Film Review: Hannibal (2001)

Also known as: The Silence of the Lambs 2 (working title)
Release Date: February 9th, 2001
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: David Mamet, Steven Zaillian
Based on: Hannibal by Thomas Harris
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Ray Liotta, Frankie R. Faison, Giancarlo Giannini, Francesca Neri, Gary Oldman, Željko Ivanek, Mark Margolis, Ajay Naidu

Dino De Laurentiis Company, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Universal Pictures, 131 Minutes

Review:

“People don’t always tell you what they are thinking. They just see to it that you don’t advance in life.” – Hannibal Lecter

As much as I just came off of loving Manhunter and The Silence of the Lambs in their reviews, a part of me was dreading having to sit through Hannibal again, as my original assessment of it was pretty poor. Granted, that assessment came in 2001, the last time I saw the film, which was on the big screen, opening night.

I have never had much urge to go back and revisit this and honestly, it kind of soured me on the franchise, including the masterpiece that is this movie’s direct predecessor, The Silence of the Lambs.

Watching this, almost exactly twenty years later, didn’t help the film.

Sometimes, I don’t like a movie but when I give it another shot, years later, I find things in it worth appreciating. This especially happens nowadays when modern movies are mostly just corporate, unartistic shit. Hannibal still failed and the only real positive is the performances from the core cast members.

Julianne Moore was fine but it’s still odd watching this and seeing someone else as Clarice when Anthony Hopkins is still playing Hannibal Lecter. Frankie Faison even returns in his smaller role but Jodie Foster wanted nothing to do with this. I know that she hated how this story ended but they changed the ending in the script and the final film to appease her. Still, she couldn’t be lured back. If she actually read the script, I can understand why.

Reason being, the script is terrible but then, so is the story. Granted, I haven’t read the book, so I’m not sure if that was bad too or if the script was just a really poor adaptation of it. Either way, this was predictable as hell for the most part and it was also incredibly dull.

I just didn’t care about the story, the people in it and the big changes to the ending felt off. Honestly, though, I know how the novel ends and I’ve always thought of its ending as really uncharacteristic of the Clarice character. But then who am I to argue with the author that created the characters in the first place.

Anyway, this also had some intense gross out moments. There’s one where a character uses a piece of a broken mirror to skin his own face. There’s another scene where Hannibal is cutting morsels out of the exposed brain of a human man and then feeding it to him.

The thing is, these moments were pretty gratuitous for cheap shock value. While The Silence of the Lambs was dark as fuck and had some gross out parts, it wasn’t done for shock and it wasn’t over the top schlock like it was in this film. The brains scene actually wrecks this movie more than it already was by that point. I don’t know why a well-versed director like Ridley Scott thought to go that route, creatively, but it felt cheap and made me roll my eyes so hard I pulled a muscle in my face.

Sure, the scene could’ve been in the film and worked but the problem was with how it was shot. Sometimes it’s better to imply something horrific without showing it in frame. This would’ve worked much better if they let the viewer’s mind fill-in the blanks.

The cinematography was good and I thought the music in the film worked. But other than that and the actors making the absolute best out of a shit script, this is just a really, really meh movie.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the other Hannibal Lecter films.

Comic Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms – The Legend of Drizzt, Vol. 5: Streams of Silver

Published: October 12th, 2016
Written by: Andrew Dabb, R.A. Salvatore
Art by: Val Semeiks, Tyler Walpole
Based on: Dungeons & Dragons by TSR, characters by R.A. Salvatore

IDW Publishing, 136 Pages

Review:

The fifth of the six Drizzt Do’Urden comic books stories picks up where the fourth one left off. If you read my review for that one, you already know how much I liked it, after starting to lose a bit of faith in this series after the first three entries.

I had high hopes for this series before starting due to how popular the character of Drizzt Do’Urden is and because I’ve heard great things about his literary stories.

