The Weekend Binge – Hannibal

I’ll preface this with some solid truth: I am a straight up Hannibal Lecter obsessive. When I was a kid, my Dad took me to Florence where I improv’d a Lecter tour of the city (Baltimore next.) Since watching Silence of the Lambs and having nightmares of the Doctor, I’ve been hooked – filling myself with every word written or said. In fact, I am so obsessed with the Thomas Harris’ twisted and cannibalistic character that I am pretty sure I’ve written about him before AND I’ve started in exactly this manner. Woops.

Anyway, the problem with all great things is that Hollywood tends to repeat themselves a little bit too much. They can’t just let brilliance be; which is why the whole murky background and meaningless slayings that made Lecter so terrifying were ruined by the presence of Hannibal Rising. Anyway, the announcement of a television series that would delve further into the character of Hannibal Lecter, particularly his relationship with Will Graham, off-set hesitation in me. After all, did we need more Hannibal in our lives?

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Well, bite my tongue and eat it for super, as it would turn out, Hannibal is one of the most insatiable and delicious bits of television to grace our screens.

Curated by Bryan Fuller and enjoying directing talents such as Guillermo Navarro, Peter Medak, and David Slade, Hannibal tells the story of Behavioural Scientist Will Graham whose talent of pure empathy means he can get to the motives of a killer and find them. Utilised by the FBI, Graham starts to fall apart when he has to kill a murderer to stop the killer from slaughtering his own daughter. Seeking help afterwards, Graham winds up walking into the nest of Hannibal Lecter who preys upon his mind, wishing to devour his soul.

For hardcore fans of the books and movies, Hannibal is a loving, if albeit interpretative, piece of horror fiction that is tantalising from the very beginning. As developed in Fuller’s most recent American Gods series, the Hannibal show is rife with seductive gore and bloody creativity. Intense visual Gothic poetry crafts a spectacle, particularly in the wildly innovative, if highly disturbing, corpse imagery.

Despite twisting the narrative of the books and the films, Fuller’s work still honours the cannon. In fact, it delves into the most intimate and intricate crevices of Harris’ world and brings them to the foreground. The attention to detail is insane and whilst the narrative is contorted to appease a serial type viewing, the work of Harris is so defiantly honoured that you cannot help but love it as a peer to stand alongside Harris’ creations.

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The acting truly reals you in with Mads Mikkelson taking the role of Hannibal Lecter to great depths. For many, he is the best version of Lecter: He is tender at times, poignant in places whilst still holding this air of terror. He cares for people in the way a cat would care for it’s mouse before digging the claws in but it makes for truly impressive viewing. As his plaything, Hugh Dancy’s Will Graham is terrific. Tackling the extremities of mental illness, Dancy is unafraid to get to the sore points of Graham’s world and his aching mentality. All the while he has strength to hunt down the bad guys and uncover the truth about Lecter. Mikkelson and Dancy’s relationship is filled with chemistry and it is endearing whilst frightening to watch – similar to Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs. Alongside them is Laurence Fishbourne, Gina Torres, and Raul Esparza, all pulling in memorable roles to flesh out this sinister tale.

Romping through the story, without underselling any second of it’s characters or atmosphere, Hannibal is an enriching piece of media that has secured thousands of fans. Despite this, NBC decided to cancel the series after the third season, much to the chagrin of it’s audience. Every year a near campaign to bring it back happens and, whilst it is amazing to continue to love and support, the likelihood of a return seems to get further away from us.

If you haven’t ventured into the world of Lecter, then allow Hannibal to introduce you to a beguiling, brutal, and brilliant villain. With  Seasons 1 and 2 available to stream, Hannibal is a perfect autumn viewing treat.

It also has AMAZING cannibal puns so that’s worth the watch alone.

Watch Hannibal on Netflix now!

Colin Farrell – 4 Great Performances… & 1 Naff One

Right, let’s be real here: You saw Colin Farrell’s one naff performance and snorted going “oh yeah but which one?” Because he has had some really shaky choices that were not indicative of who he is as a performer.

In fact, I totally think that Farrell would do the same. But nowadays, the Irish actor has pulled himself up by the britches and now is an asset to a film. His work has consistently propelled upwards, with intensity and skill. A large part of this is to do with the projects he has been given as well as the directors he has worked with. With this combination and his natural talent, Farrell has brilliant

But yes, we had to pick one naff performance still…

One Naff

Daredevil (2003)

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…And naturally, we’ve gone for Bullseye in Daredevil. Sure, we could have gone for Fright Night, Total RecallA New York Winter’s Tale, and more. But there is something very gleefully bad about this villainous role. Daredevil, particularly the original cut of the film, is pretty bad as a whole with choppy editing and a bewildering plot. Colin Farrell’s bald-headed dart player who is really, really good with his aim was farcical, non-menacing, and ultimately completely missed its target. Which is ironic, come to think about it.

