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

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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.

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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.

lovecraft country | Tumblr

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.

*********************

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

Image result for bosom buddies

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

Image result for knight rider

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

Image result for designing women

 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.

Geeking out About: The Watchmen TV Series

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Last Sunday was the season finale of the nine episode Watchmen TV series, on HBO,  and I’ve been having all kinds of thoughts. From the first episode, to the finale, my thoughts have just been all over the place. This show took me on a journey, but it was satisfying, and I’m not as angry with Lindhelof as I was when the series began. This makes up for some of his past transgressions, like Prometheus, and the ending of Lost. I was exasperated by some of it, some of it galvanized me, and some of it made me feel really, deeply, some type of way. The plot is a little too intricate to get into here, but I have provided plenty of links, for those who are curious.

First off, the series is a direct sequel to the comic book, and not the much maligned movie from a few years ago. This story (most of it) takes place thirty years after the events in the book, with flashbacks to some periods in between. I talked about the setting  in a  mini review.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2019/10/28/october-viewing-list-ii/

 

Review

https://tv.avclub.com/life-on-earth-gets-a-lot-weirder-but-watchmen-continue-1840145375

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And People’s Thinky Thoughts:

 

https://www.vulture.com/article/watchmen-hbo-easter-eggs-references-episode-guide.html

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https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/tv/a29592776/watchmen-redfordations-racial-injustice-act-explained/

https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/tv/a29565670/watchmen-hbo-backlash-controversy-white-supremacy/

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https://www.vox.com/culture/2019/10/20/20919750/watchmen-hbo-regina-king-review-damon-lindelof-race-policing

https://www.thedailybeast.com/hbos-watchmen-pisses-off-comics-fanboys-its-woke-propaganda

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https://www.motherjones.com/media/2019/12/the-best-tv-show-about-racism-was-a-comic-book-fantasia-heres-how-watchmen-did-it/

Hannibal Season Three: Dolce

I know its been a while since I posted a Hannibal review. I promise I’m not neglecting what I’d said I’d do with this show, which was do in depth reviews of all three seasons, which are currently available to stream on Amazon Prime. Here’s my review of Dolce, which is episode six of season three.

In the sixth episode of this season, we see the long awaited reunion between Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham, and naturally, by the end of the episode, the two of them try to kill each other, because that’s just  how  they are.

Jack Crawford and Will Graham meet at Pazzi’s gruesome murder scene for the first time since last season. It turns out that this was always the plan between the two of them. We had been led to believe that Will had simply run off to be with Hannibal, but it turns out, that Will went to Europe to find him, while Jack could follow later, and by a different route, so that the two of them would not appear to be in tandem. At their meeting, Will asks Jack why he didn’t kill Hannibal, and Jack says he was saving him for Will.

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Throughout this entire series, Will has been a hound caught between two masters. Earlier in season one, Hannibal referred to Will as Jack Crawford’s  hound, and this is an apt description, because Will has the instincts of one, Lecter and Jack sent him out to do their bidding, and often fought over their possession of him. At one point Jack just comes right out and asks if Will is his man, or is he Hannibal’s, and Will had to think about that for a minute, as he neatly sidestepped that question.

When viewed from one angle, Will’s actions make no sense, but if you take into account that Jack Crawford and Hannibal represent opposing sides of who he is, and what he wants: stability, justice, and order, or mayhem, lawlessness, and the freedom to do what he will, then it is understandable why Will is torn. If Lecter is coded as a satanic figure, then Jack is God, or at least Will’s better angel, (in fact, Jack says as much to Lecter, in a later episode), and naturally, Lecter exists in opposition to all that Jack represents. Does Will want to serve, or be served? Hannibal’s power, and ability to flout authority, is intoxicating to a part of Will’s personality, and he seems to constantly be at war, not just with Hannibal, but that part of himself.

