“The Blacklist” Season 2 – The Stakes Rise and a Transformation

The Blacklist Season 2

    Season 2 continues the quality I’ve come to expect from this show. I continued watching and actually really enjoyed most of the twists, even though the lack of a truly threatening greater antagonist isn’t quite there. Raymond Reddington has no equal except the person Liz is becoming. I really enjoyed his long game in this and we get to see some more great characters receive exploration and the stakes get even higher.

The Pros: The Blacklist – The members of the Blacklist continue to be a draw for me when it comes to this show as it gives the writers a great opportunity to come up with some fascinating messed up characters. These were some of my favorite this season.

Alan Fitch – Fitch is great in this as he helps Red find the McGuffin (that will reveal the Cabal) in his last act. In it we see that even though he’s been antagonistic that he had a respect for Reddington and kept the Cabal off his back. With Berlin’s killing of him, all that is over and the Director is the new power.

Berlin – Berlin is humanized in this and we see that he was a man who became a monster to protect his daughter and in the end loses everything when his daughter betrays him to Reddington, finally ending their war. He has a great good-bye as Berlin and Red get drunk off Vodka together before he finally kills him. It’s a really well done scene.

The Deer Hunter – The Deer Hunter is a fascinating serial killer who targets men who were like her husband who targeted women and was the killer before. Elizabeth shows her darker side by getting into the Deer Hunter’s head which gets her time to escape and her eventually being taken down by the Team.

Tom Connolly – Conolly is the one who rises to power and gets the Cabal’s attention, later joining them and has a strong leash on Cooper. Cooper eventually rebels against it and Elizabeth kills Connolly for all the manipulations he’s pulled through the series. He was a good antagonist, the ultimate sleazeball competition.

Tom Keen – Tom is a shapeshifter and we get to know he was an orphan shaped into a weapon and shapeshifter for the highest buyer. He is really good too and doesn’t get connected to the act until Elizabeth, which becomes the story he believes. At the end he’s wanting to run away with her. Eggold does a fantastic job.

The Team – The Team continues to be strong and interesting, and I the love subplot even grew on me over the course of this season. I miss Meera a bunch and wish she was still alive, but her death isn’t meaningless. Her death becomes a huge motivator for the Team and Keen.

Samar – Mohzan Maro is wonderful as the former Assad agent who joins with the Team through Reddington and is a bit of a rival to Elizabeth initially but truly shows why she was pulled in. She takes out some personal stuff in relation to Assad and we see her rise to each challenge again and again and show her loyalty to the Team even when she has to hunt Red and Elizabeth at the end. She also hooks up with Aram over the course of the Season.

Aram – Aram remains Elizabeth’s closest friend through all the events that unfold and continues to advocate for her even as he has to hunt her at the end. I really like this guy and he is one of my favorite characters. I even enjoyed his awkward romance with Samar that happens over the course of the season. Amir Arison continues to own this role.

Cooper – This is Cooper’s season as we see him make deals with the Devil (Connolly) to help the Team and in the end it coming back to bite him…and him rising to fight it even as he loses Keen in the process as she goes on the run. He is a great guy and arguably the moral center of the Team. I completely understand why Lennix keeps getting cast in shows. He’s really good.

Elizabeth Keen – This Season is Keen’s corruption as we see her become Red. She becomes reckless, begins killing and manipulating and finally ends Connolly setting the Cabal on her and Red. She feels it though and we see how her relationship to Tom Keen and all the lies really became her reality to a degree and broke her as she keeps him locked up and his murders are what start her world falling apart as she doesn’t turn him in, she keeps him locked up on a boat though at the end we learn she’s always loved him. Megan Boone is fantastic.

Reddington – Reddington is shown to be playing a very long game in this as we see him get a group of journalists together and use them as a weapon against the Cabal as the McGuffin is shown to them and they in turn tell the story using the evidence from it. This sets the Cabal on him fully leading to him going fully underground with Elizabeth after she kills Connolly. We also learn he hired Tom to keep tabs on her since he was worried about her safety…in the end all he does in the series is to have a relationship with her like a father figure as he is such a broken man unable to form lasting relationships. James Spader is amazing.

The Ending – The death of Connolly and the Team hunting Red and Elizabeth is a powerful ending that sets up Season 3 really well.

Okay: Ressler – Guys addicted to pills…it struck me as drama for the sake of drama and it didn’t grow on me like Aram and Samar’s romance.

The Director – It’s the same guy from “Alphas” (the actor’s name is David Strathairn) and he’s okay. He just isn’t nearly as scary as Alda’s character was and I really hope there is someone bigger than him. This guy is no match for Reddington and Elizabeth together.

   This Season like last Season was great though I would put it lower on the scale than last season. Season 1 had a tighter narrative and it was great seeing Elizabeth when she was more of a foil to Reddington and not becoming him. Also there is no Meera in this season so it isn’t as good for that reason too. Regardless, 2 continues this show’s amazing quality and I highly recommend it.

Final Score: 9.2 / 10

Beasts of No Nation (2015): The Horrors of War and the Life of a Child Soldier

Beasts of No Nation

   “Beasts of No Nation,” is a great film that continues Netflix’s streak of putting out quality productions. It’s a favorite though it does have some issues, largely related to how it handles some of the things in it’s narrative, which maybe problems the book it is based on may have as well. These issues do not change how powerful the film is though.

    The film was written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga who was also one of the producers. The other producers were Amy Kaufman, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Riva Marker, Jeffrey Skoll, Daniel Crown, Idris Elba and Uzodinma Iweala who also wrote the novel of the same name.

