Tuesday, March 2, 2010

'The Wolfman' remake

I remember hearing that there was a remake of 'The Wolfman' in the works some time back and shrugged it off as inevitable.
The remake of 'The Mummy' hardly resembled the original Universal Monster, or Boris Karloff for that matter.
'Dracula' has been continually reborn with every vampire phase of the year.
Coppola's version also barely resembled Universals Lagosi blood sucker, but that refreshing change of history and look worked.
I am not professing that the old Universal Monsters, or even Hammer horrors are sacred, every generation has freely interpreted the various ghouls.
'The Wolfman,' another classic, has gone through as many faces. It's bent well with generations, with some grand great horrors springing out of the night. Not all though.
'American Werewolf in London' is a howl, and is Mike Nichols' 'Wolf'.
My dread was a remake would either
a.) Take it modern or some what hybrid Gothic modern (The recent Sherlock Holmes), gory, and have only minor nods to the original source, as so many horrors like to be.
b.) Try and be an homage to the original, but end up ham-handed and gimmicky, like 'The Mummy' remake.
The first version would have to be decently fresh to work, and the second would have to be a pitch perfect romp to work.

This one for me had a surprising very gray middle.

It was neither broadly macabre tongue in cheek nor compulsively dreary. For sure, Dark and dreary, but not the dreariest. But when the gore let loose, it went flying. It felt like a director who had only done light movies before got a chance to let out some deep-hidden gore lust. (Lo and behold, the replacement director has only done family fair and graduated to pg-13 action fantasies. )The heads flew and people are shredded, but the non violent bits could pass well in PG-13 material.There wasn't nudity (brief back short of Blunt, but that's it), implied sex, heaving corseted bosoms, or anything of that nature which surprised me the most. Over endowed females in slashed Victorian dresses, looking disheveled, blood splattered, and orgasmically hot seem to be the standard for this fare. Heck, you don't even get a naked werewolf in this film.
I would have liked it a little grimmer and toned for the violence that it did contain, but then again, it would have been a copy-cut of many recent historical horrors.

And the story almost felt, gasp, straightforward and traditional.
Sure, a twist of two you can probably see coming, but it doesn't try to out twist it's self before the end.

The beginning was somewhat slow, but if the cast were anything less it would feel slower.
Benecio Del Toro is a terrific actor. It sort of came a surprise that he was the choice for this film.
Now , I am a huge 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' fan, and he's admittedly 10 times scarier in that.
And also throws out such an incredible performance it's a shocking shame he's virtually forgotten for that movie, even be called unwatchable by some critics.
(Do not watch FaLiLV unless you are familiar with the source material, or have a wide open mind and about drug humor. Inki is not a drug user, but is wholly versed in Thompson's writing, drug humor, and is a Gilliam junkie. )
So , after all the Gonzo intensity, he's pretty subdued to watch for the first half of the film, which pleasant.
But too subdued, there should have given him more for his frustration to be physically reacting too.
He handles the pathos gracefully, but his strongest points are what makes his acting great; when the character reaches a snapping point of a mental break down. And uh, I know his mother is suppose to be Spanish in the movie, but he still looked rather like he's from Puerto Rico. Yeah, somewhat out of place in a top hat. But well, at least he can ride a horse.
Emily Blunt handled the role rather nice, stuck in a world of loss and fear, but courage to do what she must.
She had the hardest role to do without being totally ignored by the rest of the film. Her character is a true English beauty, smart but cornered out of her element and still trying to find a way to saw Lawrence.
Anthony Hopkins is like a vintage wine, he just gets better with age.
Looking and sounding great, and so many subtle shades to his character
Hugo Weaving, gah, I love him. He's so versatile, and injects wise-assey-ness and focus well.
He can walk on a green screen and steal the show.
Nice character transition for him during the course of the film.
The various supporting cast was fine too, the obligatory villagers and gypsys were not over the top, and the actor playing Singh the servant was a nice small respectable role.