Hannibal is severely injured after his fight with Jack Crawford, and limps his way back to his quarters, where Bedelia has already crafted an excuse for her dalliance with him in Rome. She tells him she is preparing for his eventual capture, and wonders if he is drawing his enemies to him. If he, in fact, wants to be caught. One of the biggest movie tropes about serial killers is that they secretly want to be caught, because if they don’t, how can they have their egos fed by becoming famous? How can they be known if no one knows who they are?

 

In the movie Seven, the killer turns himself in to the police at the end of the movie, for this exact reason. How are people to know his grand plan and admire it, if he doesn’t get caught. There is a real life basis for this common movie trope. For example,  mass killers often leave manifestos for why they kill, because they want to be known and admired, and on occasion a serial killer has tried to insinuate themselves  into their own investigation, by contacting the detectives involved, as in the Son of Sam investigation. But largely, the idea that serial killers want to be caught, is a myth.

Gillian Anderson is excellent this episode as Bedelia. Her performance is just one of the highlights. Up to now, she has appeared to be Hannibal’s prisoner, she is with him because of the constant underlying threat that he will kill her. In a sense she is keeping her enemy close to her, because its better for her to know exactly where he is than to be free, and not know where he is, or what he’s doing, which is an issue that will come into play later in the season, between Will and Hannibal.

But Bedelia is going to need to explain to the authorities why she stayed with him, She comes up with the excuse that she was out of her mind, with the same drug cocktail Hannibal used to subdue Miriam Lass, (in season 2), so she genuinely believed herself to be Lydia Fell, the wife of the man Hannibal is impersonating, Norman Fell. Hannibal admires her cleverness, and the two of them agree to support each other’s stories.

When Hannibal leaves, Bedelia shoots up her special cocktail, and is found first by Chiyo. Bedelia seems to be one of those people who develops a semi-adversarial relationship, with everyone she meets, and Chiyoh is no exception. Probably because Bedelia is one of those characters that seemingly every TV show must have, that person who speaks uncomfortable truths to the other characters.

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Then Will and Jack encounter Bedelia, in Hannibal’s apartments, and she already has her answers ready. Jack and Will are not buying any of her story, but I can’t tell if the police inspector does. There’s definitely some kind of “frission”, or attraction, going on between the two of them. One of the more amusing scenes is watching Bedelia’s interaction with  Jack and Will. Gillian Anderson, always brings her A game to every project, she looks like she’s having a helluva lot of fun, and that entire scene is hilarious to watch, as Bedelia drunkenly slurs her way through the initial interview, and its one of the few scenes of genuine humor, in the series.

Hannibal doesn’t leave Rome. Instead he makes his way to the Uffizzi Gallery, to view Boticelli’s Primavera, which I talked about in my review of the second episode of the season, titled Primavera. For some reason he is obsessed with this panting. He had a arranged one of his murders to resemble the painting, many years ago, before he left Italy. Here we see him drawing another representation of the painting but replacing the faces of the angel, Zephpyrus, and the nymph Chloris, with the faces of Will Graham, and Bedelia, his two closest “associates”.

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Will’s unexpected presence is a source of unmitigated happiness to Hannibal, and he almost loses his chill, telling Will, in a somewhat poetic manner, how much he missed him, and how overjoyed he is to see him again, (for Hannibal, this is practically gushing), even though he had the chance to see him when the two of them were running around in the catacombs, in an earlier episode, but admittedly that was before Will, supposedly,  forgave him. The two of them leave the Gallery together, and Will, feeling some type of way again, pulls out a knife and tries to stab Hannibal. I’m unsure if he was trying to incapacitate him, to capture him, or if the stabbing was revenge for Hannibal stabbing him last season, or just general assholery on Will’s part. Chiyo, sitting on a nearby roof, shoots Will through the shoulder. Since she only kills under the most dire of circumstances, as she did in Lithuania, she would not have killed Will, but she would not allow him to harm Hannibal, either.

