Tag Archives: Ted Levine

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) Review

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The Silence of the Lambs

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] contains content may disturb
Cast:
Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling
Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter
Scott Glenn as Jack Crawford
Ted Levine as Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb
Director: Jonathan Demme

Young FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is assigned to help find a missing woman to save her from a psychopathic serial killer (Ted Levine) who skins his victims. Clarice attempts to gain a better insight into the twisted mind of the killer by talking to another psychopath Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), who used to be a respected psychiatrist. FBI agent Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) believes that Lecter, who is also a very powerful and clever mind manipulator, has the answers to their questions and can help locate the killer. However, Clarice must first gain Lecter’s confidence before the inmate will give away any information.

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The Silence of the Lambs was a massive hit upon its release, it even won the big 5 Oscars with Best Picture, Director, Best Actor and Best Actress, and that was particularly special considering it was a horror movie, with those movies in the genre not being considered ‘award friendly’. Almost 3 decades later, it is still an absolute classic and essential viewing, with its acting, writing and direction being top notch.

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One of the aspects of Silence of the Lambs that works so well is that it’s so realistic and feels like it could happen actually happen in real life. Manhunter did a realistic sort of take on a different Hannibal Lecter story, however parts of that movie felt a little bland. The Silence of the Lambs however manages to make the investigation and overall story interesting. From start to finish you’re absolutely locked into everything that’s happening.

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Jodie Foster was really great as Clarice Starling, this ranks among Foster’s best performances. It’s quite easy to like Clarice as a protagonist, and her story arc was really good. There’s a reason that the movie focusses a lot of time on her face, Foster is very expressive, and the movie definitely took advantage of that to great results. Anthony Hopkins doesn’t get a lot of screen time but his less than 15 minutes of screentime was a multi award winning performance, and for very good reason. The movie doesn’t surround him a lot but he really makes an impression. Looking at it now, he does go a little hammy at times, and it does seem a little out of place considering that the rest of the movie is really realistic, and Hopkins’s Lecter is a lot more theatrical compared to everything else. Also I was never really unnerved or scared by the performance and the character. But for the most part, Hopkins nails the role and steals every scene he’s in. Foster and Hopkins were absolutely magnetic together, their interactions are some of the best scenes of the movie. While a lot of people found Hopkins to be scary, the scariest performance in this movie comes from Ted Levine as Buffalo Bill, the serial killer that Foster’s Clarice is hunting down. Buffalo Bill seemed like a real life serial killer, from the performance, to the character himself, everything about him is unsettling. Levine sadly doesn’t get enough praise, which he deserves especially considering all of the gruelling prep he had to do to prepare for the role. The rest of the supporting cast including Scott Glenn as Jack Crawford also do some solid work.

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Jonathan Demme’s direction was really great, and he put this movie together very well. The story and writing itself was quite realistic and the way everything looks complements this. There are many close up shots that are done from Clarice Starling’s point of view, I really noticed it particularly on my latest viewing. It really does a good job at making you feel uncomfortable, even if it’s not a grisly scene or featuring Hannibal or Buffalo Bill. The only aspects that are little lacklustre is that occasionally some set designs that aren’t special and might not be that interesting but that’s it, it works for the more grounded take of the movie anyway. The soundtrack from Howard Shore is iconic and excellent, really adding adds a haunting atmosphere to this film.

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The Silence of the Lambs is a classic and for very good reason. It’s a gripping thriller with Jonathan Demme’s great direction, an interesting story, and some great performances, mainly from Foster, Hopkins and Levine. I’ve now seen it 3 to 4 times and it’s gotten better with every viewing. If you haven’t seen The Silence of the Lambs yet you definitely should, it’s a fantastic film.

