Preacher (Season 1)

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Preacher  developed by Sam Catlin, Evan Goldberg, and Seth Rogen for AMC starring Dominic Cooper is a welcome addition to my list of top shows to watch. A dark comedy featuring a small-town preacher with a dubious past who suddenly becomes a host to a mysterious entity that allows him to literally compel people to think and act in a certain way through speech. Initially half-heartedly taking on his father’s church and duties, Jesse Custer upon discovering his new abilities, realizes that he now has the power to effect actual change to the lives of his flock. Naturally, everything comes with a price and we see him making more problems that actually solving them. In one of the best moments of the show, he accidentally sends a teenager, Eugene Root / “Arseface”, to hell. Throw into the mix, his Irish, vampire best friend, Cassidy who quite literally dropped down from the sky and his extremely capable ex-girlfriend,  Tulip O’Hare and you have a rip-roaring fun show that doesn’t shy from asking questions often skirted by other shows who are often too quick to borrow religious elements but would rather gloss over the tricky parts.

Aside from the great acting particularly from Ruth Negga and Dominic Cooper, the show’s season finale is one for the books. Don’t take my word for it and watch it.

Legion (2017)

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I just finished the first season of Legion, created for FX by Noah Hawley, based on the Marvel Comics character David Haller / Legion and I must say that I now hooked. I had my doubts with the first couple episodes its paltry eight-episode season but I now only have respect for Noah Hawley’s work on this rather difficult Marvel character. The show is praised for its departure from the now all too familiar superhero trope. My initial reservations about the show are due to its rather off-beat humor and quirky sets which I must say takes a couple of episodes to get used to. However, with its questions about the nature of reality and its portrayal of mental illness, the treatment of the show makes perfect sense.

It remains to be seen if the show will succeed in drawing in more viewers for its next season as I am certain that despite the initial hype of the show, may of those who watched the first episodes have not completed the show until its amazing season finale (and enticing mid-credits scene). If you are one of those people, I recommend watching the whole season you won’t be disappointed. If only to see the excellent work that Dan Stevens and Aubrey Plaza deliver on the show.

Penny Dreadful (2014-2016)

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A glorious, gothic feast that ended far too soon. John Logan’s Penny Dreadful, immediately caught my attention when it first came out in 2014. Drawing inspiration from the 19th century cheap fiction called penny dreadfuls which were about sensational and lurid stories. Of course, it also bears a close resemblance to the 1999 comic series, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, by writer Alan Moore and artist Kevin O’Neill which incorporated many fictional characters such as Captain Nemo, Mina Harker, Dorian Gray, the Invisible Man and other in the same world. Penny Dreadful accomplishes the same act by placing  characters from 19th-century British and Irish fiction, including Dorian Gray from Oscar Wilde‘s The Picture of Dorian Gray; Mina Harker, Abraham Van Helsing, Dr. Seward, Renfield, and Count Dracula from Bram Stoker‘s Dracula; Victor Frankenstein and his monster from Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein; and Dr. Henry Jekyll from Robert Louis Stevenson‘s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in the same narrative universe. However, Penny Dreadful, propelled by masterful writing and an amazing cast, succeeds in presenting a forbidding world where the supernatural infects the “real” world and throws its characters into tackling not only the danger brought by such creatures but also battling with their own inner demons.

It is a wonder that this show was even brought to life, for which I am extremely appreciative, but it was clear from the initial season that the show was not an easy sell and is likely to appeal only to a small percentage of the tv-watching public. Although the second season was, I presume, was more to the liking of many with its bucketful of blood and gore that should satisfy the macabre-inclined, its existential bent and a rather despondent tone was not going to make the show a ratings monster. The third and final season although providing a satisfactory conclusion to Vanessa Ives’s story (a role that appears tailor-made for Eva Green) left many of the other characters’ fates hanging. It is apparent that the low viewership and the cost of its lavish productions that the show could no longer continue. And yet despite the abrupt ending and lose ends, it is still one of the few shows that deserves to be remembered for years to come and is a testament to the writers and directors who insist that TV shows need not be mindless and superficial time wasters.

 

Closet Monster (2015)

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Coming of age movies are a dime a dozen. Often resorting to nostalgia and cheap sentiment in order to draw the audience in. Closet Monster, written and directed by Stephen Dunn and starring Connor Jessup tackles the same terrain with a sensitivity and humor that is quite unlike any other film out there. Oscar Madly, played in a star-making turn by Connor Jessup, as a creative gay teenager who finds himself attracted to his mysterious co-worker, Wilder (Aliocha Schneider) while dealing with his homophobic and troubled father. Helping him navigate the troubled waters of his youth is his pet hamster, Buffy, voiced by no other than Isabella Rossellini. The use of magic realism gives the movie a unique flavor that manages to be restrained even as it employs such fantastic elements.

Touching on several themes from homophobia, trauma, and modern sexuality, this thoughtful film deserves to be seen by a wider audience. Check out the trailer here

 

Hannibal (TV Series)

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A deliciously dark and macabre show that is unlike anything you’ll see on TV. Loosely based off Thomas Harris’ Lecter novels, the show follows the often uncomfortable relationship between FBI profiler,  Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen). The show is more interested in the “alchemy of lies and truth” and the romance of its two lead actors that plot coherence and verisimilitude turning out a show that is both grotesque and beautiful. It’s not difficult to understand why such a show that is obviously well-crafted as Hannibal’s sumptuous dinners failed to be a ratings bait given the difficult and discomfiting ideas that show attempts to tackle. For the serious TV viewer and those interested in “meatier” show, then this is the show for you to sink your teeth in.

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