The Greatest Cinematic Moments On My TV This Year

(Even If Some of Them Were Not Movies)

Rather than do the typical Best of or Top Ten Movies of the Year list I’ve decided to talk about some of the greatest images that graced my TV this year (because I didn’t go to the movies much this year).

If you are a film and TV fanatic like me, then by the time you’re my age you will have amassed a ton of images that will sit with you and affect you for your entire life. I can’t list the number of movie and television scenes and images that have emotionally affected me in ways I’m still assessing today, and this year added another bunch of images that made me laugh, brought me to tears, terrified me, changed my thinking about the world and the people in it, or were sometimes just plain fun!

Last year, my mother (a devoted Horror movie fanatic) passed away in hospice at the age of 71. Every image of every movie that she carried with her is gone but I can still feel close to her through the movies she watched. I have always used stories (in books, movies, and songs), as therapy and this past year was exceptionally therapeutic for me in dealing with my grief. What I was going through didn’t feel quite so bad because I didn’t feel as if I was going through some singular event that other people had not experienced. I was able to process my feelings while watching some pretty intense cinema or alleviate my anxiety with laughter, and I was able to share these feelings with you guys by writing about them in this space.

This year was an incredible year of cinematic (and musical) healing for me.

May the next year be even better!

Keep Moving Forward

1.Moon Knight (Season 1: Episode 6)

This is my all-time favorite television series for this year (with Interview with the Vampire being almost a tie). This series is full of some great moments that are just plain fun, like the moment when Stephen, having stumbled upon his own version of being the Moon Knight gets into a final battle with the show’s primary antagonist. Stephen’s clueless version of Moon Knight wears an actual 3 piece suit. In the middle of the final boss fight, Stephen and Mark are expertly switching control of their shared body between them. Stephen gets knocked down, immediately hops back up, and brushes the dirt off his still immaculately white suit!

That there is what’s known as “swag”, or “attitude”.

I identified with Mark and Stephen’s journey of personal unification because I’ve been on that journey myself. When I was little, being on the autism spectrum meant there was a clear division between my intellect and my emotions. Like Mark and Stephen, I’ve spent my life attempting to unify the two sides of my personality, to join them together to work for each other. This is not a journey I’m ever going to finish, I think, but I have made enormous headway, and one of the greatest cathartic moments in the series was when Mark and Stephen finally did so, thus proving that the whole really is greater than the parts.

All of the fight scenes in this show are fire, and change and evolve as the relationship between Mark and Stephen evolves, to reflect their characters. I can fault Disney for a lot of things, but stinting on Action scenes isn’t one of them. I can always count on the MCU to bring me the very best ultra-violence. The choreography for their shows and movies is insane and watching heroes kick ass (and doing so with style) has always been a cathartic experience for me. I can identify with the hero and express my badassery in a perfectly safe environment while in my bunny slippers, and this series was awesome for that.

2.Everything Everywhere All At Once

I can’t say watching this was a mistake because I had no idea what I was getting into when I first watched it. EEAAO is very one of the most profoundly moving, touching, and hilarious movies in a year full of great films. It stars Michelle Yeoh, so I suspected there might be some Kung Fu, but the movie has a wealth of lovely surprises. It is about the frayed relationship between an overworked first-generation immigrant named Evelyn, who runs a dry cleaner with her annoyingly upbeat husband Waymond, and their nihilistic disaffected daughter Joy, all while undergoing a tax audit, planning a work party, and hosting her disapproving father.

One of the greatest treats of this movie was the re-emergence of Ke Huy Quan, from his decades-long retirement from acting, and who I fondly remember as Short Round from the second Indiana Jones movie (and Data from The Goonies). I don’t even begin to understand why but Short Round was always one of my favorite childhood characters and his name just stuck with me over the years until eventually, it became a nickname for my Mom, who was a whole inch shorter than me, which made me obnoxiously smug. I cannot explain why I had so much joy at seeing him alive and well, and being happy about this role.

That said, despite identifying with all the characters, my absolute favorite is Ke Huy Quan’s Waymond, and it is his philosophy of life that neatly cleaved my brain because he explains so much about how I try to approach the world, and why, despite this being one of those mother/daughter relationship movies you would think I’d be overcome by (and I was) it is Waymond who most easily resonates with me. Where Joy has fallen into despair and wants to end it all, it is Waymond’s philosophy, the exact opposite, that ends up saving Joy and the rest of the world from the annihilation that is the Everything Bagel:

 Waymond: When I choose to see the good side of things, I’m not being naive. It is strategic and necessary. It’s how I’ve learned to survive through everything.

This is a philosophy I adopted because, like Joy, I’ve seen the opposite end of that spectrum and it’s not a philosophy that’s survivable. There were a lot of moments in this movie that made me cry because they just happened to hit me at the right time to affect me, like the conversations between Evelyn and Joy, but it was Evelyn’s conversation with an alternate universe Waymond that opened the floodgates and allowed me to mourn in a way I had not been able to in the wake of my mother’s death, (because I was still mostly in shock). This movie just showed up when I needed it.

Like all good mothers, my mom never liked seeing her children in distress, and I think she would be proud of how well I’m doing right now.

This is one of those movies that changes or reaffirms your thinking about the world, the people around you, and how you approach life.

Yeah, it’s one of those.

3.Men

I think a lot of people avoided watching this movie because of the title, but things are not as they seem. The title is provocative, but the movie isn’t about castigating men. It’s about one woman (Harper Marlowe) dealing with the particularly harrowing loss of just one man, and I’m convinced that most of it takes place solely within her own mind. In other words, the movie is a lot deeper than it looks.

One of the most interesting images is the only other actor in the movie, Rory Kinnear, has his face creepily (and sometimes unconvincingly) superimposed onto the bodies of all the other men in the movie, signifying that what’s being critiqued here are certain types of men and their behavior. That at base all of their behavior comes from one source, and are really just different manifestations of only one issue – misogyny.

There’s the husband who threatens suicide if she divorces him, and then hits her, the priest who blames her for his death, then makes a pass at her, the child who calls her a stupid bitch when she refuses what he wants, the cop who dismisses her concerns and later tries to assault her, and there’s the naked man who is symbolic of natural masculinity in the form of the mythic Green Man, who keeps trying to get into her house to do…what exactly? All of this is tied into images of the Green Man, the Earth Mother, Christianity, the cycles of nature, and the lies patriarchy has created about women.

My favorite scene however is just a touching and beautiful moment about a woman literally discovering her voice. Harper takes a walk in the countryside and comes to a large open tunnel. She spends a minute or two singing into the tunnel and listening as her voice boomerangs back to her. Her voice is high and pure and she takes an almost childlike delight in just making as much noise as she wants, in a public place, in a free and uninhibited manner. It just looked like she was having so muchf un, and every time I watch that scene I feel the urge to sing along with her.

The entire movie stops to accommodate this moment and I was as thoroughly delighted by it as Harper!

4.Thor: Love and Thunder

Sometimes, I love movies that everyone else likes to hate on, and you know what? I’m good with that. I love what I love for my own reasons, not theirs, and I stand by and will back up my reasons why I do, even though sometimes my reasons are just because I do. I know a lot of people hated this movie. I do not particularly care if they did or why because this movie just brought out the feels and the kid in me, and I needed that. I’ve watched this on Disney + multiple times and it brings out both the pathos and delight in me each time.

One of the more interesting aspects of this phase of the MCU is that much of it deals with mourning the deaths of loved ones and people’s response to mourning. From dealing with death badly in WandaVision, to how humanity dealt with the aftermath of The Blip in Falcon and the Winter Soldier, to the aftermath of Tony Stark’s death in Spiderman No Way Home to the death of Chadwick Boseman in Wakanda Forever, to this: Thor, mourning the loss of his entire family and homeworld and finding new love and purpose, against an antagonist who dealt with his loss through anger and revenge. Thor and Gor the Godslayer are mirror images of one another and each of them deals with loss in a way that heals or harms other people. Thor chooses to love while Gor chooses to kill.

But my favorite scene has nothing to do with that part of the plot, and it was difficult choosing between this scene and any scene that involved Thor’s screaming goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr. There’s a scene in the movie where Thor is able to pass his powers to a group of frightened children to help them defeat the shadow enemies invoked by Gor, and that entire scene just gave me life! My favorite of all the children turned out to be the young Black boy who happens to be the son of Heimdall, The Bifrost Guardian. He has at least some of his father’s powers, but what was most admirable to me was his ability to step into a leadership role for the other children in the absence of the adults. I’m not normally into watching little kids engaging in acts of ultra-violence but Taika Waititi has a knack for making things that seem mildly subversive look like a great deal of fun. It doesn’t hurt that all the kids in the movie were the children of the staff on the set!

Oh, and the little girl with the laser-eye death bunny is the mood I’m carrying into 2023!

5. Interview With the Vampire (Season 1: Episode 7; The Thing Lay Still)

Interview with the Vampire was just voted by Vanity Fair as one of the best series on TV this year and I am here for it. This also showed up on my favorite TV series list too, because the show is simply wild. It’s crazy and beautiful, and sexy, and campy, gory, bloody, and brutal, but also deeply hilarious. Just when we thought the year was ending and there were no more high notes to be had, AMC handed us this beautiful gem of a series and we are all smitten.

Yes, they race-swapped Louis De Pont Du Lac from the books. He is now being played by Jacob Anderson (Greyworm in Game of Thrones), and he is (literally) killing it in this role. Anne Rice signed off on all this before she passed and her son Christopher (who is openly gay) also signed off on the rest, and those gay sensibilities show in the plot and themes. By changing the race of the character and making his sexuality explicit the writers have deepened the story considerably. Even moving the timeline to the early 1900s has made certain elements of the plot more interesting, since it’s now set during the Jazz age of the Jim Crow South. Also, changing Louis’s race has seemingly attracted a few straight Black male fans, which is not the demographic I first thought of when I heard this was getting made. They seem to really be enjoying the show too and good for them.

Sam Reid is also literally killing it as Lestat. In fact, he is so good he almost makes me forget the Tom Cruise version from the 1994 film. Almost. Reid so embodies this character though that fans are saying he is possessed by the spirit of Lestat, and when he and Jacob are onscreen together it’s like lightning, their chemistry is just that good. (It doesn’t hurt that they’re friends in real life.) Bailey Bass is an aged-up Claudia, and all those people who thought an older version of Claudia wouldn’t carry the same dramatic weight as someone much younger (in the books Claudia is about 6, which would be a logistical nightmare to film) well, those people were wrong. Claudia brings all the drama and hysteria of a teenage vampire to this role and she is great in it. And let’s not forget the award-winning playwright Eric Bogosian as Daniel, an older, less patient, and curmudgeonly version of the Daniel from the books, since this series is set 50 years after his first interview with Louis, which was never published.

For all the things that were changed, some things remain the same and that is the tumultuous relationship between Louis and Lestat. I’d say my favorite episode was the very first one in which the very closeted Louis meets and is successfully seduced by Lestat into becoming a vampire, but my favorite scene is the culmination of Louis’ season-long character arc in the final episode. He goes from being a deeply closeted gay Black man, unwilling to acknowledge it even to himself, to an out and proud gay Black man, and Lestat’s lover, at a grand New Orleans Ball, sharing a passionate kiss after inviting Lestat to a waltz, and something which thoroughly scandalizes their guests. It is one of the most beautiful scenes of the entire season, followed by one of the nastiest, goriest bloodbaths of the season.

This show was renewed for a second season before the first episode even aired, and I just don’t know what I’m going to do until it starts. The show is just really juicy and you have some idea of what’s coming in the future if you’ve read the books. The writers are doing everything right here. The writing is messy and florid and overdramatic, just like Anne Rice’s writing, and a lot of the dialogue is kept intact from her books. I hope the series lasts at least as long as Buffy, and it will be a miracle if it lasts as long as The Walking Dead, and I want to be right there until the end.

6. Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is one of the few Horror/Superhero movies out there and I loved it, especially since it’s directed by one of my all-time favorite directors, Sam Raimi, who included more than a few moments of sheer terror in his Spiderman trilogy of ten years ago. He kept that same energy here and there are more than a few of his favorite Horror movie tropes included in the imagery of this film, including a scene of The Scarlet Witch climbing out of a mirror, a multi-handed zombie version of Doctor Strange, and a scene where two wizards attack each other using musical notes. (Sam Raimi loves musicals so you know there was going to be a musical scene in here).

But above is one of my favorite scenes of Doctor Strange along with the young girl he’s trying to save getting blasted through multiple portals through other universes, paralleling a scene from the first movie where Strange gets blasted through different universes by the previous Sorceror Supreme, all of which look compellingly fun or nightmarish depending on which suit your fancy. There’s a world of dinosaurs, giant human bones, and cartoons, but the prettiest one is a world made of liquid crayons, I guess. ( And in a callback to something a character once said on Buffy the Vampire Slayer I think one of those universes was full of shrimp!)

Disney is finally starting to make movies that feel different from one another and include other genres, and this movie is a great parallel to Disney’s introduction of Horror themes and Supernatural creatures into the MCU this year in shows like Werewolf by Night and Moon Knight. I’m still going to call this the first MCU Horror movie because all of the tropes are right there. There are zombies, specters, jump scares, blood and gore (within reason), chase scenes from red-eyed phantoms, giant eyeball creatures, and a child in danger! If you liked the first Spiderman trilogy, and the Evil Dead movies, then check this out.

7. Love Death and Robots Season 3: Episode 4 (Tiny Zombie Apocalypse): Night of the Living Mini-Dead

This year’s Love Death and Robots season 3 was really strong this year, with some absolutely gorgeous animation based on Scifi Horror stories from my favorite writers, like Neal Asher, Michael Swanwick, Alan Baxter, and John Scalzi, in stories that range from poetic nightmares like Bad Traveling to comedies like Mason’s Rats, to tragically beautiful stories of conquest like Jibaro. I had several favorite episodes this year.

This one episode though is, hands down, one of the most hilarious zombie apocalypses I have ever seen. Yes, it’s even funnier than Shaun of the Dead, not just because it takes place in speeded-up miniature, but because of the incredible attention to detail in its homages to Night of the Living Dead, the Dawn of the Dead remake, Train to Busan’s and Peninsula’s fast zombies and Mad Max vehicles, an Attack on Titan shoutout, and Resident Evil mutated zombies. But my all-time favorite scene is the one with the tiny monks Kung fu-ing zombie ass at a mountaintop Shaolin Temple, echoing a scene from the book World War Z. In fact, I would watch an entire full-length movie that included all the scenes from this short.

It’s truly the attention to tiny details that had me rolling though, from the opening scene of the desecration at the cemetery (and how it sounds) which awakens the zombies, to the jogger who pushes her friend at the zombies only to be eaten and revived herself, to the Popemobile spewing gunfire while donuting outside The Vatican. And I love how the zombie apocalypse just goes from bad to worse with irradiated and mutated zombies spewing green fire.

Good lord! This needs to be a full-length film! I’d watch 90 minutes of this utter mayhem!

8. The Northman

The single biggest factor in people’s attraction to this movie was the trailer and the scene where a scantily clad Alexander Skarsgard reaches up, catches a thrown spear, and lobs it back to hit the thrower. I’m not gonna lie, that was what originally attracted me to the film as well, and thankfully, the movie proved to have as much substance as style. See! Not everything I watched this year was frivolous!

The Northman is based on the Scandinavian story which inspired Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Amleth watches as his father, a man he idolizes, is murdered by his uncle. His mother is seemingly kidnapped and he vows to avenge his father save his mother, and kill his uncle in that order. Amleth grows to adulthood, learns of his uncle’s location, and decides to implement this plan, while the audience heckles the screen to suggest that he could maybe let it go.

The movie is also about fate and destiny, and how that figures into the choices a person makes. Amleth is told several times by psychics that it is his destiny to avenge the destruction of his family but he is also challenged to give up his vendetta and settle down with his wife and children. He chooses his vendetta and although the motivation for his choice isn’t exactly wrong, at any point along his journey of revenge, he could have stopped and let his uncle live out his life in relative peace.

This movie turned out to have a surprising amount of depth. Surprising because I was expecting more flash than story, and I was expecting more of a Hamlet retread, and what I got was an exploration of the concepts of fate and destiny, and how much of a choice we have in what happens in our lives and the lives of others.

9. Nope

What can I say? This movie had all of my favorite things. ufos. blood, gore, excellent horsemanship, and two incredible lead characters, the brother and sister duo of Emerald and OJ Haywood, but my all-time favorite moment was when Emerald does this particular bike maneuver, called The Akira Slide. Since it was first seen in Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1988 anime film Akira this moment has been imitated and recreated in almost every animated series worth watching since!

The idea of a live-action Akira has been bruted around for over three decades and this scene is as close as we’ve come outside a few concept videos. In fact, Jordan Peele himself was slated to direct a live-action version but that fell through when he decided to devote his energy to his own projects. He said that an homage to the project he dropped seemed in order, though.

That’s it! Just a fun nostalgic moment in a great Horror movie that had me kicking up my bunny slippers!

(Note: I do not actually own a pair of bunny slippers.)

10. The Batman

I would not call this movie fun but I did enjoy it, and that kind of surprised me. I didn’t think anything was going to come close to being as good as Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy but this was a nice try and I liked it. I think this is a baby Batman in his first few years in Gotham and you can kind of see that in his fighting style, but this scene is the one that I found the most compelling. This is the audience’s first sight of The Batman and I loved the sound design of this scene.

The music, the ominous sound of his footsteps just before he fades out of the shadows, and the sound of rain in the background. The whole movie sounds great, which is not something I usually pay a whole lot of attention to, but I’ve started to pay attention since Villaneuve’s Dune did it so well. This was a superb introduction to this version of Batman, who has yet to learn that it’s not enough for him to just scare Gotham’s predators. He needs to protect the innocent too, something he begins to understand during the course of the movie.

Honorable Mentions

11. Wednesday Season 1: Episode 4 – Woe What a Night

I think this particular scene is definitely going to go down in history as iconic. For context, this is Wednesday Addams getting down on the dance floor at the new High School she was exiled to after she released predatory fish into the swimming pool at her last one. There was blood. I have always liked this particular character, especially the movie versions since she always represented things I have either actually said to people (I know right?!!) or wanted to say to people. I even liked the 1960s baby-girl version of her, and if you look really close you can see Jenna reproduce baby Wednesday’s iconic dance moves from the earlier TV series. Wednesday dances like she’s challenging her partner to a duel.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this series. I was cautiously excited about it because it’s Tim Burton, who has made it clear that he feels about Black people the way I feel about finding a worm in my apple, and its teenagers being teenagers in a TV show. I’m not normally attracted to shows about teens but I will, on occasion, try them out and I actually liked this. It’s not a great show, but it is a lot of fun, not too deep, and worth a watch. The best thing about it is Jenna Ortega’s performance as Wednesday and her relationship with her bubbly roommate, Enid. From her demeanor, there is also the implication that Wednesday may also be queer, in which case people are already shipping her with Enid, and I’m cool with that. I did enjoy watching their friendship develop, since Wednesday is heavily, (and I do mean heavily), coded as autistic. She is touch averse, sensitive to bright colors, single-minded, and extremely focused, with a pronounced flattened affect, and I kind of liked that, since Autistic girls and women are rarely shown onscreen. There were a couple of times when something she said about how she sees the world resonated pretty sharply with me, and I had to pause and reflect.

