The first 20 minutes of the cop-reality show comedy "Showtime" are ripe with glossy satire. Robert De Niro plays a no-nonsense Los Angeles detective forced to let TV crews follow him on and off the job so the department won't get sued for his assault on a network cameraman. The guy got in his way during a collar.
The new show's producer (Renee Russo) -- a zealous Hollywood power-broad-in-Prada-shoes with her finger forever on the pulse of the latest demographic data -- quickly realizes her high concept is going to implode if grumpy, frumpy De Niro is all the program has to offer. So she recruits him a wisecracking, showboating, fame-seeking partner (Eddie Murphy) from the dregs of the patrol ranks. She redecorates police headquarters and his dumpy apartment, IKEA-style. She hires former "T.J. Hooker" star William Shatner (in a funnier than usual send-up of himself) to coach her reluctant star on the finer points of eyebrow arching and moving car hood-jumping.
But after spending Act One on all this establishing, director Tom Dey ("Shanghai Noon") utterly abandons the picture's fertile, sarcastic, "real cop" concept and allows "Showtime" to become a high-concept hack job of undiluted Hollywood hypocrisy. Suddenly there's a bleach-blonde Euro-trash bad guy (Pedro Damian) who engineers ridiculously extravagant daylight armored car robberies for no apparent reason except to show off his customized uber-machine gun that fires one-inch ammunition. Suddenly unmotivated cars chases erupt out of nowhere, always ending in slow-mo explosion-crashes.
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The "Silence of the Lambs" sequel is finally here, and while it is certainly unsettling and appropriately ghastly (don't take a date to dinner before or after!), the film is more about the showmanship of director Ridley Scott than it is about the odious appetite of Hannibal "the Cannibal" Lecter.
Punctuated with some amped-up action scenes (like an early FBI shootout) and camera work that blurs and shakes like a music video almost every time Dr. Lecter has his ravenous way with one of his victims, "Hannibal" seems to lose sight of its high-IQ, psychological terror foundation whenever something hair-raising happens.
But unruffled through it all is the inimitable Anthony Hopkins, reprising with relish his chillingly calm, urbane and playfully intellectual, lip-licking portrayal of the cinema's most endearing icon of upscale fright flicks. Hopkins sashays through the picture like a cat on the prowl -- even though he's the one being hunted this time -- his eyes full of composed calculation and his mouth cleaved just enough to see his tongue running absent-mindedly over his teeth as he contemplates tasting the flesh of just about every person he encounters. (A kiss on the hand has never been creepier.)
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He's certainly not wasting his newfound talents.