Silence of the Lambs

Year: 1991
Directed By: Jonathan Demme
Written By: Thomas Harris (novel) Ted Tally (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I distinctly remember the first time I saw this movie. I was about 10 years old and staying at some relatives house who were cool enough to let me watch the grown up movie. Unfortunately the grown up movie was this one and for some reason I thought it was based on a true story. My Uncle may or may not have told me as much. I will never forget lying awake afterwards in straight up fear. Lying in the dark just staring at the ceiling, my ten year old mind unable to process anything beyond the horrible Hannibal Lecture being lose in the world. Where else could he possibly be on a late summer night besides right outside the door wanting to kill me???

In less than 25 minutes of screen time Anthony Hopkins not only earned the Academy Award for Best Actor but he scarred my prepubescent self to a new level. I would feel foolish about my youthful fear but in truth Hannibal Lecter still scares me. Nothing is quite as intimidating as superior intelligence and Lecter brings more to the table than just that. Lecter won’t just outsmart you, he’ll bite your face and then cut it off of you. If he has enough time he might even eat you! Add that to the fact that the man never blinks and I challenge anybody not to be scared of the guy. Imagine thinking he was a real person, loose in the world with the freedom to kill and eat anybody he wanted, and maybe you can relate to the 10 year old Ryan who laid awake in fear for an entire night some 20 something years ago.

For somebody who was born out west, Jodie Foster has always been able to pull off a hell of a southern accent. Though she won the Academy Award for this movie and is the hero I tend to think she is overshadowed by her co-stars. I have also always held it against her that she didn’t return to the sequel with everybody else ten years later with Hannibal. Even though I think she was overshadowed I still think this is one of her finest performances but that is coming from a specific non fan. She has had a long and distinguished career but few of her roles have ever really gotten to me on a fan level.

The obvious person who overshadowed her was Anthony Hopkins who gave the performance of a lifetime but I also think Ted Levine stands out more than she does too. As Buffalo Bill he is a combination of several real life serial killers and he is absolutely terrifying. He has a voice that will haunt you in your worst nightmares and his dress up scene will make your skin crawl. Even scarier is the persona that goes with that villainous voice. A man who captures women and drops them into a pit is something to fear and he makes my skin break out in goose flesh every time I see him. Unfortunately I have never been able to separate Levine from this role and no matter what else he is in I keep waiting for him to say, “It puts the lotion in the basket.”

As bad as my fear was that this movie was based on a real story I think I have been more terrified to know about the men the movie was actually based on. Buffalo Bill is a combination of a few serial killers who actually did most of the things we saw in the movie. The skinning of victims was actually done by a serial killer so fearsome he has become legend. Ed Gein is the basis for not only part of Buffalo Bill but also Leatherface and Norman Bates. He would dress up in his dead mothers clothing, dig up corpses to steal skin, and the women he actually did kill were hung up and gutted in the same fashion hunted animals are. Ted Bundy would use a cast on his arm to lure women into his van and then use it as a weapon to knock them out. The scariest thing though, if not Ed Gein, is the fact there was a serial killer who had a pit he kept women in. Gary Heidnick terrorized six women during the 70s and 80s doing many awful things, including keeping them in a pit. The things he did were so awful and unbelievable that when one of his victims escaped and told police they didn’t even believe her story until seeing physical evidence. Each one of these men are terrifying in their own rite but put together they created a haunting villain in Buffalo Bill.

This movie went through pains to be legitimate with all the actors doing their due diligence in research. Hopkins studied several serial killers and even attended some trials for violent crimes when trying to get into character. The not blinking thing was his own idea as he knew a person who never blinked and it freaked out everyone that talked to him. Ted Levine also did plenty of research into both serial killers and the transsexual community. There was also an actual FBI Agent on set in a consulting role to help make sure everything went right. I think all these efforts went a long way to making the movie so great and memorable.

There were few lasting effects from my fearsome evening with this movie for the first time but I will never forget it regardless. It was simply the product of my youth but I still have doubts that just any other movie could have elicited such a response out of me. This movie is awesome hands down and it’s one that hardly needs my stamp of approval. The efforts to bank on its success afterwards including both a sequel and a prequel could not match what was done with this film. There are memorable parts in both Hannibal and Red Dragon but some things simply can’t be replicated and the same type of magic wasn’t present in those films. This is a movie that nearly everyone has seen but if you somehow missed it then you need to go back and check it out. This one is definitely worth your time.

