Anthony Hopkins is along for the ride as Sir John Talbot, and his own predatory traits are something he can barely keep under his skin, as you'll see several times during the movie. Other reviewers here have commented on the demented qualities of Van Helsing that Hopkins suggested in Coppola's Dracula, and the directors have given him room to flesh out John Talbot's character in this version of the Wolfman. It's a good idea, really. People familiar with the great Claude Raine's penchant for scene hogging can't help but notice the way Raines occasionally lapses into "Look at me, I am acting" mode in the original, especially when he's reciting the old "Even a man who is pure at heart---" etc doggerel for Larry in that scene with Lon Chaney Jr. Hopkins here at least is given some room to move Talbot's character away from the single dimension Raines was allowed to explore, and the place he takes it to looks like fun.
The same can be said for Emily Blunt, who becomes more than an appendage to her father's antique shop and a decoration for the arms of Patrick Knowles and Larry Talbot in this film. Blunt's version of Gwen Conliffe is a woman who seems to have her own reasons for doing everything, so it is unsurprising she can find the strength to take care of business in the classic Universal horror style in this version.
Hugo Weaving is also in this film as Inspector Frederick Abberline, late of London and the investigation into the Whitechapel murders. How's that for a liberty from the original. And Geraldine Chaplin gets to do at least one grisly walk on and has a couple of other interesting moments in the film as Maleva, Maria Ouspenskaya's character from the original film.
There are a few "American Werewolf in London" moments in here for the fans of the lycanthrope on film, some lovely CGI imagery of the beast loping over the rooftops. Blood and gore abounds, and nowhere is this at its more over the top best then in the scenes where Talbot has been arrested and subjected to the torture of the early psychiatric practice of days gone by. All I'm going to tell you is that some folks get what they're asking for.
So all told, THE WOLFMAN is a worthy romping remake. It's not a carbon copy of the original, nor should we want it to be, and in it's own sweet twisted way is a loving tribute to the evolution of cinematic werewolfery over the last seventy years. Try it on.
Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) is a Iraqi war veteran recovering from a battlefield wound who is reassigned to a State Department and United States Army Casualty Notification team, which is led by Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson). Montgomery is also facing an impending breakup with his girlfriend Kelly (Jena Malone), who is playing him off against a wealthy, established suitor. When he is assigned to Stone's team, he is at first resentful. The military decorum which is demanded of the Casualty Notification Team is very exacting, with learned routines that come from a spit and polish military professionalism that requires a distance that is extremely difficult to attain.
What follows is a series of well connected vignettes, in which the younger soldier is asked to stride this nether world between the jaundiced, dry-drunk outlook of the seasoned bearer of bad news, Captain Stone. Stone is a bitter man with some frustrated ambitions of his own, which are revealed late in the film. Obsessed with sexual victories and teeter tottering between professional sobriety and complete emotional collapse, Stone is far from a steady colleague mentor. Encounters between he and Montgomery go into emotional roller coaster as each man learns to accept the other on his own terms while acting out an extremely trying professional military role.
In short time, Montgomery comes into contact with the widow of a soldier who sparks his interest, and becomes torn between professionalism and attraction to the young widow Olivia Pitterson (Samantha Morton). Montgomery is forced to grow into himself, despite his outward cynicism, and in short time begins to mentor his mentor, Captain Stone. The story has an open ending, with Montgomery seeking to be part of the life of widow Olivia as she is seeking to reestablish herself in New Orleans. No morals are offered, and this is the true strength of the work as a whole. There isn't much humor to be found here, but watch for the scene where a bender fried Montgomery and Stone attend the wedding reception of the woman who has broken Montgomery's heart. The lampoon of upper middle class phoniness is priceless.
