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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.
Chances are that the average moviegoer won’t be all that familiar with Ant-Man – not unless you’re a hardcore Marvel fanatic – but the previous anonymity of miniature-sized superhero who dates back to the 60s, doesn’t prevent it from becoming one of the most entertaining and successful combinations of action and comedy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Directed by Peyton Reed, the story is centered on Scott Lang (Paul Rudd); a skilled cat burglar who is ready to reunite with his young daughter, Cassie (Fortson), and put his life back on track after a stint in prison. However, finding the right line of work for an ex-felon is never easy and Scott is soon reeled back into his old ways by his friend and ex-cellmate, Luis (Peña), who convinces him to break into a San Francisco mansion to steal an old man’s fortune. After a successful break in, Scott finds no money; just motorcycle-type suit and a helmet. Convinced that the job is a total bust, Scott is soon shocked to learn that once he dons the suit and presses a special button, he is reduced to ant-size. Amazed at the discovery, Scott soon comes face-to-face with the suit’s inventor, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who’s looking to find someone with the right set of skills to take over on his invention and help him put a stop to his one-time protégé, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who has taken over his company and is now getting ready to unleash ‘Yellowjacket’; a special-suit threatening to endanger world order.
Much like last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the humour not only plays a large part of Ant-Man, but serves to be the driving force of the film. Embellished with a bold colour palette, Ant-Man looks fantastic it never becomes overbearing – something that many superhero’s tend to adopt. Written by Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay and Rudd himself, Ant-man’s screenplay is engaging and smart enough to give the audience the time to get to know and invest in the characters fully.
Speaking of characters, the cast is superb and for those who had doubts that Rudd - yes, the same guy who plays Mike on Friends - could pull it off, will be pleasantly surprised. Sporting an impressive six-pack, Rudd is extremely likable – and flexible – as the eponymous character, while Douglas, as the scene-stealing scientist, is the quiet force of the film.
Playing out as more of a comedy than a straightforward super-hero action, Ant-Man never takes itself too seriously and, even though it’s not as visually grand or as explosive as any of the Avengers films, it is still more than capable of standing on its own. Two (unlikely) thumbs up. How Ant-Man will come to play apart in the wider plot of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be interesting to see.
Let’s dive in and get to the point; there is little-to-nothing new or innovative about Mark Neveldine’s young-woman-possessed-by-a-demonic-spirit offering in The Vatican Tapes – a generic and uncreative horror entry that fails to inspire, move or frighten.
The film begins with a brief video scene showing a possessed woman named Angela (Taylor Dudley), before switching back through the plot’s timeline to find the main character preparing to celebrate her birthday with boyfriend, Pete (Amedori). After unexpected visit from her God-fearing father, Roger (Scott), and a minor accident that sends her to the hospital, Angela begins to show some troubling signs of aggression and unusual behavior. We come to learn that this is the beginning of a systematic demonic takeover, which soon catches the attention of Father Lozano (Pena), who subsequently takes the case to the Vatican when he begins to suspect that Angela may have been chosen as a vessel for the Anti-Christ. Are you still with us?
The Vatican Tapes marks the very first horror film for the director of the Crank film series, Mark Neveldine whose seeming inexperience in the genre is evident throughout. Written by Christopher Borrelli and Michael C. Martin, there’s very little to the story – it’s as basic, straightforward and predictable as you can get – and its clumsy execution only goes on to exacerbate. Possessed (ha!) by a level of incoherence, the film and its undeveloped and plain uninteresting characters make it near impossible to invest in the film.
Told in flashbacks and with the shaky found-footage format that just refuses to go away, the plot never really finds its footing and seems rushed, making it awfully difficult to figure out what’s actually going on at times. Similarly, the acting suffers, especially the picture’s biggest name, Michael Pena, who seems uncomfortable in his own skin throughout.
With a reported budget of $13 million, the film has thus far only made $900,000 return and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the production failed to recoup its expenditures. But then what can you say for a film that, in some scenes, looks like it came from a Wayans brothers’ horror spoof in a sub-genre that hasn’t produced a film to top the one that started it all off, The Exorcist?