NEXT MOVIE: Silver Lining Playbook (2012)

 

 

 

 

 

The Siege

Year: 1998
Directed By: Edward Zwick
Written By: Lawrence Wright, Menno Meyjes, and Edward Zwick

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is an interesting film because it centers on terrorism in the pre-War on Terror world. The New York skyline is even topped by the Twin Towers in many shots. It’s interesting not only because of how the War on Terror actually unfolded but because the movie still serves as a warning for what could happen. In today’s climate there is just as much danger of this movie becoming a reality as there was during the decade after 9/11.

I have never liked the stereotyping of Muslims into terrorist because you can’t let radicals from any religion cast a net over the entire populous. Yes there are radical Muslims that want to do harm, but by the same token there are radicals in all religions that are all equally as dangerous. When you let xenophobia and racism take the front stage you are going to have a lot of innocent people caught up in the middle. When the focus turns from the actual perpetrators to an entire demographic of people then it simply becomes a witch hunt and in this country we should know the dangers involved in such a thing.

Muslim does not mean terrorist, just as terrorist does not mean Muslim. When people lose sight of that difference we are in danger of seeing what happened in this movie become real life. During the War on Terror the U.S. did detain plenty of terror suspects but they never went as far as to set up camps in the middle of the city and start locking up every person that fit their demographic. With the way the current popular presidential candidate talks we may still have to fear this movie turning into reality.

I hate the current talk about both immigration and Islam because it is being fueled by a “political” leader. I live in the south where so many rednecks are being egged on and amped up in their natural racist mentality. Not all people around here are like that but even the quiet racists are starting to feel comfortable voicing their opinions when out of ear shot of  specific people. It bothers me as a human being because what used to be nothing more than a joke with these people has turned into hopeful longing. As if it is even appropriate, or even practical, to shut down immigration and try to block Muslims from entering the country. These ideas set us back as a country and civilization to such an unfortunate degree. The U.S. is a nation made up of immigrants from all over the world, and not just the white ones. People need to be reminded of that and not exasperated to thinking we should build walls or bar entry to anybody over religious alignment.

This movie shows us a perfect example of the innocent victim that can get caught up in the middle of this scenario. Tony Shalhoub plays the part of an FBI Agent of Arabic descent whose son is locked up after martial law is declared in New York. It doesn’t matter that he is a federal agent, it doesn’t matter that he and his family are US citizens, and it doesn’t matter if he or his family actually did anything wrong. His son fit the demographic so he was caged like an animal in the camps set up by the military. There are people just like Shalhoub’s character all over this country, but there will be no way to differentiate once profiling takes the center stage. When Brown equals bad it doesn’t matter who anybody is because they are nothing more than a suspect at that point.

While this movie has really interesting content matter I don’t think it translated into a really great or memorable film. Denzel Washington does his best but I have never been sold on the guy and this movie is no different. I think Bruce Willis in his smaller part actually brought more to the film, as did Shalhoub. I don’t really care for Annette Bening’s character cause she is just too all over the place and sleeping with the enemy to boot.

This movie may not really be worth your time if you are looking for something entertaining but the lesson that it bears makes it worth it. It’s a lesson that only grows more important as time goes on. We can never go forward as a nation and civilization by taking steps backwards. Subjugating people is something we should have learned from in the past and movies like this can serve as a reminder that it’s a really bad idea. For that reason alone I think this movie is worth your time and that is why I own it.

NEXT MOVIE: Silence of the Lambs (1991)

 

 

 

 

Shaun of the Dead

Year: 2004
Directed By: Edgar Wright
Written By: Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright

RYAN’S REVIEW

When it’s time to pull your life together you gotta make a decision, and you can’t let some little thing like the zombie apocalypse get in the way. Shaun is a man who picks the wrong time to get it together but that doesn’t stop him from doing so in this delightfully funny movie that pays homage to the true zombie films.

This movie came out the same year as the Dawn of the Dead remake, which did nothing but sully the original, and it was perfect timing for a movie like this. The sprinting zombies became all the rage back in 2004 but this movie held true to how the creatures were originally created. When asked why they didn’t use running zombies Simon Pegg said it best when he replied “because death isn’t an energy drink.” He couldn’t have been more right. While running zombies are scary enough to make you jump out of your seat they don’t factor in to good movies.

Personally I think the whole idea is stupid because zombies on speed equal nothing but the end of the human race. There is no survival when zombies are coming at you with 40 times that would get them drafted in the top 10 of the NFL draft. Zombies are much scarier as a manageable threat because the real scary stuff is the collapse of society and the dog eat dog world that rises afterwards. Thinking people are much more dangerous and unpredictable than a horde of dead runners. The runners are just going to kill everything, but the walkers are going to leave you with hope. Without hope Shaun would have never been able to make things right with his girlfriend, mother, and life.

