Following up on a singular film like “Sicario” is a hard prospect. The essence is that bigger isn’t always better but also the texture of certain films cannot be replicated. Denis Villenueve (who elected to make “Blade Runner 2049” instead of this film) had such a specific notion of the texture with its sheer brutality and overtones along with a protagonist point of view and an extended superstructure which made it extremely unique. “Day Of The Soldado” fares better than most sequels simply because the ideas behind it are even more prevalent than when the first film was made and even since this sequel itself was released in theaters with everything that is happening along the Mexican border near San Diego. The essence is that the two lead characters of Matt and Alejandro (as played by Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro respectively) have to grow and be held accountable in certain ways for their actions. Of course, there is no way to parallel or even come close to the conclusion of the original “Sicario” which this reviewer initially stated in a way as a “reverse Scarface” after seeing it at the premiere in Cannes a couple years back. Here there is no true segment like that though one involving Alejandro in the desert is pretty wrenching and oddly enough sets another structure in motion that might be interesting to contemplate should the story continue. The director in Stefano Sollima, an Italian filmmaker who made the TV series “Gomarrah” on the mafia in Italy was a great choice but again is no Denis. However with original writer Tye Sheridan writing the sequel and completely understanding the machinations of his world and Darius Wolski who has shot “Fight Club” & “Se7en” for David Fincher, the behind the scenes elements are up to scale. Even Isabella Moner who helped lead the most recent “Transformers” movie shows a definite range as the kidnapped daughter of a drug lord here and holds her own. The Special Features on the disc are succinct and very intuitive of the characters and what the film is trying to achieve from the locations and “making of” to hyperfocusing with the actors on what makes the characters tick. “Day Of Soldado” is not its predecessor but it does a good job in trying to maintain the bar.
The reality in creating an update of the classic Universal horror monster movies is finding the best balance between true horror and schlock. Bringing in exceptional actors balances the table but with all the digital effects possible, it becomes an idea of how much you see of either one presented here. The texture of the new “Wolfman” revolves around the Victorian basis of position but with a modern twist. The deliverance of the metaphor obviously works back to a father and son dynamic. The psychological references that pepper the picture at many points seem to gloss over this deeper truth. The balance lies in the fact that the film wants to be both adherent to today’s audience but also maintaining its identity to the monster pictures of the past. Inherently this is where it misfires because the naivete of that era and the information personification of our age simply does not gel together. The gore works its intensity well while being more visceral than simply bloody. The best part of the picture inherently is in the asylum but the film does not linger there long. The realization of Talbot, played by Benicio Del Toro, as he is strapped in the chair relating that the people in the room are dead is an inherent turning point. Anthony Hopkins plays his father Lord Talbot, who also has a deadly secret of his own, with the same kind of revel he enjoys in these kinds of showy roles. However the finesse of directors like Francis Coppola in a film like “Dracula” gave his performance in that earlier film as Van Helsing a little more definition. The transfer here looks crisp which would be undeniable coming off a digital negative but for a reason the movie still retains (especially with the exteriors in the country estate) a very film feel. Many of sets in the film are digital extensions but Joe Johnston uses this idea to continuing effect since many of them seem seamless with the exception of the London rooftops. Hugo Weaving plays Inspector Francis Aberline investigating the wolf tinged murders but can do little more at times than grimace at the camera as the character basically is a rivet for moving the plot forward. Danny Elfman’s music of course elevates the picture as well since the central theme motivates the progression. In terms of extras, no commentary is available although the BD does include both the unrated and theatrical version which are very similar though maybe with an ounce less of blood. The beheadings still come rampantly.
The extras, relevant beyond the texture of the digital copy which (with the advent of the IPad/ITouch) is inevitably poignant, rests within the ideals of the craft. “The Beast Maker” involves the considerable talents of Rick Baker who recently did Robert Downey Jr.’s make-up for “Tropic Thunder” but also is known for his initial work on “Star Wars: A New Hope”, “The Fury”, “Videodrome” and the seminal “American Werewolf In London”. Like Benicio Del Toro who is also a co-producer on thW film, Baker loved the ideal of updating “The Wolfman” but it was also the excitement of placing Oscar winning actors like Hopkins and the after-mentioned Del Toro in the middle of the prosthetics but allowing their physical and mental selves to show through that was the real draw. “Return To The Wolfman” shows a similar penchant which relates mostly Benicio Del Toro’s intense enthusiasm for the character since it was these kind of monster movies that made him want to become an actor in the first place. Director Joe Johnston’s elements of working with Steven Spielberg, most recently on “Jurassic Park III” gave him an interesting but broad understanding of the genre. What is interesting is the persistance of doing the R rating. The differences in moral ambiguity emerge in the deleted scenes and extended endings. The most intrinsic of the deleted scenes which shows a little more humor is an extended run through London though the brevity seems out of sync with the rest of the film. The alternate endings offer different progressions but hardly hark back to the humanity of the character like the eventually used theatrical cut. “The Wolfman Unleashed” and “Transformation Secrets” highlight the stunt work and visual effects integration with distinct detail giving balance to practical versus CGI which is undeniably needed because audiences are handily advanced in detecting lines in the cloth in the modern age. “The Wolfman” also looks distinctly dark on BD if by design giving it a looming presence. In terms of a the film, it bounds as an exercise in good form without being overtly emotional or cinematic. Out of 5, I give the BD a 2 1/2.