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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Wolfman (2010)



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#1 of 9 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted June 02 2010 - 09:44 AM

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THE

WOLFMAN


Studio: Universal

Year: 2010

Length:  1 hr 43 mins (R-Rated Version), 1 hr 59 mins (Unrated Version)

Genre: Period Horror/Monster Movie


Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1


BD Resolution: 1080p

BD Video Codec: AVC (@ an average 20 mbps)

Color/B&W: Color


Audio:

English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 3.5 mbps, up to 5 mbps in the big scenes)

Spanish DTS 5.1

French DTS 5.1

English DVS (Descriptive Visual Service) 2.0


Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish


Film Rating: R & Unrated (For both versions – Strong Bloody Violence, Gore, More Gore, Still More Gore)


Release Date: June 1, 2010


Starring:  Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving, and for approximately 5 seconds, Rick Baker


Written by:  Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self

Based on the 1941 screenplay by Curt Siodmak

Directed by: Joe Johnston

Special Effects Makeup by:  Rick Baker


Film Rating:    2 ½/5


The Wolfman is another film that surprised me once I actually sat down to watch it.  All the advance word of mouth I had heard said really terrible things.  And what do you know?  It’s actually a fun period horror movie.  Is it War and Peace?  No, but it isn’t trying to be that anyway.   If anything, it’s a nice throwback to the old Universal Monster Movies, with sumptuous period costumes and production design, some lovingly grim makeup work by Rick Baker (which carefully hearkens back to the original 1941 design), and an effective and aggressive sound mix.   The performances here are mostly modulated to the quieter side until the animal gets out, and with a cast like this, that’s an advantage – both Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins do very well in their quieter moments before all hell breaks loose.  Of course, once the Wolfman is out on the loose, the movie becomes a series of bloody set pieces that deliberately recall not only the original 1941 film but also various other influences including Werewolf of London (the final denouement) and An American Werewolf in London (the Piccadilly Circus Bus crash is revisited in 19th Century terms, and the transformations of our hero touch on Baker’s earlier versions of this).   The story doesn’t make a lot of sense, but once things get going, they take on a momentum of their own.  (I should note that the IMDB message board for the film has a great thread on some story logic issues.)  Leaving aside the production’s troubled history, the actual movie is a lot more fun than some people would have you believe.

The Blu-ray release includes both the theatrical cut and an unrated version, which runs about 15 minutes longer.  The unrated version adds some very interesting material, including a great early scene with an uncredited Max von Sydow, and a lot more character grounding.  There’s also a great updating of the classic Univeral logo thrown on the top for good measure.  Fans of the original 1941 Lon Chaney Jr. film may actually enjoy this a lot more than reviews would suggest, and fans of Rick Baker will definitely want to see this.   Like I said with my review of Leap Year, I’m not promising the moon here – just a guilty pleasure that amounts to two hours of good, bloody fun.                                                                                                

The Wolfman has been released on standard definition DVD and Blu-ray as of yesterday.   The Blu-ray edition holds solid high definition picture and sound transfers, and augments the deleted/extended scenes on the SD release with a handful of featurettes, some fun PIP functionality, a BD-Live online streaming copy of the 1941 film, and two ridiculous alternate endings..  Further Blu-ray functionality is also part of the package, including pocket BLU, social BLU, My Scenes, an online ticker and trailers.
                                                       

VIDEO QUALITY   4/5

The Wolfman is presented in a 1080p AVC 1.85:1 transfer that really brings off a healthy variety of shades and colors.  The film tends more toward the blues and grays, but there’s a pretty healthy dollop of red with all the blood literally flying here.  And while some of the CGI wolfman shots look a bit artificial, it’s never to the level that they completely take you out of the scene in question.  Black levels here are pleasingly deep, as is appropriate for a period horror piece.   I should note that I am watching the film on a 40” Sony XBR2 HDTV. If anyone is watching the film on a larger monitor and is having issues, please post them on this thread.



AUDIO QUALITY   5/5

The Wolfman is presented in a superb English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix in English, along with standard DTS 5.1 mixes in French and Spanish.  There is also an English Descriptive Visual Service track available.   This is the highest rating I have ever given for a sound mix on a disc, to my memory, and I don’t do this lightly.   This soundtrack will literally rock your home theater.   The design here literally places you in the middle of the sound field as all sorts of unfortunate things are happening to the characters around you.  So there’s a lot of directionality here, and a strong feeling of immersion into the world of the film.  On top of that, the subwoofers REALLY kick in when our furry friend is on the scene.   In terms of sound, the Wolfman comes across as a really aggressive T-rex as soon as that low rumbling growl is heard.   The edited/reconstructed version of Danny Elfman’s score gets a lot of play from all of the channels, and the dialogue comes through clearly from the front channels.  The one warning for all horror mixes I should repeat here, however is this:  this mix does employ the usual trick of bringing the volume levels down during the character dialogue scenes, only to crank things up past eleven once the monster goes to work.  Be careful with the volume knob and don’t try this at home after midnight unless you want to discover who else in your neighborhood is also a nocturnal monster…


SPECIAL FEATURES      3/5

The Blu-Ray presentation of The Wolfman comes with the usual BD-Live connectivity and My Scenes functionality, as well as pocket BLU, social BLU, and D-Box functionality.   To this is added a passel of extras, including some deleted/extended scenes, two alternate endings, a few featurettes, and some fun PIP U-Control materials. A disc with a Digital Copy is also included in the packaging.   As the cherry on top of the sundae, this Blu-ray allows for BD-Live streaming of the original 1941 film.


