The Great Hannibal Lecter Deep Dive

Do you ever get really excited about a deep dive, go full-boat into it and then wash out? Well, that’s kind of what happened last year when I found myself minorly obsessed with Hannibal Lecter and his exploits throughout television, film and, of course, the written word. I started watching the series, which made me read the books, while still watching the show (a very unique and interesting experience) and then the movies, but I petered out after seeing my third take on the Red Dragon story. But, I still wanted to get these thoughts out there, so here’s most of the original post I started sometime last spring.

For years, I’d been hearing great things about NBC’s three season-long series Hannibal based on Thomas Harris’ character made most famous in The Silence Of The Lambs. It ran from 2013-2015 with Mads Mikkleson starring as the title character and Hugh Dancy as Will Graham, a pure empath who FBI Behavioral Sciences head Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) brought back in from his teaching gig in an effort to help catch a serial killer. I decided to dive right into the series thanks to its presence on Amazon Prime Video and now have a new favorite show! Continue reading The Great Hannibal Lecter Deep Dive

Great Apes: Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (2011)

Planet Of The Apes is a franchise that I absolutely love, but haven’t talked about much here on the blog. I don’t think there’s any question that the original film is a classic worth celebrating, but what really hooked me about the franchise was the strange and wonderful continuity that flows through the first five films. You’ve got astronauts traveling forward in time, more coming after them, a nuclear bomb going off, apes traveling back to the original time period and having a baby who eventually leads the ape uprising. It might be a bit confusing to some, but I started learning about it at the height of my interest in comics which was heavily based on the history within the stories I was learning about.

So, when I heard that a new Apes film was being worked on that wasn’t really in the continuity, I wasn’t super interested. But, as time went on, the cast formed and I heard lots of liking the film, I figured I’d give it a shot. There’s a time when this movie’s lack of continuity with the others would have really bothered me, but I think I’m past that part of my fandom. Now, I can easily appreciate a story spinning off of another story I like especially if it’s as well done as Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.

The movie follows James Franco, a scientist working on an Alzheimer’s cure that’s being tested on apes. It turns out the drug is also making them smarter, but when one of them flips out and starts attacking people, they’re all put down. One of the babies, Caesar, gets spared, however, and Franco decides to raise him in his house. He also tests the drug on his dad (John Lithgow). Everything goes well for a while until Caesar flips out (apes do that, it’s why they make bad pets) and gets sent to an ape house run by Brian Cox and Tom Felton (Malfoy from the Potter films, that dude always plays someone awful). While there, Caesar learns some of the harder truths about the world and winds up first dosing his fellow apes and then leading a revolution to free them as well as apes in the zoos and labs.

It’s a great story, but most importantly it was handled really well. Director Rupert Wyatt really allowed for the special effects to do their work, and they did a lot of good work in this film, though I’ll get more into that in a bit. Whole scenes work out between Caesar and the other animals where not a word is said. There’s a clever use of sign language between him (Franco taught it to him) and an orangutan who used to be in a circus, but even that isn’t overly used. It might sound strange, but the digital apes really get a chance to show what they can do and they do very intense, emotional work.

On the subject of the effects, I kept thinking about one of Penn Jillette’s Penn Point podcasts from last year where he quickly spotlighted this movie, saying that he liked how the digital apes actually looked a little cartoony and unreal. I didn’t really get what he meant until I saw the movie, but I think he’s right on with his assessment. The apes are clearly digital, but not in a bad or sloppy way. They’re very well done and could have probably been made more realistic, but I think it’s good for them to be a bit cartoony because it lets your brain relax on that subject for a bit. You’re not constantly trying to figure out what’s real and what’s not (even if that’s an unconscious struggle), which allows you to enjoy the film more and get further into its reality.

Finally, I dug how the film ended. The apes get what they want, but there’s obviously a lot more story to be told both because humans aren’t going to just give up any of their territory like that AND because of the cool credit presentation of the spread of the human disease caused by unneeded exposure to the drug Franco helped create. For a film I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to see, being excited about a potential sequel is a pretty big deal. Can’t wait to see where they go with this franchise next!

