REVIEW: MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS

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CAST

Norah Jones (Ted)
Jude Law (Spy)
David Strathairn (Alphas)
Rachel Weisz (Confidence)
Natalie Portman (No Strings Attached)
Frankie Faison (Luke Cage)

Jude Law in My Blueberry Nights (2007)Jeremy (Jude Law) is an émigré from Manchester who owns a small New York City cafe. The cafe becomes a haven for Elizabeth (Norah Jones), a young woman, as Jeremy tells her that he saw her boyfriend cheating on her. Devastated, she stays in his cafe the entire night, eating a blueberry pie he made, and also telling stories about each other. Jeremy, having an eidetic memory, explains to her the bowl of keys he is keeping, knowing the story of every person who left the key in his cafe and keeping it in the bowl in case someone comes back for them. Elizabeth leaves her key of her apartment and leaves Jeremy’s café. Elizabeth, now calling herself Lizzie, eventually drifts to Memphis, Tennessee, where she takes two jobs, waitress by day and barmaid by night, in order to earn enough money to finance the purchase of a car. She regularly sends postcards to Jeremy, taking a liking to him, without revealing where she lives or works and, although he tries to locate her by calling all the restaurants in the area, he fails to find her. Later on, he decides to send out postcards to any restaurants she may be to try to find her.Natalie Portman and Norah Jones in My Blueberry Nights (2007)One of Lizzie’s regulars at both jobs is local police officer Arnie Copeland (David Strathairn), an alcoholic who cannot accept the fact his wife Sue Lynne (Rachel Weisz) has left him and is flaunting her freedom by openly socializing with a younger man named Randy (Benjamin Kanes). He confesses to Lizzie his many attempts at achieving sobriety have ended in failure, taking many AA meetings but failing. One night off duty in the bar where Lizzie works, he drunkenly threatens Sue Lynne with his gun if she leaves. Later on, Arnie drives drunk and dies after crashing into a pole. Lizzie comforts Sue Lynne at the crash site, before leaving town, and is given the money towards Arnie’s tab at the bar, revealing to Lizzie that she made a mistake and that she misses him. The place where he died is also the place where they met, suggesting that he may have committed suicide.Norah Jones in My Blueberry Nights (2007)Heading west, Elizabeth – now calling herself Beth – gets another waitress job at a casino in a small town in Nevada. Here she meets Leslie (Natalie Portman), an inveterate poker player who has lost all her money. Beth agrees to lend her $2200 she has in exchange for a third of her winnings or her car, a Jaguar XK, if she loses. When she does lose, she fulfills her promise by giving Beth her Jaguar, but asks her to drive her to Las Vegas so she can borrow money from her father, whom she has not seen in a long time.  While en route Leslie receives a call from a Vegas hospital, where her father has been admitted and is dying. She believes the call is simply a ruse to lure her home, but upon arrival in Vegas she discovers her father died the previous night. Leslie announces she wants to keep the car, which she had stolen from her father, who had sent her the title and registration despite their estrangement. She confesses she really won the card game and gives Beth her promised share of the winnings, which she uses to finally purchase the car she always wanted.Rachel Weisz in My Blueberry Nights (2007)Elizabeth returns to Manhattan and, discovering her ex-boyfriend has vacated his apartment and moved on with his life, returns to the cafe, where Jeremy has had a stool at the counter reserved for her ever since she left. As she eats a slice of blueberry pie, Elizabeth realizes her feelings for him are reciprocated. She passes out on the counter after spending the night, and Jeremy kisses her while she is asleep, and she returns the kiss as the film ends.The contemplative, lyrical mood of the film and the sometimes astute and touching observations it makes about both the good and bad aspects of relationships turn “My Blueberry Nights” – its episodic nature notwithstanding – into an enjoyable, if minor, triumph for Wai and his gifted cast.