SPOILER WARNING:  Before I get into the special features, I should warn you that almost all the featurettes and other material include MASSIVE SPOILERS about what happens in the film.  And yes, this goes far beyond just telling you that the hero of this movie turns into a big hairy creature.  So if you want to be surprised by the film, watch it first before going into the extras.


U-Control “Legacy, Legend & Lore” – This Picture-in-Picture function is only available on the Theatrical Edition.  It’s a combination of text trivia about werewolf lore, inset videos from the set, and inset footage from other movies.  The inset footage is usually accompanied by narration discussing the relevance of the materials you are seeing.  There’s a lot of good stuff here, meaning that you may find yourself watching the whole movie again to see everything.


Take Control PIP Materials – During various chapters of the film, the movie will be interrupted for video commentaries by Rick Baker, VFX Producer Karen Murphy and Director of Photography Shelly Johnson, each describing in detail the work they have done for the scene in question.  Murphy goes into more detail than the others, showing various passes at the CGI work and then how the final versions fit into the film.  Johnson gets into some pretty intricate detail about the exact manner in which he lit various scenes.  And Baker just has fun here, particularly when it comes to showing his own onscreen demise.


Alternate Endings – (7:58 Total, 1080p)  Two alternate endings are included here, one of which is simply strange and appears to set up an odd idea for a sequel.  The second ending, which mostly uses the same footage until it suddenly goes off the rails, is so ludicrous that I actually burst out laughing watching it.  How anyone thought that could be an acceptable ending is beyond me.


Deleted/Extended Scenes – (11:17 Total, 1080p)  The same deleted material from the SD release is included here, albeit in high definition.  Almost all of it consists of extensions of various effects and fight scenes that were wisely removed.  One extension to the Wolfman’s rampage through London includes another bizarre and unintentionally hilarious visit by our hirsute fellow to a masquerade party/opera performance.  Again, as I exploded laughing at this, the question arose – “WHY?”.


Return of The Wolfman – (12:20, 1080i)  Here we have a fairly general BTS featurette, with interview material with the cast and director Joe Johnston intercut with on-set video and film footage.  It’s all mutually complimentary, and it doesn’t scratch the surface of what was actually a very long and involved production which wound up doing considerable reshoots and pushing its release date back twice.  Watching this featurette, you would never know that anything untoward happened here…


The Beast Maker – (12:05, 1080i)  This featurette focuses on the work of Rick Baker, who campaigned to get on this movie once he knew it was being made.  Footage is included of Baker doing life casts of the actors, and doing extensive work on Del Toro.  There’s a pretty thorough discussion of the updating Baker did to the original 1941 design, but not much discussion about how much was actually drawn from Baker’s work on An American Werewolf in London.  Baker also ruefully notes that Del Toro’s enthusiasm in the Wolfman makeup could result in extensive touchups once the blood started flying.  One element not really touched upon here is the marriage between Baker’s on-set practical work, and the CGI work added in post.


Transformation Secrets – (15:15, 1080i)  This featurette deals with the extensive CGI work done by Karen Murphy’s team and Rhythm and Hues to turn characters into furry creatures, and to make the Wolfman more of an animal than just a guy in a suit/makeup.  Some material is included about the extensive digital capture work done with the actors’ faces to allow them to be morphed into something less human.  As with the Baker featurette, there is no discussion about how the CGI team and the makeup team worked together to make the illusion work.


The Wolfman Unleashed – (8:45, 1080i)  This featurette goes through the work of the stunt team to perform various bits of on-set stunt and effect work, including a harnessed four-story jump.


Online Copy of The Wolf Man –  An added bonus to the whole package is a streaming copy of the original 1941 film via BD-Live.   It’s not exactly the greatest video quality, given the reality of streaming, but it’s a nice touch to have it here..


BD-Live - The more general BD-Live screen is accessible via the menu, which makes various online materials available, including tickers, trailers and special events.

My Scenes - The usual bookmarking feature is included here.


D-Box – D-Box functionality is included for viewers who have this capability in their home theater.


Digital Copy – A digital copy of the unrated longer version of the movie is included on a second disc in the packaging.


The usual promotional ticker is present on the main menu, but can be toggled off at your discretion. The film is subtitled in English, French and Spanish.  The usual pop-up menu is present, along with a complete chapter menu.  Further, when you first put the Blu-ray in the player, several trailers will load from BD-Live, which you can get past by hitting the “Next Chapter” button.  Once you get past the trailers, and before you get to the main menu, you’ll see a screen asking which version of the film you wish to see.  Once you choose, you’ll go to the usual Main Menu screen.



