REVIEW: HOLLYWOODLAND

CAST

Ben Affleck (Gone Girl)
Adrien Brody (Predators)
Diane Lane (Man of Steel)
Bob Hoskins (Hook)
Robin Tunney (The Craft)
Kathleen Robertson (Bates Motel)
Caroline Dhavernas (Hannibal)
Dash Mihok (Gotham)
Brad William Henke (Lost)

south-park-the-end-of-serialization-as-we-know-it-645x370In June 1959, Louis Simo (Adrien Brody), a Los Angeles private investigator more interested in generating an income than in devotion to his clients, is spying on the wife of a man named Chester Sinclair to find if she is cheating. On a visit to his own ex-wife Laurie, Simo learns that his son is upset over the recent death of actor George Reeves, who played Superman on television. Reeves was found dead inside his Beverly Hills home with a gunshot wound to the head, which police ruled a suicide.south-park-the-end-of-serialization-as-we-know-it-645x370Simo learns from a former police colleague that the Reeves suicide has aspects that the cops don’t want to touch. Sensing the potential for making a name for himself, Simo begins investigating and notes several apparent conflicts with the official version of Reeves’s death. He also bickers with Laurie over his failures as a father, particularly now when his son seems so troubled.ben-affleck-hollywoodland

Years previously, in 1951, Reeves (Ben Affleck) is a charming man whose acting career has stalled since appearing in Gone with the Wind. He catches the eye of a beautiful woman and they end the night in each other’s arms. In the morning, a newspaper photo reveals to Reeves that the woman is Toni Mannix, the wife of Eddie Mannix, the general manager of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Frightened that an affair with a studio boss’s wife will destroy what is left of his career, Reeves is angry that Toni did not tell him. She claims to have an open relationship with Mannix and tells him not to worry. The much wealthier Toni begins to buy Reeves expensive gifts such as a house, a car and jewellery. Reeves lands the starring role in the television series Adventures of Superman, based on the comic book hero. The role makes Reeves famous and gives him a steady income, but he longs for more “serious” work and is uncomfortable with the public’s stereotype of him as Superman, resulting in snickers when he is seen on screen in the war film From Here to Eternity.south-park-the-end-of-serialization-as-we-know-it-645x370As the years pass, Reeves becomes bitter at being a kept man and at Toni for not using her clout to help his career. He barbeques his Superman costume to “celebrate” the program’s cancellation in 1958. He also meets a young woman in New York City, actress Leonore Lemmon, and leaves Toni for her. Toni is broken hearted and furious and seethes at her “mistreatment” by Reeves. Simo initially suspects that Leonore might have accidentally shot Reeves during an argument and imagines how the scenario might have played out. Simo is beaten at his home by thugs, apparently working for Mannix, who are trying to scare him off the case. This and other evidence leads Simo to suspect that Mannix was the one who had Reeves murdered. Simo has a vision of how that killing would have occurred.

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Sinclair murders his wife, having grown impatient waiting for Simo’s report. A guilt-plagued Simo gets drunk, then visits his son’s school, where his inebriation scares the boy. Simo visits Reeves’ manager, Arthur Weissman, who has a home movie that Reeves shot to promote some wrestling work. Reeves’ sadness and disappointment with his life is on display in the footage. Simo’s final imagined variation on Reeves’ death concludes with the actor shooting himself. This is the most vivid of the three scenarios, and Simo imagines himself in the upstairs bedroom watching the suicide. Each of the scenes imagined by Simo begins with Reeves playing guitar and singing “Aquellos Ojos Verdes (Green Eyes)” in Spanish for his house guests. After each of the three imagined renditions, Reeves says goodnight to his guests, then retires to his bedroom upstairs, just before the gunshot. Reeves’ quest for success and Simo’s realization of parallels to his own existence cause the detective to re-evaluate his life. Simo watches another home movie, this one of himself and Laurie and their son in happier days. He goes to Laurie’s house wearing a suit and tie, greeting his son hopefully.ben-affleck-hollywoodland

Hollywoodland intercuts a biopic of the last eight years in the life of actor George Reeves. It also  flawlessly evokes the 1950’s visually and tells a compelling neo-noir tale about ambition, greed, sex and the lure of stardom. A Must see.

