The Films of Joe Johnston
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
Jurassic Park III
The Wolfman (March 2/10)
Based on the 1941 horror classic, The Wolfman follows turn-of-the-century nobleman Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) as he arrives home to bury his brother alongside his estranged father (Anthony Hopkins' John Talbot) and his brother's fiancee (Emily Blunt's Gwen Conliffe) - with problems ensuing as Lawrence finds himself on the receiving end of a deadly curse after being attacked by a mysterious creature. It's clear right from the get-go that Joe Johnston is looking to emulate the feel of an old-school horror flick, and although the filmmaker does succeed to a certain extent (ie the movie boasts a decidedly atmospheric sense of style), The Wolfman suffers from an egregiously deliberate pace that slowly but surely renders its overtly positive attributes moot - with the pervasively stuffy vibe holding the viewer at arm's length for the majority of the running time. This feeling of lifelessness is also reflected in Del Toro's lamentably less-than-enthralling work as the central character, as the star offers up a surprisingly flat performance that's sorely lacking in the off-kilter quirks with which he's become associated (ie he's just dull here). The only real break from the tedium is an exceptional stand-alone sequence in which Lawrence, much to the alarm of dozens of watching scientists, transforms into the title character and embarks on a rampage of London; it's an exciting interlude that possesses precisely the sort of energy that's sorely missing from the remainder of the proceedings, although, to be fair, it's difficult not to get a kick out of Hugo Weaving's all-too-brief turn as a tenacious Scotland Yard inspector. It's a shame, really, given the potential here for a fun horror-movie ride, with Johnson's ongoing difficulties in sustaining viewer's interest ultimately ensuring that The Wolfman comes off as a sporadically intriguing but mostly underwhelming piece of work.
Captain America: The First Avenger (March 29/14)
Captain America: The First Avenger, which unfolds primarily during the Second World War, follows 97-pound weakling Steve Rogers as he's transformed into the title character during an experimental procedure, with the movie subsequently detailing the Captain's ongoing efforts at defeating a villainous figure known as the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving). It's ultimately clear that Captain America: The First Avenger improves as it progresses, as the film, directed by Joe Johnston, suffers from an overlong and padded-out first half devoted primarily to Rogers' less-than-engrossing pre-war exploits - with the movie's watchable vibe perpetuated, for the most part, by the efforts of a strong supporting cast. There's little doubt, then, that the film begins to demonstrably improve once Rogers undergoes his metamorphosis, with the effectiveness of that sequence paving the way for a second half that's rife with unexpectedly engrossing set pieces - including a finale that's not quite as over-the-top as one might've anticipated (and feared). It doesn't hurt, either, that scripters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely place an ongoing emphasis on the romance between Rogers and a British officer (Hayley Atwell's Peggy Carter), with the palpable chemistry between the two ensuring that Captain America: The First Avenger boasts an emotional resonance that's far from the norm with films of this ilk. Johnston's old-fashioned modus operandi proves effective at carrying the proceedings through its few underwhelming stretches, and it's finally clear that Captain America: The First Avenger remains a cut above its lackluster Marvel brethren for most of its running time (if only because it primarily resembles an actual movie more than it does a collection of special effects sequences).