A man discovers that he’s a wolf. Hey, it happens.
But The Wolfman’s first problem is how long it takes him to discover it. Lawrence Talbot, a 19th-century American stage actor, returns to his troubled family life in England after his brother goes missing. Relations are strained further with his father and brother’s fiancée after Talbot contracts lycanthropy. “Never look back, Lawrence,” his father advises. “The past is a wilderness of horrors.” So is the present, it turns out.
Of the few good choices a rotating production team made in The Wolfman, the best was casting Benicio Del Toro in the title role.
The same reasonable principle that’s driven so many movies applies to The Wolfman: Certain actors just ought to get the chance to play werewolves. Henry Hull more or less blew his in 1935’s Werewolf in London, but Lon Chaney Jr. nailed it so well in 1941’s The Wolf Man that an archetype, not to mention a perennially merchandisable Universal Studios property, was born. So now there’s The Wolfman. Now the archetype, not to mention the perennially merchandisable Universal Studios property, is in Benicio Del Toro’s grotesque, furry hands.
The rest of the casting is good in theory, with Anthony Hopkins as the distant father, Emily Blunt the brother’s fiancée, and Hugo Weaving as the determined Scotland Yard inspector on Talbot’s tail. (Does he have a tail?) But then again, good casting may have come to mind when Mike Nichols cast Jack Nicholson in 1994’s Wolf. Or maybe you hadn’t thought about Nicholson in ’94 at all, because that episode had gone quietly from memory, which should tell you how well it went over in the first place.
Director Joe Johnston doesn’t necessarily know about the things that have made other werewolf movies great—namely, men and their urges—because he’s used to making films like Jurassic Park III and Jumanji. And because he wasn’t even The Wolfman’s original director. Yes, it was a troubled production, with crew replacements, release postponements, redesigns, reshoots, and now a real air of resignation.
As Talbot, Del Toro is best in the wordless close-ups, when peering out from under those eyebrows or otherwise going through the Wolfman motions: brooding, morphing, hurting, howling. He’s less convincing when speaking, partly because the lines aren’t so convincing either. Screenwriters Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self have paid their respects to Curt Siodmak’s 1941 original, The Wolf Man, but apparently haven’t decided whether go with camp or reverence—whether men and their urges even matter anymore.
All that’s left are a sooty old England apparently on loan from Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, a few cheap thrills lurking within Shelly Johnson’s underlit cinematography and Danny Elfman’s overbearing score, and the sad fact that the archetype has been reduced to the wrong kind of howler.
Having written and co-directed films in the past, Greta Gerwig makes her debut as sole writer-director with Lady Bird, easily one of the year’s best films. Funny, insightful and deeply personal, yet wholly relatable for anyone who’s ever lived through the difficulty of attempting to define
In the 20-odd years of Ned Oldham’s musical life, he’s been a pendulum, swinging back and forth between writing his own words and using those of others. “I get tired of the sound of my own lyrical voice,” says Oldham. And so since releasing the 7-inch record Hello My/The Free Web with The
Cementing a friendship that began in childhood, Koda Kerl and Marie Borgman formed the eclectic folk act Chamomile & Whiskey over a cup of hot tea with Evan Williams bourbon poured in. But the band’s name also speaks to a love of the traditional Irish tunes and bluegrass folk that gave the
Hailed as “rock stars of Renaissance vocal music” by the New York Times, The Tallis Scholars are a British ensemble dedicated to the sacred vocal music of the Renaissance. Founded by famed choral conductor and musicologist Peter Phillips in 1973, the group has gained international acclaim by
Combining puppetry and dance with dazzling visual effects, Lightwire Theater’s A Very Electric Christmas takes the audience through a neon tale of family, friendship and hope. The production’s creative team designed sculptures and costumes using electroluminescent wire arrangements to tell the
Aaron Farrington fell for photography in high school after his grandfather died. “My mom inherited his camera, so I inherited her camera and started taking pictures,” he says. Farrington became interested in making movies, too, and enrolled in a New York film school. But thanks to the expense,
Bill MacKay & Ryley Walker SpiderBeetleBee (Drag City) I came down hard on Ryley Walker’s voice on his last solo record, openly wishing for an instrumental affair—and whoa, I had no idea he had such a project up and running already. SpiderBeetleBee is the second album of acoustic guitar
Is there anything left to be said about life, death, food, money and love? Local folk-punk band The Can-Do Attitude thinks there’s always something new and delightfully weird to discover, making its case with tracks like “Popcorn” (“One day we’ll hit an asteroid and all of the corn will be
Billie Piper has earned critical raves, an Olivier award for Best Actress, and she’s performed two sold-out runs at London’s Young Vic in the lead role of Yerma, written by Spanish dramatist Federico García Lorca in 1934 and reimagined by director Simon Stone. The power of the biological clock
In a small town in the heart of Japan, 13-year-old Hiroya Tsukamoto discovered the banjo and taught himself to play bluegrass tunes for his dad, who was a fan of traditional Appalachian music. He went on to master the guitar, and in 1999 Tsukamoto won a scholarship to the Berklee School of
There’s something Alicia Bognanno of the Nashville-based grunge-pop act Bully wants to get off her chest. Her latest album, Losing, released on October 20 via Sub Pop, is not a breakup record. “I want to scream that to the top of my lungs,” says Bognanno, who easily could. The 27-year-old
While attempting a brief vacation from being the world’s greatest detective, Inspector Hercule Poirot has been reading the hell out of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. With every page, he cackles in delight, a reaction likely based as much on the opportunity to let someone else tell the
Imagine you live in Manhattan on West 78th Street and your neighbor is a dinosaur. The problem is, no one believes you. This is the premise for Bolivar, Sean Rubin’s debut graphic novel in which a large gray dinosaur living in New York speaks English, reads the New Yorker, orders corned beef
Whether you fell in love with the leg lamp, the pink bunny suit or the double-dog-dare to lick a frozen flagpole, you can’t help but wait in excited anticipation for A Christmas Story to hit the holiday airwaves. The story of Ralphie, an eager schoolboy on a desperate quest to get the most
When Susan Munson was a kid growing up in Charlottesville, any time she had something to tell somebody, she’d write them a poem. She’d give it to them too, either hand-delivering the written verse or reading it to them herself. It was the earliest manifestation of Munson’s songwriting impulse,
The Virginia Film Festival, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year from November 9-12, chose a topic at the forefront of many people’s minds—both locally and nationally—with its Race in America series. A collaboration with James Madison’s Montpelier, the series features notable
To tell the full story of Vietnam along all of its harrowing dimensions, the producers of an epic new film series about the war required 10 years of research, more than 100 personal interviews and a healthy dose of humility. “I personally have been obsessed with the Vietnam War for most of my
VFF films with Virginia ties The Ruination of Lovell Coleman Director Ross McDermott met Lovell Coleman in Charlottesville 10 years ago when he saw the then octogenarian putting a new roof on his house by himself. Coleman, now on the cusp of 94, has been playing the fiddle since at least age
As events that transpired in Charlottesville inform the national conversation on the politics of race and resistance, the Virginia Film Festival has placed the subject at the center of this year’s programming. And the Race in America series features some of the best filmmaking on the subject.
Harold and Maude producer Chuck Mulvehill and director Hal Ashby met during post-production work on The Landlord (1970), and eventually became partners in the company DF Films (Dumb Fuck). Mulvehill says when the story of Harold and Maude came his way, “My first reaction to the script was ‘It’s