 

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REVIEW: THE SWITCH

CAST

Jennifer Aniston (Rumor Has It..)
Jason Bateman (Identity Thief)
Patrick Wilson (Watchmen)
Juliette Lewis (Natural Born Killers)
Jeff Goldblum (The Fly)
Caroline Dhavernas (Hannibal)
Scott Elrod (Argo)
Thomas Robinson (Tomorrowland)

30-something Kassie Larson (Jennifer Aniston) is single, hasn’t found love yet, and decides she wants to have a baby. Despite the objections of her neurotic long-time best friend Wally Mars (Jason Bateman), she chooses to do so alone because she can’t wait any longer. She also wants a face-to-face sperm donor, disdaining using a sperm bank. Wally suggests he be the donor, but Kassie sees him as a bit too neurotic, pessimistic, and self-absorbed, and besides, as best friends, “that would be weird.” Wally has always had feelings for Kassie, and they dated six years ago, but his friend Leonard (Jeff Goldblum) points out he missed his chance when she put him in the “friend zone”.

Kassie selects as sperm donor a handsome and charming (and married) assistant professor, Roland (Patrick Wilson). Kassie organizes an “insemination party”, where Wally meets Roland and takes an instant dislike to him. Roland is then called upon and produces his sperm in the bathroom, leaving it in a sample cup. Wally uses the bathroom and sees the sample. Drunk and doped up after taking a pill provided him at the party by Kassie’s friend, Debbie (Juliette Lewis), and not liking the idea of Kassie being inseminated with this sperm, Wally plays with the cup and accidentally spills it into the sink. Panicking, he replaces the sperm with his own. The next day at work, still hungover, he remembers nothing. The insemination is successful. Wally is then upset when Kassie tells him she is returning to her family home in Minnesota, as she thinks that would be a better environment to raise a child in, instead of New York City. She leaves, and Wally maintains a non-fulfilling, dreary existence.

Seven years later, Kassie returns to New York along with precocious-but-neurotic son Sebastian (Bryce Robinson). She wants to reconnect with Wally, and is eager to introduce her son to him. After an awkward first meeting, Wally eventually forms a bond with this loveable and seemingly mini-version of himself, and Sebastian starts to become close to Wally, but the bad news is that Roland is in the picture too: Kassie has started dating him because he is now divorced and, as she thinks he is Sebastian’s father, and a nice guy, maybe it would work.

After Wally notices the similarities between himself and Sebastian, and after talking to his friend Leonard, Wally realizes what happened seven years earlier. Just before Roland proposes to Kassie, Wally reveals to Kassie that Sebastian is his son, along with his true feelings for her. She is shocked and angry and does not want to see him again. Some time passes, and one day, as he is leaving work, Wally finds Kassie waiting for him on the street outside his office building. She tells him Sebastian really misses him and needs him. Wally admits he misses and needs Sebastian too. Kassie then discloses she isn’t with Roland any longer, and that she loves him, even with all of his idiosyncrasies. Wally proposes to her, Kassie accepts, and they kiss. The final scene shows a happily married Wally and Kassie throwing Sebastian’s eighth birthday party.

This film is a bog standard romantic comedy it is mildly humorous and it follows the same rom-com story arch that most films in this genre do, but is lifted slightly above the others because of the cast, You may be surprised at your enjoyment of this film.