   The story involves Agu (Abraham Attah) a villager who loses his brother and father to corrupt government forces and finds himself a part of the rebel NDF movement as he is conscripted as a soldier by the Commandant (Idris Elba). His life as a child soldier is explored as well as the politics of his country.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise of exploring war torn Central Africa is a really good idea as well as taking it from a novel from a man from the region. It gives power to the story and shows just how aware the author is of his subject material.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful! Fukunaga did an amazing job on the screenplay as well as directing. This truly was his project.

The Soundtrack – Dan Romer did a fantastic job on the soundtrack. It has a very raw and reflective to feel to it and really lets you get into Agu’s head and the isolation of the child soldiers.

The Acting – The acting is amazing, though sadly the script doesn’t give a lot of the characters the justice they deserve. We never get to know most of them, even though they are presented really well by the actors.

The Commandant – Idris Elba makes a very good bad guy. In this he is the Warlord and Commandant of the Supreme Leader and we see how twisted he is as molests his soldiers (including Agu) and takes advantage of their need for revenge and makes them his weapons with a near worship of him. In the end his second-in-command leaves him though when he turns on the Supreme Commander Dada Goodblood turning them into beasts of no nation. He promises that he’ll call upon Agu later at the end as he is left isolated and alone with only his ego.

Agu – This is Agu’s story as we see him turn to revenge that the Commandant offers him as he feels only hate for the corrupt government soldiers who killed his brother and father. He never finds his mother and his arc is leaving the Commandant when I-C gives him the chance as we see him realize that he is alone and needs to be cared for after his friend Strika (another soldier molested by the Commandant) dies when they are on the run from the Supreme Commander and government forces. Abraham Attah does a fantastic job.

Okay: The Minor Characters – Whether it is Agu’s mother or the Supreme Commander or any of the other child soldiers…we never get their motivation or why they do what they do. This is a shame as they are all acted really well and that’s why I’m not putting them down as a con, they just weren’t given much to work with.

The Con: Lack of Arc Payoff – The ending is Agu as a camp for recovering child soldiers saying he just wants to forget about the horrible things he’s done and his being a monster but we never have the Commandant call upon any of them again and we never see Agu’s mother…when so much of his original arc was finding his way back to her.

  This was a great film and even though the character payoff isn’t all that great in the end, the journey of it all and seeing Agu face everything he goes through and find agency again is powerful in it’s own right. This was a story that needed to be told and I look forward to reading the book and learning more about these conflicts.

Final Score: 9.2 / 10

“Narcos” Season 1 Retrospect – Colombia, Politics, Drugs and a Powerful Story

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     Netflix just keeps making gold…”House of Cards,” and “Daredevil” are already two of my favorite shows and now I must add “Narcos” to the list…though the fact that it didn’t end after this season is troubling. We are caught up to the year that historically Palbo Escobar died…where does the series go from here if it is going to take the 10 episode format? Do Murphy’s and Pena’s story really have that much steam left? Their arcs felt complete at the end of the story. Suffice to say though, season 1 is great with one of my few criticisms only being the ending.

     The series was created by Chris Brancato, Carlo Bernard and Doug Miro and directed by Jose Padilha.

SPOILERS ahead

     The story involves the Rise and Fall of Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura) and the drama within the Medellin Cartel and the DEA agents Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook) and Javier Pena (Pedro Pascal) and what they and the Colombian Government do to bring him and the Cartel down.

The Pros: The History – The history that takes place through the 80’s of the politics and drama between the political groups and gangs in Colombia is fascinating, especially in relation to United States involvement as it is the United States backing of Pinochet which lead to the drug trade being exterminated in Chile but spreading over to Colombia when “Cockroach” escapes to the Escobar’s and sells them his trade helping them start their Empire. We also have the war between the Colombian Government and the Cartels and the United States and the different Communist movements in South America…it is fascinating and awesome and made me want to read and study more.

The Cinematography – The cinematography captures the beauty of Colombia and the dark underbelly of the gangs and the corruption in the government as well as the grey line our characters are always walking.

The Soundtrack – Pedro Bromfman did a wonderful job incorporating traditional and modern Colombian music to make this show truly about Colombia. We get personal moments and the gritty reality of all our characters through his amazing art.

The Characters  and Organizations – The characters are all flawed and have to make hard choices and the organizations have clear goals as well and all are a mixture of fear and idealism in order to meet their ends.

The CIA  and U.S. Government – The CIA is great as we have a military guy who is all about catching the communists but another agent played by Richard Jones who is always helping our guys go after Escobar and the Cartel. It shows how complicated it is especially as they walk a grey line of looking after their own interests but not losing the goodwill of the people. Ambassador Noonan is the one who has the most difficulty with that given the United States’s legacy in Chile next store.

The Communist Rebel Groups – The rebels are all based in idealism but are presented as being cut off from the reality of the people as they are willing to kill innocents to meet their end and still claim the high ground. This eventually leads to one of the leaders surrendering to Escobar to protect his men that the Cartel are killing off. M-19 is the one that gets the most airtime as their kidnappings bring the Cartel against them though Pablo Escobar eventually defeats and uses them to his own ends.

The Colombian Government – The government is in the Cartel’s pocket for a long time until the option of extradition comes up where the caught drug deals will be sent to a U.S. prison rather than the vacation and influence they’d have in a Colombian prison.

