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The Wolfman (2010)
Entertaining, Stylistic, Violent and even a little Cheezy
The Wolfman brings back Universal's classic horror-icon back now more amped up that before. The A-list cast consisting of Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins and Hugo Weaving give a strong back bone to what is essentially a very entertaining movie.
Stylistically the film achieves its own interesting atmosphere with the dark late 19th century look and the psychedelic mind effects. At times the more psychedelic moments do seem to cross the point of unintentional hilarity but the effort is still quite good.
Looking from the view-point of horror films The Wolfman is very weak on suspense. The movie resorts to making the audience jump with sudden, loud audio-bursts and with the unexpected appearance of people, animals etc. This is a very cheap method and I felt it crossed to the point of preposterous from time to time. There is of course some blood and gore but due to its over-the-top nature serves more as a visceral fuel for the film's actions and not really as an element of horror.
However, the werewolf effects have been achieved extremely well. The film balances nicely between actual physical human-performance and CGI use. Because the film clearly attempted to stick true to the classic image of the Wolfman, the werewolves with their hunched look may occasionally remind you of the 1970s Hulk-series, but at least they look decidedly different from most other werewolves that have been seen in recent films.
Sadly, as I have not seen the original Wolfman films I can't really measure how well this remake did justice to them. The script is okay, meaning the talented cast of actors actually get to show off some *acting* ability and not just move their jaws to meaningless words like in so many other contemporary horror-films. The heavy CG use is something I'll probably never get used to and there was even some redundant usage of it in this film but generally I can see why the film-makers would want to make the film-making process a bit easier with it.
The Wolfman is thankfully a thoroughly entertaining movie even though it has its few weak spots. It's not, in my view, a true horror-film by definition but more of a supernatural, romantic action-film.
The Most Epic of Westerns
In The Good, The Bad and the Ugly Sergio Leone perfected his epic western. It's key is the trio of main characters who all bring something different to the table and all serve as integral ingredients to a film that might appear a mere adventure film on the surface, but which is both a comedy and character drama as well as a great war movie at the same time.
Clint Eastwood's the Man with No Name, this time called Blondie, continues somewhat on the more ruthless note he took on from the previous film (For a Few Dollars More). However, he's not a truly malicious character but more of jerk-friend who is also extremely observant and at the end of the day doesn't stab anyone in the back so hard that they wouldn't get up again. This creates his rather odd relationship with Tuco.
Lee Van Cleef's Angel Eyes is the very embodiment of evil as far as characters go. He wipes anyone who's in his way, is entirely devoid of any morals and generally manages to create a menacing mood with his presence. This is a stark contrast to the character he played in the previous film and made all the more unsettling by the fact that his appearance is almost identical to this character from the previous film, right down to the pipe.
Eli Wallach as Tuco the Rat is easily the most memorable character from the film. Appearing at first filthy, amoral and without any redeeming qualities he is suddenly thrust into a wavering partnership and later, one could even say, a type of friendship with Blondie. We find out that there is more to Tuco than meets the eye though he never stops being the seemingly greedy scum that he is at the start, by the end of the film the viewer is even able to sympathise with him to a degree.
What truly sets this film apart from other westerns and as well as the rest of the Dollars trilogy is that even in its close-to-three-hour length, the film doesn't feel excessively long. The length is justified. You 'want' to spend the 170 minutes with the main cast of characters.
Per qualche dollaro in più (1965)
A well written but over-long film
The second film in the Dollars Trilogy sees the Man with No Name become a Bounty Hunter and compete for the bounty of a notorious criminal with another talented and prepared hunter. The movie is a step up in scale from A Fistful of Dollars but a step down in coherence and pacing.
The film's moments of comedy are what make it stand out. Whereas the first Leone movie was a very somber piece, For a Few Dollars More displays the West as being inhabited by quirky characters. Even Eastwood and Van Cleef's heroes aren't quite as serious as their majestic and iconic appearances would let on. The comedic elements however don't always come off very cleanly which is a bit of a shame.
