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Archive for February 14th, 2010

Review: The Wolfman

Actor Lawrence Talbot (Benicio del Toro) receives a letter from his brother’s fiancée, Gwen (Emily Blunt) informing him that he has gone missing. When he arrives at the family home his and father (Anthony Hopkins) informs him that his brothers body has been found. Investigating the circumstances of his brothers death he soon comes face to face with the beast.

There is actually little seriously wrong with the elements that make up the movie but on the whole it just doesn’t work. The acting is all pretty good with the possible exception of Sir Anthony Hopkins who is overly hammy. Hugo Weaving is convincing as Inspector Abberline until he referees to Del Toro as Mr Talbot, all I could think of was Agent Smith interrogating Neo in The Matrix. Given a better script and more screen time he could have been the best character in the movie. Emily Blunt is as good as ever but criminally underused. The film is also littered with characters that look like they are going to play a significant part in the story but ultimately they fade away the most notable of these are Art Malik as Sir John Talbot’s Sikh manservant and Geraldine Chaplin as Maleva a gypsy fortune teller. The Wolfman makeup isn’t bad, it seems to be equal parts Lon Chaney Jr (The Wolf Man), Oliver Reed (The Curse of the Werewolf) and Michael J. Fox (Teen Wolf) however the transformation is a real letdown it looks like a cheep copy of the seminal An American Werewolf in London. With the aid of CGI it should have been so much better, it is more proof of my long held belief that technology makes filmmakers lazy.

There are some pretty good set pieces most notably the attack on the gypsy camp. The London scenes are far less successful, the street scenes lack a believable look making the setting far less believable than the recent Sherlock Homes movie that was set in a similar era and made for a similar budget. The final battle isn’t bad but then the ending itself fizzles out. And that is basically the problem, the film is a collection of parts that just don’t work as a whole. The same could be said for the underlying themes of the movie. It looks at times as if it was intended as an atmospheric Victorian gothic horror, at other times it looks like there may be an epic romance, but then there is no romance, in fact there is almost no physical contact between the characters other than the violent assaults.  I have heard suggestions that the film that has been much delayed has retained many ideas from the various people who have been involved with the project over the last four years. This could explain the mess that the film is, it could have got away with it if not for the fundamental problem, It all just feels so shallow and hollow as a viewer I felt no connection with the characters and therefore failed to empathise with them.

The mess that was 2004’sVan Helsing should have told Universal something, classic horror movies should be left alone. The has never been a Frankenstein move to match the James Whale movie of the 30’s, for all the adaptations there hasn’t been a decent Dracula since Christopher Lee hung up his cape. If you are looking for some Wolf action try one of the movies on this list preferably something more original like Brotherhood of the Wolf or Ginger Snaps.

A more than generous Two Stars out of Five.

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Valentines Day special: Rom-com’s ranks as one of my least favourite genres but I actually found it surprisingly easy to come up with a top five. Some may argue the validity of the list as some of the films aren’t outright comedies but they all made me laugh what more do you need.

Some Like it Hot (1959): The greatest comedy, possibly the greatest film ever made. It isn’t just a romance, it is a Bromance nearly fifty years before the phrase was coined. On the run from the mob (after appropriately for this list witnessing the St Valentines Day massacre) and disguised as women, musicians Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) hide out with an all female jazz band. While Joe poses as a millionaire to woo band member Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) Jerry is pursued by a real millionaire Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown) who will not take NO for an answer and is blissfully unaware of Jerry’s real sex.

Almost Famous (2000): Cameron Crowe’s semiautobiographical story. William Miller (Patrick Fugit) a high school student who blags a job with Rolling Stone Magazine and gets his dream assignment following an up-and-coming rock band on tour. His life is changed as he strikes up friendship with singer Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) and groupie Penny Lane (Kate Hudson).

The Philadelphia Story (1940): A US Navy Destroyer Escort disappears from the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, and sends two men 40 years into the future. No that doesn’t sound right.  The day before her wedding Tracy (not to be confused with the former porn star) Lord (Katharine Hepburn) is visited by her playboy ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) now working for Spy Magazine. He arrives with reporter Macaulay “Mike” Connor (James Stewart) and photographer Elizabeth Imbrie (Ruth Hussey). As the wedding approaches things start to go wrong not least when Tracy gets drunk for only the second time in her life. Bursting with witty one-liners and sublime performances from Grant, Stewart and particularly Hepburn. Don’t be fooled by the terrible musical remake High Society.

Amélie (2001): Amélie (Audrey Tautou) has led a sheltered life because of her fathers (misguided) concerns of a heart defect, this results in her regressing into a near fantasy world. One day she returns a tin that is a long-lost childhood treasure to a former occupant of her apartment. After seeing the joy it gives him she begins a personal mission to make other people happy. This distracts her from her own quest for love with quirky Nino Quincampoix (Mathieu Kassovitz) a man who collects discarded photographs from photo booths.

Lost in Translation (2003): Once in a while a film comes along that is so sublimely brilliant and transcends styles and genres that you can’t believe anyone will dislike it (yes Katie I am talking about you!). Tinged with an inescapable sense of melancholy not seen since Breakfast at Tiffany’s (a film that nearly made the list), Lost in Translation is the story of two lost souls. Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is an actor who travels to Tokyo to be paid $2million to make a commercial rather than appear in a play. There he meets Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) a bored young woman accompanying her photographer husband John (Giovanni Ribisi). The pair strike up an unusual and inexplicable friendship and bond.

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