Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

★1/2

I remember seeing the original “Borat” movie in theaters in 2006.

I had recently graduated from Indiana University and moved to Jacksonville, Florida to accept a job at a newspaper. I didn’t know anyone there and my father flew into town to hang out with me.

We went to watch the Indianapolis Colts take on the Jacksonville Jaguars and we were really excited. Expectations were high that Peyton Manning would destroy our usually pitiful opponent.

On the Jaguars’ first play, running back Fred Taylor ran for 76 yards. Eventually, the team ran for a franchise record 375 yards and my father and I were taunted by Jags fans leaving the stadium as the Colts were defeated.

(Side note: The radio announcer overhead as we were leaving said, “Looks like another first round playoff exit for the Colts this year.”We ended up winning the Super Bowl that year. So take that.)

Needless to say, my father was depressed. He flew 900 miles to see his favorite team get absolutely destroyed.

So I said to my father, “You need cheering up. Let’s go to a movie.”

He wasn’t in the mood but he went along and we saw “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.”

My father had never heard of British comedian Sasha Baron Cohen and he laughed so hard that he almost fell out of his seat. Seriously, I was afraid that the movie theater staff were going to escort us out for causing a disruption.

“Borat” was a huge box office hit, grossing $260 million worldwide. He was a popular Halloween costume for years to come and people would quote the accented character’s iconic “My wiiiiife!” catchphrase. Eventually, the amateur impersonations would rival only Napoleon Dynamite for their ability to annoy.

What made “Borat” so hilarious was a combination of political satire and shock value. The over-the-top parody of foreigners brought to life the xenophobia in the United States. And a few real-life people, including a group of fraternity brothers and a homophobic rodeo cowboy, showed what some Americans are really like.

Cohen attempted a follow up movie a few years later featuring another one of his characters, Bruno, a gay Austrian fashion reporter. The movie was not nearly as funny and part of the difficulty is that Cohen had become a household name and could no longer trick unsuspecting people with his character. Everyone knew it was a stunt.

Fourteen years later, we finally get a true sequel to “Borat” but people haven’t forgotten the character, making it necessary for the character himself to choose to dress in disguise. Cohen filmed it very quickly and somewhat secretly during the COVID-19 lockdown, although some news reports came out that he had been spotted in character and that a new movie was expected.

Things are much different than they were in 2006. Back then, George W. Bush was president and cell phone cameras didn’t exist (to capture Cohen on the street). Nowadays, real life is so increasingly bizarre and unbelievable that it’s difficult to parody 2020. Donald Trump might be even more “out-there” than the character Borat.

Cohen takes aim at a few modern day targets including anti-maskers, anti-abortion activists, QAnon conspiracy theorists and Rudy Giuliani himself in a climactic appearance that likely has been spoiled by recent news coverage (and quickly I will say that it doesn’t look like Rudy was really touching himself, so the coverage is overblown).

Cohen apparently lived in quarantine with a pair of conspiracy theorists for five days and had to stay in character the entire time. That’s really interesting and I bet a “making of” feature might be more interesting than this actual sequel.

The new wrinkle in this sequel is that Borat is escorted by his 15-year-old daughter played by Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova. Some of the funniest scenes in the movie involve her character and she’s able to trick some unsuspecting subjects where Cohen is unable.

Due to the lack of anonymity, this sequel relies on a written narrative more than the original movie which was often just a collection of skits. And the story in this sequel is a sweet one, worthy of being told.

But in the end “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” isn’t very funny and that’s the true barometer of whether it’s a “great success.”

What was once funny about Borat has now become annoying and it’s difficult to have the same impact on audiences who are no longer surprised.

People are much harder to shock nowadays and Cohen’s pranks just fall flat.

In the end, I think much of comedy comes down to surprising an audience. That’s why sequels to comedies are usually terrible (“Caddyshack 2” “Meet the Fockers” “Zoolander 2” and “Anchorman 2” come to mind).

Everyone that hated the first “Borat” movie will hate the sequel just as movie. But I suspect only about half of the people who enjoyed the original comedy will end up liking this new version.

Rebecca (2020)

It’s not easy remaking an already great movie. But a Best Picture winner at the Oscars? That’s an especially tall order.

Only a handful of Best Picture winners have been remade and technically most of them are new adaptations of a book.

The list includes “Mutiny on the Bounty,” “Ben-Hur,” “All the King’s Men,” “Hamlet” and “Around the World in 80 Days.”

Steven Spielberg has a new film version of “West Side Story” that will be added to this list at some point (release date uncertain due to COVID-19).

And now we have “Rebecca,” a Netflix-exclusive based on the 1938 Gothic novel by English author Dame Daphne du Maurier.

“Rebecca” was turned into a Best Picture-winning feature in 1940 directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier. Hitchcock did not receive a statuette for this win (he was not listed as a producer) and ultimately he never won an Oscar in his career (only an honorary one).

While loved by many classic film buffs, the original 1940 “Rebecca” isn’t among Hitchock’s best works. Most people, including myself, would certainly rank it after “Psycho,” “The Birds,” “Vertigo,” “North by Northwest” and “Rear Window.” I might throw in a few others (I have a fondness for “Rope”).

So why remake this classic? I’m not sure I understand why.

Lily James (“Downton Abbey,” “Cinderella”) and Armie Hammer (“Call Me By Your Name,” “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”) star in the two lead roles in director Ben Wheatley’s new version.

It’s the story of a young woman who falls in love with a rich widower and marries him rather quickly and moves into his enormous mansion called Manderley. The setting itself certainly takes on a life of its own and it’s intricately detailed in the bright colorful updated remake. James is constantly reminded of the memory of her husband’s first wife and the mysterious circumstances surrounding her death.

Not to give away anything about the plot (it really kicks in during the last 30 minutes of this 2-hour film) but the modern remake seems to more of a murder mystery than a psychological thriller like the original.

The real standout in this new version is Kristin Scott Thomas (“The English Patient,” “Only God Forgives”) as the the creepy, possessive housekeeper Mrs. Danvers who manipulates James’ character and seems overly protective of the late wife’s memory.

If you’re comparing this new version to the original, you might be let down, but if you’re looking for a thriller with a beautiful period-piece setting then you could do a lot worse than “Rebecca.”

Feels Good Man

A documentary about a grinning cartoon frog might be the most important movie about politics to come out in 2020.

“Feels Good Man” tells the story of Pepe the Frog, which first appeared in a comic strip called “Boy’s Club” in 2005. It grew to become a meme by 2008, mostly on the message boards of a site called 4Chan.

Creator Matt Furie was first just amused about how widespread his comic was on the Internet and he saw no harm in people making their own drawings or using the character to express emotions. Even Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj retweeted images using Pepe in 2014.