Stylistically the film remains consistent with the Dollars trilogy. However El Indio is not the most compelling antagonist and for this reason his part in the movie comes off rather uninteresting. Between Manco and Colonel Mortimer there's a bit of a void to be filled by a more interesting character and this begins to show in the film's pace. The film feels too long with not enough material to fill the running time. Even the catchy theme song begins to feel repetitive at times.
However, Leone's distinctive style and I think especially Van Cleef's sympathetic performance are what make this movie worth watching, but personally I think it's the weakest film in the Dollars Trilogy.
The Legend of Chun Li takes a vastly different approach to the Street Fighter franchise compared to the 1994 film. It focuses more on a single character and tries to depict her as well as her adversaries as interesting characters with history. The effort is admirable though doesn't work perhaps completely all the way through.
After a fairly strong beginning the second act of the film deteriorates a little bit. The section following Chun Li's life in Bangkok suffers from some shotty editing and skipping between unrelated events. The feeling of a coherent transition is lost because of this. The film also makes the faux pas of redundant flashback usage in a 90 minute film.
However, the effort seen in the dialogue scenes of the film's shows that this is clearly trying to be different from most other video game movies. Sadly the Doom-director's natural ability for action-scenes doesn't lend much here and a few of the scenes feel sobby and forced. But at least the film made the effort.
Over-all the actor performances for the more recognisable characters are all solid and only Charlie stands out as being a clichéd character-type. The action-scenes look excellent and if the dialogue scenes were a little bit more involved then the movie would certainly earn praise.
Even as it is, the film is good and worth a watch, but I personally always preferred the entertainment value of the 1994 film more.
Dragonball Evolution (2009)
A good but rushed adaptation
Dragonball Evolution attempts to bring the cartoony and over-the-top martial arts/fantasy/sci-fi manga to the big screen. Mostly the transition has been handled well. The film takes considerable liberties with the source material but considering the over-all length of the original manga this is to be expected and the changes work on their own.
Characters are given adequate introductions and the film also features plenty of comedy to even out the fighting and action. However, the film suffers from scenes rushing by way too quickly and the villains for one are not given many character moments. It really feels like the film makers could have taken the time and textured the film's plot better before the inevitable CG-heavy final fight sequence which was thankfully handled very well.
Despite some rather sharp contrasts with the original characters' appearances all the actors seem to fit their roles well, especially Justin Chatwin who is finally allowed to channel the bad ass towards the end of the film. The only character whose transition wasn't perhaps done as well as I hoped was Shen Long who pops up only near the very end.
Between the comedy and action, the inherent entertainment value of the piece Dragonball Evolution is well done adaptation of the world famous manga. If the sequel ever materializes I hope they take time to work on the film's pacing rather than just slapping on some more characters from the manga.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)
Review by Hannu Mäkinen
This review is in the form of a 10-point questionnaire (1 point per star):
01. What did I think of the title? - First part is good and snappy. The subtitle felt unnecessary though.
02. What did I think of Duke? - He's a straight-backed sort of hero who only wants to do the right thing. Not the most personal of main characters but sympathetic and human enough that you sort of root for him.
03. What did I think of the villains? - Brilliant and varied, each slightly more preposterously cartoony than the last. Chris Eccleston was obviously my favorite and I can't wait to see him in the sequel. I was waiting around for Cobra Commander to show up and he didn't disappoint (that was just a fantastic voice). Everyone just stood out.
04. What did I think of the supporting cast? - Rather surprisingly I felt the supporting Joe characters didn't stand out nearly as well as the villains. They were distinguishable from one another but no-one really stood out as particularly interesting. Snake Eyes was cool and even got his personal character arc.
05. How did it match up against Transformers? - I have to say that I find human actors playing human characters a lot easier to relate to than gigantic CG robots to be honest.
06. What did I think of the CGI? - Oddly, it didn't bother me as much as I thought. There was definitely an excessive amount of it but it all seemed to be there to serve the over-all look of the film. It was justified, just as in Transformers and with the giant-robot factor lowered it perhaps helped accept the CG better.