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: HANNIBAL – Œuf

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MAIN CAST
Hugh Dancy (King Arthur)
Mads Mikkelsen (Doctor Strange)
Caroline Dhavernas (Wonderfalls)
Hettienne Park (Young Adult)
Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix)
Scott Thompson (The Simpsons)
Aaron Abrams (Resident Evil 2)
Œuf
GUEST CAST
Kacey Rohl (Red Riding Hood)
Molly Shannon (Scary Movie 4)
Gina Torres (Firefly)
Vladimir Jon Cubrt (Hollywoodland)
Œuf has an asterisk in the Hannibal canon. Scheduled to air April 25, the episode was pulled in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings and the Sandy Hook massacre (the episode was filmed before the tragedy in Newtown), according to a statement by creator Bryan Fuller. Later, “Œuf” was split into web videos in an attempt to bridge any continuity gaps that the missing episode may have created. Soon after, “Œuf” was put on iTunes, Amazon and the like for interested parties.
 Curiously, “Œuf” was not included in the first run of episodes given out to critics before the began its run, and even I wondered if Fuller didn’t have cold feet about airing “Œuf” before the Boston bombings occurred. Seeing a charred child in a fireplace or an angelic little one with a bullet through her head are difficult sights to take even without the added baggage of real-life tragedy . As time passes, wounds are healed and the emotional rawness of the aftermath is forgotten. Sure, holding the episode made sense at the time (I thought it was a good idea), but we’re all good now. So rather than be an episode swept under the rug in the name of good taste, “Œuf” is now a lesser episode in the first season of an excellent series.
Hannibal’s strengths from the beginning has been its subtlety. A lot of procedurals  are not so good at the subtlety of their theme. They don’t need to be. Hell, there’s an episodic conversation in Law and Order: SVU episodes that’s akin to the Danny Tanner/lesson of the week discussion on Full House. But Hannibal has been so good at letting the inner meaning of the episode or arc slowburn. “Œuf” is not one of those episode. This one telegraphs “FAMILY!” throughout. Not only is the Molly Shannon-driven case-of-week about familial bonds (albeit fucked up ones) via created family, but so is the Hannibal-Will driven plot, as well. This is where we see Hannibal beginning to talk to Will about the surrogate fatherhood they share over Abigail. Then there is the dinner scene with Alana, Hannibal and Abigail where they sit down for a recreation of the last meal Abigail had with her real mother and father.
The procedural element of the show, featuring Molly Shannon as mother who kidnaps boys and has them turn on their families a year after their disappearance, was a fantastic premise. What I did really like about the family aspect of “Œuf” was a minor branch of the theme that ended up being its strongest: the interactions of the BAU team. I’ve loved the interplay between Hetienne Park, Scott Thompson, and Aaron Abrams since the beginning. They’re a family too, one bonded together by the horror that they’ve collectively experienced as dispassionate outsiders.
This was great episode and thankfully in the UK we got it aired and then we all get to see it on the Blu-ray/DVD. The only Christmas part of the episode is the scene where we see the remains of a family burnt near a Christmas Tree and decorations. Hannibal is a show that was brilliant and will be missed.

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: WONDERFALLS – CAGED BIRD

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MAIN CAST

Caroline Dhavernas (Hannibal)
Katie Finneran (Bewitched)
Tyron Leitso (Bloodrayne 2)
Lee Pace (The Hobbit)
Diana Scarwid (Pushing Daises)
Tracie Thomas (Cold Case)
Neil Grayston (Earthsea)

GUEST CAST

Jeffrey R. Smith (Warehouse 13)
Glenn Fitzgerald (The Sixth Sense)
Jewel Staite (Firefly)

Caged Bird’ brings the series to a close with a hostage crisis at Wonderfalls and with Jaye and Eric trying to cope with “goodbye” after Heidi arrives to take Eric home to New Jersey. While trying to escape police, an armed robber ends up trapped in the gift shop and takes Jaye, Sharon, Alec, and Wade (the mall security guard) hostage. Jaye is continually encouraged to bolster Wade’s confidence, which leads to him having a heart attack while attempting to bludgeon the robber with a souvenir paddle. As the robber grows increasingly desperate, the animals tip Jaye off to an escape route through the bathroom. The robber takes her along to protect himself, but ends up getting killed by an ambulance speeding to the scene. Ultimately, the deceased robber’s heart goes to the security guard, saving his life, and Eric and Heidi split up, leaving Jaye and Eric free to be together at last!

