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Capone calls THE WOLFMAN solid horror for grown folk, despite its flaws!!!

Hey, everyone. Capone in Chicago here. I've been tearing my hair out about this one for about two hours now trying to decide how I feel about this latest version of THE WOLFMAN, and the fact that I'm still contemplating it and have so many feelings about it makes me think that I genuinely did enjoy the experience of watching this often-flawed exercise in bizarre horror, gothic weirdness, controlled hammy acting, and the evolution of werewolf transformation effects that takes the process to somewhere beyond awesome. Thank you, Rick Baker. After watching the film this initial time, I have come to realize that Benicio del Toro was destined to play Lawrence Talbot, the man of noble birth who left behind his cursed family's estate when he was young to become a now-famous actor in America in turn-of-the-last-century England. Del Toro is one of the few actors that can so fully embrace the complexities and inner turmoil of Talbot as written by Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self, and were it not for him, the film would have been a colossal failure. Talbot is a man with plenty of control issues long before a werewolf bites him during a vicious attack on a gypsy camp. Since there's no real mystery that Talbot will become a werewolf himself at the next full moon, THE WOLFMAN occasionally runs into the problem of waiting for the next bloody massacre. The gypsy camp attack is so ferocious that it almost sets the bar too high for what comes after it. Talbot has returned to England because his brother's fiancé Gwen (Emily Blunt) has written him a letter begging him to come home and figure out what happened to the man, who has turned up dead mere days before, the victim of a sensationally violent attack. Since Talbot has yet to be bitten at this point, we immediately begin to wonder who is the mystery werewolf, but since I've seen a movie before, I was in no way kept guessing. And while there are more than enough scary moments peppered throughout THE WOLFMAN to keep most audiences thoroughly entertained, there's remarkably little drama or tension anywhere in this movie. It's kind of a huge, ongoing problem, but it didn't sink the ship for me entirely. Director Joe (JURASSIC PARK III) Johnston goes to dark place in his version of THE WOLFMAN that few versions have dared go, beginning and ending with the truly gory killings. Heads and limbs are flying every which way, and the film's two werewolves commonly rip out people's necks or gut them with a swift rip of the claws, leaving entrails strewn across the ground. It's great fun and a real crowd pleaser. But then there are other, more unexpected places Johnston takes us. For example, the local authorities investigating the series of murders in town decide that Talbot is simply a maniac who needs intense psychiatric care to cure him of his homicidal impulses. The mad scientist who is his shrink puts him through one torturous round of sadistic psychotherapy after another. Del Toro is put through several layers of hell that simply can't be faked, culminating in a medical theater sequence that gets wonderfully nasty. But THE WOLFMAN combines scenes of attempted high drama and psychological depth with others in which the filmmakers are almost daring us not to laugh. And many of those scenes involve Sir Anthony Hopkins as Talbot's father. Now don't get me wrong, I can watch Hopkins peel a grape and be wildly entertained, but what he's doing here at times borders on self-parody, or worse, silliness. I was never quite sure what his motivations were. He seems pleased that his estranged son has returned to him, but he also seems to want him dead. And while I could never get bored watching Hopkins, that doesn't necessarily mean the man can't baffle me from time to time. This is one of those times. I liked the way he plays the elder Talbot, but I don't think I could interpret his behavior or pass a test on it. I'll leave it at that. The film's most normal character is the inspector named Aberline (Hugo Weaving of THE MATRIX and THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogies). He's after a killer, and he has a pretty good idea who that killer is, especially after he sees Lawrence transform before his very eyes and escape from the mental asylum. His approach to capture said villain may not sit well with the locals, but it's pretty straightforward and logical. Weaving's voice just projects authority, and anything he says, I believe. Even as grossly underwritten as his character is, there's no denying the Weaving is fantastic in this movie. Perhaps the element to THE WOLFMAN that excited me most was the look of the werewolf. Baker's creation is a variation of Lon Chaney Jr.'s version of the character, and when I saw the creature in a white shirt, black vest, and tattered pants, I got a little excited. There's no shame. He's not going for the wolf look; he's attempting a half-man/half-wolf entity. I also loved the way the upright running Wolfman could lean forward and become the running-on-all-fours Wolfman to pick up some speed. And the transformation sequences are the real star of the show. You hear Talbot's bones snap as they realign for a more feral look. He human teeth fall out as his canine fangs move in for the night. It's an ugly, gut-wrenching experience, and there is little on this earth that matches it on the coolness meter. THE WOLFMAN has trouble connecting when it needs to a lot of the time, which is not to say it never does; it just doesn't do so enough for me to flat out praise this movie with no reservations. Some exceptional performances push the film just far enough over the line for me to recommend what this odd work is trying to accomplish. I give it points for trying to make a horror film in a style that nobody else has in years, or maybe never has with this specific blend of classic drama, modern butchery, and timeless whackiness. If you have a great fondness for the werewolf legend, I think you'll appreciate what Johnston & Co. are attempting to do here, even when it doesn't always work. If the extent of your werewolf knowledge is what you've seen in the UNDERWORLD and TWILIGHT movies, please step aside and let the grown folks enjoy their monsters. THE WOLFMAN is a horror film made for thinking adults who reject the idea that you need to empty your brain to enjoy a scary movie.
-- Capone therealcapone@aintitcoolmail.com Follow Me On Twitter