The Report (2019) Review

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The Report

Time: 119 minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence, cruelty & offensive language
Cast:
Adam Driver as Daniel Jones
Annette Bening as Dianne Feinstein
Jon Hamm as Denis McDonough
Jennifer Morrison as Caroline Krass
Tim Blake Nelson as Raymond Nathan
Ted Levine as John Brennan
Michael C. Hall as Thomas Eastman
Maura Tierney as Bernadette
Director: Scott Z. Burns

FBI agent Daniel Jones (Adam Driver) performs an exhaustive investigation into the CIA’s use of torture on suspected terrorists. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the CIA adopted new interrogation techniques.

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I heard about The Report for a little while, it was about an important topic about the report of the CIA’s use of torture, and had a lot of talented people involved with the likes of Adam Driver, Annette Bening and Jon Hamm. It’s turned out to be quite good and overall well made, if a slightly too procedural.

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The Report is a straight forward movie. When it comes to movies based on true events like this, there’s a certain kind of genre where it just seems to give cliff notes of information that could’ve been taken from Wikipedia. The Report is sort of that but out of those types of movies, it does this the best. It keeps you engaged to learn everything that’s happening, at least that’s what it did for me. There’s a lot of information being tossed at you, but even if you don’t remember everything perfectly, there’s enough there that you can grasp what’s going on. As you can probably tell already, it’s not an easy watch by any means, given the subject matter. Even outside the flashback scenes which features some torture, it can be maddening and frustrating hearing about all of what happened, and it’s meant to have you feeling that way. I’m not quite sure that The Report will hold up outside of the first viewing, still well made and all that, but after knowing everything it has to say, there’s not much point watching it again. I guess one problem with this movie is that while you’d expect the movie to not go into too much depth with many of the supporting players, you’d expect something with the lead character, that being Daniel Jones played by Adam Driver. It’s verbally expressed early on that Jones isn’t close with anyone, and you can really tell that he’s really committed to this case, but that’s all we learn from him. Not necessarily a bad thing mind you, they can sort of get away with that given the nature of the protagonist, and it’s not necessarily something that’s bothering you if you’re engaged with the rest of the movie.

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The Report has got a great cast who perform very well in their respective roles. Adam Driver continues to prove himself one of the best actors working today. As I said, the movie doesn’t really go into him as a person, but Driver’s acting overcomes that, and once again gives a very strong lead performance. The supporting cast with the likes of Annette Bening, Jon Hamm, Tim Blake Nelson, Ted Levine, Michael C. Hall, Corey Stoll and more all provide good performances too.

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I haven’t seen a film from director Scott Z. Burns (he made his last movie over a decade ago, which I haven’t seen), he’s mainly a writer for movies like Side Effects and The Bourne Ultimatum. He’s pretty good as a director, even if he doesn’t really have much of a distinct style. The cinematography is rather basic and not necessarily attractive or stylish, but I guess that fitted the tone and subject matter of the movie quite well.

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I wouldn’t say that The Report is a great movie, but it is an important movie for sure. It’s tightly written and directed and features some really good performances from its talented cast. Yes, it’s a ‘cliff notes’ movie, but it’s a very well made cliff notes movie. It gives you a generally good idea of what happened in an interesting and engaging 2 hour long movie. Definitely check it out when you can.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) Review

Time: 128 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Chris Pratt as Owen Grady
Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dearing
Rafe Spall as Eli Mills
Justice Smith as Franklin Webb
Daniella Pineda as Dr. Zia Rodriguez
James Cromwell as Sir Benjamin Lockwood
Toby Jones as Gunnar Eversol
Ted Levine as Ken Wheatley
B. D. Wong as Dr. Henry Wu
Isabella Sermon as Maisie Lockwood
Geraldine Chaplin as Iris
Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm
Director: J. A. Bayona

Three years after the destruction of the Jurassic World theme park, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) return to the island of Isla Nublar to save the remaining dinosaurs from a volcano that’s about to erupt. They soon encounter terrifying new breeds of gigantic dinosaurs, while uncovering a conspiracy that threatens the entire planet.

