Gintama – Episode 25 – “The Hot-Pot is a Microcosm of Life” – Satirizing The Shonin Anime Mind Fights

Gintama Episode 25

   “Gintama” is a hilarious anime that satires most Shonin-anime, while still managing to create interesting characters who exist as characters who are more than just types. It’s a series that two friends have shown me now and one I recommend, even if it’s just to catch the ones that people recommend as it is hilarious and I plan on reviewing more of the show in the future.

     The episode I’ll be reviewing this time is “The Hot-Pot is a Microcosm of Life.”

The Pros: The Satire of “Deathnote” – Throughout the episode more people arrive to eat at the table and share in the hot pot forcing each to try and outmaneuver the other to be the first. In each of their minds we get to hear them voice strategy or feel the pain or thrill of victory with each mood, as we get with Light in “Deathnote.”

The Name Gag – There is a character whose name is always messed up. His actual named is Katsura but Sakata continues to call him Zura, and in this episode he hears when Sakata is even thinking that name and corrects him.

The Rivalry – This episode is all about rivalry, largely between the two leads as each wants to be the best and in doing so fail.

Catherine – Catherine is the alien girl who doesn’t care about the rivalry and ends up eating both pots that are served showing how “face” and obsession with it can ruin everything and that it’s important to remember why you are at an occasion in the first place.

Satirizing “Face” – In all cases the winner and the only one who eats is Catherine and she is the alien who doesn’t care about manners or “face” and in doing so shows them why they were there in the first place by eating the meal that all were choosing not to eat.

    The jokes all work in the episode I really like how it over-dramatized the idea of winning face and being the first to eat from the hot pot. The writing is tight and throughout it all it never stops being funny. It is good comedy and also manages to be good action as well. This is an episode I’d highly recommend.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10

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Hail, Caesar! (2016): A Satire and Celebration of Hollywood’s Past

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     The Coen Brothers continue to make gold. This film is a really good satire that isn’t as great as some of their older films, but still would easily make my Top 10 Films of the Year (whether it’d make Top 5 remains to be seen). This is a film that captures the Coen Brothers’ humor, western feel and detachment that makes up so many of their films. It also does a great job illustrating the craft of making a film and all the art and messyness that goes into it as it explores it through the lens of Hollywood’s “Golden Era” during the 1950s.

    The film was written, directed and produced by Joel and Ethan Coen with the other producers being Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner.

SPOILERS ahead

      The story involves Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) the head of Production at Capitol Pictures and the drama of the life he lives as his star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) of “Hail, Caesar” is kidnapped, the pregnancy of one of his star actresses DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) and two rival gossip column sisters Thora and Thessely (Tilda Swinton) which puts the choice Lockheed Martin is offering him as an out into perspective as he must make a choice to take the offer or stay with Capitol.

The Pros: The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful as old style ways of filming are captured…whether it is the epic open shots of the Roman Epic “Hail, Caesar” or the small black and white of the comedy western Doyle is in, or the stark, sterile large rooms of a Laurence production. Roger Deakins truly does a fantastic job.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is amazing too. Just like with the cinematography all the different styles of 1950’s films are captured. From the epic trumpets of “Hail, Caesar” or the more action adventure of Doyle’s western. Carter Burwell did a great job once again.

The Writing – The Coen Brothers are great writers and though there is a narrator we never see narrating the life of Mannix, it never interferes with the story going on. We are shown and not told most of what happens and that is part of what makes the brothers so great at what they do, as the script is usually the strongest part of their films.

The Characters – The Characters are easily the strongest part of the film. This film was really well cast and each of the side characters has their moment to shine at different points.

Laurence Laurentz – Ralph Fiennes is wonderful as an uptight director doing Victorian style films who has to use Doyle, a cowboy with a very strong accent as the star of his show. Over the course of his scenes you see him slowly lose control of his calm nature and finally explode at Mannix before keeping Doyle to only two lines to make the film work. He really is a fun character.