Four Great

In Bruges (2008)

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I could happily watch Colin Farrell in Martin McDonagh’s film every day for the rest of my life. That would be a good life, wouldn’t It? The film revolves around two hitman who are sent to Belgium for what one assume is temporary exile after royally fucking up. His partner, however, has other orders. Starring opposite Brendon Gleeson, this wickedly smart and deeply dark film gives Farrell the material to be in his element. Witty, hilarious, and very fucking smartly done, Farrell is genius in this role and it even earned him a Golden Globe!

Horrible Bosses  (2011)

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Much like Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder, Farrell did something great – he made himself ugly. Transforming into the sleazy and mean, but ultimately unforgettable Bobby Pelitt, Farrell hammed up this brilliantly bad boss who fired people for being fat or tried to hit on the “hot” women in the office. While Horrible Bosses may have its faults, Colin Farrell isn’t one of them and his work here should be celebrated more.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

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Ahem. Apologies, but this is exactly what I am screaming ever since, SPOILER, Grindelwald’s façade as Percival Graves revealed him to be a bleached blonde Johnny Depp. Yeah. No. We’d spent the whole film absolutely adoring the Irish actor’s villainous role as Graves as he manipulated his way through wizarding New York in pursuit of Newt (alternative title?) His glower was menacing and seductive at the same time – it was brilliant. When he was forced to reveal himself, I’d happily accept Colin Farrell as Grindelwald. But alas, that wasn’t to be.

The Lobster  (2015)

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That being said, his work in Yorgos Lonthimos’ is by far the most unusual and most compelling work he has ever done. The surreal dystopian film revolves around a world where you have to be married. If you aren’t, you’ll get turned into an animal. Presenting love in its cruellest of forms, The Lobster is a deeply disturbing but fantastic work. As the leading man , his wide-eyed, hopeless portrayal, carries an undercurrent of sorrow throughout. There are truly horrible moments that Farrell handles with depth and intricacy and an incomparable earnestness.

Honourable Mentions: The Beguiled and Seven Psychopaths 

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is out now! 

Dissecting Hannibal

if you have only briefly hovered around me, you’ll see me talk about many things; FilthVideodrome and Repo! The Genetic Opera are just the few names that have caused such a guttural moan in you as you’ve seen them again that it’s echoed right through your computer and into my sad heart. Sigh. Anyway, whilst the antics of Bruce Robertson may have heavily knocked Silence of the Lambs off the top spot (a top spot, if you mind, that has been kept for ten years,) it’s safe to say that the name I have held on my lips ever since I was fourteen was Hannibal Lecter.

With The Silence of the Lambs returning to the big screen, what better chance to take

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Hannibal Lecter has been ferociously commanding my cinematic and literature obsessed heart ever since his burning blue eyes (maroon in the book) stared into Clarice’s and subsequently mine. Created by the mad genius Thomas Harris in a trilogy of books, Hannibal Lecter is a well-known murdering psychiatrist who nibbled on his victims thanks to his acquired taste of cannibalism. There have been four people to tackle the Lecter villain, spanning over further from Harris’ stories and into six films and now a critically acclaimed television series.

First appearing in the guise of Brian Cox in Michael Mann’s (better) Manhunter, Lecter savagely and intellectually commands your attention only to use it to pick you apart until your core is quaking. Playing opposite William Petersen, Manhunter is perhaps the lesser known of Hannibal’s cinematic appearances but (arguably) is one of the best. Cox’s translation of the text is verbatim, he gets the mannerism down to a terrifying effect that practically roars through you. The taunts and the clever way he tears down Graham are tantalising here, it speaks with the venom that Harris had first injected into our Doctor. There is no denying here that Cox’s performance is phenomenal and yet, it was cast away into the cult only to be exhumed recently because Mann’s thriller is, indeed, excellent.

