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- MIKEY NICHOLSON
Back in the swing of more regular reviews, this section involves all of the Hannibal series and of course the random assortment of other films that popped into my peripheral.
See you soon #365films2014 lovers.
- July 10 -
185/365 Shutter Island 
Somewhere in a cool year twelve classroom or perhaps a first year university lecture theatre there are students studying Shutter Island and all its cinematic techniques, metaphors and symbolism. Martin Scorsese films are always on an epic scale but Shutter Island has a distinctly different feel. It’s grandiose as all hell, like only Mr. S can do, but the end result feels well worn by the time the climax is reached.
Edward Daniels’ (Leonardo DiCaprio) trip to a floating asylum on Shutter Island is not all it seems as he and his partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), soon find out there’s trouble afoot.
At times Scorsese borrows heavily from Hitchcock with his tension building, high camera angles and choice in cinematography. And don’t get me wrong, it works very well. But for mine, Shutter Island never surpasses more than a nice looking film that unfolds exactly as I thought it would at the mid point of the first act.
(2 and a half stars)
- July 14 -
186/365 My Own Private Idaho 
Sometimes a Gus Van Sant film means fidgeting in your seat waiting for the seemingly non-existent editor to do his or her job while the camera painstakingly moves from scene to scene. Fortunately, My Own Private Idaho doesn’t suffer the same fate as a separate trio of films by GVS.
If one of its stars has never aged (Keanu Reeves) then the other thing that’s for sure is River Phoenix was a major loss to the cinema world that never got the chance age.
As hustler Mikey, Phoenix, at the tender age of twenty-one, ‘narcolepts’ his way through this indie flick with all the gravitas of a Hollywood heavyweight. Supported by the more reserved dude-bro Reeves, as his partner in crime Scott, the two street boys get in and out of trouble on the streets of Idaho, Portland and Rome.
It’s also funny to be reminded that Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ fame tried his hand at acting for a while there and Jim Caviezel pops up for a moment as a credited extra. Of course Udo Kier steals every moment that he’s oozing around on screen as German customer to the boys, Hans.
GVS is the master of the visual experience and unlike some of his other films, no scene feels wasted in My Own Private Idaho - whether it’s a still shot sex scene or Mikey baring his soul and unrequited love to Scott.
- July 15 -
187/365 The Silence of the Lambs 
There’s always the risk of revisiting a classic and finding that it doesn’t stand the test of time - The Silence of the Lambs suffers no such fate.
You get two for the price of one with this adaptation of Thomas Harris’ famed serial killer thriller as Jodie Foster and Sir Anthony Hopkins duke it out as FBI agent Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter, respectively. Sir A Hops garners the majority of praise and recognition for his depiction of the shudder-inducing Lecter but Foster is such a badass mofo as a woman punching above her weight in a man’s world that the Academy awarded them both acting accolades.
They don’t make films like they used to and The Silence of the Lambs makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end during all the high tension scenes without ever going gratuitous for the sake of gratuitousness.
There shall be no mention of Buffalo Bill because I still can’t sleep thinking about him.
(4 and a half stars)
- July 16 -
188/365 Hannibal 
That Hannibal Lecter is a real handful and this ridiculous cat and mouse chase ends with a brain-numbingly, ‘boarish’ climax. Hur hur. Spoiler jokes without actually spoiler-ing.
Even though it’s been ten years since Dr. Lecter slithered his way out of FBI custody and Clarice Starling’s life you’d almost be forgiven for thinking that Julianne Moore has replaced Jodie Foster. Sir Anthony Hopkins’ only sign of ageing is a weird dye job that the hair and make up team have given him.
After the brilliance of The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal doesn’t back up the quality despite the fact that Julianne Moore rarely puts a foot wrong.
If you’ve seen the devilishly excellent television series of the same name, Hannibal’s aesthetic veers closer to the inspiration that show runner Bryan Fuller draws on – not to mention the music and themes.
189/365 Red Dragon 
If Hannibal inspired the television series of the same name, then Red Dragon is basically an episode of the show. Will Graham (Edward Norton) shows up and although it’s not Hugh Dancy in this big screen version, Norton does an OK job of being a psychologically tortured man trying to cut ties with Lecter while still needing his services.
Red Dragon is more of a procedural style thriller as Graham hunts down the psychopathic Tooth Fairy (Ralph Fiennes) as he terrorises multiple states across America.
The ladies don’t get much screen time, but who doesn’t love Mary Louise Parker and Emily Watson tries her best to impersonate a blind person. Whether or not Watson nails it is up for debate but her performance as the object of the Tooth Fairy’s affection adds another layer to Fiennes’ character development.
As a precursor to The Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon is far better at setting up Lecter’s genius/insanity combined with enough red herrings to keep even the most avid thriller seeker intrigued.
(3 and a half stars)
- July 17 -
190/365 Hannibal Rising 
As far as origin stories go, Hannibal Rising tries to give the audience a reason to sympathise with Hannibal Lecter’s cannibalistic proclivities but it doesn’t really work. Maybe some audience members enjoy a Nazi back story with a brother’s love for his murdered sister driving him mad, but in the case of Lecter (portrayed by Gaspard Ulliel) there’s too much known history of this monster for the story to ever pay dividends.
It’s all well and good to watch Lecter go after the evil dudes that killed and ate his sister, but he comes across as no better than the people he sets out to punish no matter how many martial art montages he does.
A Hannibal Lecter film without Sir Anthony Hopkins is no Hannibal Lecter film even if Rhys Ifans is around to ooze grossness all over the screen.
