Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)

"I want to outsource Old Age"

Films with ensemble casts are tricky things. No doubt filling a story with big stars is going to get people to watch it; but as a result, some of the characters can become marginalised and you end up wondering what the point of casting them was. I like Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 11, it’s slick, stylish, has an intriguing plot, and it has a hell of a cast. There is no doubt however, that it’s George Clooney and Brad Pitt’s film. Crash is another example. Another great cast, but was Sandra Bullock really necessary? Just checking IMDB, I’d forgotten that Brendan Fraser and William Fitchner were in it! Of course one way of fitting in all the characters is to go down the route of Magnolia: make a really long film so that everyone gets enough screen time!

However, in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, it all seems to work. All of the characters get time enough for their story to unfold, it’s not an overlong film, and there definitely isn’t one or two main characters. It also happens to be very funny. All of the cast here (pretty much the cream of later-generation British talent) are quietly brilliant; no-one particularly steals the lime-light, they all just work perfectly together; understated but great acting. You can tell where most of the characters' stories are going: Maggie Smith’s fairly racist Muriel will obviously embrace the Indian culture by the end of the film (these are hardly spoilers), Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton’s marriage is clearly rocky, throw in a romantic story for Dev Patel as well as his struggle against an overbearing Mum and none of the film is terribly original. This doesn't matter at all, because it's the way we get there that's so enjoyable.

Director John Madden may not have the most illustrious back-catalogue (though Shakespeare in Love did win a Best Picture Academy Award), but he handles the various story arcs very well, weaving them in such a way that they don’t feel forced or focussed on one character too much. At one point I did feel that two of the characters had been marginalised; but no sooner had I had that thought, then we got back to them and their story was fleshed out more.

The film doesn’t do anything outstanding, but it is deftly handled, the cast are all great, and it is sometimes wickedly funny.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

The Sunday Scene: Matrix Reloaded

Today I want to talk about a scene I don’t like. It's not that I completely dislike the film, but this scene encapsulates some of what’s wrong with it, which is a shame because the first film is great. I’m talking of course about Matrix Reloaded. Besides the slightly perplexing story, the weird soft porn sweaty dancing grotto, the obtuse architect and the completely exasperating way that Neo wont explain anything to anyone; the main crime of Reloaded is the over-use of CG images.

The first film prided itself on the actors doing all of the action, and the only CG component was the environment that the fights took place in; and having just watched some of the DVD extras there was plenty of wire-work in Reloaded too. But it is as if the Wachowski brothers were determined to be bigger and better than the first film, artistic integrity could go hang; and the only way was to have cartoon Neo!

For almost three minutes the burly brawl is great. Keanu is definitely there, Hugo is definitely there (as are plenty of stuntmen with Hugo prosthetics), and the choreography is fantastic; then suddenly I’m watching a cartoon! But in the attempt to give the cartoon Neo some texture, his black outfit is suddenly brown! There are also several moments that are slowed down, which just serve to make Neo look even more comicy.

Like I said, there is still quite a bit of wire-work in this sequence, unfortunately this just makes the CG sections more obvious when cut together. There are other obviously computer generated sequences in the film, such as Neo doing his Superman thing, but this is rather more forgivable for looking cartoony; the issue I have is when it is unnecessarily used in a fight scene that is unnecessarily over-long. This is all a great shame because it really undermines everything that the actors achieve and all the work that went into the first film.

What do you think? Love it? Hate it? Am I being too harsh?

Friday, 24 February 2012

Max Payne (2008)

I was going to start this by saying something like “Films based on computer games are rarely any good”; but having checked Wikipedia I actually haven’t seen that many. Fortunately perhaps? I’ve seen Doom (fairly awful as far as I can remember from the dim and distant past), the two Tomb Raiders (I don’t remember the first one being too bad) and now Max Payne. Well, the trend continues.