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Onto the more famed and Academy Award Winning Anthony Hopkins. Now, Hannibal Lecter scholars (who, I assume don’t exist but if they do, where can I sign up?) will often argue that Brian Cox is better than the campy Hopkins and in some respects, they are right. After all, Cox plus Mann and Petterson equals an unforgettable film. Yet it is Anthony Hopkins who delivers such a resounding and mesmerising performance that it is wrong to go back and accuse it of being the lesser of the two. In comparison, Cox and Hopkins have a similar core yet trundled off in different directions. Whilst my brain will debate that Manhunter is the better film, my heart will always belong to Jonathan Demme’s timeless piece. And the heart is always right. Looking back, Silence of the Lambs will always interject that sliver of fear that Manhunter simply couldn’t encourage from the wimpiest of cinema goers. With Demme leading the charge in an atmospheric and intense thriller and Jodie Foster pulling an unstoppable Starling out the bag, Hopkin’s thrives on being that spark of madness that alludes the entire film. What Hopkins captures, in merely sixteen minutes, is this utterly haunting villain who is inexcusable, inescapable and so intriguing that as he sinks into your skin, you’ll be aghast and thrilled at the same time. Those burning eyes and that intense viciousness is un-paralleled. He quips immortal lines to tear Starling down yet offers help mere moments later just to hold the upper intellectual hand. Hopkins is breath-taking and it still sends chills for his award winning role as Lecter.

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Which is a shame that it underdeveloped and in lesser form in both Hannibal and the Red Dragon. Vastly different films to Silence of the Lambs, both suffer from style over substance and throwing Hopkins back into the role many years after his first outing. True, Hannibal actually relies on this as the book was set years after, but Ridley Scott’s transformation feels much more about the beautiful and archaic Florence that Hannibal now resides in rather than the character development. Rearranging key scenes in the book, for better or for worse, Hannibal’s villainous character that plagued us for years succumbs to a soppy and uncharacteristic ending, miles away from the malicious book ending (for the book lovers out there, it angered me so,) and plonked Hannibal in this middling nice guy act that just felt wrong. Though not her fault, Julianne Moore can never play off the character as well as Foster did and in the end, whilst stunning to see, it ends up being well done instead of a rare treat.

Now, as much as this kills me to say, Brett Ratner’s Red Dragon is actually quite a good affair. It is flawed, particularly from its pacing, its timing and the fact that it had to contend with Manhunter. What worked for Ratner was not only getting Hopkins on board to resume that missing role in the once trilogy but also following the text that Harris had created so it accurately followed Graham’s hunt for the tooth fairy. The biggest shame here, though his appearance was levitated the film up with the help of Edward Norton, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Ralph Fiennes, as that Hopkins return to the role left him bereft of the aggressiveness that we admired in Silence of the Lambs. Instead, he leaned more to the pantomime villain and without that resurgence of calm, collected manners and murderous doings, Red Dragon is a good effort and it could be great, if only it hadn’t the previous outings beforehand.

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Onwards to yet another prequel in the Hannibal Lecter series. Look, I feel as much dismay about this as you do because the integral film critic, before embarking on an article to dissect all the Lecters, would do as much research as they can. Unfortunately, for me, this is the one area I cannot complete. I cannot accurately criticise Gaspard Ulliel’s performance as Lecter in Hannibal Rising because I have not seen it nor have I read it. The reason that Hannibal Lecter is so terrifying is that there is no just cause for his murders. He isn’t a psychopath or a sociopath and those who squeeze him in a box were wrong to do so. He simply enjoyed the killings and whilst many don’t want to face that, isn’t a normal person so willing to kill his fellow man scarier? Though touched upon in the Hannibal book, adding a backstory that explains this, to me (very important that part) unravelled everything that made Hannibal so sinister. So, while I’ve heard Ulliel is great in the role, I simply could not and will not watch the film.

This reason alone made me hesitant about NBC’s Hannibal. Knowing that the possibility of the one villain I’d placed on the highest pedestal could crumble into an average murderer made me wary of Bryan Fueller’s creation for some time. That is until I watched it and learnt one great thing about the series, Fueller is a Hannibal Lecter fan too. Much more so in series one than anything, he had. accurately adapted the books into his own vision whilst still harkening back to the Harris canon. Beautiful creating the most picturesque murders as well as characters so thick of promise, Fueller has given life back into Lecter with help from Mads Mikklesen. The Danish actor through accents, mannerisms and the perfect script has given that chilling charisma back to the cannibal. That one who could manipulate a setting and watch people dance into his flame like deranged moths. Though season two has wobbled with interpretation, Fueller and his team has brought Lecter into a new generation, with an expansive fandom and a terrific cast that tackle the storylines and gore with enough skill for us to be drooling over the slab for season three.

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But ask yourself, when you are alone at night and the moon encourages your pulse to beat a little louder, which eyes pierce yours? Which Lecter would you dine with? And through all this, do you wake up to the whispering, the whispering of Hannibal the Cannibal?

The Silence of the Lambs is out in cinemas now!