The frustrating, heartbreaking torture of the last run of episodes finally comes to an end as Jaye and Eric are united at long last! I’m thrilled we got to close on a “happily ever after” note for our favorite, star-crossed, not-yet-lovers. I like to imagine the two of them growing old together, keeping busy with hilarious and vague mission directives from Jaye’s animal voices. Setting the Universe to rights with trusty sidekicks Mahandra and Aaron, and with the hapless Sharon inadvertently helping out or getting screwed over, depending on the week. Oh, and the team always makes time for family breakfast and family game night at the Tylers. Dreamy sigh.

This episode was also a solid hour of entertainment, with good misdirection and multiple interpretations for Jaye’s missions, plus loads of great character interactions. Sharon comforting Jaye in the manager’s office. Aaron inviting Mahandra to his parents’ anniversary dinner as his date. Mahandra giving in to her feelings by kissing Aaron in public. Eric and Jaye in all their goodbye scenes and the wonderful “hello!” scene at the end. A great epsiode that sadly became the last episode of the show.

REVIEW: HANNIBAL – SEASON 1-3

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MAIN CAST

Hugh Dancy (King Arthur)
Mads Mikkelsen (Clash of The Titans)
Caroline Dhavernas (Wonderfalls)
Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix)
Hettienne Park (Puppy Love)
Gillian Anderson (The X-Files)
Scott Thompson (The Simpsons)
Aaron Abrams (Take The Waltz)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Raúl Esparza (Pushing Daisies)
Kacey Rohl (Caprica)
Lara Jean Chorostecki (Beauty and The Beast)
Michael Pitt (Boardwalk Empire)
Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps)
Richard Armitage (The Hobbit)
Eddie Izzard (Powers)
Gina Torres (Firefly)
Anna Chlumsky (Veep)
Cynthia Nixon (Igby Goes Down)
Fortunato Cerlino (Gomorrah)
Tao Okamoto (Batman V Superman)
Glenn Fleshler (All Good Things)
Nina Arianda (Tower Heist)
Rutina Wesley (True Blood)
Vladimir Jon Cubrt (Hollywoodland)
Richard Chevolleau (Earth: Final Conflict)
Chelan Simmons (Wonderfalls)
Cynthia Preston (Carrie 2013)
Molly Shannon (Scary Movie 4)
Ellen Greene (Heroes)
Dan Fogler (Fanboys)
Lance Henriksen (Aliens)
Ellen Muth (Dead Like Me)
Martin Donovan (Ant-Man)
Shawn Doyle (Big Love)
Barry Flatman (Odyssey 5)
Amanda Plummer (Pulp Fiction)
Jeremy Davies (Constantine)
Daniel Kash (Bitten)
Zachary Quinto (Star Trek)
Julian Richings (Cube)
Joe Anderson (The Crazies)
Mia Maestro (Alias)


There was a lot of wariness of Hannibal initially. While the original source material were Thomas Harris’ books, the movies loomed so huge in the public’s mind. And going the prequel route? Not only has that not turned out so well in Hollywood in general, it’s already given us a disappointing prequel in this very franchise with Hannibal Rising.

But lo and behold, not only was Hannibal good, it was great. There was always a major reason for optimism, amongst all the naysayers, and that was Bryan Fuller. An amazingly imaginative and distinct voice in TV, Fuller’s previous shows like Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies had proven he was someone whose work was always worth a look. And it became clear that he had a true passion for the story he was telling with Hannibal.

It’s now a very daunting task for any actor to play Hannibal Lecter, thanks to how beloved and memorable Anthony Hopkins was in the role. But Mads Mikkelsen proved to be an excellent Lecter, giving the character an ever-cool, ever observational demeanor that conveyed both his intelligence and his danger while not behaving in such an arch manner that he would come off as too obvious a villain to those he interacted with.