For fans of the game (like me) there is actually much to enjoy. Most of the characters are there, and it’s nice being able to spot them: Jim Bravura, Mona Sax (Mila Kunis), Jack Lupino (Amaury Nolasco), Nicole Horne; as well as Club Ragnorok, the Aesir corporation and there is even a Gognitti storage facility (no Captain Baseball Bat Boy though). The style in which the film is shot is all very in keeping with the atmosphere of the game too; it is constantly raining or snowing, the shots of the New York City skyline are very graphic novel-ish, as are many other incidental scenes. I was surprised by the lack of bullet time though. The major selling point of the game was that it was really the first of its kind to feature bullet time; this allowed the player to cope with overwhelming odds when being attacked by multiple baddies. The other novel feature was that the game actually modelled the bullets, i.e. if you shot a guy with a shotgun in bullet time then you would see the shot pellets rip through him! This is all so integral to the game that I was surprised by its absence in the film; then when bullet time was used, it was fairly underwhelming.

For a movie based on a computer game, this might actually have one of the better plots. It fairly closely follows that of the first game (if I remember). Max is an NYPD cop whose wife is killed by what seem to be junkies high on a new drug called Valkyr. Many years later Max finally finds a lead that will lead him to the killers, but he finds that he is in over his head, and the real criminals are much closer to home. There are the usual minor plot holes that aren’t addressed, but on the whole I think it works OK.

I think the main problem with the film is Mark Wahlberg, he really shouldn’t be allowed to be in films anymore. OK, Max Payne may not have real charisma, but he should have a certain presence that Marky Mark just doesn’t have; I don’t think he has the right look and he certainly doesn’t have the voice. Maybe Wahlberg does have some potential if the right director gets hold of him (Scorsese in The Departed, or Paul Thomas Anderson in Boogie Nights), but otherwise he is consistently bad. Even Peter Jackson couldn’t get much out of him for The Lovely Bones; and Max Payne director John Moore isn’t in the same class. The best actor by far is Beau Bridges, cast as Max’s mentor BB Hensley; he is far more natural than anyone else in the film. Amaury Nolasco, despite being the main antagonist in the film only seems capable of acting in the same bit-part style as he did in Transformers. Mila Kunis is fine as Mona Sax, but I’m surprised that she didn’t feature in the film that much given how much of a part Sax has in the second game.

So while I enjoyed the atmosphere of the film (very reminiscent of Sin City), and the plot was alright; the standard of acting and the relative lack of action (despite the game being all about the action) leaves Max Payne in the dubious company of all the other adapted-from-video game movies.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Muppets (2011)

Maniacal Laugh!

Let’s be honest, this is a Muppet Movie. I don’t expect an amazing plot, stunning cinematography, or tour-de-force performances. I do expect a plot that isn’t too weak or nonsense, that clips along at a reasonable pace and characters & actors that looks like they want to be there and aren’t awful just because they’re along-side a bunch of puppets. Most of all I expect to laugh; and this I did.

Gary (Jason Segel) and his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) go to LA to celebrate their 10th anniversary. With them goes Gary’s brother Walter (a muppet), who is Muppet Show crazy. When they visit the Muppet Studios they find it in ruin and the evil Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) on the cusp of buying them. Richman is going to rip down the studios and drill for oil, unless Walter can persuade Kermit to get the Muppets together for one last show to raise $10M!

The Muppets were spot on; tremendous good fun, excellent cameos, and an underlying message about believing in yourself & finding out who you really are. I knew ages ago that Jason Segel was in the film, but it was only relatively recently that I realised that he co-wrote it as well. As the main human star he is suitably cheesy and over-the-top, particularly during the first song; I did like the fact that he clearly can’t dance and so during a huge choreographed sequence he just wiggled a bit at the front! He also has a tremendous range in silly faces:


Amy Adams doesn’t really do much, but Chris Cooper is pretty good as the daft evil Tex Richman (maniacal laugh!); mercifully his rap song was very short! Of course the Muppets are the stars of the show, and all the favourites are there, with a suitable number of Kermit flails, but not as much Beaker as I’d have liked. Now, I don't really like musicals at all, but the songs are all fairly inoffensive, and Am I a Muppet or a Man is done very well.

Great fun and very funny; I think that’s all I have to say!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Twilight (2008)

The other day I referred to Twilight as Twi-shite, I can’t remember why; but my wife quickly pointed out that I couldn’t really comment because I’d never seen any of the films. Quite correct. I have never had the slightest inclination to read or see the series at all; so when it was on Film4 I decided, in the interests of science, that I should watch it.