Thora and Thessely – These two (both played by Swinton) are a lot of fun as they reveal the underbelly of everything and the drama. They have a relationship with Mannix too in that he does throw them bones to keep scandals from getting out of hand. I wish we could have seen what got them into the circuit as they are both extremely driven.

Baird Whitlock – George Clooney plays the naive star who gets kidnapped by a communist cell of writers and comes around to their way of thinking. He’s an example of the pseudo-intellectual (like many cell) except he’s largely an idiot and you get the idea he’s doing what he’s doing for the attention as him going on benders and getting into trouble is a huge part of his character. He gets his act back together though after Doyle rescues him and Mannix knocks some sense to him as we see that all he really wants is to be a star (and the attention that comes with it).

Hobie Doyle – Alden plays Doyle who was a rodeo guy who was picked up by Mannix and when he got the chance to sing became the star of westerns. He’s a kind and naive guy like Baird but also serious about his work. He doesn’t make it out of being in the westerns and he likes it that way as it gives him a chance to celebrate the western background he comes from. He’s the hero of the picture besides Mannix as he is the one who finds Whitlock and brings him back to the studio.

Joseph Silverman – Jonah Hill is awesome as the no-nonsence fixer who is a legal person so that Moran can get legal control over her child. They end up falling in love though as she’s tough and he fits what she wants in a man as they get married and leave the child behind and send it into foster care.

DeeAnna Moran – Johansson is awesome in this role and I wish we’d spent more time with her. She doesn’t care about anyone but herself and is a huge diva but in the end finds love with the most un-person person, showing that there is more to her too, though she is still extremely selfish and the character we’ve known all along as she has her child go into foster care rather than raising it. I wish we could have got more of her backstory. She steals every scene she’s in.

Eddie Mannix – Josh Brolin plays are main guy who is a rough manager facing a choice of stability with Lockheed or the chaos of the studios and making pictures. In the end he stays as he loves the challenge of it and feels he is main for it as he is made to be the Christ Figure as he is born in light (Film) and will live forever because of it. He is a smooth operator and is able to fix everything, which in the end we learn is why he likes to do it so much. It’s difficult but he’s good at it.

The Satire of Hollywood – The satire is in layers, whether it is the sisters focusing on stupid actor pairings and hookups, the communist cell intellectuals are aren’t changing anything and just hanging out in a vacationesque home and how every film we see captures the hammyness of those early productions where everything was big and overdramatic.

The Celebration of Hollywood – The very things that are being satired are celebrated too as the humanity of characters is shown. “Hail, Caesar” is a film I would watch as it has heart to it and the overdramaticness fits the film, same with the westerns that are played largely for comedy but find something more sometimes. In each thing being satired there is a celebration of the arts and film and this is shown the most when Mannix chooses Capitol Pictures of Lockheed (Where the guy kept insulting films as useless and a dying industry), making this one of the biggest love letters to the art of cinema and Hollywood’s past and present.

The Cons: Pacing – At times it goes really slow and this really hurts the overall quality of the production and keeps it from rising higher.

The Communist Cell – I felt that these guys weren’t explored as well as they could have been. They were a group of intellectuals who never got beyond that and that was a shame given that they kidnapped a person because of their beliefs.

More Character Exploration – If the script had been tighter we could have explored more of these characters more. In my opinion Manix is one of the weaker characters of the story and because the focus is on him we lose sight of the fascinating characters like Moran or the Sisters who had a lot more potential to be explored within the confines of the script.

   This was a solidly great film and well worth checking out. It isn’t the greatest of the Coen Brothers films but it doesn’t need to be. Within the confines of the story it explores all the themes and characters it means to and it presents it beautifully through the soundtrack and cinematography. This is a film well worth your time and I’m glad that this was the film that kicks off my film reviews for the films of 2016.

Final Score: 9.2 / 10

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013): A Reflective Film on the Nature of Humanity and Meaning

Only Lovers Left Alive poster

     “Only Lovers Left Alive” is a fascinating and introspective film that explores life, the meaning of humanity, art and relationships. At times it is slow but it is meant to be. The whole film is a giant reflection on all these things told from the perspective of two vampires…and it’s handled really well.