While I didn’t like this one as much as the fourth, it’s still damn good and made me excited for the sixth and final installment.

In this one, we see Drizzt and his allies travel a great distance on a new adventure after having just survived a war in volume four. He has his enemies in hot pursuit and draws the ire of another baddie, who forces an alliance with the evil man trying to hunt Drizzt down.

So the villains form a group to rival Drizzt and his allies and the stakes and danger are pretty high. I like that this had an unstoppable golem in it, which had to be outsmarted and taken out of the picture because you can’t actually kill it.

This story ends badly and not every hero comes away unscathed. Drizzt loses allies and it sets up what should be a worthwhile and heavy-hitting finale.

Shit, I got this far and didn’t even talk about the heroes having to fight a big ass dragon that’s hoarding treasure.

There’s just a lot of cool stuff in this volume and there isn’t a single page that’s a bore.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other Dungeons & Dragons comics, specifically those with the Forgotten Realms banner and more specifically, those featuring Drizzt Do’Urden.

Film Review: Heavy Metal (1981)

Also known as: Universo en fantasía (original Spanish language title)
Release Date: July 29th, 1981 (premiere)
Directed by: Gerald Potterton
Written by: Daniel Goldberg
Based on: original art and stories by Richard Corben, Angus McKie, Dan O’Bannon, Thomas Warkentin, Bernie Wrightson
Music by: Elmer Bernstein, various
Cast: Rodger Bumpass, Jackie Burroughs, John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Don Francks, Martin Lavut, Marilyn Lightstone, Eugene Levy, Alice Playten, Harold Ramis, Susan Roman, Richard Romanus, August Schellenberg, John Vernon, Zal Yanovsky

Canadian Film Development Corporation, Guardian Trust Company, Columbia Pictures, 86 Minutes, 90 Minutes (premiere cut)

Review:

“A shadow shall fall over the universe, and evil will grow in its path, and death will come from the skies.” – Narrator

Fuck, this movie is so damn cool!

However, it does lack in the “heavy metal” department, as far as the music goes. That’s not to say the music is bad, this is just a lot less heavy than the title implies. Still, this developed a really strong cult following and for very good reason.

I love the rock and pop tunes in this, though. I mean, where else can you see a sword and sorcery story with sci-fi elements playout to a Devo song? Nowhere!

This entire movie is an animated anthology. The various segments were inspired by some of the stories and art that appeared in the pages of the Heavy Metal comic magazine. This is also a very adult cartoon, as it features nudity, sex and violence. There really isn’t anything here for kids but I saw it as a kid and it blew my mind. The ’80s were a different era, though. Kids today can’t watch Gremlins without needing the light on till they turn thirty.

Anyway, this was produced by Ivan Reitman and it featured a lot of his regular actors in voice roles. It’s kind of neat watching this for the first time in years and hearing John Candy, Harold Ramis, Eugene Levy and Joe Flaherty. It almost needed Bill Murray in there to round it out but it was still pretty dope hearing these comedic legends voices pop up in something like this.

That being said, this is just a really unique experience and it still conjures up a sort of magical feeling when watching it.

Despite the action and violence, the film has a calming, chill vibe to it and I think that has a lot to do with its visual style, tone and the superb use of music to season the already flavorful meal.

Heavy Metal is a weirdly comforting movie that reminds me of a time when filmmakers were still daring and experimental and with that, often times gave us movies that were really interesting, wonderfully eccentric, bizarre and special.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel, as well as other late ’70s and ’80s adult animated films.

Documentary Review: The 24 Hour War (2016)

Release Date: 2016
Directed by: Nate Adams, Adam Carolla
Cast: various

Chassy Media, Netflix, 99 Minutes

Review:

Man, I really wanted to watch this as The 24 Hours of Le Mans is one of my favorite sporting events of the year and the biggest motorsports thing that I care about.