Hannibal is, naturally, completely unperturbed by Will trying to kill him, because what’s a little homicide among friends?. He takes Will back to some rented rooms, and minsters to his woulds, before deciding (and I don’t know if this is revenge for Will trying to kill him, or general asssholery on his part), to eat Will’s brain. Notice how he takes the opportunity ,while dressing Will’s wounds, to give him a warm hug, since Will is in far too much pain to fight back, or try to stab him again.

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Now, let’s be clear here, Hannibal does love Will, but he still wants to eat him.  He wants to be with Will, but Will is still dangerous to him. One of the many philosophies behind human cannibalism (outside of desperation) is the idea that eating someone is a way of keeping that person close, so that they can never leave. This was the motivation behind the serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer. Either that, or he believes he will gain Will’s power and energy through consumption. Normally Hannibal’s reasons for eating others is because he has nothing but contempt for them, so treats them like food.

In the meantime, the police have allowed Jack Crawford to leave, urging him to go back to America, which, of course, Jack doesn’t do. How he manages to find Will and Hannibal is carefully not mentioned, but in a funny moment he encounters Chiyo in the elevator of Hannibal’s building. She either knows who he is, or senses he is a cop, or is just generally cagey, but she manages to avoid his, too close,  attention, although they each sneak suspicious glances at the other.

This entire time we keep switching back and forth between Italy and America where Mason, Alana, and Margot, have been plotting to capture Hannibal, so that Mason can cook and eat him. Alana’s and Margot’s relationship is revealed in this episode, along with Mason’s plans to have a Verger baby with his sister, to be carried by Alana.

We’ll talk more about that particular trio in the next post.

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Jack makes his way to Hannibal’s rented apartments, (I’m unclear how he found them, but he was following Will, at the time). Jack gets there, not just in time to watch Hannibal begin his meal of Will Graham, but to be ambushed by Hannibal,  taken prisoner, and made to watch the ordeal, which he vehemently protests, to no avail. Will’s face gets attacked a to this season, for some reason. I think somewhere in there is a statement about the actors prettiness. He is  more attractive than previous actors who played Will Graham, who looked a little more  like Will’s  working class roots.

Hannibal’s feast is interrupted by the Florentine police, who found the apartment by following Jack, in the hope that Jack (and Will) would lead them to Hannibal, having been suspicious of Jack’s motivations, for visiting their city, right from the beginning. They are still in the employ of Mason Verger actually, and they kidnap Will and Hannibal, and send them to the Verger’s Muskrat Farm, for the reward money. They attempt to kill Jack, but Chiyoh, hiding out on a nearby rooftop, assassinates them. Jack is freed by Chiyoh, after arguing that he just wants to go home, and in exchange for telling her where Will and Lecter were taken.Can I just add that Chiyoh is a total bad ass who is not to be trifled with, and that she really should have just had her own show?

Will and Lecter are taken to Muskrat Farm, and trussed like prized birds, while Mason gloats over his victory.

One of the things we haven’t talked about much in the series is the subject of Classism. Particularly the class differences between Will and Hannibal, and Hannibal and everyone else. Its especially important considering Hannibal’s philosophy about  the people he kills, and his attitude towards Will. One of Hannibal’s guiding philosophies is to “Eat the Rude.” so we get lots of instances where Hannibal kills and consumes people he believes were disrespectful to him. And not just to him, he kills and eats one of Abigail Hobbes friends, after seeing her be rude to her own mother.

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I am a firm believer that at least part of Hannibal’s motivations for killing and consuming his victims is because of class prejudice. Hannibal’s family was once Lithuanian nobility, and while it may not be a major factor, I certainly think it  informs his feeling of entitlement to respect. he doesn’t feel he needs to earn respect. He thinks he should be given respect by dint of having been born, and all beings should recognize his inherent superiority. When looked at from this standpoint, it is unsurprising that Hannibal would kill (and even eat) those he considered less than, because that is entirely in keeping, with the proletariat philosophy, that the wealthy are parasites, who prey on society.