But mostly the show was just good fun. I was initially put off that the only two Black characters in the series were assholes, but they were redeemed by the end of the season and turned out to be two of Wednesday’s strongest allies. I didn’t especially care for the drama between Wednesday and her mother (or the side plot that showed some of her parent’s history at the school) although I understand why it was added. Parental mismanagement of their children is a recurring theme in the series, although Luis Guzman was excellent as Gomez and the series does play up Wednesday’s Latino heritage a little bit. My favorite episode was the one where Uncle Fester comes for a visit. He is played by Fred Armisen and while he is never going to be in Christopher Lloyd’s league as Fester, he gives it a very good try. Christina Ricci also shows up as one of Wednesday’s teachers and her role is good, but not all that surprising.

This was a fun watch and I’m willing to check out the next season, especially if there is more weird dancing scenes!

The Eternals – There were so many great moments in this movie, although ultimately I feel it fell flat of what it was trying to do, I still enjoyed a lot of it. My favorite characters were, of course, Kingo and his personal valet, Karun. All of the characters had great chemistry with each other but I especially enjoyed watching these two. (Okay, The Eternals was, technically, released in 2021, but I didn’t watch it until 2022, so this counts in my book.)

Umbrella Academy – The opening dance number (The Footloose Dance Off) was one of its great highlights. I love a good dance battle! I love that the series continues this level of ridiculousness for the entire season. Another great scene was Victor coming out to his family as transgender and announcing his pronouns, and his brother’s quite unsurprised/semi-surprised reaction to having another brother.

Prey – The fight scenes in this movie were incredible. This movie was awesome, setting the Predator down in 1800s America among the Comanche People.

Black Adam – I’m an old-school Hawkman and Doctor Fate fan. I expected to like Hawkman and didn’t expect to like Pierce Brosnan’s version of this character, but he was most excellent (he predates Doctor Strange by twenty years y’all) and I hope to see more of him in some sort of prequel. I remember reading Doctor Fate’s books as a kid and I didn’t know I wanted to see this character onscreen so much until, of course, I got to see him!

The Woman King – The entire movie is simply gorgeous. The fight scenes are rigorously excellent.

Sandman – It was really hard to pick one scene from this series. Every episode had some truly gorgeous and meaningful scenes. Here, The Sandman (Dream) gets to find out what a day in the life of Death is like…

Halloween Ends (Halloween Trilogy Review)

(Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers)

Halloween Ends is the last movie in the David Gordon Green trilogy. It streamed on Peacock this past weekend and I have some thoughts.

From the beginning, I’ve always thought of the Halloween franchise (at least the first two films, and a couple of the sequels) as not just an analysis of the continuing (and now, generational) trauma of its Final Girl, Laurie Strode, but as a statement on suburban America itself. I wrote about how and why the suburbs were created in Starring the Landscape: The Suburbs, and how I saw the Halloween films as an indictment of a lifestyle that was formed out of fear of the other (the Blackness/multiculturalism of the cities). White people in the suburbs spent their lives in fear that the evil of the cities would invade their communities, and we can see this in the endless number of “bucolic community” invasion films of the 80s, the rampant rumors that sprang up during the BLM protests of crowds of angry Black people burning and looting suburban neighborhoods, and in the proliferation of guns in those communities because of an unfounded terror of (Black) home invasions.

I think what Halloween and other Slasher films, like Scream and Nightmare on Elm Street, were saying is that evil is created within these communities, that it is not something that can be run from because it is part of the human condition, people carry those seeds with them no matter where they flee, and that sometimes evil isn’t just born in such environments, but will keep returning to haunt them until it is properly dealt with. Such is the case in these films, where every few years, as if in some vicious cycle, Michael Myers, an evil created and nurtured in the suburban community of Haddonfield, arrives to terrorize and destroy the lives of its inhabitants.

Forty years ago Laurie Strode suffered tremendous loss and trauma as all her friends were hunted and killed by Michael Myers and she was terrorized for hours while trying to safeguard the children she was babysitting that night.

In the first movie of this trilogy, the 2018 Halloween, Myers returns to Haddonfield to begin that night’s killing spree and Laurie, suffering from PTSD and paranoia for four decades has been getting ready for him. She knows that he will inevitably come hunting her. She raised her daughter, Karen to be just as paranoid in defending her life, and outfitted her home with traps to capture and kill Michael. The first movie, ignoring all the sequels and remakes in the last forty years, is about Laurie and her family dealing with that long ago trauma, and how the only thing that can help her get past her pain is the cathartic destruction of Michael Myers. This movie and its follower, Halloween Kills, are about survivors and grief.

The second film, Halloween Kills, is a continuation of the first film on that same night, only here it’s about the cyclical trauma Haddonfield itself, the nature of evil, and how that evil is born in communities like it and features many of the characters who survived the 1978 film. This time they decide to fight back too, in support of Laurie, and they hunt Michael through the streets of Haddonfield, which gets most of them killed, and results in the death of an innocent man accused of being him. One sign of the evil within the community is their willingness (out of fear and hatred) to engage in the same behavior that they condemn Michael for, and an innocent man pays the price. Although their fear and hatred of Michael are justified, it is still the resident’s willingness to kill that’s a symptom of the dark underbelly within such communities. This is a plot that also has parallels in The Nightmare on Elm Street series, where the child killer, Freddie Krueger, is the end result of the decision made by their parents to kill the predator who was preying on the children in their community. It’s not the residents of Haddonfield’s motivation that is at issue but their willingness to engage in mob justice that is a sign of the community’s inner darkness.

Halloween Ends is a continuation of the idea that small towns and suburbs harbor and produce evil. I know other people were watching this movie with the idea of clocking the body count, or how long and hard the fight would be between Laurie and Michael, and who would win, but that’s not the focus of this movie, and if that’s what you’re looking for then you may be disappointed. This movie is a bit more philosophical and quieter than some people might like it to be.

The story picks up four years later, and we have come full circle as Laurie while writing her memoir, is still recovering emotionally from the events of Halloween Kills, when Michael returned to Haddonfield and killed nearly three dozen people, along with her daughter Karen. She has decided not to live in the prison of paranoia and anger that ruled her life for so many decades while raising her granddaughter Allyson and mending their relationship.

But, because evil never dies, we find out that Michael has not left Haddonfield at all, and has been living in the sewers while recovering from the damage that was inflicted on him four years ago. His presence is discovered by a bullied young man named Corey whom the townsfolk accused of killing a young boy under his charge on the night of Michael’s rampage. Corey is a volatile and angry young man who isn’t killed by Michael but adopts Michael’s mask and goes on a killing spree of his own in Michael’s stead, such is how evil is passed on to the next generation. He and Allyson develop a relationship that threatens to destroy her and Laurie’s emotional recovery and while trying to protect Allyson from herself and Corey, Laurie eventually interacts with Michael again by the end of the movie.

There’s plenty of killing in the film, just not done by Michael, and the confrontation between Laurie and Michael is relegated to the end of the movie almost as an afterthought since it’s almost a given who will win the fight. Just as in Halloween Kills, where Laurie mostly sat out the plot so the writers could make their point, Michael mostly sits this one out. The theme here isn’t just that evil is born from the town’s secrets, but is actively created by the town’s treatment of people whom they believe have trespassed against conformity, like Corey, or the mentally unstable man the residents hounded to his suicide in the last film after he was wrongly accused of being Myers.

Corey is the much-put-upon town scapegoat. He is bullied by the students at his school because of his reputation as a monster, also by his angry and overbearing mother, and he is responsible for most of the deaths in the movie as he decides, after meeting Michael, (who unexpectedly lets him live), that he is tired of the town’s judgment of him and is going to live down to his reputation. Accompanied by Allyson (who is unaware of what he’s been doing) he goes on a killing spree that includes the town bullies, his parents, and several bystanders before he confronts Laurie, who shoots him. In a last-ditch attempt to sabotage Laurie’s relationship with Allyson, (which has been heavily frayed throughout the movie), he makes it look like Laurie stabbed him when Allyson comes home.

Allyson and Corey form a bond because she finds him attractive and he is able to prey on her fears and disappointments about living in Haddonfield. Something in his darkness speaks to the secrets that she has been withholding from her grandmother, and her reaction to Laurie’s distrust of Corey tells us that she isn’t as healed from the trauma of losing her mother as she seemed. Like Laurie did at the same age, she lost her boyfriend, most of her friends, and most of her family, and she has not dealt with the fallout of so much loss, while Laurie still healing from her own pain, has somewhat neglected Allyson’s, which allowed Corey to twist that trauma into anger at her grandmother.

In the end, it is Laurie who survives their last fight, but Michael’s death (for real this time and from which there is absolutely no coming back) is a cathartic affair for the entire town, who join her in the final destruction of his body. Allyson realizes that part of her healing means leaving Haddonfield, but she is not fleeing from her trauma, as she would have if she had eloped with Corey, but moving towards a possible future where she is not shackled to the town’s secrets, and Laurie expresses her healing by finally opening herself up to having new friends (and a possible relationship with the town sheriff).

Although I didn’t like the direction of this film at first, I am satisfied with this ending, which was a lot more contemplative than I thought it would be, and shows that David Gordon Green had a clear agenda in telling the story in the manner in which he did. It really felt like an end, like Laurie’s nightmare (and that of Haddonfield’s) is finally over, and it puts Halloween Kills, a film I was somewhat disappointed by, in a new light. When watched individually the films do leave something to be desired, but taken as a whole I feel the trilogy was successful in keeping the point of its themes, in ending Haddonfield and Laurie’s story on a positive note, with more than enough gore and killing to satisfy most Slasher film fans.

***Once again, I appear to be in the minority in liking this film. I didn’t love it, but it is a decent conclusion, and taken as a whole, I feel it’s a good trilogy. I’ve also observed that most people (the vast majority of the ones talking about it are white men who only want to see people dying horribly) are not looking at it as one part of a whole and that many of them have completely missed the point of the trilogy entirely. Nobody seems to see this movie the way I did. I feel that it’s a decent standalone movie but it must be taken into account as part of a trilogy and understood in that light since that was how it was filmed. Perhaps when more people go back and watch all three movies in succession they will see what David Gordon Green was trying to do, and be willing to defend his vision.

Streaming in October: Mini – Reviews

I started off the month of October by easing into the Horror movie genre with some classic favorites like Alien and The Thing, but at a certain point it was time for me to move on and try new movies and shows (see my review of Interview with the Vampire on AMC) and these are some of the new shows I watched just this weekend. I enjoyed all of these and want to give a quick rundown on what to expect if you come across them.

Let The Right One In – Epis. 1 (Showtime)

This is a new series on Showtime that’s based on the Swedish vampire movie Let The Right One In, about a child vampire that befriends a lonely bullied little boy who lives in her new apartment building.

This version is set in the US, so it’s a little more like the American version of the above film, titled Let Me In (which I also enjoyed for different reasons). The story has been modernized from the book version as well. In the book Ellie is a vampire that’s very, very old, she doesn’t know how old she is because her brain has not developed beyond twelve years old.

In this series, she has only just been turned into a vampire and she is traveling to different cities with her father, who is trying to find the vampire that attacked her based on if there are any serial killings going on in that city. At the same time, he’s trying to deal with her insatiable need for blood because he doesn’t want her attacking (and possibly creating) new vampires, which is what happens when a person gets bitten, but not killed, in this series version of vampirism.

Ellie meets a little black kid at her new apartment building, who is being ostracized and bullied in school (because I suspect he’s on the spectrum). I liked the boy whose name I cannot remember just now, but he loves magic tricks and loves to show them to people. Ellie is all set to eat him until he shows her a magic trick. She has eyes that glow in the dark, which fascinate him, and she tells him it’s magic, and that’s how the two bond. In the meantime, her father is responsible for a tragic event that is going to upheave her new friend’s life, and the cops are investigating the murders that her father is committing on Ellie’s behalf to get blood for her. You realize that her father is using the other murders as a cover for committing his own.

Ellie is very likable and the relationship with her actual father is the focus of the series, unlike in the movies where the focus is on the relationship with her new friend. In the movies, the man taking care of her isn’t her father, but some other little boy she met many decades ago who grew to adulthood as her human servant. Ellie and her dad are Latine, so I can’t help but think there’s some dialogue occurring here about immigrants and new situations, and people, but I’m not an immigrant or Latine so I can’t definitely say. Just like in the movies though, there’s a focus on the logistics of keeping Ellie fed because if he doesn’t, as a predator, she is perfectly capable of going out and procuring her own blood.

The first episode is free on Prime, but I’m not going to sign up for Showtime to watch the rest of this. It’s not a bad episode but there are a few too many coincidences that might not sit well with others. I can’t say it’s enjoyable, because it actually is too tense and suspenseful to be fun, but it makes a good effort to reproduce the feelings of melancholy and dread from both movies. It’s too convoluted to be truly scary. Scary needs to have a bit more mystery, and there are too many things that are explained in this episode, but the tension and dread are there though.

Werewolf by Night (Disney+)

I didn’t think I was going to be too heavily into this show, which is not a series as far as I can tell but just an hour-long Halloween special of some kind, based on the comic book of the same name, but it turned out to be a lot more fun than I thought. I thought I wouldn’t Ike it because it’s shot in black and white and some of the acting is in the old classic 30s style of filmmaking, but I slipped right into the story and had no trouble following what was going on. It was all good fun, and the fight scenes were excellent!

In this story, a group of monster hunters congregate to compete for a McGuffin called the Bloodstone, the only object in the show that’s shown in color. That’s it, really. The guy who owns the Bloodstone dies and holds a contest where the hunters are encouraged to take each other out (thereby eliminating their competition), while they’re also hunting a monster (a werewolf) who has been planted within the group.

You’re definitely going to feel some type of way about the participants because some of them look pretty cool, but you do become aware that these are probably not good people, and that there are certain characters you’re meant to root for. One of the biggest things that threw me off my game was seeing one Marvel character show up at the end of the show! If you’re aware of the history of Swamp Thing (who is a DC character) then you might also be aware that he was preceded by a Marvel character called The Man-Thing whose catchline in the comic books was: Whatever knows fear burns at the Man-Thing’s touch!

But that’s not the only easter egg for fans of Marvel comics, and series. I missed most of them because there was a lot of stuff I haven’t read, and a few series I skipped, but it was still fun even if you know nothing about the comic books or other shows. The plot and characters aren’t dependent on any of that stuff.

I’m not going to say what happens at the end, but it’s interesting because while some of the show is pretty predictable that part was not, and now I’m interested in seeing a lot more of this part of the Marvel universe which is basically a set up for adding demons, vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural creatures into the MCU, like Blade! I mostly ignored the monster parts of the Marvel comic books. I did read some of the Werewolf by Night comic books, and I’m familiar with a couple of demonic superheroes, but mostly I ignored all the vampires and demons and stuff. So this part of the MCU will kind of be new to me too.

This show isn’t especially scary but the fight scenes are pretty gory and brutal, alleviated by the aspect of a lack of color. I wouldn’t let little kids watch it but it’s okay for kids above twelve maybe, who are used to watching horror/action movies.

Hellraiser (Hulu)

I was having some feelings about watching this one. In one aspect, I was eagerly looking forward to watching it, because I liked the first film in the franchise, have never watched a single one of the various sequels, and I was curious about the new Hell Priest being played by a woman. I’ve read all of the books about Pinhead and the Cenobites, including the comic books, and the last two Hellraiser books called The Scarlet Gospels, and The Toll and I enjoyed those.

The movie isn’t great, but it is very compelling and worth watching. If you’ve seen all the other movies in the franchise your mileage may vary, but I generally liked it and will watch it again when I’m in a mood.

The lead character is a flawed woman named Riley, a former drug addict/alcoholic living with her brother, his boyfriend, and another woman friend of theirs. She is the kind of woman who has a habit of making bad choices (probably as a way to run away from a tragic past which we don’t get details about) and one of those mistakes is having regular sex with a guy she just met. Through him, she gets mixed up in the machinations of the villain, a wealthy man who owned the Hellraiser box, got what he wished for, and now horribly regrets being given what he requested.

One of the primary themes of the Hellraiser franchise is people calling up the Cenobites, either through ignorance, or greed, and fucking around and finding out that the demons have nothing to give you that you would actually want to have and that anything they give you will only involve you suffering horribly. The only thing the Cenobites have to offer is one form of suffering or another, and it’s interesting to me that so many of the people who call on them think otherwise.

Through a combination of ignorance and reckless behavior the Cenobites take Riley’s brother, and she spends the rest of the movie trying to solve the puzzle in an effort to save him while sacrificing the people she knows along the way. The rules are that when she solves the final puzzle she will be given five or six themes from which to choose, and one of those is the resurrection of her brother. Riley makes a more interesting choice that shows her growth as a person, especially after all the death she has caused.

I genuinely liked this and feel it lived up to the standards of the original film, but then I can say that having watched not a single one of the movies beyond the second one. The new Hell Priest, Jamie Clayton, has a difficult job to do because, no matter what, she’s going to be compared to Doug Bradley, the original Pinhead, but I think she holds her own. She doesn’t possess his sheer gravity or his voice, but she is quietly, and frighteningly compelling in her own way (and oddly beautiful) and she does get to recite some favorite lines from the original film, making them her own.

The overriding theme is addiction and how far people are willing to go to feed one. Riley has been using addiction to run away from a painful past, and one of the primary reasons people call on the Cenobites in the first place is because many of them are suffering from various addictions and are greedy for more sensations, or are trying to escape from pain, which is ironic, but also makes Riley’s choice at the end even more interesting.

**If you are not into the Hellraiser movies this is not the place to start. We are talking extreme body horror, so if you have a problem with gore, this is not for you. I have friends who do not like Horror movies and I would never recommend something like this to them, not even jokingly. This movie is for hardcore Horror fans only.

Interview With The Vampire (TV Series) – Epis. 1

It’s time for me to talk about the new AMC series Interview with the Vampire, which is not exactly based on the movie from 1994 which starred Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, but kind of sort of is a little bit. This series is a continuation of that movie and takes place some thirty or forty years after the first interview between a mortal named Daniel Malloy (Eric Bogosian) and the vampire Louis du Ponte Du Lac. Daniel is much older (something which initially threw me off a bit before I understood what the show was doing) and has Parkinson’s, and he agrees to do another interview with Louis to set the record straight, wrap things up, or because Daniel never got the chance to publish the first interview because Louis bit him and kept the cassettes. Louis now lives in a uv-fortified apartment in Dubai, with a coterie of human servants, and invites Daniel back for another interview. Daniel is understandably reluctant after what happened the last time.

I, like everyone else, had some misgivings about the series, especially after I heard about the changes that were being made to it, but not for the reasons that most people did. There are three major changes from the book version that people expressed some anxiety about. Louis is now a Black man (and not bi-racial as I first thought), Claudia is biracial and has been aged up to fourteen (in the novel she is about five or six), and the setting is now pre-war New Orleans around 1910. The reason I felt some type of way about these changes is because the showrunner is a white guy, and white men have shown me multiple times that they are incapable of writing sensitively about Black characters (ala. American Gods), but the showrunner here did what at least a few of them have learned how to do in the past several years, (see Star Trek Discovery and The Watchmen), and that is hiring writers from marginalized groups and actually listening to them, instead of acting like they know better than the people who are part of the communities being written about. It’s not a perfect solution. Ideally, I want the writers and showrunners to be members of the groups in question, but I’ll settle for this arrangement, if it means better representation because it’s not enough that marginalized people be present onscreen, they have to be represented in a sensitive manner.