As the true protagonist of the series, Hugh Dancy is also perfect as Will Graham, who goes far beyond the usual “eccentric but skilled” archetype of crime series heroes to portray someone with some genuinely traumatic issues – which only escalated through the season. Dancy managed the difficult task of portraying Will’s amazing skill set and his innate “goodness” while also showing that this guy has severe problems that would make him genuinely seem like he could be someone to keep an eye out for. If Hannibal was going to convince the world at large and possibly even Will himself that he was a killer, we had to see how that could sell, and Dancy’s performance did that perfectly.

When Hannibal was first announced, it sounded like the show would be about Hannibal and Will consulting together on killer-of-the-week cases, with Hannibal managing to keep the truth about who he was from Will for several seasons. All of which is to say, it sounded like it could be tedious. But Fuller quickly proved he wasn’t playing into our assumptions at all. Yes, Will’s job had him working several different cases this season, but it was hardly a bunch of one-off, unimportant stories. In fact, several of these cases would have repercussions in later episodes, or even the killers themselves (such as Gideon and Georgia) returning. The events in Hannibal were never self-contained. Will killing Hobbs in the premiere was a huge event that would haunt and shape Will through the entire season. The totem pole on the beach may have had no connection to the main story, but it would continue to resonate with Will as he began to hallucinate. The entire season felt like a well-constructed story where the majority of the cases Will worked contributed to the tapestry being completed.

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While Will and Hannibal’s relationship is the one at the core of this series, Jack Crawford – an integral character in Harris’ books – was hardly shortchanged. Laurence Fishburne, looking far more engaged than during his short time on CSI, was great as Crawford who had his own interplay with Hannibal occurring all season, while dealing with some huge issues at home. The story of Jack’s ill-fated attempt to use FBI trainee Miriam Lass (Anna Chlumsky) to help find the Chesapeake Ripper also was used to truly shape who Jack was and what was motivating him, rather than a bit of backstory thrown in and then barely touched upon.

Overall though, the supporting characters were strong. Caroline Dhavernas had a tricky role she pulled off well as a protégé to Hannibal and a colleague of Will’s whose close ties to both men made it all the more difficult to suspect either was up to no good. Tabloid reporter Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki) was equal parts vexing and amusing as she weaved in and out of the story – eventually seeing some truly depraved events occur while in the company of Dr. Gideon (Eddie Izzard). Despite only appearing a couple of times, Gina Torres brought a lot of power to Bella Crawford’s plight and rift with her husband. And it was a delight to see Gillian Anderson as Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier, Hannibal’s own psychiatrist, as we tried to figure out exactly what she and Hannibal knew about one another.

Best of all was Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl), the daughter of serial killer Garett Jacob Hobbs. On a lesser procedural crime series Abigail would have been a one and done character; the damsel in distress Will saved. But here, the psychological damage her father had put her through long before his death, not to mention the horrific day he died (and killed her mother) cast a big shadow on the entire season. Abigail’s own secrets and her growing bond with both Hannibal and Will made for a compelling through line, as so many possibilities lay before her with two surrogate fathers who could help shape her into someone who stops murders or causes them.

Regardless though, Hannibal has plenty to fuel its stories going forward. As I noted above, Fuller didn’t play into audience expectations at all – who would have guessed that Will would have figured out the truth about Hannibal by the end of the first season? But by having it occur in the manner it did, with Will disgraced, imprisoned and looking guilty of multiple murders, while Hannibal walks free, the entire dynamic has been upended in a very exciting way.

We went into this year with a huge change-up, as Will Graham was locked up, accused of the crimes he now realized Hannibal Lecter had committed. Bryan Fuller took this subversion of the usual Thomas Harris dynamic and used it to its fullest extent, as the early episodes involved Will as the genius, (perceived) killer who was still a valuable resource to the FBI.

