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2014 Year in Review: Is Hannibal a Good Show?

Dramas of 2014 were dark affairs.  The bleakness of True Detective, the tragedy of The Leftovers, the Game of the Thrones-ness of Game of Thrones.  Everything unravelling for Don Draper, the end of Sons of Anarchy.  Joining these ranks is a show that got a lot of attention in its second season: Hannibal.

When Hannibal arrived in early 2013 I sat watching with one though revolving in my mind, "I cannot believe this is on network television."  It is far and away the most gruesome show I have ever seen on television.  If you haven't had the chance, just imagine a show all about serial killers with an absurd flair for the dramatic where the camera shows EVERYTHING.

There is actually a scene in which a man plays a dead man's vocal chords with a violin bow.  And the guy doing the playing is the show's hero!

One of the more mild images of gore from the show.

Needless to say I was hooked on the show's appreciation for camp and pressure cooker plots.  Also, being a fan of the source material (Thomas Harris' Red Dragon novels) helps.  There is a wonderful cat and mouse game always in motion between FBI profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and brilliant super villain, Hannibal Lector (Mads Mikkelsen).  The side characters added just the right amount of spice to a wicked feast of a show.

Then the 2nd season happened, and the show blew up.  After nearly failing to get renewed because of sagging veiwership, the show was assailed by critical acclaim in its 2nd season and a ratings boost guaranteeing it a 3rd season.  But, much like a fan spurned by his favorite band's sudden rise to fame, I wasn't singing Hannibal's praise quite as loudly.

The show gradually lost some of its luster.  I nearly quit on it multiple times during its 13 episode run.  I wondered if the attention from critics wasn't some kind of "make up" game being played because the show was nearly cancelled after a fantastic first season no one saw.

Most disappointing of all were the wild departures from the source material that the show had taken.  Major characters in the books were killed off or their destinies greatly altered.  Other characters have been introduced far too soon, others are strangely absent.  This might not be so confounding if the creators haven't stood steadfast by the concept of telling the story of the novels in show.  Whether or not they remain true to this one thing is clear:  The audience is going to be robbed of time with one of the series best two characters in the form of either a premature departure of Will Graham or late entrance by Clarice Starling.

They don't make life easy for Will Graham on Hannibal.

While it is hardly condemnable for a network television show to alter the story of an over 30 years old novel series that has largely fallen into obscurity one has to worry what will keep the show's already absurd premise (just how many serial killers are there in the greater Maryland area??) from floating into Lalaland.

After its absolutely bananas season 2 finale which acted as a sort of culling for the show's cast (though I suspect all the main players will still be there when the dust settles), it is hard to say where it will go from here.  I will confess, I'll be there for the premiere, but this season is sink or swim for Hannibal, it is going to need to impress if I'm going to be there to see who is getting cut up in the next finale.


2014 Year in Review: Birdman, The Movie of the Year

Birdman is jazz.  Sure, the score to the film is a free floating drum improvisation that would go brilliantly on any night club stage with Miles Davis, but the film itself is jazz.  Only a film this expertly crafted, this meticulously constructed could look so casual, so improvised.

That is the brilliance of Birdman.

Everything about this film feels so loose.  You are the fly on the wall of a Broadway theater on the eve of disaster.  Scenes bleed into one another, leaving stains around the edges of the frame.  It all appears as sheer beautiful chaos.

In case you are a little lost, let me explain.  Birdman was filmed as to appear that all you see on screen occurred in one continuous take.  This, of course, is not the case.  Digital trickery and clever editing conceal cuts that actually were made in the filming, but much of the film was shot in long takes that required incredibly intricate levels of coordination and choreography on the part of the actors and crew.  It is a feat to see.  This alone would solidify Birdman as required viewing for any aspiring film student but it is in its wonderfully creative and character rich story that Birdman soars (couldn't resist).

Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, a washed up Hollywood actor trying to resurrect his credibility after spending it all playing a costumed super hero named Birdman.  A part that would feel all too perfect considering Keaton's caped crusader past if it weren't for how he completely disappears into the role.

Everything that happens in the opening scenes of this movie is done to establish how completely out of his depth Riggan is.  He's trying to adapt an obscure collection of short stories by a mostly forgotten author, leaving him broke and with uninspired actors.  The solution to the latter problem comes in the form of a late arrival to his cast. A brilliant but mercurial actor, Mike Shiner, played by Edward Norton.   Mike represents the world of the theater: egotistical, judgemental, and obsessed with the authenticity of his "craft".  he makes a fantastic foil to Riggan's background as a cynical and superficial film star.

