As soon as the credits started to roll, I thought to myself ‘That was a surprisingly good film’, going into Safe House I didn’t expect it to be good. I expected it would be a decent and fun affair; a good way to pass the afternoon, as it turned out it was a lot more than that.
The film is about one of the CIA’s most wanted men, Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington), he seems to have acquired something that some very bad men want. Being on the run and seeing he has no other choice, he walks into the South African US embassy. The CIA aren’t taking this lightly, and send him off for interrogation at a ‘safe house’, one looked after by Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds). Before long, the place gets raided and Weston steps up to the plate in order to do the right thing and get Frost out of there. The pair are on the run, there is no trust between the men and what Frost is holding is of high value. A cat and mouse game follows …
Safe House is an action/thriller, it is fast paced for the most part and it certainly contains a level of seriousness that I didn’t expect. It has some crazy action but they definitely tried something different with it, and instead of having people be invincible to bullets and punches, people got hurt and the action was delivered in a little more of a realistic way than we’re used to. While some of the twists you might see coming, the action aspect isn’t at all predictable and some of it is a little shocking. Some if the set pieces are really well handled, and the chase scenes are nicely done.
On the other side of the fence, this was a pretty decently acted film. Denzel always delivers, he is great here, he’s a mysterious character and he never over sells it. Everything we need to know about him is established, and he plays it spot on. The biggest surprise though was Ryan Reynolds, he’s always been an actor that I do like but I can’t take him seriously. He’s usually the comedic guy, and even in something a little serious, there is always some kind of humor there. But this was all gone in Safe House, this was serious Reynolds and I gotta say the dude has the chops! He was really good, he played it straight, and he gave us a sympathetic and engrossing character. Side plays like Vera Farmiga and Brendan Gleeson are fine, they come in and do their thing. Run of the mill roles, but they filled them just fine.
Safe House on paper isn’t really anything new, the story has been told before. But it has been told in a solid and fresh way here, it is an enjoyable and entertaining film, and much better than I had expected. It strengths shine through, and its weaker parts are apparent but they don’t ruin anything. It perhaps could have been a little tighter with pacing, but they got it right where it counted. A solid directorial effort by Daniel Espinosa, and a decent script by David Guggenheim.
Marcella Papandrea blogs at Killer Film.
There’s been some confusion surrounding The Bourne Legacy, which is neither a direct continuation of the storyline from previous Bourne movies, nor a reboot of the franchise. Instead, it’s a semi-spinoff that revolves around a different “programmed” Treadstone assassin – as played by Hawkeye from The Avengers (a.k.a. Oscar-nominee Jeremy Renner).
Bourne film series screenwriter Tony Gilroy is juggling both writing and directing duties on Bourne Legacy. His involvement with the new chapter in this popular action-thriller franchise – combined with the film’s respectable cast (more on that in a moment) – was enough to land this not-a-reboot installment a spot on our Most Anticipated Movies of 2012 list.
Renner stars in Bourne Legacy as “Aaron Cross,” a new highly-lethal government spook “whose life-or-death stakes have been triggered by the events of the first three films.” In other words, history ends up repeating itself in the aftermath of The Bourne Ultimatum, once Cross goes rogue – forcing government agents like Pam Landy (Joan Allen) and Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) to track him down, by whatever means necessary.
In addition to returning Bourne universe players like Allen, Strathairn, and Albert Finney, the Bourne Legacy cast also includes decorated stars such as Edward Norton and Rachel Weisz (not to be confused with Gina Carano), along with Oscar Isaac (Drive) and Stacy Keach (Prison Break) in supporting roles. As you will see in the Bourne Legacy teaser, though, this is first and foremost Renner‘s chance to show off more of his action star chops.
Check out the official teaser trailer for The Bourne Legacy, below:
Based on this early footage, Gilroy has traded in the frantic shaky cam and kinetic editing that director Paul Greengrass favored in Bourne Supremacy and Bourne Ultimatum, in favor of the steadier, but still exhilarating approach of Doug Liman in Bourne Identity. For those who were never big fans of Greengrass‘ style, the news that they’ll actually be able to see what Renner is doing during Bourne Legacy‘s action sequences should be most welcome.
If there’s one potential note of concern to take away from this otherwise promising teaser, it’s that Bourne Legacy could suffer a bit from retconning. That is, Cross is being setup as a much more “stable” and effective killer than even Jason Bourne… and yet, throughout the previous films, there was always the implication that Bourne was far and away the deadliest operative produced by Treadstone. Not that this will detract from Bourne Legacy‘s quality as a standalone story, but still…
Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.
