Review: The Woman In Black

Last weekend, my brothers and I watched The Woman in Black together. We’d been discussing this:

 …because wow.

And that’s how we started talking about watching the HP actors in different movies, and I remembered I had wanted to watch The Woman in Black since I saw Daniel Radcliffe’s interview with GMA back in…January, February? though I couldn’t remember why. As for me, it wasn’t on Netflix, which I have, but it was for rent on Vudu, which my brother does have. (The TV has an app for that.)

For the most part, I enjoyed this movie. In fact, it might have gotten four stars from me (out of five, even if that’s not how you’re supposed to star movies) if it hadn’t been for the awful ending that made me question everything from the beginning all over again.

Which, yeah, it had a rather absurd beginning. Radcliffe, who is Mr. Kipps (although I kept thinking they were saying Mr. Gibbs and wanted an NCIS crossover) is a lawyer sent off to review the papers of a creepy, rich old lady who lives in the middle of nowhere. Yes, you’ve seen it before. Then you learn he’s ambiguously a father.

Really, movie, really?

Yeah, Radcliffe is just too baby-faced to be a convincing father; we wondered if he might just be an older brother.

The movie is overblown melodrama from the start. Every line is deep, every room is dark—every moment portentous. And every character that walks on screen is so dramatic it’s distracting…by the time relevant characters started showing up, I couldn’t tell, because they got the same amount of screen time and as little actual explanation as everything else had been.

Oddly, my favorite part of the movie, for the creep factor, was Kibbs exploring the haunted house. Aside from the fact that he kept hearing creepy things that are demonstrably haunting and then keeps opening the door anyway, I’d been genuinely startled several times. The sets are gorgeous. Every period detail is perfect. And the special effects fit right in without drawing attention to themselves.

Everything was aimed for the atmosphere of creepy. Not gore, not thrills, but the tension. That works for me, and I enjoyed it, even if it implies Kipps is a man of a tiny imagination.

“Maybe next time I open the door, it really won’t be a ghost!”

Then he fairly abruptly changes his mind, and convinces this rich not-neighbor, who gets a strangely intense narrative focus, to help him restore the peace.

Now, though you know I hate the ending, there were still questions that had already come up. When Kipps arrives in the required creepy hamlet, all the villagers fear him and try to run him out of town as quickly as possible. That’s also standard for this premise, but as I’ve said, everything in this movie gets the same amount of foreshadowing so I couldn’t tell if this was relevant or if every character in the movie was just nuts. And we never learn why the arrival of a stranger made the difference, and if it was just anyone who saw the woman in black:

Why didn’t they burn down the house?

Okay, so kids are dying. How is this at all Radcliff’s fault? They’ve apparently been dying for years. How did they not decide to just torch the place? Gaston got his village to march miles to burn down Beast’s castle strictly through rhetoric: “save your children and your wives!” Not even one dead kid. But in this village, no one apparently even chooses to move, though they apparently already know all the rules of the haunting.

It might have helped if clearer reason for villagers to blame him.

Now this mid-movie other male lead (Mr. Daley?) gained an awful lot of unexplained prominence near the end that didn’t make much sense. Well, okay, it made a plot point, but it was the plot point I hated. Why was he there, and why was his kid targeted? We never learned who saw what that set it off. I rather liked the wife, at least.

As for the Woman: what happened to her sister and husband? If they declared her insane and were imprisoning her, how did she get the house?

Like I said, the suspense of the middle of the movie held my interest enough to forgive the early schmaltz and the plot device Kipps-as-door-opener, and then, and then…

So Kipps has the idea to reunite mother and son, even retrieving the boy’s body (see? plot device). There’s some final ghost action, including dramatic sightings of the dead village kids, and all goes quiet. Kipps plans to leave right away, taking his son with him. Unfortunately, the Woman in Black will never forgive and pulls his son away onto the railroad tracks. Kipps reacts only at the last second and he and the boy are apparently run over while Mr. Daley or whoever he is watches in horror (I don’t know if the nanny noticed)—witnessing the crowd of dead kids again behind the train as it passes. Then we see Kipps and son meeting up with ghostly Mrs. Kipps and they all walk into the afterlife together while TWiB watches in anger.

And I say…

What did I just watch?

