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Non-Review Review: The Two Popes

Very few movie disintegrate so completely and thoroughly across their runtime as The Two Popes.

The Two Popes feels like two different movies, both tonally opposed to one another and both bleeding relentlessly into one another. The first is a delightfully surreal Odd Couple riff (The Odd Pope-le? Vicious in the Vatican?) that finds two men who would be pope forced to interact with one another, their mutual unease inevitably transforming to a gentle understanding and even compassion. The second is a more earnest historical biography, a film that aims to properly contextualise the life and times of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the man who would be Pope Francis.

The robe less travelled.

Both of these premises are workable on their own. Of course, the first premise has a bit of an advantage in that “throw two great British actors into scenes together” tends to result in highly watchable material, and “… also, they’re both popes” is a pretty impressive chaser to that. In contrast, the historical biography section of the film is a bit more generic and familiar, even if there’s potential here. After all, this ground has been explored in films as compelling as The Secrets in Their Eyes.

The problem is that the two films don’t mix, at all. Every attempt to combine them hurts the film as a whole, both stopping the narrative dead and representing a jarring transition from one type of film into another and back again. It isn’t that The Two Popes allows these stories to collide, it instead tries to run them in parallel. The result is a narrative traffic jam, and a film in which each half hour is appreciably weaker than the one leading into it.

Good faith arguments.

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102. Silence of the Lambs (#23) – Halloween 2018

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with Doctor Bernice Murphy, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, a Halloween treat. Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 23rd best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Hannibal – Entrée (Review)

It’s nice that we got this far into the season before Entrée was necessary. It’s the kind of episode that a show like Hannibal was always going to have to produce relatively early on, allowing it to air the laundry, so to speak, and to overtly and clearly distinguish itself from a popular predecessor. In this case, it’s The Silence of the Lambs.

Although we haven’t met Clarice Starling yet, although the credit at the start of each episode cites Red Dragon as the show’s inspiration, it’s hard to escape the shadow of one of the most popular horror films ever made. Many argue that The Silence of the Lambs was the first film to win the Best Picture Oscar. Even today, it remains a cultural touchstone, and there’s an incredibly large number of people who are only familiar with the character of Hannibal Lecter through that story and – in particular – through the film adaptation.

Hannibal hasn’t been shy about referencing The Silence of the Lambs, nor should it be. Crawford’s office from the start of Aperitif seems arranged in homage to the film, while the arrangement of two of the victims in Coquilles couldn’t help but evoke Hannibal’s dramatic escape from his cell at the film’s climax. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that Entrée exists mainly to allow the show to indulge and engage in the imagery and iconography of the film, so that Hannibal can truly distinguish itself.

"Oh, goodie..."

“Oh, goodie…”

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Hannibal – Amuse-Bouche (Review)

Second episodes can be tough. Pilots tend to establish the core themes and characters of a show, offering a very clear blueprint going forward and perhaps hinting at the direction that you want to take things. They are grand mission statements, couched in broad terms and delivered with a sense of novelty. Second episodes are a bit less exciting. They are about putting that plan into action, defining the edges a bit, expanding outwards where necessary and refining as needed. It’s with the second episode that you really get a sense of what a show is going to be like in a more practical week-to-week sense.

By that measure, Amuse-Bouche works quite well at giving us a sense of putting the show’s feet on the ground and helping prepare us for what lies ahead for the rest of the season.

It's growing on me...

It’s growing on me…

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Non-Review Review: RED 2

Red 2 is a stronger film than Red, although it’s still not quite a wholly satisfying cinematic experience. There’s a certain charm to watching all these veteran stars reuniting on the screen together, with a considerably lighter touch than The Expendables. What’s interesting about Red 2 isn’t a dearth of good ideas or interesting hooks in the set-up of this sequel, it’s just a littler rushed, a little unfocused, a little disjointed. However, Red 2 generally moves so fast that these problems never quite reach critical mass. The result is more-than-occasionally great fun, but also just a little too light for its own good.

Growing old disgracefully...

Growing old disgracefully…

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Alfred Hitchcock at the Space!

Hitchcock is released in the UK and Ireland this week. I actually quite enjoyed it, but – then again – I am a big fan of the director and his work. I was notified this week that The Space, Britain’s on-line cultural hub run by the BBC and by the Arts Council, is celebrating the director’s legacy and has collected a host of Hitchcock-related materials from its archives, all of which are available via their website. It’s a great service, and I’m remarkably fond of it. It’s also nice to see a celebration of Hitchcock, and the sharing of material from the archives, free to the public at large. You can find the website here or click the picture below.

thespace

Non-Review Review: Hitchcock

As a bit of a film fan (and a bit of a Hitchcock fan), Hitchcock had me interested. After all, Hitchcock’s Psycho is arguably among the most important films ever made, both creating an entire subgenre (“the slasher”) and imbuing it with artistic credibility at the same time. The production of Psycho was not only a huge gambit for Hitchcock, but it was also an incredibly difficult task for the auteur to accomplish. Hitchcock was sixty when Psycho was eventually released. It’s easy to imagine a director at that age resting on his laurels, and Hitchcock really works when it explores the drives of the talented film maker, willing to look at the implications of those drives and how the same things that made him one of the world’s greatest directors may also have made him a less-than-nice person.

Hitchcock occasionally gets a bit too cluttered with domestic drama, but it features two strong performances and a fascinating true story. It might not be as exceptional as it could have been, but it’s still a damn fine exploration of movie history.

Alma matters?

Alma matters?

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Watch! Hitchcock Trailer!

I must have missed it, but the screen adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock & The Making of Psycho has now been officially titled the much blander (but more accessible) Hitchcock. It doesn’t really matter, though, as the new trailer has arrived and it’s really quite wonderful. I’m a massive Hitchcock fan, so recruiting Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren to headline a film about the making of one of his most high-profile works is certainly fascinating. Looking forward to this one. It’ll start a limited release in the States in late November, but we’ll be waiting until February to see it over here.

Ah well. At least they can’t spoil they ending.

A View to a Bond Baddie: Alec Trevelyan

To celebrate James Bond’s 50th birthday on screen, we’re going to take a look at the character and his films. We’ve already reviewed all the classic movies, so we’ll be looking at his iconic baddies, and even at the character himself.

Alec Trevelyan stands out amongst Bond’s foes on the big screen because he’s really the first to be constructed explicitly to contrast with Bond. You could argue that many of the outings in the series are more preoccupied with the villain than with Bond himself, and GoldenEye stands out as one of the films most tightly focused on Bond himself. Alec Trevelyan, as such, exists as a more direct mirror to Bond than most of his foes. The bad guy even operates under the code name “Janus.” There are several implied reasons – his knack for treachery and betrayal, the scar on the side of his face. However, it also suggests that Bond and Trevelyan exist as two sides of the same coin.

Smart Alec?

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The Once Terrifying Hannibal Lecter: Upping the Ante on the Anti-Hero…

I have the pleasure of catching a rather wonderful screening of The Silence of the Lambs last week. It was a fantastic evening, not least because I got a chance to finally see the film on the big screen for the first time. However, it occurred to me on watching it that Hannibal Lecter was much more compelling as a character here than he would eventually become. With the (very debatable) exception of Brett Ratner’s Red Dragon, Lecter’s subsequent film appearances feel like they are missing some vital component. I like Hannibal more than most, but I think the character suffers when promoted to lead. The less said about Hannibal Rising, the better. I am more than a little wary about the upcoming television show, even if it does star Mads Mikkelsen. What happened? When did Lecter become so toothless?

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