Film Review: White House Down (2013)

White House Down (2013)
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Written by: James Vanderbilt
Rated: PG-13

Rating: 3.0 Stars (3.0 / 5)

White House Down (2013) posterI’m pretty sure that Roland Emmerich made this movie because he wanted to revisit the White House after blowing the crap out of it in Independence Day. I’m glad he did – I had a blast watching this mindless (but not mind-numbing) movie. The plot and it’s details are, of course, ridiculous. Just suspend your disbelief and enjoy the action.

Tatum plays Cale, a Capitol policeman who is trying to land a Secret Service job, not just for the career move but to also impress his otherwise unimpressed daughter. She is very much into politics and is thrilled to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the White House. It’s naturally a fateful day – it’s the day that the head of the Secret Service (played by James Woods) decides to take over the White House and start killing people. (My only real complaint with the plot is the reason for the takeover, which felt far too much like The Rock to me. Though now that I type this, the ending is pretty similar too with the fighter jets …)

Through what ultimately comes down to sheer luck, Cale finds himself in a position to take out one of the bad guys, steal his gun, and go Die Hard in the White House. There’s climbing through an elevator, there’s a mad car chase across the White House lawns, there’s giant explosions for no real good reason. It’s dumb, and it’s fun.

Cale’s daughter was in the restroom at the time that the attack began, and actually uses her cell phone, which I so rarely see in movies like this. The video makes it out to the internet before the gunmen can capture her and toss her in with the rest of the hostages. Cale, meanwhile, is simultaneously searching for his daughter while trying to protect the President. The head of the VP’s detail (Gyllenhaal) made it out of the White House before the attack and manages to get in touch with Cale to help see things through.

Wow. The more I think about this as I type, I’m realizing this movie is a mash up of The Rock and Die Hard. There’s really nothing else to it – it’s those two movies. I’m a little annoyed that I didn’t realize it until just now but there it is. There’s a guy (McClane/Cale) as the sole hero in a hostage situation who manages to evade the gunmen over and over again despite not having the same level of training, who is in touch with another “colleague” (Al the cop/Gyllenhaal’s character) who is fighting for that person against a system that wants to approach the situation differently … and that hero is up against an ex-military crew who is feigning a move for a lot of money but really there’s something else going on (The Rock).

I have to keep my rating at 3 stars – I did have a fun time watching it – even if it is a subpar version of two far superior action films.


Film Review: Escape Plan (2013)

Escape Plan (2013)
Starring: Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger
Directed by: Mikael Håfström
Written by: Miles Chapman and Arnell Jesko
Rated: R

Rating: 1.0 Stars (1.0 / 5)

Escape Plan (2013) posterI never thought I’d see Sylvester Stallone build a sextant out of a paper plate, a pair of glasses, and some other unidentified garbage. I guess that’s one thing Escape Plan has going for it.

There’s little for me to write. I’ve had a hard time starting a review of this movie. I just don’t know where to begin or what to say. It wasn’t complete garbage but it really wasn’t good. I’d rather go watch The Expendables again, that movie was at least a blast to watch and was aware enough of itself that it was in on it’s own jokes. Escape Plan tried far too hard to be serious and realistic. Hell, I’d go watch Fortress  again before this. That movie at least knew it wasn’t reality and had fun with some sci-fi elements.

Basically the story is this: Stallone plays Ray Breslin, a prison specialist who has, quite literally, written the book on prison security the methods prisoners use to escape. He works for (maybe runs, it’s not quite clear) a company that is hired by prisons to test their security. They place Breslin in the prison, just like a normal inmate, then he works to break out. We see this happen once. Then a CIA agent enters and explains that they have this amazing new prison that they are keeping terrorists in, and they need someone to prove out their security.

Of course Breslin is in. Of course it’s not what it seems. When he’s “captured” he’s given a drug and beaten; in a helicopter ride to this mysterious prison he witnesses the guards murdering another man; once in the prison, he finds out he’s actually been abducted. Not long after he realizes things aren’t what they seem, he meets Arnold … I mean, he meets Rottmayer. He’s the ex-bodyguard for one of the most wanted men in the world, and he just won’t give up the location of his boss. Rottmayer has an immediate obsession with Breslin. It appears almost unhealthy.