That ending just invalidated the entire movie. Not the death of Kipps, which could have been very effective, even including the son (for any other reason than pathos) if we didn’t get the stupid reunion. It’s just so trite and goofy. And apparently too similar to the final Harry Potter, which while I know quite a bit about, never saw: my youngest brother called it as soon as the train went by and then I went online and saw it everywhere else.

The movie has significant differences from the novel it’s based on, but they should have tried a little harder to connect the endings. Difficult, as in the book Kipps didn’t have a child until well after the main plot, but it’s only then TWiB gets her revenge. Much creepier for her to come back when Kipps thought he was safe. Sure, they thought they’d cleared the ghost, but it’s only been a matter of hours at most, Kipps should have been far more paranoid.

But what can I expect? I read the premise for the sequel, and next she’s going after WWII soldiers.

Wha—

That upends the entire premise of this movie, in that she is going after the children. That was kinda important to her character. My fault for expecting dedicated storytelling from Hollywood, I suppose. God forbid I actually try to think.

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That Wolf Movie

Well, okay, it’s actually Alpha & Omega, which is probably not the first thought you had reading “that wolf movie”.

Alpha & Omega advertises the presence as wolves as their main characters, although I must admit I’m not sure why—or for that matter, that the claim is even justified.

It is a perfectly decent kids’ movie. The plot is trite and so cliché that they didn’t actually bother to build the story. They offered the characters and you knew the end, and got some random stuff in between meant to be funny. With interesting names. Kate, the alpha, is the daughter of alpha parents Winston and Eve. Her childhood friend, Humphrey, is an omega. And her father arranged her marriage to the son of the “east” wolf pack, Garth, son of Tony. And Kate’s sister’s name is Lilly. Anyway, Humphrey, though crushing on Kate, can obviously have nothing to do with her. Until they are captured by poaching park rangers and sent to Idaho and have to find their way home before the wall. While Idaho ultimately had little importance other than to be the “there”, the story is bland, mildly entertaining, and mostly forgettable.

Other than the awful, awful “howling”. The story seems to posit that two wolves of equal status (alpha=alpha, omega=omega) will howl together to prove compatibility and to find partners. Indeed, the sequence serves little more than as a straightforward euphemism for sex. Unfortunately, I can’t remember any of the lines. Poor Garth did get a cute moment when he howled so badly the birds kept dropping out of the sky (and why were blue jays flying at night anyway?). But Kate and Humphrey howled like pop stars and it’s supposed to be true love.

We did get real howling at the end now when Kate pulls a fake-out after being hit by the stampeding robot caribou clones. The warring packs stop to mourn for her (because it’s the obligatory “we thought you were dead!” scene) and ultimately reminded me of nothing so much as the magical healing tears of Pokemon: the First Movie.

Wolves can read by the way. And apparently have adopted human land designations. When Humphrey and Kate are relocated, they know they should be in Jasper National Park, and they can read the forestry sign in Idaho.Not to mention the billboard “Welcome to Canada”. And their friendly French-Canadian goose (with his yellow-duck valet/caddy) knows that Idaho is the land of potatoes. This fortunately means that the two wolves know perfectly well what “repopulating” means, and don’t let the idea disturb them in the slightest.  These wolves use human terms and human ideas and I just questioned why not just use people of towns with warring sports teams?

 

This is a shot of Lake Edith in Jasper Nationa...

Jasper National Park—it's a real place!

 

I did like that the movie makers used 3D effects, and not just in random scenes utterly dull in the 2D theater.  While they may have been a little longer than necessary, they were overall well-integrated, and actually made me want to see the movie in 3D.

Kate isn’t ever repulsed by Humphrey. They are friends when young, she gets winter alpha-training and still thinks of him in friendly terms. Then they end up together in Idaho and she thinks he’s aggravating but funny. Then they are on the train back to Jasper (like the vampire in Twilight, not quite the friendly ghost) and she still thinks his immature but funny and an omega and therefore not an option. But during her “wedding” to Garth (that term bugged me) she’s the one who finally pulls back and says, oh by the way, I’m in love with an omega. While the other wolves start to get to war, Garth gives a fist pump because he’s fallen for Lilly.

Garth and Lilly were the real couple here, and had a far more interesting relationship and story. She hears his howl and teaches him how to sing, he helps her learn to hunt. They talk and joke and have fun with each other. Both are actually cute. Kate does not know this though, even though her sister drops anvils anytime Kate mentions the wedding.

