Category: Netflix (page 2 of 27)

IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! Akira

Logo courtesy Netflix.  No logos were harmed in the creation of this banner.

{no audio this week – sorry for the inconvenience!}

Many authors have speculated that we as a species are walking a knife’s edge between transcending our previous limitations in terms of body, mind, and spirit, and falling into an inevitable downward spiral of self-destruction we’re simply too lazy to avert. It’s a resonant message and especially popular in the genre of cyberpunk, where near-future technology that pushes the envelope of human potential is often juxtaposed with the plight of have-nots struggling to keep up with the haves. Films like Blade Runner, books like Snow Crash and games like Deus Ex: Human Revolution drive these points home in stunning ways, and to that list I would add the 1988 Japanese animated feature Akira.

Courtesy Pioneer

The year is 2019. Tokyo, having suffered major losses during a cataclysmic event in 1988, has been rebuilt as Neo-Tokyo. Violence is breaking out on its streets between rival biker gangs the Clowns and the Capsules, the latter lead by a young upstart named Kaneda. His friend, Tetsuo, nearly runs over a small child in the course of a fight, but the child turns out to be a psychic, the result of experimentation by the military in the wake of Tokyo’s destruction. Tetsuo, in turn, is discovered to possess a great deal of psychic potential himself and is taken for testing. While Kaneda hooks up with an underground dissident movement to help his friend, the military moves to stop the experiments on Tetsuo by killing the boy, lest he realize his potential which mirrors that of the child who destroyed Tokyo in the first place, the child named Akira.

Like many works of its type, Akira began life as a manga in the 1980s. Rather than hand the 2000-page magnum opus to someone else, the production team ensured that the author, Katsuhiro Otomo, wrote and directed the film adaptation. The result was something new for the art houses of anime. Notorious for cutting corners and running out of money before production was complete (look no further than Neon Genesis Evangelion as evidence of this), Akira boasted not only a robust budget but fully lip-synced dialog and animation as fluid as possible, resulting in a film that holds up in terms of both style and substance over 20 years later.

Courtesy Pioneer
Didn’t Edna Mode say something about capes?

With golden pixels each costing the price of a meal flying around in modern productions, seeing hand-drawn animation this detailed and imaginative is incredibly refreshing. Watching Akira unfold, either for the first time or on repeated viewings, makes the skill and dedication of the artists at work obvious without them needing to impose themselves upon the work. Even when the film delves into its more symbolic and psychological elements, the crux of the film remains the narrative and the characters, allowing the theme and mood to speak for themselves rather than making them overt elements in the storytelling. I know a few auteurs who could take notes from this kind of film-making.

A large part of Akira‘s success is due to the characters being fully realized individuals, not just cyphers. Kaneda and Tetsuo clearly have a strong bond, even if the gang leader picks on the smallest member of his crew quite a bit. It’s realistic dialog that conveys a great deal of emotion and history without needing to dive into overlong exposition or diatribes on feelings. The stoic, pragmatic Colonel at the heart of the experiments that unlock Tetsuo’s powers may seem one-dimensional at first, but his relationship with the test subjects and utter contempt for government corruption quickly deepen and expand his character. Even minor roles, like the dissidents and other members of the Capsules, have a force of personality that helps Akira proceed in a very natural and straightforward manner, even towards the end when psychic powers start going incredibly haywire.

Courtesy Pioneer
You wish your ride was this sweet.

There’s been talk of a live-action adaptation of Akira since Warner Brothers acquired the rights in 2002, with the typical rumors of casting flying around even as it waffles between in-production and shut down. Personally, I don’t know how one could pull off an effective adaptation of Akira in the United States. A big part of Akira‘s success is its haunting callback to being the victims of nuclear assault and needing to rebuild in the wake of terrible cataclysms. While there’s a lot of interest in the States in terms of cyberpunk, civil unrest, delinquent youths, and the nature of corruption and maturity, we would approach these things from an entirely different perspective and I think Akira would suffer for that. The film as it is tackles each of these themes within its running time without feeling dull or overly preachy. It presents human nature, terrifying and limitless and raw and wonderful all at once, as it is and as it could be.