The Amazing Spider-Man trailer is out, and fans are definitely talking. Before the new trailer dropped, it’s fair to say that popular opinion on the film was mixed at best, brutally critical at worst; now, the tide is suddenly starting to shift.
We had the opportunity to attend a live event where a 3D version of the new Amazing Spider-Man trailer was previewed for crowds gathered in cities like NYC, London, Rio de Janeiro and LA, with surprise appearances in those respective cities by ASM stars Andrew Garfield, Rhys Ifans, Emma Stone and director Marc Webb. If a 3D trailer and cast appearances weren’t enough, we also got a look at a longer reel of footage that was first screened at this summer’s Spider-Man Comic-Con panel.
First, check out the new Amazing Spider-Man trailer if you haven’t seen it, then read on for our discussion:
The 3D is Amazing
Director Marc Webb went to great lengths to inform us that The Amazing Spider-Man was indeed filmed in ‘true 3D’ – i.e., shot with ‘those big bulky 3D cameras,’ as Webb told us (with a look of lighthearted frustration) – and the results of that effort certainly shows up onscreen.
3D is definitely not a format that should be used with as much reckless abandon as it often is by studios looking for a way to charge more for tickets, but Spider-Man is definitely a superhero well-suited to the medium. The web-slinging, uncanny acrobatics, action sequences and the overall movement of the character all look spectacular in 3D – and whereas The Avengers will be post-converted into 3D, this film is unquestionably the real deal.
VERDICT: Plan on a 3D viewing.
Andrew Garfield IS Peter Parker
Any debate about Andrew Garfield’s capability as Peter Parker should diminish after this trailer. It’s clear that Garfield – ironically enough accused early on of being too “Emo,” in his portrayal – is going to actually be less mopy and more of a cocky wise-ass Spider-Man than Toby Maguire was…i.e., truer to the character. Even Garfield’s movement and thin, lanky physicality look more in line with the character – who, by the way, was always very skinny – as opposed to Tobey Maguire’s more stocky physicality.
Garfield was on hand at the NYC screening event to discuss the role, which he said (in so many words) that he would have to be an idiot not to want to take. He was also humble in stating that he is aware that the character belongs to the world, and the leagues of fans, and that he is just ‘the guy in the suit.’ There was a guy before him, and there will be one after him – “hopefully,” as Garfield (jokingly?) put it, “an African American or Latino actor.”
The Social Network star has definitely made this character his own. The preview footage screened ranged from the emotional (Peter pained by his parents’ absence), to the romantic (Peter and Gwen falling for one another), to the comedic (the trademark Spider-man wisecracks) to the seriously dramatic (Peter going up against Connors or Gwen’s militant police captain father). No matter what the tone of the moment, Garfield was able to deliver and command the screen.
VERDICT: The kid has earned his spot.
The Action is Epic
Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man film does not hold up well, in terms of its action sequences. Back in the early 2000s, with visual FX being what they were, Raimi could only do so much with a CGI Spider-Man; in fact, just seeing the CGI Spidey web-swinging through the city was considered a technical milestone.
Marc Webb has gone for the more practical approach to filming Spider-Man action (read: a lot more real stuntmen doing the web-slinging) – but “practical” doesn’t mean that The Amazing Spider-Man is going to be lacking in the action department. In that 3D trailer alone we got to see everything from familiar Spider-Man acrobatics, to crazy 3D wall-crawling, to fight sequences in “Spider-Man combat styles” (a sequence of an unmasked Spidey taking on the cops definitely stands out).
If you weren’t wowed by that final sequence of Spidey hanging onto the side of a skyscraper as that big antenna relay comes toppling down: the girl in the theater seat next to me can attest to the fact that, in 3D, the action in this film looks epic. She nearly jumped out of her seat at one point.
VERDICT: Amazing Spider-Man is a definite contender for best superhero action sequences of 2012.
Good Handle on Story & Character
So many people were worried (and some still are) that this retelling of Spider-Man’s origin would stomp all over the original film (which is barely a decade old), while offering nothing new. Having seen the latest trailer and the preview reel, I have to say, that claim seems less and less valid.
The Amazing Spider-Man definitely offers a Spider-Man origin story that is “untold” on film. While some will argue that the movie is too Dark Knight-esque with its darker and grittier tones, I’d say that the more accurate correlation between TDK and ASM is how they both treat story and character – namely putting those elements of the film first and foremost.
ASM has a story where things like super powers, a hero and a villain – which can easily become arbitrary in a bad comic book movie – are all working together to form a deeper plot, richer more complex characters, and a tale with deeper layers and themes woven into it.
