[Spoilers avoided as much as possible but not completely guaranteed to be missing]
I am pretty sad to say goodbye to Hannibal. It took me a while to get into this show due to its excessive violent and yet I am so glad I got over these initial reservations. Hannibal is perhaps the best show ever over normal network television. I was constantly surprised by the storyline and character arcs, impressed and blown away by the imagery and cinematography, and convinced by the acting. In this last season, the writers decided to split the story in two for the first time. The first half was dealing with Verger’s revenge following Hannibal’s flight to Italy and the second culminating in the story of the Red Dragon, there was nearly no respite to the action and intrigue. And what beautiful filmmaking and music. That is one of the hallmarks of this show, how it is shot with delicacy and taste. Not to mention the re-interpretation of the various characters from the Thomas Harris books – and in particular, Mats Mikelssen’s re-invention of this debonair, charming and yet completely pathological, manipulative, and brilliantly terrifying cannibalistic killer. He brings off the character in such a believable way that we find ourselves cheering for him despite our utter horror at what he has done. Half of this season, he was often behind bars (but wow, the payoff in the last episode was epic!), but he still manipulated Will and Dolarhyde into doing his dirty work. The make up for Mason Verger (sans mask!), Dolarhyde (that tattoo!) and especially Kentucky Fried Chilton (just, wow!). It was masterful. There has to be an Emmy in there. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the show overall is the homoerotic dance between Hannibal and Will which escalates over the three seasons from fascination to bro-mance to as close to a realised relationship that the two men could ever be capable of. Hugh Grant deserves an Emmy for this portrayal (to say nothing about Mats deserving one as well) and the writers deserve one for holding this story to the end and giving us such a satisfying yet open ending with the best punchlines of the entire series….so Mr Brian Fuller, when do get get a movie again?
So, open a bottle of your favorite red wine, eat some red meat with vegetables and binge on Hannibal if you missed it. It is the most chillingly, beautiful television you may ever feast your eyes on.
[SPOILER ALERT! There may be a few spoilers below so reader beware]
Now don’t get me wrong, I found Game of Thrones to be extremely entertaining this season. There were some epic scenes which I will not soon forget – in particular at the end of episode 8. And the long-awaited (albeit short-lived) union of Danny and Tyrion, arguably the best leader-administrator duo in Westeros or Essos. And the story of Arya – while seemingly unrelated to all the action in the rest of the GoT world – was beautifully shot. There were also some satisfying moments (Brienne’s realization of her self-oath, Arya’s crossing name #1 on her list, etc). But, I was like many others, put off by the excessive violence against women this season. I think they could tell the story just as effectively without us hearing Shireen’s screams or watching Cerei’s walk of shame for 8 or 9 full minutes. Not to mention us standing in Reek/Theon’s place watching the rape of Sansa. It was done to advance the story: Stannis had to be drawn out for the blindly ambitious egotist that he was, we needed to feel some sympathy for Cersei for S06 I presume and Reek had to have motivation to become Theon again. But I have to believe that there were probably other narrative devices that could have saved us these various spectacles of men hurting women. Two out of three of these scenes was purely in the minds of Benioff and Weiss because they were not in the books and I don’t recall Martin dragging the walk of shame over too many pages. OK, off my soapbox now…
A quick list of my “bests”:
Best moment: the zombie army destroys Hardhome
2nd best moment: Drogon saves the day (and then ruins it)
Hardest moment to suspend disbelief: How does Yon-Yon walk in the ocean all the way from Hardhome to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea?
Poorest plot device: Why didn’t Jon land everyone south of Eastwatch? Why have a forced march on the zombie side of the wall for 100 kilometers or more to Castle Black rather than just take them right to the Gift?
Most satisfying death: Meryn Trent
Most disturbing death: Shireen
Best special effects: the swirling army around Stannis and the similarly swirling Khal army around the Khalessi – both splendid shots
2nd best special effects: arrival of Arya into Braavos and the House of the Nameless God
Most terrifying bad guy: The Night’s King
Most regrettable death: You don’t know anything, Jon Snow
Although it felt incredibly long and slightly unhinged at points, overall Gotham was a pretty solid show in the superhero genre. I will admit to a bit of frustration in that Bruce Wayne is too young to be Batman and so the focus shifts to Inspector Gordon and the up-and-coming Gotham badguys: Penguin, Nygma, Fish, Scarecrow, and Poison Ivy to name a few. However, the super powers and such as pretty much on the down-low, this show is more of a cops and robbers / bad-guy-a-week episodic adventure but with the underpinning and interwoven arcs of various characters in the Batman universe. It does produce a believable grit to this downtrodden and crime-ridden Gotham and the pathos does seep into most of the characters despite the hopeful optimism of Gordon. His love interest is the incredibly beautiful Morena Baccarin (soon to be in the Deadpool feature as well since her Homeland career is apparently finished) and she is painted in a complex and interesting light as well. It was satisfying to see Harvey Bullock (expertly played by Donal Logue) come around from the run of the mill corrupt Gotham cop to having Gordon’s back. I am not sure the whole Fish storyline was completely necessary at points but I guess it served to have the two Italian mafioso bosses face off and annihilate each other to the Penguin’s advantage. Oops, that was a spolier albeit a predictable one. That’s why I rate this lower than Daredevil. OK, it was network TV but still, they did not take as many risks as say Hannibal and they kept may common tropes in the character arcs. But still overall it was good entertainment.