President Cesar Gaviria – Cesar is given a lot of tough choices and we see him eventually make peace with Escobar letting him make his own prison so that the bloodshed will stop. He isn’t a coward though and we see him avoid an assassination attempt and always walk among the people, calling the Cartel out for their crimes. He is definitely flawed but you see a man faced wit the dilemma of losing sovereignty and granting the U.S. more power or letting the Cartels have more power but have sovereignty respected.

Colonel Herrera – Herrera deals with the Escobar at first but becomes a mortal enemy after this rise as he becomes obsessed with him after an assassination on his wife and himself at a cafe. This eventually leads to him setting his men on Pablo’s cousin, ending in his death.

The Medillen Cartel – The Cartel is fascinating and the gangsters are complicated monsters as we see them humanized and love and lose and make hard choices in order to survive and to grow their business.

Gacha – Gacha is unhinged and is fun to watch as Pablo Escobar is able to keep him in line even as his killings of the politicians and prostitutes is slowly getting the government to act. He is the one who is all about taking what he wants, though he has a son (who is a monster like him) who he loves. He is eventually taken out by Pena.

The Ochoas – The Ochoas make a deal with the government and Cali Cartel to leave Pablo isolated which eventually leads to Pablo’s cousins death and makes it so the sister is no longer connected to the Escobars. They win in a way as they get the prison deal they wanted and stay under the radar.

Pablo Escobar – Escobar drives the story as we see he and his cousin but the Medellin Cartel making them some of the richest people in the world. Their bond is  core connection and it is after Pablo’s cousin is killed that he loses it and eventually kills the men he put in charge of the Cartel leading to an eventual assault on the Prison he made for himself in order to keep the government off his back. He rises and in the end his love of Colombia and desire for power and respect lead to his downfall as his escape from his prison cannot prevent him from the death that is already in the history books.

The DEA – The DEA like Escobar are the main drivers of the story as we see Murphy and Pena have to make difficult choices and sometimes act on their own and for or against one another in order to stop the Cartels.

Javier Pena – It is great seeing the Red Viper again! Pedro Pascal is one of my favorite actors and I’ve missed him since the only season he was in “Game of Thrones.” He plays a womanizer in this but he has a good heart as he looks after all of those he has a relationship with, even if it means his job and life. It is this love of the people that a lot of them reject as they see him as a DEA Gringo who only cares about American interests and not those of Colombia. He proves that assumption wrong on multiple occasions. He was my favorite character in this.

Steve Murphy – Holbrook does a good job as the mustached 80’s cop who gets hardened by Colombia and addicted to the chase and war. In the end it is his home as he is driven at taking down the Cartels as he no longer cares about his life and we see his detachment from his wife as she wants to return to the States while for him, this War is all he has as home and he has nothing in the States to go back too (his partner having been killed by the Medellin Cartel prior).

The Cons: Women Sidelined – Women are very much on the sidelines in this with a reporter being the few women with power. I get that this reflects the society, but even Pablo’s mother’s influence isn’t really shown. The exception I can think of is Connie Murphy but even she feels like a side quest to the main narrative and is only really in the story because of her marriage to Steve and she isn’t needed to drive the story.

Leaving the Story Open – Escobar should have died at the end and the point about violence always being there could have been. In the end Escobar wasn’t the point of the story, the point was Colombia and how it had shaped our characters are Murphy sees it as home even after his partner sold him out to the Cali Cartel to catch Escobar. This theme is powerful but is undercut by Pablo’s escape and not death in the final from the Search Bloc.

I recommend this story, it is overwhelmingly good and the few cons don’t take away from that. It is gives Colombia respect and also goes into quite a bit of depth with all the different players in the game that the Governments and Cartels played. I’d highly recommend checking it out, even as I’m worried about what Season 2 might bring.

Final Score: 9.3 ./ 10

“Hannibal” Retrospect – A Masterpiece of Beauty, Terror and the Psychology of the Human Mind

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     What a fantastic ride this was. Very few shows manage to keep up great quality consistently through all their seasons, more often than not they will jump the shark, repeat storylines that have been done before, lose focus, change cast or try so hard to be deep that it just comes out a muddled mess. Suffice to say “Hannibal” did not have that problem.

    This was a show that gave us the chance to get to know nearly every character, be they serial killer, cop, psychiatrist or other…the episode they would appear in would give us a glimpse into their mind and motivation and ask us to question it. This was a show that liked to present horror as beautiful as well as remind us of the potential for good and bad within us all or even to question that paradigm all together. This is truly Bryan Fuller’s masterpiece.

SPOILERS are going to be ahead.

     The show’s story involves the relationship between Will Graham and Hannibal as Graham is someone who hunts killers by seeing their perspective through empathy as Hannibal both guides and attempts to corrupt him through it leading to an eventual confrontation and a fallout that occurs all through season 3 eventually leading to a final reckoning between them as around them other characters deal with the consequences of how they have been changed by Hannibal and from it how they relate to one another and the world.

The Pros: The Cinematography – James Hawkinson and Karim Hussain were great at this series creating stunning visuals throughout this season. From bodies made to look like trees and pieces of art to the use of shadow and light to show us the shadow and light within all of our characters. These two truly capture the amazing visual medium that is the art of cinema.

The Soundtrack – Brian Reitzell does a great job on the soundtrack throughout the series, giving us a haunting score that captures both the thriller and horror themes infused with an element of a tragedy.

The Writing – Bryan Fuller and his team did a great job on this series. From the characters, to the arcs, to the themes and the tiny details of showing us character motivation rather than telling us it. This writing also managed to breathe life into minor and one shot characters who managed to make an impact.

