Saturday, February 20, 2010

The MidAisle Critique: A Return to Form: Shutter Island (2010)

"you are just a rat in a maze."- George Noice
Scorcesse is a rare filmmaker in todays cinema, as a aeuter whose style has been calmly intensified and translucently examined all in the same breath. His latest work, aptly titled Shutter Island, is a piece of cinema that seems to regard genre as a sort of stepping stone for a deeper, grimly noirish picture. Many viewers will probably go into the film with a sense of entitled notions claiming it should be all of one type: horror for instance; but the ability of an auteur to use what he is given and weave together a piece of narrative that stands as attentive to the implications of what the characters are discussing, is something different.

The noir elements of 1950s cinema are all apparent, all the way down to the mannerisms in this film. Its amazing to see such a conglomeration of style in a film like this.
Some found disfavor on its ending; but I found that the film gives you exactly what it promises: mystery. The best part of the film revolved around what lay beyond the doors we face, and what truths might very well be hiding something greater. Shutter Island, it seems, may indicate that unless we are willing to draw open the shades, not everything will be revealed to us.

Shutter Island is a film of solid casting (DiCaprio especially), throwback noir production value, and impeccable shot compositions. The film is entertaining, and upon my viewing I found that its story was slowly bringing me further and further into what was taking place before me. The films thrilling tension never seems to let up, and all the way until the end I felt a sense of "holding my breath" for a moment of release. The film isn't Scorcesses' best; but definitely does shine above some of his other films, and definitely shows that DiCaprio, Kingsley, and Ruffalo all deserve the paygrade they are given. Michelle Williams, Jackie Earl Haley, Elias Kosteas, and even Max Von Sydow all play great parts; and it is great to see Scorcesse bringing in audiences again.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The MidAisle Critique: A Return to Form: Wolfman (2010)

Detective Aberline (Weaving)- "I don't suppose you have any silver bullets?"

Wolfman (2010) is the most current remake of the original Universal Monster movies that terrorized the cinemas back in the 30s and 40s. With that being said, time has certainly changed Hollywood's definition of what it means to make a monster movie. The cinema is filled with gory "shlock" pictures like Saw, or Hostel; and supernatural curse films, like Messengers, The Ring, or The Grudge; but the one kind of film that it has sorely deleted from the genre of horror, is the monster movie. Monsters were once given the kind of attention and detail that allowed audiences to be frightened; yet give sympathy to what actually takes place between the characters. The best example of this is in the original Frankenstein, when the monster interacts with the little girl with the flower. You feel the tension building, and you understand the nature of the monster itself when put up against society.

The dynamics between monster and humanity string veritable conundrums that sting deeper into the philosophical questions of what makes us human, and where the line is drawn before beast. Unfortunately in the case of Wolfman, this kind of dynamic question is sorely missed. It amazes me that a remake of a film 69 years old, wouldn't have the attention to deeper details that could allow it a memorable return. The issue I have with Wolfman is that it attempts to create a darker, moodier, much more gothic film (which I highly applaud, because in several scenes it works well) and yet forgets to add much dimension to the story, the characters, or the mythos of a werewolf. 

I love the gothic genre, and much of the production design and photography done in this film was quite good. The atmosphere is truly something that stands out about the film. Unfortunately the substitution of cgi over true from sucks some of the life from the film. You get the sense that they attempted to make things more realistic and then fell back on the "cheaper" cgi alternative. It creates unfortunate "anti-realism" to the film, and it shows.

Benicio Del Toro (one of my personal favorites) looks so Chaney in this film, its ridiculous! I was kind of amazed how well he could pull off the classic actors looks. Yet, I wish they would have made the fact that he was a stage actor more prominent. I wish they would have delved into the psyche of a man torn between man and beast on a much deeper level. Emily Blunt is an awesome actress; but she just feels guilded around in this picture. Anthony Hopkins is delightfully sinister in this film, and unfortunately falls prey to a few cardboard lines. His character, however, is the most interesting in the film and has several truly memorable scenes. Hugo Weaving seems to have enjoyed himself, playing the role that Johnny Depp did in From Hell; but never really gets to shine through. Instead he plays the character much more subtly, and thus less interesting all around.

A problem when you reboot a classic film tends to be that you have to be able to provide some memorability, otherwise the film fades into obscurity. This reincarnation isn't bad, in fact it was enjoyable, and all around fun; but it wasn't memorable. I would have loved to have seen a much more deeply rooted film with slightly less action and a little more classic monster horror. Seriously, it would have sold me much more. I was entertained but I wasn't wow'd. Something I guess that is harder to come by in this genre.