Yes, There Are Scenes During and After the “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” End Credits

Dr, Strange 2 IMAX Poster!

We don’t always pay extra for Marvel movie upgrades, but this time…eh, why not.

A coworker of mine was invited to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on opening weekend despite the fact that she’d never watched a single Marvel product in her life. While I chuckled for a few minutes and mentally judged the invitee for his selfish chutzpah, another coworker generally on the same pop-culture page as me graciously tried to recap both the first Doctor Strange and Spider-Man: No Way Home in hopes that it might give her the slightest help before being dragged into the 28th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s kind to show someone how to dog-paddle at least a little before they’re shoved into the deep end of the pool by some dude eagerly looking forward to giving her swimming lessons while she’s drowning. Oh, the gleeful countdown he probably kept in his head for days until that heroic moment when he could point at Benedict Cumberbatch onscreen and proudly, loudly whisper to her, “That’s Doctor Strange!”

Meanwhile, I’m unhelpfully daydreaming how this exchange might’ve been twice as entertaining, but only half as helpful, if at all helpful, if coworker #2 had delivered the recap in the style of Ant-Man’s pal Luis. I am arguably an enabler of the problem here.

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Yes, There’s a Scene After the “Doctor Strange” End Credits

Doctor Strange!

“By the hoary hosts of Hoggoth!” says no one in this movie ever. 0/10, huge letdown, not sure why they even bothered.

In my comic-collecting childhood, I thought Dr. Strange was okay. He’s had occasional memorable stories from talented writers and artists such as Roger Stern, Peter B. Gillis, Michael Golden, Marshall Rogers, Paul Smith, Chris Warner, Chris Claremont, Gene Colan, Brian K. Vaughan, Mark Waid, and so on. The current run by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo isn’t bad and looks stupendous. The original stories by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko were okay, but never left the same impression on me that their three-year Amazing Spider-Man collaboration did. Doc has never exactly been an all-time Top 5 hero for me. I bought his series on and off, skipping entire years and runs. I don’t mind him, but I didn’t have to have a movie about him.

It’s a good thing Marvel didn’t ask me for my opinion before arranging for Benedict Cumberbatch and director Scott Derrickson to turn Doctor Strange into such a profound panoply of prismatic panoramas. I mean, I still cling to hope of one day buying opening-day passes for Squirrel Girl: The Motion Picture or maybe a Mary Jane solo movie, but I’m okay with the Master of the Mystic Arts going first. I guess.

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“The Imitation Game”: Welcome to the Liars’ Club

The Imitation Game!

“This morning’s message simply says, ‘Eight nominations. Love you guys. Take THAT, Selma. XOXOXO Harvey’.”

World War II dramas win awards. Biopics win awards. Unhappy endings win awards. Films released by the Weinstein Company win awards. Films with Benedict Cumberbatch in them get nominations, and maybe the occasional award for the people around him. For now. So why not toss all those ingredients into a moviemaking mixer and watch the resulting casserole win the big awards bake-off?

Thus did my annual Oscarquest continue with The Imitation Game, in which The Cumberbatch takes a break from playing licensed characters to try out a historical figure instead, as he did in The Fifth Estate except farther from the present and without changing hair color this time. If this pays off and kicks off a lifetime of nonstop peer recognition, maybe someday he’ll have half as many nominations as Meryl Streep does. The internet can dream!

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“12 Years a Slave”: No, It’s Not “Roots”-Meets-“Saw”

Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave

I love that the phrase “Academy Award Nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor” is now a reality. Whether in his first U.S. film role as the Serenity crew’s most formidable villain, or even as the heroic scientist who delivers the requisite do-the-right-thing speech in Roland Emmerich’s 2012, Ejiofor has been one of those electrifying talents who improves every script he’s handed. I had hoped he would move on to bigger and better things in the years ahead. With 12 Years a Slave my wish was granted.

Why I didn’t see it till now…

“The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug” as an Afternoon of Binge-Watching

Bilbo Baggins, Martin Freeman, The Hobbit, The Desolation of Smaug

Bilbo struggles with temptation. So. Many. CUPS.

Two advance caveats:

1. It’s been years since I read The Hobbit. I remember most of it, but to me it’s not a sacred idol to be treated as holy writ every time it’s adapted into another medium. My impressions of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey were previously documented to this effect.

2. Some of the following will assume you’re familiar with the book and/or already saw The Desolation of Smaug for yourself. As a latecomer to the party once again, I doubt I’ll be treading unfamiliar ground for too many readers.

That being said: I may be one of the few viewers who found The Desolation of Smaug a more satisfying experience than its predecessor, burdened as that one was with cumbersome exposition and morose musical numbers. Faced with a 161-minute running time, I entered the theater this time with despondent expectations, but realized partway through that the movements are so neatly segmented, it was like binge-viewing a TV miniseries at home. Granted, Desolation was the equivalent of a series’ middle and therefore guaranteed to disappoint no matter how it ended, but taken as Disc 2 of 3, its 3½ episodes zoomed along nicely and moved the story forward with only minimal irrelevant detours.

