Tag Archives: werewolf

Howl (2015)

howl-poster

And the horror binge continues.

I can’t remember where, but I saw the trailer for Howl not long ago and was instantly intrigued. I’m a fan of the “strangers stuck in a place” conceit, and this one’s set on a London train that breaks down in the middle of a dark and stormy night with a small group of characters on board.

There’s the ticket inspector, the food cart operator, an elderly couple, a teenage girl, a middle-aged woman, a middle-aged sleazeball, and so on and so forth. We’re talking about a cast of around 10 people. Only a few of them know each other, and the rest are standoffish strangers in mostly bad moods.

Of course, as the title suggests, there’s something howling in the surrounding woods, and it’s out for fresh blood. Sounds kinda interesting, right?

The lead actor looked extremely familiar to me, but I couldn’t recall his name or where I had seen him until I looked it up. Ed Speelers…does that ring a bell? And no, I have not seen Downtown Abby, so it’s not from there. Think back to 2006; a fantasy story about a boy and his dragon before How to Train Your Dragon came along.

Yes, ladies and gentleman. If you ever wondered what happened to the kid who played the titular character in Eragon. The film was supposed to be the next Harry Potter at the time but got panned by critics despite moderate financial success (US$250m box office on a US$100m budget). Still, surprised they didn’t make a sequel.

I digress; Ed Speelers is pretty good in this as the hapless ticket inspector turned reluctant leader of the pack, but unfortunately, Howl burns through its positive aspects pretty quickly before resorting to a bunch of horror tropes. It’s a campy monster flick that has very few scares, especially after the monster appears, and the laughs are virtually non-existent.

It’s one of those movies that make no sense whichever way you dissect it, from the actions and motives of the characters to that of the monster. Everything is manipulated to conveniently fit the progression of the script, including the sudden stupidity of the characters who dies and when and how it happens.

There’s a time and place for enjoyable campy horrors and guilty pleasures, but Howl falls short of both thresholds.

2 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Underworld: Awakening (2D) (2012)

Man, I’ve been lazy again. Well, not really lazy, but just busy. Had some freelancing opportunities for a few spare dollars and I went for it. Anyway, I’m now back and will be posting up a storm.  To kick things off, Kate Beckinsale and Underworld: Awakening.

For me, the Underworld series has always been one that’s been more style than substance. It’s also one of those franchises where the concept (of a secret war between vampires and werewolves…sorry, lycans) is much better than the movies themselves. And, despite all this, I’ve watched all (four) of them.

Surprisingly, Underworld: Awakening is one of the better ones, and for a fourth instalment that is a remarkable achievement. The story picks up from the end of the second film, Underworld: Evolution, and humans have captured the majority of vampires. Kate Beckinsale’s Selene is on the run with her loverboy vampire-werewolf hybrid Michael (originally played by Scott Speedman but is replaced here by CGI, a stand-in and some archival footage – it wasn’t actually too bad). They get captured, she gets cryogenically frozen, wakes up 12 years later, and unleashes hell on everyone.

That’s really about it. There’s a little girl who’s kinda freaky (reminds me of those Japanese horror movies) and this mother of a werewolf who is twice the size of everyone else. Apart from that it’s just watching Kate Beckinsale in a tight-fitting leather outfit kicking ass, which is, let’s face it, a big reason why a lot of people decided to watch this thing in the first place.

The special effects remain strong but not exceptional. That Scott Speedman thing was pretty impressive. I don’t think a lot of people would have known that the actor was never in the film. Apparently he has left open the possibility of returning in the future. Yes, it looks like there will be a fifth instalment.

I say it’s one of the better ones because the story is not too convoluted and the film focuses more on the relentless and often gory action. On the other hand, if you are the type of person who expects there to be an actual story here, you might come away disappointed. I never cared much for the story of this franchise, which is why I appreciated the emphasis on the action. The 88-minute running time also ensured a blitzing pace.

Ultimately, this might be one of the more forgettable films of the year, but I had fun at the time I watched it.

3 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn (Part I) (2011)

Why God, oh why do I keep watching the Twilight Saga?  Nevertheless, I do, and I just did.  I’m not a Twilight fan and I don’t really get the obsession with vampires and werewolves and the boys who play them, but I remain fascinated by this amazing global phenomenon.

Today I watched Breaking Dawn Part I, based on the first half of the final book in the saga.  Breaking Dawn follows the footsteps of Harry Potter and the Death Hallows in that the final book of the series is unnecessarily split into two films in order to maximise the big fat dollars.  Of course they would.  The first three films in the Twilight series have made $1.8 billion worldwide, and the decision was proven correct by the fact that Breaking Dawn Part I has reeled in over $300 million in a week.  (Hey, at least they didn’t make the movie 3D.)  But what does that mean for the average moviegoer?

Well, for starters, a slower pace and a feeling that stuff is happening when nothing is really happening.  Breaking Dawn Part I pretty much picks up where Eclipse concluded (as far as I can remember), with the long-awaited wedding between Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and her vampire loverboy Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson).  Bella’s best friend, werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) is still in love with her, but he has basically accepted the fact that she will never be with him.  It’s hard to go much further than the honeymoon without divulging crucial plot points, but most people who go and watch Breaking Dawn Part I would have read the book.  Even if you haven’t (like me), it doesn’t take a genius to figure out where it’s heading.  Besides, the trailers and previews essentially show everything, as usual.

