Monday, February 27, 2012

A Reel Opinion: Oscar Post-Mortem, The Good, The Bad, & The Glorious

The 84th Academy Awards were handed out last night, and as expected THE ARTIST was the big winner, taking home Best Picture and five total Oscars. Hot on its heels was Martin Scorsese’s HUGO, which also came away with five. There were no real surprises or upsets this year, which is a good thing because that means all the right films and people won.

As it is with every year, there is plenty to praise and complain about…


-Sixty-three year-old Billy Crystal returned for the ninth time to host; his first since 2004. Yes, it was the same old Billy doing mostly the same old jokes, but it was familiar territory and offered a bit of a comfort. Billy kept things moving along, and it’s fair to say that the show looked pretty darn good considering they had to switch out producing teams and a host just a few months ago. Some jokes bombed, many were hilarious, but it was an absolute improvement over the disaster that we had a year ago with the outmatched dynamic duo of young-un’s in the form of James Franco and Anne Hathaway.

-Pixar took full advantage of the built-in, captive audience by unleashing a fantastic teaser for its upcoming BRAVE. This Blogger has always felt that commercial-time for the Oscars should be treated like prime-real estate for studios who want to showcase their upcoming films, but every year no one really jumps on it.

-The “why we love the movies” testimonials. Hearing movie stars tell their personal stories was a great way to remind us that we’re not really all that different from those rich movie stars. There is a connection there that often gets lost, and hearing Morgan Freeman tell us about his experiences seeing KING KONG and THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES puts us in the theatre seat right next to him. Good stuff.


-The In Memoriam. The exclusion of the late great Nicol Williamson, who was once described as “the greatest actor since Marlon Brando”, is absolutely sickening. Especially considering that the late Whitney Houston was included. Never mind the fact that Houston pissed away her career, talent, and once-amazing great looks in favor of drugs…her career amounted to three total movies in 20 years with only one of them being worth a shit. Other notable exclusions are Michael Gough (Alfred in Tim Burton’s BATMAN) and Charles Napier (BLUES BROTHERS, RAMBO II, PHILADELPHIA, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS).

-As a former broadcaster, this Blogger was cringing the entire night over the terrible audio production. Feedback from the microphones and missed cues were everywhere. You cannot blame the building as they’ve been using that theatre for a few years now (this was the tenth year), and technical glitches aside, most of it felt like operator-error. A room full of drunken muppets could have done better.

-You cannot justify Adam Sandler and TWILIGHT in those montages. You just can’t.


-Angelina Jolie’s legs in glorious HD. Enough said.

-Christopher Plummer’s acceptance speech. The guy has a second career as a stand-up comedian. Hire him as host for 2013!

-THE ARTIST taking home Best Picture. The entire world was predicting it, but hey…upsets happen on occasion (SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, anyone?), so it was good to see the right film win. A good friend of Reel Speak likes to say that a Best Picture winner should move things forward for the industry. THE ARTIST does this by teaching a relevant lesson in the setting of our past. In a Hollywood over-saturated with remakes, reboots and adaptations, THE ARTIST really is a marvel, and deserves everything it has won.

What say you?

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Reel Opinion: Oscar Picks, Episode III

In this third and final Episode of Oscar picks for the year that was 2011, Reel Speak will take a look at the feature-film categories (non-documentary) and the men who made them. Unlike the other categories analyzed here throughout the week, the Best Animated Picture and Best Picture are a two-horse race which can go either way.


RANGO should go down in history as one of the best animated feature films ever made; the storytelling is familiar yet strong, the characters are great and the animation is eye and mind blowing. The only thing it has going against it is that damned release date; the month of March feels like a million years ago. That opens the door (a hair) for the stupidassed KUNG FU PANDA 2, which was released later in the year. Here’s hoping the voters have good memories. Winner: RANGO


