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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Mike Nichols
Cast:
Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, James Spader, Kate Nelligan, Richard Jenkins, Christopher Plummer, Eileen Atkins, David Hyde Pierce
Writing Credits:
Jim Harrison, Wesley Strick

Tagline:
The Animal Is Out.

Synopsis:
The deposed editor-in-chief of an old, distinguished publishing firm, recently taken over by a multi-millionaire, corporate raider, is bitten by a wolf on a lonely stretch of road in Vermont the night of a full moon. As he slowly watches himself metamorphose into something lupine, he discovers that he has been betrayed by his most promising protege, his wife of 16 years has been unfaithful, and that he has fallen in love with the raider's beautiful, headstrong daughter. What follows is a series of grisly events that reaches a bloody and horrifying climax.

Box Office:
Budget
$70 million.
Domestic Gross
$65.012 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French DTS-HD MA 5.1
Portuguese DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Portuguese
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 125 min.
Price: $28.95
Release Date: 10/6/2009

Bonus:
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Wolf [Blu-Ray] (1994)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 19, 2009)

Movies don’t get much more “A-list” than 1994’s Wolf. Directed by Oscar-winner Mike Nichols, we meet Will Randall (Jack Nicholson), a middle-aged editor being out-performed by younger colleagues. During a drive on a snowy road, he hits a wolf with his car. The creature doesn’t die; instead, it takes a bite out of Will and flees.

When a conglomerate led by Raymond Alden (Christopher Plummer) takes over Will’s publishing house, he finds himself on the outs – and replaced by his disloyal protégé, Stewart Swinton (James Spader). Or maybe not. Suddenly Will finds himself full of vim and vigor. He develops much keener senses, and he turns into a real go-getter at work.

Why? Because he’s now a werewolf! Or at least that’s what he suspects. We know the truth, but Will spends most of the movie in search of the answers. Along the way, he hooks up with Alden’s troubled daughter Laura (Michelle Pfeiffer), and she becomes a part of his journey.

Jack Nicholson as a werewolf? Brilliant. Mike Nichols as the director of Jack Nicholson as a werewolf? Perplexing. Granted, Wolf attempts to offer social commentary at least as much as it provides horror thrills, but nonetheless, Nichols – best known for The Graduate - doesn’t seem like the guy to make a monster movie.

I wish I could say that Wolf proves me wrong, but it doesn’t. Nichols shows no taste for the action side of things, so those sequences fall flat. For a monster flick, Wolf is awfully chatty and slow. Will spends a whole lot more time worrying about being a werewolf than actually being a werewolf.

Perhaps some thought this might build tension and make the smattering of action scenes more effective. If so, they believed incorrectly. By the time we get to the werewolf sequences, we just don’t care. Will’s such a bore that even transforming into a vicious beast can’t make him more interesting.

It doesn’t help that Nichols shows not even the slightest hint of talent when it comes to the depiction of the action sequences. From start to finish, these give off the scent of Contractual Obligation Scenes. I get the impression Nichols didn’t want to let us see the werewolf material at all but that he had to do so to justify the movie’s big budget. Even the prolonged fight climax comes across as stale and perfunctory.

Perhaps I could forgive the dullness of these sequences if Wolf provided more dynamic social satire. Unfortunately, it flops in that department as well. Essentially, the movie conveys that one must be an animal to get ahead in business and that’s about it. We never find anything clever or insightful; it takes a simple message and fails to go anywhere with it.

Even with talents like Nicholson, Pfeiffer and Plummer, the cast can’t do much with their characters. Early on, Nicholson impresses with his ability to play Will as weary and unambitious; he submerges his usual devilish charm quite well. Unfortunately, he rarely lets his more dynamic side emerge. We see occasional flashes of a more charismatic Jack, but he generally keeps Will quiet and dull. This means we don’t sense that much of a change in the character; a few random sequences are all we get to convey his alterations, and they’re not enough to overcome all the blandness.