But in 2015, things changed. Donald Trump announced he was running for president and at the same time an undercurrent of angry Internet users began to use memes to spread their message. 4Chan became inundated with extremist that became known as the alt-right, a collection of Internet users that often said sexist, racist or xenophobic things and shunned normal society.

For some reason, Pepe became their symbol.

Furie wasn’t happy. His happy little comic turned into something used for hatred and it was eventually deemed a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League

Documentary director Arthur Jones (in his feature debut) dissects this cultural phenomenon and explains how a cartoon becomes a meme and how a meme’s meaning can get changed by the others. Truly nobody owns anything on the Internet. And things take on a life of their own.

Expertly intercut with talking head interviews, TV news clips and animation of Pepe to portray the mood, Jones really takes you on a journey. It’s fast paced and chock-full of information, but it really gets at the heart of today’s political landscape and it does it in a way that’s mostly objective. The alt-right users get their (brief) say but they don’t overtake Furie’s central message of love and hope.

Everything in this documentary could easily be discovered by perusing Wikipedia and reading a few in depth articles. Trump retweeting Pepe. Hillary Clinton denouncing Pepe. Cryptocurrency. Trading “rare Pepes” and selling them for thousands. The lawsuit against Alex Jones. The political movement in Hong Kong. The documentary covers it all and even if you knew all of this stories it’s done with such style and emotion that it’s worth seeing it all distilled into 90 minutes.

I know colleges teach courses on Internet memes and symbology and this movie should be required viewing for all of those students (and probably marketing or political science majors too). It perfectly explains how a meme comes to life and what impact it can have on the world. At times the movie can be scary, but it ends of a beautifully hopeful note.

The one thing I really took from this documentary is that you can always flip the script. Maybe Pepe was once a symbol of white supremacy, but you can reclaim it and make it into a symbol of love too. If things that are meant for good can be turned into hatred, why can’t we work in the opposite direction? Maybe that’s possible too.

Enola Holmes


★★★1/2

What does Sherlock Holmes have in common with Santa Claus, Dracula and God?

They are the four most portrayed characters when it comes to TV shows, movies and books.

That’s rare company for the fictional detective and the Guinness Book of World Records lists him as as the most portrayed literary human character in film and television history (the other three don’t fit that description). There have been more than 25,000 stage adaptations, films, television productions and publications featuring the detective. Movies alone count more than 250.

So to say there’s another movie featuring Sherlock Holmes might give many a groan, even if there’s a new twist.

Netflix’s newest original movie “Enola Holmes” gives Millie Bobby Brown a starring vehicle in which she portrays the titular heroine, who is the younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes.

It’s based on a series of young adult novels that debuted in 2006 and while the movie is appropriate for teens and tweens, fans of the Robert Downey Jr. movies and the Benedict Cumberbatch series will still enjoy this two-hour feature. It’s not just for children. In fact, kids younger than middle school might get bored or confused.

Henry Cavill (“Man of Steel,” “The Witcher”) plays the famed detective with obsessive brilliance and arrogance, but lacking the eccentricities of other version. He’s not a misanthrope or a drug addict in this version. It’s a softer Holmes. And yes, he’s far far better than Will Ferrell’s terrible version.

Trusty sidekick Watson isn’t by Sherlock’s side. Maybe they’re saving him for some sequels. Yes, this movie is meant for sequels. The movie itself could have easily been turned into a series, but I’m thankful that Netflix is still providing options that I can watch in two hours rather than eight.

The plot itself is disposable. It’s a generic mystery where you could care less about the clues that are found or who the ultimate villain ends up being. With the exception of the brilliant twist in last year’s “Knives Out,” most detective movies are more about the journey than the answer.

The real reason to watch “Enola Holmes” is to see a star in the making with Millie Bobby Brown. She was introduced to the world in 2016 as Eleven, a bald-headed 12-year-old with telekinetic powers on the hit Netflix show “Stranger Things.” She was shy, scared and unable to speak. It was a powerful role, but one that gave us no hint of how Brown would fare as a confident, verbose, witty young feminist in “Enola Holmes.” With only one other feature film under her belt (a small role in “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”), this is Brown’s film breakthrough. It showcases her leading star ability and it’s not hyperbole to say that I see the same charm and acting ability that we saw in Anne Hathaway, Natalie Portman and Emma Stone before they went on to win Oscars many years later. Brown is only 16 and if she keeps selecting the right roles (which is very important) her future will be bright.

Brown brings a ton of charisma to “Enola Holmes.” When she breaks the fourth wall and looks into the camera, the viewer feels like she’s looking directly at them because of Brown’s personal connection and relaxed performance. It’s a strong enough debut to warrant sequels, even if the mystery itself isn’t incredibly engaging.

Happy Happy Joy Joy: The Ren & Stimpy Story

John Kricfalusi, creator of “The Ren & Stimpy Show”


★★

I was seven years old when Nicktoons premiered on Nickelodeon in 1991.

The children’s cable network had mostly aired syndicated shows from other networks and was now launching its cutting edge original Saturday morning cartoons with three new shows: “Doug,” “Rugrats” and — the edgy rebellious one — “The Ren & Stimpy Show.”

I watched in anticipation for the new shows and enjoyed all three, but I was enthralled by “Ren & Stimpy.” It was like nothing else I had ever seen in a cartoon, not even “The Simpsons,” which premiered a few years prior.

It was beautifully (and disgustingly) animated with detailed close-up shots and exaggerated emotional expression that displayed madness on the screen. There was sexual innuendo, shocking violence and boiling rage. It wasn’t meant for kids, but it aired in the middle of the day on a network aimed at young children.

A new documentary, “Happy Happy Joy Joy: The Ren & Stimpy Story,” chronicles the rise and fall of the controversial cartoon. Directors Ron Cicero and Kimo Easterwood premiered their movie as part of the Sundance Film Festival in January 2020, a few months before COVID-19 put a halt to in-person film festivals.

For the most part, they tell a pretty standard story of how the cartoon got made and what made it so popular and controversial. Talking head celebrities like Bobby Lee and Jack Black heap praise on “Ren & Stimpy” creator John Kricfalusi for being an eccentric genius who pushed boundaries. The first 30 minutes of the documentary is full of glowing compliments and goes into great detail about what made the show so revolutionary. They interview animators, studio executives and obsessive fans. The usual documentary format.

Ren & Stimpy

I haven’t revisited this beloved cartoon in many years, but during the first part of this documentary, I was overflowing with nostalgia and a desire to rewatch this show. As they kept showing controversial clips that slipped through Nickelodeon’s censors, I kept thinking to myself: “How did they get away with this?”