Martin Scorcese’s HUGO and Michel Hazanavicius’ THE ARTIST lead the nominations with 11 and 10, respectively, and their domination in the “pregame” awards puts them well ahead of the rest of the pack. Scorcese deserves votes for bringing an outstanding vision to life, and Hazanavicius deserves just as many votes for physically dusting off the lost art of silent filmmaking. The deciding factor has to be that Scorcese did not direct anyone in HUGO to a Best Actor or Actress nomination. Hazanavicius did both. Winner: Michel Hazanavicius


The surprise here could be THE HELP, which cleaned house at the SAG awards, but did not secure a nomination in Best Director or Best Screenplay; a pre-requisite for a Best Picture winner. Filling out those requirements, are HUGO and THE ARTIST, two films which also dominated in the “pregame” awards. HUGO won two BAFTA’s and one Golden Globe, while THE ARTIST won seven BAFTA’s, and has the advantage of two Best Acting Oscar nominations. Both films are saturated in film lore, although this Blogger found HUGO to be lacking in energy, while THE ARTIST just had an unrelenting charm that was easy to get lost in. THE ARTIST also feels like the more relevant film. The movie industry often faces new technologies which threaten to change everything, and some people embrace it, some don’t. That is the story that THE ARTIST tells, and it is destined to repeat for many years to come. Come to think of it, THE ARTIST is one of the most significant films to come around in a long time. Winner: THE ARTIST

What say you?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Reel Opinion: Oscar Picks, Episode II

Perhaps more than any other year, the competition in the 2011 Acting categories is tighter than a mosquito’s ass in a nose dive. Packed with old veterans and snappy newcomers, a good case can be made for nearly every person in the lot; making each category a two-or-three person race. In this second Episode of Oscar picks, this Blogger bravely forges into the mist with the full expectation of being embarrassed.

Ladies first…


Octavia Spencer is the heavy favorite here, having already won the Golden Globe, the SAG, the BAFTA, and Critics Choice award for her role in THE HELP. Her film is getting a lot of attention for its acting, which puts her co-star Jessica Chastain in the mix as well. If the voters split too close on these two ladies, that leaves the door open (a crack) for the lovely Berenice Bejo, who will be drawing attention because of her involvement in the hugely favored THE ARTIST. In the end, Spencer’s winning of the all the “pregame” awards is tough to dismiss. Winner: Octavia Spencer


While this Blogger is still head-over-heels in love with Michelle Williams’ breathtaking reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe, it seems that Meryl Streep and another actress from THE HELP, Viola Davis, are the favorites. Glenn Close’s gender-bending ALBERT NOBBS is too critically panned, and not much attention is being given to Rooney Mara’s bisexual punk-girl transformation (although there should be). It seems that Streep has been nominated every year since 1876, having won twice, but her film, THE IRON LADY, is not doing well with critics. Streep and Davis split the “pregame” awards, but Davis seems to be a darling in Hollywood right now. And her win would make her only the second African-American to win this category. Winner: Viola Davis


There is a very exaggerated Battle of the Old Farts in this category, as the media is eager to focus on the 80-something Christopher Plummer and the 80-something Max Von Sydow. Plummer is likely to run away with this one, having done well in the “pregame”, and Sydow’s film has been critically drubbed into the mud. The dark horse here is another Old Fart in the form of Nick Nolte, whose outstanding turn in WARRIOR nearly stole the show. Bringing up the rear is the young whipper-snapper Jonah Hill, whose performance in MONEYBALL, while very good, isn’t quite up to the Big Leagues just yet. Plummer may not get another chance at this, so they might as well award him while he’s still vertical. Winner: Christopher Plummer


This category is by far the most competitive. George Clooney and Jean Dujardin are the clear favorites; both actors have won Golden Globes, while Clooney went home with a Critics Choice and Dujardin won a SAG. If the voters split the vote too close, that could leave the door open (more than a crack) for Brad Pitt to sneak in. Clooney’s performance was an unexpected emotional showing, but has the slight disadvantage of having won before; just ask Meryl Streep how hard it is to win multiple Oscars. Dujardin’s performance in the lost-art of silent filmmaking in THE ARTIST involved a lot of physical work; having to tell his story in body language and facial expressions only. It is a performance resurrected out of the past that should be recognized. Winner: Jean Dujardin

What say you?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Reel Birthday

Reel Speak is two years old today.