    The film was directed and written by Jim Jarmusch and produced by Jeremy Thomas and Reinberg Brundig.

      The story begins with each seeking to feed their addiction to blood in different ways. As Adam (Tom Hiddleson) makes a deal with a doctor for blood from a blood bank and Eve depends on an old friend. When they reconnect Eve (Tilda Swinton) sees how out of it he is and comes to visit as the drama unfolds from there.

The Pros: The Cinematography – The cinematography is absolutely stunning. Whether it is the streets of Tangier, a rock club or Adam’s Victorian home the distinct character of each place is captured, and with each a level of detachment from the immortals. Yorick Le Saux did a fantastic job.

The Music – There are quite a few people who were part of the music on this. Whether it was Yasmine Hamdan, SQURL or Jozef van Wissem…the music was great throughout the entire film and gave a feel of romantic disconnect to all the scenes that unfolded in the life of Adam and Eve.

The Characters – The characters needed more exploration. We get to know a lot of their motivations and the people they knew, and the acting is amazing…but I did want more. I’ll explain more later on. For now, the characters are a pro and the ones who really drive the story.

Marlowe – John Hurt plays Marlowe and was the man responsible for most of Shakespeare’s play and able to live under the radar since he’d faked his own death. Sadly mortality catches up to him and he dies from poisoned blood. He is a great mentor figure and it is on his prompting that leads Eve to go take care of Adam.

Eva – Mia plays the high life vampire from L.A. who only cares about pleasure. We see this when she breaks into their stash, her breaking Adam’s stuff and how she stakes her sister and Adam for granted. This eventually leads to her getting kicked out and through her time there we see what happens when there is a vampire who only lives for themselves and fails to see the wide world as a whole at all.

Ian – Anton Yelchin plays the fan who may or may not be putting Adam’s work out in the world when he was asked not to. He’s a character who you never can fully trust but he’s also curious and gives an openness that Adam and Eve appreciate and that Eva exploits. In the end she drinks him and we never find out if he’d been the one putting the word out about Adam’s location. His character really worked though as he was Adam’s only human connection.

Adam – Tom Hiddleson is the primary protagonist of the film in many ways because he is the torn artist debating whether life is worth it anymore. Hiddleson is great at giving us this tortured soul who at one point has a friend build a bullet that can kill him. Eve brings him back to reality and we see that he does care in the end and that he values the secret world he has built where he can make music and collect instruments. All that is torn away though when Eva kills the rock kid who was providing him with instruments and a place away from the public eye and he leaves with her back home.

Eve – Eve is the wisest of the vampires as she has been around the longest. She has seen the worst of humanity in all the barbarian invasions of Europe and finds peace in her books, her friend Marlowe and solitude. Eventually she does go to Detroit to be with her husband Adam and it is there we see how unstable life is and is even her in all her wisdom can’t find an alternative in the end for them going feral vampire or avoiding death. She understands this initiates the hunt with Adam.

Mortality and Meaning – Mortality and meaning are some of the biggest questions the story asks as our characters have been through so much they have trouble finding that meaning so they attach it to things. Whether it is literature for Eve or music for Adam these are things they hold onto and it is in realizing that they can’t appreciate these things if they die that they become hunters again finding that it is better to live like the “Zombies” (what they call humanity) and still have those things that give meaning than to die.

The Cons: Character Development – We get a glimpse of a deeper world behind all are vampire characters but that world is never fully explored. I don’t mean flashbacks…but there is no meaning for Eva to be the way she is. We never get why she is is so unstable and it hurts the overall narrative.

This is a film I’d highly recommend. It is easily one of Hiddleson’s and Switon’s best performances and the ideas and themes it explores lend power to a really amazing love story. This is a story that takes it’s audience seriously and has a subtle passion behind everything that lends power to all the events that occur as the story is told. It is a story that reminds us of our mortality and the better and worse parts of human nature.