Of course they team up to try to break out. Of course the warden is a sadistic, unrelenting man who has designed his system after the very book that Breslin wrote. Of course the warden pushes Breslin and Rottmayer to a point where most men would have broken, but the two men keep fighting on.

Of course they escape in the end, though I won’t give away any details on how or who does. And of course there’s a twist. Of course, in the middle of all this, Breslin builds a sextant out of some garbage to find out where they are located in the world.

Of course I expected all this, but it just couldn’t overcome any of it. It tried to stay too close to the realm of possibility instead of going out on a limb with some extreme action or super crazy prison contraptions. It throws in a twist just for the sake of having a twist; the movie wasn’t served at all by it, other than it allowed Stallone and Schwarzenegger to star in a movie. Nothing was remarkable or memorable.

There’s a host of minor characters – a doctor played by Sam Neill, Breslin’s co-workers (50 Cent and Amy Ryan), a sadistic guard played by Vinnie Jones – that are sadly tossed to the sidelines when they could have really added something to the story. There’s a few scenes with Breslin’s co-workers trying to locate him, but they never do, and they don’t help in any way, and the scenes are just bad. They could have, they should have, but they didn’t. It’s just choppy and poorly done.

I think I’ll go rent Fortress now.


Film Review: Carrie (2013)

Carrie (2013)
Starring: Chloe Grace Mortiz, Julianne Moore
Directed by: Kimberly Peirce
Written by: Lawrence D. Cohen and Robert Aguirre-Sacasa, based on the book by Stephen King
Rated: R

Rating: 2.0 Stars (2.0 / 5)

Carrie (2013) Poster

It’s been a long time since I’ve watched the original Carrie (1978) or read the book. I was never really a fan of either. I came to both too late, with too many spoilers, and after having read and seen far better horror movies/books. Either way I remember little of either, so I cannot provide any meaningful comparison in this review. I have to imagine the two movies are very similar, as Lawrence D. Cohen is credited on both – many scenes are verbatim from the original script, according to various sources online.

At this point most people know the story – a young girl, raised in an extremely conservative religious household, experiences nothing but embarrassment at high school, and the bully’s continue to torment her until a bunch of really terrible things happen. All the terrible things involve blood of some kind.

The movie starts with Carries mother (Moore) giving birth, alone. The pain is excruciating and the birth is bloody – as birth tends to be – and she takes this as a sign that her newborn daughter is a demon. She slept with a man when she knew it was ungodly and this was her punishment. Fast forward to high school where Carrie (Moritz) gets her first period during showers in gym class. Carrie knows nothing about her body, her mother (and apparently the public school system, presumably by her mothers request) has left her completely ignorant. She thinks she’s dying and is immediately belittled by the other high schoolers.

Carrie quickly realizes that she’s been kept in the dark by her mother and that she cannot have the life she thinks she wants. She tries to confront her mother, but that goes rather poorly, resulting in Carrie discovering she can make things move without touching them. As Carrie tries experimenting with her new powers, the kids at school hatch a plan to torment her at prom.

Nothing in this movie made me feel really uncomfortable or particularly sympathetic towards any character. Mortiz did a good job in her innocent portrayal of Carrie, but I never really felt connected. Moore did a frightening job as Carrie’s mother, but I still felt disconnected. I wanted to know more about Carrie at home and wanted to know less about the other girls at school. I don’t remember what the book or previously movie had, but that’s what I was hoping for. I wanted to feel so badly for Carrie that I was rooting for her to destroy the world.

The final scenes of destruction were somewhat fun. I did enjoy the difference in the physical characterization; in the original film, Carrie just stands there and things happen, but in this film, Carrie uses her hands to direct things to happen and you can see the anguish and power and terror in her face. That was a nice touch.