But the troubled artist John K (as he’s called) is — predictably — exposed as a man who’s dealing with some serious mental health issues. He’s described as berating his staff with profanity and slurs. He fights with network executives, telling them to “Go f— yourself.” He refuses to meet deadlines, costing the network millions and leading to delays in episode air dates. He’s finally kicked off the show after submitting an episode in which an abusive dog trainer named George Liquor — based on John K’s actual father — is beaten mercilessly with a boat oar.

Some animators play off John K’s attitude by calling it self sabotage. Others play off his abusive behavior to his staff by calling it “being a perfectionist.”

But something darker seems to be at play.

Stimpy

And then the documentary takes a turn.

I was unaware of the accusations leveled at John K in 2018. I don’t know if I should even call them accusations since he freely admits it in the documentary, but he was never convicted in a court of law.

In summation, John K began writing letters back and forth with a 14-year-old female fan of “Ren & Stimpy” in 1995. He was 30 at the time. He basically was grooming her and then had her move in with him when she was 16. He admits to the sexual relationship and animators admit in the documentary that everyone knew. The victim speaks openly in the movie, saying that he wouldn’t let her leave the house and she still has nightmares about him. The documentary filmmakers question John K firmly but he gives a very weak apology without saying he did anything wrong. He basically says he’s sorry if she feels like she was hurt.

The woman tries to reconcile the art that is “Ren & Stimpy” with the artist that created it, saying: “I understand you need pain to make great art, but that doesn’t mean you need to inflict pain.”

So this is when the documentary sort of makes me angry.

What John K did was criminal (the statute of limitations have passed) and it feels weird that I just watched an hour of people heaping praise on him.

Yes, the cartoon itself was quite genius, but the movie clumsily tries to reconcile the fact that the show has been somewhat tarnished by the reputation of its creator.

There’s a big debate about whether you can still enjoy a piece of art that was created by (or includes) a reprehensible person. Can you still watch “The Cosby Show” or movies that feature Kevin Spacey? Where do you draw the line? Can you separate the art from the artist?

The documentary gives maybe three minutes to these questions and it’s a shame. It almost feels as if the documentary was deep into production when the 2018 Buzzfeed article came out that exposed John K. It’s quite possible that’s what happened, but these two directors should have used that as an opportunity to give more weight to this important subject. I’m not saying you can’t still explore the greatness that was “The Ren & Stimpy Show” but you can’t just tack these sexual assault incidents on at the end.

Furthermore, the documentary never even touches the fact that John K was alleged to have child pornography on his computer.

The smiling talking heads of Bobby Lee and Jack Black never come back on screen to say how these revelations have altered their nostalgia. Again, maybe they were interviewed before it all came out.

In the end, “Happy Happy Joy Joy: The Ren & Stimpy Story” is a fascinating look at a controversial show and its controversial creator. I was never bored watching it, but I felt like I needed a shower after the credits rolled. The title of this documentary is very misleading.

Bill & Ted Face the Music

In 2001, the satire Web site The Onion ran an article titled, “Alex Winter keeps bugging Keanu Reeves about third ‘Bill & Ted’ movie.”

It was a funny joke at the time because Reeves just jumped into superstardom with “The Matrix” franchise. Many years later, Reeves would solidify his box office status with the acclaimed “John Wick” action series. It’s already been announced that Reeves will reprise both roles in a fourth “Matrix’ movie and a fourth (and fifth) “John Wick” installment.

Meanwhile, Alex Winter has spent the years directing lesser known documentaries and episodes of television series. Not the same stardom.

So it seemed that Reeves was throwing his buddy a bone by agreeing to appear in a third “Bill & Ted” movie. Another reason to love Keanu.

Turns out, the movie was actually worth making. A smart screenplay coupled with top-notch direction from Dean Parisot (who did cult classic “Galaxy Quest”) make this years later sequel much funnier than it ought to be. It’s not a comedy classic that will reel in those that weren’t fans of the first two movies, but it’s not the disaster that “Jay & Silent Bob Reboot” was.

“Bill & Ted Face the Music” includes references to both 1989’s “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and 1991’s “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.” The eponymous duo is much older and still haven’t written the great song that will unite the world, align the planet and create universal peace. Their moment in the sun as a famous 90s rock band has faded and now they’re playing weddings. Their wives — princess they picked up in the 1400s while time traveling in the first movie — are getting fed up with them. The only people who still look up to Bill & Ted are their daughters, played by Samara Weaving (“The Babysitter”) and Brigette Lundy-Payne. Their offspring look and talk like their dads but they seem to know a lot more about music and they are apparently more intelligent too.

Just like the first movie, there are trips back in time to pick up historical figures and just like the first sequel there’s a trip to the afterlife, complete with a very funny cameo by William Sadler reprising his role as Death (he has some of the funniest lines in this movie).

Anthony Carrigan, known as mobster NoHo Hank in the HBO series “Barry,” plays a futuristic robot sent to kill “Bill & Ted” and he steals most scenes he’s in, constantly reminding people in an emotionally insecure way that his real name is Dennis Caleb McCoy.

Reeves gives an admirable performance but Winter actually seems to be better at delivering humorous lines. He needs it more.

Although their voices have changed in the 30-plus years (much deeper and gravelly), the chemistry between the two stars is still there and this new addition is actually quite fun. It’s fast paced and full of silly scenes like the two sequels to “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle” but obviously with more Sci-Fi.

In the end, this sweet hearted goofball comedy doesn’t rely on gross-out humor, shocking jokes or political references to be relevant. It’s message about the power of music to unite all people is actually needed right now and it’s quite refreshing. It would be great if we all followed the message from Bill and Ted: “Be excellent to one another and party on, dudes!”

Tesla

★★1/2

Sometimes people can change the world without becoming incredibly famous.

In the musical “Hamilton,” there are a ton of references to the fact that Alexander Hamilton shaped the U.S. government into what it is today but many everyday people — before the musical came out — didn’t know him as well as Thomas Jefferson or George Washington.

Nowadays, Nikola Tesla is known by more people than he used to be. But he’s known mostly for his name being used on Elon Musk’s car company or the fact that David Bowie played a fictionalized version of him in “The Prestige.”

Most people can’t tell you what Tesla is famous for.

Some would say he “invented electricity” but that’s not entirely accurate.

Most of what I know about this historical figure came from the movie “The Current War,” which I watched a few months ago. Nicolas Hoult played Tesla in a supporting role in a film that really focused on Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, two titans who were battling in the 1800s to see who could have their form of electricity (direct current or alternating current) become commonplace and dominate the market.

You know, Tesla worked briefly for Edison at his company. Edison is who we learned about in second grade. Edison became rich form his inventions. Tesla struggled for money for most of his life and even was a ditch digger for a brief period of time.

