Tag Archives: Stephen Lang

Manhunter (1986) Review

Time: 120 minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
William Petersen as Will Graham
Tom Noonan as Francis Dollarhyde
Dennis Farina as Jack Crawford
Kim Greist as Molly Graham
Brian Cox as Dr. Hannibal Lecktor
Joan Allen as Reba McClane
Stephen Lang as Freddy Lounds
Director: Michael Mann

FBI criminal profiler Will Graham (William L. Petersen) is called out of early retirement to assist on a serial murder case involving a killer known as the “Tooth Fairy” (Tom Noonan). Graham enlists the help of imprisoned serial killer — and cannibal — Dr. Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox), who is the reason Graham took an early retirement. Soon, Graham and the FBI are entangled in a deadly cat-and-mouse game between the Tooth Fairy, Lecktor and an interfering journalist (Stephen Lang).

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Manhunter is a movie I’d been meaning to get around to for some time. What I knew was that it was the first adaptation of a Hannibal Lecter book, that being of Red Dragon, and that it was directed by Michael Mann. I wanted to check it out, I like most of Mann’s movies (the ones I’ve seen at least), and it was the only live action Hannibal Lector adaption I hadn’t gotten around to yet. I will admit that although it’s decent, it didn’t completely work for me, and I do have my issues. Nonetheless I don’t regret watching it, and I think it’s worth a watch.

It is worth pointing out that Manhunter came well before the name Hannibal Lecter (or the other characters) was a cinematic household name. With this movie, they took the story of Red Dragon and took it in their own direction, and I at least admire that they wanted to do their own thing with it. I won’t hammer in my problems with how it’s different, just the ones where I find the changes made the story less compelling. It seems much more procedural and less psychological, and with that it didn’t really interest me as much. For the most part across its 2 hour runtime, Manhunter is well paced enough, but at times it can feel a little drawn out. The most disappointing part of the movie was the third act. The climax is an incredibly simple fight, even putting aside the fact that it was much different from how the book handled things, it was much less compelling and was simplified. While most of the movie was a bit of a slow burn, the climax of just being this conventional fight scene just didn’t fit in with the tone for me and felt really out of place.

William Peterson plays Will Graham, I thought Edward Norton was good in the Red Dragon movie as Graham but Peterson really seemed to embody what I imagined him to be in the books a little more. He seemed like a troubled person who really gets inside the killer’s mind, and that really seemed to take a toll on him. I really liked a lot of the ways that they portrayed him in the movie, like the possibility that he could go over the edge and turn into one of the killers that he’s hunting down. Hannibal Lecktor (not spelt as Lecter in this version) is played by Brian Cox, who receives as much screentime here as he did in the Red Dragon book (if not less), which is to say not very much. While I still love Mads Mikkelsen and Anthony Hopkins’s versions more, Cox’s version is no doubt unforgettable and one of my favourite parts of the movie. If you were to ask me what a real life version of Hannibal Lecter would be, I’d say it would be this version. He’s not as overtly charismatic as you’d expect, he’s a fast talker, and seems more natural, yet incredibly intelligent. Not overtly scary but nonetheless chilling in how real he feels. Tom Noonan plays the main killer Francis Dolarhyde/Tooth Fairy, surprisingly you don’t see him until much later on in the movie. It’s definitely a much more eerie version than other versions of the character on screen, and Noonan plays the role well. Joan Allen plays Reba, a blind woman who becomes a love interest of Dolarhyde. I wasn’t really a fan of how the relationship was handled, it felt so underdeveloped and you really felt nothing for it, so there wasn’t even any tension throughout. The movie and mini series definitely handled that aspect better. It’s hard not to spoil it, but let’s just say that there’s less conflict with Francis in this version, and so overall I just didn’t find it as interesting. He seemed to be at the same stage throughout the story, and he ended up being more interesting offscreen in the first half than he was when he was on screen. To the film’s credit, his presence in the first half of the movie was very effective and that was an aspect that was handled very well.