REVIEW: LUKE CAGE – SEASON 1

CAST

Mike Colter (Ringer)
Mahershala Ali (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay)
Simone Missick (A Taste of Romance)
Theo Rossi (Cloverfield)
Alfre Woodard (Star Trek: First Contact)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Frank Whaley (Broken Arrow)
Sônia Braga (Alias)
Frankie Faison (The Silence of The Lambs)
Rob Morgan (Stranger Things)
Sean Ringgold (American Gangster)
Parisa Fitz-Henley (Even Money)
Karen Pittman (The Ameircans)
Erik LaRay Harvey (Twister)
Ron Cephas Jones (Mr. Robot)
Sonja Sohn (The Originals)
Rachael Taylor (Jessica Jones)

Netflix’s latest drama may not be a great superhero series, but it’s searingly relevant and entertaining. Premiering on Friday, Sept. 30, Luke Cage is vital and alive and of-the-moment. It sings with the rhythms and swagger of Harlem and it’s a genre show that wears its intellectual curiosities like a badge. It’s so satisfying as badass street poetry and muscular urban renewal parable that after watching the seven episodes made available for critics, I barely cared that as a superhero show, Luke Cage is often repetitive and a little underwhelming. It’s the logical extension of Marvel’s niche-y approach to its Netflix offerings, a specificity that has yielded shows that are far more provocative, but far less universally accessible than the company’s blockbuster movies.The Marvel movies try to tick every box, but staying true to Netflix’s general business model, their comic book shows have just gone after one or two boxes aggressively. Jessica Jones used a snarky heroine and a mind-controlling bad guy to craft a story about consent and the power of sisterhood. Daredevil was using blindness and the darkness of Hell’s Kitchen as a platform for a story of Catholic guilt and challenged faith. Run by Cheo Hodari Coker, Luke Cage is the Harlem Renaissance intersecting with the comic book renaissance, a confrontational act of all-too-real wish fulfillment imagining a young black male as bulletproof.

Mike Colter’s Luke Cage was introduced in Jessica Jones as a haunted love interest for the main character, where we learned about his powers, basically being super-strong and impervious to bullets (or pretty much anything that might pierce/penetrate/crush his skin). We pick up with Luke sweeping the floors at the neighborhood barbershop run by Frankie Faison’s Pop. It’s the sort of community institution where people sit around all day debating the coaching styles of Pat Riley and Phil Jackson or whether Easy Rawlins or Kenyatta was the better urban fiction hero. By night, he works as a dishwasher at Harlem’s Paradise, a nightclub with a tremendous talent booker and operated by mobster Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes (Mahershala Ali), cousin of local politician Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard). Immediately, we see a harsh contrast between the greedy capitalist renewal espoused by Cottonmouth and Dillard and the grassroots Harlem that Luke Cage wants to be a part of and wants to elevate. Naturally, conflict is a-brewing between the two Harlems.Like Wilson Fisk in Daredevil, Cottonmouth is a vicious, remorseless killer, but he’s also got a somewhat noble sense of how what he’s doing is good for the borough he grew up in. Cottonmouth’s ties are to family and also to the idea of legacy and the protection of a renowned family name, key details that Coker and his writers hit hard.The Marvel movies rely on outsized special effects to capture their heightened take on reality, but the Netflix shows don’t have the budget for that, so they opt for outsized thematics instead. Like Jessica Jones before it, Luke Cage is aggressively unsubtle, but it’s also aggressively smart. Sure, having Luke Cage wandering around, wearing a hoodie as an act of defiance, reading Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man feels a bit on the nose, but once you throw in the references to Walter Mosley and Donald Goines and Ta-Nehisi Coates, it becomes clear that this show doubles as a superlative summer reading list, which has value beyond computer-generated scenes of mass destruction or a really cool mocap villain.The early episodes are so charmingly brainy and move with such a light step — Paul McGuigan of Sherlock and Scandal knows his way around a flashy pilot — and the cinematography is so stylish — not surprisingly, everybody loves photographing Mike Colter — that you only sometimes realize that the things you expect to get out of a superhero show are largely missing. Luke Cage is, to his great detriment, initially much too powerful, and while he’s certainly a reluctant hero, when he actually goes to work on the bad guys, it’s pointless to try stopping him. The “Ruckus” set piece in the third episode stands out because nothing else even comes close in scope or action execution. Of the seven episodes, the one that was least successful for me, and by a wide margin, was the most comic book-y, an origin-story fourth episode that hews reasonably closely to Luke’s ’70s Marvel origins. It’s fitting that Luke would want to debate pulp and elevated pulp-fiction African-American heroes, because that’s the tradition Luke Cage operates best in, which is great if that’s what you’re looking for the show to be.Ali makes great use of a classic villain cackle, and he gives Cottonmouth a coiled, psychotic rage and disarming glimpses of reasonableness. Woodard’s Mariah is Cottonmouth’s opposite, all superficial gentility and then undercurrents of something unhinged that become more frequent. Faison and Ron Cephas Jones, as a barbershop chess wiz named (or nicknamed) Bobby Fish, offer grounded decency, and I’m enjoying what Theo Rossi is doing, skulking around the edges, as a criminal intermediary dubbed Shades. Simone Missick’s Misty Knight and Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple are there half as proactive female leads, half as potential love interests for Luke, but sometimes are confusing reminders that Luke was mighty hung up on a deceased ex — and then on Jessica Jones — just one TV show ago and they feel like they ought to be mentioned.Just as Colter moves with purpose, Luke Cage moves with purpose, even if that purpose isn’t the same as what Civil War or Age of Ultron have led audiences to anticipate from Marvel. It’s a series infused by the conversations we’re having about race and gender and the American urban space in 2016, and it’s a series built to inspire additional conversations about black masculinity and representations of heroism in an age in which the news is too often focused on the tragic disposability of black masculinity. Luke Cage is another great staple for Marvel and its Cinematic Universe.