The beauty of THE MESSENGER is that it does not fall into the usual pro war or antiwar camps that film making in an era like our own are usually so encumbered with. The film makers are ambitious and restrained. I have no idea whether the plot line is itself "contrived" as some here have argued, which I have to say is a rather ridiculous critique given that movies are rarely anything but "contrived", and this is particularly true of the genre we call the war film. Some who have written here seem to believe that the film discredits the "professionalism" of those who do the work of Stone and Montgomery, as though "professionalism" were itself some sort of fetish that protects one from emotional or mental illness generated by both war time trauma and the mystique of military culture. Such are the times in which we live, ideological blather is rampant.
THE MESSENGER is important because, in the words of that great Vietnam war era politician, the late President Lyndon Baines Johnson, it is art, it shows us who we are, not who we say we are, not who we think we are, but who we are as a people, and as a political culture. At various moments, it is clunky. But it is an early effort to give some true definition about what the debacle in Iraq has done to our culture, and to the people who are expected to do the dirty work of the empire's war machine. It is a rare gem in mainstream contemporary U.S. film making.
The Oregon town Wendy is stuck in is itself depressed as a result of the closure of the local mill, and its streets are deserted and depressed. Every scene in the film speaks of isolation, and a bottomless sadness visited upon the working poor that political culture in the United States has yet to find expression for.
Is it great film making? Maybe not. But WENDY AND LUCY is intrepid and strong film making, and in just bare human terms, is a fairly accurate depiction of what it's like to be down and out in the United States. As someone who was long term homeless right around the time I was Lucy's age, or 32 years ago when life in this country was nowhere so difficult for the working poor as it is today, I genuinely appreciate the careful effort of the film makers not to indulge in mawkish portrayals, and the attempt to understand that life on the terms of the person who gets caught up in it, unexpectedly. Lucy is not always the most admirable person, her decision making skills are pretty lousy atmoments, her priorities are often skewed. In the end, she does what is maybe the right thing for what may be the wrong reasons. But the portrayal of her character is wrenchingly human and beautiful. Full marks, ladies and gentlemen.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslett are Frank and April Wheeler, an upper middle class Long Island couple whose marriage has gone sour as the dreams of a life in the arts or pursuit of life of mind have succumbed to the career realities of mortgage payments, children and upper class mobility. The setting is a relatively prosperous Long Island suburb during the 1950s.
Frank Wheeler is a junior level executive for a business machine company, and spends many of his lunch hours drinking and commiserating with friends. The tension between he and April leads him to dalliances with secretaries, and the audience is witness to a manipulative trist he has with a 19 year old receptionist who falls under his "charm". April spends most of her days caught in the domestic trap that all too many women knew in the mid-1950s, housework and daydreaming about days gone by. At the beginning of the film, we see her performing in a community theater play that is poorly received by the audience, and she remains frustrated by the abandonment of her theater dreams.
Bored and alienated by middle class suburbia and the quiet presumption imposed by neighbors caught in a similar bind, Frank and April decide they're going to sell the house and move their lives with their two children over to France. And, as fate would have it, this dream emerges at the exact same time that the company Frank works for decides that he's a bright new idea man, and offers him a big promotion. Frank is now caught between his undefined personal dreams and the possibilities of real material advancement. April, who knows desperately that she wants something much different then the life of a suburban housewife, but, who like most women of that era, rarely is allowed time or space to develop her ideas about who she is, clings wildly to the escape plan. Frank is a stormy individual caught in the casual lies most men from the professional classes in that era were bought into, and he frequently takes advantage of the enhanced isolation that is driving April nuts through engaging in abusive tirades.
The film becomes deep tragedy over an unwanted pregnancy before its end, but along the way, some rather penetrating commentary on the Wheeler's situation by the son of a neighbor who has been struggling with mental illness lights up the Wheeler's reality better than either of the protagonists can, burdened as they are by the deceptions of careerism, extramarital dalliances, and parenting roles that neither of them really seem to want. The atmosphere of the piece, then, is like a high summer day on Long Island, humid with a high chance of rain. The viewer knows that some sort of cloudburst is going to come, and there's not much surprise when one of life's lethal downpours arrives and reshapes the lives of the central characters. All the same, Winslett and DiCaprio and their supporting cast carry this difficult piece quite ably. REVOLUTIONARY ROAD is a keeper.