We Want Action: RED (2010)

With all the election nonsense clogging up the airwaves last night, the missus and I decided to have ourselves a little dinner and a movie date and saw RED and The Destinta, an awesome independent theater near our place that does discount tickets on Tuesdays. We decided on this flick because the missus liked the cast and we both figured this would be better to watch on the big screen than a drama or comedy. And, boy, did we both have a lot of fun with the flick.

The idea is that Bruce Willis, a retired CIA agent has been marked for death. Since he’s been flirting with customer service rep Mary-Louise Parker has been targeted to, so he grabs her and goes on a cross-country chase trying to figure out why Karl Urban’s after him, enlisting the help of fellow older killers Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren and Brian Cox. With the exception of a few stiff line delivers, I think this might be Willis’ best movie in a while (Cop Out was okay, Surrogates was interesting, but didn’t really take up much rent space in my brain) because the action is solid (though I wish they hadn’t shown that scene of him getting out of the spinning car in the previews because it takes away a little bit of the awesomeness having seen it a billion times in the commercials). I was worried that Freeman and Mirren might have just signed up for this flick for a paycheck, but it seemed like they had a good time, or at least took it remotely seriously. I liked Parker more in this one movie than almost all of Weeds. Urban really proved himself to me in this flick. He was great in Star Trek, but he was basically interpreting someone else’s performance in that movie and really got to show what he can do in this one from both an acting and action perspective. And, damn, Malkovich as the paranoid-but-right dudes was just so damn perfect.

For whatever it’s worth, I didn’t read the comic the movie is loosely based on written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Cully Hamner. It came out while I was in college and working solely off of my established pull list. I don’t think I’d read any Ellis books at that point and it doesn’t sound like I’ve missed a whole lot. RED sounds very violent and pretty basic, kind of like Ellis’ later team-up with Hamner for Top Cow Down, which I read and dug, but don’t even think I’ll need to revisit. The movie, on the other hand, I think I’ll watch a few more times, especially if it comes on on a Saturday afternoon or I come across it on Instant. It’s fun and funny and has a nice, but not too gooey, romantic plot that doesn’t diminish any of the characters.

I had three random thoughts while watching this movie. First off, I think they filmed the rocket launcher scene in this movie (which was awesome all around, by the way) in the same place they filmed the finale of The Losers, which is kind of funny because they’re both movies based on obscure comic properties owned by DC. I don’t know what they call those giant, rectangular metal shipping boxes, but that’s what tipped me off. Second, related to the first, actually, is that the trailer was randomly spoilery. So, SPOILER WARNING if you care. One major and one minor plot point can be figured out just by watching the trailer. The major one is that Freeman isn’t really dead after the attack in the nursing home, which you know because you see him with Mirren in the preview. The minor one is that the red headed woman is actually following them. Malkovich hassles the lady, but you’re supposed to just think he’s paranoid. Of course, if you’ve seen the commercial for the movie, you know she’s the one that fires the rocket at him. And finally, I wonder if Kevin Smith had problems with Willis on the set of Cop Out. On the most recent Smodcast (#143), Smith mentioned that the main different between filming Cop Out and Red State is that on the former there was someone who clearly didn’t want to be there and on the latter everyone was excited to make the movie. You’d think it would be between the two leads–Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis–if it caused a certain amount of problems or headaches, but Smith defended Morgan on Twitter the other day, so I’m wondering if he was referring to Willis. For what it’s worth, Smith has also praised Adam Brody and Kevin Pollack in various podcasts, which seems to leave Willis. Knowing Smith, I wouldn’t be surprised if he eventually came out and told that tale. I’d definitely be curious to hear it and also figure out if I was right.

Halloween Scene: Demons (1985), Halloween (1978), The Ring (2002), The Substitute (2007) & My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009)

Even though the weather went from very Halloween to ridiculously sunny today, I frontloaded my week so that I could give myself a horror movie marathon day. Today I watched Demons, Halloween (the original of course), The Ring (US remake), The Substitute (dubbed, poorly I might add) and My Bloody Valentine 3D in 3D for the first time. So, let’s tackle these bad boys in order.

