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THE WOLFMAN

Studio: Universal

Rated: R for bloody horror violence and gore

Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving and Art Malik

Directed by: Joe Johnston

What it’s about: Universal Pictures waited almost 70 years to remake this classic monster movie, and now has doe so with a mixture of CGI and prosthetic make-up. Benicio Del Toro plays the tormented Lawrence Talbot, a man who is cursed. After coming home to investigate the death of his brother, Talbot is bitten by a werewolf and soon starts to hunt human prey when the moon is full.

What I liked: I have been a fan of the 1941 film The Wolf Man ever since I saw it as a child. I was bummed when it wasn’t remade along with Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein in the early 1990s. (The best we had was Jack Nicholson in Wolf, and that was just so-so.) For this reason, I was pretty psyched for this remake.

The absolute best part of this movie was the creature effects and the werewolf scenes. They were bloody and gory and all-around hysterically entertaining. The effects were key, giving a nice blend of modern CGI and Rick Baker’s brilliant make-up design. These were the high points for me, with a pulse-pounding soundtrack and savage violence. I mean, they show the Wolf Man tearing out a guy’s liver in one scene. What’s not to love about that?

What I didn’t: It’s not that I didn’t like the rest of the movie. I was just underwhelmed by it. Benicio Del Toro seemed to phone in his human performance, as did Emily Blunt. And speaking of Blunt, could the filmmakers have done a better job making that cute little bird look homely and plain?

The story wasn’t great, though it wasn’t terrible. The characters weren’t great, though they weren’t terrible either. It just felt like the movie was marking time until the next werewolf moment.

Who is gonna like this movie: People who want to see a gut-ripping creature feature.

Grade: B+

VALENTINE’S DAY

Studio: Warner Bros.

Rated: PG-13 for some sexual material and brief partial nudity

Starring: Everyone. And I mean everyone in Hollywood.

Directed by: Garry Marshall

What it’s about: Garry Marshall directs this ensemble rom com about a slate of interwoven stories about love and relationships that take place on Valentine’s Day in Los Angeles.

What I liked: Valentine’s Day hedges its bets a bit by filling the cast with so many names that it’s impossible to not count yourself as a fan of someone. So if you like even just one of Jennifer Garner, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Ashton Kutcher, Jamie Foxx, Anne Hathaway, Topher Grace, Eric Dane, Queen Latifah… and the rest of the client list of CAA, ICM and Endeavor combined… then you will find something to like about the cast.

I like a good rom com, and this movie tries its damnedest to emulate Love Actually. Things are somewhat cohesive in the beginning, and it does present a fluffy story that will likely help you get laid this weekend.

What I didn’t: As cute and fluffy and vibrant as Valentine’s Day is, the cohesiveness in the beginning falls apart by the end. The movie tries to be an American Love Actually but imitates it too much and goes for the inside jokes too often.

Any one of the thirteen dozen storylines of this film doesn’t have enough meat to make it as a feature script itself, and they are glued together rather messily. Some of the characters’ actions are trite, while others are too off base to be believable.

And then there’s Taylor Swift. Wow. Goddamn, this chick can’t act! Now Taylor, I’m really happy for you, and Imma let you finish, but Beyonce had a much better transition into acting than you did. Don’t hang up your guitar just yet, girl.

Who is gonna like this movie: Rom com enthusiasts.

Grade: C+

PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Rated: PG for action violence and peril, some scary images and suggestive material, and mild language

Starring: Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandra Daddario, Catherine Keener and Uma Thurman

Directed by: Chris Columbus

What it’s about: Percy Jackson thinks he’s just your average high school student, until his substitute teacher turns into a crazy bat-like creature and tries to kill him. Soon, he learns that he is really the son of Poseidon and must prove that he did not steal Zeus’s lightning rod. With the help of other teenage demigods, Percy sets out to travel to Hades to prove his innocence and rescue his mother.

What I liked: Ever since digital effects became standard, Hollywood has been cranking out fantasy movies like they did science fiction in the 1980s. For the most part, I have found these films to be at least mildly enjoyable.

Fox is hoping that this will be the next Harry Potter series, and I will give it credit for being a better effort than the studio’s flops Eragon and The Seeker. In some ways, this movie reminded me of The Vampire’s Assistant because it sets the stage for a larger universe.

The action can be fun, and the effects are pretty cool. The movie has decent pacing and plays out the fantasy elements well… kinda like a middle school version of Clash of the Titans.

What I didn’t: Chris Columbus has never been that great of a director. And while this has a feel closer to the first Harry Potter movie than Bicentennial Man (thank the good lord for that), it’s still not blockbuster material. A lot of the plot points have been done before, featuring extended training sequences, then having the film turn into a bizarre road movie about the kids finding charms hidden across America.

The film has a half-baked feel to it, and it features a scene that is about as much of a logic stretch as the jazz club scene in Spider-Man 3. It works at times, but other moments, it feels like a big budget Saturday morning live-action television special from the 70s.

Who is gonna like this movie: Kids, especially those who have read the books.

Grade: B-


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