REVIEW: WHITE CHICKS

CAST
Marlon Wayans (Dungeons and Dragons)
Shawn Wayans (Scary Movie)
Jaime King (Sin City)
Frankie Faison (The Silence of The Lambs)
Lochlyn Munro (Freddy vs Jason)
John Heard (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Busy Philipps (The Smokers)
Terry Crews (Get Smart)
Brittany Daniel (That 80S Show)
Jennifer Carpenter (Limitless tv)
Evangeline Lilly (Lost)
Jessica Cauffiel (Valentine)
Anne Dudek (House)
Steven Grayhm (Between)
David Lewis (Man of Steel)
Kristi Angus (Jason X)
Luciana Carro (Helix)
The plot begins in a convenience store where two FBI agents and brothers, Kevin Copeland and Marcus Copeland (Shawn and Marlon Wayans), try to capture members of an organization that sells drugs inside ice cream boxes, posing as dominican clerks. Unfortunately, the first arrival turns out to be a genuine ice cream delivery, and the actual drug dealers manage to get away. The situation is worsened by the fact that Kevin and Marcus have decided to resolve this bust by themselves.
The FBI supervisor, Elliott Gordon (Frankie Faison), gives the two agents a last chance to remain in the FBI by giving them the duty of protecting the mega-rich billionaire cruise line heiresses Brittany and Tiffany Wilson (Maitland Ward and Anne Dudek), who are arriving in town for a beauty competition, from a kidnapping plot (known as the socialite kidnappings). When the Wilson sisters get minor facial cuts in a car accident, they refuse to leave the hotel. Kevin and Marcus then disguise themselves as Wilson sister look-alikes in order to save their jobs.
At the Hamptons hotel, Kevin and Marcus meet Brittany and Tiffany’s three best friends, Karen, Tori and Lisa, and their rivals Megan and Heather Vandegeld. They also encounter Karen’s abusive boyfriend, Heath, a broke, out of work actor. John “where am I” Lydon shows an interest in the news reporter Brett Porter, but the affair becomes more and more complicated as the two agents must now repeatedly switch between their gender roles. Marcus’ wife Gina, whose relationship is already troubled, becomes an additional complicating factor as she gets suspicious when she hears a woman’s voice in the background during a phone conversation with Marcus. The woman is actually Kevin pretending to be female, but Gina does not know and assumes that Marcus is conducting an affair. Meanwhile, Latrell Spencer (Terry Crews) takes an interest in Marcus, thinking that he is Tiffany and white. A date with Marcus/Tiffany is then sold off to Latrell during a charity dinner. Kevin takes advantage of the situation and asks Denise out on a date, pretending that he is Latrell, as Denise has a history of dating rich men. When Marcus goes on his date with Latrell, Kevin steals the keys to his car and house. When Kevin and Denise arrive at Latrell’s house, they are confronted by Latrell’s foreign housekeeper. Because she does not speak English, Kevin pretends that he understands her and locks her out of the house claiming that she works too hard. Eventually, Kevin gets mauled by Latrell’s giant dog, generally ruining his date.
At a nightclub, Karen drinks heavily and unintentionally let’s slip that Mr. Vangergeld is penniless, and has only recently paid Karen’s own father back for loans he has lent him. The next day, the real Brittany and Tiffany see their faces on a magazine, and they realize that two people are impersonating them. They go to the hotel their ‘clones’ were seen in, and two agents, thinking that they are Kevin and Marcus after searching their room through suspicion, undress them. This leads to the chief finding out that Marcus and Kevin have been impersonating Brittany and Tiffany. Because of this, the chief fires the both of them. Later on, Kevin and Marcus find out that due to his bankruptcy Mr. Vandergeld, along with Heath, has been behind the socialiate kidnappings in order to save himself and his family from poverty. They manage to capture Mr. Vandergeld before he succeeds in his plan. Latrell takes a hit from a bullet shot by Mr. Vandergeld to protect Marcus, but he is alarmed and enraged to discover that Marcus is black (He did not seem to mind that Marcus was male). Marcus apologizes to Gina, after realizing that being a female is a hard task, and because he had been ignoring Gina for his job. Denise falls for Kevin, after Kevin saves her from a bullet. The movie ends with Tori, Lisa, Karen, Kevin and Marcus making a pact to stay together and go shopping.
Very funny film that cant fail to have you laughing aloud