At least Nicholson gets a real character, which is more than I can say for poor Pfeiffer as Laura. For one, Pfeiffer seems to be too old for the part. The rebellious tycoon’s daughter feels like a role that should be played by someone in her early twenties, not by the then-36-year-old Pfeiffer. I assume that the producers wanted someone a little more mature because it would seem inappropriate to match Nicholson with a fresh-faced ingenue, but that doesn’t mean it’s particularly logical in terms of story.

No matter: Laura exists as little more than a plot device anyway. She’s there partially to give Will a romantic interest but mostly to contribute a damsel in distress. Is it a spoiler to indicate that Laura’s life will be endangered late in the film? It shouldn’t be; that’s such a predictable story point that it can’t actually surprise anyone.

Not that any other surprises emerge in this turgid flick. Wait – I was briefly taken aback when David Schwimmer – just then starting on Friends - popped up in a small role as an NYC cop. That was maybe the most amusing part of the film. When a “before they were famous” bit role becomes the best aspect of a movie, that’s not a good thing.


The Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus D-

Wolf appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Sometimes I wish I had a time machine so I could revisit movies during their initial theatrical runs. That would let me distinguish bad transfers from films that always looked ugly. I suspect that Wolf falls into the latter category, but this inconsistent presentation left a lot of questions.

Most of those stem from the fact that portions of Wolf looked very good. Every once in a while, the Blu-ray would tantalize me with crystal clear, vivid images. And then it would shove some fuzzy, grainy shots in my face. This wasn’t a situation akin to Natural Born Killers, a movie that came with a slew of intentionally “flawed” sequences. I could discern no logical reason for Wolf’s less appealing shots to appear that way; since good and bad images came in such close succession, I interpreted no stylistic rationale for the uglier elements.

Every aspect of the transfer suffered from this inconsistency. Some shots offered tight, concise definition, while others looked so soft that they fell to DVD resolution. Colors tended to be more consistent, as the film’s natural, autumnal tones usually seemed pretty full and rich, but they came with their own concerns as well. While most of the hues were fine, more than a few scenes depicted somewhat muddy, bland tones.

Blacks worked in an opposite manner. Occasionally they seemed deep and firm, but more often, the blacks tended toward the inky side of the street. At least source flaws were essentially non-existent; a small speck or two appeared and that was it. However, grain could be surprisingly heavy given the movie’s vintage.

So this left me at a loss for how I should rate Wolf. I do suspect that the Blu-ray offered a reasonably accurate representation of the source material, as I would guess that the movie never looked consistently good. However, the presence of so many attractive sequences forced me to question that theory. Whatever the case may be, this was an erratic presentation, and I didn’t feel comfortable with a picture grade above a “C+”.

While more consistent than the visuals, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Wolf wasn’t any more impressive. Most of the problems stemmed from the quality of the audio. In particular, dialogue seemed weak. The lines came across as surprisingly dull and flat; they always remained intelligible, but they sounded like someone recorded them and then re-recorded them from boombox playback.

Other auditory elements fared better, but they never soared. Music tended to sound somewhat boxy and thick. The score was acceptably clear but it lacked much range. Effects came across in a similar manner; they never seemed poor, but they failed to deliver much punch.

Don’t hope for much from the lackluster soundfield. By 1994, 5.1 audio was commonplace at cinemas, and I expect soundtracks from that era to be as impressive as ones from 2009. Wolf didn’t meet those expectations. The soundscape offered a limited scope and didn’t do much with the various channels. Music showed good stereo imaging, and effects tended toward general environmental information. A few sequences opened things up a bit better, but nothing particularly memorable ever emerged. The soundfield was superior to the mediocre audio quality, but it didn’t do much to add to the action. This made the soundtrack a “C+” affair.

A few ads appear in the Previews domain. We get promos for Blu-ray Disc, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Da Vinci Code, Ghostbusters, and Men in Black. No trailer for Wolf shows up here.

As either a horror film or as a social satire, Wolf flops. The action never becomes exciting or scary, and the commentary lacks even the slightest bite. The Blu-ray provides erratic and generally mediocre picture and audio; it also lacks any substantial supplements. Both as a movie and a Blu-ray, this one disappoints.

Viewer Film Ratings: 5 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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