The rest just didn’t grab me. I should have been more scared of Moore’s religious-to-the-point-of-insanity mother; I should have felt terrible for Carrie. Instead I only felt a small touch of terrible for one girl who tries to help Carrie out.

I should have been, but I wasn’t.


Film Review: The Family (2013)

The Family (2013)
Starring: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones
Directed by: Luc Besson
Written by: Luc Besson and Michael Caleo, based on the book by Tonino Benacquista
Rated: R

Rating: 2.0 Stars (2.0 / 5)

The Family (2013) poster

Several of my favorite movies (admittedly of the escapist kind, not necessarily the “Oh wow, what a great movie!” kind) have something to do with Luc Besson.  Leon, The Fifth Element, La Femme Nikita, and more.  For the last few years it seems like Besson was spending most of his time writing rather than directing.  When the trailer for this movie flashed on TV – in one of the rare times I was actually watching the commercials – I’ll admit that I got excited.  Quite excited.

I shouldn’t have gotten that excited.

Let’s start with the story first.  De Niro plays Giovanni Manzoni … I mean, De Niro plays Fred Blake, an ex-East Coast mafioso who has been moved to Normandy, France, under the witness protection program.  It’s not too long before we understand why – he sold out his family and placed Don Luchese in prison.  Old habits die hard with the Mazoni family.  Manzoni/Blake spends his time in town terrorizing a few local officials trying to figure out why his water is brown.  His wife (Pfeiffer) spends her time burning down local grocery stores.  His sons spends his time running a mob-like scam at school, while his sister spends her time lusting after the math tutor.  Oh, and they have to put up with the witness protection office (Jones) who is trying to keep them safe and is sick of moving them between cities.  Oh, and Manzoni is trying to write his memoirs on an old typewriter he found in the new house.

Oh, and the mob is trying to find them.  Enter Don Luchese.  The Don bides his time in prison, while his man on the outside travels the globe hunting down member of his former mob family to determine who sold him out.  All Luchese has is a fingerprint from some clearly stolen court documents, and matching it up is as simple as checking out the newly dead man’s finger.  Through a complete unbelievable sequence of events, Luchese finds out that Manzoni is hiding in Normandy and sends the entire crew out to get him.  Chaos ensures, and the poor town barely survives.

The movie failed because it should have stuck with one or the other of the two paragraphs above, instead of combining them. The concept of a dysfunctional mob family spending their time in witness protection is a decent idea, and with Besson behind the wheel it could have been extremely creative.  In fact, it started off great.  Watching the kids try to rule the roost at school while watching the parents completely fail at laying low was actually fantastic.  And then they went ahead and tried to tie the mob in.

The last half of the film is all about the mob trying to exact its revenge.  The portrayal of the mob crew is stereotypical in the best possible way.  The destruction of the town in their attempt to kill the Manzoni’s is a beautiful orchestration of violence.  The concept of how the family would bide their time in a town getting ready for the attempt at revenge would have been a decent idea.  The violence is fantastic.  But they had to mix it in with the family dealing with witness protection.

Granted, both ideas have been done, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be done again by someone like Besson.  His touch is very much there, it’s just that the two halves of the story don’t jive well enough to make for a great movie.  They feel disconnected within the movie.  There seems to be no dread of retribution felt by the Manzoni family, even though they are making their presence pretty well known in the town.  The cuts back to Luchese in prison and a hitman trying to find the family feels jarring until the very end when the two finally come together.

Some may say that I gave far too much away in the description above, but I didn’t put any spoiler warnings up because I truly don’t think it spoils anything.  You learn as much in all the trailers… so I guess if you haven’t seen a trailer, SPOILER!

I’m disappointed in this movie.  It should have made up its mind about what kind of movie it would be instead of trying to be two different movies at once.  Sadly that cost it.


2014 – A New Year (Again)

The last post on this blog was almost exactly one year ago.  It would have been, but I was out of town and that delayed it.  Let me get this out of the way first: I came nowhere near meeting all of my goals from last year.  There are no reviews of movies on this blog; I completed exactly none of the outstanding projects I mentioned, though I did try on a few; and I read only 5 books.  The good news is that what is arguably the most important goal, exercising, has had major progress.

But now I’m back.  What are the New Year’s Resolutions for 2015?  I’m going for very similar goals this year.

  1. Exercise.  Period.  Continue the exercise trend.
  2. Diet.  No, I’m not going on a diet, I eat extremely well overall.  But I’m going to cut out all pop (soda, whatever you want to call it), and work to limit portions while eating out.  This last week, even though I was in a resort with virtually unlimited free food, I kept things to a minimum.
  3. Read.  Read, on average, an hour a day.  I’m not going to set a book goal, I’m going to keep it much simpler.  Just read.
  4. Write.  Movie reviews, blog posts, articles, maybe even books.  Who knows that this means, but I want to set aside, on average, two hours each week to write something.
  5. Projects.  I won’t count housework as a goal – it’s a necessity.  I need to complete the projects that I start.  Whether it’s a website, a personal entrepreneurial project, or some crazy electronics idea that I’ve come up with (flying robots of death all the way), I need to set aside time to complete them.

Let 2014 begin!

2013 – New Year, Same Blog

2013 is a new year, but this is going to turn into a new blog.  My life has changed a lot in the last year and it’s time I get back to maintaining this blog.  There are other things in my life to maintain now too, of course, but I have some New Year’s resolutions that I hope to keep.  Here’s the resolutions to start the year off:

  1. Write a review of every movie I watch.  Every single one.  This starts very soon – I am already behind.  I owe the world reviews of Lincoln, This Is 40, Looper, John Carter, The Conspirator, The Dark Knight Rises, Django Unchained, and Zero Dark Thirty.  I have a long week ahead of me writing these, but if I write them shortly after viewing, I should be able to maintain.
  2. Start exercising.  Nothing fancy, no hard goals here for weight loss or distance running.  Just regular, routine exercise.  This is probably the most important of my resolutions.
  3. Master the four pass shave.  This does not mean that I won’t wind up with any bleeders.  But it does mean I should have good control of my angles, and I should probably have even dexterity with both hands.
  4. Read 15 books.  This is arguably the hardest of my resolutions.  Especially considering I haven’t read one chapter since 1/1/2013 yet, and the next two books I’m slated to read – as I’m already well into the Song Of Ice and Fire series – are well over 1,000 pages.  Perhaps I should count those as four books?  Regardless, I want to read more, I need to read more, and this is my attempt to do so.
  5. Complete all of my outstanding projects.  This includes my quadcopter, a couple website builds, learning to use a CNC at the local hackerspace, and, of course, all the house work.  No more talking about how cool or nice it would be – it will be done!

The trick, really, is going to be fitting this much in with a new daughter.  Family time is hard enough between work hours – how will I do the rest?  That is the real trick.

Film Review: Let Me In (2010)

This is the second part of a three part look at the Swedish film “Let The Right One In” and it’s American remake “Let Me In.”  Part one is a review of “Let The Right One In,” and part three looks at both together.  I plan to do my best to keep the two film reviews independent of each other, but do forgive me if I fail.  I would also like to acknowledge that I have not read the original novel, though I plan to in the future.  This commentary is based solely on the films and some trivia found online.

Let Me In (2010)
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkins
Directed by: Matt Reeves
Written by: Matt Reeves, based on the novel and screenplay by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Rated: R

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Let Me In (2010) We open on a snowy landscape outside Los Alamos, NM, with the blue and red flashes of sirens silently moving down a road.  An ambulance is delivering a man with severe burns on his face to the nearest hospital.  Once stabilized, he is grilled by a detective about his possible involvement with a Satanic cult.  When the detective leaves, the man scribbles “I’m sorry Abby” on a sheet of paper and hurls himself out the window to his death.

Rewind a few days.  In a low-rent apartment complex, the young Owen (Smit-McPhee) is struggling with his day-to-day life.  Bullies at school regularly taunt him, sometimes to the point of embarrassing side effects.  The lead bully, Kenny, calls Owen a “little girl” and take every possible opportunity to humiliate him.