REVIEW: RED DRAGON

 

CAST

Anthony Hopkins (The Mask of Zorro)
Edward Norton (The Bourne Legacy)
Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter)
Emily Watson (War Horse)
Harvey Keitel (Little Nicky)
Mary-Louise Parker (Red)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Ides of March)
Anthony Heald (X-Men: The Last Stand)
Bill Duke (Commando)
Frankie Faison (Luke Cage)
Ken Leung (Lost)
John Rubinstein (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
Brenda Strong (Supergirl)
Marguerite MacIntyre (The Vampire Diaries)
Azura Skye (28 Days)
Stanley Anderson (Spider-Man)
Ellen Burstyn (The Exorcist)
Lisa Thornhill (Veronica Mars)

In Baltimore, Maryland, Dr. Hannibal Lecter attends a symphonic orchestra performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He is irritated by a flute player who repeatedly misses out on his part. Later, he hosts a dinner party in his townhouse for the orchestra’s board of directors. During conversation, the disappearance of the flute player is brought up. When one of the guests asks about the dish Lecter made, he responds that if he tells her, she might not try it, implying he is serving the flute player.Lecter is visited by Will Graham, a gifted FBI agent who has the ability to empathize with psychopaths. Graham has been working with Lecter on a psychological profile of a serial killer. The killer removed edible body parts from his victims, leading Graham to believe him to be a cannibal. During the consultation, Graham discovers evidence implicating Lecter. Lecter attacks and almost disembowels Graham, before Graham impales him with several arrows then empties his handgun into him. Lecter is sentenced to life imprisonment in an institution for the criminally insane. Graham is traumatized by the experience, and retires.Some years later, another serial killer, nicknamed The Tooth Fairy, appears. He stalks and kills entire families during sequential full moons. Special Agent Jack Crawford seeks Graham’s assistance in determining the killer’s psychological profile. When the death of another family weighs on his conscience, Graham reluctantly agrees. After visiting the crime scenes and speaking with Crawford, Graham concludes he must once again consult Lecter.

