Hey folks, Harry here with a pair of reviews coming out of New Mexico, this evening and there are spoilers aplenty -but let's get right to the good news. They both really liked the film at its current running time of approximately an hour fifty. This is a film that I am very very eager to check out - Benicio looked to be in rare form when I visited with him on the set earlier this past year. Here are the two reports we've received thus far... As you could see by the tags on this story. There are spoilers in these reviews. LOTS OF THEM! It does seem like the film is headed in a positive direction when we'll all see it next November 9th!
saw the wolfman tonight! just went to a preview tonight of what turned out to be this summer’s remake of the wolfman here in albuquerque at the century rio… i got an invitation over the weekend but it didn’t say the name of the movie.. on the line the studio people came along, told us it was the wolfman starring benicio deltoro and anthony hopkins and that it would likely be rated r in case we wanted to leave. no thank you. even in its pretty unfinished state tonight, this movie was satisfying and scary and has huge potential if they address a few things the basic plotline is similar to the original lon chaney jr film, but some of the circumstances, sequencing and backgrounds of the characters have been modified to amp up the central themes of the film… destiny, and the path to tragedy the film opens with a classic monster movie sequence…. a man is being pursued through a dense forest by someone…or as it turns out, something… he is ripped to shreds by a briefly-glimpsed beast.. then the logo then its daylight, and we see a carriage approaching a huge estate named blackmoor in either wales or scotland, its never clear which…out steps lawrence talbot (deltoro), who approaches the house with some kind of unease… we soon learn that he has come because his brother ben has gone missing… lawrence is reunited with his father, sir jo hn (hopkins), who he has not seen in many years… their awkward reunion is interrupted by sir john’s news that ben’s body has been found…out on the moors, ripped to shreds.. some kind of animal attack as lawrence tries to process the news, he learns that ben’s fiancée, gwen cunliffe (emily blunt), has been staying at blackmoor, and she is upstairs overcome with grief lawrence asks where ben’s body is… and goes to see it a word here about the cinematography and production design on this film… pretty stunning … the estate has big rooms like the ones in the classic universal films, but a wholly different character…they’ve been neglected, they look gloomy, very much like the sad inhabitants of the house… all of the design in the film is beautiful and unusual… a makeshift morgue, sitting rooms, a tavern in town, an asylum in london.. all off-kilter without being distractingly so, and full of little details ben’s body is on a slab at butcher’s ice shed in town… the butcher hands over ben’s few personal things, including a medallion of unkown origin lawrence goes to a tavern in town.. the locals there are discussing the killing…one of the locals tells the story of his father’s encounter with a beast with huge claws out on the moors… his father came home and melted silverware into20bullets and never left the house again on a full moon… great scene.. lawrence is sitting alone, listening to this… a priest says the beast is a werewolf, and it must have come into town with a band of gypsies who have set up a camp… they all make disparaging remarks about gypsies being crazy and filthy people… and remember how sir john talbot married one years ago who killed herself… back at the house, lawrence meets gwen and gives her the medal and his other things… he leaves her and goes to his childhood room, where he reflects and has either a waking dream or a memory… as a child, he was awakened by something and went outside to investigate: he comes upon his mother, dead and bloodied, cradled in his father’s arms later that night, lawrence and sir john discuss their past, and we learn that lawrence was sent away after his mother’s death to an aunt in america.. and he became a stage actor.. in a parallel of a scene in the original film, sir john then starts looking at the heavens through a telescope, and talks of the enormous power of the moon… hopkins has a great speech here, and a great and weird but controlled performance after the funeral, lawrence is walking in the woods of the estate and comes upon gwen sitting by a ravine.. gwen says that ben always wanted to be closer to lawrence and his father, and she hopes that through his death lawrence will forge a relationship with sir john gwen returns to london, and sir john warns lawrence to stay indoors because the moon is full… unafraid, lawrence sets out