I didn’t expect much from Breaking Dawn Part I, especially after hearing about the early lukewarm reviews, so I must say it was better than I thought it would be.  Sure, it was slower than the other films in the series (which weren’t exactly blitzing to begin with), but I never found myself bored.  As with the earlier films, the film was strewn with atrocious, cringeworthy dialogue that made me literally squirm in my seat.  I doubt Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro could have pulled off those lines, so that didn’t leave much hope for the likes of R-Patz and Taylor “Abduction” Lautner (who only had a brief shirtless scene this time round).  Plus you know with Part II looming, things are going to remain unresolved by the end of Part I, so there’s definitely an empty feeling when you walk out of the cinema.

Let’s face it.  The real reason these Twilight movies are killing it at the box office is because readers fell in love with the books’ characters, and then the actors.  And Breaking Dawn Part I’s biggest selling point is well advertised — you finally get to see R-Patz and Stewart “get it on”, so to speak.  After all, the sexual tension is what has been driving the films all this time, so it was kind of a reward for the audiences who stuck with it until now.

Unfortunately, after sitting through basically six hours and three films worth of sexual tension, the pay off is disappointingly tame.  There were rumours of perhaps a nipple but for the most part the honeymoon scenes are strictly PG-13 (which is the film’s US rating).  Whatever.  People who love the books, the characters and the actors will lap it up nonetheless.  And they will unreservedly flock to Part II when it is released in November 2012.  At the end of the day, Breaking Dawn Part I was made for the fans and will be enjoyed by the fans.  For a non-fan with an interest in the series, the film was barely passable.

2.5 stars out of 5

PS: The scariest thing about Breaking Dawn Part I is that apparently it utilises two-thirds of the book, leaving only one-third for Part II.

Movie Review: The Wolfman (2010)

Argh!

Talk about a massive disappointment.

The Wolfman (the film not the man) is a ‘remake’ of the 1941 classic horror movie (which I haven’t seen), and had been on my ‘must-see’ list for quite some time.  I’ve always been a sucker for monster movies and this one looked highly promising.

Ponder the following:

  • a classic werewolf storyline (let’s not pretend there’s any surprises here);
  • 2010 make-up and prosthetics skills combined with the latest special effects technology;
  • Academy Award winner Benicio Del Toro, Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins, Golden Globe nominee/winner Emily Blunt, and freaking Mr Smith/Elrond (Hugo Weaving)! and
  • script by Andrew Kevin Walker, who worked on Seven and Sleepy Hollow (plus uncredited rewrites of Stir of Echoes and Fight Club!).

There was no way this film could not be awesome.  Or so I thought.

Even when I heard that The Wolfman received lukewarm reviews, I was convinced the critics were wrong.

Well, they were right.  It’s still early, but there is a good chance The Wolfman will be my biggest disappointment of 2010.

It’s difficult to know where to begin. The Wolfman‘s biggest problem is that it’s not scary.  Not one bit.  All the elements were there – the full moon, the shadows, the misty woods, and even the growls – but there was zero tension.  Not having seen the 1941 original, I can’t say whether this was supposed to be a tribute or a ‘re-envisioning’, but The Wolfman felt like a cheesy, unintentionally comical mess.  I couldn’t decide whether it was trying to take itself seriously or be tongue-in-cheek with the over-the-top blood and violence.

The pace was all stuffed up (when a 102 minute film feels both too long AND rushed at the same time, you know there’s a problem) and the script was utterly predictable all the way to the end.  Even the music didn’t fit.  Worst of all, the special effects and make-up were sub-par.  The CGI buildings and scenery were good, the morphing process were decent, but the post-transformation scenes made me think I was watching a pissed-off Chewbacca on acid.  While there may be excuses for all the other problems, there’s no excuse for for this in a production of this magnitude.  Not in 2010.

I should have known the film was in trouble when Benicio Del Toro (one of my faves) appeared on screen sporting the worst haircut since ‘The Hanks Disaster’ from The Da Vinci Code.  When I heard Del Toro was cast in the lead role, I thought, “Great choice!  They’ll hardly have to use any make-up!”  However, that haircut made him lose all credibility, and I think the look on Del Toro’s face throughout the movie confirmed that he was embarrassed to have such an abomination on his head.

As for the others: Anthony Hopkins looked like he was just there to pick up the paycheck, Emily Blunt did her best in a thankless role, and Hugo Weaving was utterly hilarious (unintentionally, of course).

There must be a plethora of reasons why The Wolfman was crap, but the easiest point of blame is director Joe Johnston.  It’s not he is a bad director, but his style didn’t fit this film.  It may have worked for Jumanji and Jurassic Park III (and could for the upcoming Captain America and Jurassic Park IV films), but not for The Wolfman.  How they ever managed to botch up something so promising this badly is beyond me.

1.5 stars out of 5