Given that the film is so thoroughly Japanese, from its themes to its soundtrack to its setting and culture, I would recommend watching Akira in that language with subtitles. Many nuances of the language can get left behind even by the most skilled dub artists, and there’s also the fact the film was re-dubbed in 2001 which inevitably can lead to arguments over which version is best. Regardless of how you watch it or in what language, however, Akira is undoubtedly worth your time. It’s a superb blend of action, intrigue, and young existential angst, all conveyed with some of the finest hand-drawn animation you’ll ever see. Over two decades after its release, it still holds up. After all, where else will you find a movie that, without skipping a beat, contains magnetically-driven motorcycles, freaky child psychics, space lasers and the true meaning of friendship?

Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.

IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! Antichrist

Logo courtesy Netflix.  No logos were harmed in the creation of this banner.

[audio:http://www.blueinkalchemy.com/uploads/antichrist.mp3]

We as a culture tend to abuse certain turns of phrase. For example, too many people interpret negative opinions as “hate” when “hate” is a visceral and descriptive word for the way a lot of middle American teenagers raised by conservative parents look at their gay classmates. “Awesome” is used to describe gaming and entertainment experiences better than average when they should be reserved for something like the experience of watching all three Lord of the Rings movies back to back in a single day. And then there’s the word “hipster”. The kid in the skinny jeans, unknown indy band t-shirt, thick black Ray-Ban spectacles and Converse high-tops in the back of corner of the trendy coffee shop may not necessarily be a hipster. You won’t know until you walk up to him and he starts talking about how a movie like Antichrist is a refreshing, original and rewarding pinnacle of cinema only unliked by idiots and poor people. This is when you take his large half-caf soy latte and dump it on his stupid hairdo because Antichrist is about as refreshing, original and rewarding as a psych evaluation that’s been framed like it’s to be hung in the Lourve.

Courtesy IFC Films

On the surface, the plot and narrative has some potential. The story revolves around a married couple who lose a child and have to cope with the loss. The husband is initially emotional but quickly gains control of himself. The wife seems more together at first but slowly spirals through the stages of grief into ever increasing madness. What begins as a haunting and introspective character piece begins peeling away its mask until a horror bleeding from the eyeballs grabs you by the lapels and screams in your face. Talking animals and self-mutilations occur more and more frequently as the movie rumbles towards its climax, in which all hope is lost, reason crumbles in the face of despair and any sort of reliance upon man’s better nature or anything resembling faith is castrated, broken and left in the woods to slowly bleed to death alone and unloved. Did I mention Lars von Trier was going through a major depression when he made this thing?

There were a few scenes that reminded me of The Ring in that we have two people working together to uncover a deeper truth. While in the case of The Ring the threat was external, in both films the two must overcome emotional blocks betwen them to deal with it. What Antichrist lacks is a sense of chemistry and meaning between the leads. The presentation of their relationship feels less intimate and more analytical. Willem Dafoe’s husband quickly moves into the realm of therapy and psychoanalysis and the nature of mourning and fear, never really leaving that position even when things get weird and violent. Meanwhile, poor Charlotte Gainsbourg becomes more and more unhinged as the film trudges on. She begins to conclude that being female makes her the ‘evil’ half of the relationship and rails against that role and its implications before giving into her darker impulses which is when things get bloody and visceral. It’s the woman in the pair that mutilates herself, uses sex as a weapon and ultimately wants to kill her partner and herself. While I picked up on some tacky bits of misogyny in this portrayal of a couple, it was outweighed by the big neon sign hung over the whole affair reading “FUCKING FILM DIRECTOR AT WORK, YOU POSEURS”.

Courtesy IFC Films
It takes a lot to put up with an auteur director. I give the actors props for sticking with this madness.

Lars von Trier uses interesting techniques and the cinematography of Anthony Dod Mantle to present a unique aesthetic in places that really does blow your mind. It’s clear why a lot of people hold him up as the sort of auteur destined to stand with the likes of Stanley Kubrick and Terry Gilliam when it comes to cinematic storytelling and mind-fuckery. And I have to admit, there are some powerful visuals in Antichrist. There are moments where this movie just looks fantastic. There are images that could be framed as works of art in and of themselves, and when put into motion there is a definite sense of composition involved. From the standpoint of pure technique, I have to say it’s close to perfect. Upon reflection, however, I can’t help but feel the artifice was being used to cover up a very cynical, very pandering intent that really leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

You see, Antichrist‘s intent is more manipulation than it is examination or even narration. The imagery, pace and dialog are all meant to come across as highbrow and introspective but at its core, the movie goes more for the shock value of Saw than any other form of headspacey horror. Rather than build up to a twist ending, even if we were to see it coming, from minute one the movie pushes our face in what is meant to be unnerving imagery and keeps us there without giving us much chance to breathe. It smothers viewers in its faux intensity. I don’t mind a movie setting out to do something unnerving or mentally intense, but usually that intensity comes with some form of depth. Antichrist only looks deep because a beautiful rendition of the ocean floor with really deceptive proportions has been painstakingly painted onto the bottom of the shot glass.