The Arcs – Season 1’s arc involved those who knew Hannibal was a serial killer getting killed off leading to the eventual framing of Will Graham and Will becoming more isolated from the people in the force as Hannibal becomes his only friend before he is framed for the murder of his adopted daughter Abigail Hobbs who he had rescued from a killer. Season 2 is freeing Will Graham from prison and Jack and Will’s hunt for Hannibal eventually leading to Hannibal and Bedelia escaping to Europe. Season 3 involves the capture of Hannibal by Jack and Will and Wil land Hannibal’s self destructive relationship coming to an end in the final confrontation with the Red Dragon.

The Characters – The characters drive the story and none of them are the same throughout the series. They change and we see them transformed by events to become much darker than the people they were before or in some cases more empathetic.

Dr. Abel Gidion – Eddie Izzard plays a fascinating killer who is obsessed with Alana Bloom and ends up being framed to have been killed by Chilton when he was really being held hostage by Hannibal and fed to himself. Izzard is savvy and even though he is a monster his rebellious nature against Hannibal is great as he promises Hannibal that he can’t wait for Hannibal to get his reward and be eaten too. Raul Esparaza does a good job.

Dr. Chilton – Chilton is corrupt and out for fame but he does have a noble side as we see him try to help Will as he does want to capture Hannibal. This leads to him getting shot and eventually him being burned alive by the Red Dragon and losing his tongue. He goes through a lot and in the end is the truth teller to others as in losing his skin he can see through the illusion of others.

Beverly Katz – Hetteine Park does such a great job. Beverly Katz is Will’s friend and she is one of the first to find out the truth about Hannibal, sadly is killed in the process but we see her help catch multiple killers as her, Will and Jack make a great team hunting the serial killers through Season 1 and her time with Will in Season 2 gives him hope of getting justice and Hannibal’s eventual capture. R.I.P. She was missed and one of the best characters on the show.

Bella Crawford – Gina Torres is wonderful as Jack Crawford’s wife. She has cancer and is a woman who wants to die for a lot of it but is able to connect with Jack and give him hope to fight on after Hannibal nearly kills him. She is there to show us the potential for good in Hannibal and to show us Jack’s tender side as she in many ways is harder than he is because of the constant suffering she is in because of her cancer. Her death means something.

Abigail Hobbs – Hobbs is the daughter of a serial killer raised by a serial killer (Hannibal) she is his partner in crime and sets up her fake death with him to frame Will Graham, but we see that she never stops caring for them both and truly wanted to spend the rest of her life with them as they could relate to her darkness and otherness she felt towards others. Will feels her death to the point that he hallucinates her being alive when he is in Italy hunting Hannibal.

Margot Verger – Margot Verger is awesome. Her brother is a sexually and physically abusive ass and seeing her get her revenge as well as find connection with both Will and later Alana Bloom show her recovery as she gets to get revenge on her brother and inherit the Verger fortune. She lives a horror story and manages to grow and endure through it…her’s is one of the few hopeful endings in this story.

Alana Bloom – Alana Bloom is the one who is a bit more detached than Will but still feels even after Hannibal nearly paralyzes her and Mason Verger continues to harass her. She is powerful and a great character as she never breaks her integrity even as she becomes more ruthless as her philosophy truly becomes one of survival and growth. Caroline Dhavernas does a great job.

Bedelia Du Maurier – Gillian Anderson is awesome! Bedelia is in many ways as sociopathic as Hannibal as she uses people for her gain and survival though we see her vulnerable as Hannibal tries to make her more than just an observer. She is great though as she navigates each of her escape and is still safe from the FBI at the end and possibly Hannibal, that is still a question as it depends what he did after the Red Dragon rescues him and before they face off against the Red Dragon. Her arc is realizing how dark Hannibal’s darkness goes, stepping away from it and setting down boundaries in turn forcing him to leave her.

Francis Dolarhyde/The Red Dragon – This guy is the best of the serial killer antagonists. He is sympathetic as he protects his blind girlfriend from himself faking his own death so she won’t have to deal with the Dragon and even giving Hannibal and Will a fighting chance before together they finally take him down as he finally becomes the Red Dragon as he ends the Angel of Darkness (Hannibal) and Light (Will) and in turns dies and becomes the Dragon as he chose death on his own terms. It’s horrifying to think about and shows just how well this character was handled. I didn’t care about this guy at all in “Red Dragon.”

Hannibal – Hannibal is a fascinating character as his arc is becoming more like Will as he saves Will’s life from Mason Verger after trying to kill him on multiple occasions as he and Will’s co-dependence leads them to destruction. He loves Will and from it hurts him as Hannibal is someone who never knew love because of the Nazi guard having him eat and kill his sister. This leads to Hannibal dealing by embracing delusion where he is always in control but it is built on a lie as he denies the humanity of others and in doing denies the humanity in himself that is always reaching out to Will and in some ways to stop (he stops killing for a while in Italy), showing there is some good in this broken monster. Mad Mikkelson might be the best Hannibal.

Will Graham – Will is awesome! He is the hero whose very ability to empathize with others makes him realize how deep his shadow goes. This show is about exploring Will Graham’s shadow as he realizes how similar he is to Hannibal in both his otherness in how people can’t relate to him and his need to hunt and stop killers in the same way Hannibal hunts victims (not eating them of course). This leads to his final choice as he realizes his self-destructive love for Hannibal will only lead to ruin as Hannibal is already ruin to all those around him and from there he makes the last noble choice to end them both. Hugh Dancy is awesome.

