The Wolfman (Universal): A remake of the 1941 classic horror film of the same name, starring Benicio del Toro as an actor who returns to his English ancestral home owned by his father (Anthony Hopkins), only to come under the curse of a werewolf.
Directed by Joe Johnston, it co-stars Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving and has seemingly had its own curse: original director Mark Romanek left over creative differences; the script bears all the hallmarks of being rewritten extensively and the release has been put back a couple of times.
After the fiasco of Van Helsing, the 2004 release which made a mockery of the classic Universal horror characters, one might have hoped that the studio would get it right this time. Despite the excellent cast and impressive make-up effects by Rick Baker (famous for American Werewolf in London), the narrative is rushed and it feels like a classic case of too many cooks spoiling the broth.
The English locations are shot with a dull, misty gloom; the gore looks like it has been inserted in at later edit to appeal to teenage horror fanboys; too many comic Northern accents and an unforgivable finale where you cannot distinguish between two key characters.
The presence of ace editors Mark Goldblatt and Walter Murch would suggest that they were hired to re-edit the film into something coherent and respectable, but is a project with deep underlying script and directorial problems.
Universal have spent a fair amount marketing this, so they can expect decent business this weekend in the US and UK, but once word of mouth spreads and people read the mixed reviews, it will die a swift death. [Empire Leicester Square & Nationwide / 15]
Valentine’s Day (Warner Bros.): A patchwork romantic comedy about intertwining couples and singles in Los Angeles who break-up and make-up based on the pressures and expectations of Valentine’s Day.
An all star ensemble cast includes Julia Roberts, Bradley Cooper, Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Garner, Patrick Dempsey, Shirley MacLaine, Taylor Lautner, Taylor Swift, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx, Anne Hathaway and Topher Grace. Clearly aimed at less-than-discerning female audiences, it basically looks like this year’s He’s Just Not That Into You. Poor reviews will not stop the target audience from rushing to this like crack-heads sprinting to their dealers. [Nationwide / 12A]
Ponyo (Optimum Releasing): The latest animated film from Studio Ghibli, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki is a tale of a goldfish named Ponyo who befriends a five-year-old human boy and wants to become a human girl.
A huge hit in Japan, it has garnered awards and critical acclaim and should do reasonable business before discovering a wider audience on DVD and Blu-ray.[Vue West End & Nationwide / U]
A Single Man (Icon): An adaptation of the novel by Christopher Isherwood, which explores a day in the life of an English college professor (Colin Firth) in Southern California in 1962.
The directorial debut of fashion designer Tom Ford is a tasteful and well acted affair with a nuanced and moving central performance by Firth and some fine supporting turns from Julianne Moore, Nicholas Hoult and Matthew Goode. The production design and period detail are first rate and it depicts the ideas of the book with considerable skill and grace.
There are some drawbacks: a significant plot change is misguided and some of the visuals are a little too mannered, but generally it is a classy affair and finally allows Firth to show audiences what he can do in a lead role. Icon will expect decent arthouse business on the back of critical acclaim and Firth’s Oscar and BAFTA nomination. [Curzons Mayfair, Soho & Nationwide trailer / 12A]
Percy Jackson And The Lightning Thief (20th Century Fox): Chris Columbus directs this adaptation of the first novel in the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series by Rick Riordan, which stars Logan Lerman in the title role alongside Brandon T. Jackson, Rosario Dawson, Steve Coogan, Uma Thurman, Catherine Keener, Sean Bean and Pierce Brosnan.
This looks like a shameless Harry Potter clone (Columbus directed the first two Potter films) but it may get family audiences interested, despite the average reviews. [Vue West End & Nationwide / PG]
Battle For Terra (The Works): This 2007 film (yes, three years old) originally called Terra, is a 2007 CGI animated film redone in 3D about a peaceful alien planet facing destruction from colonization by the displaced remainder of the human race.
Directed by Aristomenis Tsirbas, it features the voices of Brian Cox, Luke Wilson, Amanda Peet, Dennis Quaid and Justin Long. [Empire Leicester Square & Nationwide / PG]
Food, Inc (Dogwoof): A documentary directed by Robert Kenner about the agricultural food production in the US, which explores how meat and vegetables produced by this system are less-than-healthy and environmentally-harmful.
Narrated by Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, it has garnered decent reviews and could make an art-house impact although it might depend heavily on word of mouth. [Curzon Soho, Odeon Panton St., Ritzy & Nationwide / PG]
My Name Is Khan (20th Century Fox): A Bollywood film directed by Karan Johar, with starring Shahrukh Khan and Kajol about a Muslim with Asberger’s Syndrome who emigrates to the United States. [Cineworld Shaftesbury Ave & Nationwide / 12A]
Takeshis’ (Artificial Eye): A 2005 (yes, that’s five years old!) Japanese film directed, written, edited by, and starring Takeshi Kitano in a self-reflexive film about himself. [Curzon Renoir / 15]
Winter In Wartime (Kaleidoscope Entertainment): An adaptation of the novel by Jan Terlouw about a boy who tries to help the resistance during World War II by helping an English pilot stay out of German hands. [Key Cities / 12A]
Anonyma: A Woman In Berlin (Metrodome Distribution): A drama about a woman who tries to survive the invasion of Berlin by the Soviet troops during the last days of World War II. [ICA Cinema]
Beyond The Pole (Shooting Pictures): A documentary film crew follows the first carbon neutral, organic, vegetarian expedition ever to attempt the North Pole. [ICA Cinema / Key Cities from March)
Letter From An Unknown Woman (bfi Distribution): A reissue of the 1948 Max Ophüls film about based on the novella by Stefan Zweig, starring Joan Fontaine, Louis Jourdan, Mady Christians and Marcel Journet. [BFI Southbank, Everyman Hampstead & Key Cities]
Pretty Woman (Park Circus): A reissue for Garry Marshall’s 1990 romantic comedy about an LA hooker (Julia Roberts) who falls for a millionaire businessman (Richard Gere). [Cineworld Haymarket & Nationwide / 15]
> DVD and Blu-ray Picks for Monday 8th February including Adventureland, Mystic River and Paper Heart
> Get local cinema showtimes for your area via Google Movies