Director Michael Almereyda tells much of the same story as “The Current War,” in his film “Tesla,” but with the lesser known inventor as the central figure. He teams up with Ethan Hawke as Tesla and Kyle MacLachlan as Edison, two actors he previously worked with in his superb retelling of “Hamlet” in 2000.

Almereyda tells his story in an unconventional way, having it narrated by Tesla’s love interest, the daughter of banker J.P. Morgan. She breaks the fourth wall, telling us about the Google results of Tesla versus Edison and often it feels like a high school documentary lots of historical explanation. It really gets odd toward the “climax” of the film (or as close as you can get in this movie) when Hawke sings a karaoke version of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears, dressed up as Tesla. It’s poignant but it’s also quite strange.

I’m not sure Almereyda’s film succeeded 100 percent. I kind of loved this movie and yet I kind of hated it. It takes risks and it made me think, but its meandering plot with its strict adherence to historical accuracy felt more like reading a textbook than watching a grand feature.

If you love history, this one might be for you. And there is a central theme: that Tesla’s pursuit of brilliance and world-changing inventions might have completely occurred during his lifetime, but the work he did let to further breakthroughs that changed the world. He died penniless, but not forgotten.

I know movie theaters are closed right now, but this is a film that’s better watched at home and probably by yourself. You don’t want to glance over at your yawning partner who is bored to tears by your rental choice.

The film lacks a real electric charge but you can see the tiny sparks in Hawke’s performance. I mildly enjoyed this film, but I preferred “The Current War.”

All The King’s Men (1949)

In many older films, there were heroes and there were villains. There wasn’t much room for nuance.

Nowadays, the same can be said for the way politicians are depicted in the news.

One channel portrays Donald Trump as a hero and Joe Biden as a villain. Flip to another news channel and the perspectives are flipped. We’re working in extremes and we’re working in absolutes.

Where do you weigh the good and the bad? Where do the scales tip? Can a bad person can end up doing good things, even if they’re doing them for the wrong reasons?

In the early 1930s, one of the most divisive figures was Huey Long, who served as governor and senator of Louisiana. He was the original populist. He was a brilliant attorney and gifted orator and he became known for fighting against corporate greed. He spoke out against white supremacy and advocated for a wealth tax and wealth redistribution.

Many loved him, but he was also hated. He was impeached for abuses of power, including misusing state funds and corruption. But the most serious charge was conspiracy to commit murder. One of Long’s bodyguards claimed in an affidavit that an intoxicated Long had told him to kill a state representative and “leave him in the ditch where nobody will know how or when he got there.” Long allegedly promised him a full pardon.

Long was acquitted by the Louisiana Senate but the impeachment proceedings were so heated that there was a literal brawl on the floor of the state legislature. Some used brass knuckles and Long’s brother even bit someone.

Long was eventually killed and the assassin was never identified.

OK, that was a lengthy wind-up, but it leads us to the movie I’m featuring: “All the King’s Men,” a 1949 movie that won Best Picture at the Oscars.

Long’s story was the direct inspiration for the Pulitzer Prize winning novel that was turned into this feature film three years later.

Little known character actor Broderick Crawford plays Willy Stark, an honest man running for county treasurer somewhere in the South. The state and political parties are never specified. Stark is uneducated but bright and he takes on the establishment in the form of county commissioners who want to give their cronies the contract to build a new schoolhouse. The schoolhouse collapses with children inside due to cheap construction. Stark is seen as a prophetic hero, a man of the people.

Stark is later recruited to run for governor, but the naive man — now going to night school to become an attorney — is just an unwitting patsy. They only recruited him to split the “redneck vote” and give their preferred candidate an assured win. When he discovers, he vows to run again in four years, “But this time I know how to win,” he says.

He runs a populist campaign for governor, calling himself a “hick” and is elected easily. He vows to build a big hospital and provide people with free healthcare. All seems to be going well until cracks start to form. He begins cheating on his wife and berating his staff. He admits to making deals with corporate interests in order to advance his political agenda.

“I’ll make a deal with the devil if it will help me carry out my program,” Stark says. “But believe me, there are no strings attached to those deals. Do you know what good comes out of?…Out of bad. That’s what good comes out of. Because you can’t make it out of anything else. You didn’t know that, did you?”

Later on, his attorney general, a former judge, refuses to cut a deal for corrupt politicians that Stark needs on his side.

Stark tells him: “You know, Judge, dirt’s a funny thing. Some of it rubs off on everybody.”

When the judge resigns, Stark enlists the help of a bright-eyed journalist Jack Burden who wrote about his campaign. He had previously hired this writer for his staff with promises of changing the world but now he’s got him digging up dirt about the judge.

“Jack, there’s something on everybody,” Stark says. “Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption.”

In the end, Stark is impeached but acquitted. As he’s leaving the statehouse to a crowd of cheering supporters, he’s shot and killed. He’s assassinated by Burden, the very man who once looked up to Stark.

In a news reel, a narrator says that, “For those who say that Willie Stark is a man of destiny, there are others who claim that he is a man of evil, a man who cares neither for the people or the state, but only for his own personal power and ambition. Obviously, these ambitions go far beyond the boundaries of the state. Just how far, only time will tell. Meanwhile, he is here, and from the looks of things, he is here to stay. Willie Stark – Messiah or Dictator?”

Viewers will obviously see parallels between Willy Stark and modern day politicians. A good person starts off wanting to do good things but over time starts giving into the system and “playing the game.” At some point personal ambition starts to overshadow their original goals. Even when they push through good legislation, they end up getting their hands dirty, saying “the ends will justify the means.”

Frank Underwood, Kevin Spacey’s character in the Netflix series, “House of Cards,” obviously is one recent example. Neither 100 percent good nor 100 percent evil, but sharp and cunning. And just like any Shakespearean tragic hero, their ego and ambition leads to their downfall.

“All the King’s Men” isn’t the first noir film to win Best Picture. “Casablanca” did that. And it isn’t the first award-nominated feature about an egotistical ambitious magnate who loses his way. “Citizen Kane,” released eight years prior, obviously influenced “All the King’s Men,” both in style and substance.

“All the King’s Men” is applauded for its screenplay, but the cast mostly improvised many scenes. The original running time was four hours and the director and editor trimmed it to a 109-minute movie by taking many scenes and turning into short snippets with transitions and using montages to show the passage of time. These editing tricks — not used much at the time — came out of necessity but made for a more powerful film.

Crawford won Best Actor at the Oscars, beating John Wayne, who originally turned down the role of Stark because he was reluctant to play a morally questionable character.