The Tooth Fairy is actually Francis Dolarhyde, who kills at the behest of an alternate personality he calls “The Great Red Dragon”. He is obsessed with the William Blake painting The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun, and believes that each victim he “changes” brings him closer to “becoming” the Dragon. His pathology is born from the severe abuse he suffered as a child at the hands of his sadistic grandmother.
Meanwhile, Freddy Lounds, a tabloid reporter, who hounded Graham after Lecter’s capture, follows him for leads on The Tooth Fairy. There is a secret correspondence between Lecter and Dolarhyde. Graham’s wife and son are endangered when Lecter gives The Tooth Fairy the agent’s home address, forcing them to be relocated to a farm owned by Crawford’s brother. Hoping to lure out The Tooth Fairy, Graham gives Lounds an interview in which he disparages the killer as an impotent homosexual. This provokes Dolarhyde, who kidnaps Lounds and glues him to an antique wheelchair. Dolarhyde then forces Lounds to recant his allegations, bites off his lips and then sets him on fire outside his newspaper’s offices. Later, at his job in a St. Louis photo lab, Dolarhyde falls in love with Reba McClane, a blind co-worker. He takes her home, where they make love. However, his alternate personality demands that he kill her. Desperate to stop the Dragon’s “possession” of him, Dolarhyde goes to the Brooklyn Museum, tears apart the original Blake painting and eats it.Meanwhile, Graham deduces that the killer knew the layout of his victims’ houses from their home videos. He concludes that the killer works for a company that transfers home movies to video cassette and edits them. He starts searching the companies and their workers. Watching Reba’s house, Dolarhyde finds her having spent the evening with a co-worker, Ralph Mandy, whom she actually dislikes. Enraged by this apparent betrayal, Dolarhyde kills Ralph, kidnaps Reba, takes her to his house, and then sets it on fire. Finding himself unable to shoot her, Dolarhyde apparently shoots himself. Reba is able to escape the house as the police arrive.Dolarhyde, having staged his own death, turns up at Graham’s home in Florida. He holds Graham’s son hostage, threatening to kill him. To save his son, Graham slings insults at the boy, reminding Dolarhyde of his grandmother’s abuse. Enraged, Dolarhyde attacks Graham. Both men are severely wounded in a shootout which ends when Graham’s wife kills Dolarhyde. Graham receives a letter from Lecter which praises him for stopping The Tooth Fairy, bids him well, and says they are going to cross paths soon.Some time later, Lecter’s jailer, Dr. Frederick Chilton, tells him that he has a visitor, a young woman from the FBI. Lecter curiously asks of her name.

After “Silence of the Lambs” became so popular, and the sequel, “Hannibal,” it was decided to re-do that first film and this time obtain Hopkins’ services. It worked because not only do you have the incomparable Hopkins at Dr. Lecter but you have one this generations best actors, Edward Norton, as the leading character “Will Graham.” Norton, as always, gives a solid performance. And – look at the backup cast: Ralph Fiennes, Emily Watson, Harvey Keitel, Mary Louise Parker and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Not bad. This is one of those movies that gets better and better with each viewing.

 

REVIEW: HANNIBAL (2001)

CAST

Anthony Hopkins (The Mask of Zorro)
Julianne Moore (Carrie)
Gary Oldman (Batman Begins)
Ray Liotta (Killig Them Softly)
Frankie Faison (Luke Cage)
Giancarlo Giannini (Man on Fire)
Francesca Neri (Collateral Damage)
Željko Ivanek (Heroes)
Ajay Naidu (The Wrestler)

