Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Woman in Black

The horror genre is a suffering one. In the past years, just about every genre that I love seems to have made big leaps in terms of plot devices and story telling from comic book movies to westerns. Campy flicks with cheesy dialoge have turned into action packed dramas with thought provoking questions while fun action driven movies have turned into gritty period pieces. Horror is one of the unfortunate groups that has seemed to have taken a few steps back in recent years. Lately it seems as though the only things studios find scary are jump scares and gore porn. Every now and then, we get a really good horror flick, one that treats its audience with respect and not only causes them to jump in their seats, but also to feel disturbed in the time following. The Woman in Black is such a flick. Based on the novel of the same name, this movie is a throwback to the old school ghost stories, the kind that we would tell around a camp fire. The story centers around a young lawyer who is assigned the task of travelling out to a town in the country to settle a client's affairs right after her death. Upon arriving in town, Arthur Kipps (played by Daniel Radcliffe), finds that the inhabitants are scared out of their wits due to the unsettling presence of a spectre of a woman dressed entirely in black. Every time this ghost is seen, a child dies in a freak accident sometime later. While sorting through his client's papers, Kipps deduces that the ghost is that of a woman who was scorned in life and has returned to exact her vengeance from beyond the grave. This is without a doubt one of the best ghost movies I have seen in recent years, making me jump in my seat multiple times and even causing one patron to leave the theater altogether saying (and I quote) "This is just too damn scary". The best part of the movie is this 10-15 minute segment where Kipps is constantly walking around this haunted house trying to find the source of different noises and disturbances, and not liking what he finds. Everything from spontaneously rocking rocking chairs to flickering lights to mysterious footsteps to musical toys going off all by themselves is included in this scene. Sure, it's cliche but it's a cliche that never gets old and will continue to scare audiences for years to come. The atmosphere of this movie is great and you really get this unsettling feeling throughout. From the very first scene where we see three little girls jump out of a window to their death, we get this very unnerving feeling throughout the rest of the movie. To be honest, I'm a little surprised that this movie didn't get an R rating, being that the majority of the deaths in the movie are children.

And now let's talk about the thing that should have audiences talking because it was so well done: The Woman in Black herself. The best part about ghost stories like these is the idea that the fear comes from what we don't see. Or rather, when we see it, it's a lot more simple than we expect, thus adding to the fear. Let me explain. In Sixth Sense, the ghosts did not look like typical ghosts, they looked like people with dark circles under their eyes. If you saw them on the street, you wouldn't think that they were a ghost, you would think that they just hadn't slept in a few days. And then when we learned that they were ghosts, it made it that much more freaky thinking that anybody could be a ghost in this character's mind. Same basic principle is applied here. The  first few times Kipps sees the woman, he isn't even aware that she is a ghost, he thinks she is just some random woman. However, when he tells the other people that he saw her, their reaction is more than enough to add to the suspense and tension. There are a number of moments when she appears in the background and you just want to yell out "SHE'S RIGHT THERE!!!" The icing on the cake is that you never get a good look at her face. With the exception of about three times in the movie, you always see her from a distance, and her face is always covered by a veil, making her face difficult to make out. Even the moments where you do see her up close, it is only for a few brief moments. It's a small detail but I think it is one that speaks volumes about the filmmakers' abilities and understanding of horror and ghost stories.

The other thing I would like to address is the main star, Daniel Radcliffe. A lot of people have questioned whether or not he will have much of a career after the Harry Potter franchise wrapped up. This was going to be the movie that answered that question for all of us. And to be honest with you, I think he will. We have all seen him grow as both a person and as an actor over the course of the Harry Potter movies and I think he showed some real acting chops in this flick.

Final Grade: A-

There is one more thing I would like to talk about, but before I continue, please excuse this short interruption.


Sorry, but a friend of mine read my Sherlock Holmes review and didn't heed my spoiler warning and got mad at me. At first, I argued that I shouldn't be held responsible for somebody else's stupidity, but after talking to my lawyer, it turns out that I am, so now I am legally obligated to do that.

Anyway, I wanted to talk about a lot of the changes that were made to the story from the book. Being that I read the book, I was a little irked at first, but then I got over it and actually gave the filmmakers credit for taking some artistic license with the story. In the movie, Arthur is a widower whose wife died in childbirth. The movie ends with both Arthur and his son being killed because of the woman's malice towards Kipps (she only meant to kill the son as a way of getting to Kipps, but he sacrificed himself so she wouldn't have him, it's a long story). Afterwards, they find themselves reunited with Kipps' wife in the afterlife.