“All the King’s Men” is not one of the greatest films ever made but it’s worthy of recognition for its place in movie history. It shed some light on political corruption in the 1940s, which many people felt was un-American to to do at the time.

Its dark ending does not present any hope. And unfortunately modern politics often don’t either. If good men end up becoming corrupt over time, maybe that’s an argument for term limits. As Winston Churchill once said: “After a time, civil servants tend to become no longer servants and no longer civil.”

Children of Men (2006)

WARNING THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS

Some films grow in reputation over time. They’re ahead of their time in many ways and directors begin to be influenced by a work and audiences revisit it over the years and an appreciation grows.

And in some cases, the message of the movie becomes even more relevant as current events unfold throughout the years.

In the case of “Children of Men,” a 2006 dystopian thriller written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón, it’s now regarded as one of the best movies ever made.

Cuarón is now a two-time Oscar winner for Best Director for “Gravity” in 2013 and “Roma” in 2018. He shares the honor with George Stevens and Ang Lee of being the only directors to have won Best Director twice without ever directing a Best Picture winner. Cuarón also has been nominated in six different Oscar categories (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay), an honor he shares with Walt Disney and George Clooney.

He’s directed only eight films between 1991 and 2018. Six of them received Oscar nominations (and interesting enough only two are in his native Spanish).

He’s a damn good director and “Children of Men” might be his best movie.

Quick plot summary: It stars Clive Owen as a former political activist who now drinks his days away at a job he hates. The film open with TV news announcing the death of the youngest person alive (18 years old). It’s been that long since humankind has stopped having babies due to unexplained infertility and the lack of children — and the lack of a future — has taken away hope. Society has crumbled in many major cities. Armed militias roam the streets and refugees try to come to London but are criminalized as illegal immigrants and thrown into literal cages. Owen is asked by a former girlfriend (played by the always marvelous Julianne Moore) to help escort a woman on an important trip. Little does he know that she’s pregnant. And terrorist groups want to take her baby.

Owen is an underrated actor. He’s always got this smarminess to him where he’s not 100 percent trustworthy (as seen in the underrated film “Closer”). He was once considered to replace Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, along with Ewan McGregor and Jude Law. Eric Bana was eventually selected but it fell through and his “Munich” co-star Daniel Craig took the role.

Michael Caine has a small but memorable part as a lovable pothead. Caine is always excellent and along with Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep he’s the only actor/actress to receive Oscar nominations in five straight decades (all three have won multiple awards).

There are also cameos from the excellent Chiwetel Ejiofor and Charlie Hunnam but neither have big parts or are particularly memorable.

Technically, “Children of Men” is a marvel. Some of the shots are nearly impossible to pull off and yet the camera moves in a way that doesn’t bring attention to itself.

The biggest feat is the use of single-shot sequences for many scenes, which sparked concerns for the studio due to the time and cost. The movie doesn’t have a lot of special effects but cost $75 million to make (it broke even at the box office basically when you include domestic and international). One single shot which involves Owen’s character searching a building while under attack took 14 days to prepare for and five hours between takes. During one take, blood spattered onto the lens and the cinematographer convinced Cuarón to leave it in, adding to the documentary feel of parts of the movie.

The car crash scene was also incredibly difficult to shoot because of where the camera moves during the single shot. With today’s drones, it’s possible they could have done it differently.

There’s some splicing together of shots to make multiple shots appear to be one using computer technology but the effects weren’t as advanced as they are today. During “1917,” I didn’t want to give Sam Mendes too much credit for his single-shot movie considering how much of it was edited in post production.

In “Children of Men,” the single shot scenes (it’s only in sequences not the entire movie) makes you feel like you’re there but you almost don’t realize it’s being used. Unlike “Birdman” (a single-shot Best Picture winner from Cuarón’s close friend Alejandro González Iñárritu), the camerawork isn’t showy. It advances the story but never becomes gimmicky.

When Owen was running through the staircase avoiding being killed, it reminded me of “The Raid: Redemption” almost.

“Children of Men” also might be the most hopeless of the dystopian sci-fi movies I’ve seen (a genre I enjoy a lot).

In modern teen films like “Divergent” or “The Hunger Games,” we see action and spectacle front and center instead of drab colors and hopelessness.

In films like “Blade Runner,” “Escape from New York,” “The Warriors,” or “Logan’s Run” (all four I love), the viewer becomes enamored with the futuristic backdrop, the unique production design and the interesting costumes instead of wallowing in the bleak surroundings.

Probably the best comparison to “Children of Men” is “A Clockwork Orange” but that’s a movie that didn’t have the grand scale or cityscape surroundings of “Children of Men.”

In many ways, “Children of Men” is the anti-sci fi film. There are some very, very subtle futuristic elements such as a news stand with newspapers that change on their own using CGI effects, but you don’t see a fascination with technology or future-predicting like in films such as “Minority Report,” “I, Robot” or “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence.”

Instead, “Children of Men” focuses on realism and you see long shots of damaged streetscapes that look like the bombarded scenes in “Full Metal Jacket.” There’s a sense of despair looking at the roads unmatched by any other movie. There are other dystopian films like “The Road,” “28 Days Later,” and “I am Legend” (all three have some sort of zombie-ish element) where the streets look barren and hopeless. But the streets of “Children of Men” aren’t empty. They’re bustling full of people and yet every person seems to have dread on their face.

It’s a very religious film. When Clive Owen is surprised by the pregnancy and asks who the father is, she jokes that she’s a virgin and his face almost believes it. Her birth is eventually in a barn, which is pretty obvious. Although much of the other religious symbolism is much more subtle.

The title, according to director/writer Alfonso Cuarón, is based on Psalm 90: “You return man to dust and say, ‘Return, O children of man!’ For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.”

The movie closes with the final line from T.S. Eliot’s 1922 poem “The Wasteland”: “Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.” Shanti means peace in sanskrit.

“Shanti” is also a common beginning and ending to all Hindu prayers.

The movie itself is all about hope. When the soldiers and rebels, all fighting with one another, finally see the baby, they all stop and stare. The birth of a child gives them hope and pause. Children give us hope. It’s that simple.

The ending features Owen, the young woman and the baby on a boat fleeing to freedom and safety in the form of a boat called Tomorrow. Owen dies on the boat and the mother and daughter float away and the audience doesn’t know what eventually happens to them as the credits roll, featuring the sounds of children laughing and playing.

Cuarón encourages viewers to come to their own conclusions.

“We wanted the end to be a glimpse of a possibility of hope, for the audience to invest their own sense of hope into that ending,” he said. “So if you’re a hopeful person you’ll see a lot of hope, and if you’re a bleak person you’ll see a complete hopelessness at the end.”

Personally, I interpret the sounds of laughter as a sign that society is rebuilt.