Earlier this month, a very passionate writer over at Badass Digest wrote a unique article which fleshed out his love for the movies. The concept was picked up by one of the better writers at Ain’t It Cool News who has encouraged others to “pay it forward”; almost a film-geek chain-letter where movie buffs can share the inspirations that keep them going back to the theatre.

The two-year anniversary of Reel Speak felt like the perfect time to share this Blogger’s inspirations. These are the Top 20 pieces of my movie history which inspire and get me out of bed every (goddamn) Tuesday morning…


20. Because those damn sandworms were up thirteen percent.

19. Because the Eighth Wonder of the World fell in love.

18. Because a Jaguar Shark ate my best friend.

17. Because the rum is always gone.

16. Because of John Williams.

15. Because I have been, and always shall be your friend.

14. Because in space, no one can hear you scream.

13. Because Red October was hunted.

12. Because the only Virtue is Vengeance. A Vendetta.

11. Because that dirty little coward shot Mr. Howard.

10. Because we will not walk in fear of one another.

9. Because they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

8. Because Claire once wore angel wings.

7. Because as far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a gangster.

6 Because I will drink your milkshake.

5. Because if someone asks me if I’m a god, I say yes.

4. Because they needed a bigger boat.

3. Because there had to be snakes.

2. Because the Fellowship will not fail.

1. Because of what happened on May 25, 1977.


Thanks for reading over the past two years.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Reel Opinion: Oscar Picks, Episode I

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will hand out their 84th annual Oscars this coming Sunday. For movie-geeks and film buffs, this is their Super Bowl; where a year’s worth of screenings, reviews, and debates finally comes together in one, short little telecast.

Once again, Reel Speak will make a feeble attempt at predicting winners in the major categories. Considering this Blogger’s score from last year (12 of 24), consider these predictions to be a public service; whatever you read here, fill out your ballots the opposite.

In this first Episode of three, we’ll look at some of the technical categories.


Despite its vibrancy being dulled by the utter drek that is (goddamn) 3D, HUGO is by far the most technically proficient film of the year. Using its visuals as part of the storytelling as opposed to spectacle, it has to be the favorite. The dark horse is RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, which heavily utilized motion-capture technology to bring heart and soul to its main chimp-character. Despite the strides in technology APES made, the overall effectiveness of HUGO gives it an edge. Winner: HUGO


This is a three-way race between HUGO, THE ARTIST, and THE TREE OF LIFE. Although THE ARTIST is the odds-on favorite to win all the marbles, its silent-film structure calls for a very simplistic presentation; there’s only so much you can do if you want to be true to the period. HUGO is a marvel to look at, but the outstanding photography and manipulation of images of THE TREE OF LIFE has to be recognized. The film might be dense and vague enough that it may take 20 years to decipher, but LIFE has to be recognized for something. Winner: THE TREE OF LIFE.


Nine times out of ten these two categories are won by the same film, which puts HUGO, WAR HORSE, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, and TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON in contention. As much as this Blogger loved WAR HORSE and TATTOO, it’s difficult to recall any outstanding tickling of the eardrums in those films. TRANSFORMERS put on the audio and visual spectacle of the decade in its holy-shit end-battle, but the Academy doesn’t seem to like giant robots smashing everything. That leaves HUGO. Which again, is the most technically sound film of the bunch. Winner: HUGO

What say you?

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Reel Review: The 2011 Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films

All five nominees for Best Animated Short have two things in common; first, they are all filmed on location in their scripted settings (Ireland, New York, India, Norway), and take advantage of their surroundings perfectly. And second, they are all very, very good…making this category one of the most competitive of the year.

The nominees are:


Young Damian is forced to serve as an altar boy at an important mass, and must either conform to the status quo or give up his passion for football.

The genius of PENTECOST is that it is set up like a formulaic sports-film; only instead of athletes in a stadium overcoming great odds, it is an altar boy in a church overcoming great odds. There is even a remarkable locker-room pep talk-type scene in which a priest tries to inspire his altar boys in the sacristy. Aside from the sports allegories, PENTECOST puts our main character in a tough situation and lets him find his own way out of it.


