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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.
Peter Jackson’s fourteen-year-long Middle-Earth adventure has finally come to a close with the third and final instalment Bilgo Baggins’ journey with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies; a slightly bloated, but generally successful, finale that boasts plenty of action and technical superiority over its immediate predecessors.
Hitting the ground running and wasting no time in plunging audiences in the deep-end, The Battle of the Five Armies begins exactly where the second film left off, with Smaug (once again voiced superbly by Cumberbatch) setting Lake-town ablaze as Bilbo (Freeman), Thorin Oakenshield (Armitage) and his army of loyal dwarf-followers watch from the Lonely Mountain.
After escaping imprisonment, Bard (Evans) slays Smaug, leaving the endless treasures of the mountain unguarded for Bilbo, Thorin and co. to continue their quest. But as news spreads of Smaug's demise, the lure of the mountain's coveted riches triggers an inevitable path to war.
A With a running time of just over two hours, The Battle of the Five Armies is the shortest of all of The Hobbit entries, though it’s also the most ambitious and visually-creative of the lot. The cinematography is exquisite and the CGI techniques seem to have been pushed to their very limit.
The cast is, as always, steadfast and dependable with Armitage delivering a blockbuster performance as Thorin, though Freeman’s usual whimsical nature and superb comic timing is, surprisingly, underused. Similarly, the rest of the cast, including Lilly as the she-elf, Evans, as the newly-emerged leader of Lake-town, and McKellen take a back-seat.
With this being the finale, it plays out like a climax and is heavy on the action and not much else – as a standalone film, it may feel a little hollow for some, but for fans, it's a fittingly spectacular conclusion to the series.
Arriving in cinemas in a tornado of controversy, the behind-the-scene chaos of Paul Schrader’s Dying of the Light is much more interesting than the film itself. The man who penned classics like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull was quick to distance himself from the project ahead of its release after some rather sticky backstage problems with the producers.
Centred on bitter veteran C.I.A agent, Evan Lake (Cage), the thriller is essentially a revenge story, with the hero of the piece holding a ceaseless grudge against at-large terrorist, Mohamed Banir (Karim).
After his employers begin to push him into retirement, his young protégé, Milton Schultz (Yelchin), finds a lead on the whereabouts of Lake’s long-time nemesis, sending the two on a perilous hunt in Kenya.
Six or so weeks before its release, Schrader posted a message on his official Facebook page, reading "We lost the battle.’Dying of the Light,' a film I wrote and directed, was taken away from me, reedited, scored and mixed without my input."
It’s something that becomes apparent pretty soon into the film, with the film’s cinematographer, Gabriel Kosuth, also washing his hands of the released version of the film, saying that he was “denied the possibility to accomplish in post-production what is any cinematographer’s duty.”
Whatever the claims may be, the reality of the final outcome is farcical. Nothing about Dying of the Light makes sense; everything about the narrative feels rushed, over-explained and inflated by its seemingly bizarre and hard-hitting score.
In the middle of the mess is poor Nicolas Cage – a man who will, more than anyone else, suffer the butt of ridicule for the universally panned film. In the actor’s defence, there’s little anyone could have salvaged from the train-wreck film and even the most skilled of actors would have struggled to come out of this looking anything but ludicrous.
There are moments where Cage’s trademark subtle grit falls into place with the storyline and just the very notion of a damaged and imperfect agent is a timeless set-up for any thriller; unfortunately, regardless of the clash between Schrader and the producers, this is still a bland, unintelligent thriller – and that word should be used in the loosest sense.