After watching the first two episodes, I’m on board with these changes because the story really hasn’t been greatly upheaved, (although we have yet to see Claudia so I don’t know how that’s going to be handled), and the topic of race has been handled in a sensitive enough manner that most Black people won’t be triggered by the content. Because Louis is Black the creators did not want to have him as the owner of a plantation in the 1800s, although as part of the community of free people of New Orleans, his father did, at some point, enslave Black people. But I can understand why that was changed because that would have been even more objectionable than his current profession as part owner of a string of brothels. The time period was also updated and Louis is in one of the few professions that would have allowed his family to hold onto the wealth that Louis’ father squandered, and a brothel owner still involves the exploitation of Black bodies, so it’s not entirely unrelated. Some people objected to him being portrayed as a pimp, but I feel no particular way about that, and it’s a convenient excuse for him to come into contact with Lestat while keeping their basic relationship and the story structure intact. I have yet to see any Black misery porn in the series just for the sake of it being there, and only heard the N* word thrown out once (by a character that is subsequently brutally killed).

The chemistry between the two leads played by Jacob Anderson and Sam Reid is absolutely electric, and the series stays focused on them and their relationship, rather than side plots, since it’s being told from Louis’ point of view from the future (along with knowledge he didn’t possess in that first interview), and I deeply appreciate that. The episodes begin and end with Daniel and Louis but those are kept to a minimum, are entertaining, and are also funny. The show also doesn’t waste a lot of time. Louis becomes a vampire by the end of the first episode, and most of the second episode is about him adjusting to his new condition.

Their relationship heavily reminds me of the messy relationship between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter in the Hannibal series, and I’m here for messy gay relationships. Louis recognizes that he is gay but is deeply closeted until he meets Lestat. His family suspects and disapproves, but since he is the one who holds the family purse strings, they don’t object too loudly, although Rae Dawn Chong as his mother is a master of The Dismissal. Louis’ brother is also featured in the first episode. Unlike the novel, the two don’t fight and there is real friendship and love between them, but events occur as they do in the book, and it’s the reason Louis ends up in Lestat’s arms.

The dialogue and conversations between Louis and Lestat hew as closely to the novel as possible, but where the book was kind of hedgy about their relationship status, the show is explicit. Louis and Lestat live together, flirt, have sex, fight, kiss, make up, have a child, and engage in all the same operatic infighting that young lovers get up to when they have far too much energy. The writers tried to remain as true to the book as possible with lots of nice little easter eggs for those of us who have read The Vampire Lestat. Lestat’s childhood dream of becoming a priest gets a mention, Marius and Lestat’s first lover, Nicky, also get a shoutout, and I believe Lestat has a painting of his vampire mother, Gabrielle, on the wall of his home. Sam Reid is every bit as engaging a character as Lestat is supposed to be, and Jacob Anderson holds his own with him.

There is one major sex scene in the first episode, but most of the sex scenes involve threesomes as the two vampires feeding on someone is often a euphemism for it. The show is also not without some humor. It doesn’t take itself very seriously but isn’t exactly camp either. I thought from the trailers that it was going to be one of those highly operatic, over-the-top, overcooked hot messes, but the show is rather sedate and what you see in the trailer are the highest points of emotion in that episode, not the quiet moments that led up to that point, or an indication of the mood of the rest of the show. The humor is very sly, with blink-and-you-‘ll-miss-it one-liners, Lestat’s general bitchiness, something featured heavily in the second novel, or actions and conversations between the characters are just funny. I thought the episodes were funny but it’s not a comedy.

The show touches on Louis being a Black man in the South with a certain amount of sensitivity and addresses his lack of equality with the white men around him (including Lestat) even though he is wealthy, and for all intents and purposes, a superior predator, and that’s illustrated in a scene where Louis feels disrespected by a white man of his acquaintance and brutally kills him. They live in an environment where he cannot be seen to be Lestat’s equal in public, and must always defer to him when they go into whites-only spaces (like the opera), with Louis posing as Lestat’s valet in front of an audience, but behaving as equals once the curtain goes up. Lestat is from France but is reluctant to go back there (we will find out why later), but I can’t help but feel that Louis wouldn’t have to act this way in France, where things were not as strict, and American-born Black people were much tolerated at the time, especially if they had money.

Just to note, there is a lot of blood spilled in this series. There is gore and some nudity, some of it full frontal for those of you who feel some type of way about all that. This is not like the CW. It’s a show for adults although mature teens can certainly access it. The series has a very cinematic feel, and the costumes and sets look like someone spent some money on them. Christopher Rice and his mother Anne were involved in the writing of the series before her passing last year so that made me feel at least a little bit better about the direction of the series. The idea is to slowly incorporate ideas and characters from all the other books as the series continues. I was hoping for a bunch of mini-series based on individual books but this is good too. I’m really enjoying it a lot so far, and I’m excited about its future. There have only been two episodes so there’s still plenty of room for the creators to mess this up but they started off very well, and I eagerly await the next episode.

Interview with the Vampire will air every Sunday on AMC, and last seven episodes. If you subscribe to AMC you can watch the first two.

AMC has already renewed the series for a second season.

Hellboy (2008) Vs. Hellboy (2019)

Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy II was released in 2008, a mere ten years before the release of this new reboot, by Neil Marshall. The reboot bombed horribly, which kind of saddens me because I generally like Neil Marshall’s output. He’s the director of The Descent and Dog Soldiers, both of which are good, solid, action-horror movies, each with a deft emotional touch.

This newest version of Hellboy isn’t’ bad, but lord, it isn’t good. Well, let’s just say it’s worst than it should’ve been. I want to compare Del Toro’s and Marshall’s versions of the films, but in order to do that, I need to also talk about the comic book series the movies are based on, as both movies capture different aspects of the books.

The comic books are written by many different people, but Mike Mignola, as the initial creator, has had an enormous amount of control over his creation. Depending on what mood Mignola is in, you can get humor, or scares, or melancholy, which is something felt across the entire series.

Marshall’s remake is a grim and disjointed affair, that feels like a collection of unrelated action scenes, with too many flashbacks designed to illuminate who the various characters are, and why they’re doing what they’re doing, any one of which could be made into their own film, rather than the hodgepodge we got.

I believe Marshall’s first mistake was starting the film with the villain’s origin story. Nimue is some type of Witch Queen, who gets killed by King Arthur, and Merlin. Using Excalibur, they chop her into pieces, and send the pieces to different parts of the world. We then move to the present day, where the plot becomes unnecessarily convoluted, as a secret organization tries to kill Hellboy. This secret organization has no other role in the film other than getting Hellboy to visit England.

Meanwhile,  Baba Yaga (one of the coolest parts of the movie) is collecting the various pieces of the Witch Queen (with the help of a kind of troll, fairy/ pig creature, also cool).  Hellboy fights some giants, which has nothing to do with the rest of the movie and feels like filling time until we get to the real plot. He is then kidnapped by  Alice, who gets a flashback to when Hellboy saved her from the fairies, specifically the fairy pig thingie that took Alice’s place as a changeling, and who now bears a grudge against Hellboy for having exorcised him from Alice’s house.

Outside of that, Alice’s story is unrelated to the larger Nimue story and Baba Yaga. Hellboy fights with his adoptive father, who gets a flashback to his first meeting with Hellboy, and  Hellboy meets Ben Daimio, who also gets a flashback to his origin story as a were-jaguar, a story that is wholly unrelated to anything else in the movie, although  I liked seeing him because I have a crush on the actor, Daniel Dae Kim, who is also underused.

Actually, the very beginning of the movie is Hellboy traveling to Mexico to fight a friend who has been turned into a vampire Luchador, which sounds cool as fuck, comes directly from one of the stories in the comic books and could have been a movie in its own right. Hellboy kills his friend, goes into a drunken funk, and has to be taken back to headquarters by the agents of the BPRD. Nothing in this scene is even remotely related to anything else that happens in the movie and we don’t get to see any more Mexican bat-vampires for the duration of the film.

I liked many of the individual scenes in the movie, from the vampires to the giants to the Baba Yaga scene. I just wished all of these things had been tied together with a coherent story, and all the unnecessary stuff jettisoned to tighten up the plot. There’s also no big emotional payoff.  The remake is more of a horror movie that’s made up of side quests. There’s a warmth and whimsy in the original films, that’s very palpable, and you get a distinct impression that Del Toro truly loves these characters. It’s not that I didn’t find things to like about this newer version, there were just fewer things to enjoy, and those things weren’t thematically or even emotionally connected to any of the other things. At times, the movie felt very workmanlike. Hellboy needs to meet someone so he gets taken to them. He needs to be somewhere so he’s ordered to go there. I liked the visuals, which were great, especially the scene of Baba Yaga’s house with the chicken legs, which came right out of my childhood nightmares. There’s a lot of gore in this movie, but beyond a few snarky comments by some of the characters, (mostly Alice), I just wasn’t feeling it.

At no point during the film does Hellboy make the decision to fight the apocalypse of his own free will. He spends the majority of the movie being snatched, kidnapped, derailed, or ordered about by the other characters, and seems not particularly interested in being heroic, at one point complaining about having been turned into a weapon by his adoptive father.  In the middle of the movie, Hellboy has a very “emotional” fight with his father about this which comes across a bit ham-fisted, and seems to come out of nowhere. There’s no emotional buildup for this outburst nor is the subject ever revisited. This same subject is handled more deftly in Hellboy II, when Prince Nuada challenges Hellboy not to kill the last living Forest God, and accuses him of being nothing more than a weapon against his own kind if he does, and its a question that arises out of Hellboy’s wonderings about his life purpose.

A big part of my dissatisfaction is with the cast though. I wasn’t feeling any group cohesion, although I had no problem with David Harbour’s version of Hellboy, who seems as perfect for the role as Perlman, if somewhat more petulant but he is never given any room to shine since the plot constricts him. All of the relationships in this movie start out adversarial, and for no other reason than they were written that way, but at the end, the characters are suddenly working as a well-oiled team, and getting along with each other, except when they don’t. These were people who were together because the plot required them to be, not because they were friends or genuinely like each other.This is unlike the Del Toro movies, where the characters get on each other’s nerves, and are often exasperated by Hellboy’s behavior, but at least you get the sense that they like each other, and are long-term friends.

This movie tries and fails to create the dynamic seen between Hellboy and Abe in the original film, and fails at that too. Alice has something of the same powers as Abe (she’s a mystic) but never comes across as a fully realized character, with some kind of interior life. Abe, despite all the heavy makeup, is imbued by his actors body language with a deep interiority. Abe and the other characters are treated by the story as if they have a life when Hellboy isn’t around, especially in the second movie, where they are given their own storylines. We don’t know anything about Alice other than that she’s cranky.

As with the original movies, there are some impressive visuals, if not the sheer imagination of the first two films, but these visuals are not connected to anything in the rest of the plot. At the beginning of the movie Hellboy fights some giants. This fight has nothing to do with the overall plot with the Witch Queen, or the preceding plot, which had an organization that existed to kill him, in case he turns evil and destroys the world, according to the prophecy. The Witch Queen releases some demons that wreak havoc on the city of London, but Hellboy doesn’t get to fight those, which would have been fucking awesome to see, but he has no contact with them at all. The demons show up to terrorize the city and that’s what they do because it looks cool. Events in the movie are only connected because someone in the cast says they are, and not because of any actual connections. The movie is just made up of  setpieces that look really cool.

There are scenes that vaguely echo scenes from Helboy II, in this remake, but without any of the emotional payoff, because although we’ve been given backstories we still don’t know any of these characters. Everyone remembers the fight scene between Hellboy and the Forest God, in Hellboy 2, and the haunting and beautiful music and images when the creature dies. Here, the music is forgettable, action film noise.

Like I said, its not that the Hellboy reboot is a bad movie. I watched it, and liked the way it looked, but it is  a bad movie compared to the excellence of the first two films that came before it, and it’s too soon after those movies that this one was made. And people definitely compared them and found the remake wanting because no one went to see this movie. Hell, I didn’t even go see this movie. In all fairness though, it would have been really hard for any  film maker to follow in the footsteps of the mastery of  Del Toro, who  has a reason for every single thing you will see on the screen, right down to his use of colors, and it feels like Marshall either didn’t understand the assignment, or did not try as hard as he should have to make the movie his own, as he seemed to be aping bits and pieces from the original films, or in some scenes trying really hard not to ape those scenes.

I think this new film suffers from too much plot (We’ve got Merlin, Excalibur, witches, fairies, dragons, demons, were-animals, giants, spiritualists, and knights) and simply not enough character, since it’s the characters in the original films which drew us into the ridiculous idea of a giant red devil-man in a trench coat, running through the streets of New York City, chasing Cthulhu demons on subway trains, a telepathic fishman, and a woman who can control fire, all fighting an ancient Nazi wannabe, an Urban Elf King, or tiny winged creatures that eat teeth! Yes, it’s all utterly ridiculous! But we cared about the characters and believed their relationships, and so were willing to sit with the craziness of these stories.

This reboot was adapted from at least four different Hellboy comics by the actual writer, Mike Mignola, and none of those books are related either, which accounts for the disjointed plot here. It’s like Mignola saw a chance to throw a bunch scenes from his favorite comic books up on the screen, and then tried to flimsily make these plots stick to each other.

I tried. I really did. But I just didn’t care about Alice or even Hellboy because there’s simply nothing there to grasp. Ian McShane is wasted, swanning in from time to time to yell at Hellboy and then he’s gone. Daniel Dae Kim is also completely wasted as a were jaguar who is cranky for no reason, and doesn’t show up until near the end of the movie, and his disappointing special effects made me roll my eyes, which is not, I think, the effect the creators were looking for. These are empty characters who are going through the motions of the plot. I did like, of all the characters, Baba Yaga, who was absotively awesome, and quite frankly, I would’ve preferred the entire plot be just her and Hellboy playing a game of cat and mouse over whatever machinations she was getting up to.

I remember I was excited for this movie because of the trailer, but ultimately I walked away disappointed. Not because it’s so awful, because I’ve watched much worse films than this, but because I kept seeing what could have been, if there had been better editing, character development, and a leaner and meaner plot.

Warnings: lots of gore and violence.

Nope (Pt.2): The Characters

The reason I rushed to get that last post published so quickly was that I had just watched the film, and wanted to get it all down while the images were still fresh. I’m probably going to mention things in this post that I forgot to mention in the last one or not mention some stuff I simply forgot. I’m still in something of a rush to write this all down before I forget my impressions of these characters, (I have seen the movie a second time since the first post). I didn’t walk into the movie thinking about things to look for. I walked into it remembering an interview I saw with Peele where he mentioned that his inspiration for this movie was Jaws.

There Are Going to Be Spoilers!!! There Are Going to Be Spoilers!!

To make a movie this ambitious (it is more than 2 hours long) and in an effort to save time, Peele has engaged in a certain amount of film shorthand, namely archetypal characters. Archetypes are typical examples of a certain type of person often seen in movies. Archetypes are characters that the audience is meant to immediately recognize (mostly on a subconscious level), understand who they are, what their purpose is, and sometimes a broad concept of what actions they’re going to commit. There’s nothing wrong with archetypes (unless they’re badly used or written), most films use them, and they’re meant to save storytelling time. Peele has used at least three different archetypes here, and they mostly seem to map very well to the archetypes from the movie Jaws, which is on Peele’s recommended watchlist as inspiration for this film.

The Archetypes

The Cowboy – Oj

Drawing on his depth of knowledge of genre films Peele has engaged the archetype of The Cowboy in the form of OJ. While the definition of the cowboy is a guy who rides a horse to herd cattle, the image of the cowboy in the US is anyone who exhibits the behavior and trappings of a cowboy, which Oj does. He’s heroic, strong, silent, and highly principled, and has mastered the understanding, training, and use of horses. But what he most reminds me of with his jeans and hoodie are the urban Black horseriders called the Compton Cowboys which tickles me to no end!

When it comes to comparisons to Jaws, Oj is the one most like Sheriff Brody. He is the person trying the hardest to hold things down, hold onto his father’s legacy, and he is dedicated to his job and devoted to his family. Like Brody, he has trouble making his voice heard even when he is right, and is the kind of man willing to make the sacrifice play to defend what he loves.

The Prodigal – Emerald Haywood

Em is the classic Prodigal Son archetype. The Prodigal in movies (this definition is outside the literary version) is often a younger brother who has left home because they couldn’t reconcile themselves with the wishes of their father and seek a better life for themselves. Em comes back home from Hollywood after her estrangement from her father, and reconciling her issues with her dad (and brother) achieves her final goal. There is no Prodigal character in the original Jaws so the addition of Emerald is wholly unique. Another wholly unique feature is that this Prodigal is a Black woman who, while working in tandem with her brother, turns out to be the hero of the movie and a Classic Final Girl.

The Wild Card – Jupe

Another archetypal character is the wild card. Jupe isn’t a wild card because he’s unpredictable to us. Like Quint in Jaws, he is a wild card to the other characters who don’t know enough about him to figure out what his goal is. The wild card character has their own agenda and their own motivations. As long as they can accomplish their goal they will work with anyone, on any side, they will switch sides, betray others, or form alliances based entirely on what they can get out of the arrangement. They are often arrogant and opportunistic. This perfectly describes both Ricky (Jupe) Park and Quint. I consider Jupe a wild card because his goals are not consistent with the goals of the other characters, although, on the surface, they may seem to be and he is willing to seem as if he is their ally. But his primary goal is to exploit the UFO and the circumstances for his own monetary gain and his motivation is based on the mistaken belief that he can.

The Common Man/Man in the Chair – Angel

The closest Jaws character to Angel is probably Hooper, who is there to study the shark, handles all the tech and equipment, and has no stake in the affair other than being friends with the protagonist. I talked before about how every genre story needs to have one character who can speak for or represent the members of the audience. This character’s job is to voice the audience’s concerns or do the things that audience members wish they could do like having a grand adventure, being friends with the primary characters, or just surviving the event. These characters are unlikely to be killed, because they have no real stake in the proceedings, so they are more like witnesses. Angel, like Hooper, isn’t someone who really furthers the plot in a big way, but he is the character that is most like us, finding himself in an incredible situation that he must now deal with in a way we hope we would.

The Characters

Ricky (Jupe) Park

Jupe is one of the deepest characters in the story and the one about whom we get the most in-depth backstory. Like the Mayor from Jaws, he is also the closest thing we get to a villain, or antagonist, as it is the choices he makes that set the plot in motion. One thing viewers may not have gotten is that the alien/ufo has taken up residence in the valley where the Haywood Ranch exists because Jupe has been feeding it the horses he’s been buying from Oj. Oj has been selling him horses as a way to pay for the Ranch’s upkeep, with the full expectation that he can buy them back. When Oj tries to discuss buying back his horses, Jupe distracts him with his famous backstory. Even though we can see the pain in his eyes and that he has not, in fact, moved on from the trauma, he tells Em the story anyway.

