Wednesday, November 30, 2016

“Blu-ray or Bust” - HELL OR HIGH WATER

“Blu-ray or Bust”

Chris Pine has been making a statement for the last few years.

After un-Shatnering James T. Kirk in the latest STAR TREK films, his performances in-between have proven him to be a versatile and rather fearless actor. In 2014’s uncredited role in STRETCH, Pine (literally) lets it all hang out, showing that he had the comedic chops to match his action-star skills.

Now, with HELL, he pretty much acts his ass off.

Directed by David Mackenzie (PERFECT SENSE) and written by Taylor Sheridan, the brilliant brain behind SICARIO, HELL is a story about brothers—two by blood, two by partnership. The dynamics of these relationships is what makes this one of the best character study/Texas crime thrillers since the Cohen Brothers gave us NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. And while there may seem to be some similarities between the two films, there is no comparison when it comes to the story, the life lessons, and the individually brilliant performances on display here.

Jeff Bridges is the acidic, thoughtful Texas Ranger who, with his partner (played by the patient, quiet, and wonderful master of body language Gil Birmingham of the TWILIGHT “films”), chase down two bank-robbing brothers who seem to be hell-bent on robbing every branch of Texas Midlands Bank that they can. It is the story behind each character that fascinates; what each one is willing to do or sacrifice for the other is as touching as it can be under the sometimes violent circumstances. Playing “Tanner” to Pine’s Toby is the versatile Ben Foster (WARCRAFT, LONE SURVIVOR). He gives a performance which runs much deeper than his outward toughness reveals; the connection between the brothers is obvious. These are roles no other actors could have pulled off the way this ensemble does, so don’t be surprised if you see a few nominations for these well-deserving players.

At times, you might wonder about the underlying story being a bit heavy-handed with the visuals. From houses for sale to debt relief billboards on the side of the various roads, poverty seems to be an overbearing, unspoken character which drives every person in this movie to their destinies.

There are enough special features to answer any questions you may have. From a look behind the characters and their relationships to set locations, you are not left wanting for more. And to truly appreciate the desolation and desperation of these locales (not to mention the characters), the Blu-ray format is a must.

In a film that showcases realistic performances and situations, you should also cast a loving eye to the ‘Angriest Waitress in the World’, Margaret Bowman. You may or may not recall her from a myriad of television performances, but you most certainly will remember her from HELL. That’s the trick of this film; just when you think you are watching actors at the top of their game, Mackenzie throws in a performance so natural, so wonderfully eccentric, that you wonder if you are watching a movie or real lives unfold.

There are too many little moments that turn this film into a lifelike sketch of the real world and its daily problems to describe here. Do yourself a favor, and go discover them for yourself.

Film Grade: A
Special Features: A
Blu-ray Necessary: Most definitely

- T.S.Kummelman

Thursday, November 24, 2016


The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: 

The Quick of It -
There is a reason they have 'fantastic' in the title.  No, not for the awesome creatures themselves, more for the sense of wonder they bring.

Set in the Potter world, FANTASTIC BEASTS offers a whole new set of characters and settings, taking place before Potter was a seed in his mother's belly.  They started off by doing the most intelligent thing they could, put director David Yates behind the camera.  He was responsible for closing out the Potter series.  This allowed for a sense of continuity in the visual style.  With a total of four more in the works and him directing each, the future does look bright.

As an animal lover, this film resonates with me on many levels.  Don't get me wrong, not a PETA card carrying member or a vegetarian.  The human's set of teeth prove we are meat eaters, so don't judge.  Each critter in the film is great and adds a depth to the sense of urgency and the impulsive need to protect while watching the story unfold.