Now onto the book ending. In the book, Arthur has a young wife (who is not dead) and son who he cares about very much. Unfortunately, their ending is much more tragic than the movie. Arthur concludes his business at the house and returns home thinking his affair with the ghost is done with. However, a few months later, the family is enjoying a day at a carnival when Arthur sees the woman standing in the distance while his wife and son are riding a pony and trap. The ghost steps out in front of the carriage causing the horse to freak out and crash, killing the son and fatally wounding the mother, who dies a few months later. The Woman in Black has now exacted her vengeance on Kipps for trying to meddle in her business. Arthur is now left alone haunted by the fact that the Woman in Black has given him one of the biggest middle fingers in literary history. That'll teach you to screw with the supernatural.

Needless to say, there is a huge chunk of the plot that I am leaving out here. Just because it's a spoilers section doesn't mean that I have to tell you everything. The reason for the hauntings is actually kind of sad and while you are scared of the ghost, their is still part of you that feels for her. There is another part of the story that they changed that I have decided to divulge to you here. In the book, it is just the woman  haunting Kipps. In the movie, he is disturbed by visions of the woman, the woman's son (again, long story) as well as all of the children that she has claimed.

Now what I am about to tell you may surprise you, especially if you read the book. I actually thought that the changes they made were improvements on the story. For one thing, having Kipps' wife dead already and the affect that it has had on him adds to the tragedy of the character and explains a lot of the actions that he takes. Also showing images of the children is very chilling as well, especially when there is a scene where you see them all standing in a group almost as if the ghost considers them trophies to be collected.

I'm going to assume that my friend who got me in this mess hasn't read this far, so now I have something to say. Are you shittin me man? I told him there was going to be spoilers and yet he still got angry at me. And for gosh sakes I spoiled something that happened five minutes into the movie! It's not like I gave away some big twist or anything! Keep in mind, this was also the same guy that told me I absolutely HAD to see Rise of the Apes (I know the title is different, but fuck it, I don't care). There is something else that he has done that furthers my anger, I almost feel like bringing it up isn't fair. Fuck it, he didn't heed my warning, so what the hell. This guy reads Twilight, willingly I might add. Now look, I said that Twilight was one of those fads that girls liked and guys liked to make fun of. And he defended it when he read my analysis on that shit storm. Now look, I understand that this is all opinion based, but I don't care, I'm the one with the balls to write my opinions and I'm the one who people keep asking about this kind of thing and take my advice into account. Does that make my opinion more valid? Yup. Screw you David. Oh wait... Should I have not mentioned his name on here? Oh boo hoo. If you're reading this and you know David,  go bother him about it. And if you don't know the David I'm talking about, go find someone named David, and just bug him, and let him know that the Movie Prick hates his guts. Yeah, I said it. David, assuming your stupid ass didn't heed my warning (again) and is reading this, I think you should have the following message: Eat shit!

Yours Truly,


I just finished doing 2 things: watching Drive and writing my final will and testament. Why did I write my will you may ask? Because after people see what I'm about to write, I don't expect to live much longer. Having said that, let's move on.

So when I made my list of favorite movies of last year, people kept telling me that I forgot to include Drive. Truth be told, I didn't forget it. The reason being that I just hadn't gotten around to seeing it yet. And in between the time that I wrote that and saw this, people told me a number of things. One of them being that I would love it because it's right up my alley. So I finally watched it and I have to say that my final opinion of the movie is as follows:


That's it. Meh. Nothing about it really wowed me the way everybody else was. I keep getting the feeling that the screenwriter of this movie wrote it after watching Memento and No Country for Old Men back to back. And I really liked both of those movies.  I've heard that this movie has kind of a cult following, which I can see, but there is one group of people that I can really see loving this movie: Arthouse loving hipsters. Being that neither art house movies nor hipsterism is my thing, I didn't really get into this movie. Though I guess that the whole world became overrun by arthouse hipsters because a shit load of people told me to see this. Oh well. Do I regret buying it? No... Because I bought it for less than twenty bucks using loose change that I found around my room. Believe it or not, I actually found around thirty dollars worth of loose change around my room.