That scene is also an echo of Quint from Jaws in the scene where he is telling Em his story of what happened on the set of Gordy’s rampage and is a callback to Quint’s recitation of his own trauma aboard the USS Indianapolis, and something which informs his motivations for hunting the shark. You have these two characters who have not moved beyond their trauma, which has led to the delusional belief that they can control/capture these wild animals, which subsequently, gets them killed. Jupe’s scene doesn’t have the same level of gravity as Quint’s scene because it happens fairly early in the film before we’ve really spent much time with the character, but it serves the same purpose as a “pivotal moment” that each character has in their backstory. It is the moment that made them who they are in this one.

Jupe has the idea that because he survived Gordy’s rampage on the set as a child, and because Gordy, who was trained to give him a fist bump, was in the process of doing so before he was killed, that he has some special connection with animals. He has entered into a kind of devil’s bargain with the alien, where he feeds the creature horses every weekend, and as a result, the alien has taken up residence near his theme park, and specifically, near the Haywood ranch, where it steals the occasional horse and dumps its “spoor” on their land. Jupe’s mistaken belief that he has mastered this alien creature is one of the larger themes of the movie.

Jupe has not dealt properly with the trauma of what happened to him as a child. He continues to dwell in the headspace of that event, and coupled with his need to hold onto the fame of his youth, this makes for the disastrous outcome we see in the movie, where he presses his luck, and for his trouble, he and his audience get eaten.

If you look closely, you’ll see that each character holds onto some object from their past that is representative of their personal trauma. For Jupe its the little gray shoe which he keeps on display in his memorial room.

Emerald Haywood (Em)

The scene that most completely encapsulates the type of person Emerald Haywood is is the scene in the tech store where she’s laying out her plan to capture photos of the ufo to her brother, and she briefly interrupts her spiel to compliment some lady about her clothes. It’s a blink and you’ll miss it moment, but when I saw it I burst out laughing because that’s just so HER. She does things like that where she just randomly compliments people. Em is a person who is constantly giving and looking for approval, not just because it helps her accomplish her goal of being a Hollywood star, but because she seemed to always be trying to win her father’s approval.

Em’s “pivotal” backstory is when she was about nine years old her father promised to teach her to train her first horse, which she named Jean Jacket, but she never got the chance because her father chose Oj in her stead. She says after that their father never seemed to see her. He only had eyes for the heir to his legacy, Oj. Subsequently, she has spent the rest of her life trying to be seen, trying to gain somebody’s, anybody’s, attention. That’s what all the hustling and charming, self-referential patter is all about. She left home to go to Hollywood for fame and fortune and spends her time trying to convince other people she is special, not understanding that she was always looking in the wrong place because her brother already knew she was special (for being able to do the thing he could not do which was break free of his father’s shadow) and he has always been able to see her.

The one thing that Em holds close to her that exemplifies her trauma is her father’s speech which he used to introduce himself to his clients. In her attempt to be seen by her father she has memorized every word and inflection (even his stammer) of that speech.

There are a number of callbacks in the film, like the scene where she watches her brother being trained on her horse, Jean Jacket, and he looks up at her and points to his eyes, and then to her. This is recalled at the end of the movie when he does it again and she returns the gesture. One of the primary themes of this movie is seeing and being seen. Capturing the alien’s photogragh is her Jean Jacket moment. He is giving her this chance to put her shit down and show the world what he always knew she was capable of.

And for that, we anime fans are gifted the extreme pleasure of seeing her do The Akira Slide!!!

Otis Haywood Jr. (Oj)

Each of the primary characters has a pivotal story in their background that informs their character, motivation, and actions at the end of the movie. Oj’s pivotal story is that his father chose him to be his successor rather than Emerald who seemed to want it more. When they were kids, she was set to train a horse she named Jean Jacket and his father changed his mind and chose him for the training instead, which led to Oj being his legal heir. Subsequently, he got all the training (and hence his father’s attention) with Em’s horse. The first job he went to with his father was on the set of The Mummy spinoff movie, The Scorpion King 2, (which is where the orange hoodie comes from) but he was deprived of his chance to show his skills when the creators decided they didn’t need horses and would use camels instead, and has spent the years since then as his father’s assistant, never getting the chance to build the confidence that comes from working on his own.

The representative object that Oj holds close to him is the orange hoodie with the Scorpion King logo. It’s emblematic of the pivotal childhood event where he never got a chance to use his newly trained skills on his first job, and was relegated to being nothing more than his father’s assistant.

One of the reasons Oj is so reticent/standoffish on the set at the beginning of the film is that is actually his first job alone, after his father’s death. Before that, his father did all the talking and handling on the set including that little speech memorized by Em. Oj didn’t have to try to hold everything down or talk to anyone on set because Dad had everything under control. (Up until one’s parents are gone you always think you’re ready for whatever, and then when they’re gone, you have to actually find out if you are.) The orange hoodie represents him finally picking up the reins from his father, and the corralling of the alien (and the protection of his family and legacy by doing so) is really his first job.

Oj, because of his understanding and connection with animals, is the first to recognize not just that the ufo is actually a territorial predator that must be respected as the animal it is, but the significance of the actions he and Em are about to perform. It’s Em’s first training job too, only she will be corralling an alien predator. It is Oj who names the alien Jean Jacket as a tribute to that moment.

While we’re here, let’s talk about how Oj survives multiple attempts by the alien to consume him, something that Jupe doesn’t. Oj is a very different character from Jupe and his sister. He doesn’t seek fame or attention, and the special connection with animals that Jupe only thought he had, and Em wishes she had, is something that Oj actually possesses. Due to his training with animals, he is the first to discern what they are dealing with, and unlike Jupe, he never forgets that an animal is an animal, and no matter how much training that animal has, it has a mind of its own, and it can still be triggered into violence. Em may be jealous of his skills but she is willing to recognize his expertise, listen to him when he tells her about the alien, and follow his directions in dealing with it.

As for Oj’s demeanor, some of the primary markers of autism are avoiding eye contact with others, anxiety in social situations, finding it hard to make friends or being a loner, noticing small details that others don’t, and difficulty discussing feelings. Oj displays many of these traits which is why some audiences like to read him as being autistic, an idea I support because I happen to be autistic. The first time we see Oj at work he is almost painfully withdrawn. He refuses to make eye contact, looks nervous/disinterested about being in the presence of so many strangers, and shows a reluctance to speak or draw any attention to himself. When he feels pinched he calls for Em to do what she does, and we feel almost as uncomfortable as he seems to be. (I winced through that entire scene, and it’s my least favorite one, not because it’s badly written, but because it’s such a great depiction of social anxiety/being the center of attention.)

Em and OjRelationship

I really enjoyed this movie because yeah, I’m attracted to spectacle, and it has plenty of it, but it also has great characters and great relationships. Otis Jr and Emerald really resonated with me because their relationship isn’t all that different from me and my oldest little brother, and the personality dynamics aren’t too far off either, except I’m the one who left home and came back, and he’s the more garrulous one. I’m one of those people who say about twenty words a year, and only under duress!) I’m an artist and dreamer, he’s a talker and fixer-of-things who thinks his big sister is an absent-minded nerd who needs to be carefully looked after. This is not unlike how Oj thinks of his little sister as a dreamer who is smart, but flighty. He’s willing to listen to her ideas because he respects her intelligence, and because of the force of her personality, which is how I often have to convince my know-it-all little brother to do what I want.

If you watch the movie carefully you realize that the only person Oj physically engages with is his sister. It’s not that he doesn’t interact with other people but recall the scene where he and Em are celebrating a victory, and slapping hands. Oj acts that way with no one else in the movie. He is almost always monosyllabic and averts his eyes from everyone else, even Angel, who he only warms up to slowly. Palmer and Kaluuya have such great chemistry that you actually believe they’re brother and sister. They both have issues surrounding their father but don’t let that get in the way of their own relationship or ability to work together. Em listens to her brother and trusts his expertise, especially when it comes to what he’s been trained to do. Oj listens to what his sister has to say, and goes along with her plan, recognizing her drive and intelligence.

Angel Torres

I like to refer to Angel as the Common Man, or Everyman because, like Hooper from Jaws, he is an outsider, and of all the characters he seems most relatable to the average person. Like us, he doesn’t live, work, or have loved ones in danger at the Ranch, nor does he have any real stake in the proceedings other than being friends with Em and Oj. His life will not be greatly upheaved, outside of his interior sense of self, after this is all over. He is not there to save the Haywwod’s ranch or make any money off the alien.

Angel gets a tiny bit of backstory and I like him for that. Angel operates like the sibling’s “man in the chair”. He helps set up their equipment and then spies on their attempt to capture images of the ufo. He tells the siblings that he just broke up with his girlfriend and is searching for something greater than himself, and even though he doesn’t say it, he’s also looking for friends, and somewhere to be other than by himself. He meets Em and Oj at the tech store where he works and is immediately intrigued by them. Seeing their presence in his store as a call to adventure, he invites himself into their lives, and them into his, offering to let them stay at his home after an incident that causes them to flee their own (and offering them his clothes). Angel is that childlike part of us that seeks thrills and adventure (and new friends) with no consideration of the actual danger.

I’m a sucker for the Found Family trope, so Angel immediately endeared himself to me by inserting himself, totally uninvited, into an event that has nothing to do with him, and then holding his own, as if he totally belonged there. He is a quick and clever thinker and one of the few people actively pursued by the alien that saves himself by simply making himself taste bad – rolling himself in barbed wire! (He makes himself unattractive to the camera!) Although Angel spends most of the movie frightened out of his skin, he does make reasonably intelligent decisions, the kind we’d like to think we would make in such a situation. He’s out of his depth and he knows it, but he never backs down, or runs out on them, and manages to keep his sense of humor. His loyalty to Em and Oj is baffling to some people, but having been an introvert on the receiving end of being unexpectedly adopted by an extrovert, I get it.

One thing tied to my last post is about the scene where the mantis obscures the view of one of Angel’s cameras, and how in Christian mythology a praying mantis in the home is a sign that angels are watching over you. Some audience members pointed out that there actually is an “Angel” watching over the house during that scene.

*Okay, now this one is also getting a bit too long, and I can see that this is going to require a part 3 because I haven’t really talked about the monster, its significance, its depiction, what it represents, and one other character people always forget about when talking about a film, the landscape!

**Yeah, I did go back and see the movie a second time. I had not planned to do so, but when the opportunity presented itself for my sister to pay for it I jumped at the chance. There is a certain amount of glee involved in watching a Horror movie, with your easily frightened and already nervous sibling, that you have already seen and lording it over them just a little bit. That’s just one of several perks of being a sibling!

Well…I Watched It! Lovecraft Country Episode One – Sundown

lovecraft country | Tumblr

A couple of weeks ago saw the debut of the new HBO series, Lovecraft Country, based on the book of the same name by Matt Ruff. In the book, a young black man named Atticus goes on a road trip through the Jim Crow South, with his uncle, and childhood friend, to find his father, who has mysteriously gone missing up North. They stumble across racist cops, sundown towns, Lovecraftian monsters, and occultism, in their travels.

I watched the first two episodes of this series. Normally I would not have watched any show that’s based in the Jim Crow South because that’s just a particularly triggering time period, but the writers and producers are black, so I was willing to give it a chance. Its still a very nerve-wracking show, but in a kind of  good way, because its also surprisingly cathartic, entertaining, and not wholly based on Black pain and suffering. The characters are very likable, and there are other, more personal issues they deal with besides racism.

jurnee smollett edit | Tumblr

I can honestly say I enjoyed this episode. I know that sounds weird, considering how I’ve complained about no longer being interested in shows that are based on black pain and suffering, in different eras, but this show, along with the Watchman series, was very entertaining. For one thing, the plot isn’t necessarily based in suffering. the Jim Crow era in which the story takes place is simply the backdrop, and the way the story is written, the racism of the white characters is just one of the primary obstacles that the protagonists have to navigate, occasionally in the form of harrowing car chases.

It doesn’t hurt that the three main characters, Atticus, the very fine looking lead character, his uncle George, played by the incredible Courtney B. Vance, and the gorgeous Leticia, Atticus childhood friend, played by Journee Smollet, who you may remember as Black Canary, from the Harley Quinn/Birds of Prey movie, released earlier this year, are all immensely likable, and reasonably smart.

Outside of the mystery itself, the series presents a lot of ideas about black people that don’t often get seen in popular culture, which are merely glimpses into the lives of regular black people, in the midst of horrific circumstances, because that too is as important to our representation, as seeing ourselves be heroic, hearing our own stories, or seeing ourselves existing as a culture in the future. We get loving black couples, black people who love books, clothes, and superheroes, ordinary disputes between family members and black people snatching  little moments of joy, even in the darkest times.

Lovecraft Country Jurnee Smollett GIF - LovecraftCountry JurneeSmollett LetiLewis - Discover & Share GIFs

The episode begins with Atticus on his way home from the Korean War. Its 1954, and that particular war (the one depicted in the MASH series) ended around 1953. He’s dreaming of a mashup of all the scifi he’s ever read, Cthulhu, John Carter of Mars, and an ass kicking  cameo from #42 himself, Jackie Robinson.

When the bus he’s riding breaks down, he and the only other black passenger, rather than being allowed to hitch a ride with a local farmer, have to walk several miles to the next town. During their walk is when we get Atticus broad opinions on fantasy stories with racist characters, or written by racist writers, like Robert E. Howard, or Lovecraft himself. Genre fiction, whether movies, books, or TV,  has always been problematic for black people. Most of it was not written with us in mind, and what was, often had negative connotations.

When Atticus gets home, he finds the neighborhood is preparing to have a block party. This is something that really resonated with me, because I remember attending quite a few of these, during my childhood. My family is/was huge, so most of the block party consisted of me, my little brothers, and a seemingly vast number of cousins, uncles, and aunties! Anyway Atticus finds out from his uncle George that his father has gone missing but left a note saying he could be found in a place called Ardham. That’s right, not Arkham, but Ardham House. He, and George are joined by Leticia, a young woman that Atticus knew when they were children, because Letty was the only girl in his Science fiction book club, but who is now a traveling photographer.

Lovecraft Country Jurnee Smollett GIF - LovecraftCountry JurneeSmollett LetiLewis - Discover & Share GIFs

Uncle George offers to come along because he is the publisher of the Chicago based green book. His wife, Hippolyta, offers to come, but George says no, out of a sense of protection. He knows how dangerous it would be for her to do such a thing., considering that he once had both his knees broken, by some racists, while on a previous trip for his travel books.

The travel books, that George writes, (based on the real life Negro Motorist’s Green Book), aided  black people in navigating through the Jim Crow South, listing problem areas, like eating and sleeping places that were safe, but most especially, listed all the Sundown Towns, in both the North and South. At that time, these were all white towns, in which black people would be  either run out, or murdered, if they were found within the town limits, after sundown.

https://www.zinnedproject.org/materials/sundown-towns/

Welcome to the world’s only registry of sundown towns. A sundown town is not just a place where something racist happened. It is an entire community (or even county) that for decades was “all white” on purpose. “All white” is in quotes because some towns allowed one black family to remain when they drove out the rest. Also, institutionalized persons (in prisons, hospitals, colleges, etc.), live-in servants (in white households), and black or interracial children (in white households) do not violate the taboo.

“On purpose” does not require a formal ordinance. If, for example, if a black family tried to move in, encountered considerable hostility, and left, that would qualify the town as “sundown.” Note that some sundown towns kept out Chinese Americans, Jews, Mexican Americans, Native Americans, even Mormons.

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One of the most hair raising, but exhilarating, chase sequences occurs when George mistakenly takes them to a cafe that does not serve black people, and the local firefighters chase them out of town. They are saved by Letty’s well honed survival instincts, her ability to drive like a maniac, and a little bit of hoodoo, from a mysterious benefactor.

Hbo Running GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

This same benefactor comes to their aid at the end of the episode, after they get stopped in a sundown county by the local sheriff, who challenges them to get out of the county 8 minutes before sundown, but without speeding. This is very  probably the slowest, most nerve wracking car chase in television history, and does a spectacular job of showing how frustrating, and enraging it was to live during the Jim Crow era, in which those who held authority, (yes, the police, but regular citizens were encouraged to get in on the fun), could terrorize black people on a whim, or simply for their own pleasure.

They do follow the cops rules and manage to barely make it out of town, only to be stopped by the police in the neighboring county, who were lying in wait for them. This is an especially relevant point, because it speaks to the arbitrary nature of the rules. It ultimately doesn’t mean anything that Atticus and the others followed the rules. They’ll be killed anyway, because a group of people determined that they should, and no amount of rule following would’ve saved them. However, the three of them  are  inadvertently saved by monsters.

Lovecraft Country' Premiere: 5 Things You May Have Missed in Episode 1,  “Sundown” | Decider

*I want to point out some of the images used in the show, which is rich with detail. This particular image here was based off some famous photographs by Gordon Parks.

Lovecraft Country Ep 1 Easter Egg // Another Gordon Parks Reference :  LovecraftCountry

And here is another, which can also seen in the episode:

Gordon Parks photo 1956, Lovecraft Country 2020 | MLTSHP

*There’s also a famous interview from James Baldwin, which is used in voiceover, before the trio’s second encounter with the police.

1965 debate between Baldwin and conservative author William F. Buckley.

*Hippolyta (George’s wife) is also the name of Wonder Woman’s mother, and George has a daughter named Diana.

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The cops take the three of them into the woods to execute them. This is an especially chilling scene when you think about how many black people might have been murdered in this fashion, who were never missed, or whose bodies were never discovered. In fact there are a host of activities that black people don’t do today, not just because we were discouraged from participating in everyday American life, but because, even today, we are still recovering from the trauma of the constant terrorizing and policing of our actions, which lasted some sixty to seventy years. Activities like road trips, camping, swimming, walking on the sidewalks, or just out enjoying nature, could (and did) get us murdered.

Until the seventies, many state parks were off limits to black people and earlier this Summer a young black man posted videos where he was threatened with lynching, by a white mob that assaulted him in a park. The bottom line is that many of the nature activities that white people took for granted, were enduring traumas for PoC, but especially black people. So when you hear us joking about not going into the woods, or never going hiking, keep this in mind, as one of the factors.

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/americas-national-parks-face-existential-crisis-race/story?id=71528972

“When I’m walking to work with park rangers or with other campers and hikers who treat me in some sort of way that make me feel unwelcome, that make me feel unsafe, that is startling,” Tariq said. “And that goes unchecked because there’s, there’s just no channel for us to be able to challenge that in such remote places.”

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https://bloomingtonian.com/2020/07/05/bloomington-man-threatened-with-noose-during-assault-at-lake-monroe/

As much as white people claim to be afraid of black people because…..crime, or something, I don’t think many of them have ever thought about what it must be like to live one’s life in constant fear of stepping on white people’s toes, at work, or the store, in a park, or just out of doors. Always having to watch what you say, how you look, dress, act, and carefully structure one’s facial expressions, lest you set one of them off, as if they were unexploded ordinance.