Obviously many have pointed out the political parallels in “Children of Men,” especially the idea of illegal immigrants being kept in chain-link cages.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been this sense of dread and hopelessness among many. There’s an uneasy feeling in today’s society which I saw in “Children of Men.” Terrorist attacks. People dying. Buildings being burned down. Lockdowns. Strict government actions.

The movie isn’t just getting more relevant but it’s growing in appreciation.

In 2016 it was voted 13th among 100 films considered the best of the 21st century by 117 film critics from around the world, according to a feature on BBC.com.

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone ranked it number two on his list of best films of the 2000s, saying: “After repeated viewings, I know Children of Men is indisputably great … No movie this decade was more redolent of sorrowful beauty and exhilarating action.”

It’s a film you have to watch more than once I think. It sticks with you and repeated viewings improve the experience.

In the end, I think it works because it’s a movie that uses symbolism over narrative to evoke feelings in the viewer. Some movies make us think but the best movies make us feel something.

An Ode to Hannibal Lecter

“They don’t have a name for what he is.”

Special Agent Clarice Starling about Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter

There are so many movies where we end up rooting for the “bad guy.” Whether it’s The Joker, Loki or Michael Myers, you just can’t help it.

Almost every list of best movie villains ranks Hannibal Lecter in the top five.

The American Film Institute ranked him as the number one movie villain of all time. Better than Dracula, Darth Vader, Voldemort or the Wicked Witch of the West. That’s high praise.

He’s charming, super-intelligent, a good cook and most of the people he ends up killing (and eating) were rude people. He famously says that whenever possible it’s best to eat the rude. “Free range rude,” is what he calls it.

I’m a big fan of Hannibal Lecter as a character. I’ve watched all five movies featuring this character at least once and I’ve seen the three with Anthony Hopkins multiple times each. I’ve read all of the novels by Thomas Harris featuring this character and I’ve watched the Bryan Fuller TV series “Hannibal,” which premiered in 2013 and aired for three seasons.

You can binge watch this show now on Netflix and “The Silence of the Lambs” can be streamed for free if you have either Netflix or Amazon Prime.

With a STARZ subscription you can watch 2001 film “Hannibal” or the 2002 movie “Red Dragon.” You’d have to pay to rent 1986 movie “Manhunter” or the 2007 movie “Hannibal Rising.”

So after reading all of the books and watching all of the movies and the TV show episodes, which on-screen version is the best?

I’ve got my ranking here for you. Who do you think is the best Hannibal Lecter?

The Worst:

6. Hannibal Rising (2007 movie)

“Rudeness is an epidemic.”

Following the box office success of “Hannibal” ($351,692,268 worldwide) and “Red Dragon” ($209,196,298), film producer Dino De Laurentiis (who owned the cinematic rights to the Lecter character) told author Thomas Harris that he was making another Lecter movie with or without the author’s involvement. The story was to be about Lecter’s childhood and development into a serial killer because in the early to mid-2000s, it was all the rage to do prequels and origin stories. In 2004, movie theaters saw “Exorcist: The Beginning,” another prequel to an Oscar-nominated horror film. Of course, De Laurentiis should have heeded the warning of that Exorcist prequel bomb. “Hannibal Rising” imploded at the box office, earning only $82 million worldwide and $27 million in the United States, the lowest earning movie in the franchise.

Harris agreed to write the movie’s screenplay and while he was at it he threw together a novel as well. It feels like he’s mailing it in. Maybe that’s because De Laurentiis already told him what the story was going to be, basing the idea for a sequel on passages from the novel “Hannibal,” in which Lecter flashes back to his past and his sister Mischa.

Growing up in Lithuania, the movie details how Lecter’s parents are killed by Nazis in 1933 and later his younger sister is killed and then eaten by Nazi sympathizers who have deserted their military post and are running low on supplies. Hannibal grows up with vengeance on his mind and he eventually hunts down and kills the men responsible for his sister’s death, but he grows a taste for murder and human flesh himself.

It’s a terrible concept for prequel. Not only is the end result boring, but it goes against what has been known about the character in “Red Dragon” and “The Silence of the Lambs.” Lecter tells Clarice Starling that he mocks murderers with sob stories and child abuse in their background. “Nothing made me happen. I happened,” he said. Harris tried to add this backstory to make the cannibalistic killer more likable or sympathetic, but he was already likable. We didn’t need the explanation. The mystery was great.

I think it’s more interesting to say that Lecter’s super intelligence and high tastes led his curiosity to take him to cannibalism. To add this not-very-subtle origin about his sister being cannibalized takes away from the mystique about the character. I understand that there was a desire for more movies, but I think there were two better options: do a prequel that instead focused on Lecter in the Baltimore social scene, going to the opera, killing victims and throwing dinner parties (basically what Fuller did in the TV series) or instead do a sequel. The movie and novel “Hannibal” left it open for another entry. In 2002, Hopkins said there was a screenplay written for a sequel where Starling would eventually kill Lecter.

French actor Gaspard Ulliel, who was very good in “A Very Long Engagement” opposite Audrey Tautou, gives an admirable performance in “Hannibal Rising” but lacks any charisma. He feels like a foreign version of a young “Dexter” rather than a younger version of Anthony Hopkins.

Flawed but promising

5. Manhunter (1986 movie)

“Did you really feel depressed after you shot Mr. Garrett Jacob Hobbes to death? l think you probably did. But it wasn’t the act that got to you. Didn’t you feel so bad, because killing him felt so good? And why shouldn’t it feel good? lt must feel good to God. He does it all the time. God’s terrific! He dropped a church roof on 34 of his worshippers in Texas last Wednesday night, just as they were groveling through a hymn to his majesty. Don’t you think that felt good?”

When Michael Mann (who later would achieve fame with movies like “The Last of the Mohicans,” “Heat,” “The Insider,” “Ali,” and “Collateral.”) released this 1986 adaptation, the movie critics and box office were lukewarm. If there was never another Hannibal Lecter movie, then this stylized 80s detective flick would have faded from everyone’s memory.

Critics didn’t hate this movie and some gave it good reviews but producer Dino De Laurentiis was broke at the time and actually couldn’t afford to produce enough prints to get the movie shown in many places.

It’s not a terrible movie. It has a lot of unfulfilled potential. Most of the lines in the script are lifted directly from the novel “Red Dragon,” which might be Harris’s strongest book. William Peterson, who would later become known for the TV show “CSI,” gives a decent portrayal of Special Agent Will Graham. The movie briefly mentions Will’s ability to think like a killer and how that gift became a curse and ended up with him in a psychiatric hospital.

