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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.
Justin Reardon’s feature-length directorial debut, Playing it Cool, sees an attempt at bring some freshness and originality to the rom-com genre falling into the same old clichés.
Dreaming of one day becoming a successful action screenwriter, the main character of the piece – simply referred to as ‘Narrator’ and played by Chris Evans – isn’t all that enthusiastic about being handed the task of scripting a romantic comedy. See, he’s never been in love – a side-effect from his mother’s abandonment when he was only a young boy – and therefore, he’s unable to see himself writing something that he ‘doesn’t believe in’.
Enter ‘Her’ (Monaghan); a beautiful young woman he meets at a charity event. Sparks fly and he is instantly smitten; however, she’s already engaged to be married to handsome and aloof Brit, ‘Stuffy’ (Gruffudd). Powerless to get her out of his mind – a place filled with a vivid, and often dramatic, writer’s imagination – emotions soon spiral out of control and, well, you know the rest.
Desperately trying to swerve away from the lovely-dovey trappings of the genre, Playing it Cool is the kind of film that’s really difficult to pin-down. Is it a rom-com parody? Or, is it just another movie that begins by dismissing the very notion of romance before eventually falling into the very hole it’s been trying to avoid from the beginning? We’ll go for the latter. Already drawing comparison to movies such as Amelie and 500 Days of Summer – a notion that’s awfully difficult to grasp to begin with – the story lacks the charm, focus and the overall substance that made the aforementioned movies the cinematic success they are.
In fairness, though, the two leads do share some genuine onscreen chemistry; however, the movie’s relatively unexciting script is not smart, strong -or creative enough to take advantage of the fact. Monaghan is the stronger of the two; her charm is infectious and it’s easy to see why any guy would fall for her while Evans, who just doesn’t seem right for the role, tries his best to stick it out. However, just like the story itself, he just doesn’t seem comfortable in his own skin – stick to being Captain America.
Essentially, the problem here is that this is a film that tries too hard to be unique, quirky, ironically, doesn’t play it cool one bit.
Formidable, heartfelt and elegant are just a few words one can use to describe Julianne Moore’s Oscar-winning performance as woman coming to grips with Alzheimer’s in Still Alice. Based on Lisa Genova’s novel of the same name, the devastating truths behind this silent yet deadly disease are passionately explored by the writing-directing duo Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, whose uncomplicated and honest portrayal provides the story with plenty of grace and power.
As a highly successful and respected professor of linguistics at Columbia University, the fifty year old Dr. Alice Howland (Moore) has always held a high regard for communication and the intricate workings of the human mind. There are only two things in life that she treasures the most; her sense of intellect – a part of herself that is constantly fed – and her husband, John (Baldwin), and their three children, Anna (Bosworth), Tom (Parrish) and Lydia (Stewart).
During a visit for a lecture, Alice soon begins to notice signs of memory loss after words fail her during her speech. A series of memory tests soon confirm the worst; a particularly rare Early-Onset Alzheimer’s disease with a genetic component, meaning her kids might have it, too.
Eating away at her one small bite at a time, Alice is determined not to let her disease erase everything she holds dear. However, as she descends further and further into her own absent-mind there is nothing anyone can do except sit and watch her disappear.
Still Alice’s story is straightforward, refreshingly honest and doesn’t play on sympathy in its approach to the lead character’s personal sense of shame and indignity as she falls further and further away from everything that has helped shape her into what she is today. Moore’s towering performance – a sublime and authentic one at that – carries the film and watching her confront this alienating illness is touching and heartbreaking.
It’s by no means a perfect film and its shortcomings, if you can even really call them that, come in the shape of the two-dimensionality of the other characters; Baldwin is a little plain as the caring but overly passive husband and Stewart is her emotionless self as the rebellious black sheep of the family.
However, whatever their weaknesses may be, the focus is on Moore and her riveting and beautifully-layered performance which ultimately, makes Still Alice a grand and striking drama.