There was a lot of buildup for this new installment in the Mad Mad franchise. I recall sneaking into Road Warrior as a kid and being blown away (and frankly scared of being caught). It was probably the first glimpse I got of an apocalyptic vision since V hadn’t aired yet and I was only like 12 or 13. OK, well I had read Lord of the Rings, but that was pure fantasy, whereas this was a projected Australian landscape. Anyway, I was impressed with Mel Gibson and the cars and all the action (although I was way too young for the violence against women in that movie). Mad Max, the first one, was actually released after Max Max in the US as I recall and I only saw it years later. I believe it was inferior in production values and acting to Road Warrior. I think I can skip over the regrettable Tina Turner vehicle and come to the present Fury Road. I think it was a good sort of reboot of the Road Warrior story if a bit more optimist.
Fury Road starts out with a roar and the adrenalin pumps for about 3/4 of the film. It has a few slower moments and it comes close to the edge on pathos but pulls back just in time to satisfy our lust for speed and grinding metal (I loved the dude playing guitar strapped to one of the War Boys rigs – kick ass!). The cars were apparently all real as the director and staff tried to avoid CG as much as possible. I thought the cinematography was splendid – the shots in the desert and most specially the awesome sandstorm was absolutely gorgeous. The palette goes from green-yellow to yellow-red to blue to blue-grey and back to yellow-red and green-yellow at the end so it is interesting that the colors follow the story arc a bit.
As for the acting, either (a) he was a bit shy about acting in Gibson’s shadow (b) the part was poorly written or (c) Tom Hardy is not a great multi-faceted actor because I found his performance fell very flat with an emotional spectrum limited to sad and, well, mad. Contrast that with the amazing and powerful Charlize Theron (badass steering wheel grease on the forehead and all!) who carries the film start to finish with compelling acting, great lines and expressions, and just generally being a total boss. Her stunts were awesome. And for once, we did not get the typical Hollywood ending – OK, no spoilers but the final scene was very satisfying to me.
It has been out for a while now so you don’t have to mess with lines, so head out and see this one on a HUGE screen with MASSIVE sound and you will not be disappointed. Your eyes and ears will bleed and you will love it! :)
For once, the female lead gets to be fully fleshed out with no pity and little gravitas. Agent Carter is just 100% badass with no apologies. OK, yes, she is still madly in love with the (for now) lost Cap’n America, but her work as a secret agent is just pure awesome. I liked Stark’s father Howard and the stories with all his inventions. The origins of the Iron Man story and the inclusion of the cast of the Cap’n America movies was really fun. Like Gotham, it is limited by the fact that it is on network TV but I think it was a little more successful. Perhaps this was a result of the frustratingly short 8 episode run, but still I found this to be solid entertainment. Hayley Atwell does an outstanding Peggy Carter and James D’Arcy’d Jarvis was fun and sometimes badass despite his unassuming nature. It was nice to see Shea Whigham here (after his outstanding performance on Boardwalk Empire as Nucky’s brother), I always like a familiar face. Not all the bad guys are incredibly believable but the action is pretty much non-stop and there is enough humor here that the show doesn’t get lost in its own gravity like Gotham sometimes seems too. So if you haven’t yet checked it out, Agent Carter is well-worth the <8h investment to watch it and catch up for season 2.
[CAVEAT EMPTOR: SPOILERS AHEAD]
Well, that happened. After 7 seasons over 9 years and 92 episodes, Mad Men took a bow and vanished into TV history on Sunday night. I thought that this last season was very strong and in particular this last episode was outstanding. I have a separate draft waiting for me to complete comparing various series finales so let me focus on Mad Men here. Several blogs and podcasts have mentioned Don’s final transformation as a successful integration of Don Draper and Dick Whitman. I think I agree with that assessment. All the Coke references (cocaine use by Joan and Richard, the call to the office where Peggy asks him to come back for Coke…) and the underlying Mad Men them of reality versus our construction of it which are echoed in the infamous Coke and a smile commercial at the end all convinced me that Don did return to the new office and make the world’s best commercial. Rather than drinking, he was doing yoga and meditating…a healthy change. I found this highly satisfying. Steggy as some have called the mutual love declarations of Stan and Peggy also tugged hard on my heartstrings (yes, I do have a romantic side!). The three women that Don talks to with person to person collect calls (thus the title “Person to Person”) are Sally (wow, has she grown into a responsible adult, who figured?), Betty (“Birdy” killed me) and Peggy were perfectly acted and could not have been better written. Yes, it is a bit sickening to see Pete walk off into the sunset but then his wife certainly deserved a happy ending for herself at least. Marie and Roger’s romance was hilarious and oddly fitting. And then there is Joan. I was so sad the Richard turned out to be an egotistical sap, but then Joan did get what she always wanted: total control over her career and her name on the door…without having to sleep with a creep!
Although it did not have the final punch that the Breaking Bad finale had, I’d rate this really high in my list of final episodes (again, a blog post is forthcoming!). So, how about you Mad Men fans out there, did you like it or were you disappointed?
It took me a little bit of time to fully dive into Transparent, but Jeffrey Tambour’s performance was so incredible and all the writing was so perfect that I thoroughly enjoyed it end to end. What I especially appreciated is how this film did not overly sympathise with the protagonist as it exposes the multiple issues in all of his childrens’ sexuality and relationships which is not directly due to his gender change but rather the instability they all felt as they were growing up. Each of the children (as adults of course) is portrayed with brutal realism. There are moments of high comedy here but also of great drama. I learned a lot of things that I really did not realise before – particularly the difference between transvestites (men who love men but wish to dress as women) and transgender (men who love women and want to change sex and become lesbians). The show never panders to sentimentality but rather offers us no excuses and no remorse but great acting and a fascinating, original plot. A must see from 2014.