to the gypsy camp.. when he comes out of the forest to the clearing where they gypsies have set up camp, a gypsy again warns him to stay in camp until daylight: “the moors are not safe” he asks about the medallion he found… a young boy tells him he should speak to maleva, the old woman played here by geraldine chaplin (who was in the orphanage last year) another great scene… maleva seems uneasy at the sight of lawrence.. he asks for a reading and she deals the tarot…she tells him that there are no coincidences, only fate, and “darkness comes for you” suddenly the camp erupts in chaos… some townspeople have arrived with a constable to take away an old bear chained to a post..one look at the animal and we know he’s not capable of killing anything… then.. a horrible scream…the constable takes his lantern into a field… and we saw a huge collection of entrails leading to a body torn in half… a beast is loose in the camp.. we don’t see it clearly, but it stalks various and viciously eviscerates them… this scene got a great reaction from the crowd in a very suspenseful and creepy scene, lawrence grabs a r ifle and fires a shot at the beast, which we see loping across a silhouetted landscape of dead trees… he follows it to a stonehenge-ish formation of rocks enshrouded in deep fog.. then for a second, we see it: a werewolf leaps from one of the pillars and savagely mauls lawrence… later, lawrence is rescued by maleva and the gypsies and then returned to blackmoor .. he recovers over a week or so, and gwen returns to help look after him… everyone is mystified that lawrence recovers so quickly, especially the local doctor, who expected him to die a detective from scotland yard, francis abeline (played by hugo weaving), arrives to investigate the attacks… turns out that abeline was the lead detective on the jack the ripper killings… he is highly suspicious of lawrence and his role in ben’s death and the attacks at the camp, especially as he notes, since there are no natural predators left in great britain.. lawrence insists he was attacked by some kind of animal we also now see the beginnings of a relationship between lawrence and gwen, though she insists she has returned out of loyalty to her dead fiancée in a scene right out of many a classic monster film, a bunch of townspeople arrive at blackmoor, talking of curses and marks of the beast and demanding to examine lawrence’s wounds… sir john scares them off with a rifle shot to the air=0 D lawrence sees sir john’s sikh manservant loading a rifle with silver bullets… he tells lawrence that the house seems cursed… feeling more uneasy, lawrence hurriedly tells gwen she must leave.. she protests, but he bundles her into a carriage now i’ll be less explicit about the plot night falls and an amazing 12 or so minute sequence: i won’t say where it starts, but lawrence falls victim to the curse of the moon…. the makeup effects are outstanding, with the biggest miracle being that you see deltoro’s eyes and feel his performance, even as the werewolf in full glory.. the townspeople bar themselves in, and the wolfman prowls the moors, taking out hapless victims and lashing out at a hunting party that momentarily trap him in a pit.. here, the audience went nuts in the last half hour of the film, lawrence is taken to an asylum in london where doctors attempt to cure him of what they believe is a psychosis – only to see a man, bound by leather straps in a brightly lit room, transform into a trapped animal that reacts as any trapped animal does… with claws and teeth and brute strength and huge pools of blood and guts there is a rampage through the streets of london (one bit with a doubledecker bus is particularly good), a revelation about lawrence’s sad family history that reveals how his mother and brother died, and a tragic a nd emotional final moment that is quite different in specifics from the original film… but makes perfect sense in this one this is not like the run of horror films we’ve had in the last few years…its much more classically constructed and acted, and it doesn’t go for shock effects that leave no impact… there’s a quiet scene toward the end of the film… after the rampage in london, the now-human lawrence seeks refuge in the antique shop run by gwen’s father…deltoro and blunt play a scene about circumstance and destiny and wonder what life might have been had they met earlier… it is in its own way one of the nicest pieces of dramatic writing and acting i’ve seen in awhile.. and that’s the strength of the movie. you care about its characters. and that kind of emotional runs through the whole film… right up to its shocking and wrenching end. i’ll be very interested to see what changes they make in the film before it comes out this summer. thanks for listening.
And now for the other take...