Now, I am far more of a Kate Beckinsale in tight black trousers, Badass Bill Nighty Vampire vs Michael Sheen Werewolf kind of a guy, or perhaps Dog Soldiers; so it hardly broke my heart that my impression of Twilight was “Meh”. Actually I enjoyed it more than I expected (I expected to fall asleep), but after the first half of teeny high school crap I found that I actually wanted to know what happened at the end! Don’t get me wrong, I only found it interesting in the same way as a snail crawling up your window, but interesting none the less!

Like I say, I have no interest in ever reading any of the books, but I do feel that the story might work better as a book. Clearly the main focus is the developing relationship between Bella and Edward, but the way it was done was not nearly interesting enough to be a film. At high school I kept expecting Christian Slater and Winona Ryder to be sat in the corner of the canteen, and when we finally got to the vampire stuff (Bella was extremely calm and accepting of this), it was quite comical to see Edward scampering up trees and leaping between them like a lumberjack on speed.

Speaking of Bella and Edward, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson were both OK, but both were trying too hard to be moody and intense to be realistic teenagers or interesting; Pattinson in particular, he clearly had really heavy eyebrows leading him to permanently scowl. Some of the wide landscape shots were really nice though, but otherwise I think Catherine Hardwicke's direction was fairly aimless and uninspiring. I think that’s all I have to say on the subject; other than I probably wont see any of the other films.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

A View to a Kill (1985)

I find it quite difficult to say very much about A View to a Kill; because nothing about it really stands out. It’s almost like they were trying to quietly sweep Roger under the carpet with out a fuss, in preparation for Timothy Dalton.

It all starts off very promisingly with a spectacular skiing sequence, very well shot and edited; which is then perfectly ruined by an inappropriate Beach Boys song. In no James Bond film is there ever call for a Beach Boys song. At least this is slightly atoned for by one of the better title songs, this time by Duran Duran; not so sure about the blacklight though.

What then follows is something about EMP-proof microchips, Russians (again), Silicon Valley and Max Zorin. Easily the best thing about AVTAK, Zorin is brilliantly brought to life by Christopher Walken. Whether he’s manic, calculated or making it up as he goes along, Walken’s performance is effortlessly cool. With 007 escaping again, most villains would scream “Get Him!!”; but Zorin’s “Get him” is very much “Well go on then, do I have to tell you what to do? What do I pay you for”; all said with the smallest gesture.

In this way Zorin is almost an evil mirror image of 007: suave, confident, calm and will do whatever it takes to get the job done. Where Scaramanga was Bond’s equal in cunning and marksmanship, his personality was quite different. I think the way that Walken plays Zorin is perhaps a surprisingly accurate reflection of 007.

To balance this out, May Day is an out and out nutjob of a sidekick. Grace Jones is not just a scary hench-woman, she is a very scary human being. Not only does she look like a weird vicious cat, she has a really bonkers wardrobe to go with it; including a very inappropriate wrestling outfit!

Another highlight in a film that is so low-key you barely notice you’re watching it, is the impressive sequence on top of the Golden Gate Bridge. Stunt arranger Bob Simmons, in what would be his last film, once again demonstrates his ability to design very dramatic action sequences. I also liked the way that 007 only visited two locations rather than jetting off all over the place; and everything that happened at each of these locations followed some sort of logic; unlike most of Octopussy.

So I found something to say about A View to a Kill after all; Roger Moore barely breaks sweat until he is standing on top of the Golden Gate Bridge, or maybe he just appears to be so sedentary because Christopher Walken is so full of zing, or maybe it’s just because he’s 57! Time for a change?

Order of Preference so far:

The Sunday Scene #13: 300

Spartans! Prepare for glory!

Apologies for the absence of The Sunday Scene last week, I was rather preoccupied with finalising a presentation I had to do for work; but now it's back!

300 is full of great scenes, but the one I want to focus on features something of a Zack Snyder trademark. It is a very long time since I saw Dawn of the Dead, so I can't remember if there was any slow-fast-slow moments, but certainly it is in 300 that Zack honed his technique and used it to great effect. Watchmen also has some of this technique, but I think its use is limited (I certainly remember the scene when Nite Owl and Silk Spectre rescue Rorschach from prison), and the scene in Sucker Punch on the train was simply phenomenal.