Bunuel's masterpiece holds up well, almost forty years after its release. Here's a farce that demonstrates just how far a "satirist" like Sasha Baron Cohen ("Borat") really has to go before he has anything substantial to say with farce or film.
"The Gray Man" is also a significant work in horror, because it puts to rest the idea that a grisly tale must rely upon grisly depiction in order to unsettle the viewer. Director Flynn has wisely chosen not to graphically re-create the murders, and does not bother with lurid presentations of children being dissected or disposed of as meat. It might seem ridiculous that I would even have to point this out, but anyone who knows contemporary horror understands how little credit all too many Gothic film makers lend the imagination of their public anymore. I don't want to belabor the point, suffice it to say that "The Gray Man" puts films like "Saw" and "Hostel" to shame. Very few things in this life are as terrifying as a child murderer, Flynn and his cast put this true story across without much reliance on the sensational. Why, they even rely on a few little tricks like "atmosphere" here. Imagine that.
Leading the cast is veteran actor Patrick Bauchau, who brings the character of Albert Fish himself a terrifying but not entirely unlikeable quality. His work in this film is a delicately balanced affair that is more effective than that of Anthony Hopkins in "The Silence of the Lambs". Hopkin's performance in that work is outstanding, of course, but it is relatively melodramatic and over- the- top compared to the craft and restraint Bauchau offers here.. Following Bauchau up as the intrepid Missing Persons investigator Will King is Jack Conley, whose world weary demeanor I found very welcome in this age of celluloid depictions of lantern jawed law enforcement officials who always know what to do. Conley's King is a man unsure in his surety, a gumshoe who's likable for the same reasons we like Jake Gittes in "Chinatown" and Sam Spade in "The Maltese Falcon". He's sort of an anti-bureaucratic bureaucrat.
The other supporting cast members are quite good, most notably the perpetually bemused children of Albert Fish, Gertrude and Albert Jr., who know him alternately as both solid family man and abusive personality. The roles are handled by Mollie Milligan and Silas Mitchell. Jillian Armaneni is powerful as the mother of Grace Budd, the victim of Fish whose disappearance finally put investigators on his trail, and Lexi Ainsworth is very fine as Grace herself. Ben Hall holds his own as Grace's brother Albert, and character actor Bill Flynn has an appearance as the notorious Dr. Frederick Wertham (yes, he of the controversial 1950s anti- comic book crusade) who was a defense witness at the Fish trial as Fish and his crew pleaded insanity.
As for accuracy, who knows? So much has been written about the case that, now, seventy five years after the events themselves, it's even more difficult to separate the folklore from the reality of the moment. Albert Fish has entered that realm of real-life bogeymen with a distinction known by few, so the scuttlebutt will continue to blossom. Be that as it may, "The Gray Man" is a finely crafted, ambitious and riveting horror film, one of the few in the contemporary samples from the genre that is worthy of the time it takes to view it.
The Watchmen's world is threatened by the nuclear terrors of the Cold War, and the main defense the United States has left is in the hands of super gladiators like the psychotic soldier of fortune, the Comedian, and the formerly human but now wholly reconstituted Dr. Manhattan, whose self-recreation through Hydrogen fusion makes him near God-like in essence. The streets of New York are guarded by a skeezy street executioner named Rorshach, who defies federal injunctions against vigilantes, and who is one of the more engaging characters in the story. The premise of the novel is pretty silly, and Alan Moore himself calls the work one of his early efforts to write the "last super hero story".
Zach Snyder is an ambitious young man, but ambition of the sort that makes movies out of graphic novels like "Watchmen" isn't necessarily the same as genius, which is about what it would take to put something as convoluted as "Watchmen" on the screen. The sub-narrative of the piece, the comic book within the comic book "Tales from the Black Freighter" is essential to "Watchmen", and without it, the storyline loses much of its satirical edge.