I guess this is another one of those instances where I didn't get into a movie that everybody else liked. Though, I don't dislike this movie to the degree that I distaste Titanic or Avatar.

Yours truly,

Monday, January 30, 2012

Favorite Nostalgia Shows

This last weekend at work, my comrades and I got to talking about something that is both a blessing and a curse: nostalgia. When it comes to reminiscing about high school or days when you felt like you were king of the world, nostalgia can be a bit of a bitch. When it comes to remembering favorite childhood shows, however, nostalgia is sweeter than sugar, especially when you learn that such godsends are now available on DVD. So, here I am to present my personal favorites of nostalgic cartoons. Being that I am a 90's kid, I have to say that I belong to a great generation, if not the best. We had some kickass shows, while the generation after us has Hannah Montana. Is that a downgrade? I'll let you decide (yup).

5. Recess- Ah yes, good old Recess. this was a show with a really simplistic premise that was done very cleverly. The basic plot of the show is that there is this group of fourth grade kids, each of them represents a different archetype (jock, geek, thespian and so forth) going on all sorts of wacky adventures that made us all wish our school was this removed from reality. What is so clever about it is that the show was about things that every kid goes through (detention, stress of school pictures, dodgeball warfare and whatnot), but it was done in such an over the top way that you couldn't help but be sucked in by it. There was one episode where the fourth and fifth graders are playing dodgeball against each other, and the tone and style is done like a spaghetti western. How fucking cool is that?! The final showdown is even done in widescreen with tumble weed, epic western music, the whole nine yards. And that's just one episode. Think about how the epic the rest of the show was!

4. Dexter's Laboratory- This was actually a favorite of mine for years. This was about a young boy with an absurd level of genius who had a laboratory hidden behind a bookcase in his room. Something that I never thought about, but now it kind of bugs me is that his lab is pretty huge. In fact, it's a lot bigger than his actual house! Is part of it under ground? Once again, it's a TV show, so I don't mind it being removed from reality. Seriously though, how does that work?

3. Anything related to old school Warner Bros. or Disney cartoons- I put these in the same category because they are the definitive cartoons that we think of. When people start to talk about cartoons, most of us will automatically think of either Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny. Some might say Tom and Jerry, but you get the point. The sad thing about these cartoons is that they were on all the time when I was younger and now they are barely on ever. They keep getting buried by Chowder, Perry the Platypus (side note: I have a friend named Perry who resented the fact that he shared his name with a platypus) and whatever the hell else they show on kids' channels.

2. Animaniacs/ Pinky and the Brain- Two words: HELL YES. These shows were awesome. I decided that they should share a spot because they were after all sister productions and had a lot of the same writers. These shows were absolute genius. They knew how to entertain kids and also be intelligent enough (and in some cases, naughty enough) to entertain adults as well. These shows were so funny that I would still watch them if they ever came on again. In fact, I'm such a fucking dork that at the time of typing this, I have just ordered a DVD of some of the best Animaniacs episodes. Why not Pinky and the Brain you ask? Simple! I already have one. So there.

1. Batman: The Animated Series- If you have been following this blog at all, you would know by now that I freaking love Batman. I will admit, I've never read any of the comics, but I freaking love all the other media that involves Batman. I've already said that he is one of my childhood heroes and have even listed The Dark Knight as being one of my favorite movies. And this show is just awesome. The characters are great, the stories are great, the animation is very fitting, it's just an awesome show. Like Animaniacs, this is also a show that is good for adults too. The action is good enough for kids but the dark stories and well thought out and developed characters are just astounding. Even some of the villains like Two-Face, The Riddler and Mr. Freeze are very three dimensional. I heard somebody describe Freeze as being almost Shakespearean, and I wholeheartedly believe that. In fact, I think it applies to almost all the villains on this show. This is also the show that has the best Joker. Don't get me wrong, Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson were pretty dang amazing, but the Joker in this show (voiced by Mark Hamill aka Luke Skywalker) is by far the best one. Most fans will tell you that this is their favorite one. You know how Jack Nicholson was mostly clown with little demon while Heath Ledger was mostly demon and little clown? Well, Hamill's Joker is the perfect balance of both. And I have to admit that I never would have expected that out of a cartoon of all places. But that just makes it more genius.