In 2010 I saw 100 different movies in 100 different theaters. Here are the details.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

34. The Wolfman

Century Cinemas 16

Tucked away in a grove of trees in Mountain View, the Century Cinemas 16 looks more like a convention center than a movie theater. A sign on the street says "Movies" with an arrow pointing left, as if that's the name of the cross street, and a sign at the turn names the theater and promises discounts for seniors. But once I was inside the parking lot, I actually had a difficult time finding the theater, because of all the trees. The theater isn't labeled; only its glowing display of showtimes betrays the building's function.

The lobby is cavernous. Hopefully the theater sees more customers on the weekend; it was practically empty on my visit.

Loooong hallways wind in each direction from the lobby to get to remote auditoriums (mine was at the furthest end of one such hall). A manager was kind enough to inform me that the theater seats 3885 total, averaging nearly 250 per screen. In auditorium 14, some rows have more legroom than others.

In all, this is a charmless theater, lacking even the cookie-cutter corporate ambience of most Cinemark theaters. It's Century sized, but with CinéArts decor.

Mountain View has seen two single screen theaters come and go, and two drive-ins as well. On my way from the theater, and feeling adventurous, I got off 101 in Redwood City when I saw a theater sign to the right. After passing several auto dealerships and finding no entrance to the theater's empty parking lot, I finally concluded it was shut down. This was the old Century Park 12 on Bayshore Blvd. The Century Park 12, from Google's satellite imagery, has some similarities to the Century Cinemas 16, perhaps originating from the same architect. Looking at them side-by-side, below, can you guess which one is still in operation?


Iron Man 2
(Previously reviewed)


Repo Men

Cop Out

The Crazies (Teaser)
Not bad for a zombie preview. The second trailer shows too many graphic images. This one, which is either an early teaser, or a late reminder, holds back, and just entices us with promises of something strange happening in a sleepy town. There is little to suggest that soon everyone will turn psycho. Cuts unknown (not yet available online).

Bounty Hunter

Green Zone
(Previously reviewed)

The Wolfman
The big three mystical monsters are vampires, zombies, and werewolves. The former two have been getting most of the attention of late, but thanks to Underworld, the latter has not been entirely ignored. Soon werewolves will have one up on the other two, though, by becoming a playable race in World of Warcraft (as any Blood Elf or Draenei will tell you, that's the big leagues). There are few good vampires, and no good zombies. Werewolves, however, are different. Lycanthropy is a curse; the cursed individual transforms by full moon into a savage beast, but otherwise is human, and is perhaps even unaware of his moonlit activities. Werewolves, therefore, can be redeemed. If the curse is lifted, the beast is vanquished, just as if it had been slain.

If you're interested in werewolves, I can recommend the following titles to quench your thirst: Wolf, Teen Wolf, The Nightmare Before Christmas, the afore-mentioned Underworld (and parts of its first sequel), the extended version of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video, seasons three and four of Buffy: the Vampire Slayer, and Hulk, if you're willing to stretch your definition of werewolf. After that, and including The Wolfman, you're dredging.

Benicio Del Toro, a British ex pat performing on the American stage, is urgently called back to England by his brother's fiance, Emily Blunt. Blunt relays that Del Toro's brother has gone missing, and implores Del Toro to aid in the search. Del Toro returns to the estate of his estranged father, Anthony Hopkins, only to learn that his brother's body had been found the day before, maimed in a beastly way, but with such wanton cruelty as to suggest a human attacker (though a depraved one). Though Blunt is devastated by her fiance's death, she is also released from what could have been a discomforting contract; Hopkins isn't the warmest of hosts. Del Toro repurposes the purpose of his visit, determining to find his brother's killer.

You'll never guess what happens next, so I'm just going to come out and say it, because I don't want the suspense to keep you up at night. Del Toro is bitten by, and then later becomes, a werewolf. That's the plot of the movie. What is the werewolf's motivation? The kill everything it can sniff. Graphically. And I mean, I don't think I've seen guts like this in any other movie. It's disgusting. What is Del Toro's motivation, in between full moons? Well, as it turns out, when needed as a plot device, the moon can be full pretty much all the time.

It's difficult to know who to root for in this simple, gothic, grotesque tale. Blunt is wonderful as always. A gypsy alludes to true love being able to break the curse, and Blunt is immediately affectionate toward Del Toro, but the film doesn't focus on their relationship. Del Toro is intense. As soon as he realizes he's been cursed he recognizes himself as the enemy, but what fun would it be if he actually offed himself as a precaution? Hugo Weaving enters the tale as a detective from Scotland Yard. Weaving is suspicious that Del Toro is responsible for the deaths of his brother and others. The fact that Weaving signed off for this movie suggests he didn't read the script, which explains why his character fails to realize that Del Toro was in America when the first murders were committed, and that at least twenty witnesses saw him battling the werewolf in a gypsy village. For Weaving, 'alibi' is a nebulous word that probably equates to 'guilty'. Weaving doesn't believe in werewolves, but he doesn't mind committing Del Toro to an insane asylum either. Through this turn of events, Weaving, Del Toro's psychiatrist, and Hopkins all come up short as people we can root for.

There's nothing redeeming about the wolf, either. This isn't the misunderstood beast who accidentally causes a death or two. He kills indiscriminately (men, women, children), and seemingly without purpose. There is also nothing to thwart the wolf, as noone can match his speed or strength. This drains the suspense from every scene; anyone who walks onscreen is going to die horribly. Period. As my best friend would say, this is all gore, and no lore. When we finally get a glimmer of the origin of the curse, it's stupid.

Del Toro and Blunt are both captivating actors. I could have stomached a movie that takes place entirely between full moons. The first half, with the two falling love, but knowing he is being transformed into an instrument of evil. The second half, trying to save his soul, but wondering if she can forgive him for what he's already done. That would be a tense movie. The Wolfman is just gross.

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