300 features a lot of stylised battle sequences, but the scene that is really stunning is about an hour and 10 mintues in. It begins with Tom Wisdom's character, Astinos, fighting on his own, chopping off limbs and killing Persians. He is then joined by Michael Fassbender (Stelios), and the two really dance around each other; a very lethal dance, especially if you're in Xerxes' army.

As the two move around each other the camera is constantly moving, and by the end of the scene has, I think, turned 360°, but all done in fits and spurts as Astinos and Stelios gracefully move and then quickly thrust their swords into their enemies.

As I mentioned, much of the fighting in the film is in this style, but for me this is the really stand out scene. I think part of what makes this really fun is that Fassbender seems to be having  an absolute blast; and thanks to Zack's vision it is really beautifully violent!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Unknown (2011)

Having had a bit of a resurgence in recent years, Liam Neeson shows again how he is surprisingly suited to action films. Dr Martin Harris (Neeson) arrives in Berlin with his wife Elizabeth (January Jones) to give a seminar at a Biotech conference. When checking into their hotel, Martin realises he has forgotten a bag at the airport and heads back in a taxi to fetch it; unfortunately the taxi (driven by Gina: Diane Kruger) has an accident, crashing through a bridge and plunging into the river. Despite being rescued by Gina, Martin loses consciousness, is in a coma for four days, and wakes up suffering from amnesia; and so he sets out to discover who he really is.

The film does have a resemblance to a few other films of the “discovering yourself” genre, but I won’t go into any detail as that would constitute a huge spoiler. Liam Neeson is solid as Martin, giving a sense of believability to the situation; his calm yet imposing presence works really well, as it did in The Grey. Surrounding Liam is an impressive cast; Diane Kruger and January Jones are both beautiful, Diane in particular being a natural partner for Liam; Sebastian Koch is Professor Bressler; Frank Langella as the suspicious Rodney Cole; and a great role for the führer himself: Bruno Ganz - this time as an ex-Stasi agent.

Undoubtedly, the other main character is the city of Berlin itself. Director Jaume Collet-Serra mentions how the city itself is still searching for its identity, due to the disruptions of the War and the Wall. Having lived there for two years I can certainly confirm this. In one sense it wants to move on from its past for obvious reasons, but in another it is trying hard to establish itself in the world, and it can’t do that without recognising its history. It was great being in Berlin during the 2006 World Cup and seeing the population being really proud again.

A very enjoyable film, kept us guessing until near the end, strong performances from Liam and Diane, as well as from a more than capable supporting cast. I always enjoy seeing Berlin in films, and some of the action set-pieces make full use of the city; in particular there is a great car-chase - it even involves a truck from one of the local breweries!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Skyline (2010)

My goodness, where to start? I think when the Strause brothers had the idea to blend War of the Worlds and Independence Day, they probably thought that they couldn’t go wrong. This surely is the only reason that they forgot to add a plot and interesting characters. But I’m getting ahead of myself, I should give a brief synopsis first shouldn’t I?

Big alien spaceships descend on Earth, and shine blue lights at people. The blue light seems to mesmerise whoever sees it, but at the same time sucks the life out of them or something (think becoming a Sith when playing Knights of the Old Republic). Soon however, the alien ships start hoovering people up. Our “heroes” try and escape; they don’t. Erm, that’s about it.

The good
It really is quite hard to find anything good in this film, but here goes. I think I liked the steely blue light that the aliens emit, it gives the film a specific feel and identity. Barrel? Bottom? Scraping? The other thing I thought was interesting (perhaps not good), was that early in the film during scenes involving characters sitting and talking, the camera would often be moving. This gave these scenes more of a documentary feel; perhaps trying to emulate the Cloverfield approach. I guess the design of some of the aliens was quite cool as well, though there were far too many that just looked like the sentinels from The Matrix.