Riggan's quest to complete his would-be opus is populated with a slew of brilliant supporting characters.  Foremost among them is his daughter-turned assistant, Sam, played by Emma Stone.  Sam is the oft neglected child recovering from a drug habit searching for the father in the man she works for.  It is the kind of role sure to propel Stone to the top most echelon of Hollywood talent as well as give her plenty of hardware to decorate her mantle with come the close of award season.

Stone and Norton both give Oscar caliber performances.


Finally, this twisting whirland of a story offers one last piece to make it something unique for the ages.  Inside this brilliant character study of people is a subplot asking the audience to question if Riggan didn't just play a Superhero on the big screen, but if he secretly is one in his "normal" life.  Riggan appears to be able to levitate, hurl inanimate objects with his mind, and even fly through the sky when no one else is watching.  But when other characters enter, reality comes crashing back into the scene leaving the audience to wonder if Riggan's supernatural capabilities aren't just a figment of his slightly deranged imagination.

How much of it is real and how much imagined? The beauty of Birman is never knowing for sure.

Birdman is a film about desperation and duality.  A simultaineous celebration and send-up of the NYC theater scene.  A story about a group of people frantically trying to grasp something that might not be there at all.  The final shot of the film is one left open for the audience to interpret.  Either heroic or tragic.  This viewer believes it is a positive affirmation symbolizing overcoming one's own personal doubts and demons.  Only when you accept your past can you find the peace enough to fly into the future.


2014 Year in Review: Movie Round-Up! Guardians, Babadook, Jump St. and More...

It's that time of year!  What's the album of the year?  Television show?  Film?  Rated Wrong is ready to tell you what to think about everything that assaulted your senses in 2014.  But first, we look at the also rans.  Everything else that we endured in the epic search to find the biggest, bestest, sweetest pieces of entertainment of this year that was.

Up first:  Every movie I saw this year that wasn't my pick for Movie of the Year:

The Rundown

Grand Budapest Hotel - A- = Charming, exciting, and surprisingly vulgar.  Not quite the masterpiece that Moonrise Kingdom was but still among Wes Anderson's very best.

Enough famous faces to fill a clown car.

Lone Survivor - B- = Fantastic action and performances in the lead roles.  The storytelling is emotional puppetry at its finest.  Loses points for its cheesy final act.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier - B- = Not a bad affair as far Marvel movies go, but runs too long (as usual)  and fails to cash in on any big emotional pay off.

Enemy - B =  This twisted indie flick starring Jake Gyllenhaal is a little hard to firmly grasp, but very engaging and will leave you thinking long after it ends.

The Obvious Child – C+ = A little too self aware and nearly devolves into a fantasy, but the unapologetic spirit of the film keeps it afloat.

Godzilla – C-  = Some good moments of action and emotion but ultimately there are too many faces we don’t care about and too much going on we don’t understand.

Not even Heisenberg could save it.

The Raid 2 – B+  = Top notch, martial arts blood fest.  Amazing fights, simple plot, only thing keeping it from perfection is its two hour and forty minute run time.

Neighbors – C+ = I really wanted to like this movie more than I did.  Good chemistry between actors but it doesn’t translate into many laughs.

Edge of Tomorrow – A-  = Fun and expertly crafted sci-fi action stock.  Cruise doing what he does best: getting the job done.

Tom Cruise in a role you can actually believe him as the underdog in.

X-Men: Days of Future Past – B = Fun popcorn movie full of entertaining supporting characters, if only the story was just as entertaining.  Loses luster with repeated viewings

Palo Alto – B+  = If you had told me I was about to watch a movie written by James Franco, starring Val Kilmer's son and directed by a Coppola child about a bunch of spoiled highschoolers I'd probably really want to hate it. Palo Alto has nearly everything going against it, but this loosely told tale of aimless teenagers in California has a lot of heart and rings very true.

No seriously, it is actually really good.

They Came Together – C = Paul Rudd and Amy Pohler keep this nudge-nudge wink-wink comedy afloat best they can.

The Babadook – B- = This movie came with a lot of hype.  Well acted, but highly unscary and the ending got a little silly.

Screaming a lot in a poorly lit house does not = scary.

22 Jump Street – B+ = A riotously clever (almost too clever) sequel to the raunchy 21 Jump Street.  Hard to see where they will go from here, but it can almost be guaranteed they’ll try.  Funniest movie of the year.

Interstellar - B+ = Stunning visuals and incredible sound (an Academy Award in the bank) more than make up for a patchwork plot and predictable story.  McConaughey is fantastic but damn if Anne Hatheway doesn't have the ultimate resting bitch face.

Guardians of the Galaxy – A- = Well paced action movie with a lot of heart and just the right amount of humor.  A comic book movie that you don't need to be a comic book nerd to love.  The second best movie of the year.

Lets see your second place victory dance Guardians!

undefined on Disney Video

Wondering what the movie of the year is?  Return Friday afternoon to find out!