At the same time, Fuller realized this was a storyline that shouldn’t go too far, and wisely constructed Season 2 in two distinct segments, wrapping up the “Will as prisoner” section in the first six episodes. These episodes found Will at odds with Jack and Alana while forging a closer, ill-fated bond with Beverly. There was also some excellent material for Dr. Chilton, whose own narcissism and instinct for self-preservation mixed with his intelligence and growing awareness of just what a threat Hannibal was.

It all culminated in the absolutely fantastic “Yakimono”, which was basically the first of two amazing finales Hannibal would deliver within one season. The excitement of Miriam (Anna Chlumsky) turning up alive turned out to simply be the next step in Hannibal’s twisted traps, as Miriam was a ticking time bomb of sorts – set to go off at just the right time, aimed at a perfectly-placed target in Chilton.

Yes, Hannibal’s rise to supervillain status was cemented in Season 2, and it was glorious and terrifying to behold. Hannibal had always operated on a level that was a bit bigger than life and that got pushed even further this year, as we learned just how intricate, complex and masterful Lecter’s plans were and saw how amazing his abilities were, as he manipulated people in ways both subtle and extreme. In the wrong hands, it could have all fallen apart, but the wonderful writing and directing, combined with Mads Mikkelsen’s confidant performance – always exuding intelligence – made it work.

Meanwhile, we got to see Will Graham in a much better place, at least as far as his own comprehension of what was occurring and willingness to make huge moves of his own. After seeing Will mentally spiraling throughout Season 1, it was very gratifying to see him now so much more in control and, even as Will was put through one terrible situation after another. Hugh Dancy again brought the right mixture of vulnerability and inner strength to Will, and he and Mikkelsen played beautifully off one another.

Opening the season with the flash forward to Jack and Hannibal’s brutal, nasty fight, with a potentially fatal turn of events for Jack, was an audacious and spectacular move. It put a ticking time clock on the entire season and let us knows, even in the quietest moments, that something very bad was going to occur soon.Image result for hannibal mizumonoIn the meantime, we met siblings Margot and Mason Verger, who had their own mini-arc over several episodes. At first, I wasn’t sure if Michael Pitt’s rather big, mannered performance fit in on a show that mixes grisly and shocking imagery with quiet, subtle acting. But I was soon won over, as we got to know Mason more and saw just what a monster he was – and how his “Look at me!”, repellant behavior purposely stood in contrast to Hannibal’s mask of kindness and gentleness towards those around him. Hannibal’s instant dislike of Mason was one of several times Fuller was able to inject humor into the macabre situations this season.

One of the only problematic aspects of the season as it progressed was Alana and her seemingly unwavering belief in Hannibal’s innocence and Will’s guilt. In the early episodes, it was actually very interesting to see her sympathetic portrayal as someone who was horrified to think her friend was a killer, but wanted to help him, sure he’d been pushed into his actions by Jack not heeding the consequences in Season 1. But the more the likes of Beverly and Jack began to believe Will and start suspecting Hannibal, the more frustrating it became that Alana just didn’t see it. Thankfully, Alana began to come around on her own, not due to a shocking moment in the season finale, and was firmly on Will’s side again by the time all hell broke loose at Casa Lecter in the finale…

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…And what a finale it was. As exciting as the Jack/Hannibal flash-forward was, there was some concern that it might deflate the actual finale a bit. After all, we’d clearly seen the biggest thing that would happen in the final moments of the season, right? What else could be bigger than that? The answer was dark as hell but also incredibly exciting, as it turned out Jack would only be the first character to have a possibly fatal encounter with Hannibal inside his home. Within just a few minutes, Jack, Alana and Will all lay bleeding and dying, while Hannibal Lecter walked free. Oh, and Abigail was revealed to be alive… and then had her throat sliced by Hannibal! And Bedelia (Gillian Anderson) was revealed as being Hannibal’s companion (and accomplice) at the very end!