The casting left no room for error.  Leading with Eddie Redmayne (of THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, THE DANISH GIRL, and LES MISERABLES), who plays the socially awkward Newt, and Katherine Waters (INHERENT VICE, STEVE JOBS, and MICHAEL CLAYTON) as the uptight and recently demoted MACUSA (The Magical Congress of the United States of America) agent Tina, they walk you through the American side of wizarding and witchcraft.  Colin Farrell is... well... Colin Farrell.  He plays Graves and makes me want to rewatch all his past films just so I can get a larger "Farrell Fix".  He is commanding and holds an air of knowing and assuredness you want to trust.  As the comic relief and glue to the main crew, Dan Fogler (of KUNG FU PANDA and BALLS OF FURY) could not have been better.  He is the gateway for us muggles, now also called no-maj, to glimpse into the wizarding world from an outsider's perspective.  To add a final role, Ezra Miller (our new Flash) played an abused teenager and he is quite creepy.  There really is little disappointment to be found with the casting choices.

One risk they took was incorporating more CGI.  They didn't have much choice when the beasts were involved, but they stepped away from the prostheses they typically used in the past.   This was somewhat endearing for the Hogwarts world and I enjoyed the retro feel, but they used CGI on the goblins and other potential creature-builds in FANTASTIC.  I have to conclude they also had no choice thanks to the character interaction and physical maneuvering that was required.  That was one of the weaknesses from before, like the goblin hands, very unnatural in movement.  You do not want to disrupt the illusion, and push audience members out of the story.  So, I give them a pass.

The story was exciting, but was also stressful.  I couldn't get over a few of his creatures being loose in New York at first.  I knew that things had to happen but I wanted them to be collected up before the rest of the story continued.  Absurd of me... I know.  Or maybe OCD kicking in.  If you can make your way on this fine day, do so.  You will be pleasantly delighted.

Grade: A

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: NERVE

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: 
on NERVE (2016, 96 minutes, PG-13)

The Quick of It -
Well, I believe I have reached deep into the mind of a teenage girl and may have lost myself.  Help me... PLEASE!!!

This film is based on a techno-thriller novel by Jeanne Ryan and centered around the potential craziness social media can lead to.  Director team Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who also paired up for VIAL and the PARANORMAL ACTIVITIES, added to a growing genre for tween-targeted thriller and horror films.

The start was a crazy stumble through internet and app training.  It looked like a 'how to' video on YouTube.  Believe it or not, they did pretty well, as I can imagine those uncivilized toads not familiar with the internet and cell phones would have been quickly lost.  (It's a Trump world, I can say anything disparaging I want....)  And shortly after, you get a Nerve dare for a teenage girl, who is a cheerleader, to bear her butt at a high school event.  They didn't show, but wow.  People are going to jail for that one!  So, not thinking I can survive this one, I make myself promise to push through another 15 minutes as fair play before giving up. 

This casting was very effective and each selection, even for the smaller parts, made an impact.  Emma Roberts (of WE'RE THE MILLERS and AQUAMARINE) as Vee is very endearing and plays the perfect role for this story.  Dave Franco (of NOW YOU SEE ME and 21 JUMP STREET) continues to be a great addition to any project and makes you root for him, even when he is a douche.  The theme of the story directly targets cyberbullying and peer pressure.  I remember being a teenager once (long ago....) and could imagine some of those dares being made, and having your friends pushing you into the 'danger zone'.  Okay yeah... I was a teenager in the 80's.

Once the crap hits the fan, the pace picked up and the danger became all to real.  What seemed a struggle to get past the first 20 minutes pays off.  The hidden agenda slowly revealed itself and held together when you tried not to think too hard.  The climatic end boiled over the edge of the pot and everyone burns.  EVERYONE!  Okay, maybe not that bad, it was a tween movie.  Believe it or not, the end could be a must see.  There are some sappy and quick wrap-ups, but the overall resolution was spot on. 

I cannot endorse this film in all good conscience, as my mind has been corrupted with near-prepubescent hormones.  But... make some time.  You may be as surprised as I was... or needing some strong counseling.  Whatever...

