The Rite

January 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Sir Anthony Hopkins, Colin O’Donoghue, Alice Braga
Directed by: Mikael Hafstrom (“1408”)
Written by: Michael Petroni (“Queen of the Damned”)
 
While it can’t necessarily be considered a work of the devil, “The Rite” is a wicked, wicked thing – a fright-less exorcism story that becomes a tedious slog through the horror movie genre.
 
Sir Anthony Hopkins tries to tap into his Hannibal Lecter character to play Father Lucas Trevant, an unorthodox exorcist living in Rome who takes a faithless seminary student under his wing to prove to him that the Devil exists.

Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue) doesn’t know what he believes in anymore, but he has decided the priesthood is no longer for him. When his mentor, Father Matthew (Toby Jones), sends Michael to Rome to take a special course on exorcisms, he has no idea Father Lucas will lead him into some of the darkest scenarios he has ever witnessed as a man of the cloth.
 
Through a mixture of dull philosophical dialogue and a cast of characters devoid of any real insight to the supernatural world they inhabit, “The Rite” is a generic, ham-fisted picture with the usual exorcism set-ups.
 
“What did you expect? Spinning heads? Pea soup?” Father Trevant asks Michael when an exorcism ends up being as exciting as a knitting class.
 
If only we were so lucky.

The Wolfman

February 12, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt
Directed by: Joe Johnston (“Hidalgo”)
Written by: Andrew Kevin Walker (“Sleepy Hollow”) and David Self (“The Haunting”)

Oscar winner Benicio Del Toro (“Traffic”) phones in his performance as an iconic monster in “The Wolfman,” a re-imaging of the 1941 classic starring Lon Chaney Jr. It’s not only Del Toro, however, who should take the blame for how terribly things go for the creature feature, which was delayed an entire year because of production problems.

Despite starting off on the wrong paw, one can’t ignore the talented cast pinned down for “Wolfman,” including Del Toro. From Oscar winner Sir Anthony Hopkins (“Silence of the Lambs”) to the young and blossoming starlet Emily Blunt (“The Young Victoria”) to the reliable Hugo Weaving (“V for Vendetta”), some of the pieces are definitely here. It’s unfortunate that director Joe Johnston (“Hidalgo”) and screenwriters Andrew Kevin Walker (“Sleepy Hollow”) and David Self (“The Haunting”) fail to create any type of suspense or frightening scenes to match these actors’ supporting roles or the eerie gothic cinematography by Shelly Johnson.

Ultimately, “The Wolfman” becomes a film that can’t decide whether it wants to be a throwback to the monster movies of the past mid-century or take the easy way out and go full-gore for mainstream audiences. It chooses both and succeeds at neither.

In the film, Del Toro plays Lawrence Talbot, a thespian who is summoned home to England after many years away to search for his missing brother Ben. Contacted by Ben’s fiancée Gwen (Blunt), Lawrence returns home to find he is too late. His brother’s body was found mutilated in the woods. Theories begin to flood in as to what could have killed Ben in such a manner. Gypsies? A Bengal tiger? A raving lunatic?

When the townspeople find out Lawrence had been sent to an asylum by his father (Hopkins) years before, suspicions start turning to him. Lawrence becomes a prime suspect when he is bitten in the neck by a mysterious beast. Soon, other folks turn up slaughtered and word spreads that the Talbot household is cursed. Weaving plays Scotland Yard Inspector Abberline, who steps in to hunt down whatever is shredding up residents.

As the carnage continues by way of campy decapitations and close-ups of intestines spread across the ground, Johnston provides no real tone or direction and lets “The Wolfman” ride the wave of blood. Is this a story about a man fighting his inner demons and trying to understand the nightmares he continues to have about the death of his mother or is this a straight-forward monster movie in the same mold as “Underworld” and “Van Helsing?”

No matter what it wants to be, there’s not enough of a story to support “The Wolfman” and Lawrence’s transformation, whether it’s physical or emotional. Relying mostly on computer-generated effect also doesn’t help its cause as it attempts to claw its way back to the roots of the genre. While six-time Oscar-winning make-up artist Rick Baker (“An American Werewolf in London”) had his hand in this one, it’s evident he didn’t have free reign to do what he does best. For that, “The Wolfman” suffers greatly. This setback, however, is only skin deep. There’s a more elusive identity crisis the film runs into that can’t be cured with a few extra prosthetics or layers of facial hair or even a Del Toro performance where the actor actually decides to show up.