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The police take them into the woods to execute them, but before that can happen, they are all attacked by what viewers are calling Shuggoths, but what the characters in the show are calling vampires. They are covered with eyes, shun the light, and can move extremely fast, so they manage to take out the five or six cops rather easily. Letty and Atticus escape to an abandoned cabin, along with two of the cops, one of whom had their arm bitten off. After George joins them in the cabin, they make a plan to get more light from the cars parked at the edge of the woods. Atticus wants to go, but is prevented from doing so by the cops who 1) don’t trust him, and on top of that 2) aren’t very bright, because why would he leave his friends behind just to spite the police? The cops nominate Letty to run to the vehicles.

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Okay, I’m going to have to stop here for another aside. These are the same type of white men who will happily kill a black man for breathing too hard in a white woman’s direction but are perfectly happy to sacrificing a black woman to save their skins. In their minds, black women are not worth protecting. So even though they are armed and can take care of themselves, they insist that this black woman attempt to outrun the monsters, to save their skins. To calm everyone down, Letty does make a case that she is faster than Atticus, having run track as a girl, and off she goes.

And this is the way that people should be running in a Horror movie. Letty is seriously hauling ass! I wonder how many times Journee had to do that scene, because this is not a stunt double, and she is seriously working  out! There’s none of that glancing behind, or tripping and falling shit in your typical generic horror movie. This is also probably the reason black people don’t get to star in too many of them, because they would be boringly short films.

 

Letty makes it to the car, and heads back to the cabin, where the two cops are so busy concentrating on holding those two scary black men in check, that they don’t notice that one of them is turning into a one of the creatures that attacked them, but that’s not what’s interesting . What’s fascinating is  even though the cop next to him is turning into a nightmare that’s going to eat him, he is hesitant to shoot him, despite Attticus’ and George’s warnings, instead choosing to keep his weapon aimed at the two unarmed black men in front of him. See ,this is one of the reasons I don’t trust white people, (no, not even my white friends), with my safety. After decades of fear-mongering propaganda, the majority of them simply do not have good judgment when it comes to what’s actually dangerous, and what isn’t.

Lovecraft Country Jurnee Smollett GIF - LovecraftCountry JurneeSmollett  LetiLewis - Discover & Share GIFs

The cop turns into a monster and eats the other cop, which is a nice conflation of the idea that there are other types of monsters in the world, but the human ones are the scariest. Letty arrives with the car just as the monster turns its attention to Atticus and George, but they still need to hold the monsters off until daylight, or fight them, and that’s when the mysterious benefactor arrives and calls them off using, what else…a dog whistle!

We next see the three travelers arriving at Ardham house, exhausted, and  covered in blood, where they are welcomed and expected by their happy blond host, and yes, I’m immediately suspicious.

So that’s my first impression of the show. I have,  since the posting of this review, watched a couple more episodes, and the show manages to keep that same energy for each episode, which is more like a connected anthology than a serialistic show. The second episode finishes out the first story arc at Ardham House, and the third focuses on Leticia buying a haunted house. Both episodes continue with the same wealth of detail, racist white men, and historical asides, including references to the Garden of Eden, and a chilling cameo from Emmet Till!

There are so many layers to this show, but its also just entertaining, even if you don’t get, or see, all the socio-historical references. The show is fun to watch, with a lot of exciting moments, because its well written, and  the characters and plot are compelling.

Hannibal: Season Three…And the Beast from the Sea

[These last reviews of the Red Dragon arc were originally published after the end of the series in 2015. I’ve edited these  reviews to reflect new thoughts and information.]

The last episode I reviewed was about the different character’s perceptions, as has been the theme for most of the series., but this episode is about Agency, how each of the characters have it, take it, and/or employ it. Agency is the ability to affect change over the environment by one’s actions. One can affect change oneself or use proxies to do so.

We pick up the narrative where we left off in the last episode.

Graham is outlining the situation for Crawford. Crawford is incredulous that Dollarhyde ate a painting. Graham surmises that Hannibal knows who Dollarhyde is, and that he was once a patient. He’s only half wrong. Dollarhyde is Hannibal’s current patient through secret phone calls, after Dollarhyde masquerades as Hannibal’s lawyer. We flashback (not really) to Hannibal telling Dollarhyde to save himself by attacking Will and his family. This is about Dollarhyde taking and using agency, regarding his relationship with Hannibal, the Red Dragon, and Reba, but he is also Hannibal’s proxy.

Look Ahead At The Red Dragon.  GIF | Gfycat

Hannibal is using Dollarhyde to get back at Will for rejecting him. Lecter does, as Bedelia states later,  have agency in the world, even though he is locked away. The difference is that she attributes this agency to the wrong person. She thinks the person executing Hannibal’s agency is Will Graham, when its really Dollarhyde. This is Hannibal, once again, playing his old game of I love you/I want to hurt you! Will may be tired of it, but Hannibal always finds this game amusing (except when Will enacts this particular game against him.)

Oh yeah, the flashbacks aren’t actually flashbacks. They’re conversations that Lecter had/is having, with Dollarhyde, over the phone, but are imagined from Lecter’s point of view, and usually from inside what he calls his mind vault. Being given Lecter’s POV is often done without any warning for the audience, an effect with which I’m not entirely comfortable, as nobody really wants to be in Lecter’s head, and is probably equally disconcerting for people who are “first watchers” of this series.

Richard Armitage as Francis Dolarhyde and Rutina Wesley as Reba ...

As the next full moon approaches, Reba and Dee (as she calls him), spend some quality time together. I don’t see a whole lot of chemistry in their relationship, (that’s just my inability to see romance between characters, in general), but these are both very good actors, who convince me that they’re in the beginning stages of a relationship. Dollarhyde wants to, but can’t let the Red Dragon go, not even for Reba’s sake, not even as he fears for her. While she cuddles with him on the sofa, he watches home movies of his next possible target, Molly and Wally.

Will’s wife is at the vet because the dogs are sick. She doesn’t understand that the Red Dragon always kills the pets  first. I know this from reading the books, but she believes she poisoned the dogs with some  food from China, because that was a thing going around in the news at the time this show was written, and Fuller, who absolutely loves dogs, was so incensed by that, that he put it in the script.

Top 30 Molly Foster Graham GIFs | Find the best GIF on Gfycat

Graham goes to Lecter to beg for the identity of the Red Dragon, but Lecter would rather tease him. This is one of the quietest, and most sinister arguments, I’ve ever heard, conducted almost entirely in sharp whispers. This may also be the reason I can’t  understand what the hell is going on. I managed to get around this by remembering to turn on the captions.

Dollarhyde tries to murder  Will’s family, hunting them through their house, and injuring Molly. Both she and Wally survive, but Will, naturally, feels incredibly guilty about what happened. He has a conversation with Wally, about the killer’s mental illness, which forces him to divulge the time he spent in a psychiatric hospital. The conversation does not go well. Incidentally, we don’t see or hear from either of these characters again, and no end is written for Molly, as Will seemingly forgets all about her.  Make of that what you will because the fans certainly did.

and the woman clothed in the sun | Tumblr

Will, incensed, confronts Lecter, who readily  admits to giving Dollarhyde Will’s home address. Crawford, and Alana threaten Lecter into cooperating with Crawford’s scheme to capture Dollarhyde using drop boxes.

Because he failed to kill Will’s family, Dollarhyde imagines himself getting beaten by the Red Dragon. Reba walks in on him just after this event, and there’s a very tense moment where he is probably contemplating killing her, as he has not quite come back to himself, and the Red Dragon, having been deprived of the other kill, wants to be satisfied.

Fans of Interracial Romance - Movies & TV: Hannibal - Rutina ...

This scares Francis because he genuinely cares about Reba, and in an effort to be proactive, to save her from himself,  shows up at Reba’s job and breaks up with her, saying that he’s afraid he might hurt her. Reba, not knowing or even suspecting any of this, (she is a true innocent), is understandably angry, and tells him to get out. It looks bad no matter what he does. From her point of view, they slept together a few  times, and now he suddenly doesn’t want to be with her, having given no indication  that he’s no longer interested.

These are both fine actors, who really sell this scene. I am touched by their conversation, (even though I hate romance movies). I suddenly realize that Francis isn’t as much afraid of hurting her, as he is also afraid of being in love, and being loved. In the flashback sequence with Lecter, he talks about how she makes him feel, and believes himself to be completely unworthy of the level of happiness he feels with her, or her desire for him. Love can be terrifying, especially for someone unused to giving or receiving it, and who has some deep self esteem issues due to child abuse.

I would also like to commend the show for showing an inter-racial relationship as if its no big deal. I like it that the show treats the characters, especially the women, like people, and doesn’t feel the need to change the dialogue to reflect the  character’s race or gender. The same dialogue spoken by a White man in the movie, is the exact same dialogue that’s spoken by a Black man or a White woman on the show. In fact the only major recurring  characters to remain unchanged are Graham, Lecter and Dollarhyde.

Francis watching Reba touch the tiger/the beast in Hannibal 3.10 ...

Dollarhyde calls Lecter, not knowing that their conversation is being overheard. Lecter gives him a quick warning, because that’s the kind of shit he does, and afterwards is duly punished. Alana keeps her word to him, by having all of his amenities taken away, including his toilet seat. He also gets restraints and the famous Lecter mask, first seen in Silence of the Lambs, (but was also seen on Will Graham in the second season).

Will talks to Molly at the hospital and she nominally forgives him for what happened to her. She’s not really blaming him, but yeah, she’s still pretty pissed that the man Will was hunting, tried to kill her, and her son. Will then goes to see Lecter in his new accommodationless accommodations. The story is not over. Normally, after the attack on Will’s family, the films end with the restoration of the status quo, and Dollarhyde dead, but Fuller has a lot more story to tell.

This is one of television’s strengths. It has the ability to tell complicated, interwoven, long form stories that cannot be done in a two hour movie. It has the ability to flesh out characters and plot in a way that’s more difficult on the big screen, (unless the movie is totally dedicated to a specific person or subject.)

Latest Hannibal 3 X 09 GIFs | Gfycat

On TV, the writers can create a tapestry of a story, using multiple threads, and deeper characterization, and I think this is where TV has really gained momentum as a  storytelling medium, especially in the last ten years. TV didn’t always take full advantage of its serial nature. In fact it always tried to do what movies did, but in  less time, as it would try to wrap up it’s mini- stories in the space of 45 or 50 minutes. Fortunately, its starting to break away from this model somewhat, and watching a series requires a certain level of dedication, if a viewer wants to understand the entire story.

None of that however, is going to help the casual viewer to understand whats going on in this show. I love this show, but this level of complexity, always just slightly out of grasp, may be the reason this is the show’s last season. You know there’s more depth to the show then you understand, but its ten o’clock in the evening, your mind is gone, and there’s a lot of urgent whispering that requires you to turn on the captions, so you can find out just what the Hell is being said.

Hannibal Season Three: The Great Red Dragon

Amazon.com: Red Dragon (Hannibal Lecter Series) (9780425228227 ...

We have conculded with the portion of the Hannibal/Will Graham story that began in season one, when they first met over the body of Abigail  Hobbs, and ending with the capture/surrender to the authorities of Hannibal Lecter. This is one of the first episodes that doesn’t have a reference to food or dining in its title.

The story has moved forward three years, to begin  The Red Dragon storyline, from the book of the same name, along with two films, one from 1986, titled Manhunter, starring Brian Cox as Hannibal, and the other directed by Brett Ratner in 2002,  starring Edward Norton. This last part of the season follows the book, and the two films, closely enough, with Will Graham coming out of retirement to catch a serial killer called  The Tooth Fairy, or as he calls himself, The Red Dragon. But there is also a lot of new stuff added as we find out what the other characters have been doing.

Hannibal "The Great Red Dragon" Season 3 Episode 8 | TV Equals

Alana Bloom  has become the Administrator of the asylum which houses Hannibal Lecter. As she says, she is holding all the keys, and has him exactly where where she wants him. She was the surrogate mother to her and Margot’s son,  who is also the heir to  the Verger fortune, and she lives with Margot, who we don’t get to see this season. Jack Crawford is still doing his thing at the Criminal Minds Bureau, and has not remarried after the death of his wife.

Crawford’s old forensic team, (Price and Zeller), have  moved on, achieved promotions, and gone their separate ways, and we don’t learn anything new about him. Chilton stepped down from his position at the hospital to become a true crime author. He wrote a bestselling book that  absolved Hannibal of responsibility for his murders, which Hannibal rebuts in a popular psychiatric journal, just to spite him.

Hannibal: "The Great Red Dragon" Review - IGN

We do get to see Hannibal too, and when we first meet him, he is sharing some Blood Pudding with Chilton as they discuss their past together. Hannibal has entered a state of mind where he has zero fucks to give about being a cannibal, as he cheerfully needles both Chilton and Alana about how he adulterated the foods and beverages he gave them.

Chilton then Hannibal by claiming that he is old news, and that nobody wants to hear about him anymore, because a new star has risen, The Tooth Fairy, so named because he likes to bite his victims. If you’ll remember, that is a callback to a speech, that Alana was giving to Will’s profiling class, in the first season.

Hannibal recap: The Great Red Dragon | EW.com

The greatest change has been to Will Graham’s life. He has moved on from Lecter and married  a woman named Molly, with a son, Wally. The three of them live on a farm with their stray dogs, while Will fixes boat motors, and tries to ignore any news of The Tooth Fairy. After the Tooth Fairy’s latest killing, Jack Crawford  shows up to pull Will back in, desperate for his help in capturing  him. Molly doesn’t like this, but realizes that Crawford will take Will anyway.

Crawford makes the same futile promise to Molly that he made to Alana several years ago, that he would keep Will safe, so he has not learned from that time period, it seems. But Molly relents, actually encouraging Will to leave his family, and go help Crawford. Crawford hands Will a letter from Lecter, who has been writing to him regularly. Wil lreads it and the press clipping of Dollarhyde’s most recent muder ,and burns both in the fireplace.

Hannibal Season 3, Episode 8 Recap: "The Great Red Dragon" | Collider

And I just want to talk about this moment, because one of my biggest pet peeves, in a lot of series and shows, is the depiction of wives and mothers. They are often depicted as clingy and disapproving of their husband’s work, especially in crime and cop stories. The movie version of Molly is exactly like that, but it is a cliche I’ve seen across a lot of media, so its very refreshing to see that Molly understands Will’s talent, knows the good he has done, and knows that he is saving lives, and encourages him to do so. Its very refreshing to see her give her approval here, rather than nag him for leaving her, or endangering himself.

 

We get to do a profiling walk-through with Will, as he tours the home of The Tooth Fairy’s latest victims, the Leeds. I just want to point out one more time that this is not anything like the way actual profiling gets done. Profilers rarely get to visit the actual crime scenes and touch stuff. They normally work from photographs and investigative reports.

I find it difficult to believe that Will can do any profiling since he never turns on any lights in the house. For some reason, Hollywood has decided that profiling needs to dramatized by having it be done in darkened rooms, with flashlights, since this is the exact approach that was used in the movie.

Behold the Great Red Dragon! : “Hannibal” Season 3, Episode 8 ...

Price and Zeller return after a long hiatus from the series. Price’s character is now an agent, and Graham, Zeller, and Price  pick up their dynamic right where they left off in their forensic investigation of the Leeds’ homicide. Price and Zeller had long gotten used to Graham’s interruptions of their analysis with insights into the killer’s mind.

Unlike the police procedural versions of the  first and second season, we spend a not inconsiderable amount of time in the presence of The Tooth Fairy, aka The Red Dragon, aka Francis Dollarhyde. Fuller doesn’t dwell on showing Francis committing his crimes, focusing instead on Francis’ mental illness, motivations, and private life. The end result is not the  sensationalism of the murders, but the mindset of the perpetrator, resulting in the profile of a man who, as Will Graham says, with his usual level of empathy, later in the season, was not a freak, so much as a man with a freak on his back.

SEASON 3 EPISODE 8: "THE GREAT RED DRAGON"Francis Dolarhyde's ...

 

We are introduced to Francis, and I’m assuming this scene is set sometime around, or just before, the time that Hannibal was captured,  as Francis sits in the cafeteria at his job, contemplating an issue of Time magazine, in which there is an article about Blake’s painting of The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun. He is so enamored of the painting that he gets one of the paintings tattooed on his back. He also has a great deal of admiration for Hannibal  Lecter, and  like a lot of serial killers in movies, has a murder scrapbook filled with press clippings of his and Hannibal’s murders.

As we will discuss in a later post, the Red Dragon painting is actually a series of watercolor paintings, based on Blake’s images from the Biblical Book of Revelations. This has the effect of bringing a religious element into the discussion of this season.

francis 'the great red dragon' dolarhyde | Tumblr

 

The reason we know this scene happened several years ago, is that it takes about that long for someone to get the kind of full body tattoo, that’s displayed on Francis’ back, at the end of this scene. Tattoos of that size, with such photo realistic detail, are often called “Full Suit” or “Body Suit” tattoos, and can take upwards of a 100 hours to finish, especially if the recipient has never had experience with tattoos before.

Francis then has a set of specially made dentures that are copies of his grandmother’s dentures. In the book, he simply used his grandmother’s old dentures, and they were ill fitting. This is definitely  giving me some Psycho/Norman Bates vibes. According to the book, (and only shown in some of the episodes), his grandmother was emotionally and physically abusive, and one could argue, she was sexually abusive as well, as she regularly threatened his manhood, for urinating in bed. We learn this during a scene where Francis hallucinates in her voice, which is also a callback to the movie Psycho, with Norman’s mother berating him in a voiceover. All of this has to be put in the perspective of serial killing, as two of the markers for it is childhood abuse, and bedwetting.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_killer#Development

After Will does his walkthrough of the crime scene, he feels he’s not in the correct mindset to be able to solve the crime. He thinks he needs Lecter to help him get there, and tells Crawford he’s going to see him at the Hospital. Crawford agrees.

At the end of the episode is  Hannibal’s  long hoped for reunion with the man Freddy Lounds referred to as his Murder-Husband. This too is a callback to the last episode of the first season, when Hannibal approached Will’s cell, after he was falsely arrested for the murder of Abigail Hobbs, as the same melancholy music plays in the background.

Hugh Dancy Hints To When 'Hannibal' Could Return

ehl Irs GIF | Gfycat

 

Hannibal Season Three: Digestivo

So, I know all of you are now watching my favorite show, since its airing on Netflix. Yay!!! I don’t know if any of you guys have reached season three of the show (there’s no rush, take your time), but when you finally make it, I’m ready for ya’ with some of my more  interesting thoughts on those episodes.

Mizumono (S2E13), Digestivo (S3E07), And The Woman Clothed W GIF ...

Digestivo is, hands down, one of my favorite episodes of season three, as it finishes out the arc just before the Red Dragon book, when Hannibal is in prison, but I’m not entirely certain why, I like it so much, so lets examine this. I think its because, although I’ve definitely seen Will being dark before, this is really the first time I’ve seen him actually working in tandem with Hannibal, of his own volition, and the two of them are every bit as terrifying a team as I suspected they would be.