Brian Cox gives an above average performance as Lecter. You might know this actor from such movies as “Troy,” “Braveheart,” “The Bourne Supremacy,” “Rob Roy” and “Super Troopers.” He’s currently on the HBO show “Succession,” and my two favorite film roles of him are playing the villain in the second X-Men movie and his brief speech in “Adaptation.” Interestingly enough, when Cox played Lecter in “Manhunter” (misspelled in the screenplay and closed captioning as Lektor), Anthony Hopkins was playing King Lear with the Royal Shakespeare Company. When Hopkins took over the role, Cox was playing King Lear himself.

Cox does an admirable job but he plays the character as an evil genius but not a suave, seductive, charismatic one. His character doesn’t make eye contact and seems lost in his own brain as he talks. He’s very vain. Cox said he based that vanity off of rich kids at private schools, which is an odd inspiration. He’s given only a few scenes, which is true to the first two novels, but steals every scene. Hopkins would get more screen time than Cox in the next movie but still has the record for Best Actor winner with the least amount of time on screen (Hopkins only had a little over 16 minutes on screen but still was considered a lead role.)

Some consider “Manhunter” to be the second-best Lecter movie behind “The Silence of the Lambs.” I can see that.

It certainly has developed a cult following but Peterson just isn’t as good at playing Will Graham as Edward Norton (only serviceable) and Hugh Dancy (amazing). The 1980s music really dates the movie and some acting in this film is certainly better than others. The Francis Dolarhyde story is a bit rushed too and they leave out some of the best aspects of that character from the novel. In the end, it feels like it could have been an amazing movie if Michael Mann had a little more experience/clout, which he would later gain.

One interesting thing is TV shows like “CSI” really owe their origin to movies like “Manhunter” and the novel it’s based on. Harris was really one of the first authors to give an accurate portrayal of the Behavioral Sciences division of the FBI, which now has been detailed in the Netflix original series “Mindhunter.” These real life FBI agents actually pioneered the science of “thinking like a killer” and coming up with a profile, even interviewing the world’s most famous murderers for research purposes. The characters of Will Graham and Jack Crawford (the latter criminally underdeveloped in the movies but finally given his due in the TV show) are supposed to be based on the agents featured in “Mindhunter.”

Fun if you keep your expectations low.

4. Hannibal (2001 film)

“As your mother tells you, and my mother certainly told me, it is important always to try new things.”

The sequel to “The Silence of the Lambs” was a big deal at the time and there was huge anticipation. Before the novel was finished there was motion on the movie production and everyone was wondering: Who would come back? Could you make a sequel without Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins or director Jonathan Demme (all Oscar winners for the previous movie)?

Turn out, they only got one of the three. Hopkins came back, but Julianne Moore fills in as Clarice Starling and she does a pretty good job (she’d win her own Oscar for “Still Alice” in 2014). Instead of Demme they got Ridley Scott, who’s directed some of the best movies of the past 30-plus years (“Alien,” “Blade Runner,” “Thelma & Louise,” “Black Hawk Down,” “The Martian.”) He had just directed the Best Picture winner “Gladiator” the year prior to “Hannibal” coming out (Scott still has never won an Oscar of his own and he wasn’t a producer on “Gladiator.”).

“Hannibal” the movie differs from the book in many ways, but neither one is perfect. The movie cuts down the storyline that describes the relationship between Mason Verger and his sister and Verger himself isn’t as developed in the film. Barney, the orderly who befriends Lecter, is given a larger role in the book. There are also some passages in the book that I enjoyed that are left out of the movie understandably. The book describes how Starling hunts for Lecter by tracking high-end purchases around the globe because they know he loves fine wine, good food, fast cars and beautiful art. His taste is his weakness in the book. There are also extensive passages about Lecter’s mind and how he can create whole worlds inside his mind. He can create rooms inside his mind where he stores memories to be accessed like a library.

The novel and the movie attempt to make Lecter the hero instead of the villain by making him hunted by a truly gruesome and unlikable character in Mason Verger, a deformed, wealthy pedophile who is obsessed with vengeance.

By making Lecter the prey instead of the predator, they’ve removed much of what we liked about the character.

We also miss out on the interactions between Starling and Lecter. Those conversations at the mental institute were the highlight of “The Silence of the Lambs.” Two great actors going head-to-head like Federer taking on Nadal. It’s thrilling to watch.

And my biggest complaint is that we’ve taken too much of the mystery out of Lecter as a character. He actually had a greater effect in smaller doses.

Brian Cox explained it best by saying, “I blame Thomas Harris for this. Harris fell in love with Hannibal Lecter, and undid him, in a way. He undid his dramatic power, because that comes from what you don’t know about him. If you give away all his secrets, there’s nothing to discover about the character, and you know too much about his potential danger. I felt that was Harris and Ridley Scott as well, later on. Basically, it was the script – it became slightly ludicrous. It was all within the bounds of reality, and it was scary because of that, and I think that was a shame.”

In the end, Lecter almost becomes a Universal Monster like Dracula, Frankenstein or The Wolfman.

That’s not to say that “Hannibal” is a terrible movie. All of the acting is top notch. The directing is great. There are some memorable scenes such as the visual of Ray Liotta’s brain being scooped out or the sounds of pigs squealing as Lecter dangles above his doom.

But it feels more like fan service than an actual worthy successor.

3. Red Dragon (2002 film)

“You stink of fear under that cheap lotion. You stink of fear Will, but you’re not a coward. You fear me, but still you came here. You fear this shy boy, yet still you seek him out. Don’t you understand, Will? You caught me because we’re very much alike. Without our imaginations, we’d be like all those other poor… dullards. Fear… is the price of our instrument. But I can help you bear it.”

Brett Ratner is not my favorite director. He’s been accused of rape by many actresses. Others claim creepy behavior. There’s enough there that people accept that it’s probably true. Beyond his personality, his movies just aren’t very good. His best film is probably “Rush Hour,” a fun buddy copy movie without any visual style.

With “Red Dragon,” he was tasked with directing the third Anthony Hopkins Hannibal Lecter movie. This is similar to when he was tasked with directing the third X-Men movie when director Bryan Singer (another creep) dropped out. In both cases, he’s a “director for hire” and critics weren’t too kind to him.

Fortunately, the style in “Red Dragon” was already established by the previous Anthony Hopkins entries and Ratner just needed to follow the formula. Not much he can mess up. To use a cooking analogy (which Lecter himself would appreciate), you have the ingredients, so just follow the recipe.

Ralph Fiennes gives a fantastic supporting performance as killer Francis Dolarhyde and breathes life and sympathy into this multifaceted character.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman gives a brief but near-perfect appearance as unethical tabloid journalist Freddy Lounds.