One evening, Owen is watching his neighbors through his bedroom windows when he sees a young girl arrive with an older man.  They quietly and inconspicuously make their way to the apartment next to Owen’s.  The next night Owen meets the young girl, Abby.  She is strange: she doesn’t wear shoes and no coat, yet the cold doesn’t bother her.  He lets her borrow his Rubik’s cube, which she quickly solves.

As Owen and Abby’s bond grows, people end up murdered in the town.  The older man that moved in with Abby is out collecting blood – because Abby is a vampire.  Unfortunately the man has become sloppy in his work, ending with one of the most amazing car wrecks I’ve witnessed on the screen.

The bullying at school gets worse, as well.  Owen’s confidence in himself grows the closer he gets with Abby, and he ends up confronting the bullies one fateful afternoon, nearly tearing Kenny’s ear of in the process.

As with the review of Let The Right One In, I don’t want to spoil too much.  The performances from the child actors are amazing, and it is their innocence that saves this film.  I had already seen both of them in other roles where I was equally amazed at their performances (Moretz in Kick-Ass and Smit-McPhee in The Road).  My only complaint here is that Moretz is sometimes too downtrodden, rather than just disconnected.

The visuals in the movie are striking, and the cinematography is well done.  It’s not at all what I expected from the director of Cloverfield.  The move is subtle and even, which are two words that don’t often describe American movies these days.

Unfortunately, mixed in with the truly great – such as the car wreck scene, which I feel a need to mention again as it was gut-wrenching and perfect – are moments of the “Aw, really?” variety.  In one scene, Abby runs in distress and climbs a tree, except she’s clearly CGI and the effect really ruins the emotion of the moment.

The original Swedish version is clearly the winner between both, but the American version has a different perspective on the tale, and brings in several unique items that the Swedish version didn’t offer.  In all, you actually can’t compare the two apples to apples.  It’s a worthy stand-alone film that deserves its own place on the horror movie collectors shelf, even if it is right beside the original.


Deleted scene and interview with Matt Reeves: Exclusive Deleted Scene: Let Me In; Matt Reeves Explains Why the Intense Sequence Was Cut

Film Review: Lat den ratte komma in (2008)

This is the first part of a three part look at the Swedish film “Let The Right One In” and it’s American remake “Let Me In.”  Part two is a review of “Let Me In,” and part three looks at both together.  I plan to do my best to keep the two film reviews independent of each other, but do forgive me if I fail.  I would also like to acknowledge that I have not read the original novel, though I plan to in the future.  This commentary is based solely on the films and some trivia found online.

Låt den rätte komma in (2008)
Starring: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar
Directed by: Thomas Alfredson
Written by: John Ajvide Lindqvist, based on his novel
Rated: R

Rating: 5 out of 5

Låt den rätte komma in (2008) Let The Right One In is one of those rare films that comes along every few years.  It’s been described as “transcending genres” and it truly does.  At it’s heart, it’s a coming-of-age story for a 12 year-old boy outside Stockholm in 1982.  It’s about the girl who gives him the confidence to make that lead towards manhood, and their incredibly unique relationship.  It’s also about that girl, and her unique situation – she’s a vampire.

To get it out of the way right now – yes, the story does have gore and violence.  What is unique about it is the portrayal of the violence.  It’s not a central aspect to the story – the fact that the violence occurs is extremely important, but the violence itself isn’t.  So few filmmakers actually understand that difference anymore.  When violence happens on-screen, it’s hidden in shadows and behind object.  It’s just as violent, but not as graphic.

Oskar (Hedebrant) is a 12 year-old boy living outside Stockholm in 1982.  His parents are separated and Oskar’s relationship with both is strained.  His father is an alcoholic and his mother is barely there for him.  He spends his days alone and getting bullied at school by Conny and his two cronies.  At night, still alone, Oskar pretends to exact revenge on Conny with a small knife and a tree.  He stabs the tree violently, telling it to “Squeal like a pig,” just as Conny does to him.