A drama in which a German couple adopts an Indian orphan, who suddenly disappears.

RAJU attempts to go through some emotional ups and downs as the happy couple meets their adapted boy for the first time, and then goes through the horror of losing him on the crowded city streets. The pacing in RAJU is sodden, and the emotional attempts fall a bit short. Still, RAJU goes through some neat
twists and turns, making for an interesting time in the streets of India.

(Northern Ireland)

An uplifting story of two childhood friends who are divided for 25 years after a love-triangle conflict.

THE SHORE stands out amongst the nominees not only because it is the longest (31 minutes), but because it is the only one with noteworthy actors (Ciaran Hinds and Kerry Condon). It is a powerful and enjoyable tale of the way time heals all wounds and conflicts, and despite the long-ish running time, is good enough that you wind up wanting more. Ciaran Hinds flexes his acting chops (and his Irish singing voice), and Belfast, Ireland is beautifully filmed.

An inventor creates a time machine, and gets caught up traveling around yesterday trying to fix his mistakes.

A hilarious time-travel romp which may not quite pass any tests in logic, but succeeds everywhere else. Sharply cut and acted, TIME FREAK prances along at a brisk pace, keeping the viewer fully engaged while never having to think too hard.


Seventy-year old Oskar is told that he only has six days to live, and wants to put things right with his brother who lives in New Jersey.

The bitter cold of Norway is felt right through the screen in this tale of redemption with a little sci-fi spin on it; Oskar’s only way of contacting his brother is through a giant tuba-contraption (which they built when they were kids) with the ability to be heard across the ocean. Despite the Angel of Death hanging over the film, it is a very funny film and overall lighthearted.


The Oscars will be awarded February 26th.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Reel Review: The 2011 Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films

As it is nearly every year, this year’s Oscar Nominees for Best Animated Short showcases all sorts of visual styles; ranging from modern CG to watercolor to sketching. They have many things in common; the animation styles match the tone and atmosphere of each story, and four out of the five have no dialogue. The funny thing is the one film that does have dialogue is the weakest of the bunch.

The Nominees are:


Seen through the eyes of a bored little boy as he goes through same old boring routine on a Sunday; Going to church and visiting relatives.

The animation style here is a simple and drab sketch-style on white paper. It matches the atmosphere of the simplistic mind of a child perfectly. So well done you can’t help but to be reminded of what it was like to be a kid surrounded by boring adults.


Mr. Lessmore is whisked away by a hurricane to a place where his books are alive, and he must be their caretaker.

Inspired by Buster Keaton and THE WIZARD OF OZ, this is a charming little tale about the healing powers of books. It is loaded with allegory, and that is its genius; it is a story all about books, but nothing in it can be taken literally. LESSMORE is magnificently scored and the CG animation is eye-popping. By far, this is the one with the most potential for a feature-length film.


A coming-of-age fable of a young boy whose Papa and Grandpa take him to work for the very first time. The job: taking care of the Moon.

LA LUNA feels like it fell right from the pages of THE LITTLE PRINCE, as the influence is clear and it brings a warm, familiar feeling to the tale. It is magical, it is fun, and it is a joy to look at and experience. LA LUNA will be attached to Pixar’s BRAVE later this year, and it will be worth the wait to see on the big screen; it just may be the best Pixar short ever.


A whimsical little number in which a New Yorker meets a chicken on his morning walk, in three different millenniums.

A MORNING STROLL takes place over three-hundred years, with the same routine repeating itself once every millennium. The animation style changes for every occurrence, and each style (stick-figure sketch, Max Headroom-animation, and modern CG) fits each era. STROLL mixes comedy and horror into one neat little bundle, and is the most fun of the bunch while adding a little social commentary.


The story of an Englishman who moves to the wilds of Calgary in 1909 looking to prove his adulthood, but finds himself unsuited for it.