Good, Bad and Paradigms – Another theme is that of good and bad or good and evil. We are dealing with sociopaths and killers and the darker side of human nature is presented with different characters like Alana, Will and Hannibal attempting to upset the paradigm as we get the practical point of view of ends justifying the means through Jack Crawford, the surivalism of Alana Gram, the empathy and focus on the individual relationships of Will and the law of predators and prey with Hannibal.

The Shadow in People – The Shadow of people is another thing, with Dolarhyde and his becoming the Red Dragon that he is fighting to control, Will and his empathy and becoming the killers he is trying to avoid. Hannibal embraces his shadow making him the corrupting figure to those around him as he knows he is a sociopath and doesn’t care except in relationship to Will.

Empathy – Empathy is a theme of the show, for better and for worse. Will’s empathy leads to him being manipulated and Alana’s empathy leads to Hannibal using her. Empathy is shown to be dangerous but important as it is the only way people can truly relate and grow together. It is empathy for Will that shows that Hannibal is capable of being more than a monster with honor.

Love and Relationships – Love and relationships are a major theme. From Margot Verger and Alana Bloom escaping from their abusive ex-partners (Hannibal and Mason) and rising up as powerhouses and rulers of the Verger fortune…from Bedelia and Hannibal and Bedelia setting boundaries and surviving in the process, Jack and Bella with letting go, (which also happens with Will and Alana and them going from lovers to friends) and Hannibal and Will who become reflections of one another and is the only person Hannibal truly loves leading to their final suicide together as Will realizes that he could become Hannibal as he enjoys the rush of survival and the kill.

    The only con I could think of in this series is sometimes it gets too meditative rather than letting the action drive forward it will sit in a character’s head for a long period of time, which is fascinating but at the same at least in regards to Season 3, it held back the final confrontation between Crawford, Will and Hannibal and the Red Dragon Arc, which without a doubt was my favorite arc in the series and an excellent close to an amazing show. This is the kind of show that took it’s audience and story seriously and let them change and grow giving us character arcs and consequences to create one of the greatest and most beautiful shows on television.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10 A nearly perfect show.

Shaun of the Dead (2004): Subverting the Rom Com, Popular Culture and Zombie Films

Shaun of the Dead

      “Shaun of the Dead” is a film that does a great job satirizing modern society as well as managing to subvert some of the Rom Com tropes as Shaun is a character who most of the time manages to makes situations worse by trying to do right by his relationships. The weakest part of the film is Ed (Nick Frost) who seems to function as one big joke and in a way wasn’t needed for Shaun’s story to be told.

       The film was directed by Edgar Wright who wrote it with Simon Pegg and produced by Nira Park.

      The story involves Shaun (Nick Frost) and Ed (Nick Frost) missing the Zombie apocalypse until it is in their home forcing Shaun to reconcile with his family and ex named Liz (Kate Ashfield) as he becomes the leader of the group and plans to get them to the pub called the Winchester, believing it to be the only safe place in the city.

The Pros: The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful (as is the editing) as the soundtrack is beautifully put into the film to reflect the characters and situations. For example when David is working the lights it is like a concert with the zombies moving to the lights and music while Liz and Shaun fight to Queen. David M. Dunlap did a great job.

The Action – The action is great in this and given that these are slow walkers that says something…the Zombies actually manage to be threatening and a force even if most of the problems that happen are caused by Shaun and his own stupidity and the stupidity of his party.

The Characters – The characters are tropes in this but they get enough development that they feel real. I know people like these characters so it manages to actually be compelling in regards to what happens to them.

Pete – Pete is a dick but he also tries to be as open and supportive as he can even though Ed is giving nothing to rent and their life and he only turns on Shaun and Ed after he is bitten and can’t get any sleep because they are drunk and mixing records as Liz had just dumped Shaun that day.

Philip – Bill Nighy plays Shaun’s step-dad who was always hard on him but finally admits he’s loved him all along before he turns. He is a great character as we we gruff man not used to showing feelings finally opening up at the end and in turn revealing Shaun’s tender side too. It was great seeing him again in this too as before I’d only seen him as Davy Jones in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” Trilogy.

Barbara – Penelope Wilton (the Prime Minister from “Doctor Who”) is great in this as the mom who doesn’t want to intrude upon Shaun’s life. She is super sweet and when she dies you feel it as she was someone doing the best she could and living the theme of survival.

David and Dianne – Dianne is an out of work actress but comes up with the brilliant idea of them pretending to be zombies to get into the Winchester. David was always crushing on Liz and Dianne helped him get over it, him ignoring and denying that hurts her a lot and she goes to protect him when he is being devoured alive by zombies leading to her implied death too.

Yvonne and her Party – Yvonne is the one who seeks out the British Army and saves Liz and Shaun who are the only ones in their party who survive the apocalypse. She is always on it and is the only one with a clear head in all the events that go down. Her boyfriend is also played by Martin Freeman and the characters in her party mirror Shaun’s party. The romantic relationship – Martin and Liz as an example.

Subverting the Rom Com – In the Rom Com the man child (Shaun) usually grows up and redeems himself showing that he is a good guy. In this he is the same guy after he just now knows he courageous and has dealt with all his repressed feelings. When he is the leader he isn’t very good at it and he brought them to the Winchester which was an open pub surrounded by Zombies…nothing he does really helps and his friend

We are the Zombies – The way this is shown best is Shaun in his retail job where everyone is repeating the same phrases again and again, his morning routine as the apocalypse unfolds and him not noticing until a zombie is in his home and the television showing the crap reality television shows before and after the apocalypse and how they were essentially still the same.