Next episode however, the tables have been turned, as Hannibal is the one about to be eaten. Mason Verger has Hannibal exactly where he wants him, to exact his revenge for what Hannibal did to him, over a year ago. Unfortunately he has captured Will as well, and we’ll find out just how far Hannibal is willing to go to save them both from an ironic fate.

 

The Irishman (Netflix)

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*****Here Be Spoilers****

 

Let’s  get something out of the way first.

Yes, I’m aware of what Scorsese has said about the current crop of superhero movies, and yes, I was offended, until he clarified his statements in a recent Vanity Fair article. I’m glad he did, because I was prepared to stay mad at one of my all-time, favorite directors. Well, I’m not as angry, but he is not wrong. He’s not right though, mostly because I don’t think its fair to compare the two types of movies. They serve very different purposes for their audiences in that one type of film consists of exciting power fantasies (like the first half of the movie Goodfellas), and righting wrongs, and Scorsese’s films seem to be about the consequences of that amount of unchecked power,  and what it actually gets you. Superhero movies make no claims of depth.  They are not dramas, although movies like The Dark Knight, The Winter Soldier, and Logan come very close.

The Irishman had a brief theatrical run, of about a week or two, before it settled on Netflix, which is where I viewed it, with a great deal of anticipation. There’s a lot of backstory about why the movie is airing on Netflix, but I’m not covering that here. Like a lot of people, I went into this expecting something similar to Goodfellas, and Casino, since Scorsese seems to have some sort of lock on the depiction of  White men in the mafia life. The movie is definitely about gangsters, and appears to be having some kind of dialogue with the other two films. It would be interesting to watch all three of these movies back to back, to see what they are saying to, and about, each other.

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I loved this movie, and I wasn’t expecting that. Everyone involved is at the top of their game. I didn’t think Scorsese had a lot more to say about the mafia life, that he hadn’t already said, but he does.

Like the other two films in this trilogy, it’s a meditation on crime and regret. I think a lot of people have had a  very wrong takeaway from Scorsese’s movies. Although he seems both fascinated with , and terrified of, this lifestyle, he definitely does not approve. These are the kinds of people he knew growing up, and he seemed to have kept, in the forefront of his mind, that they were not good people, no matter what their claims of nobility, or  how fascinating their lives were.

These films are not a glorification of their lifestyle.  Henry Hill, in the last third of Goodfellas, just flat out states this. Scorsese has never sugarcoated who and what these people are. The violence in these films is always  sudden, and brutal.  Hill spoke on the topic in Goodfellas, but here its just shown. Scorsese always  has  his characters realize, by the end, the horror of the decisions they’ve made. Every participant ends up  dead, or regretful, and there is a an onscreen commentary, on the fate of each one of the character’s introduced, in the film. The bottom line is, if you choose the mobster life, because you have romanticized notions about it, it will end badly.

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I knew a young Italian man, in college, who told me that his father met some people in the life, but he also told me that one of the key things is never to invite them into your life. Don’t ask them for favors, don’t hang out with them in their places, don’t befriend them. They’re like vampires. You have to let them in.

A classic example, is the restaurant owner from Goodfellas, who allows Tommy, and his friends, to frequent his restaurant. Just like Henry did as a child, he thinks its exciting to be associated with these men. He admires the life, and believes he is friends with them, until the time comes for Tommy to pay the massive bill he’s run up on his tab. These guys are just taking advantage of him, but he is still too enamored of their life to see that. In an effort to get Tommy to pay his bill, the restaurant owner goes to Paulie, (Tommy’s boss), and makes Paulie a partner, in exchange for taking care of Tommy’s bill. Paulie takes advantage of him too, until he  goes out of business, as they steal  him blind, eventually the restaurant gets burned down for the insurance. The owner romanticized their lifestyle. He failed to see them as the unprincipled thieves they were. He invited them in, and he lost everything. The same thing goes for the character of Spider, a mirror of the young Henry, who romanticizes their lifestyle, and gets killed by Tommy, for standing up for himself, with not a single tear shed by any of the witnesses.