WILD LIFE is a beautiful watercolor-style painting brought to life, which gets bogged down by some awkward storytelling techniques. Intercut by the Englishman’s philosophical musings and interviews with the townsfolk, WILD LIFE never hits a groove and just feels weird. Bookended by real black-and-white photographs, it feels like the director was making a family-tribute film; leaving the audience feeling left out.

The Oscars will be awarded February 26th.

Monday, February 13, 2012

David Kelly 1929-2012

“Wouldn’t it be something, Charlie, to open a bar of candy and find a Golden Ticket inside?”

Stage and screen actor David Kelly has passed away at the age of 82. The Dublin-born talent was widely known by American audiences as Grandpa Joe Bucket in Tim Burton’s film adaptation of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (2005).

Kelly earned a Screen Actors’ Guild nomination for his role in WAKING NED (1998), and was well known in his native Ireland for the historical drama mini-series STRUMPET CITY (1980), which co-starred Peter O’ Toole and Peter Ustinov. He received a lifetime achievement award at the 2005 Irish Film and Television Awards.

Other notable film roles for Kelly included Roman Polanski’s PIRATES (1986), and STARDUST (2007).


Preferring the magic of STARDUST over the empty calories of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, this Blogger will always remember Kelly as the Guard in the former; a memorable and comedic role in which he played a weak and frail old watchman who could whip your ass with his big stick in a flash. His Grandpa Joe in CHARLIE also deserves recognition; It was a charming, funny and grounding performance that only he could have pulled off, and it added heart to the film.

Whatever he is doing now, he is sure to be doing a fine job of it.

“I’m charged with guarding the portal to another world, and you’re asking me to just let you through!”

Friday, February 10, 2012


This Blogger had the privilege of seeing George Lucas speak at a convention in 2005, where he spoke about his (then bold) plans to re-release his STAR WARS saga in 3D. It’s a shame that it took this long for it to finally come around, for it makes Lucas and his ILM company look like Johnny-come-latelys in a market now oversaturated with the format. With STAR WARS being a lot about visual effects, and ILM being one of the first innovators of digital 3D, the stage seemed to be set for another interesting chapter in the often turbulent book of STAR WARS history.

3D is all about depth of field, which is something that all filmmakers should strive for anyway. With the many large landscapes and vastness of space in THE PHANTOM MENACE, many opportunities are there. Overall, it’s fair to say the overall 3D experience feels about 50/50. In the places where it can be seen, it really works; the podrace, the Gungan-droid battle, any space-travel, and parts of the underwater sequence are sights to behold. Everywhere else, the 3D seems to vanish. Intimate scenes have no use for it, and many other wide-shots where you would expect to awestruck just fall flat. There are thankfully no gimmicks thrown in with debris flying at you.

The dimness of the glasses leads into a major issue of picture quality. MENACE was always known for its vibrant colors, and between the glasses and the conversion, that vibrancy is lost. Darker scenes are murky, and the overall picture feels like its being viewed through a drinking glass after the milk has been drunk. This Blogger has always been a believer in a perfect presentation every time out; advocating Blu-ray over standard-def and digital projection over 35mm. STAR WARS, being such a visual experience, deserves better quality than what 3D does to it.

The way a movie sounds can be even more vital than the way the picture looks. The digitally remastered soundtrack sounds tremendous; fully dumping your ass and ears in an ocean of sound. The iconic sound effects are crisp and the explosions have the low-end of the Earth burping. All this of course is held together by John Williams’s magnificent score; which sounds awesome over those big speakers. Good sound is less about volume and more about presence, and MENACE gets that perfect.

Fans of the film will likely be able to tolerate (not lightly) the picture issues and near-wasted 3D and still enjoy the experience. There is a righteous feeling about seeing a STAR WARS movie on the big screen; a feeling that is confirmed the second that big yellow logo slams in with old Johnny’s sonic blast of orchestration. This Blogger said from day one that all six films would do well, if not surpass 3D ticket sales with an excellent digital 4K presentation in 2D, and that seems to be where the biggest problem is. If people want to see STAR WARS on the big screen, they should be able to without the hassle and annoyance of (goddamn) 3D. Consumers like options, and they should have been given one here.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Reel Opinion: Super Bowl Movie Trailers & Ads; The Good, The Bad, and The Glorious

With squillions of eyeballs watching the Super Bowl, movie studios and advertisers know that they have a golden opportunity to sell their products. For the studios, it is a chance to premiere new footage for their upcoming releases and gain some momentum going into the blockbuster season. For advertisers, it is a chance to dip into the movies to capitalize on some nostalgia for those smart enough to pay attention. So how did everyone do?