07. What did I think of the flashbacks? - They were rather abrupt but I liked the fact that they tried to give the characters some history.
08. What did I think of the Internationalized Joe unit in comparison to the Real American Heroes of the original cartoon? - This one's a toughy. Obviously this was done to better appeal to international audiences, but I'm kinda tempted to see what the film would have been like with a more US central approach. It could have potentially added to the entertainment value but in the long run might have undermined the film's credibility even further.
09. What did I think of the soundtrack? - I actually enjoyed it but during the action scenes it just got buried under the sound-effects. A bit of a disappointment because I was enjoying it so.
10. What did I think of the ending? - Bring on the sequel. It was nice and ominous.
Rear Window (1954)
Simple but simply brilliant
The concept of the Rear Window is so quaint its positively humbling. The idea of setting an entire film in just one location would seem like a major faux pas in a thriller film. However, the approach is justified, the viewer is subjected to the main character's point of view of the events which at the same time creates a small element of doubt as to what the viewer is seeing is really happening.
The acting performances are old school, but they serve the style of the film and help it stay interesting. Hitchcock's films tend to have very good dialogue and I like listening to it.
What surprises me about the film is how dark it is in spite of seeming so innocent. It has the elements of a great detective story but with a detective who can't leave the room. The one small special-effect moment at the end is probably the only part of the film that doesn't fully work but even it is a minor flaw in an otherwise marvelous movie which still holds up.
The Birds (1963)
A strange tale
The Birds is an early example of great special-effects work combined with a good story. Hitchcock's suspenseful cinematography adds to the mix and the ambiguous ending is the cherry on top.
Like many Hitchcock films the characters are played naturalistic which makes them interesting to the viewer. While there's quite a bit of dialogue most of it is well written and keeps the viewer invested in the film during its more quiet parts. The characters and their motivations are interesting as well.
However, where the film stands out are its special-effects. With relatively simple technology Hitchcock brings the bird attacks to reality in a compelling way. The silent crows waiting for the school children is a creepy image that stays in your head. The sparrows coming down the chimney is an impressive effect and the seagulls wrecking havoc on the town are menacing in their chaos.
Over-all the film's only weakness is that the pacing doesn't work quite well and the lack of dramatic music also takes away a little bit of the excitement. None the less, The Birds is still an effective picture.
A great chiller
Psycho combines the intensity of an Alfred Hitchcock thriller with the creepiness of a slasher film. The combination works well to provide a movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat but which still has the stillness and conventional look of an old movie.
The plot is very simple but provides a frame for an interesting narrative. Hitchcock's excellent photography makes this movie stand out and the casting is spot on with all the characters appearing distinct. I also appreciate that there is not so much over-acting which tends to be the case with many older films and it helps to bring the film a type of soberness but thankfully it doesn't suck the life out of the film like it does with many other films.
The film does have a few weaknesses, I've always had a sense that Norman is not as innocent as he appears and the film goes perhaps into too much detail on how he covers up for the murder. The film could have done with less. Also, the psychiatrist at the end hams up the tone of the film just a tad too much and is one of the few things about the film I've never enjoyed.
However, over-all Psycho lasts the test of time.
Alien: Resurrection (1997)
Ripley's Saga Ends
Alien Resurrection brings back the action of Aliens and combines it with the grimy goriness of Alien 3 to provide a film that is creepy and entertaining at the same time. The film's strength involve a number of interesting ways to reinvent the Aliens and a memorable cast of actors.
The film really seems to bring the Alien-franchise's more sensual aspects to life with the resurrected Ripley. The film also has many great confrontations with the Aliens and the final act of the film provides one of the strangest and most rewarding finishes of any of the Alien films.
The film's only real weakness is that it doesn't quite match the emotional conviction of Aliens and the story is more of a wrap up then a stand-alone chapter. Riddick and the Aliens make a grand exit with this film which is interesting enough to keep the audience invested and entertaining enough to avoid a dragging pace which the first and third film suffered from.