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The Woman In Black: An Occasionally Scary Ghost Story
Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe) is still depressed over his wife’s passing four years ago and his work is suffering as a result. As a last chance, his boss gives him an assignment to take care of some business in a remote village; he’s to deal with a mountain of paperwork needed to put a manor on the market – one that’s owner recently died and which the locals don’t seem very eager to sell. Undeterred by the very hostile, unhelpful locals, Kipps begins to work at the house and there he starts to see the ghost of the eponymous woman in black. He slowly pieces the puzzle together, figuring out her identity and the relationship between her and the deaths, both past and present, of many of the children in the village.
The film’s selling point seems to be Daniel Radcliffe, who stars in his first role post Harry Potter, which is great except that he happens to be the weakest part of the film. He’s not bad per se, he’s just woefully miscast. He plays a depressed father to a four-year old whose mother died during childbirth. The thing is, Radcliffe doesn’t look old enough to be a father let alone to a four-year old, and the way he interacts with his onscreen child is more reminiscent of a sibling relationship, or one between a babysitter and their ward, rather than that of a father and child. Other than that, he does a good job portraying a man grappling with feelings of guilt and forced to be in a place that reminds him of his deepest fear at every turn.
What’s really different about this film, at least compared to newer horror productions, is that it allows for breathing space. The film doesn’t shy away from long, quiet shots that aim to set up the atmosphere. These scenes lull you into a false sense of complacency before boom! A shrieking head pops out, or a wind-up toy suddenly starts moving. Thankfully, the screaming humans, running around frantically, are kept to a minimum. The film is also filled with children who get up and quietly commit suicide. The opening scene – which is of three young girls playing – shows them as they get up, cross over to the window and in sync, silently throw themselves out of it. As beautiful as it is, it is also disturbing – it sets up the film’s quietly eerie tone very well.
For the most part though, this is a run of the mill ghost story where floorboards creak, doors slam at their own accord and shadowy figures pop out, scare the daylights out of everyone then disappear again. There’s nothing in it that we haven’t seen a billion times before and while it isn’t scary – not by a long shot – it will make you jumpy; the occasionally over the top score makes sure of that. The Woman in Black brings nothing new to the table but it makes better use of the generic ghost tricks than most films of this ilk.
One of the main reasons why 21 Jump Street – the 2012 reboot of the celebrated 80's TV-cop show - was such a huge box-office success was that it never took itself seriously. The sequel - perhaps one of the most anticipated comedies of the year - is smart enough to expand its comedic walking grounds and retain the same self-mocking attitude in the hilarious and entertaining, 22 Jump Street.
Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, 22 Jump Street starts off with a 'previously on' recap of the first film – a little homage to its TV roots - which finds partners, Jenko (Tatum) and Schmidt (Hill), successfully bringing down a high-school drug dealing ring.
After failing to arrest one of the most wanted criminals in the country, the duo is once again pulled back into Jump Street; the separately-financed program, run by the no-nonsense Captain Dickson (Cube). This time, however, their playground has been swapped from high school to college, where the unlikely duo must track down and put a stop to the spread of ‘WhyPhy’; a dangerous hallucinogenic that has already claimed the life of one student.
In order to fit in, the partners decide to enrol themselves in various classes and activities with Jenko going off to join the football team – and immediately bonding with the campus jock, Zook (Russell) - while Schmidt goes on to fall for art-major, Maya (Stevens). However, their relationship – and what they thought was an unbreakable bromance – is soon put to the test and if they are ever to locate the dealer and close the case, they must first find a way back to one another.
Calling 22 Jump Street a sequel is a little far-fetched as the only thing that has changed is the address. Everything else is pretty much the same. This rather clever angle, to an already established premise, is refreshing, as are the jokes and the ongoing gags that tend to mock its very own “bigger budget, bigger spectacle” premise.
One of the best things about 22 Jump Street is the onscreen pairing of Tatum and Hill, whose incredible charisma and easy chemistry. Hill, who was the shining star of the first film, seems to have taken a back seat this time around and even though his passive-aggressive attitude – and the downright hilarious ‘walk of shame’ scene – is an endless source of laughs, it’s Tatum who takes centre stage.
Funny and light, 22 Jump Street is far from perfect, but it is fresh, and most important of all, it makes you laugh.
Adapted from John Green’s 2012 bestselling novel of the same name, The Fault in our Stars - a formulaic but engagingly honest story of star-crossed lovers brought together by a mutual pain - will sadden, enrich and perhaps even comfort, many of those who come across its path.
The story is centred on the sixteen year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster (Woodley); a girl who has been battling with terminal thyroid cancer since the age of thirteen. After being one of the few to respond to an experimental drug treatment, her condition is now stable, though the side effects have weakened her lungs and she is now constantly attached to a portable oxygen tank.
Hazel has pretty much accepted the fact that her days are numbered but her parents, Frannie (Dern) and Michael (Trammell), are increasingly concerned for her emotional well-being and urge her to join a cancer support group for young cancer patients like herself; not wanting to stress her parents any further, Hazel soon agrees to go.
It’s there that she first meets Augustus Waters (Elgort); an optimistic osteosarcoma survivor who lost part of his leg due to the illness. He is now living cancer-free and only comes to the meetings to support his best-bud, Isaac (Wolff). Instantly intrigued by each other, Hazel and Augustus strike up a flirty friendship but Hazel - someone who views herself as a grenade and is set on protecting those around her from the blast when that day eventually comes - is reluctant to let Augustus in. But as their relationship slowly begins to inch towards romance, she soon sees that she really doesn’t have much say in the matter.
Woodley is absolutely enigmatic as the story’s cancer-stricken heroine and ends up infusing a great amount of likeability and authenticity into the role of a young girl asked to face her destiny much too soon, while Elgort shines as the witty and the incredibly charming young man who refuses to let the cruelty of life dampen his spirits.
The Fault in Our Stars is only the second feature-film for director Josh Boone – see 2012’s Stuck in Love - however, he executes the tricky adaptation like a veteran. Scripted by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Webert, the gravity of the material is handled wonderfully and there is a heavy dose of sincerity, humour and most important of all, heart, injected into the story’s sombre themes.
On the downside, its teenage-romance premise does get a little too cutesy in parts and the subplot, which involves a trip to Amsterdam, feels a little underdeveloped. Nevertheless, it’s the easy chemistry between its protagonists and its earnest approach makes The Fault in Our Stars a success and an ultimate real tear-jerker that won’t leave a dry eye in the house.