Season 3 of Hannibal began on the heels of an incredibly audacious, jaw-dropping Season 2 finale, that left nearly every major character except Hannibal himself possibly dead, as the bad doctor fled the country accompanied by Bedelia. You couldn’t have a bigger “What’s going to happen next?!” scenario, which no doubt led to frustrations when the season began and answers were not exactly being quickly delivered. More so, while Hannibal has always been an unusual, often esoteric, dream-like series, all of those aspects were dialed up to the Nth degree in the first three episodes of the season.

It was still highly evocative, compelling stuff, delving into the frame of mind of characters like Hannibal, Bedelia and Will Graham and their new lives in Italy, more order includes – while slowly revealing who’d survived that night in the house. I have to say, the answer to that question being “Everyone except Abigail” did diminish what had happened to a certain extent, but still, these episodes were showing there was plenty of consequence and fallout from that oh-so bloody night in Hannibal’s house, beyond the injuries sustained.

The pace picked up considerably around episode four and then went into overdrive, as Jack had an amazing rematch with Hannibal and Mason Verger’s plan to get revenge kicked into gear. A high bar was set by Michael Pitt as Mason in Season 2, but Joe Anderson adeptly stepped into his shoes (and mutilated face) in Season 3, bringing his own take on Mason’s witty, macabre insanity.Image result for hannibal primaveraThe standout “Digestivo”, which wrapped up the Mason Verger story once and for all in a thrilling, intense hour of television. A lot happened here, to the point that this felt like a season finale – which was not coincidental, given the show was about to leap ahead three years and into an entirely different story.

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Given this ended up being the final season of Hannibal I am incredibly grateful Bryan Fuller decided to move up his plan to make Red Dragon the Season 4 storyline and put it into the second half of Season 3 instead. Not only did it mean we did get the show’s version of the original Hannibal novel depicted, but it also essentially meant we got two seasons in one this year. And wow, was this version of Red Dragon awesome. Yes, it streamlined some aspects – we didn’t get any of the Dolarhyde flashbacks (one tiny glimpse aside) and Will’s role was altered, to some extent. But this was creepy, intense storytelling through and through, with Richard Armitage bringing just the right mix of scary and semi-sympathetic as Francis Dolarhyde, a murderous, delusional monster who was at war with the potentially loving man somewhere deep inside him – a war amplified as Dolarhyde fell for the blind Reba (a strong Rutina Wesley), even as “the Dragon” was coming to life within him, compelling him to kill.

This storyline also allowed Fuller to bring characters like Jimmy, Brian, Freddie and Chilton back into the story, all of whom got nice moments – well “nice” may not be the right word for Chilton, but he sure got some riveting moments, as he came face to face (and mouth to mouth) with the Dragon in a horrific manner.

Of course, the center of this show has always truly been the relationship between Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham and has given them a far more intricate, layered and complicated dynamic than they typically had in the Red Dragon novel (or other films), where Will met Hannibal a couple times, figured out he was the killer and was nearly killed while catching him. That meant this version of Red Dragon couldn’t help but feel different than others – even early on, when the story beats were pretty much sticking to the source material, what was driving Will forward felt notably altered thanks to all he’d gone through in this series beforehand. So yes, Will’s actual deductive skills are not used as much here as in the novel when it comes to tracking down Dolarhyde, and his relationship with Molly is essentially a hollow one he can’t really go back to – not because of anything wrong with her, but because of what he’s gone through. Yet the story still resonated so much because we were seeing how Will was affected by once more interacting with Hannibal and the simultaneous urge to join forces with him and determination to put an end to Lecter, once and for all.

In the midst of this, the rather obvious fact that Hannibal’s obsession with Will was a form of falling in love with Will was finally articulated – as was the idea that a part of Will returned those feelings, even while he knew Hannibal was a monster himself. This back and forth had long been fascinating and it felt appropriate to finally be upfront about it here. What was also great was that this Hannibal was a fully dimensionalized, multi-faceted character in a way no other version had been before – we saw so many sides of him, including the caring side that manifested with Will or even Abigail… even as he murdered Abigail and tried to kill Will!

