JT Film Review

The Woman in Black (2012)

The Woman in Black Review
Review #164

4/5 stars

Director – James Watkins

Cast – Daniel Radcliffe, Cirian Hinds, Janet McTeer, Liz White, Roger Allam

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Hammer is back! The infamous production company most famous for Christopher Lee’s Dracula series (and a myriad of other lo-fi British horror films), has been dormant since the 1980’s. About five years ago the company was resurrected, and makes its return to the gothic horror films upon which they made their name.

The Woman in Black is also an attempted resurrection of sorts for its star. Radcliffe is of course best known as the star of the recently finished Harry Potter films, and now presumably wishes to cast that mantle aside. A period-ish piece about supernatural happenings may not seem like a complete 180 turn, but there we have it. Is Radcliffe a bit young for the role? I would argue that yes, he is. But Radcliffe is a very competent (if slightly wooden) actor, and he carries the film capably. Any doubts we may have about his character’s motivations are down to the script, and he actually does more than we could have hoped to help.

But does the movie work?

I think it depends on how you approach it. If you expect a slow burn of a horror movie, with nuanced characters and a solid story, you will be a bit disappointed. However, if you are in the mood for a traditional haunted house movie with tons of jumps and chills running up and down your spine, it will most certainly provide them. And that word, “traditional”, perhaps describes the movie the best. While the cinematography and effects are all shiny and modern, the story would have fit perfectly in the good old Peter Cushing era, or even any of the old Hollywood horror pics. Our lead hears a bump upstairs? Up he goes to investigate! A sunken face appears at an upstairs window? Up we trot!The whole movie is in that tradition. If you can go with it, you will be in for a good time.

(Is there something particularly scary about things being upstairs? Well maybe it’s just this movie… we’ve seen plenty of scantily clad leads going into creepy basements.)

Adding some welcome dramatic weight to the whole thing are veteran Brit’s Cirian Hinds and Janet McTeer. We also see Roger Allam pop up briefly, just to reaffirm the Britishness of the movie. Janet McTeer is the standout I think. Her character is a bit of a mess. She has seen some bad things, has had her son taken from her by the titular spirit, and believes herself to be possessed. She is tortured, and we see it. Radcliffe is supposed to be a tortured soul as well. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of that perhaps.

OVERALL

The Woman in Black is a fun traditional horror film. It features performances that range from solid to excellent, and definitely offers its fair share of scares. Dspite a strangely out-of-place ending, it is a very effective movie. Highly recommended to horror fans.

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“The Woman in Black” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

TRAILER

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October 22, 2012 Posted by | 4 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Horror, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Iron Lady (2011)

The Iron Lady Review
Review #145

2/5 stars

Director – Phyllida Lloyd

Cast – Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Alexandra Roach, Harry Lloyd, Iain Glen, Olivia Colman, Anthony Head, Nicholas Farrell, Richard E. Grant, Roger Allam, Michael Pennington

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The Iron Lady features Meryl Streep in an Academy Award winning role as the legendary (and to some, infamous) British Prime Minister. Streep is excellent. So is her makeup. And that’s all that works, really.

If I was feeling vicious I might say the movie is ridiculous, and that a dull pencil has more of a point. If I was feeling generous I might say that the movie lacks focus. As it is, I will just say that I was by turns bored, frustrated, and bored again.

In attempting to follow Thatcher’s life, we jump back and forth from the present (where, in a shockingly insensitive plot device, she constantly hallucinates images of her dead husband), to the past, where we get a bare thumbnail sketch of what made her the woman she became; and what we are given is composed of very broad strokes, I must add. Her father was politically conscious and a Conservative, so of course we see him addressing a group of similar feeling folk with a speech straight out of Torie 101. We constantly hear his face over the film in these sections… “Be Strong, Margaret,” “Be yourself, Margaret.” The platitudes do not let up as we continue, either.

Once we reach the stage in her flashbacks when she is prime minster, the movie falls into a rut of scenes in the past alternating between crushing political defeats and uplifting Great Moments (you know what I mean, the moments from which trailers can cherry pick to their heart’s content), to Margaret hobbling around her small flat, hallucinating that her old hubby is still around, charming her with his eccentricities. There really is no point, nor is one ever implied. I found myself yearning for something resembling a through line, but there is nothing, not amongst the plot, the films comments on Thatcher, her governing style, the era, nothing. The Iron Lady is essentially the emotional equivalent of a Transformers film; while the latter may bore us with repetitive and dull action scenes, the former hits us over the head with one dry, manipulative, and dull Emotional Moment after another.

How is Meryl Streep so good, yet is so rarely able to choose projects worthy good as her talents? This film, a period drama biopic, was for some reason helmed by Phyllia Lloyd, the same person as Mamma Mia. Mamma Mia… the ABBA musical. The ABBA musical that also somehow managed to be dry as dust and absolutely pointless. Are we supposed to like Margaret Thatcher? To hate her? To see her as just a human being? I don’t think the movie knows or cares, and by the last of the sugar-coated Great Moments, our teeth are numb, we feel listless, and we don’t care either.

OVERALL

The Iron Lady is frustratingly inept, but has a commanding performance by Meryl Streep. Actually, most of the actors acquit themselves well, but a lame duck of a script and muddled direction stop the movie from becoming anything. It is mainly frustrating because the motives behind the movie are so obviously pure. I can really only recommend this to Streep purists.

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TRAILER

“The Iron Lady” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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March 9, 2012 Posted by | 2 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Drama, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment