REVIEW: HANNIBAL RISING

CAST

Gaspard Ulliel  (Saint Laurent)
Li Gong (Curse of The Golden Flower)
Dominic West (300)
Rhys Ifans (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Helena-Lia Tachovská (Divnovlasky)
Kevin McKidd (Dog Soldiers)
Richard Brake (Halloween II)
Stephen Walters (Outlander)
Robbie Kay (Heroes Reborn)

In 1941, an eight-year-old Hannibal Lecter lives in Lecter Castle in Lithuania. Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union turns the Baltic region into part of the bloodiest front line of World War II. Lecter, his younger sister Mischa, and their parents travel to the family’s hunting lodge in the woods to elude the advancing German troops. After three years, the Nazis are finally driven out of the countries soon to be occupied by the Soviet Union. During their retreat, however, they destroy a Soviet tank that had stopped at the Lecter family’s lodge looking for water. The explosion kills everyone but Lecter and Mischa. They survive in the cottage until six former Lithuanian militiamen, led by a Nazi collaborator named Vladis Grutas, storm and loot it. Finding no other food in the bitterly cold Baltic winter, the men look menacingly at Lecter and Mischa. By 1949, Lecter Castle has been turned into a Soviet orphanage and is ironically housing the interned orphan Hannibal Lecter. After dealing violently with a bully, Lecter escapes from the castle orphanage to Paris to live with his widowed aunt, the Lady Murasaki. While in France, Lecter flourishes as a student. He commits his first murder as a teenager, killing a local butcher who insults his aunt. He is suspected of the murder by Inspector Popil, a French detective who also lost his family in the war. Thanks in part to his aunt’s intervention, Lecter escapes responsibility for the crime.Eventually, Lecter becomes the youngest person ever admitted to medical school in France. He receives a working scholarship at a hospital in Paris, where he is given a job preparing cadavers. One day, Lecter witnesses a condemned war criminal receiving a sodium thiopental injection, allowing him to recall details about his war crimes. Consequently, in an attempt to recall the names of those responsible for his sister’s death, Lecter injects himself with the solution. His subsequent flashback reveals to the viewers the men who had killed Mischa, had also cannibalized her as well. Lecter returns to Lithuania in search of his sister’s remains. He excavates the ruins of the lodge where his family died, and upon finding Mischa’s remains, he gives her a proper burial. He also unearths the dog-tags of the deserters who killed his sister. One of them, Dortlich, attempts to kill him but is incapitated by Lecter. After he buries Mischa’s remains, Lecter forces Dortlich to reveal the whereabouts of the rest of his gang, then decapitates Dortlich with a horse-drawn pulley. Dortlich’s blood splashes on Lecter’s face, and he licks it off.Lecter then visits Kolnas’ restaurant in Fontainbleau. He finds his young daughter and notices Mischa’s bracelet on her. He gives her Kolnas’ dogtag. Dortlich’s murder puts the rest of the group on alert and, because of the similarity to the first murder, places Lecter under renewed suspicion from Popil. Grutas, now a sex trafficker, dispatches a second member of the group, Zigmas Milko, to kill him. Lecter kills Milko instead, drowning him in formaldehyde inside his laboratory. Popil then tries to dissuade him from hunting the gang. During a confrontation with Lady Murasaki, Lecter almost has sex with her, but relents after Lady Murasaki begs him not to get revenge, claiming that he made a promise to Mischa. He attacks Grutas in his home but Grutas is rescued by his bodyguards.

Grutas kidnaps Lady Murasaki and calls Lecter, using her as bait. Lecter recognizes the sounds of Kolnas’ birds from his restaurant in the background. Lecter goes there and plays on Kolnas’ emotions by threatening his children. Kolnas gives up the location of Grutas’ boat, but Lecter kills him when Kolnas goes for Lecter’s gun. Lecter goes to the houseboat. In a final confrontation, Grutas claims that Lecter too had consumed his sister in broth fed to him by the soldiers, and he was killing them to keep this fact secret. Enraged, Lecter eviscerates him by carving his sister’s initial into his body. Lady Murasaki, finally disturbed by his behavior, flees from him even after he tells her that he loves her. The houseboat is incinerated, but Lecter, assumed to be dead, emerges from the woods. Lecter hunts down the last member of the group, Grentz, in Canada.MV5BZmRkNTZjN2EtZGVmYi00YTE3LTliMzgtODE5MjU5NzI3NzZiL2ltYWdlL2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTEwNDYyNzk@._V1_Well, no Anthony Hopkins so I didn’t expect greatness, but was pleasantly surprised. Gaspard Ulliel did a very good job. I was caught up in the story about how Hannibal got started.  The movie was done very professionally. A good prequel to a great franchise.

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.