Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Linking and a Quick Review

The WolfmanAs mentioned in yesterday's (fake) post, I finally got around to seeing the recent remake of Universal horror film classic, The Wolf Man, starring Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins.

And, despite the fact that we were yet to pull into the parking lot just five minutes before the previews started rolling, we somehow managed to make it before the lights went down.

Looking back on it now, maybe it wouldn't have been so bad had we been fashionably late, though. There weren't many people in the theater since the movie's a few weeks old at this point, but that didn't stop the absolute assault of commercials and previews. And the commercials--you know, the regular television commercials that we now get to see at movie theaters, too--played for quite a while before we sat down.

Think of them as previews before the previews.

And speaking of previews. For an almost month-old film, we got five of them--previews, I mean. Five. And one was for the Kevin Smith-directed Cop Out, which opened on Friday and was competing with the movie we were sitting down to watch.

Now, yesterday I mentioned that I'd only been to the movies twice since The Dark Knight came out a couple of summers ago. I was thinking about it on the way to The Wolfman, and I realized I was wrong.

I've actually been to three movies since The Dark Knight--Watchmen, Sherlock Holmes, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

So I guess I'm just reminded of how awful the current movie-going experience is. These days, we get bombarded with ads before we get bombarded with more ads, and then, after over half an hour of self promotion, the theater allows us to watch the movie that we paid our $10.00 for.

Which is nice of them.

I guess I just don't enjoy the movies like I used to. I'm spoiled by a big screen and a blu-ray player, and I'll take my couch over a movie theater seat any day of the week. Worse than that, though, is the fact that I kinda despise the whole, communal aspect of theaters thing.

The decades-old complaints about the movie-going public are still painfully true today. There's the guy who sits next to you and doesn't stop crinkling his bag of who knows what. Or the kid who has to go to the bathroom ten times during the first half of the movie. Or the parents who very clearly made a poor parental choice in taking their too-young child to see, I dunno, Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

The last time I truly enjoyed the communal aspect of a movie theater was back in the late 90s, when The Blair Witch Project came out. It was cool to listen to other people's reactions to that flick, and to watch half the crowd gasp at the ending as the other half scratched their heads and complained about the very same ending.

That was pretty unique.

But today? Forget it. And that's not to mention the fact that, because of the Internet, we all know pretty much everything about the movie before we even buy the tickets.

Anyway. That's a whole lot of complaining for another day. For now, let's focus on the movie of the moment. When I first heard that Universal was re-making The Wolf Man, I was a little eh about it.

When it was announced that Anthony Hopkins and Benicio Del Toro would be in it, I was relieved and kind of excited for the flick. When I saw the trailer, I was impressed with the footage, and I really wanted to go see it.

And then I read the reviews.

And I'm not talking about the reviews from the "professional" critics here. I'm talking about the reviews on blogs and Twitter pages from authors and artists that I admire. And after poking around a bit online, I became hesitant about seeing the movie.

But last week, I was talked into seeing the film by a guy at my LCS who loved the movie. He's a big horror buff, and his in-store recommendations are usually dead on, so I decided to trust his judgement and see the film.

And I'm glad I did.

This was an easy movie to screw up. Lots of makeup, lots of foggy shots of the English countryside, lots of close-ups of the full moon. All that stuff can come off as cheesy if done wrong, and boy, have we seen them done wrong in the past.

While some of the shots of the full moon may have been overkill, I think this latest incarnation of The Wolfman was treated exactly in the right way. The cinematography established the movie in a Gothic setting--with big houses and long staircases and everything--and I was immersed in the world of the film from the very beginning.

Actually, my favorite thing about the film is that it was truly a Gothic movie--something that's been sorely lacking in Hollywood ever since vampires started to glitter. Or whatever.

The acting was top notch, and that's to be expected from the likes of Anthony Hopkins and Del Toro, and Hugo Weaving's turn as a Scotland Yard investigator was right on. Emily Blunt, the film's romantic lead, was great and she did a fine job playing a role in which she could have very easily been reduced to scenery.

Hopkins and Del Toro deliver solid performances, and Del Toro handles the classic character with care. This movie was made with love for the original and the filmmakers were sure to tread lightly in all the right places.

For fans of the original, there's plenty to like, with the make-up being the most obvious homage to that film. Similar in look to the 1941 Wolf Man starring Lon Chaney, Jr., the make-up in the remake stands out and will likely be recognized come Oscar time.