A WOLFMAN preview screening review... I was able to get into a screening of THE WOLFMAN tonight in Albequerque. Going in, I expected this to be another in the ‘reimagining’ of famous monster movies into more action-y popcorn fare like DRACULA, THE MUMMY or SLEEPY HOLLOW and indeed it is but I felt like this one was a cut above because the movie had a real sense of respect for it’s story: no camp, no clever one liners. Just good old fashioned suspense and sense of dread as to what’s around that foggy corner. And P.S…scary as hell!!! So yes, I was a fan of this. To start, its cast is great – Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt and Hugo Weaving. All serious actors here who actually ‘act’ and not simply ‘react’ to effects (ah, Dracula anyone?) After a fun, gory (this is a deliciously hard ‘R’ for gore) hunting scene where a man gets his in a gloomy forest via wolf, we are introduced to Del Toro’s Lawrence Tuthill – an actor in the midst of playing HAMLET ( a role he doesn’t realize he is to play throughout the movie ). He is on his way home for his brother’s funeral (the man who was murdered in the opening). The amount of gravitas and detail that Del Toro and the other actors bring to their role is definitely worth mentioning. This is a thinking man’s monster movie. Really, truly one for the diehards and I really appreciated the way this standard was maintained throughout the entire piece. Will 16 yard olds who dig Mark Wahlberg movies like it? Who knows but its suspenseful as hell and had this unnerving sense of dread that reminded me of the miniseries based on King’s SALEM’S LOT back in the ‘80’s. Anyway, once Del Toro gets home he meets his dead brother’s fiancée EMILY BLUNT who (big surprise) becomes attracted to him and his estranged father ANTHONY HOPKINS. From here the movie becomes a bit of a whodunit as to who killed his brother. Unfortunately, Del Toro goes to the nearby gypsy colony himself to uncover the murder and gets involved in an attack by the Wolfman himself. This sequence by the way is fantastic – a bloody cat and mouse around the camp that results in Del Toro himself being attacked (but not fatally) by the monster. Well, once bitten and you know the rest…or do you? The plot actually starts to delve into this GASLIGHT kind of uncertainty where Del Toro can’t be sure if he’s a wolfman or dreaming it. And Johnson actually does a credible job of arguing that whether or not you actually become a werewolf on a full moon, if you THINK you will you are just as dangerous. No surprise that the 3rd act becomes this fast paced wolf hunt with torches but I really loved this Beauty and the Beast sequence where the wolfman enters a costume ball (with several animal masks ) and makes it all the way to the stage where a blind soprano sings to him face to face without realizing he’s a monster (another fun aspect: visual references aplenty) Obviously, I quite liked this film. Perhaps they could tighten it here and there (I think it ran like 1 hour 50 mins) but I was surprised at its ‘brain over braun’ approach and really hope that it finds its deserved audience this coming Summer. I regard great old films as just important pieces of art as great novels or paintings so it is with great pleasure that I send this review of what I thought was a high minded, tremendous and incredibly SCARY work to you tonight. (seriously, people were shrieking during the last scene!) Regards, WOLFIE
Now we have this last review. One of the things you newer readers to the site should know about test screening reviews is this... The feedback in these reviews - like the comments from the screening itself - sometimes can help or hurt the film. This final review, I feel, has some genuine creative criticisms about what worked and didn't for him. But you should also know - things like these can change. We'll have to see won't we?
Harry, I saw the other advanced screening reviews for the upcoming THE WOLFMAN release and I thought I would share my slightly differing opinions of the rough cut. Being that there is already (at least) 2 reports that share the plot with AICN, I will move onto my feelings towards the movie. Where THE WOLFMAN excels is the scenes themselves that feature our beloved hairy creature. Each and every single time the Wolfman appeared on screen, we viewers were glued to the proceedings. Not just because it's the only thing we're supposed to be focused on, but because the crew obviously had a blast filming these scenes. There is no shortage of gore or creative endings to villagers' lives. However, there is an apparent lack of creativity as it pertains to the non-wolfman scenes. Before I go too far, I will point out that I love a good story above an explosion, a bloody death or any other Hollywood distraction tactic. I did not go into THE WOLFMAN hoping just for kill-after-kill. The scenes between the wolfman appearances suck the life out of you! It was really hard to sympathize with any of the lead characters, even those who just lost loved ones. I don't know if that's on the casting, or the script, or what, but I found it extremely difficult to care about anybody, other than Benicio's. The love story also bothered me greatly. I felt no bond between Lawrence & Gwen at all, and felt their emotions to be a bit a rushed. The audience is expected just to go along with it, but I kept questioning why, or how, they fell in love. If nothing else, does Lawrence have no issues falling in love with his (dead) brother's wife? As for Anthony Hopkin's role as Papa Wolfman, he went from good-to-bad, bad-to-good too often for my liking. His character is a trainwreck that the viewer can still enjoy, but by the end, the "shocking behavior" wasn't shocking in the least. Finally, the ending. The ending was top-notch. Where the other reviews call it "surprising" and that the audience was shreiking towards it, I took the shreiking reaction as a negative. I overheard numerous conversations where the viewer(s) was disappointed in the ending and hoped the movie studio would change it. I was not one of them. I loved the realistic ending that still opened up possiblities for future stories to be told. But, many other viewers didn't like how tragic it was. It will be interesting to see if, or how, the ending is altered for it's final release. All in all, I enjoyed it, but still left a smidge disappointed. "Mo Lightning"