New Articles for the Week of June 24th: Glorious Return Edition

Well, I guess it's been a little while, hasn't it? I should really consider just live-updating this thing with links instead of getting into a big rigamarole over doing a whole write-up just to say, yes, Mad Men happened this week, here are some thoughts. Then again, it's been a pretty busy month, one spent sampling, digesting, and then regurgitating thoughts on a whole host of things not strictly related to TV. Let's start with old business first: -Mad Men: The season finale is tonight, so if you've been using my reviews as a guide to the season, then my humblest apologies for dumping not one, not two, my God, not even three, but four recaps mere hours before Don Draper and company take their bow for 2013. Then again, that's a pretty odd way to be involved in one of TV's best shows, so don't judge me for working up a review backlog.

-Hannibal: I had the pleasure of reviewing a third episode of this year's biggest surprise, as well as share some thoughts on the season as a whole with the finale that aired a few days ago. The short version is that Hannibal will likely show up on my Top 20 for the year, based on its haunting aesthetic, terrific performances, and total commitment to being the most twisted and Goddamn insane network TV show since Twin Peaks. I have been legitimately more creeped out and frightened by Hannibal's 13-episode first season than any other piece of media I've viewed in the last 5 years, and the fact that it's often a really compelling drama doesn't hurt either. NBC left the show to die during the spring burnoff season, but they at least had the decency to pick it up for a second season, the time until which will hopefully involve many people discover this bloody little gem on streaming and DVD.

That's all from the world of TV recapping, and you can expect a Mad Men finale review in the evening hours tonight, as well as a review for CBS's Under the Dome pilot tomorrow. For now though, let's move on to a few odds and sods.

-Orphan Black: Got 10-hours to spare watching one of the most gleefully insane, and best acted TV sci-fi series in ages? Well you're in luck, because I caught up with the cult BBC series a couple weeks back and can now say I see what all the fuss is about. I won't get much into spoiler territory, but the basic premise allows for Canadian-born actress Tatiana Maslany to give five of the best performances on TV,  and with that in mind, you can probably guess that Orphan Black isn't your average cup of tea. It's a complete tonal fruit salad, shifting from sci-fi, to thriller, to mystery, to comedy and back between and within scenes, and is a BBC production shot in a Toronto masquerading as New York. Needless to say, those expecting the production values and laser focus of an HBO drama should look elsewhere. Those, however, looking for an exceptionally fun, thought-provoking, and blisteringly-paced little series should go out of their way to seek this out.

-At the Movies: Haven't spent much time in the local theatres lately, though when I tell you that the TIFF screening of "R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet Sing-Along" was the best thing I've seen in cinemas the last month, it's confirmation that this summer has been pretty awful for movies. This is the End, a surprising critical high-water mark for the season, was packed when an attempt to see it was made this week, so a viewing of Now You See Me was had instead. Seeing as the trailers made it look one of the year's most obnoxious and irritating offerings, it was unlikely this would ever be my jam, and sure enough, it wasn't. I can't remember the last time a film so completely fucked up the idea of identifying someone to root for, as in this case, my options were the asshole magician thieves, the asshole Interpol detective, or the asshole millionaires and shysters funding them. It's reductive, and more than a little mean to call it Ocean's Eleven for stupids, but that's the movie they made. At least I wasn't disappointed by it, unlike...

Man of Steel. Oh man, this one hurt. That's not to say that it's abhorrently awful, but, after resisting it for so long, I got swept up in the zeitgeist (read: marketing) for the film in the last weeks before its release. Based on what had been shown it really, really looked like Snyder and Nolan might have cracked the Superman nut. This was the movie that was supposed to save the summer, which is an unfair expectation on my part (I can really only blame myself for going to tentpole blockbuster films lately). Turns out, what we got was a movie more dour and joyless than even Nolan's Batman pictures, which could afford to be so. Superman, on the other hand, can fucking fly and lift mountains over his head: he's the last character that should be weighed down with a script so leaden with ponderous dialogue, pacing so manacled by the obligatory origin story, and a structure that weights all the action toward a numbing and concerning third act. Again, it's not reprehensible, or utterly awful, but Man of Steel is perhaps the biggest misfire in a summer season that's all but been dedicated to them.

Finally, just thought I'd mention I managed to finish The Last of Us yesterday, and I'm already planning another big ol' essay/bout of thought-diarrhoea about it like I did for Bioshock: Infinite, and what Sony's latest tentpole release says about how storytelling works within the framework of a videogame. Bottom-line: while it shares many of Infinite's faults, The Last of Us attempts (and often succeeds at) the kind of bold gameplay design, and narrative focus I was begging for in my last video game diatribe, and for at least trying to do so, I'm kinda in love with it. Even bottom-er line: I have never cried because of a video game, but within 15 minutes, The Last of Us nearly had me bawling like an big dumb baby over a bunch of pixels. That's some straight up Pixar shit right there, and I can't wait to dig deeper into what's made this game something special.

That's all for now. Play me out, wistful, and depressing video game soundtrack!