The Bad
Everything else really. The first thing noticeable is how wooden the cast is; they really are just planks. Eric Balfour (Milo from 24) has absolutely no personality (he wasn’t that bad in 24 was he?), who knows what his girlfriend (Scottie Thompson) sees in him; though she is equally vacuous. The fact that she is pregnant is the only recognisable bit of character she has; this speaks volumes for our “heroes” story arc; erm, there isn’t one. Even Turk (Donald Faison) from Scrubs couldn’t save this film, though I did laugh (*Spoiler*) when he got squished; it was a very Samuel L Jackson in Deep Blue Sea moment: “recognisable actor, perhaps he isn’t actually dead? Oh, right, now he’s definitely dead!” There are a couple of other characters, including the hotel lobby concierge, all of whom we equally don’t care about.

Then there’s the sequence of random scenes plot. Aliens appear out of the sky; two of the characters go outside to have a look. Shit! Aliens! They go back inside. They try to drive to the marina because the aliens aren’t over the water, so they’ll be safe. ? Yes, the big huge massive inter-galactic aliens that are flying around cannot fly over the water? Turk gets squished, they all go back inside, until at the end there are only two of them left so they go up on the roof and are captured. That it. I’m all for a short snappy plot that makes sense, but Skyline really doesn’t seem to be going in any direction. I realise that having an over-complicated story opens up the possibilities for gaping plot holes (Skyline still manages a couple though), and you could end up with something as over bloated as the Transformers sequels, but for a film where aliens attack the earth everything feels very sedentary! Tellingly there is a deleted scene on the DVD of “hotel concierge’s backstory”; this deleted scene contains NO backstory whatsoever! I therefore conclude that the Strause brothers have no idea what a story is, never mind a backstory.

You just need to look at a recent film in a very similar vein to see how this genre should be done well. Attack the Block actually has a shorter run time than Skyline (just), yet there are characters that we feel invested in, and despite the siege situation, the characters aren’t baggage to the film, they are driving the film forwards; and the main couple of characters even get some development! Where the script in Attack the Block is razor sharp, in Skyline it is about as sharp as a balloon.

The Ugly
You would expect the film to end when our “heroes” are beamed up to one of the alien ships. No. We see inside the ship, and it seems that the blue light that the aliens have been shining around has been filling the humans’ brains with light, which the aliens then assimilate for energy.... or something...(?) Eric Balfour’s head is pulled off and his brain put into some creature... which then has power/energy whatever to do... whatever. Scottie Thompson however, predictably has her pregnancy detected and is spared for something else; but not before the alien boyfriend brain thing recognises her, beats up some other aliens and then caresses her. And she recognises him! *Headdesk!* The film should have ended 5 minutes ago!

The Strause brothers are visual effects guys, so why they suddenly decided they should direct feature films is a mystery. I did actually find AVP Requiem very entertaining, but I think this is because there is a Predator fighting Aliens rather than anything else. Actually there is very much a siege scenario in AVP Requiem as well; is this the only kind of story these guys know?

Bad acting, no real story, a re-hash of previous ideas, there is really nothing to recommend this film at all. Except some blue light...

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

Cults should give excellent material for films given that they’re sinister, oppressive and could be capable of anything. This describes Martha Marcy May Marlene (MMMM) very well, except that Martha doesn’t really become part of a cult, it is more like a small commune. OK so the commune is still sinister, oppressive and capable of anything but they don’t outwardly appear to have any definite tenets.

Elizabeth Olsen’s Martha has spent two years with the “family” headed by the very creepy Patrick (John Hawkes), and having escaped is very confused and traumatised; she is then rescued by her sister and she tries to reconnect with normal life. The film narrative flips between time on the commune (including gardening, casual rape and murder), and Martha trying to deal with her emotional confusion and forgetting how to behave in normal society.

There is a very good performance from Olsen, she very believably shifts between confusion, vulnerability and anger. It is a very accomplished performance that would make you believe that she has a series of great movie performances under her belt, she hasn’t, this is only her second feature film. John Hawkes has a very malevolent presence as Patrick, I don’t think that his character had that many scenes, but he felt ever-present; and when he was on screen you just had the feeling that he was capable of anything (including playing a hauntingly beautiful song on the guitar!).