Final Score: 9.4 / 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

“Rick and Morty” Finale – Season 2, Episode 10 – “The Wedding Squanchers” – A Funny, Powerful Ending…Free Rick

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   “The Wedding Squanchers” is a powerful ending to a good season. In this we get to know a lot of the characters and have one of the most powerful endings to any animated show. Next season feels so far away. I also finished watching this on the same date in the future that The Doc and Marty traveled to in “Back to the Future Part 2” it just took a while for me to have the time to update the reviews. “Back to Future” inspired this show as Morty is like a younger and less innocent Marty and Rick is very much a more unhinged sociopathic Doc Brown.

       The story involves the wedding of Bird Person and Tammy and all that comes out of it when it is revealed that Tammy is an agent sent to bring down Bird Person, Rick and all his friend’s the Federation considers terrorists. The Smiths must make their escape.

The Pros: The Wedding – The Wedding is wonderful and all of Bird Person’s colorful friends are present. The wedding ends in tragedy though revealing Rick once again being right on Weddings being just like a funeral.

Tammy – Tammy reveals she’s been an undercover agent the entire time and even manages to nearly capture Rick. It is only Squanchy getting Squanched that manages to defeat her but we still don’t know if she’s dead or not. Honestly wouldn’t be surprised if she is still alive.

Bird Person – Bird Person has been through some heavy stuff and was a pretty lonely guy. I think that is how Tammy was able to take advantage of him in the first place as it was at a party where everyone was getting drunk and Bird Person was probably dealing with some major PTSD from all he’d been through. R.I.P. Bird Person. You will be missed.

Squanchy – Squanchy rocks! In this we see him get Squanched and help save the Smith’s. The Wedding takes place on his world too. The guy is a major stand up guy. I hope he survived Tammy’s betrayal.

Beth – Beth is going through a lot of  loss in this as we see how Rick leaving her has left her broken and selfish to the point that she isn’t able to listen to Bird Person sharing some pretty traumatic stuff. By the end of the episode she is broken as Rick is gone from her life again.

Morty – Morty is pretty aware in this as we see him reach out for Rick to stay since he knows how it will affect Beth as well as himself. He is really great in this even though he isn’t core except for the end.

Rick – Rick is a good guy in this…he goes to his friend’s wedding and loses him and we see why is so detached and bitter…and in the end he turns himself in to save his family…showing that at the end of the day Rick has good. Free Rick!

The Ending – Nine Inch Nails’s song “Hurt” plays over Rick turning himself in and being put in a high security cell. It is so sad as Morty and Beth are especially feeling the pain of Rick being gone while Jerry is happy to be given a government issued job and Summer is numb.

Jerry and Summer – These two are just victims and don’t really do anything to help or hinder Rick’s choices as in the end we see that his decision came from love and not guilt.

   This was a great episode and easily the best episode of the season. Rick turning himself in and the death of Bird Person were actually sad events…our time with these characters has made us care about them and we still get wonderful dark comedy and action inbetween. This is part of why this show is so great.

Final Score: 9.6 / 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.

Hot Fuzz (2007): A Brilliant Satire of Cop Films with a Compelling Story

Hot Fuzz

      “Hot Fuzz” is amazing, though it is in steep competition to be the best film in Pegg’s and Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy. This is a film that captures the absurdity of both television and film cop dramas, while also shining a light and critiquing small town and city culture at the same time…while giving our stars character arcs! There is a lot that is needed for a comedy to work, and this film manages to achieve that.

     The film was directed by Edgar Wright who also wrote it with Simon Pegg while being produced by Nira Park, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner.

SPOILERS ahead

      The story involves Sgt, Nick Angel (Simon Pegg) the best cop in London being sent to the village of Sandford since his stats are making his fellow cops look bad on the force. In Sandford he soon learns all is not as it appears to be as mysterious deaths continue to pop around town accompanied by hooded figures running from the scenes of the crimes. He must work with the Police Chief in Sandford’s son PC Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) in order to solve the case and the dark side of the village.

The Pros: The London Police Authorities – Martin Freeman appears as Nick Angel’s higher up as do two other actors but Freeman was the most memorable as the one trying to make the demotion look like a promotion. By the time the highest one is reached he tells Angel that he being sent away because he is too good and makes them all look bad. It’s a really hilarious joke and critique of the City.