The Irishman  follows another low grade member of a mafia crew, a hitman named Frank Sheeran, (Robert DeNiro), as he befriends various mobsters, and paints houses (carries out mob hits). Most of the movie is about his friendship with Jimmy Hoffa, (Al Pacino), and his confession that he killed him, after being assigned to do so by his then bosses, one of which is also a close friend, Russell Bufalino, played by Joe Pesci. The movie is based on a book by Charles Brandt titled “I Heard You Paint Houses?”, which is the line in the movie said by Pacino, when he and Frank first meet over the phone. So once again, you have someone who invites these people into his life. Hoffa knows who, and what, these people are, but he romanticizes the life, and has an outsized sense of his worth to them.

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Right away, the mood and setting are very different than the other two movies, (Goodfellas and Casino), which open with exciting scenes of violence, (and interestingly, with men in cars). This movie is reflective and melancholy. The opening scene is a quiet shot of Frank, in a senior citizen’s home, reminiscing about his past, to his lawyers. The movie is a flashback, but unlike Henry Hill”s story, Frank has no misty-eyed remembrances for the things he’s done. He joined the mob because he was a soldier who needed to do something with his life, after he came back from the war. He didn’t join because he loved the life, or glorified its denizens, and this is probably why he survived, although that’s no consolation, either. He is an old man filled with regret, and we come to have some amount of sympathy for him, although Scorsese never lets us think, for a moment, that he is a good guy. Nor does he show Frank as vicious or evil, for its own sake, although the things he does, are indeed,  vicious, and evil. Scorsese presents him as just a guy, who made the best choices he could, in the circumstances presented to him.

Deniro definitely deserves some form of recognition for his role here, but the two major highlights of the movie, for me, was Al Pacino’s Jimmy Hoffa, and Joe Pesci’s much quieter turn, as Russell Bufalino. You want to be reminded of his role as Tommy in Goodfellas, but this character is wholly unlike him. Bufalino is smarter, and more calculating, with a cool menace that the hotheaded, showboating, Tommy lacked. He and Frank become friends, and get to be quite close, but Frank, (and hence the audience), never forgets the power dynamic between them. Russell is his boss, and should Frank prove to be a threat, or an inconvenience, Russell could have him killed, and it would be just business.

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This was the most interesting part of the movie for me. Y’all know me. I love to watch different types of  characters interact. It’s interesting because movie audiences don’t often get to watch the  process of two grown men, who have been steeped in pride and machismo, their entire lives, put themselves in the vulnerable position of trusting a stranger, while navigating the power and violence of their positions,  to  become friends. You can see them feeling the other out, trying to reach a place of comfort. I found myself totally caught up in the moment. The faint distrust, and the questions they ask of each other, without actually asking them: What do you want from me? Are you a stand up guy? Will you give me straight answers? Can you be trusted?

Frank’s relationship with Hoffa is covered just as deeply. The most  fascinating part, is comparing how trust is shown between Frank and Hoffa, and Frank and Russell. Scorsese doesn’t fall into the trap of having the characters make grand declarations of how much they love and trust each other. There are scenes with Frank and Russell hanging out with each other’s families, or having dinner together. Some scenes with Frank and Hoffa are just them talking in Hoffa’s bedroom, before he goes to sleep. At one point, Hoffa nods off while talking to Frank, he trusts Frank so completely, and Frank just quietly sits there for a while, watching him sleep, and glancing out the window, and that scene is unexpectedly moving. It’s hard to know what Frank is thinking during that scene. The specter of violence hangs over everything he does, and that scene is even more tragic, when you know what happens between them later.

