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March 2001

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In this issue:    Hannibal Ferox!    Japanese Porn!    Monster Truck Mayhem!    PLUS: Ash's Oscar Picks!   and way too much more!
Hannibal ****

Whoa, Nellie! The Emeril Legasse of cannibals is back, and BAM!, he's up to his old tricks faster than you can sautÈ Ray Liotta's brain. In a bizarre avoidance of copyright infringement, this follow-up to Silence of the Lambs is not technically a sequel to the previous film, but rather is based upon the novel Hannibal, which is the sequel to the novel Silence of the Lambs. Despite the fact that this makes no sense, Hannibal is a high quality film, kind of like a bigger budget Cannibal Ferox with less synthesizers. In keeping with the not-quite-a-sequel-so-please-don't-sue-us theme, Jodie Foster is replaced by Julianne Moore, who plays FBI agent Clarice Starling as less of a troubled, insecure women with parental issues and more of a puffy-eyed Scully with bulemia. This is of little importance, however, as the true star of the show is Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lector. Focusing the film on him is a mixed blessing at best, however, for although you get maximum mayhem without all the pesky introspection of the first film, giving Hannibal the majority of the screen time can't help but strip him of some of his mystique. The viewer soon begins to realize that although Lector remains a terrifyingly cruel sociopath, he's essentially just a creepy old guy in a sunhat. He's still threatening and all, but he's clearly getting to that age where people begin passing gas at inopportune moments and nodding off during commercials, as evidenced by the canyon-like crevices on Hopkins' face in every close-up. Granted, his aura of doddering, Walter Mathau-esque senility is more than compensated for by the countless atrocities he perpetrates through the film, but it's hard to consistently jump in your seat every time Rip Van Winkle snaps his dentures at someone. The film is directed by the great Ridley Scott, and co-scripted by playwright David Mamet, who seems to have gotten his Turret's Syndrome under control long enough to write a civil screenplay without losing his fabled ear for dialogue. Scott keeps the beautiful sets cloaked in a perpetual dimness, which is either a brilliant piece of cinematography based upon the dark subject matter, or the cameraman forgot to take his sunglasses off. Either way, it suits the film. The plot follows Clarice Starling's attempts to track down and recapture Lector, who has been loose for seven years and working as a curator for an Italian art museum. Despite his obvious prissiness, the FBI still considers him a danger, and Clarice is hot on his trail. Also hunting Hannibal is Mason Verger, a surviving victim of Lector's who has been left in a state of horrible disfigurement not unlike a creasy Mena Suvari with no lips. Another terrifying aspect of the film is the aforementioned Ray Liotta, who in my mind is much more frightening than any serial killer, made doubly so because he inevitably ends up pale-faced and clammy in every movie he's in, conjuring up distressing images of a coked-up pedophile watching Romper Room. And speaking of lax morals, there's something kind of distressing about this film. You know, aside from the cannibalism. While the first film focused on Starling's struggles with her inner demons, here character development plays second fiddle to Hannibal cutting up intestines. While the concept of the anti-hero is nothing new, a la Pulp Fiction and anything Clint Eastwood ever did, here it is taken to an extreme. Making a guy who eats people the hero of a big-budget film seems kind of problematic in my eyes, though I suppose making jokes about pederasts is only slightly less distasteful. But then again, you're still reading, so I guess it's society's problem, not mine.

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