-Fans have been waiting decades for a FERRIS BUELLER sequel, but they’ve also been fearful of a CRYSTAL SKULL-like fiasco. Which is why they have to be very pleased and satisfied with Matthew Broderick’s semi-return to the character in Honda’s ad. Playing himself, Broderick and Honda squeeze in a dozen (so they claim) references to the original film and the results are charming. If only they could have dusted off Alan Ruck and Mia Sara…

-Darth Vader makes his first of two Super Bowl appearances in Volkswagen’s ad, which was a followup to their previous STAR WARS themed spots. VW recreates the iconic Mos Eisley Cantina in a fun and nostalgic manner. The appeal of STAR WARS still seems to be strong; the ad picked up millions of online hits before its official airing.

-Like it or not, STAR WARS EPISODE I is on its way back to the big screen in (goddamn) 3D. And love it or hate it, you have to admit those guys at Lucasfilm/Fox know how to cut a good trailer. Serving as a promo for all six films and the EPISODE I release, it starts off with Vader’s iconic breathing sound-effect, which is enough to get anyone to drop what they are doing and pay attention.


-Early trailers and teasers for Peter Berg’s BATTLESHIP and Disney’s JOHN CARTER have thus far generated a lot of negative buzz. Unfortunately for both parties, their Super Bowl trailers don’t seem to help matters much. Both films are coming off as CGI overload with lots and lots of loud noises. Granted, the studios need to put asses in the seats and have nothing to gain by putting together a boring trailer; both ads may have worked for younger crowds. But for us old farts who know better, give us something to hang our hats on.

-You get negative points for not bothering to show up. There were noticeable absences by major upcoming films such as THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, Ridley Scott’s PROMETHEUS, Disney/Pixar’s BRAVE, and Tim Burton’s DARK SHADOWS. Where were they?


-Marketing for Joss Whedon’s superhero teamup film THE AVENGERS has been in low gear up until the Super Bowl, where the curtain was finally pulled back. The trailer offered some new footage and was tightly held together by Sam Jackson’s I-dare-you-to-mess-with-me voiceover. The highlight of the trailer had to be the first and long-awaited “family photo” of all the heroes; the 360-panaround of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Hawkeye, and Black Widow is the shot that people have been waiting decades for.

-The ad that everyone is justly talking about is Chrysler’s can-do-attitude spot powered by the star of Clint Eastwood. It is a rally-cry, a tribute, and an emotional powerhouse that only Eastwood could have pulled off. Eastwood is filmed in the shadows for most of the spot, but when he finally comes into the light, he glares into the camera while his delivery dares you to defy him. This is the type of spot that everyone should watch on every Monday (and Tuesday) morning before going to work. Now that is an ad.

What say you?

Friday, February 3, 2012


The Hammer Film Production Company, based in the UK, spent its glory years of 1950 thru 1970 creating some of the best gothic horror films in history; with films like THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA (1958) with stars like Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. After bailing out of the movie business due to an over-saturation of horror movies in the late 1970’s, the company has returned with THE WOMAN IN BLACK; a creepy tale of a vengeful ghost with all the atmosphere and scares of their classic films. But what about the rest of it?

Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a young, depressed London lawyer who lost his wife in childbirth. Raising his son while in mourning, he is assigned the legal responsibility of sorting out the legal affairs of a recently deceased widow. Travelling to a remote village, Arthur must spend time going through paperwork in the widow’s isolated manor, which is cut off from the world hours at a time by rising tide waters. While working, Arthur encounters strange and eerie happenings around the manor, and finds himself unraveling a mystery which involves suicidal children from the village.