Into this solitary existence comes Eli (Leandersson), a mysterious girl who moves in next door with an old man, Håkan.  Eli and Oskar meet one night on the jungle gym in the courtyard.  The meeting is quiet, uneventful, but a strong attraction is immediately formed.

The next night Oskar shares his Rubik’s cube with Eli and it, essentially, becomes their first date.  As Oskar and Eli grow their friendship, Håkan is attempting to collect blood to feed Eli – being a vampire and all – but he is old, and getting sloppy.  His first attempt fails when he is almost discovered by a pair of hikers.  Eli is furious and murders one of the neighbors.

Håkan’s mishaps continue, increasing tension amongst the neighbors and setting in motion a series of events that could end up destroying Eli.  Oskar runs into more severe bullying at school, and at Eli’s urging hits back at Conny, nearly tearing Connys ear off when he does so.  Eli works to stay alive while building her relationship with Oskar.  Then Oskar discovers that Eli is a vampire.

I don’t want to spoil too much of the movie, because it is very unpredictable.  Though “unpredictable” isn’t quite the right word – it’s something to experience.  It’s a unique film-going experience to live part of the relationship between a 12 year-old boy struggling to become a man and a vampire struggling to stay human.

The performances of two young actors are amazing.  They are more subtle than most performances these days, and the fact that both actors were 12 or 13 when it was filmed makes it even more amazing.  Hedebrant is especially good at portraying the conflicted Oskar.  The inner struggle with loneliness and trying to be noticed by the right people is there in his stance, his facial expressions, the way he talks.

The direction is what makes the movie a real gem.  The pace is even, which builds just the right amount of tensions at the right moments as you wait for the event to unfold.  Alfredson takes some amazing risks with his camera angles and perspective, often leaving the vast majority of the frame out of focus, or moving the camera to a position where the action is outside the frame.

In the end, the film is one of the few that actually live up to the title of “transcending genres.”  It is a coming-of-age tale.  It is a vampire tale.  And it’s surprisingly touching.

(As a side note, to those who are looking to purchase a copy of the film, make sure you read the article below regarding the subtitles and pay attention to what release you are purchasing.  There is a drastic and unfortunate difference in the UK/European and American releases.)


The subtitle controversy:

Film Review: Clash of the Titans (2010)

Clash of the Titans (2010)
Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes
Directed by: Louis Letterier
Written by: Travis Beacham, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi
Rated: PG-13

Rating: 1 star out of five

Clash of the Titans (2010) I grew up on the original Clash of the Titans (1981).  It’s corny by some of today’s standard, but the movie still holds up overall.  The story sticks remarkably close to it’s mythical roots, though it does take it’s own creative embellishments along the way.  Ray Harryhausen’s effects work is still amazing to me.

I can watch the original over and over.  I will never watch the remake again.

Perseus (Worthington) is discovered in a coffin at float in the sea by a meager fisherman.  The fisherman raises the young boy as his own.  Many years later, Perseus and his adoptive father are fishing when they witness a giant statue of Zeus be toppled into the sea by an army of men.  Hades (Fiennes) appears and destroys everyone around except for Perseus – after all, he is a demigod.

The few remaining soldiers drag Perseus to Argos, where he meets King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia.  It is here he learns that Cepheus and his Queen mean to end the time of the Gods and bring about a new Era of Man – his subjects have ceased praying to the Gods, which is causing them to weaken.  Cepheus is planning an overthrow of Mount Olympus.

Zeus (Neeson), angered by the loss of love from man, gives Hades approval to scare mankind back into a loving submission.  Hades appears at Cepheus’ court, demanding that the princess Andromeda be sacrificed a the eclipse to the Kraken, or Argos would be destroyed.

Hating the Gods, specifically Hades, for killing his adoptive family, Perseus sets out with some warriors from Argos to find a way to destroy the Kraken, save Argos and Andromeda, and beat the Gods.