There are not a lot of women in this movie, and none of the men have any moral standing. The moral center of this film is Frank’s daughter, Peggy, (Anna Paquin) who sees her father beat a man on her behalf, when she is a child, and this impacts her relationship with him, for the rest of their lives. She gets probably three lines in the entire movie, but Scorsese sets her up, by giving us long closeups of her face, and her disapproval, and fear, of her father, (and by association, Russell), is apparent. We don’t need a loud, dramatic shouting match between them, to know that she has seen what kind of man he is, and  will never love him. Frank tries to reconcile with her before his death, but she will have none of him.

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Frank doesn’t just regret the things he did when he was younger, but all the familial relationships he let fall by the wayside, while prioritizing his relationships with the men he worked for, all of whom are now dead. He has to pay for his own funeral, buying his own tombstone. There’s no one alive, who would come to his funeral, anyway. The movie ends with Frank, alone in his room. He is the last one left of that old life, and he has nothing to show for it. Once again, Scorsese presents the mobster lifestyle as empty and meaningless. If you don’t die horribly, at the hands of someone you trusted, then you die alone, with no one to care.

There’s a lot of the movie I didn’t talk about, like the cinematography, and music, which are pretty standard for a Scorsese film, with some upbeat sixties songs, the most prominent song being, In the Still of the Night, by The Five Satins, which bookends the movie. There are two opening scenes, one with Frank beginning his story in the nursing home, and the other, the beginning of the story, which features him and Russell, taking a road trip, with their wives. The movie starts out really cute, with the wives fussing with their husbands in the car. Everyone is very comfortable with each other, at first, but as the trip continues, the tension begins to mount, as we overhear increasingly nervous phone calls between Russell, Frank, and Hoffa, finally culminating, in the last third of the movie, in Russell’s order to Frank.

The cinematography is superb ,as usual, but there are a few uncanny valley moments in the film as Deniro, Pesci, and Pacino had to be de-aged in a few of the scenes. The de-aged faces aren’t as emotive as their actual faces, so I kept getting jarred out of the story, by wondering every now and then, how the actors got de-aged for their roles, but this doesn’t happen a lot, and is easily ignored. If you’re not a fan of Scorsese’s mobster films, this still may be worth a look for you, because its very different in tone, but I do have to warn you,  that just like in the other movies, the violence is flat, graphic, and unforgiving. When it comes to acts of violence, Scorsese does not fuck around, or wince. People get beaten and shot, and there’s a harrowing scene where Frank shoots up a restaurant full of people. I have become a lot more squeamish, as I’ve gotten older, and these scenes were hard for even me to watch.

Despite its three hour run time, the movie didn’t make me feel restless at all. I sat through the entire three hours, and never missed them, or a moment of dialogue. The movie simply pulled me right in. It was moving, with moments of sheer horror, and is a testament to Scorsese’s skill as a director, as nothing is explicitly stated by any of the characters, yet its message is loud, and clear. I don’t know if this movie will be nominated for an Oscar. It, and everyone involved, should.

The Irishman is the best movie I’ve seen this year.

Things Are Gonna Be Fun II: Electric Bugaloo

I wrote a version of this post, earlier this year, in which I listed all the movies I was interested in watching, and I just want to offer a sequel to that post, with mini reviews of movies I, did indeed, watch, and one I didn’t get to see, even though I wanted to.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2018/12/10/things-are-gonna-be-fun/

I’ve noticed a pattern of saying I’m not gonna see something, because I wasn’t interested, but later I rent the movie, or watch it on cable, so obviously I’m an unreliable narrator, when it comes to determining which movies I’ll be watching in a given year. So, you can take me at my word, at your own risk. Plus my track record of movie watching has been thrown off by my mom’s insistence that we go see every killer animal movie that gets released! I don’t dislike those types of movies, but I told her she’s messin’ up my movie schedule. (Note: No, she does not care about that, and just finds the whole thing deeply funny.)