Director Marc Webb discussed his desire to explore the character of Peter Parker as an orphan – something that the comics have largely (but not totally) ignored until modern times. Yes, Peter loves his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, but the absence of his parents is something that surely affects him, and this movie will look at how. In addition, the fact that Peter is a genius level intellect will play a much more important role in the story – both in the creation of The Lizard, and gadgets like those mechanical web-shooters.
Rhys Ifans talked about playing Curt Connors, and how he enjoys a villain who is as complicated as Connors is – wanting to do good in the name of science and his own well being, only to have his good intentions devolve (literally and figuratively) into tragic mistakes. Without revealing too much, the actor added that another point of interest is Connors’ connection to Peter’s parents, and ergo, Peter himself.
Emma Stone responded to questions about how Gwen Stacy is any different than Mary Jane (played by Kirsten Dunst in Raimi’s trilogy). The actress noted that Gwen is a strong, smart, go-getter type whereas MJ was…not so much. Gwen has a strong connection to her dad and family (a surrogate family for Peter) whereas MJ did not. Most importantly, Stone added that whereas MJ first falls in love with Spider-Man, Gwen first falls in love with Peter Parker – and therein lies the biggest difference. Unlike MJ, Gwen isn’t necessarily going to be as open and welcoming of Peter’s alter-ego.
So, will all these signs of promise stop some people from complaining about hairstyles, costumes (gold eyes), or choices like including mechanical web-shooters? No. But for those willing to try something new and fresh (isn’t that what people are asking for from their movies these days?), there is some seemingly rewarding material waiting in Amazing Spider-man.
Kofi Outlaw blogs at Screen Rant.
In anticipation of the opening night of SMASH — which on the off chance you’ve managed to miss NBC’s unprecedented promotional blitz, is this Monday after the Super Bowl — theTVaddict.com recently had the pleasure of talking to star Megan Hilty. Here, in our brief chat that took place during the recent Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena, Hilty — who plays Ivy Lynn, one of two actresses in the running for the coveted lead role in a musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe — talks about what it has been like stepping the role of a lifetime.
On making the jump from stage to [small] screen: You know, I never expected it. But then I came out to Los Angeles and did Wicked for a couple of years, started to do a few spots on television and I kind of got bitten by the bug. I really really loved it and I looked around at the actor’s careers that I really wanted to emulate and I realized that the key to longevity is diversifying what you do so I thought it would behoove me to start working in other fields.
On how much research went into playing Marilyn: I’m a lot like my character [Ivy Lynn] in that I want to really immerse myself with as much information as I can and then take whatever I need and whatever I can use. And it doesn’t stop once the show starts, I’m constantly reading about Marilyn because there are a lot of scenes in this show [SMASH] that parallel her life.
On peeling back the onion that is Ivy Lynn: Very quickly you’ll see her relationships, her family life and the emotional roller coaster that is in store for Ivy that explains a lot about her behavior. We actually reshot a scene a couple of times [from the pilot] because we didn’t know what to give away about my mother, but you’ll find out fairly quickly how my family feels about my career choice and all of that.
On her off screen relationship with on screen rival Katharine McPhee: It’s so tragic when we’re mean to each other because the scenes are so much fun to play. But it’s great that we have such a great relationship offscreen because it allows us to have fun in between some really heavy takes.
On preparing for her life to change when SMASH becomes, well just that: How do you prepare for that! If it comes, I’m sure i’ll figure out a way to deal with it, but for now I don’t think there is any way for you to prepare or brace yourself of change anything.
The TV Addict staff blogs at The TV Addict.
When a famous television explorer goes missing in the Amazon, his wife and son vow to find out what really happened to him. Funded by the same reality TV company that provided the financial backing for Dr. Cole prior to his disappearance, the expedition becomes a tug-of-war for exclusive, full-access to the family’s grief and the increasing uncertainty every step of the way. But the farther they venture into the deep, treacherous jungle, the more everyone begins to realize that this journey is not just about a missing man — but what he found out there.
Tensions continue to rise as a few jumpy cameramen, fragile family members strained by not knowing what happened, and some genuinely spooky events take them to the breaking point. When traveling that far into the untamed wilds of the Amazon, no one knows exactly what they will find. That was Dr. Cole’s quest. He wanted to find out what was at the ends of the earth – what secrets does the lush overgrowth cover from the prying eyes of outsiders? Is it a lost tribe, haunted spirits, or something else entirely? One thing is for certain: nothing is exactly what it seems and it is much, much more dangerous.
