Sunday, February 14, 2010

Clap for the Wolfman? Maybe a Little...

I'll say it up front: I hadn't anticipated a movie this much since INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. Unfortunately, more often than not, the reality doesn't live up to the dream. THE WOLFMAN, twice postponed (a red flag right there), opened Friday, and considering it was an R-rated horror movie opening on the no. 1 date weekend of the year, $30 mil at the box office wasn't too bad. But I digress. I liked some of it; not enough to give it a big rave, but I think horror fans will be able to enjoy it.

This movie was championed by Benicio Del Toro; he starred in it, stuck by it when the first director dropped out and the release date was pushed back, even got a producer's credit for his efforts. And he turned out to be one of the best things in the movie. Del Toro does "tortured soul" very well, and he even bears a passing resemblance to Lon Chaney Jr, although I might be pushing that a bit. I liked what he brought to the tragic character of Lawrence Talbot, prodigal son returned just in time to take on the most iconic of all horror film curses. I liked the British actress Emily Blunt as Gwen Conliffe, the love interest. The two had a nice chemistry together. I was less enamored of Anthony Hopkins, chewing the scenery in the Claude Rains role as Del Toro' s father, Sir John. He was short, squat, looked like Louis Pasteur, and opened the door on a plot point that really sent the movie off the rails.

Which is a shame, because for a while there I really enjoyed myself. The look of THE WOLFMAN was spectacular; the production designer deserves some kind of award for the film. (Even though I knew much of what I was seeing, especially the long range shots of the mansion, was pure CGI.)

And speaking of CGI -- the transformation scenes (what you were allowed to see, anyway) were less than impressive. Rick Baker's legendary expertise was limited to close-up head shots of the creature; second-choice director Joe Johnston decided to forego a time-consuming transformation process a la Baker's masterpiece, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. He chose instead to let the computers run wild, and once again, we're presented with a gallery of faked CGI numbers that truly underwhelm. Let's face it; when you see the Wolfman leaping across city rooftops on all fours like a hungry husky, you kinda know you're not watching flesh and blood.

I'll give the film a qualified thumb's up for a good show from Del Toro, Blunt, and Baker. It's worth about 7 out of 10 stars. But purists of the 1941 film -- prepare to scream foul when that little plot point I mentioned earlier rears its ugly head. You'll want to take screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker (SE7EN) and kick him in the nards. Because, after all, the wolfman has nards. Remember?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Super Bowl Movie Ads -- 2010 Edition

It's hard to kill some traditions -- especially my annual look at the Super Bowl Movie Ads. The numbers were down slightly from last year's record 11 movie spots, but the quality was pretty good and stuck pretty closely to the target audience, with at least one glaring exception. Here are this year's spots, rated from 5 to 1 Smileys:

THE CRAZIES :) :) :) :) :) This was a shock, to see a horror remake at the top of the list; it didn't even show until the postgame festivities. But it was cut differently from the trailer, with some text screen captions that amped the tension for me. A remake of the Romero film about a small town infested with a bloodthirsty psychosis, it looks promising. This is what I look for in a Super Bowl Movie Ad: showing me something different.
SHUTTER ISLAND :) :) :) :) Very well-cut spot that highlights some of the creepiest images from Scorsese's adaptation of the Dennis Lehane thriller. It downplays the mental stability of a lead character (seen front-and-center in the trailer) in favor of eye-grabbing visuals. I'm actually looking forward to this one now, even though I know the ending from the book.
ROBIN HOOD :) :) :) :) They sneaked this one online the other day; I liked it then, and I like it now. Plays up the action/battle quotient, plays down the romance, although I think Cate Blanchett is the perfect choice for Maid Marian. Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe are back. Sounds like Gladiator crossed with Braveheart. No footage of the Merry Men that I could see.
THE WOLFMAN :) :) :) It loses at least one Smiley for not showing anything new. It holds onto at least three Smileys with an If-it-ain't-broke-why-fix-it? attitude. Opens this coming weekend -- finally.
ALICE IN WONDERLAND :) :) :) I'm not sure why this one was here, although it was fifth in a chronological line of eight and the first to make my son respond verbally, as in "I want to see that one." Eye-popping visuals, which is to be expected with anything featuring Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.
THE LAST AIRBENDER :) :) Thirty seconds of frenetic, incomprehensible CGI action from M. Night Shama-lama-ding-dong; I think this guy's career could officially be over. No. 1 Son said it's based on a video game; I'm not surprised.
PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME :) :) Thirty more seconds of even more incomprehensible CGI action, which John said was also based on a video game. Like a video game adaptation could be slow-moving.
THE BACK-UP PLAN :) I didn't realize thhis was a movie ad until it was almost over; it showed a strange, freaked-out childbirth class, and I thought, what are these guys selling? Then I thought, Hey! That's J-Lo! I didn't know she was pregnant! Then they flashed the title -- an actual movie. God help us. This movie's target audience was already in the theaters, watching Dear John, the latest weepie from Nicholas Sparks. They sure as hell weren't home watching the Super Bowl.

Biggest surprise omission, unless they put it on during the pre-game, which I highly doubt: Iron Man 2. The studio probably figured they didn't need to spend $3 mil on a film with a guaranteed $300 mil at the box office.

Quickie comments on the non-movie ads this year:
1. I love those E-Trade baby commercials. There were three, and they were all funny.
2. Putting Letterman and Leno together, with Oprah as the referee, was a stroke of genius.
3. I'm a sucker for ads with big names sending up their images, like the Brett Favre Hyundai ad, the Megan Fox Motorola ad, and Troy Polamalu subbing for the Punxsutawney groundhog. (That one was weird.)
4. The "Casual Friday" ad was funny in an I-can't-believe-my-eyes-haven't-turned-away-yet sort of way. Lots of unflattering bodies in their tighty whities. As far from CGI as you can get.