The Cinematography – Jess Hall did a fantastic job on the cinematography. The film is polished and looks like a modern day cop drama as it emphasizes eyes, guns and loss whenever someone gets shot. It’s really good work and we see the use of darkness used to build tension.

The Writing – The writing is hilarious. Wright and Pegg are a great pair and know their comedy well, and not just comedy…they give their characters arc. Nick Angel and Danny Butterman are not static characters, events and circumstances change them and help them to grow into better people than they were before.

Callback Jokes – The callback jokes are wonderful! At one point they run into an old man named Webler (played by David Bradley) who has a whole bunch of guns and a water mine which doesn’t work…Nick and Danny later use the guns to attack the NWA and the mine is used to kill the last one who tries to kill Nick at the end before the mine destroys the Station.

The Satire – The Satire is brilliant! From the NWA being so concerned with appearances that they murder for it, Danny being obsessed with cop films and doing events from said films (“Point Break” and “Bad Boys” as an example) and Angel rejecting it not realizing he is the trope before he finally embraces at the end, and with it all the paperwork.

Sandford – Sandford is an idyllic small town, it is mostly farms with a few stores and we see that everyone knows everyone. All the small town tropes exist here, from the village gossip, the crappy journalist and the overbearing Police Chief in a town obsessed with conformity.

Simon Skinner – Timothy Dalton does a good job as the CEO of the convenience store who is set up to be the big bad but is only one of the many members of the NWA responsible for the murders. He is good at being creepy and overbearing to everyone around him as he only speaks in threats.

The Sandford Police Force – The Sandford Police Force is wonderful, Olivia Colman plays the only woman on the police force and there are two mustached guys and one nervous guy who does whatever Nick says but is also a good strategist…they all break and embrace the tropes they were written into leading to a great faceoff in Skinner’s store at the end.

Frank Butterman – Jim Broadbent is wonderful as the likable but for appearance of useless Police Commissioner who is all about village appearances. He is a good antagonist as we see he is the way he is after his wife killed herself since she was so obsessed with winning the competition. He is good at leading Nick Angel on false leads and he is the unspoken leader of the NWA.

PC Danny Butterman – Danny’s arc is realizing how serious it is to be a cop and dealing with the truth of his father…after he does he is able to turn the police force against his dad and help take out the NWA with Nick as we see that they now compliment each other as Danny’s socialness is what helps Nick Angel get outside of his obsession with the job as Nick’s obsession rubs off on Danny and helps Danny to become a hero and good cop.

Sgt. Nick Angel – Nick is man obsessed with being the best cop to the point that he lost his relationship and is alone with his plant. It takes Danny (who he arrests when he first arrives in Sandford) slowly getting him out of his shell and helping him open up that we see him mellow out and become not just a good cop in doing the right things to catch the bad guys, but also in how he treats others…this arc is completed in him choosing to stay in Sandford at the end, rather than returning to London when Freeman’s character offers him the chance (since things have gotten so bad after him leaving). Simon Pegg is brilliant and the best part of the film.

Okay/Cons – Pacing – There are a few moments where the film drags, this is partially due to the film being very quick in it’s action. This is the only real con outside of a plot hole I’ll list in the next one.

The Cons: Where are the Families of the Missing People – The Neighborhood Watch Alliance and Associates (NWA) kills anyone who makes the town look bad (the hoodies, the kids who were drinking in the pub) so that they continue to win town of the year…where were the families of the people killed? My theory was that they were living in fear of the NWA but we never have conformation of this, so that was a small thing that bothered me in the film.

   This might be my film in the Cornetto Trilogy, though “Shaun of the Dead” is hard to beat and may still be better. Regardless, this is a film I’d highly recommend. If you like a great satire, comedy and film that celebrates Cop Dramas while at the same time celebrating aspects of them and the tropes they invented, you will like this film. It’s one of my favorites and one I will no doubt watch again in the future.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10