I have personally watched this movie at least 25 times and I can honestly say it still makes me laugh and it gets better with each viewing. Even watching it now I see things I have never noticed before and they only make me laugh more. Even now I’m recognizing for the first time the line lifted from the original Night of the Living Dead, “We’re coming to get your Barbara!!!” I don’t know how I ever managed to miss that but it just goes to show how this movie has layers that make it continuously entertaining.

I love the pairing of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. I would literally watch anything the two of them do together and have enjoyed all that I have seen of them. Hot Fuzz, Paul, and The World’s End were all fantastic movies but they can’t beat this one. In this movie their relationship is actually based on their own relationship as roommates before they hit it big. Any time the two of these guys get together you can expect me to be tuning in. They don’t currently have anything lined up according to IMDB but in time I hope to see these friends back on screen together. There was at one time talk of a sequel to this film in which they would do something similar only with a different monster. The working title was “From Dusk till Shaun'” and I for one think that sounds like it would have been pretty funny.

I mentioned already that I have seen this movie an egregious amount of times but I know without doubt it won’t end there. As long as this one makes me laugh I’ll be enjoying it now and again. Given how much I enjoyed it when I sat down to it this time I have every reason to think I can watch it another 25 times and still enjoy it. That’s a special type of movie and one that is easily worth your time to see. There are tons of backstory and inside jokes within this movie that I couldn’t possibly list or even go into. I just love the movie and I think anybody else would love it just as much.

NEXT MOVIE: The Shining (1980)

Sexy Beast

Year: 2000
Directed By: Jonathan Glazer
Written By: Louis Mellis and David Scinto

RYAN’S REVIEW

Some actors take every opportunity to showcase their greatness and sometimes they deliver a performance that reminds us just how talented they really are. That’s what Ben Kingsley did with this movie and that is exactly why I own it. Years ago I had a friend bring this movie over and I wasn’t interested, but once Kingsley showed up with all the ferocity I never knew him capable of I had to own the film.

This is really a fairly cut and dry movie short the performances that make it exceptional. Ray Winstone is great as Gal, a criminal who thinks he’s “retired” and has to find out the hard way that his enterprise isn’t one you ever actually quit. He’s living the good life, soaking up the sun and drinking the night away with friends before a phone call from back home upsets the equilibrium of things. An old acquaintance has decided to pay a visit and he is not the type of man you can deny when he comes calling.

Don Logan is intimidating as hell and I am so surprised every time I see this movie how wicked he is. Adding to his intimidation is the fact that you can so clearly see how afraid Gal and his friends are when they are around this guy from back home. It suggests they know things, they know what he is capable of and it has them visibly distressed.   The thing about Ben Kingsley as Don Logan is that he is just as intimidating when he is sitting quietly as he is when he is flashing his anger. He has a presence that can be felt through the screen and right into your living room. Kingsley was actually nominated for the Academy Award for this role but lost to Jim Broadbent for his role in the movie Iris.

Kingsley overshadows nearly everyone in this movie but Ray Winstone is due plenty of credit. He kept the movie interesting after Kingsley’s part with his interactions with the equally intimidating Teddy Bass, played by Ian McShane. I am a huge fan of Ian McShane and he is always great as a sinister and shady character. In this movie I didn’t feel like McShane really brought it as a bad guy but it’s hard to be in the same movie with Don Logan and measure up.

Bank robbery movies have a tendency to be redundant because we have seen it all before. This movie is no different once Don Logan has come and gone. I think it is still worth your time to see though because Don Logan deserves to be seen. If for no other reason then seeing a bad guy be bad this movie is one you should definitely check out.

NEXT MOVIE: Shaun of the Dead (2004)

 

Secondhand Lions

Year: 2003
Directed By: Tim McCanlies
Written By: Tim McCanlies

RYAN’S REVIEW

Occasionally as I make this journey through our DVD collection I look at what comes next and have to comb my memory for an explanation. When I reached this movie I had to dig deep into my psyche for an answer. Sometimes I come to a film and it’s one I haven’t seen in more than a decade and it can be really difficult to remember. This is a movie that really seems to not belong so it took me a minute to figure out how it ended up in our collection.

It was until half way through this heartfelt and cute movie that it dawned on me how it ended up here. This was a movie my Grandmother talked me into watching years ago and I found it surprising if not silly. I think I bought it one day for a cheap price with her in mind and the memory it brought about her.  I think she really liked seeing an older Robert Duvall in a tough guy role despite his advanced age.

This isn’t a bad movie by any means it just isn’t my forte. It’s cool to see Haley Joel Osment grasping hold of that last little bit of youth he had. He was a terrific child actor and it was a shame for him to grow into an awkward adult nobody wants to watch. In this movie he still had some of that boyish look that people fell in love with in The Sixth Sense. He actually went through puberty during the filming of this movie and it is noticeable if you listen to him closely.