In a lot of ways, Will is more terrifying than Hannibal. Hannibal has engaged in years of disciplined hiding of who and what he is, while Will’s dark side has simply been suppressed, with few outlets, given the type of life he’s lived. Will’s violence doesn’t have any controls, and is completely unpredictable. Hannibal revels in Will’s violent tendencies, but even he doesn’t know when it might be unleashed, or against whom,  even himself. Will is chaotic.

In the last episode, Lecter was interrupted by the police, as he was just about to chow down on Will’s brain, with Jack Crawford as a witness. The police grab Will and Lecter, to take them to Mason Verger’s Muskrat Farm, in Maryland. I was under the impression, when I first watched this, that these were men in Verger’s employ, but it turns out that these are actually the Florentine police, capturing Lecter for the Mason’s bounty, which is actually  illegal. The police are not allowed to capture suspects for reward. At least that’s how it works in the US.

3X07 GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

The police are about to kill Crawford for witnessing the abduction, but are taken out by Chiyoh, who seems to have gotten over her issues about killing, now that she’s gotten a taste for it, I guess. Remember, she  refused to kill Lecter’s prisoner in the dungeon, from the episode Contorno. So either she’s suddenly become more bloodthirsty, or she simply insists on killing on her own terms, and not Lecter’s. After all, she did comment to Will, that sooner or later, they all become what Lecter wants them to be, whether they like it or not, and this seems to be a truism throughout the series. Fuller himself has stated that Lecter is analogous to Lucifer, a being that wants to usurp God, (which he does), and corrupts human souls to his side (which Lecter often does).

While this is going on, Mason Verger and his henchman/cook/nurse’s aide, Cordell, make plans for cooking Lecter, and transplanting Will Graham’s face onto Mason’s. There’s a truly gruesome (but also deeply funny) image of a cooked Lecter, as the two discuss frying him like a Peking Duck.

Yes, the plot has pretty much gone completely batshit,  at this point, and the creators seem to know this, as there is a, not quite faint, tongue-in-cheek vibe, to the entire season, as if the people involved can barely keep a straight face. The show has completely jettisoned even the idea of the police procedural as it segues into the Red Dragon plotline. It’s probably better to look on this season as somewhere slightly to the left or right of Camp. The only thing that saves it from that, are the horror elements and acting, which are portrayed seriously by the cast. 

Hannibal' Delivers a Romantic 'Digestivo'

 

Chiyoh frees Crawford, in exchange for the location of Muskrat Farm, while Crawford wonders how he’s going to get out of Florence without the police noticing. Chiyoh, at least, manages to get out of town, as she eventually shows up at the Farm, after having a truly hilarious conversation with Bedelia, who is high as a kite during her scene, but still manages to get in a dig at Chiyoh about serving Lecter’s needs, which is really rich, coming from someone who spent the first half of the season enabling him.

Alana and Margot discuss making a child using Mason’s sperm, with Alana as the surrogate, after Mason shows Margot the surrogate mother of the child she would have had with Will, if Mason hadn’t had her uterus extracted. (See, that is the kind of thing that I could only be typing about a show like this.) 

hannibal digestivo | Tumblr

Hannibal, Will, and Mason, have dinner together, while Mason tortures the two men with the knowledge of what he plans to do with them. I will not mention in detail how Mason thinks Will has a pretty face, or why he would want Will’s face in the first place. (Will’s attractiveness has lowkey been an underlying theme since season one, but will be openly mentioned, by several characters, in season three.) In the commentary for this episode, Fuller says that Mason intends to rape Lecter, while wearing Will’s face (this is in reference to Mason’s comment about Lecter being in his shorties by then), if so, this is the first time that Fuller is introducing  sexual motivations for violence, into the series, as he says he has tried to avoid such motivations before.

endlessly fascinated — The Hot Darkness of Hannibal Lecter's Mind

During the dinner, Cordell gets a little too close to Will, who bites a chunk out of his cheek, and spits it on the table. We’ve seen Will be violent before, usually in dream sequences, and this shows his evolution from the first season, when Will was having trouble simply discharging his weapon at a criminal, and Alana mentions biting behavior in serial killing, in a lecture she is giving in one of Will’s classes. This is also an echo from the movie Hannibal Rising, when Hannibal bites the cheek of one of the men who killed Mischa. 

Contrast that with Will’s behavior in previous seasons. He has nothing but contempt for Cordell, and afterwards, he looks, with some slight embarrassment, in Lecter’s direction, as if to shrug that he’s sorry he’s being a such bad boy. Hannibal is, of course, very proud that Will is becoming what he always wanted Will to be, and smiles like an indulgent father. Murder husbands indeed.

Dee Discusses: Hannibal 3×07 | Media Nerd Alert!

Alana and Margot scheme to save the life of Margot’s child, but are too late, by the time they find the surrogate, a massive hog. They  discover that Will and Lecter are on the premises, and that Crawford is still alive, and may bring the FBI into the equation, although Mason says he has handled it. Alana is rightfully concerned that Mason has not killed Hannibal yet, fearing that Hannibal will escape before revenge can be exacted.

While Cordell gets ready for the surgery to remove Will’s face, Alana and Margot visit Hannibal. This is interesting for Alana because this is the first time she has seen Hannibal since they tried to kill each other. She has a profound grievance at his betrayal of her, and as it turns out, he also fed her human flesh in the form of the  “special beer” he made.  Everything she has done this season has lead up to this moment, but Alana is desperate to save Will, because he was never part of her issues. In exchange for saving Will from Mason, the two of them set Hannibal free. He counsels Margot to kill Mason after they impregnate Alana. The two of them speak to Mason explaining what they did. Mason, incensed, tries to shoot them, but a fight ensues, and the two end up drowning him in his own aquarium.

Hannibal' Delivers a Romantic 'Digestivo'

Hannibal kills Mason’s henchmen, rescues Will, and kills Cordell, placing Cordell’s face on Mason, instead. He manages to get Will to his home in Wolf Trap Virginia, with the help of Chiyoh, who shoots the last of Mason’s henchmen.

Hannibal takes will back to his home, where Will delivers his final goodbye to him, a promise he manages to keep for three years. After Will regains consciousness, he makes it clear he will have no more to do with Hannibal, not because he doesn’t love him, but because he simply does not have the stamina to live the kind of life that Hannibal wants. I also suspect that he is simply appalled at his behavior with Cordell, and  has fully reached the conclusion that Hannibal is not only not good for him, but that he and Hannibal together, are not good for everyone else. When he is with him, is when Hannibal is happiest, because Will is at his worst. He tells Hannibal that he doesn’t want to know where he is or what he’s doing, and to stay away from him.

Hannibal Lecter Mads Mikkelsen Will Graham Hugh Dancy Digestivo ...

Hannibal is heartbroken again, but his reaction this time is the opposite of what happened at the end of season two, when he tried to kill Will to show that Will hadn’t emotionally affected him. He makes no pretense  about being emotionally unaffected by his association with Will, now. Jack Crawford shows up, and asks after Hannibal, who gives himself up to the FBI, claiming that this way, Will will always know where he is, and be thinking about him.

Will, opening up, confides: “I miss my dogs. I’m not gonna miss you. I’m not going to find you, I’m not gonna look for you. I don’t wanna know where you are, or what you do; I don’t want to think about you anymore. Good-bye, Hannibal.”

After seeing Lecter taken away by the FBI, Chiyoh leaves. There’s nothing more for her to do here.

Hannibal GIF and a Graf: The Doctor Surrenders to the FBI | WIRED

 Throughout the series we have been inundated with images, and discussion, about the breaking teacup, and time. This is a reference to the instability of Lecter’s relationships with others, and him trying to undo the destruction of lives that often follows in his wake.  These discussions and images often occur to Hannibal during moments of regret with Will. He cannot reverse time, and undo what was done, and cannot seem to fix what was broken. His relationship with Will is broken, and while he understands why, he doesn’t know how to fix it. 

I also think the teacup is a reference to himself. The act of eating his little sister after her death, (something he confesses to Chiyoh), sets in motion the entire chain of events that leads to this moment with Will, and another relationship that ends up destroyed. Hannibal, in his lowest, and most honest moments, believes he is broken, so naturally his relationship with the people he admits to loving, (Will, Chiyoh, Abigail), can only ever end in destruction. He cannot turn back time and change who he is. What is broken, can only remain broken, and he cannot be repaired. Will cutting him loose is the closest he will ever get to such an outcome. He turns himself in,  not because he thinks the teacup will be repaired, but because that conscious act will keep it from breaking.  He cannot turn back time, but perhaps he can freeze it, and keep the teacup from being destroyed. As long as Will knows where he is, and is thinking about him, their relationship can remain unbroken, and  in suspension, which is exactly what happens over the next several years of their separation.

 

 

Addendum

Lets talk about the show’s handling of mental health issues, which I think has been, if not favorable, then at least sympathetic, and that includes Will Graham. This is a show about a murderous psychiatrist, so in the first and second seasons,  the audience is often presented with characters with various mental illnesses, and the show takes pains not to just show such patients as violent, but to show them as also victims within a system.

The first time Jack Crawford meets Will Graham, he is somewhat insensitive, blatantly asking him about his mental disorder, and pulling off his glasses, which is representative of the general attitude that other characters show towards the mentally ill. The show itself always treats such characters with a certain degree of sensitivity, even when some of the characters do not.

Starting with Will Graham, these characters are almost never shown as murderous, or even dangerous, for its own sake, and when they are shown as dangerous, it is usually because of extenuating circumstances, and not necessarily their mental illness. When they are violent its not out of malignancy, or because mental illness makes a person violent, but because they are being driven by their illness to alleviate their pain. 

In season one’s Coquilles, the murderer is driven by a brain tumor. He suffers from delusions that make him believe that certain people are angels meant to watch over him, while he sleeps. His victim’s deaths are a side effect of what he does, not his primary motivations, and that distinction matters. This also the case with Georgia Madchen in Buffet Froid, who kills as a side effect of her delusions, not because that was her primary goal.

But the ultimate depiction of sympathy towards mental illness takes place in season three, in Su Zakana, where we encounter Peter, a man suffering from a form of brain damage that doesn’t allow him to look at things, while touching them at the same time. At every opportunity, Will shows care, sensitivity,  and compassion towards Peter, and believes him when he says he’s not a killer. 

In fact, Peter isn’t a killer, but he is being manipulated to take the fall for the actual killer, not unlike how current political systems take advantage of, abuse, and misuse the mentally ill. Will shows care and sensitivity to Georgia Madchen as well. It is one of Will’s signature traits that his empathy draws him to such people, and the writers are always careful to make these characters sympathetic to some degree.

None of the mentally ill on the show are evil just to be evil. They are not trying to kill people. Many of them don’t actually believe they’re causing harm, and the harm they do cause is a side affect of their attempt to relieve their pain. Fuller is walking a very thin line here, but I believe it deserves merit. The show isn’t a perfect depiction of mental illness, but it does take care not too easily fall into tropes about it. The show still makes the mistake of associating monstrous behavior with mental illness, and horror, however.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teeny Tiny Reviews From April

Here’s a incomplete list of movies and shows  I watched in April. For the most part, I liked all of these. I can tell I liked them because I finished watching them. I’m one of those people that feels absolutely no obligation, whatsoever, to finish consuming something I can’t stand. That’s a “young person whose got a lot more years ahead of them” type of thing! I’m also not one of those people who think you can’t have an opinion on something you didn’t finish. I mean, I won’t finish a cup of sour milk, but I can still know I didn’t like it. I feel like it’s the same for books, movies, and shows. I mean, you ain’t got to suffer your way through some shit, to know you’re wading through a pile of shit. You know what you like.

I have been watching tv shows, but most of it’s stuff that already aired, since there’s no new stuff being released right about now.

 

Unnamed Korean Drama

(Close-Knit 2017)

You may notice a trend of Korean, Japanese, and Chinese movies. Yeah, I’ve been watching a lot of those since I can now access Japanese Netflix, thanx to my IPVanish app.

Wel, this one didn’t have the  title in English, so I had to research it. A lot of the shows don’t have English titles, or translations, but I’m really used to figuring out what’s happening in Asian movies, after decades of watching this kind of thing. This one did have translations in English though, so I didn’t have to figure it out too much, otherwise I would have been deeply, and I mean, deeply, confused about this movie.

This is about a little girl who goes to live with her uncle, and his common law wife, after her mother temporarily deserts her. She is often bullied at school, but there’s a little boy, often bullied himself, who keeps trying to reach out to be her friend. Her uncle lives with his transgender girlfriend, and after some initial confusion, she and the little girl start to bond, to the point where the girlfriend considers suing the mother for custody. This movie is the game Japanese director’s attempt to tackle a controversial lgbtq issue in Japan, so it’s a little heavy handed in some places, frustrating in others, and sometimes, it’s just vague, but I’m a sucker for found family stories.

It’s a beautiful story, though,  and I really liked it. The little girl is unwilling to get close to people because she keeps experiencing the instability of being abandoned by her mother, every time her mom gets a new boyfriend. She is also reluctant to get close to her uncles gf, but it isn’t until the two of them bond over knitting, and the gf’s transgender status (she is pre-op) that the girl allows herself to open up to the little boy who’s trying to be her friend. Unfortunately, her friendship with him doesn’t work out, because his mother is deeply transphobic, and makes the girls living arrangements her personal business, to the misfortune of this lovely found  family.

Without the translation, the most confusing part of the movie, are the knitting scenes. We get a backstory on the gf, from when she came out to her mother. Her mother, while initially confused, became deeply supportive of her daughter, going so far as to knit her a pair of tiny breasts. I mention that she is pre-op, because part of the plot is that the gf spends a lot of time knitting penises. When she finishes making exactly 108 of them, she will burn them in effigy, and that will be when she is ready to have her bottom surgery.

She teaches the little girl to knit by making these penises, and that’s how the two of them bond. At one point the gf allows the little girl to squeeze her breasts, because of her intense curiosity about her gender status. She becomes less confused, but the girlfriend’s breasts are still a focal point of their relationship, because the little girl begins associating them with the warmth, comfort, and motherhood she wasn’t getting from her own mother, especially since the gf is the one who cuddles her against those same breasts, when she gets afraid in the middle of the night. The girlfriend becomes a figure of maternal love and stability for her, but even though they have chosen each other, they cannot be together, as mother and daughter, because society will not allow it.

I though this was a beautiful little story, not too emotionally taxing, with an open ending, that was somewhat bittersweet.

 

 

Birds of Prey: The Fantabulous Life of Harley Quinn (2020)

I had so much fun watching this movie. Sometimes you really can tell the difference between a movie directed by a man, and one directed by a woman, and that seems to be the case with this movie. The story itself isn’t all that different from what would appear in a film made by a man, but it is definitely a comedy, and the emphasis is on different parts of the story, over others, and the story beats, and pacing, are different, and the tiny details can mean a lot to a female audience. Still, you can sort of tell a woman did this movie, because it feels like most of the kinds of art made by women, in which the relationships between the characters are what’s  of primary importance, and that’s what’s going on in this film.

You’ll hear from a lot of male critics that the movie was bad, but really it’s that the movie is simply made with a different audience in mind, and so there’s an emphasis on different things in the movie, the kinds of things that might not appeal to male viewers. Since personal relationships are of deep importance to women in the real world, movies that emphasize that can be greatly appealing to a female audience, and we don’t consider such movies to be a failure. As women, we may be looking at the film through a different lens.

Another appeal for women is how the women interact, and I think that was this movie’s greatest appeal. The women in the movie aren’t at loggerheads just to have drama. They’re at odds with each other for real reasons, based on the plot, and they’re brought together through the plot, and learn to get along to survive the plot. The biggest problem I had was that the movie isn’t pretty. I’m not used to comic book movies looking like this, expecting a much more anti-septic, and polished, look. It looks kind of dirty and grungy, and the cinematography looks really different than a Christopher Nolan film, or anything in the MCU. Harley definitely lives in Gotham’s armpit, as do all these characters, and it shows.

Funnily enough, my favorite character turned out not to be Dinah Lance, but The Huntress. She was such an delightfully odd character, and showed some aspects of Spectrum behavior, although her uncertainty about her social skills might have had something to do with either her unconventional upbringing, or that she’s a loner, who has never had any friends. I liked Harley, but Huntress turned out to be an unexpected fave.

I really enjoyed this movie, though. It’s the complete opposite of everything in the movie Joker, so if you are any of the many women who hated that movie, then try this one, because it’s a helluva lot more fun. It’s hilarious to point at both these films and even say they are about comic book characters, let alone set in the same DC universe. The story arrangement is a little different than I’m used to, since it’s told from Harley’s point of view. There’s a lot of pausing, and back and forthing, and a couple of side issues, because Harley is a somewhat disjointed storyteller, who is mildly unreliable as a narrator, but she is zany and energetic, and a likable anti-hero, and we can see the faint seeds of the real hero she will eventually become. The movie isn’t deep, but it’s a helluva lot of fun, and I want to talk about it later in more depth, because there are a lot of fun and interesting things to be said about it.

 

 

Joker (2019)

Despite all the controversy surrounding this film, I genuinely liked this movie, as an interesting piece of filmmaking. It’s true, that it’s not an especially deep film, but that isn’t always required to like a film, and so I let that pass. I also didn’t care much for its message about yet another white guy feeling disgruntled about his life, and going on a killing spree. There are far, far, too many of these types of shows, and movies, in pop culture, and this is another one that presents the same theme, and yet, asks no questions about it.

On the other hand, it is a gorgeous looking movie, although I did think it was much too derivative of Martin Scorcese’s early works, Taxi Driver, and King of Comedy. Joachin Phoenix turns in a splendid performance though, and there were moments where I was greatly moved by the pathos and beauty of his character, his acting, and the cinematography. I’m tired of this sort of plot,  but  the director did a superb job of evoking sympathy for this character. Was this an Oscar worthy film, I don’t know, but in my opinion, it was worth watching. And I will probably watch it again, at some point, for the acting, and aesthetics.

 

 

Memories (1995)

This is a 90s animated anthology, from the maker of Akira, Katsuhiro Otomo. It consists of three stories about technology gone wrong, and people’s interactions with it, but I’m only interested in the middles story in particular, Stink Bomb. I thought it was hilarious, and kind of sad. There’s a message in it, but I’m not quite sure what that message is. Nevertheless,I really enjoyed it.

The Big Stink is the middle story, about a down on his luck office worker, who gets infected with a kind of biological warfare gas, that kills anyone within a certain mile radius of him. He, of course, doesn’t know this. All he knows is that people keep dropping dead around him, as at first, he tries to make his way home, and then attempts to outrun whatever is killing the people in his vicinity. For some reason, I found  this part, deeply funny, although if you think about it too long, it’s pretty horrifying. The attempts by the police, and the military, just get more and more outrageous, as they escalate from guns, to tanks, and then to missile strikes, in an effort to stop him from reaching the city. The ending of this one was very satisfying, though.

 

 

Roujin Z

This is one of my favorite little known Katsuhiro Otomo movies. I love the premise of it, which just thoroughly tickles me. It’s got a good strong story, and like his segment in Memories, Stink Bomb, there’s a deeply hilarious idea gliding just underneath the surface story of a rogue robot destroying a large city.