Worse yet, Snyder lacks all sense of the actual history and the bankruptcy of most mass culture that Moore satirizes so effectively in so much of his work. Nowhere is this clearer than in the ridiculous montage of establishing shots which Snyder created at the beginning of the film which are backed by an extended version of Bob Dylan's "The Times, they are a'changin'". As a film maker, Snyder seems obsessed and mystified by the violent excess in U.S. history, which is always a sign of someone who essentially has nothing new to say. Snyder attempts to make up for this shortcoming in his understanding by graphically depicting scenes of violence which are only alluded to in the storyline of Moore's novel itself. And it doesn't help, because, as Malcolm X once said, you can put kittens in the oven but that isn't going to turn them into biscuits.
Hence, what we've got here is three and a half hours of mediocre acting, people most of whom I'm sure are quite gifted in other settings leaping around in spandex costumes and delivering dialogue in a manner that makes the late Jack Webb look like Kenneth Branagh. Hell, as little as half an hour of this sort of thing can be exhausting, but it's funny if you know how, and William Dozier and Adam West proved that pretty conclusively 40 years ago with their farce "Batman". Unfortunately, the oh-so-serious Mr. Snyder chose to play it ultra-straight, and in that way lies disaster. Some comic books are better off staying comic books. In the words of Carlos Castaneda's fictional Yaqui Brujo Don Juan, why should a crow be anything but a crow?
Tun and Jane are coming home from a drunken party when they appear to have hit a pedestrian on the dark road. Tun persuades Jane that they should flee the scene, and from there, the good times roll. Tun is a photography major, and in short time, spectral images begin to appear in his finished photographs. Jane is the first of the pair to encounter a vengeful spirit named Natre in Tun's studio one afternoon, and it takes a good deal of probing Tun's less than savory past that brings the whole story of what is happening to the surface. The closing images of the film, which explain a troublesome crick Tun has developed in his neck, are some of the more haunting efforts I've come across in the last few rounds of cinematic terror I've looked into. This is a very tidy work, the creative team on the movie knew what they wanted to do from start to finish.
There are a few predictable moments in the story, but nothing that weakens the pace or atmosphere with this production crew worked so hard to create. SHUTTER is a very fine piece of work.
The plot of the film is built around the trauma of battle fatigue, and the exhaustion of men sent to fight a war in a culture that is not their own. I was pleasantly surprised to find in viewing this film that John Ford strove to keep the portrayal of the racist current and cultural supremacy ideas that always exist among invading armies to a minimum, and instead chose to focus on the contradictions in the lives of these men so far away from their homes in England. Given the anti-Arab characterizations of our own era, THE LOST PATROL seems positively evolved by comparison. Victor McLaglen leads the cast, with able support from Reginald Denny as a mercenary, Wallace Ford as a displaced vaudevillian, and Boris Karloff as a religious fanatic. Among the many fine supporting cast members is Alan Hale Sr. in an almost invisible part, but for the few seconds he's on, he's really on.
Like many others, I'd heard from the very first review I'd seen of this film written by Denis Gifford in his biography of Boris Karloff "The Man, the Monster, the Movies" (1973) that Karloff is way over the top in his portrayal. I don't think so, but that may have more to do with the edition that is available on DVD then anything else. Perhaps there are prints of this film that contain footage not available on the disc I was able to lay my hands on.
Still, I think if anything, that Karloff seems to be overplaying it because many of his co-stars are actually under-playing the situation. In fact, the delivery of their lines seems somewhat glib and typical of the 1930s war film delivery and macho super white man characterization that rose to the fore between and after the two world wars. Some have said Karloff's portrayal of the religious fanatic who goes completely over the edge is anti-Christian, I think the actuality of combat fatigue and isolation has created far stranger emotional and mental disorders than Karloff attempted to re-create in this film. In my opinion, his performance, while far from stellar, is one of the stronger ones in this movie. Given Karloff's love of Joseph Conrad's novels and "Heart of Darkness" in particular, I believe he was trying to explore the mostly unrecognized nuttiness of the European invader and "civilizer" through the character of the religious fanatic Sanders. But that's just an opinion.