When Thomas Harris’s follow-up to “Silence of the Lambs” was announced, it was obvious that the filmed version would be soon announced. Yet, the pieces didn’t fall into place quite as easily as those involved would have hoped. Anthony Hopkins was in, but Jodie Foster was in and out and in, then out again – instead, she chose to direct her own feature and Julianne Moore was brought in. Original “Silence” director Jonathan Demme passed, so producer Dino De Laurentis (who was working on “U-571”) went a short distance to the “Gladiator” set, where director Ridley Scott said yes to the film. The screenplay was credited to two of the most highly regarded screenwriters in the business, Steven Zaillian and David Mamet, although apparently, Mamet’s work did not end up in the final draft – he received credit due to guild regulations.Although the final feature met with mixed reactions, it was a suprising success in this era of crackdowns on the “R” rating. Scott’s picture is a different creature altogether; a horror film wrapped in grand elegance. Scott brought two “Gladiator” collaborators to the party – cinematographer John Mathieson and editor Petro Scalia, and both do excellent work. The movie is also different in terms of set-up; where Clarice was the main character in “Silence”, she becomes a supporting figure here. As Hannibal himself has been let free, the story focuses on him instead. After Clarice (Moore) is demoted (her basement lab looks like Mulder’s from “The X-Files”, while Moore reminded me of Scully at times during the early scenes) after a botched drug bust, we are launched into the main story.A previous victim of Lecter who has escaped, Mason Verger (an uncredited Gary Oldman), wants revenge on Lecter. It’s Lecter himself though, that invites Clarice back into the game. The original picture had Lecter being simply evil, while here has gotten himself back out into the world – living in Florence, Italy he has become an art curator and occasionally stops off for a coffee. Yet, there’s another individual on the hunt already in the neighborhood. An Italian detective named Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) wants the reward for Hannibal’s capture, which turns out to be a predictably bad idea. Even though the result of his chase seems rather obvious, I’ll give Scott credit for maintaining a respectable amount of tension throughout these scenes.Anthony Hopkins in Hannibal (2001)Also, I’ll give Scott credit for a terrific first half. The picture was not exactly what I’d been expecting from it; although there is some definite violence early in the picture, the film maintains a fine level of tension.The performances are generally excellent. Moore’s ability and range are once again remarkable, allowing herself to convincingly become a dark and lonely character – she does everything she can with a character that is less involved this time around. Hopkins is, as usual, an engaging villian who, now unleashed into the world, plans out his crimes, allowing the tension to build as to whether or not he’s going to go after his persuers.The film is impressive, with stunning cinematography, amazing production design, great editing and a typically great score from Hans Zimmer.  Hannibal is a fine sequel to the Silence of the Lambs and is a must see for any Hannibal fans

REVIEW: THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

CAST

Anthony Hopkins (The Mask of Zorro)
Jodie Foster (The Beaver)
Scott Glenn (Daredevil)
Ted Levine (Evolution)
Anthony Heald (Deep Rising)
Brooke Smith (Interstellar)
Diane Baker (A Mighty Wind)
Frankie Faison (Luke Cage)
Charles Napier (Maniac Cop 2)
Tracey Walter (Batman)
Obba Babatunde (John Q)
Cynthia Ettinger (Gilmore Girls)

