February has proven to be a good month for fans of mindless bloodbaths.
Just a week after “From Paris With Love” shot its way into the theaters, Universal Pictures reboots its classic franchise with the latest incarnation of “The Wolfman,” a fun and quite entertaining film that should satisfy fans of the horror genre.
Benicio Del Toro stars as Lawrence Talbot, an actor who returns to his childhood home in England after he learns that his brother has vanished.
Lawrence soon learns that his brother was killed by a mysterious creature and sets out to get revenge, only to get bitten and cursed by the attacker - a werewolf.
Before long Lawrence is struggling with his new alter ego - a blood-thirsty creature that needs to feast when the moon is full.
Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self’s screenplay is pretty straightforward, diving right into the story and keeping the film moving along at a brisk pace.
Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins (as Lawrence’s father, who has his own demons) and Emily Blunt (as the fiancee of Lawrence’s brother) bring added credibility to the material. Del Toro is a natural to play the lead, but Hopkins probably fares the best - with a performance that is a little over the top, but not too overdone.
All the ingredients come together thanks to the direction of Joe Johnston and the makeup and visual effects of Rick Baker. The wolf transformations are quite cool - especially a late battle between Lawrence and the other creature responsible for his brother’s death.
I will concede “The Wolfman” can be taken as quite cheesy; still I found myself totally entertained. This is a film that revels in its schlock, and does so in a manner that is sure to please anyone looking for a bloody good time.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “The Informant!” (B), the Steven Soderbergh satire about big business greed that under the surface is about much more.
Powered by a fantastic performance from Matt Damon, the film is an intriguing movie that slowly unfolds to reveal a rather powerful final punch.
Based on a true story, Damon plays Mark Whitacre, an upper-level management guy developing lysine for the agriculture company ADM.
When Whitacre reports a possible extortion attempt by a client to his superior, the FBI gets involved.
The investigation takes a major turn when Whitacre reveals to agents illegal price-fixing activities of his company and is then pressured into working as an informant to help the FBI build its case.
As Whitacre continues to help the FBI, he gradually adopts the idea that he’s a true secret agent. But as his lies keep piling up, his world begins crashing down, and the government turns its attention to possible skeletons in Whitacre’s closet.
Ads suggest that Soderbergh plays the film for laughs, but this is a film where the humor isn’t equated in belly laughs. Soderbergh uses little touches - such as giving the film a 1970s sitcom feel, even down to the score from Marvin Hamlisch - that add to the overall mood of “The Informant!” in a very positive manner.
The humor then takes a subtle turn in the final act, when it becomes apparent that Whitacre may not be the bumbling idiot everyone thinks he is.
In the hands of lesser people, I’m not sure the subtle shift would have worked, but Soderbergh and Damon pull this off. Soderbergh seems to be pushing all the right buttons, including the intriguing casting decision of putting comedians such as Joel McHale, the Smothers Brothers and Patton Oswalt in serious roles.
The best casting decision, however, is Damon in the lead. The actor puts on the charm early on, with a goofy manner that makes you root for the guy. But as the movie progresses and Whitacre’s motives start to be revealed, Damon’s performance gets darker - someone who is either a little bit crazy or morally bankrupt, or a little of both.
Some people may not appreciate the film’s slow burn structure, which really takes its time getting to its destination, but Damon makes it well worth your time. It’s an award-worthy performance, much better than his Oscar-nominated work in “Invictus.”
“The Informant!” is rated R for language and will be available Tuesday on DVD.
- Sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton has a light week, with only “Shutter Island” the only major release to open Friday. To get his early thoughts on this film, visit his blog at mcompton.wordpress.com or his Twitter page at twitter.com/mcompton428. You can also e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.