Okay: Ed – I couldn’t stand this character, which might have been part of the point. He is selfish, lazy and doesn’t do anything for anyone without first measuring how it benefits himself. I think he was meant to be a joke though as he is played as normal after he turns at the end, showing he was a Zombie in a way, all along.

I would actually rate “Hot Fuzz” higher in the Cornetto Trilogy at this point as I found Nick Frost’s Danny a much more compelling character than Ed (who exists in every film of this nature usually played by Seth Rogen or a Sandler actor) and though I consider this film a favorite and found the overall satire hilarious, “Hot Fuzz” had better payoff with the jokes and dialogue. Still, this is one of the best satires, horrors and comedies and without a doubt my favorite zombie film I have ever watched.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

“Hannibal” Season 3 Retrospect – Beauty, The Past and the Seeking of Connection

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     Season 3 has been an interesting ride. The first part of the season is really slow, but it picks up when Jack Crawford and Will Graham finally get into place for dealing with Hannibal. Before that it is pretty reflective and can really stretch, not in a bad way of course, as the writing and cinematography are still beautiful but the first part of the season doesn’t compare to the second part of the season which is hands down the best the show has ever been as “The Red Dragon” became adapted to television.

     I’ll get into more detail further down but Bryan Fuller truly created a masterpiece that is at the very least on part with “The Silence of the Lambs” if not better. So without further ado, lets get into the review.  The show was produced by Carol Dunn Trussell and Michael Wray.

SPOILERS ahead.

    There are two arcs this season. The first arc involves Will Graham, Jack Crawford and Alana Bloom trying to capture Hannibal Lecter while Dr. Chilton and Mason Verger seek revenge as Hannibal and Bedelia live as the Fells in Italy as Hannibal continues his hunt for victims and Bedelia feels trapped.

   The second arc involves the rise of the Red Dragon and Will Graham being pulled back into the world he left behind. There is a time skip between Hannibal’s capture and the Red Dragon’s rise as Will and Jack hunt him as he works on his becoming and they turn once more to Hannibal for help.

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The Pros: The Writing – The writing for Hannibal has always been amazing, in this season we get into what it means to be an observer or an active participant in evil (Hannibal’s killing of others when he is Dr. Fel) and later when Will is out trying to capture the Red Dragon and ends he is willing to go to in using others the way Jack Crawford does. The writing is truly amazing this story beyond this too as we see how the events of the past season have shaped Dr. Chilton, the Vergers, Alana Bloom, Jack Crawford, Will Graham, Bedelia and Hannibal…and the Red Dragon in the second part of the season.

The Cinematography – James Hawkinson and Karim Hussain do a wonderful job on the cinematography in this show. Hands down, this Hannibal has always been a beautiful show in how they film shots and these two have consistently kept that same quality through all 3 seasons and allowed us glimpse into our characters minds in how they shoot the shots and use the light and shadow to show us a story.

The Soundtrack – Brian Reitzell did a wonderful job this season on the soundtrack once again and is good at creating tension with his soundtrack. Like the rest of the series it is haunting.

In Will’s Mind – Season 2 ended with a lot of bloodshed and one of the people who died was Will’s adopted daughter Abigail Hobbs. When he first arrives in Italy she is the main person he is talking too. We also see in Will’s mind anytime we deal with the Red Dragon as the Red Dragon or Hannibal are presented as the Monsters they see themselves as, horns or wings and all and that is how Will’s ability to empathize is visually presented on screen as well as what he sees in his mind.

Catching Hannibal – This is a great arc when it finally happens. It starts with Bedelia showing herself around cameras so the FBI will know where her and Hannibal are and continues from there with Mason Verger buying out the Italian police force and Jack and Will hunting Hannibal down. Jack nearly beats Hannibal to death with Hannibal’s torture devices against him and later Hannibal catches them both and plans to cut open Will’s head to eat his brain before he is finally caught by Mason Verger and Alana, after Margot and Alana release him to rescue Will and later Jack and Will capture Hannibal when he turns himself in after Will rejects him.

Jack Crawford’s Revenge – Jack beats Hannibal nearly to death with Hannibal’s own torture devices…after he was nearly killed last season and tormented by Hannibal in Season 2 this is major justice.

In Hannibal’s Mind – In Hannibal’s mind he is always in control. When he is prison he sees himself as in a Cathedral, his home drinking wine or in a nice environment and even when the FBI threatens to take away his toilet and other things he still holds that delusion. It’s powerful and shows why he is always confidence. Hannibal has a powerful mind palace.

The Red Dragon Arc – The Red Dragon arc is amazing and the strongest part of this season. In this we see Will has adopted a family and is taking care of them and is stable until Jack pulls him back in to hunt for the “Tooth Fairy,” who has slaughtered families and replaced their eyes with glass. In this arc we get to know Francis Dolarhyde, a loner obsessed with Blake and becoming the Dragon in Blake’s painting. To this end he connects with Hannibal which the FBI exploits and leads to a final end game in which Will and Hannibal must together stop the Red Dragon who upset the FBI’s initial plans.

The Characters – The characters have always been solid in this show and their acting is solid as usual. I’m going to name some of the most memorable performances here as well as the characters who had the most concrete arcs.