This was the movie that made me think about the different attitudes towards AI between the East and the West, which I am really going to have to have a deeper discussion about. I think I mentioned before that Japanese culture doesn’t have the same type of fears about automata that the US does. If you go by the types of books we write, the movies we make, and the types of discussions we have surrounding technology, then Westerners have some kind of deep atavistic fear of dolls, and robots. We are forever making stories about rebellious, or angry, simulacra that want to destroy their makers, and I want to examine this further.

Roujin Z is about a newly invented, healthcare,  AI robot, that is given custody of an old man with dementia, who thinks the robot is his long dead wife. The robot, which is a kind of mobile care vehicle and bed, begins to take on the persona with which he treats it, and decides  to care for him in the way his wife would have. He expresses an interest in visiting the beach, which is several miles away, and the robot decides that’s a good idea, and sets out. This causes complete chaos, as officials try to stop the robot, without hurting the old man, and the robot knocks down anything and everything in her path, to accomplish her goal, like houses, street posts, and cars. It wasn’t built to be so powerful, but it was built to modify itself to the needs of its patients, and that’s where the problem lies. Remember, the officials have no idea why the robot bed has gone rogue, and keep speculating that it is abducting the old man (which it is, but with good intentions). This is the case of  an AI that isn’t actually malevolent, but as in a lot of Japanese films, creates havoc while doing its job too well, which is an attitude not often seen in American made movies of the same type.

 

Ajin

This is another one of those Manga movies I never read, but I enjoyed this live action version, about a private war between these two immortal mutants, one of whom wants to destroy humanity for experimenting on his kind, and the other trying to protect humanity from him. Or that’s what I got out of the plot, because I watched a version of this that had no English translation. It’s got a lot of the old ultra violence in it though, which I appreciated.

Since there were no subtitles, I didn’t catch any deeper themes in the movie, but I loved the special effects, where their bodies reconstituted after their deaths, and they produce these ghostlike creatures (which look like they’re made of ashes) which battle each other kind of like Pokémon, which was fun.

 

 

Monstrum

If you are a fan of the Kingdom series, and Train to Busan, than you should check this movie out, if you can find it. It’s very much in the same sort of vein as Kingdom, in that it’s an historical monster movie, with gorgeous costumes, clever swordplay, and elements of class warfare. Where Kingdom and it’s cinematic counterpart (Rampart) contain zombies, this one just has a random giant monster.

The movie it most reminded me of was Alien 3, actually, but with more likable characters, and a more streamlined plot.  The king receives some sort of dog like pet, which soon grows to tremendous size and becomes untrainable. The king keeps it locked up in his dungeon, where it’s gone more than a little feral, but some bright soul sets it  free, presumably to destroy their enemies, the creature goes on a rampage through the capitol, and must be stopped by a hero with a bad reputation. It’s not an especially deep film, but it was a really good, straight up, horror movie, with lots of suspense. If you liked Bong Joon Ho’s The Host, then you’ll like this one, too, which is like an historical version of that film. 

 

 

Tokyo Ghoul

This was another movie I watched without subtitles. What I got out of it was this young man who discovers he’s a creature called a ghoul, which feeds on human beings, and he spends most of the movie having tentacle battles with the other ghouls. There are a lot of tentacles in this movie. That’s mostly what I remember. That, and I thought the movie had some truly disgusting scenes, which were, well, mostly just disgusting. It wasn’t particularly scary, or even fun, but it was fascinating in a “The Thing”, kind of way.

There’s a sequel to this movie which I’m debating whether or not I should watch since I didn’t get much out of the first movie beyond “ewwww”.

 

Kipo and the WonderBeasts

I’ve also been watching a lot more stuff that’s fun, stress free, and animated. Kipo definitely fits those criteria. This cartoon was sooo much fun! All the characters, outside of the Wonderbeasts are PoC, one of which is gay, it’s funny, has a lot of adventure, is reasonably intelligent for kids. I’d also like to add just one more thing to make you watch this:

‘ Drum & Bass’ Bees

or Giant Disco Bees, as I like to refer to them.

The story takes place far into some Earthlike future, where most humans are living in underground cities. After a horrible incident, Kipo gets separated from her father, and the rest of her community, and stranded on the surface, where she has to make friends and allies, to help her find her way back underground. It’s also a found family story as we watch these very different characters, with different attitudes and agendas bond, and have adventures.

if like me, things are just too stressful to watch horror movies, or thrillers right now, then series and movies like Kipo are well worth the watch. 

Also Watched:

Penny Dreadful (New show)

What We Do in the Shadows (Second Season is off to a hilarious start.)

Brooklyn 99 Finale (This was a great season! Jake and Amy’s baby is born in the final episode. Holt’s arch-nemesis, Munch, dies. We get a Halloween Heist episode, and we get an episode focusing on Cheddar, and Kevin.)

Schitt’s Creek Final Season (This was such a great show. It’s deeply funny, really sweet, it has great characters and character arcs, and moments of real pathos. It had a beautiful finale, culminating in the wedding of one of the lead characters, to his husband, after two years. It’s not too emotionally taxing, and a lot of fun. One of the most underrated shows on Netflix.)

Let’s Go Waaay Back to the 80’s

Bosom Buddies

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Way back in the 80’s, this little gem starred Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari, and lasted for two years. I do have to admit, there is no way in hell you could get this on TV right now. In this environment, this show would be a massive mistake. But I loved the hell out of this show when I was about thirteen or so. There was just something about the goofy  humor of this show that just appealed to me, and Tom Hanks had incredible comedic timing.

The show is about two ad agency illustrators, working in New York city, who cannot afford an apartment together, so their friend Amy suggests they dress up like women to get in to the much more affordable all women’s apartment building that she lives in.They take on the personas of Buffy (Hanks) and Hildegard (Scolari), two sisters from some podunk town in the midwest.

A lot of the humor came out of the logistics of their double lives as men at work, and women in the evening, and navigating Buffy’s crush on his pretty blond neighbor down the hall. But it wasn’t all funny, sometimes the show liked to get serious by addressing the bigotry experienced by their glamorous Black neighbor, or discussing fatphobia, as Amy dealt with being a large sized woman, and along the way the guys got to know first hand what it was like to experience New York social life as women.

This show used to air on Hulu, but now the only place  can find it is on Amazon for pay. Its unlikely to experience a revival any time soon. We’ve grown in maturity, and awareness  since then, and you couldn’t do a show like this now  without making a lot of changes. This is another one of the many hundreds of shows and movies that has done the work of associating transgender women with the idea of deception, associating it with men in women’s clothing, and has helped to contribute to transphobia.

Another interesting note, is that in just about every single famous actors or comedian’s background, is a show or movie, which puts them either in drag, or has them play flamboyantly gay characters. These cross dressed characters, and flamboyant gays were ALWAYS meant to be laughed at. One of the other side effects of constantly having straight men mock lgbtq characters for laughs, is that real life lgbtq people simply didn’t get taken seriously as real people. The height of this show’s popularity was also the height of the AIDS crisis, which was ignored by the Federal government, because it was believed by them, that God was killing the correct people.

 

 

 

Knight Rider

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I never developed the great love for David Hasselhoff that Dean Winchester did from watching this show. I liked the show when I was a teenager, but I think I mostly just loved the car, and wished I had one just like it. In fact, they used to produce these as toys when I was a child, and when my brother got one as a gift, I appropriated it for myself (i.e., I stole it), to use for my Barbie dolls.

As far as I was concerned, K.I.T.T. was the star of the show, voiced by William Daniels, and quite frankly, I thought the car was smarter than uh…whoever that guy was driving it. A few years ago there was an episode of Supernatural that referenced Knight Rider by having Sam Winchester get turned into the classic car. Y’all don’t know how much that whole thing just made me giggle like a complete fool. Even the theme song is a classic. If you were a teen when the show aired, you know how hugely popular it was, even to the point of having copycat shows, that tried to have cool classic cars that solved problems.

 

 

Designing Women

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 This was very probably one of the most progressive feminist shows on Tv, and one of the templates for feminist shows that came after it. A group of white women living together, with different sexual morals, and ethics, arguing about them, while working. The only drawback I had to shows like these were there were never any women of color, lesbians, or poor, or disabled women involved in them. This was First Wave Feminism, which meant it was almost exclusively about white working women. There was no intersectionalism at this point.

The two stand out characters were Julia, and Suzanne Sugarbaker, who were meant to be direct contrasts to one another, and Suzanne was every bit as regressive in her politics, as her cousin, Julia, was progressive in hers. Suzanne was open in her sexuality, but often treated everyone around her as if they were her personal servants, which gave Julia plenty of opportunities to give speeches, show disdain for her behavior, or teach her a lesson in how to be less judgmental. In fact, Julia’s, breathlessly, outraged performances, were often the highlight of an episode. A lot of the shows messages were pretty heavy handed, but it was the kind of stuff a teenage girl needed to hear.

Meshach Taylor also managed to get some good one liners and quips as a kind of business handyman, sort of like the character of Benson. He was the transportation and heavy lifter, doing the kinds of physical work that these four, upper class, Southern white women certainly weren’t going to be doing for themselves. He was often put upon by Suzanne, but most of the time, he managed to get the last word, without coming across as threatening. In fact his character was so non threatening I assumed, in my uninformed teenage mind, that he was gay! But at that age I had not reckoned with the social dynamics of the modern southern bigotry of white women interacting with black men. He had to be nonthreatening, and couldn’t possibly be depicted as any kind of sexual being in the presence of four professional white women. Nevertheless, I do remember liking his character.

This is another comedy, like Bosom Buddies, that didn’t age well. You could make a show like this today, but it would be bland, yet at the same time, polarizingly heavy handed.

 

 

Thangs I Looked At: Movie Mini Reviews

Here are three films I watched in February. For the record, although I had some mild criticisms, I generally liked them, and  I especially enjoyed the Terminator film, which I wasn’t entirely certain I would, since no one was talking about it.

Terminator: Dark Fate

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I was initially very excited when I saw the trailer for this movie, but ultimately didn’t get a chance to see it in theaters. After that, I didn’t hear much about it. I dont normally get too worked up about films, that I think are going to be popular, bombing at the box office, because there are at least half a dozen reasons I won’t   see it, no mater how excited I am about it. I figured that’s probably much the case with a lot of films that bomb. In other words, films bomb for a whole variety of reasons, that don’t necessarily have anything to do with the film’s quality.

And the quality of this latest entry in the Terminator franchise is very excellent. You should really check it out when you get a chance. I liked it every bit as much as I thought I would, ,and you will remember I was very excited about the trailer. It even did a couple of things I wasn’t expecting as far as plot and characters.

The basic plot sort of parallels the Sarah Connor plot from the first movie, but is much more personal. Dani isn’t the savior of the world, she is the savior of one person in particular, and Sarah comes along for the ride. The Terminator is very interesting, combining both elements of the original T-800, and the Liquid version from T2.

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What was surprising about the movie is how female-centric it was, while touching on a lot of themes. Nearly all the characters are women, and they control the plot points in this movie. Sarah’s character reminded me  of Laurie Strode, from the most recent Halloween movie, in that she is a broken and horribly traumatized woman. I always find it interesting when female characters are deliberately written to be unlikable, and that is  the case here. Sarah is kind of an asshole, who butts heads with everyone. She is mean, and bitter, the sneer never leaves her face, and this is acceptable to the viewer, because she is  definitely hurting, and broken, because of an event that happened after she and John saved the world’s future. The movie is as much about her trauma as it is about saving Dani. It is a heavy movie, with the only comic relief provided by an old school Terminator, played by Schwarzeneggar, as a drapery salesman named Carl, who is married to a woman he doesn’t have sex with, and doesn’t know what he is! Once you  wrap your head around all that, the movie is an action fest every bit as good as Fury Road, only  less zany.

The movie takes place largely in Mexico, and at one point, Dani, and the others must sneak into the US, but get locked up in one of the Border camps, so the movie went there, which was interesting, because I didn’t think it would. While no one says anything outright, the framing of those scenes show strong disapproval of what’s happening there, as the Terminator bursts in and slaughters half the border guards, and steals a helicopter.

The Terminator is played by one of my favorite actors, Gabriel Luna, who I got a kick out of watching in the SHIELD series, as the Ghost Rider. His technology isn’t just a blend of the two styles of Terminator we’ve seen, but so is his demeanor, which is especially chilling, because he seems very, innocuous, normal, and friendly, right up until you die.

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The stand out character for me though was Grace, who is awesome. I’m saving a special place in my personal pantheon for Grace, (as not too many white women, Ellen Ripley and Furiosa being the only two,  manage to get into it), who can definitely carry an action scene. The last time I saw that particular actress, she was playing a replicant, in Bladerunner 2049, and here she is playing another half human character. Grace is much like her name, moving and fighting in exactly the manner you’d expect of a technologically enhanced human being, and some of the most exhilarating scenes, are watching her go toe to toe with the Terminator, and matching him hit for hit. She doesn’t actually defeat him, but she is his equal.

The ending of the movie is bittersweet, but I liked it. I liked the entire film. There are no slow moments. Nothing is wasted, and I liked the love/hate dynamics between the female characters, which felt organic, and not just thrown in for drama’s sake. If you haven’t seen this movie, you should check it out, just to watch Schwarzeneggar’s role as Carl, and here him complain about people’s bad taste in draperies, in his usual  monotone.

 

 

 

Spider-Man: Far From Home

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Despite a couple of hiccups, I genuinely liked this movie. I don’t think it’s as good as the first film, but that one had some  novelty behind it in being Tom Hollands first full length term as Spiderman. This one is okay. Its not great. I wouldn’t put it anywhere near Maguire’s Spiderman 2, but its fun and watchable. The teenagers act like teens ,and the love story between Pete and MJ is really cute. This is funnier than the first film, and a  genuine comedy, until it gets near the end, when things get a bit more serious. As with most comedies your mileage may vary. I thought a few of the jokes landed badly, but mostly of them hit their mark, at least for me.

The most annoying part of the movie however,  is the continuing attachment of Tony Stark to Peter’s storyline. He’s still cleaning up Stark’s messes, even after he’s dead. I suspect that will be going on in the MCU for some time, since one of Tony’s major superpowers was  pissing off powerful creatures and/or people. Probably half the villains in the MCU can be traced back to something Tony said or did to some hapless supplicant, and that is the origin story behind Mysterio.

I also found it annoying that everyone assumes Peter wants to take up Tony Stark’s mantle, and do what he did, only as Spiderman. Just let the child be himself ffs! Why does anyone have to step into Tony’s shoes? On the other hand, the movie does mention (rather roughly) some of the issues that happened in the aftermath of  the Snap and the Return, (in this movie its called the Blip), and how much society was upheaved by both those events. I thought it was an intriguing idea  that the world was just as upset by everyone’s return, after five years, as it was by the trauma of their disappearance.

Well, anyway the movie is still fun, and full of lots of humorous moments, regardless of Tony’s ghost hanging around this movie, and I have watched it a couple of times, since its release. Like the first movie, it doesn’t have a whole lot of depth, until the end, when Peter directly goes up against Mysterio.

I liked this just fine. Its not great. Its not even as good as Homecoming, but it’s a well spent Saturday afternoon or evening.

 

 

 

John Wick 3: Parabellum

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Wow! This movie was a wild ride from start to finish. I don’t even know where to begin, I want to call this a hot ass mess, but that would imply I didn’t like it. In fact, I loved it! But yes, it is a hot ass, but very enjoyable, cray-cray mess. its like a Jason Statham, Fast and Furious movie, only with a real budget, if you catch my meaning.

Like the last movie, it picks up where it left off, with Wick being hunted by the Assassin’s guild which he used to be a member of. He’s got to find some old colleagues to help him stay alive, and they of curse come immediately into danger. One of those old friends, Sofia,  is played by Halle Berry, who owns a couple of  Belgian Mallinois, that she has specifically trained to kick ass, on her command, and that part of the movie is lots of fun to watch. I don’t get to watch Halle kick ass too often, so watching this fifty plus year old Black woman throwing  hands was a real treat.

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Another treat was watching Mark Dacascos chew the scenery, and get some genuinely funny lines, as a major villain who just wants to take John down, and supplant him as the boogeyman of assassins. I hadn’t seen Mark in a while, so it was fun to watch this professional ass-kicker throw down, even if the bald head was kind of jarring.

In the meantime, while John is trying to get his shit together there’s an actual assassins cabal, that oversees the assassin’s guild. Since John was “excommunicated”, he’s gotten help from a few friends, including Lawrence Fishburne, as the King of New York, and all their lives are put in danger, because one of the rules is that if you are a member of the guild in good standing, you have to turn in those who are excommunicated.

So the plot becomes a lot more complex, along with all the stuntwork. The John Wick movies are not especially deep, but they are great fun, even though they’re incredibly violent. Part of the reason people don’t mind the violence, quite so much, is that it’s de-mystified by the extras and behind the scenes videos, that show how are the stuntwork gets done, and watching the behind the scenes videos are just as much fun as watching

Things I looked At: Mini Streaming Reviews (February)

Here’s a short list of things I watched on Netflix and other streaming services, mostly at random. I just clicked on or rented stuff that had pretty promo pictures,  happened to be a subject I’m interested in, or was recommended to me by some algorithm. Not all of these are TV series, however. A few are movies, but I decided to include them, because watching them on a streaming service was really the only way I was ever going to watch them.

 

Rurouni Kenshin

These movies are based on the Samurai X manga. I don’t know if this is like the anime, because I have never watched that, and  have only a passing familiarity with the Manga, which I read many years ago, but remember liking. These movies (there are three of them so far, with more to come later this year), heavily remind me of Blade of the Immortal, which was brutal, bloody, fun, only these have a slightly, “relatively”, more positive message, and a sense of humor. Well, I laughed at it, but y’all know I’m weird.

In the first movie, the lead character, named Kenshin, is a former assassin, who decided to give up killing, and wander the countryside helping people. This appears to be a very popular theme, because its basically the same plot of Blade of the Immortal, and a bunch of other samurai movies. A young woman who runs a martial arts school of some kind, stumbles across the protagonist, and he decides to help her with a problem she’s having with a rival school, that wants to take over hers.

A plot by some minor government official to take over the government in some drug related scheme, and a couple of Kenshin’s old enemies coming back to get revenge, give plenty of opportunities for fight scenes ,which are also interesting, because although Kenshin has decided to give up killing, he still carries a sword, but its a a reverse katana, with the killing edge on the wrong side. He can swing it expertly, but it takes a conscious effort to use it to kill, which he has promised his love interest he would never do again, and opens up some interesting dialogues about pacifism, and to what purpose  violence is used.

But mostly, its just a lot of really exhilarating sword fights. I loved watching the fight scenes, especially Kenshin’s fighting style, which is fast, and inventive. Because he’s not actually trying to kill many of his opponents, but they have no problem taking his life, the fights never get boring, and if that’s what you’re looking for in a martial arts film, then check out the entire trilogy.

At least two of these movies are available on YouTube, and there wasn’t any English translation for the one I watched. So not having it be dubbed or subbed, made me deeply curious about the conversations the characters are having with each other, during the fight scenes, where they often pause in their sword swinging, to exchange words. When I finally got to see the translated versions, it turned out that those conversations were completely unimportant, and that most of the deeper philosophical discussions, take place during character monologues.

 

 

 

Attack on Titan

Wow! These movies were awesome, emotionally draining, and  very energetic. There are few slow moments in them, and not much of either movie’s time is wasted.