Anyway these were the movies I showed some interest for, and ended up actually watching.

Glass

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Unlike a lot of  people, who saw this,  I actually liked this movie. Yes, there was a bit of a twist n the movie, in the sense that things do not play out in any way you think they’re going to play out, but it still did have a satisfying ending. I was interested to see how David Dunn ended up in the asylum with Mr. Glass and The Beast, and I though  the team up between Glass and Beast was interesting to watch. In a lot of ways the story plays out exactly the way such stories work in comic books, and I think the twist really threw a lot of people off, especially if they were expecting the movie to go on that way to the end. About halfway through the movie, there’s  a monkey wrench thrown into the story that changes it to be about something else entirely,  and while I was initially dismayed by the change, it ultimately proved to be satisfying for me.

 

Akita Battle Angel

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I read the manga a few years ago, before the movie was announced, and it was okay, but I found this movie rather disappointing. There are a few elements in it that I liked, but ultimately I didn’t finish the movie, and it was mostly  because of the acting, which is both restrained in some places, and over the top in others. And yeah, I did have a problem with the big eyes. They were distracting, even though big eyes are not distracting in anime. I also loathe sports movies, and about halfway through this movie, this turns into one of those made-up sports movies, that’s supposed to be an analogy for revolution, or something.

Sports movies are absolutely the one genre of movie I will not happily watch. I will watch a cop movie before I sit down to watch a sports movie. On the other hand, I did enjoy the world-building, and the special effects were excellent, but ultimately, those two things were not enough to keep my interest.

 

Captain Marvel

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I liked this movie far more than I thought I would. I wasn’t greatly enthusiastic about it, preferring to see her in Avengers Endgame first, before watching this, but it turned out to be okay. I thought its messaging was a bit ham-handed, but I loved the characters most of all, especially the Rambeaus, and the cat loving Nick Fury, and it was  unexpectedly funny, and deeply emotional in some spots. Is it as good as some of my MCU favorites, that I’ve watched multiple times? Nah. This movie doesn’t even break my top ten, but it also doesn’t land in the bottom ten either. Its a good, solid, competent, middle of the road, action movie, with a feminist message, and some acceptable special effects. If I watch  it again, it will be for the character relationships and action scenes.

 

Shazam

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I wasn’t expecting a whole lot out of this movie, but it turned out to be a heckuva lot of fun. The ads for it lead you to believe the kids in the movie are kind of obnoxious, and at first the are, but they quickly grow on you, and I started to really like the lead character ,and the movie is actually pretty funny, in a cringey, covering my eyes sort of way.

I’ve always been fascinated by Billy Batson, not because I thought of him as a power fantasy for children, though. Frankly, and this is where being a PoC, and a woman, comes into me having a very different opinion about movies, I was kinda horrified by Billy’s story. This isn’t a whole lot like the TV show I watched as a child. For one thing, Billy Batson is actually a little kid in this, unlike the teenager in the show, and no kid should ever be put in that sort of position. Billy fucks up a lot, and its really frustrating, and mildly upsetting to watch the villain beat his ass because he has the physical/mental sensibilities of a child. I don’t know how to explain it, but Shazam has always struck me as more of a horror story than a fantasy.

On the other hand, despite my anxiety, this movie was a lot of fun, and I liked the other kids in it, because they were really cute, and they all defeat the villain through teamwork, and superpowers, and stuff. Its a good, lightweight, piece of fluff to watch, on some Saturday afternoon, with your nieces and nephews.

 

Hellboy

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Whoo boy! I have a lot to say about this movie, so watch for my post comparing the Del Toro movies with this version, and the graphic novels. I didn’t hate this movie like a lot of people did. In fact this movie may prove to be better liked at some later date, but I didn’t love it either. It had a lot of problems which are outweighed by how incredibly gorgeous it is.