The biggest difference in the two films is the level of violence portrayed onscreen in the new version, which is in stark contrast to the strangle-happy Wolf Man of the 40's. But, really, if you're gonna get killed by a werewolf, it's not going to be because he choked you to death.

I mean, how would the villager with no lines even know how you were killed when he trips over your body in the woods the morning after?

Sure, some of the violence is over the top in Del Toro's version, but we are watching a movie about a man who turns into a wolf, so elements of the fantastic aren't necessarily out of place in the world of the film.

Some have complained that it's too gory, while hardcore horror fans have complained that it's not scary. And I think that's one of the best points that the film has going for it. It sits somewhere in between a true horror picture in the vein of An American Werewolf in London, and a more mainstream, toned-down offering, such as the Scream movies.

As a sort of in between movie, I think The Wolfman can play well to a pretty wide audience, though the violence is going to be a bit much for younger viewers (and Nathaniel).

Usually, I'm of the mind that a film should be all one thing, or all another. Either go full-on horror, or make a PG-13 creepfest. Don't try to meet halfway. But, somehow, I felt like The Wolfman managed to pull this off quite well.

And it did so with unsettling imagery in the form of flashbacks and fever dreams. Some of the best, jump-worthy spots in the film come during those scenes, and don't even involve werewolf-ing. They're just creepy and atmospheric and dead on.

Wrapping this up, I'll say the following--I liked the movie, and it'll be a blu-ray sitting in my collection, for sure. I think horror fans can find a lot to love about this film, and I think even the squeamish will enjoy big chunks of the movie.

It really is a (bloody) heartfelt homage to the original, and we get a much needed update to a classic story.

-- -- --

And now for today's link. As mentioned a couple of days ago, this past week has seen a mainstream interest in the vintage comic book market. Earlier in the week, a copy of Action Comics, issue one, featuring the first appearance of Superman, sold for just over a million dollars.

Well, on Friday, it was announced that the highest-graded copy of Detective Comics, issue 27, featuring the first Batman, sold in auction for one million, seventy five thousand dollars (including auction fees). The book was professionally graded as an 8.0 out of 10, which is ridiculous when you take into consideration the fact that the comic came out in the 1930s.Detective Comics #27 coverI have no idea if this book would have had the same final bid had the Action not sold for what it did earlier this week. But the thing about a niche market like vintage comics is that, because of the rarity of the product, the last sale typically sets the market value.

Who knows how this all will affect other Golden Age comics, and who knows if Silver Age books will see an increase in price, too. Here's the link to MTV's Splash Page coverage of it all, so check it out for yourself.

It's been cool to see the coverage in the mainstream press, I have to say. Though, there was one anchorman who, after a reporter talked about the fact that people feel safer putting their money in tangible goods than they do in the stock market (and according to the report, comics are at the top of that list when it comes to collectibles), had to go ahead and add his own snide remark about the buyer doing so anonymously because of the "shame" in spending any money on a comic book.

Ah, well.

We can't win all of them over to our side, I guess.


zharth said...

Not to criticize (and I honestly mean that), but I think it's rather easy to make quick generalizations based upon personal experiences. Also, you've fallen into the "back in my day" fallacy. :p

Seriously, though, I don't go to the theater often these days, but I went to see Paranormal Activity last fall (regarding which a reference to The Blair Witch Project would not be out of place), and I enjoyed the theater experience. The audience laughed at some of the parts they were supposed to laugh at (the humorous bickering between the couple), and screamed quite a bit during the scary parts - which enhanced the viewing experience for me.

So it's not like those things don't still happen. And it's not like the frequent problems of going to a theater didn't also exist decades ago, too. I think it's just a matter of being in the right place (theater) at the right [show]time. A feat that is notoriously hard to achieve - at least in the real world.

I totally agree about the previews, though. They should show previews while you're sitting in the theater, before the movie starts, instead of those stupid ads, and then when showtime comes around, they should just start the show. Although, if nothing else, it does give you some peace of mind when you find yourself running late. I'm the type who hates to miss the start of the movie.

AJG said...

Hey Zharth,

Thanks for the comments, and you're right--I was certainly making generalizations. Though, I have to say, it seems like I always find That Guy at the theater.

When I went to see Spider-Man 3, I sat next to a guy who brought in (and I'm not kidding) Tupperware filled with sushi.

Now, I love sushi, but I don't want to smell sushi for two hours while I'm trying to watch Peter Parker dance down the street.

As for Paranormal Activity, I really wish I had seen that in a theater.

zharth said...

Yeah, I'm glad I didn't let the hype turn me off. It was a risk, but it paid off handsomely in this case.