Grade: B-

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: ARRIVAL

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: 
on ARRIVAL (2016, 114 minutes, PG-13)

The Quick of It -
My head has been swimming with sci-fi for the past month.  Aliens, spaceships, and anything in-between are plaguing my workload and dreams.  So, while making my way to the theater to see ARRIVAL, I was not necessarily as thrilled as I should have been.

Based on “Story of Your Life” written by Ted Chiang, ARRIVAL revolves around a linguist who is trying to find a way to communicate with aliens.  In this ‘first contact’ storyline, you get some of the typical story interaction you find in these films as well as some new elements to deepen the sub-plots.  ARRIVAL takes the path of a harder science perspective on the ‘how’ but softens it up with strong character development.  Honestly, the film is pretty straightforward and kinda has an expected ending.  Even though there is a twist, you are spoonfed along the way, so it doesn’t come off as a great reveal. 

Director Denis Villeneuve (of PRISONERS and SICARIO) keeps the drama thick but it comes off as bland plotlining.  The cast is quite phenomenal, which does help.  Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker help build the sense of realism, which is key for stories like this.  By the end though, something that maybe an innovative read seemed drowned in normalcy as a film.  I think the most impressive trick is that this could be a potential outcome for our real world ‘first contact’.

Grade: B

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

“Blu-ray or Bust” - SAUSAGE PARTY

“Blu-ray or Bust”

Comedy has changed quite a bit over the years. When I was younger, the comedy of Mel Brooks used to push the limits; there was a big wink behind those edgy lines, a hint that there was much more to the joke, and it set your imagination to work. You read into what Brooks was implying, and the comedy worked so much better because of it.

Decades later finds that subtle art left bleeding and dying in aisle twelve. The comedy of today is all about shock and awe-did-they-really-just-go-there?, where you don’t even get a wink and a nod to your own imagination—you are a slave to the inner workings of the filmmaker’s own brains. This overwhelming brand of shock comedy can sometimes leave you shaking your head—other times, it works wonderfully.

SAUSAGE PARTY knows there is a line there between the genius subtlety of Brooks and every bad word not in the dictionary, and at times goes to great lengths to gleefully pounce right over that line and obliterate all of your safe zones. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a prude—I enjoy inappropriate language just as much as the next a-hole. And there is a lot that works in this R-rated cartoon FOR ADULTS. The music, the voice acting, the animation itself; even the opening musical number, it all screams PIXAR and DISNEY. These are all wonderful and brilliant strokes: Salma Hayek as a lesbian taco, Edward Norton as a Jewish bagel, and Nick Kroll as an angry feminine hygiene product (I was gonna write “angry douche”, but I didn’t want it to sound insulting…) are all amazing and mature casting choices that lend credence to the filmmakers’ vision.

But the first most important casting choice (and this was tough, because Norton does an amazing job)? Bill Hader. The man should use this film as his calling card. Seriously. He voices three distinctly different characters, and his ad-libbing is nothing short of comedic brilliance.

The plot itself is simple enough: a jar of Honey Mustard (voiced by Danny McBride, who is responsible for our first waaaaay over-the-top moment) returns from The Great Beyond, the place where all the food in a supermarket believes they are taken to. Honey Mustard knows the truth of it all, and it is his knowledge of the outside world that spurns a food rebellion. There are some genuinely funny moments here, and then there are times when Seth Rogen and Company take things just a wee bit too far. What starts off as a funny joke (look, there’s no subtle way to say it, so: FOOD ORGY) goes about forty-five seconds too long. There are several laugh-out-loud moments in this film, and then there are others that make you wonder if they were purposely trying to make something that you’ll never see on the ABC Sunday Night Movie (yeah, that used to be a thing, bite my old butt). Then again, if you commit to the first thirty minutes, you’re in it for the long haul, kids.