The make up effects were another surprise, I was totally expecting more CGI. That is there, but boy it's alot of prosthetic, which is a godsend. It's almost too much like the Chaney Jr. original, it does have a stiff masky look at times.
But you know what? I love that. It's really classic old Universal werewolf, and that was a joy. I do love some of these cool hyper werewolves nowadays, but the film worked better sticking old school.
Great job Rick Baker, and cute cameo too.

Gotta work on that Howl though.s.

The sanatorium really got me; I have personal nightmares of being subjected to cold cell rooms, needle nose surgeons and doctors talking to me like I was a goldfish, and getting injected in the neck with needles. Totaaallly creeped me out, but in a good way, I appreciate someone hitting a nerve for me.
Gotta love the the doctors payback though.

And it did have those jump out moments that made the audience jump, which was fun.

And I was digging the score, also so Hammer-esq and almost campy. Lo and behold, I didn't know Danny Elfman did it! Nice touch dude. ;)

Lovely locations, lore, histories, costumes were actually nicer too. Nice to see some more draft and stock horses being used. The posse didn't ride a bunch of quarter horses, at least.
Was Blunt's character riding Asfaloth from 'Fellowship of the Ring', though? that damn frisky horse she's riding looked like him, LOL.

Biggest quibbles were the sporadic locomotion, the uneven is-this-a-REALLY-spooky movie or not? feeling, and honestly Del Toro as the human could have been given more to do with his character. And also as the Wolfman, I would have liked some more body language and interaction there.I am most disappointed because I know what trouble the film went through, and it clearly messed the film up. This could have been one of the best werewolf films in ages, a dynamite love horror too.

But honestly?
I loved it. I deserves somewhat better treatment than it receieved, and i hope a DVD release has more footage to fill in the blanks.


I confess, I saw 'Avatar' over a month ago.
But like Twain said about typing out a letter, leaving it on the mantle for 3 days and seeing if you feel
the same after time passes, I like to ruminate over my initial feelings.
SPOILERS for those that might still not be initiated yet.
But how could that be possible, every man, woman, and child on the globe has probably seen it from what I gather.

First, my teen years were filled with 'Aliens, ' T1 and T2'.
I adored Cameron's technical prowess. The first time I saw Terminator 2, I was gasping for breath.
The action and editing turned the page for me and movies.
'Aliens' is, and remains, a teen love. It's was cinema-adrenaline rape and by the end I was worn thin, and I loved it.
It built fear slowly, it released some shocks, it built back the dread, and then it rushed to the finish, only to grab you from behind and rip you in half. And not to mention the battle of the bitches.
For those who are still bored to hear me say; I can't stand total CGI battles with creatures.
To slippery and graceful, no gravity or grime to make them look real.
The original Queen Alien puppet/ robot and Ripley fighting remains shocking to this day, and the editing is so tight you couldn't squeeze a blink past it. (Stan Winston, I miss you man)
And did I mention Camerons movies had women who were kickass, but still women?

What his prior movies has, despite their length, was impeccable timing and the GOTCHA in the last minutes.
Action films lack that, and seem to be endless battles or a climax that never happens.
What was refreshing about Avatar was it did save the big battle for the end, unlike much recent cinema that by the time the cincher comes you are too worn out to care.
The worst thing though, it jolts through sequences where I wish it could have lingered.
I was grateful the film got running quick, but learning the whole Na'vi culture was so brief and splattered it was annoying.
You have such a neat thing going, I wish more time was dedicated to that.

Let's face it, no one got time for character development, so I can't get to demeaning of anyone.
Worthington did fine, and the lead lady Na'vi had a tough job to do, and did quite well in her part.
I love Sigourney Weaver in her movies (Aliens, Ghostbusters, Galaxy Quest, she can be smart, funny, sexy, and tough!), and she's not given much to do, Human or Avatar.
Trudy was the tough-ass Vasquez, and sadly not in enough.
The Big-Bad Marine was such a story-book bad guy, but kudos to the actor.
He had a Marine's attitude (believe me, I live with one) and hammered that role to the end. Good job, man, I was intimidated by the character.
And the corporate weasel was, well, like Burke from 'Aliens', but Paul Reiser was so much more a weasel.
Sorry bub, slimely weasel mantle still goes to Burke.
No cameos by by Bill Paxton, Jennette Goldstien, or Lance Henriksen? Shame on you James!