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I wasn’t particularly looking forward to Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. When I saw Jurassic World for the first time it was fine to me but it really got worse over time. The one thing that gave me hope however instead of Colin Trevorrow returning to direct, J. A. Bayona was directing it, Bayona did a fantastic job with A Monster’s Call. However on the whole I was still rather sceptical, but still willing enough to try it out. Fallen Kingdom turned out to be better than I thought it would be, but at the same time it wasn’t particularly good. While it has some pretty good aspects like a decent second half and J.A. Bayona’s direction, it also has one dimensional and annoying characters, overused plot points and some other really dumb aspects (many of them brought over from the first Jurassic World). It’s a rather mixed bag.

Fallen Kingdom doesn’t feel like it has 3 acts, its more split into two halves. I wasn’t impressed by the first half, with it being not particularly interesting, way too familiar to other Jurassic Park movies and just flat out annoying at times. The second half is much better, which was probably a mix of me getting used to the plot, a more horror-like emphasise and certain plot aspects getting better over time. The plot itself isn’t that great, despite it being a Bayona directed movie, you can really feel Colin Trevorrow’s writing here following on from the previous movie, and that includes many of its more absurd aspects. It seems like he really still thinks that Jurassic World’s plotline about military people thinking that weaponizing dinosaurs is genius, because he uses it again here, and it’s just as dumb as it was in the previous movie. A lot of the human characters are once again quite poor, I think that’s one of the aspects about these newer movies that make them not work as well as the other movies (even Jurassic Park 3), the characters are so poorly written and don’t work in any way. There is a bunch of humour that really falls flat, and there are plot points that once again are cliched, too familiar and don’t work. There is an odd plotline focussing on a girl played by Isabella Sermon. It ends with a twist that works okay but is rather confusing and out of place, it really didn’t need to be in the movie. However it’s not all bad. The plotline/scenes involving Chris Pratt and an intelligent raptor named Blue were one of the highlights of the movie, it actually was quite effective. Also despite the first half feeling rather average, at the end of that segment is a startingly effective emotional scene which really got to me. It just came out of nowhere and despite not liking the movie particularly much, it actually worked. The movie is over 2 hours long and it can drag at times, even during the second half, you kind of feel the 2 hour+ length. This movie ends on an interestingly different note, one that the next movie seems like it’ll be focussing on. It has potential but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens in the sequel. I didn’t watch it myself but for those interested, there is an end credits scene as well.

Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard like in the first movie do pretty well here. Their chemistry isn’t really that strong for the most part but the film doesn’t try to emphasise that aspect as much as the previous movie, so it was somewhat tolerable. Jeff Goldblum returns as Ian Malcolm for like one scene, he really didn’t need to return to this movie. James Cromwell is decent in his role but really his character could’ve been played by anyone. Isabella Sermon is good in her role, despite the odd choices with the character’s storyline. A lot of the other actors however are stuck with poor characters. One is Justice Smith as some IT guy who really is annoying, especially during the first half. However the more stand out annoyances are the villains. If you couldn’t stand Vincent D’Onofrio’s cliched character in the first Jurassic World, you’re going to have a hard time with Fallen Kingdom. You have Rafe Spall as some business guy who predictably turns out to be evil, Toby Jones as an auctioneer for dinosaurs and Ted Levine as an over the top mercenary, and all of them are so cartoonishly evil its actually rather astounding. I know at the very least that Toby Jones and Ted Levine are great actors, but they aren’t given really anything to work with except with acting evil, none of their talents is on display here.