Which reminds me—DON’T LET THE KIDS WATCH THIS. Again: this is an R-rated adult cartoon, and for damn good reason. The animation is top notch, and there are several careful touches to the proceedings that make this more of a serious endeavor than the script would sometimes have you believe.

You kind of have to get this one on Blu-ray. The animation and sound are that good, and you lose some of the detail with the regular DVD format. There are several funny and informative docs in the Special Features; the best is “The Great Beyond” (a short on how seriously they took the composing of the music in the film) and “Shock and Awe” (which illustrates how difficult of a pitch this film actually was). The worst is “The Pitch”, a poorly yet thankfully short MTV interview with Rogen.

As SAUSAGE made quite a bit of money at the box office, I would not expect this to be the last adult animation film ever made. Duplicating the skill of this particular cast and crew may prove to be a bit difficult, however, and any future undertaking has little chance of matching the crude and oftentimes hilarious vulgarity of this movie.

Film Grade: B-
Special Features: B
Blu-ray Necessary: Recommended

-- T.S. Kummelman

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: DOCTOR STRANGE

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: 
on DOCTOR STRANGE (2016, 115 minutes, PG-13)

The Quick of It -
Marvel has such a large library now of feature films, it’s becoming more difficult to keep ranking them as new ones are released.  I will say DOCTOR STRANGE sits well above most, but probably will still receive some dismissals from those people and critics not so open-minded.

This story is about a neurosurgeon who gets into a car accident and shatters his skillful hands.  He starts down a path that leads to a world that highly regards the mystical arts and offers a possible means to recover from these career-ending injuries.  Director Scott Derrickson (of SINISTER, THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, and DELIVER US FROM EVIL) heads up this project and does a fantastic job.  The journey to complete this film was in itself a route towards spiritual ascendancy, when looking back at how long this was in the making.  The idea of a DOCTOR STRANGE movie shifted a number of times since 1986 between studios, writers, and directors before this project was the one to see the light of day. 

I believe this is an example of how times have changed in filmmaking.  Before this amazing CGI era, science fiction and fantasy films suffered greatly.  Those fringe audience members could almost appreciate a good Stan Winston or Industrial Light & Magic supported film, but still may not buy into the hype.  And those who scoffed at any overly-imaginative film would not even take the time.  Now, people quickly allow themselves to be swallowed up into the illusion and give more leeway when it comes to these types of projects.  For the bottom line, studios knew this and were not willing to risk backing a possible money pit. 

DOCTOR STRANGE was one of those films hung up in the development stage for the longest time… until now.  The level of CGI development to make this work must have been astounding, and the detail that went into making ‘magic’ a visual experience was a feat in itself.  Even with the required leap of faith, the success here was due to the fundamentals of magic being grounded in far eastern philosophies, and something most audience members have some familiarity.  If they played it too loose, once you break beyond that comfort zone, you start to lose people.

The last major delay was the studio and shot-callers trying to find the right actor for Strange, which probably was a ploy so they could fit the production time into Benedict Cumberbatch’s schedule.  This was the best decision they made in a long line of good decisions.  Even though there were other possible choices, he IS the ONLY choice.  The rest of the cast was such a strong one.  You have Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 YEARS A SLAVE, SERENITY), Tilda Swinton (WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, ADAPTATION), Benedict Wong (PROMETHEUS, ‘Marco Polo’), Mads Mikkelsen (CASINO ROYALE, ‘Hannibal’), and Rachel McAdams (SHERLOCK HOLMES, SPOTLIGHT, SOUTHPAW).  With this much dramatic blood coursing through the film’s veins, the possible issues with ‘magic realism’ was never a danger.  This was a lesson learned by Derrickson when working on horror films… and it pays off.

DOCTOR STRANGE is a perfect example of how times have changed for the film industry.  Risky projects are now a part of the mainstream and studios don’t shy away those large budgets.  Audiences are willing to head to the theaters and a saturated superhero genre can still have box office hits.  This is a wonderful time to be alive.