It’s always interesting to reflect on The Silence of the Lambs and remember that, though terribly iconic and singular, it’s a follow-up of sorts to Micheal Mann’s 1984 thriller, Manhunter, and an adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novel “The Silence of the Lambs”, a sequel to the original novel “Red Dragon”. Hannibal Lecter existed long before Anthony Hopkins took the reins, first given a more debonair cinematic air by a criminally-overlooked turn from Brian Cox, while the primary protagonists in this story arc was Will Graham at first, brought to life by the likes of William Petersen and Edward Norton. Lecter’s legacy of secondhand FBI assistance and cat-and-mouse psycho play with its agents has understandably taken many tones over the years.Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs (1991)But when we think about Hannibal Lecter, we instantly think of Anthony Hopkins toying with Jodie Foster’s Clarice like a predacious cat with its victim. There’s a reason for that: The Silence of the Lambs brings a director adept at communicating human emotion under dire circumstances together with the haunting inhumanity penned by story adapter Ted Tally. We’re introduced to Clarice Starling (Foster), an up-and-coming FBI student who has fallen into a dense and disturbing case involving psychotic serial killer Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine). She begins her involvement by innocently interviewing Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Hopkins) about his knowledge of Bill, but it slowly evolves into a “quid pro quo” dance with the macabre as Lecter points her into specific directions that will allow her — and only her — to solve the paramount case.It takes the viewer into a world teeming with bizarre psychoses, one that drives us to feel compelled to relish in its shiver-inducing nature. Jonathan Demme not only appreciates the partition between fear and indulgence, but he takes his involvement with character nuance and clashes it all together into a bleak yet thoroughly engaging atmosphere. The Silence of the Lambs exists in a shadowy, antithetic environment filled with the slaughterings of innocent women and the bloodthirsty nature of the criminally insane, yet it never forgets to open doors that allow us to comprehend exactly what’s going on in their minds — and not in a blatantly monstrous way, but more in a contorted humanistic light that drives real fear into our bones. We get the quakes from mythical monsters that go “bump” in our dreams, but the true fright we feel exists in the monsters that walk the earth with us.As Starling begins her trip down the rabbit hole by way of Lecter’s profiling of Buffalo Bill, it’s clear that all of these odd underlying layers will largely rely on the dynamic that the FBI student develops with them. A few years out of her show-stealing (and show-making, to be frank) performance in The Accused, Jodie Foster takes her plummet into the mind of a serial killer and delivers a performance filled with lamb-like jitters and compelling ambiguity between masculinity and femininity. Her Clarice Starling is strong enough to back as a heroine, yet there’s coyness behind her strained vigor that makes her dance with Lecter compelling and, more importantly, involving enough to cement her post-Taxi Driver and Accused status as a powerhouse actress.

Then, there’s Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, who’s only on-screen for a nudge over sixteen minutes in The Silence of the Lambs. It’s amazing to think that such a seminal entity could be so transient in the film that made him an everyday name alongside horror greats like Patrick Bateman and Jack Torrance. But his time on screen never feels short-lived, that’s for certain; as he gazes through his acrylic glass screen and mutters to us of eating a man’s liver with a “can of fava beans and a nice Chianti”, he shatters that fourth wall separating him from the audience in a way that gives us direct, eye-to-eye interaction with a well-mannered psychopath. It’s a cinematic luxury that we don’t get to indulge in very often, especially in a natural and effective fashion. His glances and bone-chilling words, though fleeting as they might be, float in our minds across the entire film as the contained, docile voice of one of many possible variations of Buffalo Bill’s psyche — a killer on the loose in the backwater crevices of southern America, potentially right around the corner of anyone’s neighborhood.Though Foster faultlessly captures the essence of an intelligent rookie FBI agent on the prowl and Hopkins, well, “makes” Hannibal Lecter, it’s the times when they’re face-to-face that transcends The Silence of the Lambs into a lasting piece of filmmaking. Their characters, when separate, are compelling in their own right, but it’s in the ways that they make slight alterations in their personalities that create the film’s signature sensations of vagueness in character archetypes. Each element surrounding Demme’s design in capturing their dialogue, from Badlands cinematographer Tak Fujimoto’s photography to the stellar emphasis on long pauses in Craig McKay’s editing, are impeccable, but it’s the actors’ subtle shifts in power struggle that grips us repeatedly in their startling-captured exchanges.