J. A. Bayona really added something to Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom with his direction. In the second half, the movie utilises a lot of horror elements that is actually rather effective, and plays a large part in this half working so well. The CGI on the dinosaurs is better here than on the previous Jurassic World, they really don’t look as great as in the original film. I think a big part about why it works better is that unlike the previous movie, they don’t have an overload of too many dinosaurs on screen at the same time. There was one lava effect that I felt looked really fake looking but that’s just in one scene.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was slightly better than I was expecting and wasn’t quite the disaster that a lot of people seemed to make it out to be. However, it’s still not that good either. For every element or scene that worked quite well, there was another that made the whole experience frustrating, dull or just annoying. With the different story direction that Fallen Kingdom ends on, I can say that there is an opportunity for a different direction to take the franchise that can lead to more places that’s not just familiar territory (that the franchise had been constantly doing for the past films). However, the next film is directed by Colin Trevorrow, so I’m not holding out much hope for it for now. If you could somewhat tolerate the first Jurassic World, you should be fine with this one. Otherwise I’m not sure how much you are going to like Fallen Kingdom, if at all.

The Fast and the Furious (2001) Review

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The Fast and the Furious

Time: 106 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and Offensive Language
Cast:
Paul Walker as Brian O’Conner
Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto
Michelle Rodriguez as Leticia “Letty” Ortiz
Jordana Brewster as Mia Toretto
Rick Yune as Johnny Tran
Chad Lindberg as Jesse
Johnny Strong as Leon
Matt Schulze as Vince
Ted Levine as Tanner
Director: Rob Cohen

LA street racer Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) falls under the suspicion of the LAPD for a string of high-speed electronics truck robberies. Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) an officer of the LAPD, joins the ranks of Toretto’s highly skilled racing crew undercover to convict Toretto. However, O’Connor finds himself both enamored with this new world and in love with Toretto’s sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster) As a rival racing crew gains strength, O’Connor must decide where his loyalties lie.

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The Fast and Furious franchise is today one of the most popular action franchises today, with its seventh instalment released earlier this year. Watching the original 2001 film, it was interesting to see how it started off in the first place. Looking at it now, it’s actually quite well set up with good action, although quite different from the later instalments. Although I don’t think it’s as good as the more recent films in the franchise, I still found this first film to be quite enjoyable.

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People more familiar with the newer films should know that unlike those films where it had focused on the main characters doing such activities such as pulling off heists, this film was focussed on street racing, in fact that is what the first 3 films focused on. The film at times does feel a little slow for a film about street racing especially in the first act however once it got into the second act I was invested in the film. Granted, like all the Fast and Furious movies, the plot doesn’t really matter. We are really just there to see guys drive fast cars and enjoy the action that unfolds. The film is quite good at that but don’t expect them to be parachuting in cars onto a bridge or anything similar.

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The actors for the most part do well, they aren’t really spectacular but they aren’t really supposed to be, the action with the cars is supposed to be the main focus. There was really only any character development with a couple of characters but they all did well with what they have. I actually liked Paul Walker as the main character, I know that a lot of people have a problem with him but I think his character worked for the film. The show stealer for me though was Vin Diesel, he’s often one of the main highlights of the Fast and Furious films. The rest of the cast which consisted of actors like Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster also worked for their roles. The villain played by Rick Yune was decent, he does usually play great villains (Olympus has Fallen, Die Another Day). He’s not really the villain until the second half but he does well with what he’s got, despite being not very developed.

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The Fast and Furious franchise always has had great action (with maybe the exception of 2 Fast 2 Furious) and that was always there from the beginning. The stunt work, especially with the cars is very commendable. If you are going into this film (or any Fast and Furious movie for that matter), do understand that the film isn’t realistic in the slightest, however honestly, this might be the most realistic Fast and Furious movie in terms of action scenes. The film also has a nice sharp and quick style which really works for the film.

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While not one of the better Fast and Furious movies, it is still a decent movie and I really enjoyed watching it. If you never enjoyed any of the Fast and Furious movies than this won’t change your mind. It’s exactly the type of film you’d expect called Fast and Furious. If you liked the more recent Fast and Furious films, I think it’s worth checking this one out. It’s not as exciting or have as much overblown fun as the latest films but I think there’s quite a bit of enjoyment to have here.