Michael Mann’s direction was one of the standout parts of the movie. If you’ve seen any of his other movies, you can tell just from the cinematography that he directed Manhunter. Despite the great look to the movie, some of the sets and production design at time was a little lacklustre. I’m aware this is the 80s and I didn’t necessarily expect the environments to be particularly flashy, but some of the surroundings looked kind of bland at points. The score for the most part worked but other aspects of the music were just silly, especially towards the last act with some horrendous song choices.

Manhunter is pretty good for what it is. As for how I feel about it compared to Red Dragon (the 2002 adaptation), the latter generally sticks closer to the book and storywise does things I like more than Manhunter. With that said, Manhunter has a lot of merit to it as well. It is separate from the book and it really is its own movie, and you have to be aware of that going in, I was and I liked it mostly for what it was. It’s directed pretty well by Michael Mann, the cast is good, and it was certainly an interesting take on the source material. I definitely recommend at least checking it out, even if you still like the other Hannibal adaptations more.

Mortal Engines (2018) Review

Time: 128 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Science fiction themes & violence
Cast:
Hera Hilmar as Hester Shaw
Robert Sheehan as Tom Natsworthy
Hugo Weaving as Thaddeus Valentine
Jihae as Anna Fang
Leila George as Katherine Valentine
Ronan Raftery as Bevis Pod
Patrick Malahide as Magnus Crome
Stephen Lang as Shrike
Director: Christian Rivers

Hundreds of years after civilization was destroyed by a cataclysmic event, a mysterious young woman, Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar), emerges as the only one who can stop London — now a giant, predator city on wheels — from devouring everything in its path. Feral, and fiercely driven by the memory of her mother, Hester joins forces with Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan), an outcast from London, along with Anna Fang (Jihae), a dangerous outlaw with a bounty on her head.

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Mortal Engines was a movie I was hearing about for a little while. I knew that it was based on books, had Hugo Weaving as part of the cast and Peter Jackson would be producing it. I was somewhat interested in the movie but outside of the visuals, didn’t know what to expect from the movie. Overall I had a good time with Mortal Engines, despite a script that could’ve been better, there are aspects that are quite solid and the visuals more than make up for its faults.

Mortal Engines is based off the first of the book series of the same name, I don’t know yet whether they’ll adapt the rest of the books. The script is a bit of a mixed bag, it’s generally okay but it’s got some problems. I didn’t have a problem with the worldbuilding necessarily, even when there are some bits that I didn’t quite get, I went along with it. I was generally on board with the world of the movie. With that said, there is a bunch of exposition dump, particularly in the first act, whether that be what happened, or the backstories of the characters. I wasn’t emotionally invested in the story but I was invested enough to pay attention to the whole story, despite my problems with the script I never was bored with what was going on. One unfortunate thing about the movie is that it doesn’t really have much personality to it, it feels somewhat on autopilot and you can mostly see where the plot is going. The ‘unpredictable’ parts to the story don’t really surprise that much because you’re not that invested with the characters. It makes attempts at having emotion and making you care about what is going on, but almost all of the attempts fall flat, whether that be tragic backstories revealed or characters being killed off, I just wasn’t feeling anything. There was literally only one character that came closest and he’s a supporting character.

One of the more disappointing parts to the movie is that the characters just are rather weak. Unfortunately it’s the main two leads that are the weakest. The actors who plays the main characters of Hester Shaw and Tom Natsworthy (Hera Hilmar and Robert Sheehan) aren’t bad at acting and aren’t necessarily badly cast, it’s more the writing of the characters that’s the problem. In the first act, they are a little annoying how simple and flatly written they are, Hester is just broody and Tom is fast talking and rather annoying. When it cuts to them my interest just wavered because I really wasn’t interested in it and watching them interact really didn’t do much for me. After the first act they do lose their blatant traits, become rather generic protagonists and actually became much more watchable. Throughout though I just didn’t care about these characters. It’s like they were given a few broad characteristics and some history and literally nothing else. Despite Hester’s big thing being about avenging her mother by going after Hugo Weaving’s character, you don’t really care about it that much, most of all there’s really nothing to her character outside of that. Also the supposed romance in the film between the two characters, I really didn’t buy it at all. They are like polar opposites to each other and conflict with each other, then one of them gives their backstory, then other does the same, and then they get to like each other over time because… reasons. I haven’t read the book but I assume that they were done much better in the books. I wouldn’t normally make a big deal out of this but it really does hurt the movie when it’s the lead characters that fail. The supporting characters actually do fare better, most of them aren’t great but some of them are pretty good, such as those played by Jihae, Leila George and others. Hugo Weaving plays the villain and the character isn’t really anything that special, but Weaving does add quite a lot and at the very least ham up the role so that he’s at least entertaining. The standout of the movie however is Stephen Lang as a motion captured character named Shrike, who is basically a terminator-like robot who is hunting Hester. He’s menacing and imposing and ironically, he’s the closest thing to an emotional investment that I had to any of the characters in this movie. He actually adds quite a bit of humanity to the movie that none of the characters were able to do.

