Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Julianne Moore, Anthony Hopkins
Plot: Ten years after his escape from the asylum, Dr. Hannibal Lecter decides to come out of retirement, and Clarice Starling must face him once again.
Thoughts: Ridley Scott had a tough job on his hands when he chose to adapt the most complex novel about Hannibal Lecter for the big screen. Unfortunately, the result is mediocre at best. Given the absence of Jodie Foster, Moore does a decent job taking on the role of Starling, but one can only wish her efforts had gone towards a better script. This is the goriest of the Hannibal films so far, and that wouldn't be a problem unless, like Silence of the Lambs, it came at the culmination of suspense. Unfortunately, most of the suspense is lost in the break-neck pace. Though the last scene falls flat, the film's climax is handled relatively well, and is the only case in which the tempo creates a sense of dread. Hopkins is just as spectacular as usual, and to his credit manages to brings a lot of life into what winds up being a somewhat disappointing sequel.

BRIEF THOUGHTS: Silence of the Lambs

Director: Jonathan Demme
Starring: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins
Plot: An FBI agent must obtain the aid of Hannibal Lecter in order to track down another madman.
Thoughts: Yes, this and Red Dragon have essentially the same plots. Does it matter? No. This film adaptation came before the other, and ended up winning 5 Oscars. Hopkins is Hannibal, and the result is chilling. There's a reason this is considered one of the most suspenseful films of all time - it is. Even though I've seen it multiple times, there are certain moments that never cease to make my hair stand up on end. Lecter is arguably the best villain in film history, and this is one of the few timeless suspense classics. Superb.


Director: Brett Ratner
Starring: Edward Norton, Anthony Hopkins, Ralph Fiennes
Plot: Detective William Graham relies on the aid of sociopath Hannibal Lecter to track down a serial killer who calls himself the Red Dragon.
Thoughts: A surprisingly decent adaptation. It has more Hannibal than the book, but that's certainly not a bad thing, as Hopkins once again steals the show. Considering the amount of character depth in the source material, the movie does a good job of getting the essentials into a two-hour film. Edward Norton is hit-and-miss, but the other actors fare better. This one of the few cases where artistic license was put to good use, with only a few exceptions. The opening and closing scenes really work, and it helps that a few of the same actors from Silence of the Lambs pop up here and there. Will Graham is a much more interesting character than Clarice Starling, and though the film doesn't quite flesh out his psyche as much as it possibly could have, it does a much better job at creating suspense than the 1986 adaptation, Manhunter.

BRIEF THOUGHTS: Pan's Labyrinth

Director: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Ivana Baquero, Sergi Lopez
Plot: Set in post-war fascist Spain, a young girl goes to live with her mother's new husband, a cruel captain in the Army. She finds relief from her troubles by interacting with fantastic creatures and embarking on a quest to discover if she is destined to be the immortal queen of their world.
Thoughts: A good film. It's perhaps slightly overrated by the critics, but it's still worth seeing. This is a fairy-tale for adults, and it's surprisingly grisly at times, but the visuals are stunning and the creature design top-notch. Del Toro manages to find the perfect balance between real-world and fantasy-world occurrences, and the ending should at least inspire a little discussion, as it's open to a variety of interpretations. Also: this film reminded me that children can be good actors, if they have the right direction.

BRIEF THOUGHTS: Children of Men

Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Starring: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore
Plot: In a future dystopian Britain in which women have become infertile, a man must protect a pregnant woman from those wish to take advantage of her, and lead her to safety.
Thoughts: I always thought the trailers for this film made it look cheesy. Boy, was I wrong. This film starts with a bang and doesn't let up until the credits roll. The script and directing are strong enough to overcome a plot that could have potentially become insipid or just plain dumb. With the exception of some poorly-realized comic relief, once this film grabs you it doesn't let go. It's worth seeing for the cinematography alone - it contains two of the most lengthy, gorgeous tracking shots I've ever seen. I expected it to be good, but somehow it managed to click with me in a way that most films don't. I'm not sure if it's the kind of film I'd watch again any time soon, but it's quite possibly my second favorite film of 2006 behind The Fountain.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

INTERVIEW: Sophia Bush

Sophia Bush hitches a ride

Sophia Bush is perhaps best known for her role as Brooke Davis on the television series "One Tree Hill." However, the 26-year-old actress is rapidly making a name for herself in the world of film. Last year she starred in the slasher-flick Stay Alive and the comedy John Tucker Must Die. This weekend, she can be seen starring alongside Sean Bean and Zachary Knighton in The Hitcher, a remake of the 1986 thriller about a murderous hitchhiker.

"It's a major action thriller. The suspense is amazing," said Bush. "We all took a lot of care in making sure you don't anticipate the scare."

In the film, her character picks up a mysterious hitchhiker named John Ryder who turns out to be more than he first appears. When it comes to picking up hitchhikers herself, though, that's a different matter.

"I have never picked up a hitchhiker, and I never would. Nine out of ten times you'd be fine, but it only takes one time to leave you in pieces in the desert," said Bush.

The film was produced by Platinum Dunes, which is owned by director Michael Bay, famous for his over-the-top action films. As such, it's to be expected that The Hitcher contains many intense action sequences. What may be surprising, though, is that Bush did all her own stunts.

"I'm a total stunt junkie. That's where my tomboy comes out. I spent five weeks, five days a week training," said Bush. "At one point I was hanging out of the car banging on the windows of the car next to me."

Despite the grueling physical nature of the shoot, Bush felt that the experience of filming a horror movie had certain rewards films of other genres couldn't provide.

"Each genre has its own amazing qualities," said Bush. "I love comedy but there's also something very rewarding about pushing yourself to your emotional limit and breaking through it every day. That's just as rewarding as making the cameraman laugh while you're filming a comedy."

Working on The Hitcher also was advantageous in that she got to work with an established actor in the form of Sean Bean (Troy, Lord of the Rings). She found that acting alongside the veteran actor was a somewhat paradoxical experience, at times terrifying and at other times endearing.

"He turns it on and he is so maniacal and evil. And yet he's also a father, so if he grabbed my head and I made a sound he would stop and ask if I was OK. Then he would launch right back into it," said Bush.

Overall, the experience proved beneficial for the budding actress.

"There's a real challenge making a film like this where it's an emotional roller coaster," said Bush. "I know I will hold on to this film for the rest of my career and remember what a great time I had. It was insane."

Bush might love making movies, but she said a vacation might be in the making.

"I'm a workaholic and a perfectionist. I haven't been on vacation in four years," Bush said. "I need to take about a month off."