We understood Hannibal better than ever, yet Fuller commendably never tried to redeem him. He was never going to change who he was. And that’s a big reason the ending was so satisfying, as Will pulled them off that cliff together. It was, on one hand, a culmination of the strange love story between the two – as the “murder husbands” were united, having killed Dolarhyde together. But Will also knew this was it. If he let Hannibal go, or live at all, he would kill again – he’d promised as much while threatening Alana. And Will might eventually cross even more lines in terms of the crimes he was willing to commit himself. So it had to end… which it did, in an emotionally stirring, “yes, this feels exactly right” manner that was, as always, perfectly played by Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen.

REVIEW: WONDERFALLS

MAIN CAST

Caroline Dhavernas (Hannibal)
Katie Finneran (Bewitched)
Tyron Leitso (Being Erica)
Lee pace (The Hobbit)
William Sadler (Iron Man 3)
Diana Scarwid (Pushing Daisies)
Tracie Thoms (Cold Case)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Gabriel Hogan (Heartland)
Kari Matchett (Cube 2)
Chelan Simmons (Final Destination 3)
Neil Grayston (Eureka)
Sarah Drew (Grey’s Anatomy)
Carrie Preston (True Blood)
Audrey Wasilewski (Red)
Colin Fox (Goosebumps)
Beth Grant (Child’s Play 2)
Louise Fletcher (Heroes)
Ted Whittall (Beauty and the BEast)
Spencer Breslin (The Happening)
Jewel Staite (Firefly)

1441440402“Wonderfalls” was one of those outstanding cult shows that burn bright and briefly — it lasted only four episodes before being yanked, with nine unaired in the usa. Now fans of this cult show are rewarded with the full series, in all its witty, quirky glory. Twentysomething Jaye Tyler (Caroline Dhavernas) is an underachieving slacker. She has a philosophy degree from Brown University, but now works as a shopgirl at Niagara Falls and lives in a trailer. Needless to say, her ultra-successful family finds this galling and disturbing, even though they themselves are far from the Cleaver clan — her sister Sharon (Katie Finneran) is a lesbian, her parents are splitting, and her brother is just a weirdo.captain-america-serial-44-2-g-1Then weirder things happen to Jaye. Suddenly toys are talking to her, and prompting her to help the people around her — returning purses, dealing with ghosts, helping an old enemy from high school, and deal with a long-dead Indian girl. Following the instructions of her “muses,” Jaye begins to learn a few things about other people, and the quality of kindness. It’s an unusual idea for a TV show — an embittered young woman hears “muses” talking to her, including a stuffed lizard, lawn flamingos and a brass monkey. Most people would just check themselves into a padded cell, but that doesn’t make for scintillating TV watching. So instead, it becomes a deeply warped inspirational series.maxresdefaultWhat sets it apart from other series is the surreal touch and wicked sense of humor. It’s never made clear why Jaye hears toys and bookends talking cryptically to her — is it God? Aliens? Her own mind? Pantheistic souls in everything? Nothing is made specific, which makes it all the weirder and more intriguing — especially since the toys give her advice even when she doesn’t want it. And the humor can be beyond weird, but is always funny, such as Jaye arguing with a cow creamer (shades of P.G. Wodehouse?) that she doesn’t want a pancake. Another example is a solemn, intense moment after she scatters a deceased person’s ashes…. and promptly gets fined for littering. The dialogue is witty and well-written — not in a laugh track way, but in a smile-and-chuckle-softly way.hqdefaultCaroline Dhavernas does a phenomenal job as Jaye. She narrowly avoids the sullen teen/twentysomething cliche, making Jaye’s dissatisfaction with her family and life seem realistic. She can be nasty and incisive and angsty, but can also be sweet and even vulnerable. The supporting cast, such as nice-guy bartender Eric (Tyron Leitso) and Jaye’s bizarro overachiever family, are surprisingly well-rounded for such quirky characters. “Wonderfalls” is destined to remain a cult hit — delicate, weird and thoroughly original. It didn’t last long, but now everyone can enjoy what there was of it. Absolutely wonder-fall.