The film is directed by Christian Rivers, who worked with Peter Jackson on a lot of his movies and as you can probably tell the visuals are really great, and basically the reason to see the movie. There are times where you can clearly tell that some effects were green screen but it’s not too distracting and didn’t happen too much. The designs for everything, the sets, the characters and costumes were also really great. Everything is on such a large scale and you really feel it. The machines are so unique looking, and rough looking and designed well and great to watch. It doesn’t really slip into something that The Hobbit movies occasionally did (especially The Battle of the Five Armies) where so much of what was going on looked fake. The effects on Shrike were particularly impressive, they made him look like he was actually there, almost like they actually created a robot. The action is also mostly well filmed and rather entertaining, whether that be fight scenes or machine battles.

Mortal Engines was pretty much what I was guessing the movie was going to end up being, visually stunning and with an okay but flawed and generic script. With all that being said, it is worth seeing in the cinemas for the visuals at least. If they end up adapting the next Mortal Engines books, I hope the script and characters are done better.

Don’t Breathe (2016) Review

Don't Breathe

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Time: 88 minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Violence, sexual violence & offensive language
Cast:
Jane Levy as Rocky
Stephen Lang as Norman Nordstrom/The Blind Man
Dylan Minnette as Alex
Daniel Zovatto as Money
Director: Fede Alvarez

Rocky (Jane Levy), a young woman wanting to start a better life for her and her sister, agrees to take part in the robbery of a house owned by a wealthy blind man (Stephen Lang) with her boyfriend Money (Daniel Zovatto) and their friend Alex (Dylan Minnette). But when the blind man turns out to be a more ruthless adversary than he seems, the group must find a way to escape his home before they become his newest victims.

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Horror films nowadays are mostly hit or miss, so I don’t really expect many great horror films every year save for a few. Don’t Breathe however was a movie that has been getting some attention, so naturally I had to check it out. I have to say, Don’t Breathe surprised me, I didn’t expect this movie to be so great. With so many mediocre and occasionally terrible horror movies being released nowadays, it’s nice to see a horror film which can really deliver the tension and scares. This is a must see for horror fans.

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This movie is quite simple in its premise but what makes this movie so great is the execution. This movie is filled with tension. What helped was that this film was pretty contained, it took place mostly inside the Blind Man’s house, and the characters are constantly trying to escape, so the tension never falters once until the end of the movie. I had no idea what direction this film was going in or how it was going to end, the film was very unpredictable. What helps is that this film has like a few characters that it follows, so the film can’t just rely on brutal deaths to increase the scare factor, they need to make the tension work, and they really succeed. If there are any complaints I can make, there is a sort of plot twist that happens near the end of the movie. This plot point is okay, but I don’t think it works fully, without spoiling anything. Also, the last few minutes of the film I felt was unnecessary, it would’ve been better if those were taken out. Overall though I didn’t have a lot of problems with this movie.

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There weren’t a lot of actors in this movie, but the cast did quite a good job. Stephen Lang was really effective as the antagonist of the film, he is a force of nature and is very scary, and he didn’t have many lines. Jane Levy was great in yet another horror movie, she was very believable in her role and so was Dylan Minnuette in his role, both of them gave good performances.