There are a more than a few memorable scenes in “Red Dragon.” I still recall Fiennes saying “Can you see?!” as he shows slides to Hoffman tied to a chair.

Honestly, this movie doesn’t get its due.

The Dollarhyde case is well done. “Red Dragon” also recaptures some magic from ‘The Silence of the Lambs” with the back and forth between Lecter and his investigator, something missing from the previous 2001 film.

The biggest downsides: Edward Norton, who admittedly is a great actor as seen in “American History X,” “Fight Club,” “Primal Fear” and “Birdman,” doesn’t seem to capture Graham. He plays him straight forward as a man who is protective of his family and can “think like Lecter” an other killers, but doesn’t really “feel their emotions.” They don’t explore that side of him enough.

The movie is also packed with so much plot and case details that it moves really quickly. There’s no time to live in the moments at all.

And my biggest gripe with both “Manhunter” and “Red Dragon” is that Lecter really isn’t that helpful when it comes to catching the killer and he actually works against their efforts. There was no good reason that Graham needed to consult with Lecter, unlike in “The Silence of the Lambs,” where Lecter had an evidential connection to the case (and Starling didn’t know this but he had met the killer before).

“Red Dragon” adds extra scenes featuring Lecter that are not in the book or are just mentioned briefly, like how Graham caught Lecter. Hopkins’s face is the entirety of the movie poster but the book and the movie aren’t really about him.

Probably the most distracting part of this movie is that it’s supposed to be a prequel to “The Silence of the Lambs” but Hopkins has aged quite a bit in about 10 years time between movies. I understand that today’s CGI de-aging wasn’t around yet (as seen in “The Irishman”) but they could have used makeup or something to make Hopkins look younger. At least give him a full head of black hair.

The Best Versions

2. Hannibal TV series

“Before we begin, I must warn you… nothing here is vegetarian.”

When Bryan Fuller, creator of TV series like “Dead Like Me” and “Pushing Daisies,” said he wanted to create a new adaptation based on the Harris novels, some had hesitation. Who could capture the character of Hannibal Lecter like Anthony Hopkins? Shouldn’t this show be on HBO or Showtime since it’ll be so violent? (It aired on NBC).

Mads Mikkelson, a Danish actor best known at the time for his roles in “Casino Royale” and “The Hunt,” signed on to play the lead but he didn’t want to imitate Hopkins or Cox. Instead, he imagined the character almost like Lucifer, a demon who manipulates human beings into doing what he wants. Something not of this world who observes humans and is fascinated by them. Someone pulling the strings.

Fuller varies considerably from the novels but it was never meant to be a straight adaptation. Plot and characters are changed considerably but in a way he gets to the heart of the story better than almost any other versions. It’s all about psychological manipulation and the co-dependence between Lecter and the FBI agents who consult with him. Fuller focuses on the best part of “The Silence of Lambs”: the idea that you don’t really know who is the interviewer and who is the subject. Is this an FBI interview or a psychological examination?

Mikkelson might be the best Hannibal Lecter and that’s saying something when compared to an Oscar winner like Hopkins.

There are a few flaws with Hopkins’ performance. The accent is all wrong. Lecter is from Lithuania and Hopkins has a weird accent that is hard to place, almost as if Lecter has tried to hide his native accent and adopt a generic New England rich socialite way of speaking. While Lecter is a chameleon who does hide much about himself, why would he feel shame in his accent? He mocks Agent Starling for being a country rube and makes fun of her voice but hides his accent? Also, physically Mikkelson resembles the Lecter from the novel more than Hopkins does. Lecter is young, tall, slender and strong. Mikkelson was actually a gymnast and a dancer before he became an actor. He has the right build. Of course, neither looks exactly like Harris described Lecter. In the novels, he is said to have a widow’s peak, maroon eyes and an extra finger on one his hands. When Lecter is a fugitive in “Hannibal” he gets surgery on one of his hands to hide his identity and the medical records are used to catch him.

Hugh Dancy plays Will Graham as a brilliant man who can imagine himself as the killer – something described in the novel and briefly mentioned in the movies – but Fuller shoots these scenes in a beautiful way. You see inside Graham’s mind as he is now in place of the killer, re-enacting the crimes.

Graham starts to have vivid dreams of each killing and the line between reality and his mind starts to get blurred. The dreamlike nature of this TV show actually becomes confusing for viewers at times and I admit it’s a great TV show to put on if you’re trying to sleep, not because it’s boring but because of the relaxing music and dreamlike imagery. Yes, falling asleep to Hannibal Lecter. I kid you not.

The relationship between Lecter and Graham is engrossing in the show. Lecter becomes obsessed with Graham and is fascinated with his mind. Lecter tries to manipulate Graham into turning him into a killer and their relationship almost has sexual tension, similar to Starling/Lecter. Graham even asks if Lecter is in love with him, but it’s not explored in those literal terms.

The best part of Fuller’s adaptation is they finally develop Jack Crawford into an interesting character. He’s a throwaway in the movies but actor Laurence Fishburne gives one of his best career performances in this role.

“Hannibal” isn’t an easy show to watch. The plot gets confusing and sometimes goes in directions that don’t always make sense. It gets a little pretentious and full of itself at times. But the performances of Mikkelson, Dancy and Fishburne make it a show not only worth watching but rewatching.

1. The Silence of the Lambs

“I’m having an old friend for dinner.”

This is one of three movies to have one the “big five” awards at the Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Actress. The other two winners are “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “It Happened One Night.”

It’s a fantastic movie and what I think makes it so great is this constant tension and sense of dread/suspense that lingers over the entire movie. The music, tone and pace are perfect.

When it comes to thrillers, it ranks among the all-time classics.

Here’s the interesting thing: You know how I kept going on about how producer Dino De Laurentiis kept ruining the character of Hannibal Lecter by demanding more movies? Well, he wasn’t involved with “The Silence of Lambs” and did not get an Oscar or any movie.

Yes, he was so disappointed with the box office of “Manhunter” that he let Orion Pictures use the character of Hannibal Lecter for free for “The Silence of the Lambs” and did not buy the rights to the book. When it was a huge hit, he, of course, paid $10 million for the film rights to the book “Hannibal.”

Gene Hackman actually owned the film rights to the novel “The Silence of the Lambs” and was going to play Jack Crawford but he backed out when he thought it was too violent.

Names like Michelle Pfeiffer, Meg Ryan and Laura Dern were considered for Starling before Foster got he role. Names such as Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman, Derek Jacobi and Daniel Day Lewis were considered for Lecter.

Ted Tally wrote a great script and it’s the best screenplay for a Lecter movie. It’s full of amazing quotes.

Demme created an iconic film that’s smart, scary and psychological. It is so rewatchable and like a good wine that Lecter might enjoy it gets better over time.