Onward toward Erebor, then…

BREAKING NEWS: Cumberbatch to Play Sir Johan in “Smurfs 3”

Benedict Cumberbatch, Sir Johan

Prove it’s true, you ask? I say, prove that it’s NOT true! Because impeccable internet journalism.

You love him in TV’s Sherlock. You thought he was one of the best things in Star Trek Into Darkness even though he straight-up lied to the press about his character. You were annoyed by his ten-minute role in War Horse despite having no idea who he was at the time. You’re looking forward to his dual roles in Peter Jackson’s overextended Hobbit trilogy. You’re undecided about watching him play Alexander Godunov in The Fifth Estate. You noticed his name in the fine print for August: Osage County and are weighing your options.

Today is now the best day of your week because the internet has collectively decided to buy into the sketchy rumor that Benedict Cumberbatch, England’s second-biggest export of the decade after One Direction, has allegedly been cast to play an unnamed role in JJ Abrams’ still-untitled Trek sequel, Star Wars Episode VII. On a normal news day, your competent aggregator sites and discerning bloggers prefer to wait for official word from the likes of Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Deadline Hollywood Daily, or from TV news a full two months later. Sometimes, though, some headlines are just too awesome for professional composure or baseline fact-checking. Thus, this gossip is popping up everywhere today.

Along those same lines, I’ve decided to announce the nonexistent, completely unfounded, nonetheless tantalizing rumor than Cumberbatch has also signed on to give life to the role of brave Sir Johan in Smurfs 3. Just because I can, and clearly because we geeks now demand that he star in everything ever hereafter.

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“Star Trek Into Darkness”: Ongoing Reboot Uses Lying as Brilliant Marketing Tool

Benedict Cumberbatch, Khan, Star Trek Into Darkness

Does Benedict Cumberbatch’s new entourage stand a chance against hordes of delighted Sherlock groupies?

If your only exposure to the Star Trek universe so far has been JJ Abrams’ scintillating 2009 revival, then Star Trek Into Darkness will seem like a simple, straightforward extension of that origin story — funnier, louder, more hyperkinetic, and blessed with a far more charismatic villain. You may not notice the parade of lines and moments borrowed and refurbished from previous works, but that might be for the best.

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If Other Classic “Star Trek” Villains Received Power Upgrades for Future Sequels

Benedict Cumberbatch, "Star Trek Into Darkness"Most of you have already seen the new “announcement trailer” for Star Trek: Into Darkness, apparently heralding the real teaser trailer scheduled for release on December 17th. Internet fans continue debating the exact identity of the villain played by TV’s Sherlock, the inimitable Benedict Cumberbatch. The early rumor-mongers assumed he was Khan, but the more recent consensus is the superhuman Gary Mitchell from the original series’ second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. 1966 special effects limited Mitchell’s displays of power, but if that’s SuperCumberbatch’s true identity, then today’s cinematic tools have upgraded him to the same weight class as General Zod, Hancock, and the Chronicle teens. I look forward to seeing him punch the Enterprise out of orbit, and to watching the new Captain Kirk devise something besides an instant avalanche to end their rebooted confrontation.

After Mitchell’s ostensible facelift and the redesigned Romulans who menaced our new crew in director J.J. Abrams’ first Trek film, it’s safe to assume other classic Trek villains are vying for their turn in line to be extracted from mothballing and upconverted for future sequels. The possibilities are many:

* Apollo: The alien in a toga from “Who Mourns for Adonais?” who pretended to be the original Greek god impressed me when I watched the episode as an eight-year-old. In today’s world, imagine Our Heroes taking on an Apollo straight out of the new Clash of the Titans, all muscles and bone-crunching sound effects and flared nostrils and blinding lens-flare armor. Considering that Luke Evans had so little screen time in the Titans role (his one big scene was deleted and made him look petulant), he could reprise the role here and enjoy actual screen time for a change, not to mention superpowers.

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Ranking the Six “Sherlock” Episodes While Waiting to Judge “Elementary”

Sherlock, ElementaryMy wife and I were quite pleased to catch up with our peers recently by viewing all six episodes of the BBC’s fascinating Sherlock. Before diving in, I expected I’d at least enjoy some engaging moments from Martin Freeman, one of my favorite components of the original UK version of The Office, among other productions. Once our viewing began, I was struck more deeply by Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as a truly intelligent character with a broken social compass. More succinctly put: he’s smarter than everyone around him and doesn’t care who that bothers. I’ve known more than a few Internet users with that same attitude, many of them mistaken in their position. I can see why the show would attract such a sizable Stateside fan base.