THE LOST PATROL is an interesting period piece, and for admirers of the work of John Ford, I believe it's a must see. It's not bad at all, indeed, much better than I expected it to be, considering the portrayal of non-white people in most western films of the period.
Scotty Fergusen (Jimmy Stewart) is a private investigator who is recently retired from the city police force over an incident on the job that resulted in the death of a colleague and a pronounced fear of heights in Fergusen. Scotty is financially independent and has some support in the friendship of his confidant and former fiancé' Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes). His life and what's left of his emotional stability begin to be challenged when he is contracted by wealthy shipping magnate Gavin Elster (Tom Elmore) to track the doings of his wife Madeleine (Kim Novak), who has developed an obsession with the history of a tragic ancestor that now borders on the fantastic and suicidal. Or so Scotty is led to believe. What follows from the investigation is a star-crossed romance which assumes a surreal and sometimes folkloric dimension from the get-go, and which culminates in a post-mortem fantasy that will immolate not only Scotty, but the fortunes of working girl Judy Barton (Kim Novak in an interesting role within a role).
If you've not seen this film, I will only tell you that Hitchcock demonstrates the truth of his masterful reputation as a movie maker through a precipitous wrap-up that left me crying I was laughing so hard, but I'm pretty twisted. All I'm going tell you is that I can't believe he got away with that back in 1958, and that in whatever realm the creatures of imagination reside, Midge is going to be bringing Scotty crayons to play with for a long time.
By far and away, this one easily rates for me as one of the best films overall ever made, and if you like classic suspense film from the greats, this is one you can't miss. Here is one more good example of why special effects by themselves do not a solid motion picture make, which is a sad reality lost on all too many filmmakers and their audiences these days.
Carol is a 12 year old girl from New York City who has returned to Spain with her mother Aurora, to live with Aurora's family and attempt to be a little closer to Carol's father, who is an aeronautic volunteer for the Republic. Within a few months of their arrival, Carol's mother dies, and Carol finds herself having to make a new life with her grandfather and her aunt, uncle and cousins. Her closest acquaintances are a group of street kids, most worthy a kid named Tomiche who knows the ins and outs of survival in wartime and whose father also is a supporter of the new Spanish republic. The storyline basically follows what occurs through preadolescent love and the months following the victory of the reaction (Franco's followers).
The film, as many others have commented here, often falls into the clichés that follow films that attempt to engage with a child's view of wartime. But for those familiar with the details of this chapter of history, CAROL'S JOURNEY resonates in a special way, and is worthy on a number of levels. Definitely worth the hour and a half it takes to breathe this one in.
The work is set against the background of Franco's Spain, which is in the process of consolidating a fascist victory over the Republican government that was defeated in 1939. The year is 1944, and Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), a precocious 12 year old girl with a passion for fantasy literature, is the step-daughter of a military specialist, Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez), who has married her mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil). Ofelia is isolated, and has an ally in the head of the housekeeping staff in Vidal's compound, a woman named Mercedes (Maribel Verdu).
Captain Vidal has been sent to the countryside in Spain in order to shut down the partisan resistance which is still waging guerrilla warfare in the mountains, and the arrival of his adapted family is the note the film begins on. Ofelia's mother Carmen is experiencing a difficult pregnancy with Vidal's child, and looks to her daughter for the little stability and support she is able to attain living in a military compound. Ofelia's main comfort is in the world of dreams and nightmare she is able to create for herself, an activity that is frowned upon by her mother and condemned by her rigid-spit-and polish step father. She also some support from Mercedes, who is a sort of socialist "fellow traveler" and supporter of the guerrilla resistance hidden inside the Captain's household. Ofelia's world of personal folklore leads her into a fantasy relationship with a mystical faun (Doug Jones) who, in her thinking, patterns for her a quest and boon she must endure in order to reclaim her status as a princess in the realm of the fantastic, and thereby save her mother and unborn brother. And it is her life, both within the bounds of imagination and the strictures of the real world, that makes up the bulk of this story, which can only end in madness and death.