But the truly awesome character? Eve. Mother of Kate and Lilly and alpha female of the protagonists’ pack. Eve,  sweet-as-southern-style-tea “I will personally rip out your eyes and shove them down your throat so you can see my claws tear your carcass open!”

 

Reflections on The Karate Kid

Just about an hour ago, I finished The Karate Kid (2010).  I don’t know what the critics and audiences thought, although I imagine it wasn’t very positive (this kind of movie–uplifting, parable-ic) isn’t often well-received. Which I think is a shame. When it comes to movies, people are too cynical.

I haven’t exactly done a lot of reflection in that time–I wanted to write this, but had to turn on the computer to do so, and of course got distracted by Twilight sporks on ImpishIdea–and did no research.

What research? Once or twice I questioned how plausible it would be to ‘master’ kung fu to tournament level, which was never really in question. But I didn’t really feel I had to question it, I was fully engrossed in the world–my belief near completely suspended. (That’s a good thing, unlike my love of excessive punctuation.)

That wasn’t all I questioned in the back of my mind: after the first few minutes, I really missed Harry. When the family (you know, I don’t actually know their names?) first found the apartment, Harry comes right up to Dre, introduces himself, and tries to make the other boy’s introduction to this new world as smooth as possible. Although his immediate offer of friendship was awfully convenient, he still encouraged Dre to introduce himself to future crush Mei Ying (spelling?) and stands up for him against the bullies–for such early teen years, he’s positively heroic (in fact, I think in many standard plots, he’d be the protagonist). And I’m pretty sure he’s shown once or twice in the background of the final tournament.

However interesting he may be, Harry’s quickly dropped in favor of romance for twelve-year-old. It’s introduced right away too. While the growing relationship of Dre and Mei Ying was cute–and by growing relationship, I mean primarily crush to friendship–and possibly ending with more friendship than relationship–it did seem a little much. Just why was it necessary?

The first kiss, well, yes it was cute, but it lasted a little long, and was a little smooth to be less than awkward.

As for Harry, the movie was too long to include him really any further, but I don’t see why he couldn’t at least have been filmed in the background of a few more scenes. Some missed potential there.

On the other side of things, the acting was excellent. I found all the deliveries to be very sincere and real, and even though there were a few wedged-in cliches and Words of Wisdom speeches, the actors pulled them off. As I read once somewhere else: cliches become cliches because they’re so useful that they keep getting used. So that I can forgive…anyway, to a certain extent it ought to be expected. He’s building on an ancient tradition, not making it up as he goes along: proverbs are an important part of the philosophy.

I love the setting. I thought they did an excellent job of…well, I have no idea how well they represented modern China, but I at least didn’t feel like I was still in the States. And that in most public scenes they were actually speaking Chinese. And even the main character eventually made an effort toward learning the same–a far cry from the early scene on the plane.  And not every little thing was translated for the audience–I definitely appreciated that.

Speaking of which, I enjoyed the way later scenes echoed the set up of the movie: like the gesture Dre uses with his best friend as he leaves Detroit, and then uses with Mr. Han.

Umm…I’m a big fan of Jackie Chan, so of course I loved Mr. Han (although I think that was a scruffy an image as I’ve ever seen him in). I love that they gave Mr. Han a backstory–although almost not enough of them: his father taught him, but he still works as a mechanic? The fight scene between the gang of bullies and the adult Mr Han felt a little squicky and awkward, but Dre does claim he let them fight themselves rather than directly causing their injuries…I did see that, but it did feel a little violent.  Still the final scene [SPOILER] where the ‘dragon kids’ (can’t remember the name of their school) acknowledge Dre’s skill, and the bow to Mr. Han–beautiful!

I was so close to applauding during that entire scene–or crying!

The pacing in the movie was incredible. I never do not question anything it seems, but even when I tripped over details, the action of The Karate Kid carried me along, and the ratcheting of the tension level in the last half hour practically had me gripping my chair. (Which I didn’t, but only because I was fiercely crossing my arms and hugging myself instead.)

For a not-really-a-remake movie, I thought it was really sweet and actually powerful. And even though it probably tripped over the line into sentimentality, it never stayed there long.

*Geez, this post is still super long.*