Grade: B+

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

“Blu-ray or Bust” - STAR TREK BEYOND

“Blu-ray or Bust”

Ladies and gentlemen, J.J. Abrams has officially left the building.

If you are looking for any singular Abramsesque moments the third installment of the STAR TREK reboot, you will be sorely disappointed. While he may have produced it, his influence shows not in this fast paced, helter-skelter sequel to the arguably genius INTO DARKNESS. (I’ll fight ten diehard Trekkies over that one, too.) This time around, we have the frenetic eyeballs of Justin Lin of FAST AND FURIOUS fame.

If you want to call it that.

Don’t misunderstand me—there are some fantastic moments in this film. All of our characters are back, and many of the ones that usually take a back seat to Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), and the flappable Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban), get to shine with what is given them. This film is also heavy with the nods to the original “Trek” and its cast; Pine is more Shatner-like than ever before, there is a lingering image of the original cast, and, in the most touching moment, a serious wink and a smile to George Takei when it comes to Sulu’s family life. It is in these little moments, and the characters, which make this a Trek film.

Beyond that, well…

This “episode” plays out almost like a TNG film—sometimes, it is way too desperate to hold your attention. It is action packed, but the action feels scripted, at times predictable. The charm of the previous films was some of the unpredictability of the action sequences. You know our characters are going to be okay, but it’s how they get to that inevitable conclusion that is the most fun. You get robbed of that this time around.

Simon Pegg (“Scotty”) helped pen the script, and his touches—the humor, the different character arcs—are what save this from total ruin. Therein lies the problem: it is obvious this film was written by two different people. The other screenwriter—and more than likely whom we have to thank for the exuberant action scenes—is Doug Jung, a guy whose prior credits include mostly television programs. And none of them were even remotely Trekish.

You’ll want to check out most of the special features; the best are the ones on the technical designs (the huge sets they chose to build rather than CGI), and the Gag Reel. There is also a five minute “appreciation” of Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin (Chekov), both of whom died in the last year. But of that five minutes, almost a minute of it is devoted to end credits—something totally unnecessary in a tribute video. What at first seems fitting and heart touching is quickly turned to tribble poop because someone felt they needed to be acknowledged for holding a microphone for a ten second this-is-why-Nimoy-was-great quote. It seems in poor taste, kind of like how the filmmakers under-used Idris Elba as the bad guy.

While this film is not a necessary addition to your library, there are moments of honest acting here that do demand your attention. And it’s still better than STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK. Let’s hope this popcorn flick does not end the future of the franchise because of its slightly sour taste.

(And if anyone else agrees that the space city of “Yorktown” is an obvious starting point for a television show, let me know—you don’t just throw Greg Grunberg in something of a bit part and not expect it to look gratuitously obvious…)

Film Grade: C
Special Features: B
Blu-ray Necessary: Recommended

-- T.S.Kummelman

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: INFERNO

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: 
on INFERNO (2016, 121 minutes, PG-13)

The Quick of It -
The story continues for our great puzzle solver, Robert Langdon.  Based on the book written by Dan Brown, Langdon finds himself in an Italian hospital with amnesia.  Under immediate fire and on the run, he is joined by Dr. Sienna Brooks to discover how he ended up in the hospital, which then leads to a much greater mystery, one that threatens the world.

I will say Dan Brown knows how to research the ‘hell’ out of his ideas (sorry, a pun since this story revolves around Dante) but I have never been a fan of his writing style.  I remember when everyone was hyping his books when THE DA VINCI CODE movie was released.  During that time, I was trapped in Walmart having a tire put on my truck and was needing to kill some time.  I just happened to be walking down their book isle and saw the ‘Code’ on a shelf.  I proceeded to spend the next 30 minutes reading the first chapters, and was not pleasantly surprised.  His chapters were short and choppy.  The writing had no natural flow and I just couldn’t get into the setting.  This is not to say he is not a good author, just that we will never have a nightstand relationship.  The man does know how to research and build a story.  I will not take that away from him but it is not enough to keep me entertained.  The movies, though…