I won’t touch on the utter destruction of Greek myth (Acrisius is Calibos?  The Kraken defeated Zeus?  Cepheus wants to destroy Zeus?) but it’s quite bad.  The 1981 film took some liberties, but overall it’s storyline was commendably close to the original myths.  The 2010 version takes too many unnecessary liberties that harm the story more than help.

The one drastic deviance I’ll note here is one I just don’t understand.  The filmmakers included the Djinn, an Arabic myth featured prominently in Islam.  The djinn are, depending your source material, one of the three creations of God (along with angels and humans).  They were forged from smokeless fire just as man was made from clay.  In Clash of the Titans, the djinn are warriors in the desert who have replaced their limbs with charred wood to live forever.  What?

The other notable failure of the film is, surprisingly, the special effects.  There are times that the animation sequences are no better than what Harryhausen created by hand with clay.  I was sadly disappointed in the giant scorpion sequence.  Medusa herself was a bit of a let down too.

I can’t really express how disappointed in this movie I was.  I was so excited when the original trailer came out, with it’s awesome looking action and heavy rock soundtrack.  It’s too bad the actual film didn’t turn out like the trailer.  Why they are making a sequel is beyond me, and it’s a frightening prospect.


For the record, I still think this trailer is bad-ass.

Film Review: The Wolfman (2010)

The Wolfman (2010)
Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving
Directed by: Joe Johnston
Written by: Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self
Rated: R

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The Wolfman (2010) What I wanted when I sat down to watch The Wolfman was quite simple: some gore, a good (no, great) effect when transitioning, and some gothic imagery.  What I got was exactly that – and nothing more.

Lawrence Talbot (Del Toro) is a well-known actor in London, currently playing Hamlet to sold out crowds.  Lawrence has been estranged from his father for some time; his mother committed suicide and the family didn’t hold up well in the aftermath.  After a performance, a beautiful young woman, Gwen (Blunt), interrupts his cast party with terrible news.  Lawrence’s brother has been found brutally murdered.

Gwen is apparently attractive enough to lure Lawrence back to Talbot Hall where he makes little attempt at reconnecting with his father, John (Hopkins).  Lawrence is bent on finding his brother’s killer and begins making rounds through the town.  Rumors of an awful creature, a fell beast, are whispered.  The gypsies have made a stop in town and with them comes curses and monsters.

Lawrence (on a night with a full moon of course) heads to the gypsy camp to investigate and gets mauled by the beast as it attacks the camp.  Though the wound should have been fatal, Lawrence is back on his feet in a surprisingly short amount of time.  As Lawrence’s fated transformation into a wolf progresses, Scotland Yard sends along Inspector Abberline (Weaving), fresh off the Ripper case, to calm the town’s fears and catch the killer.

The rest is details.  There is a particularly interesting scene in a mental institution in London, and some chases in between.  There is a twist – one I didn’t see coming until the last minute – but not a great twist.  There’s a lot of fog and dark images in the forests and empty manse’s.  There’s some gore, some arterial spray.  Details.

Del Toro was an interesting choice to play the lead role, but he does so with obvious admiration for the material.  Hopkins relishes the role and is the best part of the movie, with his interesting stares.  On the other hand, Blunt and Weaving seem to drift through the script.  I cannot say whether it was lack of substance or effort, but neither part is particularly interesting even though they should have been.

The movies best moments are, naturally, the grotesque transformation scenes.  An American Werewolf In London was instantly famous for it’s cutting edge special effects.  Since then, not many werewolf transformations could top it.  I believe that Rick Baker and his team have done it, though – the bone crunching VFX are well-done and make you twinge a little in pain.

I also asked for gothic imagery and got my fair share of it.  The cinematography is well done – not award winning, and it makes a great overuse of post-production effects, but still manages to evoke the right emotions.  That is high praise for the cinematographer, who’s last big-screen effort was The House Bunny.

I must admit that I enjoyed myself throughout.  Yes, it’s mindless, and brought nothing new to the story.  But it was fun, violent, and dark.  If you like the story of the the Wolfman, then check it out – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.