BLACK begins as Arthur’s story. He is a deeply depressed man who must complete his assignment in order to secure his position at the firm and re-establish his relationship with his son. Arthur’s motivations are clear, and in the early goings it is easy to root for him. His story runs along nicely with the mystery surrounding the manor and its spooky goings, but once the goings do get spooky, both stories get lost. The movie spends a great amount of time on its scares, as Arthur goes from room to room in the house, gets scared, runs away, goes to another room…rinse, repeat. While this is a horror movie and it should succeed on its scares, there is just too much of it here and it becomes tedious and boring. By the time the film gets back around to telling its story, it’s nearly too late as interest has been lost.

If BLACK’s lone intention is to provide scares and chills, then it can be called a successful film. Director James Watkins does great work with the timing and pacing, even though many of the scares can be seen coming from a mile away. Watkins does utilize the surroundings nicely; taking full advantage of the isolation of the manor, along with its long hallways, creepy kid’s toys and candlelit rooms. The isolation of the manor is a point of interest; with Arthur by himself having no one to talk to, there are long sequences with no dialogue which provide some great atmospheric tension. Watkins displays some real skill in creating atmosphere, and it should be fun to watch him evolve as a filmmaker.

Daniel Radcliffe is nearly un-recognizable as the boy-wizard the world has known him for. While he seems to have very little dialogue, he does sell the fear and pain that his character has to endure. The supporting cast has minimal action, although they do their jobs well.

The finale can be seen from a mile away by anyone who has ever seen a horror movie. Objectively it works, but even when looking at it within-a-box it feels predictable with little shock value. If THE WOMAN IN BLACK was meant to scare people and do nothing else, then it succeeds. It unfortunately doesn’t put much behind the scares which makes them feel like nothing more than shiny paper which wraps an empty box. THE WOMAN IN BLACK is as scary as it is forgettable.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Reel Facts & Opinions

FACT: 20th Century Fox has closed deals with director Matthew Vaughn and the cast of last year’s X-MEN FIRST CLASS to return for a sequel. Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, and Jennifer Lawrence are all expected to return, along with producer Bryan Singer.

OPINION: X-MEN FIRST (CL)ASS was one of the best reviewed films of the 2011 summer, despite its weak plot, lame villain, and penchant for talking way too much. The film was also divisive amongst X fans thanks to its continuity break with (ahem) Bryan Singer’s first two successful X-MEN films. What makes this sequel to the prequel interesting is where the series can go next, as the finale of FIRST ASS had major characters reaching their arcs way too quickly. Vaughn has proven that he can bring the goods (STARDUST, anyone?), so here’s hoping he can find a way to channel Singer’s X2 (the absolute king of the mutants) vibes into this.

FACT: Several websites have been reporting that Steven Spielberg will step onboard to direct the Moses epic GODS AND KINGS for Warner Bros. pictures. The film will cover the entire story of Moses’ life; from his birth to his freeing of the Hebrew slaves to the Ten Commandments and the decades wandering the desert. The tone is expected to be different from Cecile B. DeMille’s THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956) and be more like BRAVEHEART with Moses portrayed as one of history’s great warriors.

OPINION: Right away, Spielberg knows that he has a tough mountain (Sinai?) to climb in doing a Moses movie, for everyone will automatically compare it to the classic and beloved COMMANDMENTS. Clearly, he has to take steps to make his film different so the comparisons can’t be drawn. What makes it interesting is the angle of Moses being portrayed as a great warrior in history; if this is an historical piece, then will the religious themes still be present (like COMMANDMENTS), or absent (like TROY)? Fumbling away spiritual themes is not something Spielberg has been known to do, so Moses seems like he is in good hands. It will also be interesting to see who he will cast as Moses (coughdanieldaylewiscough), or the all-important role of the (villain) pharaoh. And the thought of a Biblical John Williams score is also exciting.

And one more thing; if Spielberg is doing a film involving a certain set of stone tablets, then he has to feature a certain artifact that he has dealt with before…


What say you?