Tom Hanks returns as Langdon, and has his typical performance.  Nothing to be ashamed of but not a prize role.  Felicity Jones (of THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING and THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN) was the leading lady and does well enough, but I am more excited to see what she does in ROGUE ONE.  Irrfan Khan plays a ‘special’ contractor who handles ‘special’ (wink-wink) projects for the rich and powerful.  His was an exciting role but falters at the end… somehow undergoes a brain hemorrhage in his earlier implied capabilities. 

Director Ron Howard does know who to tell a good story visually, making up for Brown.  Howard’s past projects include IN THE HEART OF THE SEA, RUSH, CINDERELLA MAN, APOLLO 13, FAR AND AWAY, BACKDRAFT, WILLOW, and A BEAUTIFLU MIND.  If you haven’t caught on to what I am indirectly pointing out, he is able to move across genres and has an extraordinary filmography.  I believe he has done more for the film industry in storytelling than even Spielberg.  Yeah, you heard me right.  This story adds to a great run of beautifully crafted films.

What Howard does in this film is a step beyond.  He takes those fragmented memories floating around in Langdon’s brain and brings them to life.  He takes pieces of art and makes them real, putting real past situations and warping them into visceral scenes, creating moving depictions of the artworks as you would believe the artists intended.  He breathed life into a still canvas.  This includes Dante’s work, so much of it was twisted and dark, just how I like.  You get a sense of how Dante saw hell and you lived in Langdon’s hell, a prized memory now corrupted.

The one thing that makes this a Brown story but bothered me was how everyone seems to be a puzzle, to be revealed through the story.  Near about everyone.  I think my problem with this is that a key aspect to writing was not respected.  If the viewpoint was from Langdon, proven to be an untrustworthy observer, sure.  But when you go through other characters’ perspectives, now everyone is to not be trusted, and you lose sense of the film and trust nothing.  This is not recommended and frowned upon in most writings and leaves the reader feeling slighted.

INFERNO will probably not be high on your must watch list, and that is okay.  Just make time to see it when you can, Howard makes this film worthy.

Grade: B

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

“Blu-ray or Bust” - CAPTAIN FANTASTIC

“Blu-ray or Bust”

Parenting ain’t no easy thang. Trying to do it in the woods, with no communication with the outside world? Only possible if you are Viggo Mortensen.

As “Ben”, Mortensen spends his days raising his six kids in the woods, training them to become ‘warrior philosophers’. Might sound a bit extreme, but it isn’t when you get to know this rather unique family. He has taught the kids not only how to hunt and defend themselves, but he and his estranged wife have also raised them to think for themselves, and to view world politics and religions as manmade constructs that enable consumerism and…wait…sorry, but when the designated eight-year-old of the film can go from defending the Bill of Rights in one scene to cursing at a gravesite in another, your brain gets kinda warped after a bit.

It also gets a little warped when you see Viggo Mortensen’s ding-dong waving hello to the world. Literally. You can almost hear the damn thing going, “Hey, everybody! I’m Viggo Mortensen’s ding-dong!”

The brilliance of this film, and its performers (no, not talking about the dingy), is that you totally buy into each individual personality and how this way of life seems idyllic for this particular family dynamic. What starts off seeming like the darkest chapter of “Lord of the Flies” quickly becomes the norm. It is when they are introduced to society through the death off a close relative that they start to realize their singular shortcomings. They may have an extreme amount of book knowledge, but existing in “the real world” is an alien experience for them.

The writing is fresh, the dialogue oftentimes hilarious, and the actors all do an exemplary job with what limited time they each have to work. There are a few scenes which are unnecessarily predictable, and are the only times this movie steers toward normal Hollywood ambivalence. You occasionally get the feeling that writer/director Matt Ross is trying to appease too many audiences at once, when really all you want him to do is tell this family’s story. Stop pandering to modern-day movie-goer sensibilities, Mr. Ross; you caught our attention with the bus named “Steve”, stop kowtowing to predictability.