Readers Talkback
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  • Feb. 12, 2010, 7:26 a.m. CST

    First?

    by MisterNobody

    I've never done it before....

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 7:27 a.m. CST

    A variation of WHOSE version of the character?

    by white_vader

    Wouldn't it sorta be more accurate to say Jack Pierce's version? If you're talking the design of the werewolf...

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 7:27 a.m. CST

    Still going to have to check it out.....

    by 2for2true

    Even though not fully recommended.

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 7:28 a.m. CST

    Glad there's one positive review on this site...

    by Marxeffect

    ... Finally excited to see this tonight!

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 7:28 a.m. CST

    Still don't know about this one...

    by Charlie & Tex

    ...the negative reviews seem to outweigh the good ones.

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 7:28 a.m. CST

    Hey, my first poem ^^^

    by Marxeffect

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 7:30 a.m. CST

    I didn't know Hugo Weaving was in this.

    by ricarleite2

    Hmn. Might see it after all.

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 7:34 a.m. CST

    Be ready to see how little idea Capone has...

    by quantize

    whatever intellectual pretensions he imagines the film has, it never manages to be as scary as a pissweak teen slasher..so what fucking good does that do it. It's no thinking man's horror, much less a horror. Baker, Blunt and Weaving steal the show...the rest is frankly pretty shit.

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 7:36 a.m. CST

    I Think This Review Qualifies As 'Fresh'...

    by Aquatarkusman

    ... on Rotten Tomatoes only. The rest of us can read between the lines and know that this is probably some grade-A bullplop.

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 7:44 a.m. CST

    The Wolfman review

    by Long_Duk_Dong

    Have a looksee http://tinyurl.com/yjrrfjd

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 7:47 a.m. CST

    Sounds good enough for me

    by Outlaw24

    I'm always up for a good werewolf flick. I've never seen one that wasn't flawed, but I've seen far too many that are more flawed than not. Sounds like this one is worth a go.

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 7:51 a.m. CST

    Never Been A Fan

    by BeyondStatic

    I'm a vampire guy. Werewolves just don't do it for me. I can't relate. I don't know what it is, but I just don't get into werewolves. Joe Johnston: also never really been a fan. He does good work, I guess - in that he has a film career and I don't - but it all seems pretty schlocky to me. Drama has never been his strong suit, so I'm not really surprised that all the reviews are saying the story falls flat. Am I looking forward to this movie? Kinda. But I don't have high hopes for anything other than a nice remake of a classic I never got into.

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 7:57 a.m. CST

    Capone quote:

    by Napolean Solo

    "And while I could never get bored watching Hopkins, that doesn't necessarily mean the man can't baffle me from time to time. This is one of those times." <br> <br> A polite way of saying "NOT GOOD". <br> <br> Why is everyone dancing around the fact that Anthony Hopkins' performance is terrible in this movie? It is absolutely horrible and is one of the reasons THE WOLFMAN fails.

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 8:03 a.m. CST

    What? No Avatar sledge?

    by NomoredirtyjokespleaseweareYanks

    your losing your touch Capone...