 

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu

As I said in the original post, I only know as much about Pokemon as raising my sisters would allow me to know, so I was kind of walking into this clean. I didn’t know that the various Pokemon had personalities and stuff, so I didn’t know what to expect. I knew some of the character names, and I liked the premise, and heard that Ryan Reynolds was doing the voice of Pikachu, who is, naturally, my favorite.This movie was as cute as you think it is. Its a nice, funny, piece of fluff. Its got a couple of dark moments, but is mostly safe to watch with kids, as its not that deep, so you can enjoy it without too much anxiety.

I was mostly distracted by the kind of world in which Pokemon live side by side with people. Where do the Pokemon got to  the bathroom? How do the largest Pokemon navigate through the society, and did the biggest ones I saw belong to anyone, or were they just hanging out in the city? Some of the Pokemon were pretty dangerous, so are there humans who hunt them down and exterminate them when they get out of hand? Or do they lock them in jail, like people?

Well, I had questions!

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John Wick 3: Parabellum

This movie was every bit as wild and crazy as it looks from the trailer. I’ve been watching this franchise, and really the entire thing is ridiculous, with Assassin’s guilds, mobsters, dog attacks. Its kind of unrelenting and you may need to have a rest about halfway through it. This time there’s some type of regulatory organization involved, and its purpose is to weed out everyone who helped John in the first two movies. So, not only is John still being hunted by all the top assassins in the world, (namely Mark Dacascos, who it was nice to see again), his friends are in danger too, and this all  escalated from the killing of John’s dog, left to him by his late wife, by a no-account mobster’s son.

I loved Halle’s character, with her two guard dogs. She talked in interviews about the training for the dogs, and what it was like being on set with them, and that was fascinating. In fact the entire thing is fascinating because the creators have no qualms saying the movies are just stunt showcases, with a loose plot attached to it, and going into detail about how they do everything. Its fun to watch, not just the film itself, but the making of it, as well.

Halle Berry plays a character named Sophia, who owns two Belgian Malinois. She is fifty three years old. This is a very demanding film and most of its stars are older men and women, so that’s interesting.

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Men in Black International

I was ultimately so disappointed in this movie, that I didn’t even finish it. I mean Thor and Valkyrie team up to save the world from aliens but there’s really not much of a plot, the acting was a little lackluster. It wasn’t as funny as the first two movies. it was really just lacking Will Smith.

I wouldn’t mind seeing more stories set in this universe, and Tessa and Chris were really cute, but it really does need to have the imagery and the humor, and with actually funny actors, which is something that started to go wrong in the second film. Tessa and Chris are funny, from time to time, but they are not known for their comedy, and it showed, because the writing simply wasn’t there. Its been diminishing returns on the humor ever since that second film, really, but I  expected a lot from this, because the trailer made it look like fun. The wild enthusiasm I had for several other films, that were released around the same time, wasn’t there, but I thought this would be okay. Ultimately, I’m glad I  didn’t spend money to see this in the theater.

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Spider-Man: Far From Home

I missed this one in the theater becasue I was broke around the time this movie got released, but I rented it as soon as the it started streaming ,and I was not disappointed. it has a few slow moments, or moments I didn’t particularly care for, but those moments were not enough to stop me from overall likage. Its not as good as the first film, which had that element of novelty, but its very satisfactory.

I loved a lot of things about it, but mostly it was the relationships between the characters.  I liked the cuteness between Peter ,and MJ. They really did sell the idea of them being awkward teens beginning a romantic relationship. Peter’s friends, and co-stars also get some nice story arcs, too. The action was a lot of fun and didn’t go on interminably long, which is something that always makes me start to squirm, as I get easily  distracted. I’ve watched this about three times since then, and I keep discovering new things ,and its been fun each time.

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I don’t often do sequels to my forthcoming movies posts, but I was going back through some of my older posts, and I saw that I’d watched nearly all the movies in it, and had not given even mini-reviews. so here are some of my  mini-mini-reviews.