February 18, 2010 Volume CXXVII Issue 3

Rejuvenated remake

Staff Writer

In an attempt to connect with its roots, Universal Studios has taken it upon themselves to remake the second of their 1940s monster classics (the first being “The Mummy” in 1999) as seen with this month’s release of “The Wolfman.” Directed by Joe Johnston (of “Jurassic Park 3” fame), the film stars Benicio Del Toro as its main protagonist, Ben Talbot, who is brought home to Blackmoor by his brother’s disappearance at the behest of his missing sibling’s fiancée Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt). Upon his return, however, Ben learns of his brother’s gruesome fate from his estranged father (Anthony Hopkins) and sets out to locate his brother’s killer: something that is ferociously powerful and has an unquenchable blood lust.

Ben’s quest eventually leads him to the beast that slew his brother, an encounter that leaves him scarred but still alive. Over time, the bite seems to be more than a simple injury, as Ben begins to see horrors of his past as well as nightmarish images of what may come. Further complicating the matter is the arrival of an inspector (Hugo Weaving) from Scotland Yard who suspects that the Talbots may already have a claim to a dark legacy. While the film itself is not perfect (let’s be honest, nothing is) it certainly never tries to be more than what it is—a monster movie (save a few artsy shots).

The movie does not fall short in trying to incorporate all things that a monster movie needs to possess, and I promise you, from love to gore, it’s all in there. Unlike recent monster movies, however, it possesses a story as opposed to just blood and screams; a story that at its heart conveys the importance of the past and its involvement at some point or another in the future. Save for some parts near the third quarter of the movie, the pacing never seems to slow and get boring, nor does it just give us senseless action and violence; it’s as well balanced as a monster movie gets. To state that the production value is high would most certainly be a disservice to the crew. Despite the handful of locations seen and visited in the film, the feel seems very authentic to the Late Victorian Era.

From the sparsely populated rural village to the smoke-filled skies over London, the combination of sets and Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) are more than sufficient to set the tone of the film, one which feels appropriately dark, going as far as even limiting the use of daylight. Another aspect which fits the content very well is the look of the werewolf itself. Please don’t be mistaken, you will not see any shirtless, ripped Native Americans turn into large timbre wolves. No sir, this is not “Twilight.” Instead, you will see something that is less of a transfiguration and more of a transformation, an act that is depicted as violent and savage, and the way of a true werewolf. What makes the transformation depicted in “Wolfman” so much more acceptable is that fact that it is illustrated. You will see bones break and jaws extend; you will see the change happen as opposed to something instantaneous.

Lack of CGI post transformation is something to admire as well, too often we are treated with real actors and then the computer-generated monsters they turn into. In the case of “Wolfman,” you will always see an actor as the beast, the one exception being a scene that involves inhuman movements, such as amazing acrobatics. The general look of the beast is the same as its 1940s counterpart, an act that is seen as still being cinematically effective and at the same time respective to what has come before. In terms of acting, the film does not suffer. Del Toro, Hopkins and Weaving all seem great in their respective roles. The only one who seems lackluster being Blunt, although it seems to lie more with how the character was written than how it was played.

At times, some of the more dramatic instances can come off a little humorous, although don’t let that distract you from their impact and meaning. It has more to do with the way we perceive them than the way they were intended. The movie always takes itself seriously, perhaps a little too seriously at times. “The Wolfman,” while a remake, brings something fresh to the genre, or at the very least something we haven’t seen for a long time. The focus is shifted more to the man and away from the monster he becomes, bringing forth a much buried human aspect that tends to get overlooked or completely left out in monster movies these days. Equipped with excellent cinematic quality and a cast made up of individuals that never disappoint, this is a must-see monster movie to escape to in a time when the theaters are dominated with left over Valentine’s Day chick flicks.

“Valentine’s Day” wins hearts and money

Staff Writer

Valentine’s Day…it can be one of the happiest holidays or one of the loneliest. With all of the pressures and expectations associated with Valentine’s Day, it often becomes more stressful and complicated than it needs to be. With the constant rise of commercialism, men are under a huge amount of pressure to take their partners on a romantic date and buy them the perfect gift. Women feel pressure to be in a relationship or they feel like a failure. Valentine’s Day is a holiday that some people jokingly refer to as “Single Awareness Day,” a day that reminds people how very “single” they feel.

Some of the characters in the new movie “Valentine’s Day” struggle with the same thing. The movie takes place in Los Angeles and follows the lives of a diverse group of people through their experiences with love and heartbreak on Valentine’s Day. There are high school couples in love for the first time, a couple that has been married for almost 50 years, single people trying to make it through the day with the help of their other single friends and many other characters with interesting situations.

