Sunday Short Reviews

Every Sunday, Gill delves into his archive of over 800 movie reviews and randomly selects three for your enjoyment! Here are this week’s…

Hannibal Rising
A prequel that nobody wanted or asked for, Hannibal Rising commits the storytelling crime of describing the origins of one of cinema’s iconic psychopaths: Hannibal Lecter. The problem with telling an origin story for a villainous character like Hannibal is that it removes the mystery that surrounds the character. In Silence of the Lambs, part of the appeal of Hannibal is that he makes the audience wonder how he came to be so insane, and yet so sophisticated and intelligent at the same time. In Hannibal Rising, we learn that his bloodlust came from revenge, and maybe his initial motives in killing people were somewhat justified. This really deflates the mystique of the character, and maybe if Hannibal Rising was interesting in other ways, I could forgive it, but no. The movie is a boring, bland, pedestrian slasher film, and I found it about as entertaining as the pointless Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel movies that have come out in recent years. If you’re a fan of Thomas Harris’ characters, the NBC TV series Hannibal, or any of the films starring Anthony Hopkins, then stay far, far away from Hannibal Rising.
2 out of 5

There is only one reason to see Maleficent, in my opinion, and that is Angelina Jolie. Jolie looks and acts the part of one of Disney’s classic villains in live-action form to a T, and without her, this movie would be nothing. Beyond Jolie, Maleficent plays out a lot like other attempts to reinvigorate classic fairy tales in gritty, live-action form, such as Alice in Wonderland or something like Snow White and the Huntsman. Way too much CGI, strange and offputting creature designs, and a significant focus on how the movie LOOKS more than how it FEELS or FLOWS. Had this just been a live action remake of Sleeping Beauty, it probably would have been a bit better, but Maleficent decides instead to make the iconic villain into a sympathetic character. This could have worked had there been more of a moral gray area with all characters across the board, but the King, the new villain of the piece, is practically one-dimensional, giving us no character to speak of at all. Other crimes the film commits include making Aurora’s three fairy guardians into computer generated uncanny valley nightmares and basically omitting the entire story of Sleeping Beauty altogether! I am not exaggerating in any way when I say that Sleeping Beauty sleeps for a grand total of five minutes in Maleficent. The curse is but a footnote in the grander film, and therefore all dramatic tension is wasted. I didn’t have high hopes for Maleficent, but it was still a big disappointment.
2 out of 5

The Lego Movie
It’s rare that I find myself struggling to review a movie, but I honestly don’t have anything negative to say about The Lego Movie. By all rights, it shouldn’t work as well as it does – this really is just a big toy commercial. But somehow the creative duo of Phil Lord and Chris Miller managed to turn it into something endearing, fun, genuinely funny, wholly irreverent, hyperactive, and just totally cool! Aside from hilarious writing, the real star of The Lego Movie is the animation. The filmmakers made a great decision to present the whole film as stop motion animation, even though it’s all CGI. The Lego blocks all look weathered and very real, and all of the detail elements like smoke and water are done with Lego bricks as well. This means that when you get a big, sweeping shot of some enormous Lego set like a city, it looks incredible and impressive simply because it looks as though they actually built it. The mythos of the Lego universe is also presented in an original and unusual way, and the film does a terrific job of promoting imagination and creativity. Add to that a top notch voice cast, perfectly executed jokes, and a crackling energy that runs throughout every frame of the movie, and you have what is undoubtedly one of the most fun movies of the year. I can’t wait to watch it again.
5 out of 5

See you next Sunday for three more thrilling short reviews!

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