I actually watched Demons late last night, which is still technically today. I was catching up on emails and some links I wanted to read, so I wasn’t paying 100% attention and I don’t really understand what was happening. Considering this is an Italian horror movie, I’m not sure if I would understand even if I was sitting in a room by myself with just this movie to draw my attention. Far as I can tell, some people are in a movie theater and somehow the movie turns the viewers into demons. Once the demons are loose, they somehow create more demons, which kind of makes them zombies with a different look (glowing eyes, big claws).

Even though I don’t really know what was going on, I do know that the effects and kills in the movie were both awesome and cringe-worthy. You’ve got claws popping through a woman’s finger tips, a woman being scalped by a demon and razors near nipples among plenty of other things.

Aside from not making perfect sense (or at least being interesting enough to draw my attention away from the computer to pay attention which is obviously less of a sin than actually not making sense, but still not good), the movie also spends a lot of time with some cocaine-loving punks who (I think) only serve to show up at the movie theater later to become demons. It’s a weird choice, but I guess one that’s somewhat common when it comes to Italian horror (I’m not very well schooled in this subgenre). But, any movie that ends with a dude riding a dirtbike through a movie theater swinging a samurai sword to kill demons right before a helicopter falls through the roof is worth watching. It’s not a good movie, but it’s a fun story to watch.

Halloween‘s still my favorite slasher movie of all time. I reviewed the flick a few years ago, which you can read here. The sitting-up scene still gives me a charge. I don’t know if I’ve noticed this before, but I have no idea why Laurie’s friends with Annie. She’s SUCH a bitch. Man, what a jerk. Anyway, I love how Loomis’ decent into madness can be seen even in this first installment. Love that guy.

This was only the second time I’ve seen The Ring, but it’s still one of my favorite horror movies. The first time I saw it was in college at a date event my fraternity threw. We rented out a small room at the tiny theater in town called The Strand, everyone brought a date and we all sat there in the dark watching the movie. It’s my all-time favorite horror experience in a theater because, knowing everyone there allowed a lot of us to cut loose a little, so there was all kinds of screaming. You tend to hold that back when you’re in a theater with strangers, but this was a room full of friends. It was awesome. The only problem with the experience is that the missus swore off horror movies after watching the flick with me. Even worse, some of my fraternity brothers tried to scare us when we came back to my room later that night. Their plan was to have a tape sticking out of my VCR, the channel set to static and someone behind the couch to turn the TV on when we walked in. We stopped off to get some food, so we took longer to get back than everyone else which is good because, had they pulled the prank off, I don’t think the missus would have slept ever again. Or killed someone. By the time we got back to my room, some dudes were walking out, saw us and told us their aborted plan.

I had a wonderful time watching this movie again. I was worried that it would have lost a lot of its punch with me as I watched it by myself and during the day, but instead I was struck by how well put together the flick was. Gore Verbinksi did a great job with the visuals and mood of the movie. I also like that the Noah character seems to say the things that critics of the movie might say “It’s very student film” and “must have been scarier at night.” Those little bits give the script some self-awareness that I like without it being too in your face. Ring’s another slow burn type of movie, which I think I’m starting to appreciate more and I also like that there’s a mystery to the film. You think you get the answer and then that answer turns out to be completely wrong. I love when that happens in movies. You’re just trying to put the pieces together along with the Naomi Watts, but just because you’ve got a series of facts doesn’t mean you know the full story.

I was also struck by how many now-famous people are in small roles in the movie. Sara Rue (who was on BBT and those Jenny Craig commercials), Adam Brody, Amber Tamblyn and Pauley Perrette (the goth chick from NCIS) all have small parts. Plus, Samara is played by Daveigh Chase who voiced Lilo from Lilo & Stitch, which is kind of funny because the missus loves Lilo & Stitch and HATES The Ring.

