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Hannibal – Amuse-Bouche (Review)

Second episodes can be tough. Pilots tend to establish the core themes and characters of a show, offering a very clear blueprint going forward and perhaps hinting at the direction that you want to take things. They are grand mission statements, couched in broad terms and delivered with a sense of novelty. Second episodes are a bit less exciting. They are about putting that plan into action, defining the edges a bit, expanding outwards where necessary and refining as needed. It’s with the second episode that you really get a sense of what a show is going to be like in a more practical week-to-week sense.

By that measure, Amuse-Bouche works quite well at giving us a sense of putting the show’s feet on the ground and helping prepare us for what lies ahead for the rest of the season.

It's growing on me...

It’s growing on me…

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Hannibal – Aperitif (Review)

I’ll admit to being a bit sceptical about Hannibal as a concept. I am quite fond of all three of the Anthony Hopkins films, although I realise that both Red Dragon and Hannibal are flawed pieces of work at best. I also have a soft spot for Michael Mann’s Manhunter, even if I am not as firm a devotee as others. However, there’s a point where you reach saturation even with an especially interesting character.

There was something increasingly frustrating about watching Thomas Harris and various writers and directors delve beneath the surface of “Hannibal the Cannibal” to offer trite explanations and rationalisations for a character who was originally a force of nature. A television series seems to be the perfect way to over-saturate the market even further. If the character of Hannibal could seem trite and mundane after four films released years apart, how do you make a weekly television series exciting?

Surely you’ll either resort to explaining away all the mystery of the character, or you’ll simply wind up with a particularly shallow and generic serial killer show. There is a middle ground to be found, but it will be hard to strike that balance. With that in mind, I will confess that I am quite impressed with the pilot for Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal. Although it’s too early to form a definitive judgement, Aperitif is quite appetising.

The meat of the matter...

The meat of the matter…

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Star Trek – Season 1 (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

That came together rather well, didn’t it? With the current success of Star Trek as a blockbuster movie franchise, it’s fun to speculate about the show possibly returning to television. Being honest, I would be nervous about that. In this cut-throat age where ratings need to solidify (or start rising) almost immediately, I wouldn’t trust the first season of a Star Trek spin-off to rope in viewers quick enough. None of the Star Trek spin-offs, from The Next Generation through to Enterprise, had what could be considered “strong” first years. Occasionally there were a few classic episodes buried in there, as with Deep Space Nine, but it always seems to take a Star Trek show some time to find its “space legs”, so to speak. Time that I am not sure it would be afforded in the current market place.

Which makes it all the more spectacular that Star Trek itself started out so phenomenally. The first year of the show (and the franchise) is not only the best first season of any Star Trek show ever, it’s also in the running for the best of the thirty seasons of television that the franchise has produced. Not bad at all, considering that it seems like nobody had any idea what exactly they were doing when they started out.

tos-miri18

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Star Trek – Shore Leave (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

When I talk about the surreal sixties energy that really holds quite a bit of Star Trek together, it’s quite possible that it sounds like a back-handed compliment, a cheap and easy gig at a cult television show. However, I mean that sincerely. When I argue that the illogical and somewhat scattershot dynamism of the last act of Court Martial can barely hold the patchwork script together, it’s quite possible that I sound like I’m being sarcastic. However, my affection for the mad-cap mayhem particular to the first iteration of Star Trek is entirely genuine. Although it makes no sense, the climax to Court Martial isn’t the problem. Everything leading up to it is.

I think Shore Leave is pretty much the perfect iteration of this concept. It is, from start to finish, absolutely insane nonsense that threatens to fall apart if one concentrates too hard on any particular detail. However, it’s executed with enough energy and drive that it becomes a compelling and surreal piece of television, and one of the best illustrations of the kind of weirdness that the classic Star Trek could pull off almost effortlessly.

No bunny business...

No bunny business…

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Star Trek – Charlie X (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

It really is incredibly difficult to divorce Star Trek from the sixties. I know that this has become something of a (very obvious) theme in these daily reviews, but Charlie X is the kind of Star Trek episode that could only have been produced for television in the sixties. It isn’t necessarily the presence of a single factor, it’s more the package as a whole. While the general concept (“The Day Charlie Became God”, to quote Roddenberry’s succinct synopsis from his 1964 Star Trek Is… pitch) could easily be adapted for any of the spin-offs (and Hide & Q clearly plays on the same idea), the execution is so firmly anchored in the sixties that it’s very hard to separate and parse.

Part of it is the weird use of coloured lighting on the mostly grey Enterprise sets, something that Inside Star Trek suggests was down to the fact that NBC was owned at the time by RCA, a major manufacturer of colour television sets. Part of it is the somewhat confused sexuality that is a weird mix of liberated and outdated. Part of it is the fact that the show features an impromptu musical and dance number. The idea of Charlie X might be fairly simplistic, but the execution is very clearly and very distinctively Star Trek.

Screaming to the Evans...

Screaming to the Evans…

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Tomb of Dracula Omnibus, Vol. III (Review/Retrospective)

Darkness spreads across the land like a bone-chilling evening mist. It swirls, boils and froths.

Then, at the moment when midnight madness is at its greatest, the darkness takes form and substance and becomes a thing of hell-born horror.

This is… THE TOMB OF DRACULA.

Pray you can avoid its deadly embrace…

Sometimes classic movie monsters just look better in black and white, eh? Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan told pretty much a complete Tomb of Dracula epic in the seventy issues of the main title produced in the previous two omnibus collections. This third gigantic tome collects a lot of what might be considered “a Tomb of Dracula miscellany”, collecting various odds and ends from Marvel’s Draculacomics during the seventies to sort of expand and enhance the story told in the main title. It isn’t as consistent as that seventy-issue run, with a variety of weaving story threads, one-shots, text stories and a variety of artistic and authorial talent, but it’s still an interesting look at Marvel’s horror comics during the seventies.

Feed your Dracula addiction!

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Non-Review Review: Hannibal

I actually have a bit of a soft spot for Hannibal. I think the key to enjoying and appreciating Ridley Scott’s 2001 serial-killer film is to realise that it’s a fundamentally different animal to The Silence of the Lambs, to the point where it isn’t really a sequel – despite featuring many of the same characters and considerably fewer of the same actors. Those expecting a faithful follow-up or conclusion will be disappointed, as will those who fell in love with Jonathan Demme’s delightfully understated The Silence of the Lambs. Even the title character here seems to lack the complexity he demonstrated in that earlier instalment, instead acting like the villain of a slasher film cast in the unlikely role of an anti-hero.

Still, despite these flaws, Hannibal is quite entertaining (if far too uneven and unsatisfying) on its own terms.

She looks good enough to eat…

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The Once Terrifying Hannibal Lecter: Upping the Ante on the Anti-Hero…

I have the pleasure of catching a rather wonderful screening of The Silence of the Lambs last week. It was a fantastic evening, not least because I got a chance to finally see the film on the big screen for the first time. However, it occurred to me on watching it that Hannibal Lecter was much more compelling as a character here than he would eventually become. With the (very debatable) exception of Brett Ratner’s Red Dragon, Lecter’s subsequent film appearances feel like they are missing some vital component. I like Hannibal more than most, but I think the character suffers when promoted to lead. The less said about Hannibal Rising, the better. I am more than a little wary about the upcoming television show, even if it does star Mads Mikkelsen. What happened? When did Lecter become so toothless?

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