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 8:10 a.m. CST

    Hopkins phones it in big time..

    by quantize

    I was actually pretty annoyed by him..he's coasting so lazily in this, it's hard to tell if he's just so f OLD he can't crank it out or what..at least Del Toro commits a bit. Somehow Blunt and Weaving seem to really play the melodrama just right, but Del Toro seems much more suited to more naturalistic and straight up 'action' roles. He doesn't quite fit this, despite kinda having the right look.

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 8:11 a.m. CST

    Off Topic, there is a Roger Ebert profile in Esquire

    by mjgtexas

    It's really the first time I cried from reading a magazine piece. Curious to see if anyone else has read it.

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 8:18 a.m. CST

    by BosphorusBill

    "...it makes me think that I genuinely did enjoy the experience of watching this often-flawed exercise in bizarre horror..." Sounds like to me that you are trying to like it but not succeeding. If you dig something you know it, you don't need to think about it. It's a shame; as a child I always wanted to grow up to be a werewolf... So I'm biased, but there isn't really any perfect werewolf film, even American Werewolf.

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 8:28 a.m. CST

    So, which positive involved not emptying one's brain??

    by JasonPratt

    Granted, it's an "adult" werewolf movie, which after the recent on$lut of vamp/werewolf/kid movies must seem refreshing. But I don't recall anything positive in that review which really involved needing an adult brain per se. Scaryness? No brain needed. Talbot being psychotic in and out of wolf form? No brain needed. Visceral eviscerations? No brain needed. Appreciating a performance from Daddy-Lecter, a performance that literally defies coherent description? No brain needed. All these are emotional appreciations; and I noted that anything involving Emily Blunt and her character and story-arc didn't register enough for appreciative comments. (So lacking the emotional punch for ostensibly releasing the film on ValDay weekend at all. Nor have I read any other review yet which even hints otherwise. Really, the film is like counter-programming. {wry g}) Does Hugo Weaving's character count?!?

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 8:31 a.m. CST

    Can

    by Fa_Tass_DinoMolester

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 8:31 a.m. CST

    Damn! Can'

    by Fa_Tass_DinoMolester

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 8:35 a.m. CST

    DAMN! Can't wait for this!

    by Fa_Tass_DinoMolester

    Hit Enter twice by mistake...that's happened when you graduated from the "As Long As It Sort-Of Works" School of Typing. Anywho, can't wait for this, despite my complete and utter lack of faith in the idiot Johnston, who managed to succeed in killing the JP franchise and now keeps blathering on about a new film which according to everyone else involved doesn't exist...the TWIT! But here, it looks like he might have succeeded in spite of himself. And really, who doesn't love a good Gothic werewolf movie? <p> I just hope at some point someone hears the Wolfman howling and declares, "Werewolf"! At which point someone else can utter, "There Wolf...There, Castle"! It'll be great!

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 9:15 a.m. CST

    I'LL BE SEEING THIS TONIGHT

    by BringingSexyBack

    Not really looking forward to it but doing my husbandly duty. At least I'm not being dragged to Valentines' Day.

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 9:21 a.m. CST

    Lucky for Hopkins...Wolves don't eat ham.

    by cookylamoo

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 9:25 a.m. CST

    Further comments from me...