In case you’re wondering, yes I’ve seen the original Ringu movies, but didn’t like them as much. I bought bootleg versions of them at a comic convention after seeing the movie in 2002, which was funny because, at the same time, the missus had bought me the legit versions for me for Christmas (the previous Christmas the same thing happened, but with the Jay and Silent Bob action figures). I don’t remember specifically why I didn’t like Ringu as much, but I would imagine it boils down to Americans not having the same weird cultural fears and hangups that Japanese folks do. Verbinski did a good job with the water and the kids, but those things don’t normally because I’m a grown man who can swim. I also remember having a problem with the subtitles which were white on often white backgrounds. I left these DVDs back home when I moved out here, so it’s been a while and I should definitely give them another watch.

Speaking of more watches, I watched The Substitute again and I think it’s the best Ghost House Underground movie of the bunch. It still reminds me of The Goonies but with an alien broad who can shrink people and control minds instead of the Fratellis and pirates. My only problem with the movie is that the dubbing is awful. Is it really so hard to get some actual kids to record voices instead of people who usually do cartoons? Seriously, pull a group of 16 year olds off the street and give them the script and it’d be way better than this. Just saying.

I finished things out by watching the copy of My Bloody Valentine 3D I picked up from Blockbuster and the pink and green 3D glasses I bought online. I’m not sure what to think about the experience of watching a 3D movie at home. This was the first time I ever did that and the first time I’ve used these kinds of 3D glasses. When I first put them on everything looked to be washed in those hues, but after a little while your eyes get used to it. As I’ve said, I tend to work on more than one thing at once which means every time I looked away from the screen or took the glasses off, it would take all that long to get back into the swing of things again. The other problem I had was that I couldn’t find a good angle to watch the movie. My usual seat isn’t directly in front of the TV but off to the side, so the 3D effects didn’t always hit me in the right way. Maybe I was too close or too far away. I tried some different angles, but never got a great view of things. There were a few things tossed at the screen that did make me flinch, but I missed the eye gag in the beginning because I was looking at email. I’m lame. The movie itself was the same as it was last time, though I remembered the twist this time around. I guess it still works and is a fun enough slasher flick to buy for $5.

Halloween Scene: Trick ‘r Treat (2008)

You guys, I’ve been waiting to see Trick ‘r Treat for what seems like three years now. Back in the day when Rickey was the Hollywood editor at Wizard I remember him excitedly telling me about TrT, saying it was kind of like Nashville or Go with several stories intersecting in unexpected ways, but with horror. It’s a concept I’d never heard of before. But then there were all kinds of problems. It was supposed to be in theaters in 2007 (as you can see from the poster) and it wasn’t. Then it was supposedly pushed back to come out in theaters in 2008 and it didn’t. Well, it finally came out today and it was worth the wait!

Not only does the film follow several groups of characters, it also jumps around in time, starting with the end of the night and hopping around from there. I really don’t want to drop any specific spoilers, but I will say that I appreciate the different kinds of stories you get here. There’s a monster, a supernatural slasher, ghosts and ghouls and regular old killers. For horror fans who like their stories completely explained by the end of the film, this isn’t really the movie for you. And I really like that aspect of it. Some things are explained, like the image of the kids on the bus in the ultra creepy costumes, but others are completely unexplained. Unless I missed something, which is entirely possible.

There’s a lot going on in this movie and I would gladly give it another watch in the near future or even add it to my collection, but I’d feel kinda bad sitting on this Netflix DVD when I know so many other fans out there are looking to check it out. Two more things before I leave you to watch this flick yourself. One, Sam, the little burlapped dude in the poster above, is probably my favorite slasher of the past 10 years. And, two, be warned, a LOT of kids get killed in this movie. I’m not talking about 24-year-old teenagers, actual kids around 14 years old and younger. I wasn’t really bothered by it, but was surprised. I wonder if that had something to do with the movie getting moved back. Hopefully, it will do really REALLY well on DVD and we might get another horror movie out of Michael Dougherty.