today and bringing you thoughts on what is going on in this world gone mad. We begin this evening with a number of looks at Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim. In conjunction with the newly released trailer, these images, poster, etc. have brought the buzz around this one to a fever-pitch just as the movie del Toro passed on (The Hobbit) moves into theaters. It’s an interesting dichotomy, really. While Peter Jackson has delivered one of the bigger disappointments of 2012 (see my notes below), del Toro gives us hope for 2013. Lots and lots of hope. More new images just after the break.

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There’s a great short starring Martin Freeman making the rounds this week, and I recommend watching that two-year-old film, titled The Girl is Mime, when you get the chance. But there’s another short led by the actor that I’d like to showcase this weekend in anticipation of The Hobbit. Way back in 1998, before Freeman was in Sherlock or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or Love Actually or even his breakthrough, the original UK version of The Office, he had two small yet notable gigs. One was appearing alongside Doctor Who‘s Shaun Dingwall in Vito Rocco’s music video for Faith No More’s cover of “I Started a Joke.” The other was starring in the 11-minute black and white film I Just Want to Kiss You. Written and directed by Jamie Thraves, best known for music videos he’s helmed for Blur, Radiohead and Coldplay, this French New Wave-style throwback has Freeman looking very young and very skinny and actually quite goofy as a guy just hanging out with his mate and meeting girls and getting into trouble with his dad. The goofiness is a bit surprising if you primarily think of Freeman as the straight man of The Office and Hitchhiker’s Guide and other such gigs. I certainly don’t know of him doing a lot of voices and vocal sound effects and the sort of spry physicality he exhibits in the short these days. Yet it does fit nicely alongside his completely physical performance in The Girl is Mime, and though he’s […]

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We’ve been hearing about Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s next film together as co-writers for a while. A mashup between the concepts of the pub crawl and the apocalypse, The World’s End has been said to be the third film in an informal trilogy that started with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Other than Wright directing and co-writing the film with Pegg, we’ve also known from the start that Pegg was set to re-team with Nick Frost as its stars. But, seeing as the film’s synopsis says that it’s about five friends in their forties trying to recreate an epic pub crawl they completed when they were younger, there’s always been a question of who else was going to be joining the cast. Well, a press release put out by Universal today not only confirms a couple names that have been floating around for a while, it also adds two more to the mix.

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Countdown to the End: Love Actually

The Mayans, the wise race of ancients who created hot cocoa, set December 21st, 2012 as the end date of their Calendar, which the intelligent and logical amongst us know signifies the day the world will end, presumably at 12:21:12am, Mountain Time. From now until zero date, we will explore the 50 films you need to watch before the entire world perishes. We don’t have much time, so be content, be prepared, be entertained. The Film: Love Actually (2003) The Plot: Love Actually marked one of the first multi-plot story line films (that actually worked) which explored the different stages, phases and versions of love set against the magical background of Christmas time in London. From the young love of Sam (Thomas Sangster) and Joanna (Olivia Olson) to the forbidden love of David (Hugh Grant) and Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) to Daniel (Liam Neeson) dealing with heartbreak, Mark’s (Andrew Lincoln) unrequited love for Juliet (Keira Knightley) and the blossoming relationship between John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page), each relationship depicted a different side and aspect of that crazy emotion that seems to drive and link us all. Love Actually showed audiences that in the end, all you need is love (despite the pain, anguish and complications that can come with it) and did so in a way that was sweet, humorous and touching.

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The Mayans, the wise race of ancients who created hot cocoa, set December 21st, 2012 as the end date of their Calendar, which the intelligent and logical amongst us know signifies the day the world will end, presumably at 12:21:12am, Mountain Time. From now until zero date, we will explore the 50 films you need to watch before the entire world perishes. We don’t have much time, so be content, be prepared, be entertained. The Film: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005) The Plot: Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) discovers that his house is scheduled for demolition to make way for a freeway bypass. Thanks to his unique friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def), he also discovers that the planet Earth is scheduled for demolition to make way for a hyperspace bypass. The worst day of Arthur Dent’s life soon turns into the most fascinating one when Ford takes him along on a trip through the galaxy by hitching a ride on passing spaceships. Dent learns that Ford is a writer for the interstellarly famous book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” which offers plenty of advice for would-be travelers, including “Don’t Panic” and to always bring along your towel. During their travels, Arthur and Ford meet up with the two-headed galactic president Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell) and quirky Earth girl Trillian (Zooey Daschenel), who are looking for an ancient supercomputer that will provide the answer to the ultimate questions of life, the universe and everything.

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There’s not much one can really say about this first trailer for the much-anticipated The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. As with Peter Jackson‘s three previous Lord of the Rings films, the project looks gorgeous, meticulous, epic, stirring, just plain wonderful, and true to its classic J.R.R. Tolkien source material. So, yeah, I love it. With The Hobbit, we again return to Middle-earth and the Shire, and to a much younger Bilbo Baggins (a very well-cast Martin Freeman), to learn (the first half of) the epic tale that started all this ring business to begin with. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey comes complete with an all-star cast, including Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Evangeline Lilly, Andy Serkis, and Richard Armitage. It’s a testament to the world that director and co-writer Peter Jackson has created that so many of his Lord of the Rings cast came pack for this next go-round, journeying back in time to recapture some of that old magic. After the break, check out the first trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

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