Dr. Chilton – Chilton’s arc is a tragedy as we see his lies and explotation of others lead to the Red Dragon doing the same to him and him losing his tongue and skin in the process. In the end he is the one speaking truth to the darker sides of Alana, Hannibal, Will and Jack as he sees that he was a pawn all along and calls them on it. He also speaks truth to those who judge by appearances as he once did. Raul Esparaza has a masterful performance as this very flawed but compelling character who did not deserve what the Red Dragon did to him.

Alana Bloom – Alana Bloom moves on from her trauma and heals by hooking up with Margot Verger, together they kill Mason Verger getting him back for the sexual and physical abuse he gave Margot and later we see her escape from the country knowing Hannibal could be on the loose again as her and Margot leave with their child and the Verger fortune. She is a balanced character ans she helps real in Will’s tendencies to over empathize. Caroline Dharvernas is fantastic!

Bedelia Du Maurier – Gillian Anderson plays one of the most memorable characters of the series who is able to tell Hannibal “no,” and does so when he wants to escape with her as she knows she is nothing more than a future meal and plaything and takes control of her life. We also see her outsmart the FBI as she pretends to have been hypnotized by Hannibal to become Mrs. Fell.

Jack Crawford – This is one of the best roles that Laurence Fishburne has played and my respect for him as an actor grew so much after this season. He is the one who knows the price of his job. I’m glad he survived the series and he was good at showing us there aren’t good choices as we see that Will becomes much like him as he realizes the same thing. You have to use people to catch Monsters and you may become a Monster in the process but never as bad as the ones you hunt.

Hannibal Lecter – Hannibal’s arc is him finally connecting to another human being. He tries to kill Will once but after he saves Will and is rejected by him we see that he has come around. He wants to be with Will and it is the one human connection he values as we learn at the end he wanted to give Will the thrill of a good hunt and mortality. He most likely dies at the end with Will which is the only way they could go. Mads Mikkelson is of course amazing.

Francis Dolarhyde/The Red Dragon – Richard Armitage (Thorin from “The Hobbit” Trilogy) creates a memorable role as we see someone wrestling with the Dragon within and at the same time seeking to become more while dealing with his own insecurities. In the end he is able to fake his death to protect the woman he loves from him and to trick the FBI and in the end it takes both Will and Hannibal to take him down. In the end he does “become” the Red Dragon as we see his blood become wings and that his madness makes Will realize his own inner killer. So much better than the film “Red Dragon.”

Will Graham – Hugh Dancy owns this role and in this we see him heal from the trauma Hannibal gave him by killing his adopted daughter Abigail and mortally wounding him and later we even see him move on after Hannibal turns himself in. It is only when he is pulled back into the dark that he connects with Hannibal and realizes that in the process they are both too dangerous and are both Dragons, leading to him falling with Hannibal off the cliff, ending the series and their arcs.

All the Lonely People – Season 3 is about lonely people seeking connection. Alana, Bedilia, Will, Jack, Hannibal and the Red Dragon all seek out human connections to heal from their trauma and this leads to make stupid decision (Bedilia ending up with Hannibal) or smart decisions (Alana and Margot’s romance and love) or some that are inbetween (Will and Hannibal) as each of them grow as they seek to be understood and to understand another.

The Cons: Long Start – It takes a long time for the capture of Hannibal to really pick up. It was never bad persay but compared to the rest of the show it is and I understand why a lot of people stopped watching around this point because of how long it was taking to get to the action and relationship between Will, Jack and Hannibal.

     This was an amazing season that showed just how great television could become. Every character changed, and even the minor characters like the Vergers or Reba, Rinaldo or others were compelling in the minor roles they had…they just weren’t as memorable as those I have listed under characters. At the core all our loners are seeking the connection to others and it is when they finally do so that they stop being monsters. For a moment there at the end, Hannibal was a human being as he faced off against the Red Dragon with Will Graham, and in those moments there was human connection and love…everything Hannibal had lost as a child. In this way the ending was perfect and doesn’t need anymore to it. The Red Dragon is defeated and Will and Hannibal meet there end, though they are no longer alone and ruled by the trauma from their past.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10. Nearly a perfect season.

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The “Terminator” Franchise – Worst to Best

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     Much like the “Jurassic Park” Franchise, the “Terminator” Franchise is based in a B Movie and really carries that all the way through. The times it is greater than a B Movie are the times we have characters, arcs and beautiful cinematography…but the soundtrack never really grew beyond it’s B Movie basis and that influence is something in all the films, as well as the television show.

       This is a Franchise that has not aged well. Unlike the “Jurassic Park” Franchise, the lessons from the first 2 “Terminator” films are forgotten in all the rest and the series seems unable to let itself be done, even when it messes up royally. This is a shame as this Franchise has brought in some really good talent and I can even respect some of the weird side projects that happened, since they at least tried to be more original while still honoring the core protagonists and antagonists of the Franchise (Skynet and the Resistance). But at the end of the day, this is a Franchise I just wish was done. The story has been told and if you aren’t going to end it and simply tease that maybe the mission wasn’t successful and Skynet will come back…than you are just treading water, and static is what kills any ongoing story. Stories have to change, or they’ll die to the audience and to themselves.

    So without further ado, here are the stories from the “Terminator” Franchise (including the “Sarah Connor Chronicles”) from worst to best.

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6th – Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

“Rise of the Machines” feels cheap, I mean made for the SyFy Channel cheap. The characters aren’t memorable at all, except maybe John Connor and Arnold’s T-101 is simply there to make horrible references to the other 2 films and to be a dick to John Connor and a really terrible father figure. Future John sending this version back made no sense, especially since they are dealing a very poorly designed and executed T-X who takes the Super Models as Robots trope and just runs with it. She never feels like a threat and the cinematography and writing are just terrible. It is one of the worst films I’ve ever watched.