- July 18 -
191/365 Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return 
Seventy million dollars seems like a lot of money. You could probably feed a lot of starving people with that kind of dough. Maybe even build a road somewhere or buy a small island but whatever the case, someone felt the need to make an animated abomination that denigrates The Wizard of Oz legacy far worse than Oz: The Great and Powerful ever did.
CGI that looks like a slightly better version of The Sims and songs that don’t really go anywhere weigh this unnecessary adaptation down. Glee’s Lea Michele tries her hardest to do Dorothy justice but she’s pretty meh. I suppose the bulk of the money spent went on hiring voice talent because there’s a lot of medium sized star power including Dan Aykroyd, Kelsey Grammer, Martin Short, Oliver Platt, Mr. Claire Danes/Hugh Dancy and musical theatre powerhouses Megan Hilty and Bernadette Peters.
If you can’t get your kids to enjoy the original The Wizard of Oz or perhaps embrace the darker Return to Oz and you need something like Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return, you’ve pretty much failed as parents.
(1 and a half stars)
- July 19 -
192/365 Dogma 
That Kevin Smith sure knows how to piss off organised religion about as much as the creators of South Park do. Re-writing Catholic history by changing gender and race will never go down well with the powers that be but it’s damn funny to watch.
God Will Hunting, or Dogma as it’s more commonly known, utilises the inbuilt chemistry of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and unleashes it on the world as two fallen angels, Loki and Bartleby, hell bent on re-entering heaven after pissing off God.
Lapsed Christians will get a kick out of the bulk of the jokes but for the uninitiated there’s a lot of laughs to be had at the expense of The Voice of God (Alan Rickman), Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith), Bethany ‘The Last Scion’ Sloane (whatever happened to Linda Fiorentino after the 90s?), a horned Azrael (Jason Lee) and Serendipity (Salma Hayek).
Dogma does biting satire the right way by leaving no person out of its sights when it comes to dolling out offense.
- July 20 -
193/365 Zodiac 
Aside from getting Fatman Scoop in my head (What’s your zodiac siiiiign, what’s your zodiac siiiign?) Zodiac presents itself to the viewer in two distinctive parts. There’s the stabby stabby murder part and then the Jake Gyllenhaal has totally lost his marbles trying to work out who the Zodiac Killer is years after anyone has continued caring.
David Fincher directs this thriller epic which I’ve called an epic because at 157 minutes, it’s probably pushing the bar of what is acceptable for this type of film.
Considering Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jnr. and, of course, Gyllenhaal star Zodiac sort of bumbles around trying to build suspense off the back of a true story but it kind of hobbles to the finale.
(2 and a half stars)
- July 21 -
194/365 M*A*S*H 
Apparently the take home message of the 70s was that ‘sexism sells’ as opposed to ‘sex sells’. There’s a real problem with going back to the classics of particular eras and finding out what was considered funny and acceptable is actually really outdated and gross.
Don’t get me wrong, I chuckled along at the antics of Hawkeye (Donald Sutherland), Radar (Gary Burghoff), Hot Lips (Sally Kellerman), Trapper John (Elliott Gould), Major Frank Burns (Robert Duvall) et al, but when you think about recent developments in Australia’s own army (Skype sex scandal anyone?), it’s hard to find the funny in Robert Altman’s popular film.
Without being a complete killjoy M*A*S*H is great at playing the farce, similar to the British comedy styles of Monty Python complete with slapstick, taking the piss out of war and a Friday Night Lights parody decades before FNL was even a blip on Peter Berg’s radar.
The only missing piece to this M*A*S*H puzzle is Alan Alda oh and a sense of political correctness decency.
- July 22 -
195/365 Divergent 
How great are dystopian futures? If The Hunger Games and Divergent are anything to go by all the ladies and gentlemen are real handsome in these dog eat dog worlds. It must have something to do with the character’s desperation or perhaps Hollywood’s standard of casting or something – but who can say?
Where Divergent misses the mark that The Hunger Games so successfully landed is that it’s hard to give a shit about any of what is going on. Why am I concerned for these people? Who cares about factions outside of the Australian Labor Party? Why are lovers Hazel and Gus apparently brother and sister?
Shailene Woodley is so hot right now being the darling of young adult fiction adaptations, but playing Beatrice, I mean, Tris (worst nickname ever) doesn’t do much for her and there’s a lot of mind drifting into ‘I wonder what Katniss is up to at the moment?’ territory.
Theo James, as Four (yeah that’s his name), is mostly there for eye candy with a fairly wooden showing while casting Ashley Judd as Tris’ mother is actually a masterstroke in realistic looking mother-daughter combos.
Maybe the books are better?
- July 23 -
196/365 Center Stage 
Never has a film so faultlessly captured the year in which it was made than Center Stage. Mandy Moore as far as the eye can see (or ear can hear), most of the cast chosen for their dancing ability over star power (Susan May Pratt aside), and montage, oh so much montage set to the funky sounds of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jamiroquai.
The American Ballet Academy is serious bid’nez and the dancers in Center Stage are in it to win it. They want into the Academy at all costs regardless of their ability or propensity to fall for bad boy choreographers.
Jodi Sawyer (Amanda Schull) is the annoying lead who has a lot of drive but lacks the raw talent to back it up. Eva Rodriguez (Zoë Saldana) is the opposite; she’s a no nonsense, rule breaking, hip shaking, cigarette choofing, dance genius.
ONLY ONE CAN MAKE IT.
On the side is Maureen, bloody Maureen. She’s the best the Academy has ever seen and she’ll tell you all about it. Unfortunately, Susan May Pratt is not a great actor but it does add a few laughs to her hammy lines.
As a dance film, Center Stage holds interest long enough for the audience to ask, “Is Center Stage: Turn It Up really a necessary sequel?” Only the producers of the Step Up franchise seem to agree.
(2 and a half stars)