    by Lampers

    ***SPOILERS*** I came out of it feeling largely underwhelmed. I'm biased of course, The Wolf Man is one of my favourite movies and it was always quite important to me to know that it was set in Wales. How cool. And now they've actually got a Welshman playing Sir John! Awesome! But, wait, he's what? Irish? No, it's set in Yorkshire or something, no wait again, is that Baskerville Hall? I guess Curt Siodmak's whole point in choosing Wales for the original was that, unlike the other constituent parts of the UK, it didn't have a massive cultural identity in the US. Still doesn't in fact, a failing of our cultural attaché's no doubt. Therefore it could just as easily be set anywhere in Europe, say Transylvania or Styria or Bavaria, another of those kooky backwards European places that Americans have heard of but know nothing about. And here we have generic England, it's not London, because we already have that elsewhere in the film, but it's not really anywhere else either. I don't know why they didn't just go the whole hog (or is that wolf?!) and call it East Proctor. Anyway, I see it as (yet another) betrayal of his fatherland from Hopkins (who appears to made of ham in this movie) and a considerable ball drop in terms of there so-called intention to honour the original. Larry? Check. Sir John? Check. Gwen? Check? Maleva? Check. Llanwelly? WHAT?! No Llanwelly? Shocking. Speaking of Maleva, who on Earth thought that changing her relationship with Larry (sorry, Lawrence) was a good idea? Their relationship is wonderful, and makes tons of sense, in the original. Here she's just tacked on for the sake of it. And she's rubbish to boot. Weaving is good, not great, just good. He's the best thing about the Matrix. The best thing about V for Vendetta. The best thing in all his Rings scenes. He's the best thing in this too but that is feint praise. And why Abberline? If they do make a sequel, the protagonist will have to be a real historical personage. I love Bring 'Em Back Alive but at least that was thematically accurate. Are you seriously going to go to the Abberline estate and ask if they're cool with your great grandaddy being portrayed as a hirsute cannibal? Really? You are? Great, hang on, let me get a seat, this is going to be entertaining! I digress, totally disagree with your comments on Benicio. Yes, he looks the part. Yes, he approaches it with an admirable seriousness that not all the participants share. But the casting director bought him from Wickes and negelected to request the laminate finish! The man CANNOT act. At all. He mumbles his way through all 4 lines of dialogue, has no chemistry with any other character, and his idea of being uber-serious is simply to continually furrow his brow. "Look at me furrowing. SEE THE FURROW!" I sincerely hope "the Academy" will be even less impressed than I was. I didn't hate it, the first scene at the trap with CG-stag was actually quite good. London looked lovely. The American Werewolf in Piccadilly homage put a big smile on my face. And hell yeah, I guess I'd like to see a squeakuel and maybe even a (hopefully more visceral) director's cut. Just the sum of the (disembodied) parts made me shrug my shoulders and give the movie a massive meh out of five.

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 9:51 a.m. CST

    Capone, what are you talking about?

    by D.Vader

    "Talbot is a man with plenty of control issues long before a werewolf bites him during a vicious attack on a gypsy camp." <p> I don't think there is *anything* in this movie to suggest this statement about Talbot having control issues is true. How did you come up with that conclusion?

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 9:59 a.m. CST

    Some R-rated Rick Baker Gore....

    by HapaPapa72

    God, how long has it been? I can't wait.

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 10:37 a.m. CST

    But is it EXCITING?

    by Mr Gorilla

    Because one of the things I thought Joe J did really well in Jurassic 3 was put together brilliant action. Especially the Pterodactyls bit. That was 10 mins of great action. I know it was silly, B-movie stuff, but it was GREAT B-movie stuff.

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 10:44 a.m. CST

    So do we see Emily Blunt suck wolf dick?

    by sansara07

    Well do we?

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 11:13 a.m. CST

    31% on Rotten Tomatoes

    by Trazadone

    Years ago AICN was THE place to go for good reviews of new films. I find the site to be completely unreliable these days. This film is getting slammed by the critics, which means I'll be watching a bootleg online rather than going to the theater as I had originally intended.

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 11:35 a.m. CST

    Not a virus..

    by schizonerd

    What I loved aboud this flick (yeah, I live in Germany and the movie launched here yesterday) is that there is no freakin virus or mutation that turned talbot. It was just pure Evil. A curse or whatever.Thats it! And the wolves are really knarly.

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 11:35 a.m. CST

    Saw this on Tuesday

    by count_olaf

    It's seriously not good. Too bland & boring for the 5 seconds of action/gore to lift the movie. It's not bad enough to be campy-bad which turns it to good, and it's certainly not good enough to be called entertainment. snoozer - and not a fun one at that

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 11:54 a.m. CST

    im going to see this in 25 minutes

    by TheDark0Knight

    im smoking some weed beforehand. hopefully I enjoy it more then most in my altered state. I love werewolves & I have loved the original wolf man since I was barely able to speak, I hope I dont walk out hating this. I really want to love it.