This is a nice heartfelt movie that you can watch with your kids. There is something to be said about that. Otherwise I don’t think it really measures up to the caliber of film I generally add into our collection. My Grandmother may have loved this movie but for anybody else out there I would consider before investing my time in watching it.

NEXT MOVIE: The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

 

 

School Ties

Year: 1992
Directed By: Robert Mandel
Written By: Dick Wolf and Darryl Ponicsan

 

RYAN’S REVIEW

It seems like the beginning of this “S” section is just flat out doomed when I’m following Schindler’s List with this film. How ironic that together these two films sit on the shelf. One being all out about the Holocaust and the other being about the racism behind it that never truly died.

This is not the greatest movie but it taught me an invaluable lesson when I was a kid. It taught me something about the nature of racism. How blind and unreasonable it can all be. In this movie all these guys are buddy buddy until they find out that all along Brendan Fraser is a Jew. The fact that they were friends before hand proves they couldn’t tell a true difference between him and themselves. When they learn his heritage he is suddenly ostracized for no other reason than the religion he serves. Nothing in particular changed about the person but all of his friends suddenly found reasons to dislike him simply because he was a Jew.

When I saw this movie as a kid it marked a lesson for me because I could see how foolish the racist feelings of these boys really were. Until they found out he was a Jew he was practically the most popular among them. How swiftly and quickly their perceptions changed based on a ridiculous notion that he was suddenly different just amazed me. I don’t doubt the truth to it and believe that these very type of situations happened countless times throughout history. The movie itself is actually based on personal experiences by the writer Dick Wolf.

I don’t understand racism in general, the type of hate that poisons a man’s heart to that point. For me it shouldn’t matter what a person’s ethnicity is when you know the person and like them. All these guys we see in this movie rally around Brenden Fraser up till that secret changes everything. They knew the person, but hardened their hearts when they learned something they could have never figured out any other way besides being told. When you know a person for who they are, it shouldn’t matter what the color of their skin is, the God they pray to, or their sexual preference for that matter.

When I watch a movie like this I relate to the main character as he struggles with this change of heart from his friends. When he is suddenly all alone for no reason and treated differently it is something I can see, and I understand his plight. I don’t know how any racist person can watch a movie like this and not take something away from it. Movies like Crash, Mississippi BurningSchindler’s List, Monster’s Balland many others have the power to teach us something but despite how popular these movies are the message just never gets through to some people. It’s a sad and unfortunate thing that I feel is getting worse as opposed to better as time carries on.

As to this movie it’s not really anything special. It’s an interesting opportunity to look back at younger versions of actors like Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Chris O’Donnell, and Brendan Fraser. At the time Fraser looked to be on his way to being big time leading man material but his career hit a huge roadblock years back and he has seemingly never recovered from it. When he became that silly guy everything went wrong for him because he was capable of more. He wasn’t bad in this movie but I don’t think he was very exceptional either. It’s funny to look back in hindsight when Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have reached the heights Fraser will simply never see.

I think it totally sucks to have to sit down to this movie after avoiding Schindler’s List. This movie in no way compares to that one but it still centers on racism and that’s an ugly topic I never care to sit down with. I think this movie is worth your time and everyone should see it simply for the hope that it teaches them something as it taught me. Racism is an ugly thing, and the only way we can ever rise above it is by looking within ourselves and deciding to be better.

NEXT MOVIE: Secondhand Lions (2003)

 

Schindler’s List

Year: 1993
Directed By: Stephen Spielberg
Written By: Thomas Keneally (book) Steven Zaillian (screenplay)

 

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is seriously a bummer section of my movie collection. To start off the “S” section we have had to endure the Saw franchise only to come to this, and what follows is so odd in itself.

I own this movie because I needed to see it for a project in school once. After that last viewing six years ago I have promised myself I would never sit through it again. I respect the content but simply find it too heartbreaking. I have seen it once and frankly once was enough.

I do think this is a movie everyone should see, because we have to be aware. Never again as a species can we ever let something so obscene and ugly ever happen. Of course we live in a world where there is simply no stopping the awful consequences of xenophobia and hate. There is simply nothing worse than seeing the innocent suffer for something they have absolutely no control over.

It’s an ugly thing for the hearts of men to become so hardened that they can’t even look at women and children with pity. I can never hope to understand it. I can never hope to understand what it was like to be part of it or to have survived it. I have cried over it though and I don’t intend on shedding more tears simply for the sake of writing a review.

Readers who want to know about the Holocaust need seek better sources, because all I have is the confusion of an open minded person about how things could have ever went so far. I think you should see this movie, I simply don’t want to witness the ugliness again for myself.

NEXT MOVIE: School Ties (1992)