However, this was pretty underwhelming even though it told a great story, which was the Le Mans rivalry that developed between Ferrari and Ford. Since there’s a very well-received and beloved drama film on this very subject, it’s not a true story short on excitement.

I think that the biggest problem with this documentary, though, was the editing. It wasn’t very good and it made this play like a disjointed clusterfuck at times. I don’t want to be too hard on it but it shifted gears in strange ways that left my brain feeling like a speed bag.

It was hard to follow the narrative but I did enjoy the interviews within this. Although, that doesn’t save the film from its issues.

While this is probably more factually accurate than the dramatized motion picture, you’re probably better off just watching that. Plus, it boasts great performances from its A-list cast.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on Le Mans and motorsports in general.

Film Review: Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Also known as: Tea-Time of the Dead (working title), Zombies Party – Uma Noite… de Morte (Portugal), Zombies Party – Una Noche… de Muerte (Spain)
Release Date: March 29th, 2004 (London premiere)
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Written by: Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg
Music by: Pete Woodhead, Daniel Mudford
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Jessica Stevenson, Peter Serafinowicz, Rafe Spall, Martin Freeman, Tamsin Greig, Matt Lucas, Julia Deakin, Michael Smiley (uncredited)

Working Title Films, StudioCanal, Rogue Pictures, Universal Pictures, 99 Minutes

Review:

“As Mr. Sloan always says, there is no “I” in team, but there is an “I” in pie. And there’s an “I” in meat pie. Anagram of meat is team… I don’t know what he’s talking about.” – Shaun

The first time that I watched Shaun of the Dead, I knew that it would not only be a cult classic, right out of the gate, but I knew it would go down as a comedy classic and one of the best of its era. I wasn’t wrong and it helped Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost carve out really nice careers for themselves.

It also kicked off the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, which included 2007’s Hot Fuzz and 2013’s The World’s End.

Out of those three films, this one sits in the middle for me, as I like Hot Fuzz more and thought that The World’s End was fairly underwhelming.

This movie is pretty simple and straightforward, though. It also came out before zombie movies and television shows really blew up and became oversaturated in entertainment. So when I saw this for the first time in 2004, it was pretty unique and immediately became one of my favorite horror comedies.

There have been a lot of horror comedies since, especially in the zombie subgenre. But this and the original Return of the Living Dead are the only two I’d consider true classics.

The cast in this had great chemistry but most of them are good friends and had worked together previously in the TV shows Spaced and Black Books.

Shaun of the Dead also feels like a natural extension of Spaced, even though it features familiar actors in different roles. The style of the comedy, the two main characters’ camaraderie and the film’s general tone match up with Spaced, though. That also probably has to do with Edgar Wright helming both.

The story sees a lovable and well-meaning loser have to step up to the plate when the zombie apocalypse kicks off in London. He needs to win back his girlfriend, save his mum and his friends and try to survive the undead outbreak with a pint in his hand.

This doesn’t need a complicated story and it’s better that it’s simple and allows the characters the time to develop and win you over. It’s funny though, as this was the first time I saw Dylan Moran and by the end, I thought he was the biggest prick in the world. And he was, in this film, but he’d actually become one of my favorite comedians and comedic actors after seeing a lot of his standup, as well as his roles in Black Books and a slew of other appearances over the years.

Shaun of the Dead was my introduction to a lot of actors I’ve grown to love over the years. Kate Ashfield, the female lead, is actually the only person in this who I haven’t seen in anything else. Still, she’s really enjoyable in this and added a lot to this group’s dynamic.

I’m glad that I revisited this again, as it’s been so long since I’ve watched any of the movies in this trilogy or Spaced. But after seeing this, I’m going to work through them all again for future reviews.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Edgar Wright comedies, as well as his television show Spaced.

Book Review: ‘The Disney Monorail: Imagineering a Highway In the Sky’ by Jeff Kurtti, Vanessa Hunt, Paul Wolski

I pre-ordered this and got it late last year. It sort of got lost in the shuffle of my stack of books needing to be read but I finally got around to it and I should’ve sooner because I really wanted to kick back and enjoy this.