It's always been clear Cameron is a romantic at heart. A true old school romantic. From Terminator to Titanic.
Even Aliens ,most of the scenes were cut to show Hicks loves Ripley. True Lies and the Abyss are actually love movies, and Titanic, is well, just that.

Score, lovely and lush... but was that a freakin Celine Dion song at the end?! JAMES, GROW UP.
Please man, I though that was just a 'Titanic' thang.

Another opinion fans are fighting over; is the CGI is so amazing, or so, meh, seen it before.
First, let's not forget, it's not the rendering of the amazing beasts, plants, and natives that are amazing.
It's how far we have come for the small things, namely facial and body movements, hair and skin contours, and so forth.
Smiling and talking have been truly mechanical looking for many many human digital creations. Robert Zemekis' movies come to mind, like 'Beuwolf' and 'Polar Express'. Semi-humanoid things, like Gollum or Hellboy-creatures benefit from the animal patterns and motions that aid in something familiar but-not-totally-human. Humans rendered digitally look to perfect and stiff, and it's creepy most of the time.
When the characters in Avatar smiled, it looked natural, and that is a huge leap for CGI and random algorithms .
The beasties were neat, as one can count on now.
Pandora was intoxicating as well. Love the nod to the 'Yes' album cover art with those mountains that float.

But the other thing that Cameron has that no one else has; he knows his guns, explosions, airships, etc.
When an explosion happens, it doesn't shake you, it knocks you off your feet. It takes your breath away. He choreographs physical cause and effect with guns and machines the best, and still does.
Everyone ALWAYS holds their guns correct in a Cameron film, bless the man.

All in all, it's a Edgar Rice Burroughs story for young males, and Cameron knows that.
So, he goes with it.
It's trite pap, which, after Cameron taking pap and making it into liquid metal before, is somewhat jarring.
Everyone compares it to 'Pocahontas' and 'Dances with Wolves' for falling in love with the native lady and going native, and I suppose that is correct.
There's healthy aspect of 'Emerald Forest', and 'Where the Green Ants Dream' with the message of the outside voices fighting to protect and express there connection with their green worlds. Both of those films did it more authentically, and that was the central point of them, but then again, that's utterly different territory
And a dash of 'StarGate' and 'Dune' for the whole Messiah thing on another world.
Okay, so, the whole love the earth message was broad. That's been said enough, it's a really nice message for kids, and kids should love this.
I had never seen a 3-D movie before, and this was a first timer.
So, I can't complain or compare much, but I'll say this;
I have apparent eye issues I need to get check out (or take my reading glasses?) soon,
I could see better out of my right than my left.
But gods, I didn't get ill, I feel like a rabbit or a horse with my vision, things on the edge make me ill and jump at me, and I tend to get swirled up in large scope films.
The 3-D kept me level feeling, and I swear. Even with all the swooping and diving, which was a slight pity, I would have loved to have been rendered a little more breathless, but I was in a brain warp that I kept blocking out.

Cameron himself said he made a boys-adventure film, which is generally generic material to begin with.
Why beat it up any more? It IS an old fashion boys adventure, with thrills and romance.
At 12 I would have been totally blown away.
BUT I'm old school Cameron, and miss that sorely.
But my verdict; Go see it if you have any sort of imagination and love something new.
It's flat out one of the loveliest films in ages, and Cameron raises the bar again for sci-fi.
And please, take the kids and teens and get them loving sci-fi at an early age.

I'll reiterate; it's a young-boys adventure film, and I grew up watching some of the classics like 'Journey to the Center of the Earth' and '20 thousand leagues under the sea'. Or even more like the Harryhausen monster movies with heroic men fighting ferocious stop motion beasts.

Does it deserve Best Picture? Not really, in my opinion. It has a plot, tells the story, the end.
there is much more deserving cinema out there that need the Oscar.