Monday, August 30, 2010

Way Too Late Movie Review: “The Wolfman”

This is one of those rare occasions where I actually watched a Netflix movie the same day I got it and sent it back promptly the next day. Only because my wife wanted to see it too, otherwise I’m sure it would have sat half forgotten on a shelf for at least a month until I got around to it.

“The Wolfman” is the story of Lawrence Talbot, played by Benicio Del Toro, an American actor returning to his ancestral home in England when he learns that his brother is missing. When he arrives he finds his brother dead and tensions between him and his estranged father, played by Anthony Hopkins, to be high. His brother’s widow Gwen, played by Emily Blunt, is distraught and vulnerable and he begins to fall in love with her. But while investigating his brother’s death, he’s attacked by a creature, which he soon comes to realize was a werewolf. The authorities and townspeople are suspicious, and Talbot begins to suspect that his father knows more about what his happening then he is letting on.

I’ll start with the positives. Visually the movie is beautiful. The settings are dark and gothic, striking the perfect mood. And the special effects are quite good, particularly the transformation sequences, which is inevitably the heart of a good werewolf movie. And Hugo Weaving’s portrayal of the investigator trying to solve the case is excellent, sort of a ye olde Agent Smith. But the biggest drawback in the movie in my opinion is Del Toro, who just seems miscast in the lead role. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a great actor, but this part just doesn’t seem to fit him. Maybe there’s a parallel in showing him portraying Hamlet early in the movie, because he seems to carry a melancholy with him throughout the film. But his fury seems more sullen then angry. Maybe that’s intentional, but to me it just doesn’t feel like a lead performance. Anthony Hopkins is excellent in the role of the father, but the character is too subtle to say that he stole the movie. All in all, the pacing (especially in the first half) is slow, and the ending is unfulfilling.

My wife said that it was just ‘meh’, and that she’s glad that we didn’t pay to see it in the theater when it came out. However I think that this is a movie that benefits from the theater experience. The gothic settings and action sequences would probably work better on the big screen. But on one point we agree, and that’s on the ‘meh’ factor.

Three out of Five Stars

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fairly Topical Movie Review: “Inception”

These days, I’m actually relieved when there’s a movie out that I want to see and my wife doesn’t. It’s much easier to find time to go to the movies by myself then it is to find a babysitter and plan a night out to see something together. So I lucked out with “Inception”, a movie that I’ve been excited to see since the first preview. In a weird coincidence, it has a lot of similarities with Leonardo Dicaprio’s film from earlier this year, “Shutter Island”. Both are reality bending journeys through the main character’s psyche, both characters lost their wives, and both movies challenge the viewer to figure out what’s real and what isn’t.

Leonardo Dicaprio plays Cobb, a thief who uses military technology to enter people’s dreams and steal their secrets. He’s on the run from the law, estranged from his children and accused of his wife’s murder. When he’s offered a dangerous job to plant an idea into a subject’s head rather than retrieve information, he puts a team together to do it. But he’s keeping a secret from the rest of his team, a representation of his dead wife is plaguing his subconscious and endangering the mission. He needs to face his demons in order to complete the mission and return to his children.

The dream world is obviously the most original and striking part of this movie, and the visuals are stunning. But the story more than carries its weight, it’s intricately woven as they cut back and forth between three different levels of the dream world. It all fits together like a beautiful puzzle. The performances are great, with emotional highs and lows that carry the viewer through the movie and make us care about the characters and their journey. One of if not the best movie that I’ve seen this year.

Four out of Five Stars