I’m glad to say that this big, oversized coffee table book was a really neat read.

Growing up in Florida, it was hard not to be captivated by Disney’s magic, especially when trips to the parks were fairly common in my childhood and ’80s through ’90s Disney theme park stuff always hits me hard in the nostalgia part of my brain.

In fact, I loved riding the monorails as much as I liked riding the actual rides. It was always a cool, fun experience flying along the rail, a dozen or more feet above the beautiful grounds of the Disney parks and resorts.

I suspected that this book would be like many Disney books about the company’s history. It was full of large pictures throughout the decades, showcasing all the different monorails, it’s creation, construction and every other part of the vehicle’s long and colorful history.

This also featured a lot of concept art and promotional material about the monorail system.

The chapters were all really interesting a well-written and alongside all the imagery, helped to paint the full story of this great attraction from Walt Disney’s earliest vision of it to being the easiest way to get around the Disney parks since its inception.

For those that also have a burning nostalgia for the history of Disney’s parks, this is a must-own. Plus, it wasn’t as expensive as one would think. I paid something like thirty bucks for this pristine, thick, hardcover beast.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other books about the history of Disney parks or theme parks in general.

Film Review: Dazed and Confused (1993)

Release Date: June 4th, 1993 (Seattle International Film Festival)
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Written by: Richard Linklater
Music by: various
Cast: Jason London, Wiley Wiggins, Sasha Jenson, Michelle Burke, Christine Harnos, Rory Cochrane, Ben Affleck, Adam Goldberg, Anthony Rapp, Marissa Ribisi, Catherine Avril Morris, Matthew McConaughey, Shawn Andrews, Cole Hauser, Milla Jovovich, Joey Lauren Adams, Christin Hinojosa, Parker Posey, Deena Martin, Nicky Katt, Esteban Powell, Jason O. Smith, Mark Vandermeulen, Jeremy Fox, Renee Zellweger

Detour Filmproduction, Alphaville Films, Gramercy Pictures, 102 Minutes

Review:

“That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.” – Wooderson

I always viewed this movie as a spiritual successor to Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Mainly, because it is a coming-of-age high school movie but it is just as serious, as it is comedic. While it is goofy and funny, it’s a much better film than what it appears to be on a surface level, similar to Ridgemont High.

Also like Ridgemont, it has a stacked cast that features a ton of young stars. These stars would become big names as the ’90s rolled on and the turn of the new millennium took many of them to the heights of Hollywood. There are future Academy Award winners in this cast.

It’s also directed by Richard Linklater and it has similar beats to his other coming-of-age films, although it doesn’t have as hard of an edge as the really dark, SubUrbia.

The story starts on the last day of school and it follows several characters over the course of that day and night. Each one is faced with an uncertain future, new changes and challenges on the horizon but ultimately, everyone wants to forget about their problems and just enjoy the night.

The film takes place in the mid-’70s, even though it came out in the ’90s. But it’s also timeless and regardless of the timeframe in which it takes place, it’s also really true to what the ’90s were like. I know, because I was this age in the ’90s. I can’t speak on how this will play for modern high school students but the world is a weird, incredibly soft place now.

What makes this movie so much better than most of the films like it is the performances of the cast and how genuine everything feels. Linklater obviously wrote this based off of his own high school experiences and his personal intimacy with the material comes through in every scene. And frankly, there isn’t a single unnecessary or dull scene in the entire film.

Additionally, all the big plots are well-balanced and organized, as the night plays on and several characters weave in and out of the larger story, overlapping.

Dazed and Confused has stood the test of time incredibly well. I feel like it’s material will always be relevant and because of that, it is one of the greatest motion pictures of its type.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other Richard Linklater coming of age films, as well as other good coming of age high school movies.