Once again, I’ve only read a couple of the books, one of which was an anthology. I’ve never watched any of the anime, and I have only a passing idea what all this is  about, from watching some of the most terrifying trailers I’ve ever seen, and people talking about it on Tumblr. I don’t know how close the plot of  this movie, and its direct sequel, is to the original manga. The basic plotline is the same though.

Humanity lives in walled cities, to protect themselves from massive, (once human), beings, that have a nasty habit of eating the smaller versions. The movie is pretty graphic about this. There’s a lot of body horror, as people are grabbed, eaten, squeezed, pulled apart, stepped on, and otherwise massacred, by these giant gluttonous monsters. There’s also a certain amount of body horror with the monsters too. They are humanoid creatures with disfigured faces, and bodies, who are always eagerly smiling.

It’s interesting that one of the tropes of Japanese Horror films is the grinning monster, with probably the only American equivalent to this being evil clowns, and Japan does not have that trope. I personally find grinning, (non-human), monsters pretty horrible too, but I don’t see as much of that in American horror, but then Americans tend to be much more emotionally open in public, too. I suppose, in a society where privacy, reserve, (and melancholy), is encouraged, someone walking around with a massive cheerful grin would immediately mark themselves as other than normal, possibly even monstrous, and certainly untrustworthy. Its not that Japanese people can’t be zany, or don’t have emotions, its just that in the interest of personal privacy, they try to keep it themselves, a close circle of friends, or on TV shows.

There’s also a group of soldiers, and volunteers who create a new method for killing the Titans, that requires them to engage in a little too up close and personal manner, as the Titans are nearly impossible to kill, in any normal fashion. There is a lot of dismemberment, and eating, of the brave soldiers. We follow their adventures, and  interactions, although I did find myself not caring too deeply about them,  because I don’t feel that the focus here was on character development. It’s not that I didn’t feel anything for the characters, so much as their relationships with each other were sort of underwhelmng, next to the horror of what was happening to them. I was also irritated with them, as there are a lot of images of them just standing about and staring, as the Titans do stuff. I kept yelling at my TV because the humans simply were not taking adequate precautions to save their own lives, like dodging, or running away. On the other hand, I do live in Tornado Alley, so I’m guessing that watching giant things move slowly across a landscape, is something that is universally hypnotic.

In the first movie, the humans are living  peacefully, the idea of the Titans  is long ago and far away, until a brand new Titan shows up, that is significantly larger and stronger than any Titan seen before it. It turns out that the Titans do have some residual intelligence, as they have deployed this new guy to break down the walls, so they can just walk in and feast, and the humans are just not ready for any of it. In the second film, the people rally, and with the help of a half human/half Titan, and even a little bit of martial arts, (because that is a requirement for all Asian action movies), they manage to defeat them, or at least make them go back  wherever they came from.

There’s a lot of nudity, because naturally the Titans don’t wear clothes, and lots of bloody and disgusting things happen to the human body, so be warned. You kind of have to be in a certain mood to watch it.

 

 

Inuyashiki

What I was expecting when I saw the trailer for this was a wacky, Japanese romp with superpowers,. To be fair, the trailer I saw didn’t have captions, and I might not have been paying as close attention as I should have been, but the trailer does mostly focus on all the action scenes. This movie is not a comedy. While its message was a bit heavy handed, and there were definitely some tears, I actually did enjoy this. It wasn’t what I expected, but I’ve learned, over the years, not to be angry at getting the unexpected in a story. I only get angry when I get LESS than what I expect, and I got a lovely and moving story of  family dynamics, reparation of father /daughter relationships, and loneliness. Keep in mind that I hadn’t even read any of the Manga, if such exists, let alone seen any anime. I walked into this movie completely blind, except  for having watched the trailer.

Inuyashiki is the story of an old man, (the title character), who is having a very bad day. He is a deeply lonely, and isolated man, who, one day, finds out that he is in the end stages of cancer, gets  bullied at work, and then loses his job. He is emotionally distant from his wife, son, and daughter, and finds it impossible to tell them not just about his impending death, but his real feelings for them. His daughter is especially angry, because he has never shown her how much he cares about them, although this is stated as a lack of protection, since he kept telling them that the reason he worked so hard, and was never home, was to protect their future. I was starting to get really annoyed with how much of an asshole she was, until I realized there was a point to it.

Inuyashiki goes to the park one night, gets kidnapped by aliens, and in their efforts to cure him, (at least that’s what I think they may have been doing, because its never stated in the movie why the aliens did this), they turn him into a machine/cyborg, who is able to manifest machine parts, weapons, and even fly, possibly done through nanites. The very first thing he does with his powers, is heal a little boy, who is dying of cancer, at his hospital. This outlines the type of man he is, that the first thing he does after getting superpowers, is to save another life. These superpowers are yet another thing he cannot tell his family, but he does confide in one of his daughter’s classmates, who coaches him in how to use his new superpowers.

At the same time, another student, the close friend of Inuyashiki’s coach, whose name is Shishigami, is also kidnapped at the park, and turned into a robot of some kind. Both he and Inuyashiki were both in the same place emotionally. They were alone and depressed, and dealing with highly volatile issues. In Shishigami’s case, it is school bullying, and the death of his mother, from cancer. Shishigami does share knowledge of his new abilities with his best friend, but it says a lot about his character that he demonstrates his abilities by killing an innocent creature. Shishigami of course meant to go on as he started. he becomes first a murderer, and then a mass killer, with his superpowers allowing him to kill people through their phones and other video screens.

We have these two men, both of them undergoing uniquely personal tragedies, but their reactions are completely different. Inuyahsiki dedicates himself to saving lives, and Shishigami decides to do the opposite. Inuyahshiki  is an old man, at the end of his life, so  finds life more precious than Shishigami, who is young and angry at having been mistreated by his classmates, and can only think of revenge. Shishigami is unable to think of life as precious, viewing people as disposable, and this is how he treats most of his victims. The first time he kills people, its just a random family whose home he invaded. He is brutal, without mercy, and unnecessarily cruel. When he finds out his mother has cancer, he saves her life, but in his rage at the unfairness of it, he decides to kill more people. For Inuyashiki, all life is  beautiful however, and he works hard not to kill Shishigami, understanding his pain, and viewing even his cruel existence as precious, and salvageable.

Needless to say, the two of them are on a collision course ,as Inuyashiki sets out to stop Shishigami from killing people, and the last third of the movie is taken up with their furious, and energetic, battling through the skies of the city of Tokyo, which is what you see in the trailer. Ultimately. during all this fighting, Inuyahsiki’s daughter’s life ends up in danger, and he gets plenty of opportunities to protect her from his nemesis. This results in her discovering her father’s superpowers, of course, and a reconciliation between them, as they both share this new thing that mom doesn’t  know about.

I found the whole thing very touching, even if it was, as I said, a little heavy handed in its messaging. One of the interesting things about a lot of Japanese genre movies is that characters rarely exchange important information with each other. The dialogue between characters is often kept very simple and unremarkable, while most of the important things get said in monologues, with characters appearing to just talk to themselves in the middle of some important event. That’s something that, once you notice it, takes a little getting used to, but over all, I liked the movie,   its message, and it was worth the time I spent watching it.

 

 

Wellington Paranormal

Ever since Barney Miller, I’ve had this thing about cop comedies, and I don’t know what that’s about. I won’t watch dramatic cop shows, and generally spurn mystery thriller cop shows, unless Black actors are the stars. From shows like Barney Miller, Reno 911, Brooklyn 99, and Monk, to movies like Beverly Hills Cop, Hot Fuzz, and Mall Cop,  to The Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch, I’m noticing a trend. I’m attracted to laughing at, and with, cops. So Wellington Paranormal is right up my alley ,as it contains three of my favorite topics, the paranormal, and cops who are deeply funny.

Wellington Paranormal is  a loose spinoff of the movie What We Do In The Shadows, about the adventures of four vampires living as flatmates in New Zealand. Its also the second spinoff from the movie, as the first one, a series with the same name, and basic setup,  is set in America. In the movie, there’s a scene where the police get called to the vampire’s house, because the neighbors were concerned, when the vampires were engaging in some general domestic violence.

Wackily, this show is about the two cops who get called to the house, Officers Minoghe, and O’Leary (their actual real life names). If you have seen the movie, (and if you haven’t, you need to, even if you never watch either of the spinoffs), then the blithe obviousness of the two cops is the basic attitude of the show, as the two of them get conscripted by their boss, (Sgt. Maaka Pohatu), to deal with paranormal events and situations in the city of Wellington.

In the first season, they deal with such silliness as  a body swapping demon (shoutout to The Exorcist), zombies, and werewolves, while giving each one of these issues about the same amount of portentous gravity, which means none at all. O’Leary and Minogue are the anti-Scully and Mulder of the detection world, and that is never not funny to me. The two of them find a way to make even the wildest, most batshit of circumstances, appear utterly mundane, which is where most of the humor comes from, but at least 20% of the humor comes from their interactions with each other, and their boss, who takes things way too seriously.

In the second season, they tackle a town full of alien clones of themselves, in a direct callback to  The X-Files, a possessed car, a group of high school witches, in a shoutout to the Midwich Cuckoos, and some possessed cell phones. So yeah, the creator’s reference game is on point, and another nice gesture is that their boss gets a lot more airtime in the series. The closest comparison for some people will probably be Brooklyn 99, but its really not much like that. Its more of an X-Files parody, so if you liked that show, and would like to see it treated  it with the level of  silliness it deserved, then you will probably have to pirate it, as its not available in the US.

Back Down Memory Lane…Again

Cleopatra 2525 (2000-2001)

Even though I watched this show for its entire two season run,  I don’t actually remember a whole lot about this show, except that it was cheesy, cheap, and starred the modern Goddess, Gina Torres, She of the Divine Facial Features. Perhaps that’s all one actually needs to know about this show to be intrigued.

This was girl-power before such a phrase existed, or rather, somewhere around the same time that it came into being. The term girl-power has been around for a very, very, long time. I remember it being mentioned on The Powerpuff Girls, when I watched that show with my baby sisters, when they were, in fact, actual babies!

Anyway, the basic plot is that the young blonde girl, whose name is actually Cleo, although she’s not important while standing next to Gina,  was an exotic dancer, who got put in a Futurama type situation, where she wakes up so far into the future, that the world has become completely unrecognizable to her. She joins these two young women who are fighting against some type of totalitarian authority that likes to use drones, cameras, and an evil clown type guy to oppress them. Its really is kind of like Tank Girl meets Futurama meets Charlie’s Angels, as there were at least some good action scenes.

Once again YouTube has full episodes of this show, so check them out and let me know what you think, unless of course, you are going to argue against the beauteous divinity of Gina Torres, in which case you can keep that shit to yourself!

 

 

Special Unit 2 (2001-2002)

Not to be confused with Special Unit, which was your standard police procedural, this is Special Unit 2, a standard police procedural starring paranormal creatures. I remember eagerly looking forward to this becasue Buffy the Vampire Slayer was airing around the same time ,and this was a cheap, funny knockoff blend of that and a cop show.

The show really didn’t take itself at all seriously, it was zany and cheesy, and actually pretty funny. Or rather, it fit my idea of deeply funny, at the time I watched it, since I was just a kitten then. I don’t know that my humor has changed all that much, but I’m about to find out, as I plan to watch it again, since a lot of the episodes are available for free, on YouTube.

The show is about Nick and Kate, two seemingly regular cops who are part of a special unit of the Chicago PD, who deal with things like dragons, unicorns, elves, and gnomes, while trying to keep these creatures a secret from the rest of society. Needless to say, a lot of lying is involved. The show really did try to mine the Buffy and X-Files shows for some of its plots, and occasionally got a little serious too, although there was a lot of it that was played for laughs, including a gnome type character who worked in the office, and specialized in being a thief. I remember really enjoying the acting on this show, which was played very tongue in cheek by both Nick and Kate, with surprisingly little of the “will they-won’t they” dynamic that seemed required of such shows.

In fact, of all the characters Kate was probably my favorite, next to the, highly irreverent Carl, the Office Gnome. The show was interesting because Kate was the show’s regular everyperson, who stumbles onto some grand secret of the world, and is the audience’s stand-in, as we learn about this world at the same time, and this was probably why I liked her, since female, audience stand-ins, are kind of rare in this genre.

 

 

Haunted

I remember really liking this show, at the time, because there really wasn’t anything else like on the air at the time, except maybe Millennium, and the X-Files, and Angel, and even those shows attempted some occasional lightheartedness. This show did none of that. It remained horribly gloomy right up until the end of its seven episode run, and the dark gloominess of it was probably why.  There was almost no color in this show, except for the presence of that one Black guy these shows had to hire, to reach compliance for diversity back then. The show starred Matthew Fox, before he became famous for starring in the show Lost. I did not understand his appeal in that show but I did get the whole brooding loner thing in Haunted.

Matt Fox is a private detective, named Frank, who once got killed by a serial killer of young boys,  who now hunts for missing people. Oh, and because he died that one time, he can now see ghosts. Specifically he is haunted by the spirit of his own missing son, whose disappearance caused the collapse of his marriage, and he can also see the spirit of  the serial killer, Simon, whose accidental  death he caused, which also cost him his job. I loved the show, and it was largely because of the presence of Matthew Fox’s acting skills, and the cinematography, because the show was gorgeous, with lots of black, grey, and rain.

I managed to find a couple of episodes on Youtube, which is where dead shows go, apparently, and I’ve actually re-enjoyed the couple I watched.

 

 

Reaper

This was another show that I remember was a lot of fun. Not so much for its first season, but in the second season the show made a  u-turn, and kicked the plot into high gear. The writing got better, and the characters were energetic and fun, unlike the first season where the actors tried to take things a little too seriously for the silliness of the plot.

It starred that guy from Tucker and Dale Vs Evil, Tyler Labine ,who was the sidekick of the lead character, Sam, a slacker who had  somehow been  coerced into collecting souls for Satan. I don’t remember liking Sam very much in the first season, but in the second season things got better when he found out the reason why he’d been chosen to be a Reaper was because he was Satan’s son, with Satan being played by the most excellent Ray Wise, who for some reason, was named Jerry. I remember thinking Wise was waaay out of league for this show, becasue he made what was otherwise simply a “meh” show, a very good one.

Despite Sam being the son of Satan, he continued to be whiny and incompetent at his job, and was most often saved by his accomplices, an ex-girlfriend from school, and Tyler’s character. Strangely, it’s often Satan who comes off looking sympathetic in this show, even while committing what are clearly evil acts, or acts that are at least deeply annoying ones for Sam. He and Sam used to have interesting discussions about the nature of Heaven and Hell, and why Satan can’t eat ice cream.

 

Witchblade

This was a very short lived series based on the comic books. I had actually been reading the comics right before the series was announced so I was very excited to see what they were going to do with the show. The trailers were intriguing and I liked the actress Yancey Butler, who I had last seen in the movie, Hard Target, years before. The show proved to be not as exciting as the trailers lead me to believe. The actng was fine, but the plot didn’t actually seem to go anywhere, and some of  had nothing to do with what I read in the comics. On the other hand, there were some hot guys in it, so there…

I feel like I need to explain what the Witchblade is to people who have never even heard of it, since this show has been off the air for almost twenty years, and has largely been forgotten except by its die-hard fans. Its a mystical gauntlet, suit of armor, that’s intelligent, chooses its wearer, and forms a partnership with them. They can hear it speaking, although I saw no evidence of this ability in the show. It was an extremely powerful McGuffin, that all of the other characters seemed to want, even though those who werent worthy of wearing it could potentially lose their arm.

Now we need to talk about the actress Yancey Butler. This is complicated because for the past twenty years, she’s had some substance abuse issues. At one point, getting arrested for passing out, and crashing her car, after which she was ordered to enter a rehabilitation program. I had to read about that on her IMDB page. She has started acting again (and is as beautiful as she ever was despite all her troubles), and is active on Twitter now, which is how I heard about her newest movie. At any rate, her problems didn’t start with the show, and I distinctly  remember reading about some of the problems she had  on set because of them.

Yancey,  like  countless women before her is a beautiful woman who developed substance abuse issues while working in Hollywood. I don’t know for sure if this was a problem before she started work as an actress, but I do know that Hollywood is a toxic place, that regularly chews up young actors, and then spits them out, severely damaged. And after #MeToo brought this knowledge into the mainstream, in a different way than before, its very difficult for me to believe that sexual assault and sexual exploitation doesn’t have at least some role to play in the massive amounts of substance abuse that we see in its participants. I sincerely hope that was not the case with Yancey, that she has gotten the help she needed, and worked past her demons.

 

 

 

 

Kindred: The Embraced

This show was loosely based on the role playing game, Vampire The Masquerade, which I never actually played, although I did read a few of the guide books, so I knew a lil’ sumthin-sumthin’ about that universe. So when I say it was loosely based on it, I mean exactly that. The show was pretty damn loose. So loose,  that all it seemed to have in common with the game, was its vocabulary. It was like someone read the books, but then  decided to base the show on a school book report about those, instead.

That said, I actually, sorta, liked the show. It was bad, yes, but it also had some really intriguing shit in it that kept me watching. Since the show only lasted 8 episodes, I guess other people felt the same way. Its not that the show was awful. It had some great characters in it, but it did have some terrible acting, and the plot became more convoluted with each episode. I guess the closest I can get to describing it is a Vampire Godfather, as it involved clashes between the various vampire clans in a city, along with their rulers, followers, and hangers-on. All of which has something to do with a renegade cop, named Frank, who stumbles across their existence when he falls in love with a female vamp.

The lead character was Julian Luna, played by Mark Frankel, who I thought was Latino, then later believed to be Italian, but turned out to actually be English. I found him interesting mostly because I thought he was pretty, and had a very nice voice. The best character was a member of Clan Nosferatu ,who are very old, deformed, and look somewhat batlike, with talons, long teeth, and pointed ears. Daedalus, as he was called, was played by one of my favorite actors, whose name I forget now, but that actor performed like he was in a Shakespearean play, while Luna acted like he was in the movie The Godfather III, and Frank the cop’s girlfriend, busily being extra, acted like she was in a Gothic soap opera. So the acting and dialogue was all over the place, but it best written for Luna and Daedalus.  I do remember the two had frequent conversations with one another, and that I looked forward to the times when they were onscreen together.

Whenever anyone else was onscreen, the dialogue and acting were cringeworthy at best. There were a couple of star struck young lovers from different clans, who were abysmal in their acting, especially, and I had to look this name up, Brigid Walsh, who played the human descendant of Julian, named Sasha Luna. Dear Jeebus! she was awful, which was not helped by her horrid dialogue. She played that role, as  someone who had perhaps heard of “acting”, by rough description, like she was playing the role of a  “professional angry-face” Model!

I would also like to offer my  apologies in advance for subjecting y’all to these images. Trigger Warning for: music video bad attitude, smirking, sniping, sarcasm, general batshittery, and horrible acting.

 

But the cancellation of this show seemed inevitable,  as soon after, or just before, that happened, Mark Frankel died in a traffic accident, while riding his motorcycle. I distinctly remember the reporting of this on the news,and  feeling some type of way about it.