  • The biggest disappointment comes from the talent pool and that the result doesn't equal the sum of its parts. The pacing is and editing is poor in the dramatic, i.e. non-action, scenes in that the cuts are inconsistent and don't let the mood build. At the same time, the problems are compounded by a score that is too heavy handed, a silly red herring, and uneven performances by the leads particularly Hopkins. And as to Hopkins I mean uneven in every way: tone, phoning it in and his accents are inconsistent even in the same scene from line to line. It is just incredibly lazy by him and the director, and that's who ultimately gets the blame. I would have loved to have seen what Tim Burton would have done with this with the same supporting cast and Rick Baker, but with his tweaks on direction and the script. The script is not good, but it's not horrible, and it would have been at least more stylish, if nothing else, if Burton had directed. This is just a waste of talent, so don't waste your $.

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 1:20 p.m. CST

    The more i think about it

    by alan_poon

    The more i think it's poor. I'd stick up for a fellow Welshman every day of the week but Hopkins was laughable in this. If he can't be arsed then maybe it's time to retire and I'm sorry but Del Toro left me cold as hell as well.

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 1:55 p.m. CST

    31% on RT

    by frozen01

    Yes, but have you actually read the reviews? They're pretentious as hell. One guy actually complained that they called it "Wolfman" instead of "Wolf Man", I $h!t you not, and then proceeded to fault the film for every single instance in which it differed from the original. The ones that didn't compare it to the original compared it to American Werewolf in London, as if we had to choose between the two and weren't capable of seeing them both. <p>Oh, well, either way, I'll be seeing it tonight, so I guess I can make up my own mind :o\

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 1:58 p.m. CST

    Oh, and as much as I love Burton

    by frozen01

    I'm glad he didn't do it. It probably would've been Sleepy Hollow with a werewolf and nothing more. Not that I hated SH or anything, but it's nice to see something different. <p>Oh, and you know Burton would've given the role to Johnny Depp, who is far too pretty for it.

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 9:31 p.m. CST

    Can a 'REAL' Horror movie not be scary at all?

    by quantize

    Coz this wasn't...

  • Feb. 12, 2010, 10:33 p.m. CST

    MORE PERIOD HORROR

    by Anna Valerious

    MORE! MORE! MORE! Although I am still a vampire person. So if it wasn't for the tragic ending that should've been in "Curse of the Werewolf", I'd give it a 'meh'.

  • Feb. 13, 2010, 6:59 a.m. CST

    Rushed storytelling, uninteresting, a waste of talent

    by Dolmes

    Crap.

  • Feb. 13, 2010, 7:33 a.m. CST

    This was terrible, don't waste your money

    by boxking

    I truly can't see how anyone could even call this movie "good" it's one of the worst I've seen in a long time. I don't think I was supposed to laugh at many parts of the movie, but when someone puts nonsense like that on the silver screen I can't help it.

  • Feb. 14, 2010, 11:08 a.m. CST

    I was really rooting for this film...

    by Bruce Leroy

    but it fell flat on its face. The story didn't seem to go anywhere. The characters were flat. I wanted to love this film but i ended up not even liking it. Is it a bad movie? No, it's not. It is however a better idea to wait for it to come out on dvd. Not worth a night out.

  • Feb. 14, 2010, 12:21 p.m. CST

    These last few Capone reviews...

    by TheMandrakeRoot

    ...have truly shined a bright light on his douchey-ness, and lack of skill as a film reviewer. Every review is just colored to the brim with pretentiousness, hating on someone or something. The fact that he thinks this lackluster version of The Wolfman is "thinking mans horror", it really proves his stance on Avatar is nothing more then typical geek "go against the grain" the mentality, which is also probably why he gave this a positive review. Since Moriarty left Massawyrm is the only one to really take notice of, and he even he is off the mark from time to time.

  • Feb. 15, 2010, 2:19 a.m. CST

    WOLFMAN was boring

    by jawsfan

    Also had some jarring editing cuts between some scenes. Made it look (and sound) like the final cut was assembled rather hastily. Overall, I wouldn't recommend this movie.

  • Feb. 15, 2010, 9:34 a.m. CST

    is it just me...

    by thekylegassproject

    ...or was Del Toro just bad? i dug the classic feel, old school dissolve effects, and sheer brutality of the wolf. but the performances were just...bad.