Though it is a very well made film, there are a lot of unanswered questions; and as to the ending? Well I don’t think I’ve seen a film before where a few members of the audience audibly said “Huh?” There is certainly no closure to the story, if indeed there was really a story arc! It is a good film, it just doesn’t follow the usual beginning middle and end format; OK so a lot of films don’t necessarily follow this format, but MMMM only really seems to have a middle!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Sunday Scene #12: Aliens

Now of course there are many fantastic moments in Aliens, but for me one of the best is where Ripley explains about the Xenomorph to the crew of the Sulaco, so that they might know what they are facing. It demonstrates how Ripley is still feeling, her unease and reservations about coming along on this mission, whether or not she is escorted by a group of battle-hardened marines armed with sharp sticks etc. We can all relate to this; we have all been in situations where we have agreed to do something, and despite knowing it could be the right thing to do, that feeling of apprehension is ever-present: It really shows Ripley’s natural human side before her strong maternal instincts kick in and she becomes a real bad ass by the end of the film.

The other great part of this scene is the banter between all the marines. As I’ve mentioned before, one of the films real strengths is this rag-tag group of marines, they are written and acted so well that we can’t help but become invested in their fate. It is during this scene that the over-the-top fake bravado once again comes to the fore:

Vasquez: Look, man. I only need to know one thing: where they are.
Drake: Go, Vasquez. Kick ass.
Vasquez: Anytime, anywhere, man!
Hudson: Right, right. Somebody said "alien" she thought they said "illegal alien" and signed up!
Vasquez: Fuck you, man!
Hudson: Anytime, anywhere. 

Not only is it a razor sharp script, but it instantly shows us the dynamic of the group, and as a result makes them all the more human. This is before it all hits the fan of course.

Following this exchange and Gorman’s orders, one of the best characters has my favourite line in the whole film:

Apone: All right, sweethearts, you heard the man and you know the drill! Assholes and elbows!

Great scene, great film.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Trading Places (1983)

Trading Places is definitely a film of its time; when it was OK to laugh at people being called nigger, the world couldn't get enough of Eddie Murphy swearing or laughing, and Jamie Lee Curtis still looked good naked. I remember this film being really funny when I was a lot younger, but I didn't find it that funny now at all; there was one laugh out loud moment, but I can't remember what it was. Nice idea to swap a guy living on the streets for a successful stock trader, but I think these days the film just looks tired, and is full of too many clichés, though they probably weren't so clichéd in 1983. It even stars Marcus Brody Denholm Elliott as Dan Akroyd's butler!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The Grey (2012)

Not so much Dances with Wolves as Punches with Wolves!

The film starts by showing us the conditions and behaviour of oil workers in an Alaskan oil field. When a plane carrying a group of the oil workers back to Anchorage then crashes; one of the few survivors on board is Ottway (Liam Neeson) whose job it was to protect the workers from wolves back at the oil field. Surviving the plane crash was the easy part though, as the survivors have to endure freezing conditions and vicious wolves who seem to stop at nothing to tear the men to pieces.

Of course Ottway’s rifle is broken in the plane crash, otherwise The Grey would not be as tense, or gripping as it is. I’ve not seen any of Joe Carnahan’s other films, but with titles such as “Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane”, “Smokin’ Aces”, and “The A-Team”, I’m going to stick my neck out and say that The Grey is a totally different beast. There is much to like; most of all a driving, commanding performance from Liam Neeson. His performance puts me in mind of a big bear, albeit one who knows a lot about wolves and with great leadership qualities! Most of all he is grizzly, but we still see his wistful human side as we often flash back to time spent with his wife or father; this gives him enough background so that Ottway isn’t just a one-dimensional wolf-hater.

The rest of the cast are fine, nothing special, and it is only towards the end of the film that a few of them (the ones that are left) give us a bit of their back-story; but this doesn’t really detract from the main thrust of the film. The other major feature of the film is the scenery which is very dramatic and, perhaps unsurprisingly, very grey; all of the wide shots are very washed out and, more often than not, very cloudy. This of course all adds to the atmosphere of the film which is overwhelmingly bleak, just like the characters' chances of survival.

I can’t think of anything particularly bad to say about the film, which is a odd thing to say as it is not a perfect film; though there were a few moments when I wanted to shout at the screen "why the hell did you do that?" However it is very tense, and has some great action sequences, all driven forward by Neeson’s great performance. The wolves are very well done, extremely vicious and seriously menacing; we never see that much of them, a real case of less is more. The story is fairly straightforward, but there is enough to make the film much better than a simple resumé of the plot would indicate.