Sex, Leins & Videotape #188. Tom Leins reviews Hannibal – Season 2, Postman Pat: The Movie and Tokarev

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Hannibal Lecter, Postman Pat and Nicolas Cage go head-to-head in this week’s DVD round-up.

Hannibal - Season 2

At the outset of Hannibal – The Complete Season Two (StudioCanal) criminal profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) is incarcerated in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, accused of a series of crimes committed by cannibalistic culinarian Dr Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen). Now that Will sees Hannibal for what he truly is, he faces a fight to prove his own sanity and convince his former colleagues that he is innocent of murder. Meanwhile, Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne), the head of Behavioural Sciences at the FBI, is dealing with his own conflicted feelings about Will – a man he pressurised into assisting with his earlier investigations, despite Will’s obviously damaged psyche. Looking for answers, Jack turns to a man he has come to trust: Hannibal Lecter.

The first season of Hannibal was a stylish, ghoulish, richly imagined piece of work, but as it wore on it left me increasingly cold, with the slow pace and constant, unrelenting unpleasantness slightly draining. Pleasingly, the second outing feels like a big step up in quality, with the psychological cat ‘n’ mouse games between Hannibal and Will taking on a new dimension now that Will is incarcerated. Whereas the artfully concocted crime scenes generally provided the unappetising main course in the first season, this time around they are side dishes, complementing the central battle of wits.

Mikkelsen excels as Hannibal Lecter, offering a fresh, engaging spin on an iconic character already brought to life by both Brian Cox and Anthony Hopkins, and he is joined by a well-judged supporting cast – including Eddie Izzard, Raul Esparza, Cynthia Nixon and Gillian Anderson – each of whom helps to flesh out the warped universe. Cleverly plotted and elaborately constructed, Hannibal is well worth persevering with, especially if the first series left you undecided. A macabre treat.

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On our screens since 1981, Postman Pat is something of a British TV institution, and after undergoing a contemporary makeover in 2008, when it was rebadged Postman Pat: Special Delivery Service, and retooled for the Amazon generation, the series has now been given a big screen makeover.

Postman Pat: The Movie (Lionsgate) sees the title character (voiced by Stephen Mangan, Green Wing, Episodes) seduced by the prospect of fame after national TV talent show ‘You’re The One’ comes to Greendale. Desperate to take his long-suffering wife Sara on the Italian honeymoon she has always dreamed of, but frustrated by his employer’s new bonus-free regime, Pat seizes his moment in the spotlight, only to lose sight of everything he holds dear in the process. Meanwhile, Pat’s ruthless new boss Edwin Carbunkle spots an opportunity of his own, and unveils a range of robotic postal workers – the Patbot 3000s – who cause havoc, and trash Pat’s reputation at the same time.

Unfortunately, in trying to contemporise the character of Postman Pat, the producers have dispensed with a lot of the charm of the TV series, relegating all of the TV show’s familiar faces to superfluous supporting roles, and pressing ahead with a dreary narrative that leaves Greendale and its residents well and truly in the background. In a few years the X-Factor pastiche will seem as regrettable as the involvement of Ronan Keating – who doubles as Pat’s singing voice – and this kind of poor judgement undermines a breezy film with a smattering of well-crafted postmodern jokes. Despite some neat touches, the erratic storytelling and strangely bland animation render Postman Pat: The Movie a real missed opportunity.

(Adults can pick apart Postman Pat: The Movie to their hearts content, but what do the kids think? My little boy watched it three times back-to-back, with repeat viewings every day for the next week – which represents a proper thumbs-up in our house!)

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In Tokarev (Anchor Bay) Nicolas Cage stars as Paul Maguire, a reformed criminal enjoying life as a family man and pillar of the community in Alabama. However, his violent past comes back to haunt him when his teenage daughter is kidnapped by mystery assailants, forcing him to coax his old crew out of retirement to wage war on the local Russian mafia, with whom Paul has a history of bad blood. Unfortunately, his campaign of violence yields more questions than answers, and Paul is unable to quit until all of his former enemies are dead and buried.

Nicolas Cage presumably enjoyed Liam Neeson’s performance in Taken immensely, as he has embraced the wronged-family-man-on-the-rampage sub-genre and run with it in recent years, notching up roles in the bluntly-titled likes of Trespass, Justice, Stolen and now Tokarev (previously titled Rage). Less starry than its predecessors – the only other household names are Danny Glover and Peter Stormare – Tokarev is a cheap and largely cheerless affair. Despite its lack of Hollywood clout, Cage is as ludicrously committed as ever, over-acting like his tax bill depends on it! Despite some enjoyably violent fight scenes and a menacing villainous turn from Pasha D. Lychnikoff (Deadwood), Tokarev is weirdly sloppy with a wretched twist. Inessential.

 

 

The Homesman

Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman release dates

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The Homesman was in the running for a Palme d’Or at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, and marks a second outing for atmospheric directing from Tommy Lee Jones, who stars in the film along with Oscar magnet Hilary Swank.

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Sex, Leins & Videotape #187. Tom Leins reviews Sabotage, The Two Faces of January and Brick Mansions

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Hard-hitting cops, slippery con-men and dystopian danger-junkies – this week’s top DVDs reviewed.

sabotage-arnie-1

In Sabotage (Lionsgate) a close-knit group of DEA agents, led by John ‘Breacher’ Wharton (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Commando), raids a drug cartel safe house, with a view to taking a share of the spoils for themselves. They stash the loot, but before they can retrieve it, the money – $10 million in cash – disappears, and the task force fall under suspicion regardless. After a lengthy suspension, the jaded team are allowed back into active service, but the reunion is short-lived, and they find themselves getting picked off, one-by-one, with the cartel the likely culprits. With the body-count rising, a reluctant Breacher is forced to team up with no-nonsense cop Caroline Brentwood (Olivia Williams, The Ghost) to try and put a stop to the killings.

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al pacino

Sequels: giving actors roles with their favourite characters and putting black marks on their filmographies

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Many actors feel drawn to sequels of films that they enjoyed themselves or were successful the first time around. Sometimes, they’re even draw to certain characters that they feel a connection to. It’s not just struggling or low-level actors that want a piece of the pie, because even top-paid actors get giddy at the idea of being a part of a franchise that they love.

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