I don't think I've said too much here, but having noted all this, it should also be observed that, despite the graphic quality of the violence in this film, PAN'S LABYRINTH remains an interesting and compelling chunk of film. The overall message of the work is sweet in its essence, and lacks the world-weariness of much of the junk that passes for mainstream entertainment in these here United States. If you haven't seen it yet, it's definitely a "ringer" for the fantasy film audience.
The genius of BLAZING SADDLES can be seen in Brooks and his co-writers taking the actual history of the settlement of much of the United States, and making everyone laugh at some of the stupidities that have governed us for most of our existence as a country. No one is spared by this group of satirists (Richard Pryor contributed to the screenplay), the ax swings every direction. And thirty years after its release, the work remains screamingly funny. Every John Wayne-Garry Cooper-Randolph Scott cliché is up for grabs. If you've seen it before, watch it again. And again. And again. You'd do it for Randolph Scott.
Govras chose as background for his film the actual diaries of Charles Horman, a lefty artist type who was living with his wife Beth in Chile. Horman had apparently picked up the unfortunate habit of inquiring into some dangerous affairs in a rather loud way. Isolated in every sense from any "live" political current, his disappearance and murder were relatively easy to accomplish, even though he was a United States citizen. The actor John Shea portrays Charles Horman as a naive sort, and there is no reason to assume this was an inaccurate depiction. Most citizens of the United States overseas are sheltered from the skulduggery of realpolitik, and most cling to some rather dangerous illusions about how far their rights as citizens actually extend. U.S. citizens in Lebanon who had to pay for their removal from that combat front last summer have learned this the hard way recently.
Jack Lemmon is stellar as Charles' father Ed Horman, who made the trip to Chile under the impression that he had rights his government felt bound to respect, and who discovered otherwise. And Cissy Spacek is never anything less than full marks as Beth Horman.
MISSING accomplishes what few political dramas do. It asks its viewer to consider the human dimensions and costs of an imperial political reality, and it portrays with a deadly earnestness what these ideas do to people caught up in the sway of such notions. There are no monsters in MISSING, just people who are doing their jobs and following orders. And therein lies the horror, one which all too many of our fellow citizens have yet to come to grips with. It is a rare feat among political films, an actual work of art. But don't be surprised if you need a stiff drink after viewing it. That's how I felt when I first saw this work after its release in 1982, and it still has that effect upon me today.
Jim is an off-duty cop who kills a man who is attempting to behead Jenifer at the beginning of the story. "Freak" that she is, Jim's only option in the long run is to take her home to the family. After Jenifer eats the family cat, Jim's wife and son leave him. Then she eats the little girl next door. Then she eats the owner of a freak show that Jim has hired to abduct her. Jim then decides he has to get out of town. Why can't he literally cut her loose? Well, she's good in bed. Doesn't matter what she looks like. Jim forsakes his career, moves to the bush, takes a job sweeping up a general store, and is fairly content with his crap job and alcohol and decent sex until Jenifer eats the son of his new employer. He decides to decapitate her himself, and is shot by the next poor penis-dominated hero-a noble hunter who happens upon Jim and Jenifer in the woods- who will take in Jenifer. And so it goes.
As a film in the MASTERS OF HORROR series, JENIFER's strengths consist of a fairly solid screenplay from lead actor Steven Weber, and the direction of gore film favorite Dario Argento. Warren magazine fan boys such as myself will also be pleased with this rendition of an old favorite from CREEPY magazine before that periodical really began to fade. But in fairness to other viewers, JENIFER is probably an inside joke.