Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Art of the Con

The soon to be released movie Now You See Me, got me thinking about my favorite heist movies. I'm a huge fan of the genre in general because both action and cleverness are used to satisfy the plot. Not only are they a ride for the emotions, but also the mind.

My most beloved of all in this genre is The Sting. A classic con movie set in 1930s Chicago with Paul Newman (sigh...) and Robert Redford. Some other favorites include Ocean's Eleven (2001 version), Confidence, Matchstick Men and The Italian Job. I would also add the films The Prestige, The Lookout, The Brothers Bloom and Bottle Rocket to this list even though they're not straightforward con films. The Brothers Bloom and Bottle Rocket are definitely more quirky and comedic than the other two dramas.

I have yet to see Stanley Kubrick's The Killing and John Huston's The Asphalt Jungle (they're on my ever-growing list), but all I've ever read about them points to a superior heist film experience.

Am I missing any? Do you have any favorites? Let me know in the comments.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Actor to Watch: Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch 2011
Although he's already quite well known in the UK and to Masterpiece Mystery fans, Benedict Cumberbatch is poised to break out in the United States this year.  First up, he's appearing as the villain in the new sure-to-be blockbuster Star Trek Into Darkness.  Later on this year, he's appearing alongside Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts in August: Osage County and in the Steve McQueen directed, Ten Years A Slave, which has one of the best casts around including Brad Pitt, Michael K. Williams, and *most importantly* Michael Fassbender.  He is also playing controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in the Fifth Estate

The first film I remember seeing Cumberbatch in was Atonement, where he plays a creepy, creepy character.  He was excellent in that small part, so good in fact, that I initially ignored watching Sherlock because the actor still gave me the creeps.  However, when I finally broke down and watched the series, I was blown away.  Cumberbatch's Sherlock manages to balance the character perfectly, he's intelligent, charismatic, while also amusingly irritating and rude.  Cumberbatch can actually make the act of thinking look compelling on the show, and his chemistry with Martin Freeman's Watson makes the show fun to watch. 

Cumberbatch is an interesting actor, and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what he'll do in even bigger roles and movies.  Check out one of his films:

Starter for Ten (2006):  A cute, British slice of life comedy about a working class kid (James McAvoy) as he navigates his first year at Bristol College, joining the academic team and deciding between two girls (Rebecca Hall and Alice Eve).  Cumberbatch plays the uptight academic team leader. 
Find it in the catalog!

Atonement (2007). 
Find it in the catalog!

The Other Boleyn Girl (2008).
Find it in the catalog!

The Last Enemy (2008).  A Masterpiece Contemporary miniseries about a researcher Dr. Stephen Ezard (Cumberbatch) who returns home after his brother's death, only to fall for the brother's widow and get involved in an government conspiracy (whoops!).
Find it in the catalog!
Four Lions (2010).
Find it in the catalog!

Sherlock!Seasons 1 and 2
A modern update on the classic Sir Arthur Conan Doyle books. Highly recommended!

War Horse (2011):  Steven Spielberg's World War I drama about a boy and his horse, featuring just about every famous Brit you can think of (minus Hugh Grant)!
Find it in the catalog!

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011).
Find it in the catalog!