We owe sincere appreciation to the creators — Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, and some ancient writer named Doyle — for an intricate, adrenalized concoction of tension, intrigue, and emotional gamesmanship. I’d also like to thank the crowds of fans who recommended this to us. At the moment, I would rank the six episodes produced so far as follows, with spoilers ahead.

1. “The Great Game” (s. 1, ep. 3) — A bored Sherlock finds his spirits, and later his blood pressure, raised when a mad bomber taunts him with a series of life-or-death puzzles to solve, with victims as the prizes. Our Hero finally meets an opponent to equal or even rival his talents, and finally demonstrates that he actually has moral boundaries in comparison. Humor succumbs to terror as the challenges proceed relentlessly, concluding with a revelation that had me kicking myself for not guessing it sooner. (Mental note: when reading or watching a work about Holmes, any character named “Jim” needs to be heavily scrutinized. How could I not even have thought about it?)

2. “The Reichenbach Fall” (s. 2, ep. 3) — Moriarty drives Holmes and friends to the brink of insanity with the greatest game of all, one that destroys reputation, relationships, and lives with equal aplomb. The hyperintellectual brinksmanship was truly a wonder to behold. At times it was extraordinarily tough to disbelieve the lies. The main reason it has to settle for runner-up is because the last thirty seconds of the episode were no surprise. I already knew the show would be returning for season three. Granted, I have very little idea how Sherlock actually pulled off this astounding stunt (other than a nascent theory involving Molly), but we know that, somehow, someway, he did pull it off. When I’m supposed to be surprised and I’m not, I deduct points.

3. “A Study in Pink” (s. 1, ep. 1) — Where it all began, laying out the premise, putting all the pieces in starting positions, and setting the bar ridiculously high with an initial, disturbing stumper of a mystery. Tonally distinct, visually inventive, detail-oriented, funny, and enthralling.

4. “A Scandal in Belgravia” (s. 2, ep. 1) — For once, not only does Sherlock have to discern what the clues mean, he has to discern what the clues are. The Woman is such a formidable, superior Catwoman to Sherlock’s momentarily awkward Batman that I was a little disappointed that the solution to the locked MacGuffin phone depended on her being deep-down lovestruck. Otherwise, all performances were in top form, though Irene Adler’s risqué nature pushed the content boundaries a bit more than we’d expected.

5. “The Blind Banker” (s. 1, ep. 2) — Sherlock versus the Asian underworld, with a little help from British subculture and a little interference from Watson’s wish for a personal life. This would’ve been a very good episode of any other TV show, but the impersonal villain and the cutesy dating scenes felt inessential in the context of this series.

6. “The Hounds of Baskerville” (s. 2, ep. 2) — I would still call it good TV to an extent, particularly the scene in which an incensed Sherlock shows off to prove he’s still in control of his faculties, but it was the most predictable episode to date. Once you eliminate any possible supernatural causes on general Holmes-lit principle, the only remaining explanations possible for the demon dog are (1) the vulpine roomie from Being Human is a liar or a madman; (2) genetic tampering; or (3) hallucination. The excessively misty government property narrowed the possibilities for me fairly early into the episode. (If I was meant to think, “Oh, that’s just England for you!” it didn’t work.) The whodunit aspect also tipped its hand too early if you’ve seen too many mystery shows, which have taught us that the guest star who’s dying to be most helpful to Our Hero is almost always the guilty party. Sure enough, my wife and I had him pegged after his “chance” interruption of Watson’s drink-chat with the therapist. Alas, even the smartest kids in class are bound to trip from time to time.

The Internet says that Season 3 isn’t scheduled to begin production till January 2013, which means we have at least a year before my wife and I will be able to watch episodes as they air. Until then…well, we do have an option to keep us occupied. CBS’ new counter-interpretation of the Holmes milieu, Elementary, will premiere this Thursday evening, September 27th. Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu are the prettier, Americanized versions of the detective duo who’ll be plying their trade in New York City and presumably encountering their own special Moriarty in the months ahead, though the early publicity info has a dearth of other Doyle staples such as Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson.

A schedule conflict will prevent me from watching the premiere as it airs, but I’d like to see it for myself at some point — partly because watching new things is a fun source of writing prompts for me, but mostly because I’d like to judge it firsthand rather than dismissing it outright. I’m willing to grant the benefit of the doubt, though I take slight issue with apologists who defend it on the grounds that plenty of actors have performed their own interpretations of Hamlet and other famous characters without being beholden to other versions. Though this is true to an extent, you rarely have two versions of Hamlet being staged in the same city at the same time. Usually a bit more space is left between them so they can stand or fall on their own merits, rather than competing against one another for the same audience. Also, if Elementary turns out to be nothing more than CSI: English Accent, I’m definitely done with it.

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