“Valentine’s Day” was not just another star-studded flop of a movie. Despite what the critics have said about the flick, the movie was rather well-done and was very entertaining. The movie featured a nice blend of “feel-good” romance, yet was not too sappy and was realistic in the fact that not everyone had a happy ending. Released on Feb. 12, the all-star cast features famous names such as Patrick Demspey, Ashton Kutcher, Taylor Lautner, Jennifer Garner, Jessica Biel, Taylor Swift and Julia Roberts—to name a few.

“Valentine’s Day” brought in $52.4 million dollars on opening weekend beating out “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” and “The Wolfman” for the top spot. The cast had a tremendous amount of talent and Ashton Kutcher gave a surprisingly good performance. It was very genuine and heartfelt and was different than his other roles as the good-looking, immature heartthrob. Julia Roberts and Patrick Dempsey were fantastic as usual and Taylor Swift was surprisingly… annoying. Yes, she was at times hilarious, but at other points in the movie her character was too over the top and obnoxious. “Valentine’s Day” is definitely not a movie to skip out on and has something for everyone.

Antebellum: Good, but not all that wonderful

Staff Writer

What is the big deal with this Lady Antebellum song? Everyone is playing it, everyone sings along, and to the non-country and even anti-country listeners, it gets more and more bearable each time until it’s sort of, maybe, almost…enjoyable. Lady A debuted at number one on country album charts with the track “Need You Now.” But this isn’t their first number one hit. In July 2009, their previous album’s track “I Run to You” soared to the top of the charts and won the 2009 CMA Single of the Year. Being number one is certainly nothing new to the group. Their new album is by no means contained in the mood of the single released now on the radio, but it instead sports songs to get up and dance to and sit down and cry to.

Colead vocal Hillary Scott’s voice provided a perfect fit to all of the above, as did Charles Kelley’s. The opening track is probably the most familiar: “Need You Now” displays a talented blend of vocals and instrumentals, both acoustic and piano. The song picks up right from the beginning with a dark tone and subtle harmonies that speak for the talent of the group and writers. “Our Kind of Love,” the second song on the CD, reaches back to authentic country roots. Still, the piano brings out a unique element that most artists in the genre leave to guitar. The CD broke a bit of intensity with the third track, “American Honey.” Scott begins the track, which tells the story of a young girl that, eventually, listeners realize is a recollection of the artist’s childhood. The song is repetitive, but adds in appropriate clips of strings. For the most part, the track is pretty subdued.

Track four, “Hello World” sports a male lead vocal first and foremost and a piano line that makes you listen closely before the lyrics begin. It is a very unique song, similar to the first track, but still quite different. It has a very heartfelt lyric throughout, emphasized by the dynamics of voice. “Perfect Day” is the first significantly upbeat song, begging anyone to get up and dance. There are interesting combinations of talented instrumentalists from pianists to guitars to what sounds to be even banjoesque sounds. An overall positive message makes the song a good listen, but maybe still not the best on the album. The sixth song on the record, “Love This Pain” is monotonous and probably the most “country” of all the tracks. It almost seems to just be a filler on the CD and doesn’t show off any significant talent of the group.

Even though the following track, “When You Got a Good Thing” is a bit slower, it seems to counteract the first track—the first being about being broken up, this one explaining how to stay together. Though it is definitely an affectionate track bound to end up in someone’s wedding, it’s not the best on the album for instrumentals or vocals. The male vocal, Charles Kelley, seems to be pushing the vocals a little too far for an already emotional song. “Stars Tonight” is most certainly written with the intent to dance. A fun track, but the instrumentals out-do the vocals by a long shot. The karaoke version may be a better choice. The album is grounded again with “If I Knew Then,” which is too similar to track one to call unique. It’s not an awful song by a long shot. The lyrics are quite cliché and a little too sappy. Next.

Lady A makes up for a few of the lesser songs with “Something ‘Bout a Woman,” a fun and lively track suitable for a girly girl or a romantic playlist. Scott and Kelley have the best harmonies in this song, and Kelley takes the lead the whole time. The lyrics celebrate the strong and compassionate woman every man needs. “Ready to Love Again” is a good ending to the album. The string and piano work together wonderfully with the vocals Hillary Scott leads. Lady A definitely goes out with the bang, but this song may have been better placed earlier in the album. But with the lyrical content, its position was probably best at the end.

The album as a whole is not worth the purchase, but individual songs are certainly worth the iTunes credits, particularly “Need You Now,” “Hello World,” “American Honey,” and “Ready to Love Again.” Lady Antebellum is definitely a talented group in both instrumentals and vocals. Their ability to write songs is highlighted in the album, but it also shows their lack of variation in songs. Just because one track can be dark with subtle piano and minor harmonization and prove successful, doesn’t mean every song can be.


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