Mini reviews of Television seasons old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional bunnies.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

HANNIBAL: SEASON TWO [2014]

"The most beautiful quality of a true friendship
is to understand and be understood with absolute clarity
."

Bryan Fuller's grotesquely beautiful psychological horror series Hannibal returns for a second helping of disturbed mind-games, exquisitely prepared stomach-turning feasts and bloody nails digging dip into the troubled psyche of it's characters and viewers alike.  Inspired by novelist Thomas Harris' characters from Red Dragon & Hannibal, the series builds into a discomforting world of it's own and seems to transform into a creature far apart from the films most folks are quick to compare it to.  

The season starts off, directly where the previous year left off at, with the heavily damaged crime scene profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) incarcerated in a mental hospital, framed for the atrociously violent crimes that his brilliantly manipulative flesh-eating psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) set him up for.  Not a single soul believes Graham (who questions himself) is innocent, even his boss Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) who blames his own agenda for pushing Will too far into the minds of the deranged killers they chase.  Here we're invested in a clever reflection of what is come, as we see Graham & Lecter speak to each other through bars, politely playing each other ever so carefully with love, hate and everything in between.   The tale digs deep in to a some darkly rich storytelling about human weaknesses, coming to terms with oneself, unhealthy obsession and where the thin line between friends and enemies is drawn.  

With a lesser talented cast, some of the more absurd moments wouldn't really work but with Fuller's imagination it places it in a nightmarish world we know doesn't exist but it feels right somewhere deep within our minds.  Unlike last year, we aren't so focused on individual cases and instead the writing is more interested in digging into the psychological aspects of the characters and how they slowly twist and turn into what Dr. Lecter wants them to be.  It's a difficult but successful task to make us believe Hannibal is as intelligent as he is but what is even more impressive is we never feel the other characters are dim-witted to not even suspect him in the slightest.
   
The show is wise to rarely ever show Hannibal's murders committed on-screen, so we do feel something for him but when we do catch the odd glimpse here and there, we're absolutely terrified and shocked at the violence erupting from the normally calm-mannered man we've grown attached to.  That's not to say there isn't any violence because the blood comes in the gallons, so much that even as a horror-hound myself, I find myself very uneasy in several moments.  It's like they break your mind down with psychological horror then absolutely traumatize you with graphic violence and to say the least, it works so very, very well.  This is especially proven in the heart-breaking bloodbath of a season finale that will leave you aghast and most likely very upset long after the credits have rolled.

The cinematic photography, on-the-nose editing, moody yet vibrant color palette and effectively frightening soundscapes from composer Brian Reitzell, makes Hannibal a rarity among the legions of more accessible shows it bumps shoulders with.  It's the cable TV show snuck onto basic cable that critics and fans alike have constantly called the best series on network television that no one's watching.  Seeing as season one and two combined play like a first chapter, it seems to be just the appetizer to what can only be an intriguing main course.  

4  man-eating pigs out of 5

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Engine Sentai Go-Onger (2008-09)


Go-Onger is the very definition of an ensemble-cast production. There’s seven Senshi, twelve mecha, a navigator robot, and three central villains. The mecha, known as Engines, are sentient creatures that all have copious amounts of dialogue and play a central role in all of the proceedings. There really are twenty-three assholes running around for the vast majority of the show. I assure you, I mean that in the most loving way possible. Every single Go-Onger is brash and impetuous in their own way, even the ones that appear cool and collected when only given a cursory glance.

Failing to conquer the Engine’s home of Machine World, three Gaiark ministers travel to Human World on their quest to pollute and conquer the 11 Braneworld dimensions composing the Go-Onger universe. However, don’t be alarmed if you find yourself developing a genuine affection for these bumbling antagonists. M.A.S.K.’s second season incomprehensibly had both of its factions chummily competing in races. That would actually make sense if it occurred for this series.

Consequently, a number of auxiliary villains appear for brief arcs to pick up the slack. This isn’t problematic because they’re logical choices and provide background, character-development, and contrast for the three mainstays. Small plot continuations also occur between episodes, especially early on. However, it’s ironically the stellar late-game one-offs which stand amongst the greatest episodes I’ve seen of any show, period.

The structure of Go-Onger’s sub-teams is worth addressing. While Green and Black are designated as back-up members they appear from the first episode and are consistently present giving it their absolute all. Position swapping and vague camera work are used to demonstrate their equal standing. In contrast, specificity of several sorts is utilized to roughly balance the two Go-On Wings. While the first female Sixth may not have a stand-alone mecha, neither does her male counterpart. They exist as a Sixth Team and given that this was Toei’s first attempt at both things, they did a very respectable job.

Though clearly segmented in terms of minutiae and classification, the Go-Ongers go on to become a startlingly unified team. No, it’s far more telling and appropriate to say that they come to be a grossly extended but genuinely indivisible family. In my experience, the series with the most humor tend to have the most sincere wealth of heart hiding underneath. Go-Onger is a prime example.

50 episodes, approx. 25 minutes each.

4 Minute Long Roll-calls out of 5