IN THE END...

The Wolfman is a fun, bloody horror movie in the old tradition that may please fans of the genre a bit more than they have expected after the critical beatings it received when in theaters this past February.  It’s by no means a classic, but fans of the original film, or of Rick Baker’s creepy makeup stylings will likely have a good time here.  One other note:  I realize that some people may find a disconnect between my enjoyment of this film with the violence here and my discomfort with the violence seen in other releases like A Perfect Getaway or Last House on the Left.  My answer is this – I don’t normally tolerate much gore, but with an old-fashioned monster movie, particularly with the Rick Baker approach which entails a level of over-the-top unreality, it becomes something akin to a Halloween funhouse.  I mean, does anyone actually think that someone they know is about to turn into a giant fuzzy monster who runs around and swipes at people?   And with this Blu-ray, you can have a good time with a monster movie – with really good picture and sound quality.


Kevin Koster

June 2, 2010.

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#2 of 9 OFFLINE   Zack Gibbs

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Posted June 02 2010 - 10:10 AM

I was pleasantly surprised by the meatiness of the extra material here over the theatrical version. Moving the film from like a C- to a... C.


The movie still leaves you wanting, with just not a lot of 'scary.'  I still don't see the point of the "other werewolf" plot, other than to rob the film of any chance at developing its characters.


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#3 of 9 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted June 02 2010 - 10:12 AM

Thanks for the review Kevin.  I hadn't heard anything really positive about the movie.  Based on your review I will have to check it out.  Looking forward to hearing it too.  I agree, I don't think I've ever seen a 5 star sound rating from you.



#4 of 9 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted June 02 2010 - 10:25 AM

I found the film to be horrible in every department but it's a real shame they didn't just release some of the classic films to tie in with this one.


#5 of 9 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted June 02 2010 - 10:40 AM

I think they've released a lot of the classic monster films several times at this point.  When this film was in theaters, they released the Legacy Edition of The Wolf Man, which was itself the 3rd release on DVD, including the 1999 release, and the more comprehensive 2004 release that coincided with Van Helsing.


I hear you that you really didn't like the film, and I'll bet there are a lot of people who will disagree with that part of the review here.  But for me, I came in expecting not to like it,and came out with a different reaction.    Your reaction is totally valid - I just had a different reaction, that's all.



#6 of 9 OFFLINE   Steve Christou

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Posted June 02 2010 - 10:52 AM

Thanks for the review. I enjoyed the film which was a refreshing change from all the crap teen horror we get every year.


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#7 of 9 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted June 03 2010 - 12:31 PM

Kevin, it wasn't meant as a swipe at your review so please don't think that was the reason for the post.


With the classic film, I mentioned this in the other thread but I found it rather pointless to release the film for a third or fourth time on SD and then just overlook a Blu-ray release.  Studios try to tie-in stuff all the time so if they didn't think they could push of the Blu with this release then when would a good time be to release it?


#8 of 9 ONLINE   DaveF

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Posted February 05 2011 - 05:24 PM

With nothing else on tv in my hotel room, I half-watched Wolfman. I'm not a horror fan, and especially not a gore-horror fan. With that in mind: Wolfman was a complete waste of its talent. It was a dull affair. Less worthwhile than Van Helsing or LXG. I mean, any movie that uses a bad CG bear to do normal bear things, but badly, rather than simply hire a real bear to stand up on its hind legs and growl is clearly a movie that's not going to fare well. Save your money. More importantly, don't waste your time with Wolfman. Unless you're in a hotel for the weekend with nothing else on TV. Even then, have a new John Scalzi book to read while Wolfman drones on in the background.

#9 of 9 OFFLINE   johnSM

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Posted February 06 2011 - 02:06 AM

I loved Wolfman! With all the negative word of mouth I too thought it would be a stinker. But my stubborn mind kept going back to the trailer which I really enjoyed. I saw it on Amazon.co.uk for a very cheap price recently and decided to throw caution to the wind and take a risk on it. I'm very glad I did!


Watched it on an HD projector with a 110" screen - I thought it was fab! The production design was absolutely glorious and full of detail, the effects worked well for me, and I loved the subtle acting from the four main leads. A nice sly sense if humor in places too, as well as some nice winks to the original. It wasn't a full-on balls to the wall action bloodbath ala Saw (which is fine as I hate those kinds of film) but was brutal enough that you were left in no doubt how powerful the Wolfman was. The musical score was fantastic as well and really helped sell the period & atmosphere of the piece.


I wouldn't even call it a horror film per-se (perhaps that was its problem for some). It was more of a tragedy and a character study. It took its time to unravel the story as well, which probably didn't go down well with those in multiplexes with 5 second attention spans. It's a very 'slow' film by todays standards, and I respected it for that. I think this film will actually grow more popular as the years continue. I thought it was far superior to Coppola's Dracula - which for some reason I cannot fathom still remains popular today - and way better acted.


Each to his/her own I guess. I'd give it a very solid 7/10, and as for picture/sound on the bluray a firm10/10.


- John