Final Score: 2 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/terminator-3-rise-of-the-machines-2003-feels-like-a-made-for-television-movie-and-misses-what-made-its-predecessors-good/

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5th – Terminator Genisys (2015)

    Where “Rise of the Machines” is simply bad, “Genisys” is incoherent…which is sad because there could have been a great film in here about Skynet’s fall and the last of of Kyle Reese going back in time to complete the loop…but the story keeps going and we have an old T-101 acting as Sarah Connor’s father figure, a T-1000 because reasons and Time Machines in the present that Arnold’s T-101 was able to build because REASONS! Also the poster is a spoiler in regards to the plot and I never got why that plot decision was made as Sarah has never met her future son. This should have been called “Terminator: Referynce” as that is the only coherent thing holding this plot together when they Jettison the first act to play Fanservice with the first 2 Terminator films. Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese are also really bland as characters and cannot carry this film.

Final Score: 6 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/terminator-genisys-2015-terminator-referynce-with-a-great-missed-story/

/Terminator Salvation

4th – Terminator Salvation (2009)

    “Salvation” has a lot of interesting ideas and in my opinion Christian Bale is the best John Connor and Anton Yelchin is the best Kyle Reese. The others are teens or are faceless blunt action stars who have no personality…these guys do and that is what saves the sometimes incoherent confusion that is sometimes the plot as we have an early cyborg as our hero who was once an ex-convict seeking redemption and the truth of who he is. Seeing the reality where Skynet has destroyed the world and the politics between John Connor and the Council of Humanity is really cool too as they all deal with questions of destiny and the hard choices during war where you deal with an enemy who can take your form.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/terminator-salvation-2009-when-redemption-means-death/

The Terminator Poster

3rd – The Terminator (1984)

    “The Terminator” is a solid action B Film. It doesn’t strive to be more which is why I only consider it good and I do think that more could have been done with Sarah Connor’s agency (Kyle Reese is the main person fighting the Terminator up until Sarah finally fights it at the end) and these are things that keep it in it’s era as a solid 80’s B Action Flick. Arnold does a great job as the T-101 Terminator threat and Michael Biehn is a good Kyle Reese, though it is Linda Hamilton who truly carries this film by subverting the 80’s action trope and her boyfriend rather than her getting Fridged by the monster to motivate the future films. It’s sad we don’t have more female action heroes. This is the film that starts this though I think that is shown better in “T2” and “The Sarah Connor Chronicles.”

Final Score: 8 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/the-terminator-1984-a-good-thriller-with-a-decent-heroine-arc/

:Sarah Connor Chronicles poster

2nd – Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

    “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” is a show that ends with a cliffhanger but still manages to be good than the original “Terminator,” which does have a complete story and ending. Why is this the case? The core answer is the characters go through arcs and change over the course of the film. Sarah Connor learns to finally let go of John, John becomes the Resistance leader, which is a destiny he is always fighting against and characters like Agent Ellison become allies against Skynet after hunting Sarah and Catherine Weaver is willing to deal with humanity again as her 3rd Faction shows that A.I. is not all out to destroy humankind. The character of John Henry (an early Skynet A.I. that could become Skynet or destroy Skynet) is handled really well too and through him we see explorations of morality just as our heroes make tough choices showing that none of them are really good, they’re just survivors. This is what elevates it above “The Terminator” even with the Cliffhanger ending since the series got canceled. Lena Heady is awesome as Sarah Connor and Summer Glau is wonderful as the Terminator ally Cameron.

Final Score: 8.1 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/08/28/terminator-the-sarah-connor-chronicles-retrospect-good-ideas-and-characters-killed-by-a-cliffhanger/

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1st – Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

    “T2” still stands as the greatest of the Franchise. The T-1000 is a brilliant threat, everyone changes including Arnold’s T-101 who becomes human as we see him no longer terminate humans and actually grow close to John Connor. Linda Hamilton is the best action hero in this too as the unstable prophet who knows the end is coming and is doing all in her power to fight the machines. Her arc is also growing beyond her fear of the machines as we see her have a respect for the T-101 that saves their life. This film also has a huge bent of being anti-authority and it handles it well, from taking down the big business that will become Skynet and the fact that the T-1000 takes the form of a cop and uses that form to infiltrate areas and become a part of the hunt for Sarah Connor after she escapes the asylum. All these things are part of what make this film a classic and one of my all time favorite films and my only favorite film and story of this Franchise.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/06/16/terminator-2-judgment-day-1991-a-reflective-action-film-on-destiny-the-soul-and-choice/

     This is a Franchise that should just die unless it gets a “Fury Road” re-imagining that allows it to do something in such a new way with a greater point to it. At this point the Franchise is running in place, recycling points and scenes (looking at you “Genisys” and “T3” and “Salvation” to a degree) and that is why no one really looks on this Franchise fondly anymore. It has killed the goodwill that the first 2 films created and it has been running on the nostalgia of those 2 films ever since. It is this dependence on nostalgia that I think will kill the Franchise in the end. You change and adapt or you die and at the end of the day I don’t think this Franchise will make money if it continues the trend it has been going on since “T2.” I like sci. fi., Time Travel, Robots and resistance but at some point if a series has run out of ideas, let a new story be allowed the same opportunity James Cameron got when he made that first film.