There is only one four-minute doc for a special feature, which is really a shame. Child actors usually add a plethora of interesting tidbits for a gag reel or interviews, but all you get is what amounts to a long commercial. There is very little insight as to how these performers did working together “in the wild”, or what sort of training they had to go through in order to learn how to properly use hunting knives.

This film is funny, tragic, heart breaking, and, at times, a wonderful ode to parenting. Just don’t believe that it is perfectly okay to give an eight year old the gift of a hunting knife, okay? I didn’t say the parenting skills on display here were perfect…

Film Grade: B+
Special Features: D
Blu-ray Necessary: Recommended


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

“Obscurities and Irish Coppers: The Show You Haven’t Been Watching on NETFLIX”

“Obscurities and Irish Coppers: The Show You Haven’t Been Watching on NETFLIX”


(2013-2016, Approx. 60 minutes per episode, 18 ep., BBC NORTHERN IRELAND)

I hate using the words “atmospheric” and “moody” when it comes to foreign shows about killers and cops. But if you are looking for a visual definition of both of those over-used adjectives, look no further than BBC’s THE FALL.

Starring Gillian Anderson as Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson and Jamie Dornan as serial killer Paul Spector, this is a tale of what drives us, what consumes us, and what we do to save ourselves when things start to fall apart. It’s also about protecting ourselves from our own destructive behavior, and how we can never outrun our demons. This is a smart, thoughtful show—even more so in its third (and what looks to be final) season. It focuses on the little things that make us human, and exploits them in such a way as to show that it’s all the little parts of the psyche that can drive you mad or make you desperate for utter control.

The newly posted third season picks up within minutes of that “what the hell did she just do?!?” finale of the choppy second season. And if the frenetic energy of the first episode doesn’t grab you, you need to go back to watching sitcoms with laugh-tracks and old episodes of “Murder, She Wrote.” There is not really a weak episode in this final act, but that first one (not to mention the shocking finale) may change what you expect from your TV.

If the first season focused on the crime, and the second on the capture, this one centers on the strengthening of the case against Spector, and the aftermath of the events of the previous storylines. Allowing Dorner to explore a different side of the totally mental killer makes for smart television; if you find yourself sympathizing with the psychopath, the writer/director has done his job right. And Allan Cubitt does his job exceedingly well. The acting, as usual is superb. Anderson shows the same depth she did in the previous arcs, and it never gets tiring. Her Gibson is achingly human; watching how easily she connects with victims yet struggles so internally with her colleagues is heartbreaking at times.

And Dorner…oh, Dorner. You sexy, violent beast, you. The surprises he has in store for you this time around are even viler than before, because it’s no longer just a matter of the serial killer at large. Now, it’s a matter of do they really have the animal caged? And what kind of animal is it, exactly?

Surprisingly, this show has yet to be recognized by any American awards shows; it has yet to win an Emmy, which is a shame that needs to be corrected. Again, that first episode… it is poetic, violent in its realistic ballet of doctors saving lives, and brutal in its honest portrayal of normal people caught up in horrible circumstances. If only every show you watch this year showed the same painstaking care that this one does when it comes to dealing with its characters and subject matter…

And if none of that makes you want to watch the show, remember: Irish people have really cool accents. You’re welcome.

Series Grade: A-
Season Three Grade: A

-- T.S. Kummelman

You guys have been a little slow, lately…no challenges?!? This is a lot easier than it sounds, kids; Netflix always throws some stupid sounding queues together for you (Quirky Bollywood Movies, Foreign Horror Comedies, etc), so think of something creative and make me hunt this stuff down! Otherwise, I’m binge watching “Stranger Things” as many times as I can over the next few weeks…