Courtesy IFC Films
Oh yeah, and there’s a talking fox.

In the spirit of things, here’s a metaphor for you. Watching Antichrist is like seeing Frankenstien’s monster in a tuxedo rape and torture a live subject to death in the Sydney Opera House. The screams of the victim and the purr of motorized machines like chainsaws and vibrators would make an interesting counterpoint to the strains of Bach’s Komm Süsser Tot. The trappings of “true art” and earnestly brilliant shot composition barely distract us from what is essentially an act of dark and personal emotional masturbation. As I said at the opening of this diatribe, people misuse words all the time, and I try to avoid it. So when I say I find Antichrist pretentious, I do so not because of its foreign roots or its style or its sparse imagery. I do because it’s presumptuous, shallow and ultimately empty. It presumes that you can groove on its nihilistic atheist vibe, and if you can’t, be prepared to be considered a pitiable mass media junkie because “you just don’t get it.” I’m sure there will be people out there who will learn of this movie, hear who directed it, find out it’s themes include the destruction of religion, a woman’s growing self-hatred and the ultimate collapse of positivism in the face of the cruelest reality possible, and jump all over it like it’s made of chocolate and orgasms.

Maybe I’m just too much of an idealistic hope-fueled Christ-loving simpleton to key into this thing and feel it speaking to me, but Antichrist was simply not worth watching for me. Dichotomies of emotion and reason have been done better in movies like Inception. Mindfuckery has been done better in movies like End of Evangelion. Intense, unlikeable protagonists in a cynical world seemingly devoid of hope or good vibes has been done better in movies like Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans. Elements of movies I’ve thoroughly enjoyed are in here, but like the aformentioned creature, they’ve been stitched together and brought to life by a mad genius blind to his creation’s grotesqueries because of how fulfilled it’s left him personally. You can give it a watch on Netflix Instant if you’re interested in this sort of thing, but when it’s all over, you ain’t exactly going to be singing “Putting on the Ritz” because you’ll probably be too busy throwing up.

Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.

IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! Ghost Rider

Logo courtesy Netflix.  No logos were harmed in the creation of this banner.

[audio:http://www.blueinkalchemy.com/uploads/ghost_rider.mp3]

There was a time when superheroes subscribed to a certain template. If the handsome face of the hero’s alter-ego didn’t emerge from the phone booth in brightly-colored tights and a complimentary cape, he simply wouldn’t be welcome at the Superfriends clubhouse. As time went on, it was realized that this sort of pigeon-holing was kinda stupid. Many heroes eschew the capes for reasons of safety as well as fashion, and some also wear clothing more practical than tights. I can only think of one, however, who even goes so far as to completely go without the handsome face, or any flesh on the skull whatsoever. That’d be Marvel’s Ghost Rider, and like so many comic books, his story got made into a major motion picture.

Courtesy Columbia Pictures

The Ghost Rider is, for all intents and purposes, an agent of Satan on Earth. Mephisopheles has limited powers over mortals, you see, and sometimes gets impatient to collect the souls he’s owed among the degenerate human populace. So every generation or so he offers someone a deal for their heart’s desire in exchange for servitude on earth as well as torment in the afterlife. The latest sucker to fall for this one-sided contract is Johnny Blaze, the younger half of a carnival stunt-riding double act who signs up to save his father from the cancer that’s killing him. Naturally Old Scratch exploits a loophole and Johnny spends the next decade or so trying to kill himself in stunt shows only to make himself an obscene amount of cash. It’s the Devil’s son and a few fallen angel cronies going on a rampage that prompts Mephisto to call in his debt, transforming Johnny into the Ghost Rider to track down the rogues and secure a contract worth a thousand evil souls.