Daniel Zovatto, Jane Levy and Dylan Minnette star in Screen Gems' horror-thriller DON'T BREATHE.

The majority of this film’s success is in its direction, this film is directed excellently. I found out afterwards that the film was directed by Fede Alvarez, who directed the remake of Evil Dead, I can’t wait to see more horror movies from him in the future. There’s definitely not as much blood and gore as there was in Evil Dead, but there was tension throughout, and it never fails. The jump scares that are in this movie aren’t fake, when they are there, they are real scares and actually work. The cinematography and the sound design were absolutely on point, you really feel like you are there with these characters as the movie goes on.

Jane Levy stars in Screen Gems' horror-thriller DON'T BREATHE.

Don’t Breathe was a real surprise for me. All the elements of the film (particularly the direction) help to make this such a thrilling horror movie. It is one of my favourite horror movies of this year, however then again, I guess that’s not saying a lot considering the majority of horror movies are kind of poor. Don’t Breathe was a breath of fresh air in the horror and home invasion genre and is definitely worth watching if you are a fan of horror.

Avatar (2009)

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Time: 162 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Sam Worthington as Jake Sully
Zoe Saldana as Neytiri
Sigourney Weaver as Grace
Stephen Lang as Colonel Miles Quaritch
Michelle Rodriguez as Trudy Chacon
Director: James Cameron

In the future, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic war veteran, is brought to another planet, Pandora, which is inhabited by the Na’vi, a humanoid race with their own language and culture. In exchange for the spinal surgery that will fix his legs, Jake gathers Intel for the cooperating military unit spearheaded by Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang), while simultaneously attempting to infiltrate the Na’vi people with the use of an “avatar” identity. While Jake begins to bond with the native tribe and quickly falls in love with the beautiful alien Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), the restless Colonel moves forward with his ruthless extermination tactics, forcing the soldier to take a stand – and fight back for the fate of Pandora.

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Avatar is one of the most successful movies and is loved by many people. Although I do think it is a good movie with excellent cinematography and CGI, I have issues with the script which is often predictable and could’ve been much better. Despite this, it is still an enjoyable movie.

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The writing for me is the weakest part of the movie; to clarify it’s not the world of Pandora I’m talking about, that was done okay, it’s the story. The story for me was predictable, even when I was 10 years old watching this in cinemas, most of the time I could see where this story was going, this type of story has been done before. This movie is very similar to Dances with Wolves; you may as well call this movie “Dances with Wolves with blue Indians”. Also another flaw in the writing is the characters, none of the characters really stood out to me and often there are certain characters that are only there to move a plot point along like the general who is quite clichéd. Another thing that should be added is that there were a lot of moments in the middle of the film that I felt wouldn’t make much of a difference if they were taken out. It shows Sam Worthington’s character learning how to become one of the Na’vi but at times it seems just like a montage. Overall the story is functional but still could’ve improved immensely. If you put this story in a place without big special effects, I think people would more likely notice the glaring issues with the script.

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The acting was decent enough from most people. Sam Worthington gives a pretty good performance and does what he can with the script, despite his character not being very interesting. Zoe Saldana gives the best performance in the movie and plays probably the character that’s closest to standing out the most. Stephen Lang plays the general as I mentioned above and like I said, his role just seems to just be the clichéd bad guy. No character information is given to him so as a result, his performance didn’t leave an impression on me. Other actors like Michelle Rodriguez and Sigourney Weaver also do the best of what they have.

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The special effects elevated this movie and are probably the only reason I’ll overlook the writing’s flaws, at least a little. This movie really makes you feel like you are in the world of Pandora. The battle scenes are also well filmed and unlike some battle scenes in other Hollywood movies today, you can actually see them from a good distance. The CG and the motion captures of the Na’vi are done excellently.

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Avatar isn’t a great movie in my eyes, only when considering the special effects. I heard that there will be sequels to this movie and I have to say I don’t understand why. If you haven’t watched this movie yet, do so. Technically this film is well made with a great look; just don’t expect a great movie.