Once we follow Starling outside of the confines of Lecter’s cell, there’s a tense, blood-curdling air about her chase for Buffalo Bill that reinforces a sense of graspable danger. As we watch her combine forensic talent with Lecter’s clues, it becomes a downright thrilling procedural that never feels formulaic and remains exhilarating up until its expertly executed conclusion. All along the way, The Silence of the Lambs adorns her trials and tribulations with a medley of characters to play off of, from the sagely tutelage of FBI bigwig Jack Crawford (Scott Glen) to the quirky acts of sexual aggression from Dr. Chilton (Anthony Heald). They emphasize the near-androgynous nature of Starling’s persona, painting her dual-edged innocuous demeanor into an intriguing character study.The Silence of the Lambs taps heavily into a parallel between Starling and the “lamb” that she speaks of during arguably the most prolific character moment in the film, one that gives us a subtle reminder that she’s something of an puerile entity transforming into an investigator. It’s not the only splash of symbolism used in the film to illustrate the characters, as the metamorphosis of a demented mind repeatedly stands out with the focus on Death’s Head Moths later in the film. They circulate around Buffalo Bill’s character, a perfect example of the danger that arises when a deviant blossoms into a perverse serial killer. Yet the metamorphosis concepts also circle around Starling as the film presses forward, which continues the nerve-racking mechanic of balancing humanity with the killer’s mental instability.There’s a world of depth at your fingertips underneath The Silence of the Lambs — about as deep as you really want to dive into the criminal mind — but it’s first and foremost an exercise in skillfully crafted suspense. An innocent-yet-adept protagonist, a worthy villain, and a series of aptly strung-together clues wind tightly around the dangerously hypnotic presence of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, building into one of cinema’s more unique dynamics. Diving into the ominous mind of a killer isn’t the most pleasant experience in the world, but it’s certainly captivating in the eyes of a daring, young FBI agent willing to weave through a thrill-a-minute labyrinth to stop one. It’s Jonathan Demme’s call-to-fame, and a tour de force in the horror genre that’ll hold on to its unnerving presence for years to come.

REVIEW: MANHUNTER

 

CAST

William Petersen (CSI)
Kim Greist (Brazil)
Tom Noonan (Robocop 2)
Dennis Farina (Romeo is Bleeding)
Brian Cox (X-Men 2)
Joan Allen (Pleasantville)
Stephen Lang (Avatar)
Frankie Faison (Luke Cage)
Chris Elliott (Scary Movie 2)
Bill Smitrovich (Ted 1 & 2)
Marshall Bell (Total Recall)

Thomas Harris’ extremely popular “Hannibal Lector” character has appeared in 80% of the author’s novels and five separate feature-length films. Most would find Lector synonymous with 1991’s landmark The Silence of the Lambs, in which Anthony Hopkins turned the soft-spoken cannibal into a cultural icon. The character’s subsequent film appearances are all more exaggerated than the last, so it makes sense that 1986’s Manhunter shows Hannibal at his most…normal? It also serves as director Michael Mann’s third film, but it flopped at the box office and still stands in the shadow of its more popular young brother. Based on Harris’ second novel Red Dragon (and remade in 2002 by Brett Ratner), Manhunter deserved a bigger audience then and still deserves a bigger one today.

Part thriller, part character study and part horror film, this tale of FBI profile expert Will Graham (William Petersen) often crackles with suspense. Having retired to his peaceful family life due to exhaustion, Graham is approached by his former boss Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina) after an unknown killer’s quiet rampage has already left two families dead. Hannibal isn’t the culprit, of course: he’s safely behind bars due to Graham’s tireless efforts with the FBI, but he might be personally linked to the killer at large. Fearing another series of murders may be only weeks away, the intensely dedicated Graham decides to pursue the case, using his behavioral knowledge to carve away at the killer’s unknown location.

As in Silence of the Lambs, the character of Hannibal Lector (here spelled “Lecktor”, and portrayed by Brian Cox) only pops up occasionally to offer twisted guidance, but his presence looms heavily over the entire film. Silence’s menacing Buffalo Bill is one-upped, though, by the more sympathetic, layered and quietly intimidating Francis Dollarhyde (Tom Noonan), a lab worker whose dark personal life fuels violent impulses. Working on a lunar cycle, Dollarhyde’s third slaughter grows closer as Graham and Crawford attempt to track him down. Manhunter’s approach to Dollarhyde is extremely effective: the film’s almost half-over before we even catch a glimpse of him, and the slow reveal works wonderfully.Tom Noonan and William Petersen in Manhunter (1986)Manhunter is arguably the least-known of the “Hannibal Lector” films…and that’s a shame, because it’s easily second best behind Silence of the Lambs. Michael Mann’s solid direction anchors this cat-and-mouse thriller quite well.