Ghost Rider joined the Marvel pantheon in the 70s when the bombastic writing was cribbing entire pages of notes from Stan Lee, and the art looked like it’d ridden into your living room off of your Iron Maiden poster though a pallet of surprisingly bright colors. However, he really came into his own around the 90s when a lot of comic book writers and artists thought it was really edgy and original to have their super heroes emerge from Hell, like Spawn or Lady Death. He’d always worn a black leather biker jacket, natch, but the 90s are where the spikes and chains and so-called edginess comes from. The movie takes big art cues from this awkward period in comic-book history and it doesn’t quite work as well as the director might have intended. There are a couple cool bits with the Devil himself but a lot of that is probably due to Peter Fonda’s undeniable screen presence instead of the somewhat lackluster CGI on display.

Courtesy Columbia Pictures
“Nice bike…”

Another aspect of the movie that doesn’t always fire on all cylinders is the main plot. Johnny’s story and his awareness of and ability to control his curse are more than often pushed aside for the villains’ pursuit of the demonic MacGuffin. It’s a storyline that feels a lot like a rehash of the plot of the original Blade. But unlike that post-Matrix vampire flick, the ‘main’ villain doesn’t have a sliver of the Devil’s charisma or presence. Your mileage may vary but it seems to me that trying to out-ham Nicholas Cage never ends well. And you know how in Blade or The Matrix there was an actual credible threat to the protagonists? Not the case here. You’d think that the Nephilim, the antediluvian giants supposedly wiped out in the flood chronicled in Genesis, would be more than mere cannon fodder disposed of with the ease of flicking ants off of your desk. Add a tepid, predictable and poorly placed plot, and you have a film that sucks all the fun out of the room whenever it drags us away from character beats or interesting interplay.

If the film were more about those moments, though, it might have worked more positively. I’ve spoken at length about Nicholas Cage in the past, and it’s clear that he’s enjoying playing Johnny Blaze. He’s cool as can be when jumping over a dozen big rigs on a motorbike and wonderfully eccentric with his jelly-bean eating and love of monkey-based television, but when he encounters the girl of his dreams he turns into a barely functional fanboy. For her part, Eva Mendes plays off of his nervous earnestness with a sincerity of her own, trying to play it cool but being more emotional than she’d like to admit. The very best moments, though, happen between Cage and the always enjoyable Sam Elliot, a grizzled stranger tending graves known only as the Caretaker who knows more about the Ghost Rider than he lets on at first. The scenes between him and Cage are pretty damn compelling, and if it had been him acting as more of a night-to-night mentor showing Blaze how to hone his curse and use it for good rather than letting it rule his life, I feel it would have gone over a lot better with audiences.

Courtesy Columbia Pictures
He does this pointing thing a LOT.

The biggest problem I have with Ghost Rider is this. Not that the acting is bad or the plot is weak or the effects a bit cheesy in places. It’s that so much more could have been done with this character and his relationships, with the girl and the old man. The most egregious example of this is when the Caretaker whistles for his horse, reveals his true nature and rides with Blaze to the city of the damned for the final showdown, only to turn around and let Johnny wade in there alone. It was a literal out-loud “What the FUCK?” moment that had me tearing my hair out in sheer frustration. There’s so much going on with Sam Elliot’s character and a good deal of earnest chemistry between the two Riders (and even some between Cage and the underrated Mendes) but it all goes to waste. It’s every bit as disappointing as it is infuriating.

For a flick named after the devils bounty hunter on a badass demonic chopper, Ghost Rider seems to go nowhere. At times it will evoke movies like Tim Burton’s Batman or body horror chronicles like The Wolfman but it never quite rises above the level of mediocre. Every positive thing I could say about it, such as some of the dialog and a few choice scenes like the bit where he drives straight up the side of a building, is balanced by something inexplicable or downright awful, like the total lack of tension, Ghost Rider lassoing a helicopter for no reason, and pretty much everything involving Blackheart. If you’re watching a movie and wishing the action scene would just end already so the hero can get back to talking to the weird old guy in the graveyard, something’s gone wrong somewhere. It never drops to the level of unwatchable, but I cannot in good conscious recommend Ghost Rider, mostly because it teases us with glimpses of what could have been before shoving more generic supernatural action in our faces. It’s like going to a nice restaurant and being offered a few samples of fabulous appetizers only to have the waiter dump a bowl of generic salsa on your head and charging you full price for your samples. You’re unsatisfied, frustrated, you smell funny and you’ll be picking cilantro out of your hair for a week.

Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.

IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! History of the World, Pt 1

Logo courtesy Netflix.  No logos were harmed in the creation of this banner.

[audio:http://www.blueinkalchemy.com/uploads/history_of_the_world.mp3]

Satirists are more important to civilization than you might think. While critics may highlight, underscore or outright assault a work in a mostly straightforward manner, a satirist does so through humor or hyperbole. It’s no wonder that satirists tend to be more popular, even if some periods of history were less tolerant of them than we are today. The sorts of things that can crop up on YouTube and Blip taking the piss out of a government or public figure won’t get you lined up against the wall and shot. Until they add a provision for this to ACTA, that is. Anyway, adding hindsight to satire is a great excuse for gags based on older societies, which is the basis for the entire span of the Mel Brooks opus History of the World, Part 1. In case anybody doubted Mel was a top-flight satirist when this was released in 1981, here’s all the proof you need.

Courtesy Brooksfilms

This sprawling historical epic covers the Stone Age, the Old Testament, the Roman Empire, the Spanish Inquisition and the French Revolution. In each period we get at least a cursory opening narration from Orson Welles. He serves as the voice for the Stone Age section, as cavemen hadn’t yet discovered means of communication beyond grunting. During the reign of Nero, a ‘stand-up philosopher’ must try not to die on stage at Caesar’s Palace – that is to say, he needs to avoid execution. The depiction of Grand Inquisitor Torquemada shows the lighter side of the Catholic Church’s rather strict conversion practices, and the French Revolution shows us that King Louis XVI may not have been who history thinks he was. Each of these vignettes moves at their own pace without the benefit of a framing device, but there’s bound to be something in each period of history to make you laugh.

Given its structure, the film doesn’t have the coherent flow of Blazing Saddles or Spaceballs. The film plays more like a series of self-contained Vaudeville routines than it does a single narrative. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, as if you find yourself disliking a particular section of the movie, you just need to wait for the next section to begin. The exception to this, of course, is the French Revolution section at the end… or is it? Let me just skirt around that spoiler and get back to the movie.

Courtesy Brooksfilms
It’s difficult to find images that don’t give away some of the big jokes.

Another difference between this and the aforementioned films is the consistency of the jokes. Without a pervasive theme such as racism or giving Lucas a shot to the jaw (provided you can find it), some of the gags feel a bit unmoored. This is especially apparent in the Stone Age section, where the movie jumps from gag to gag as quickly as possible. Mel doesn’t always quite stick the landing, and some of the jokes seem to wobble a bit. This is my very elaborate way of saying it was my least favorite section of the film. I felt it dragged a bit. Likewise, the French Revolution section at the end may run a bit long, and in fact I get the feeling some of it may have been cut for time. Finally, it seems that Mel wanted to make sure he was involved as much as possible in his picture. Unlike Blazing Saddles or Spaceballs where he only gives himself a couple incidental roles, here he plays 5 different characters, including 2 at the same time! I hope you like Mel Brooks as a comedian as well as a writer and director, because you get a LOT of him.

None of this really causes the historical journey to jump the rails, though, and when the movie’s on it’s a scream. The Roman Empire in particular has a couple really nice jabs at inherent problems with representative government and a couple Blazing Saddles-esque moments, with a great performance by Gregory Hines and a royal tag-team of the always memorable Madeline Kahn and Dom DeLuise. The French Revolution is saved by Harvey Korman (that’s HEDLEY Lamarr), the character of Bearnaise and several lovely young women. And the Inquisition… well, I can’t really do the Inquisition justice here. Not without breaking into song. Believe me, it has to be seen to be believed.

Courtesy Brooksfilms

Having noticed the amount to which I’ve mentioned my previous review of a Brooksian comedic diversion, you may be wondering how this one compares. I’m glad you’re asking! With it’s occasionally dodgy composition, it doesn’t quite reach the level of Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein or even Spaceballs. There are laughs to be had, sure, and it’s certainly not as steeped in direct pop-culture references as anything produced by the Wayans brothers. Despite 20 more years of history having gone by since it’s release, there’s something timeless about the humor in History of the World Part 1 that certainly makes it worth calling up on Netflix. And keep your eyes out for John Hurt and the late Nigel Hawthorne. You may be surprised where Mister Ollivander and King George III show up.

Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.

IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! The Wolfman

Logo courtesy Netflix.  No logos were harmed in the creation of this banner.

{No audio this week on account of my own lycanthropic rampage.}

There was a time when movie studios didn’t mind being associated with the unusual and the macabre. For years, Universal Studios seemed rather proud of its men becoming monsters. Bela Legosi inhabited the castle and cloak of Count Dracula, Boris Karloff took a couple bolts to the neck to bring audiences the creature of Doctor Frankenstein, and Lon Cheney inspired generations of furries to come by sprouting hair in odd places as The Wolfman. Oscar-winner and character actor staple Benicio Del Toro is a huge fan of Cheney (the actor, not the Dick) and helped bring a new version of this creature feature to movie theatres in 2010. If the production behind the scenes had kept its act together, it might have gone over better.

Courtesy Universal Pictures

It’s 1890, and our hero is Lawrence Talbot, an actor who spends half his time on stage and the other half looking for the hidden treasure at the bottom of a bottle of scotch. He gets word that his brother was savagely murdered near his ancestral home outside the sleepy English country hamlet called Blackmoor. Given his emotional connection to his brother and the heartfelt pleas of his would-be sister-in-law, he sets out to uncover what happened, even if that means putting up with his eccentric and possibly violently sociopathic father. During his investigation he gets jumped and bitten by a brutal and enigmatic creature. While the wound mysteriously heals, the process takes the better part of a month, and before you know it, the moon is full again againd Lawrence is growing hair in some very odd places, to say nothing of different bone configurations, more dense muscles and claws that can tear a man’s head clean from his body.

When we see the transformation take hold of our hero, it’s a decent blend of prosthetics, CGI and del Toro giving the role his all. Good sound design makes the cracking of knuckles and sprouting of teeth wince-inducing, playing into the overarching themes of horror and monstrosity. In a similar vein, while you may go into a movie about a wolfman expecting some blood, be aware that this one is full of gore, from gruesome dismemberments to the titular Wolfman chowing down on a hapless victim without the benefit of an after-dinner mint. The movie isn’t all that interested in taking prisoners or pandering to the squeamish, which is a point in its favor.

Courtesy Universal Pictures
They have some good chemistry.

The other thing The Wolfman has going for it is some pretty fine casting. Del Toro is a force to be reckoned with on his own, but Sir Anthony Hopkins very nearly steals the show as Talbot’s father. Instead of going full-on Hannibal Lecter from the start, his growth into the affable madness for which he’s become famous is a slow one, the climax all the more satisfying for the build-up. Emily Blunt and Hugo Weaving, as the love interest and the driven Scotland Yard inspector respectively, also slowly become more interesting as the film proceeds after somewhat placid introductions. Ms Blunt’s character in particular seems to defy the ‘damsel in distress’ thing many monster movies like to invoke, and I enjoyed seeing a woman act in a brave and determined manner without it feeling forced or contrived. It made sense, which is unfortunately more than I can say for the narrative structure of the film.

Unfortunately for the actors and special effects crew, the plot and script of the movie are kind of all over the place. It never really comes entirely off the rails in a bad way, but some story points happen too soon, some elements are a little out of place or awkwardly spliced into the flow of the story or some characters are too incidental to justify their screen time. The overall effect leaves one feeling the movie was cobbled together, but as the story isn’t incoherent, it’s more disconcerting than disappointing. I never quite felt like The Wolfman let me down, but I also felt it never truly lived up to its potential. Granted, when breathing new life into a classic you don’t necessarily want to reinvent the silver bullet. But being a troubled production with changes in directors and musicians and whatnot, it certainly could have turned out a lot worse, and when it’s firing on all cylinders it works very well indeed.

Courtesy Universal Pictures
“Hello, Lawrence.”

I was immediately reminded of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the 1992 Francis Ford Coppola movie that did for classic vampires what this one does for classic werewolves. There as well as here, we have lurid romantic drama juxtaposed with gruesome violence and shameless bloodletting, and while The Wolfman didn’t have Dracula‘s pervasive sexuality, it also wasn’t saddled with a wooden Keanu Reeves. And come to think of it, Anthony Hopkins starred in both pictures, and a venerable character actor brought the eponymous creature to life. So if you enjoyed Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Wolfman is right up your alley. They’re both a little over the top, and both suffer from some flaws in terms of production, pacing and overall presentation, but they are both a bloody good time.

Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.

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