The series features Leslie Hope as Tess, the estranged wife of Dr. Emmet Cole (played by Bruce Greenwood) and Joe Anderson as Lincoln, their adult son with troubles of his own. Aiding in their quest is Paul Blackthorn as Clark, the television producer who is more determined to protect the unaired, exclusive footage of those final days leading up to Dr. Cole’s disappearance and anything else they can get on film while on this perilous journey. Unwilling to rely only on Clark’s empty promises, they also recruit the help of a bodyguard Captain Kurt Brynildson (Thomas Krestchmann) and Dr. Cole’s former crew Emilio (Daniel Zacapa) and Lena (Eloise Mumford). The journey is about trust, alliances, and never being sure who is working against them.
But as more people turn up missing, the series takes on a darker, more sinister tone. Someone or something is out there in the darkness, lurking and waiting to strike. With such a lush and realistic setting, the show is stunning to watch. But that realism is a double-edge sword, it will make your skin crawl and look around to make sure you are still alone as you watch from the comfort of your living room.
Tiffany Vogt blogs at The TV Addict.
Previous trailers for Illumination Entertainment’s 3D animated treatment of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax have focused on selling the film as a brightly colorful flick with a child-friendly sense of humor, but also one that retains the themes of the good “doctor’s” original illustrated environmental parable.
Buzz surrounding Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax is pretty positive for that reason, in combination with the news that the minds behind the popular feature-length CGI version of Horton Hears a Who! are likewise giving cinematic life to Seuss’ eponymous speaker-for-the-trees. The new Super Bowl XLVI TV promo for the film should only further improve its image as a quality piece of entertainment for the whole family.
Here is an official synopsis for Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax:
The animated adventure follows the journey of a boy as he searches for the one thing that will enable him to win the affection of the girl of his dreams. To find it he must discover the story of the Lorax, the grumpy yet charming creature who fights to protect his world.
Danny DeVito will lend his vocal talents to the iconic title character of the Lorax, while Ed Helms will voice the enigmatic Once-ler. Also bringing their talents to the film are global superstars Zac Efron as Ted, the idealistic young boy who searches for the Lorax, and Taylor Swift as Ashley, the girl of Ted’s dreams. Rob Riggle will play financial king O’Hare, and beloved actress Betty White will portray Ted’s wise Grammy Norma.
Now, have a look at the Super Bowl promo for Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, below:
Be sure to check out our Edit Bay Report on Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax for more information about the film in general – along with a more intimate behind-the-scenes look into the creative process of adapting a famous children’s book for the big screen.
Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.
Ravenous “Hunger Games” fans got another look at the upcoming March movie with the release of a new theatrical trailer yesterday, which will also air during the Super Bowl Sunday.
The movie adaptation is set to be released March 23, and three other movies, adapted from the next two books in the “Hunger Games” trilogy by author Suzanne Collins, are also planned.
Much like earlier teaser and theatrical trailers, the new one, which is a minute and eleven seconds in length, begins by introducing the important choice of heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence). In Collins’ novels, it’s a dystopian future where the government forces two children, or young adults, from each area in the country to participate in deadly games. Only one contestant makes it out alive each time.
The trailer shows Katniss volunteering to go in her younger sister Prim’s place when Prim is chosen as the female contestant for that year. We also see a glimpse of Donald Sutherland as the powerful President Snow, projected on a video screen before the contestants are selected, and Elizabeth Banks playing Effie Trinket, a peppy announcer decked out in thick, white makeup.
This latest preview also details Katniss’ friendship with her hunting partner, Gale (Liam Hemsworth), whom she implores to provide food for her family while she’s gone, and shows Katniss with Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), the man hired to be Katniss’ stylist who also becomes her supporter. Brief training sequences as the contestants prepare for the games are shown as well as the Games' participants running through the forest after the contest has begun. And a blue-haired Stanley Tucci conducts an interview with Katniss as Caesar Flickerman, a Capitol resident who talks with all the Games contestants.
That eerie, whistling musical theme that ends the preview is bound to get any fan wishing it was March 23 already.
Check out the latest trailer below:
Found-footage films have become an increasingly bankable and a low risk prospect for movie studios. Audiences continue to fill theater seats in search of the next compelling found-footage franchise – even if a film doesn’t sport high production values or recognizable actors. That said, the genre has typically enjoyed its biggest successes with horror fans – and is mostly untested in other film categories.
With Chronicle, first time feature-film director Josh Trank tries to deliver compelling character drama and entertaining onscreen action – as well as prove that there’s more opportunity in the genre than just spooky jump scares.
As moviegoers become more selective about the never-ending flood of superhero and found-footage “me too” projects available to them, it would be easy to write-off Chronicle as just another trendy cash-grab. However, after a string of less-than-satisfying faux “documentaries” (such as The Devil Inside) and high profile, but ultimately uninspired hero flicks (such as Green Lantern), it’s safe to say that Chronicle is poised to genuinely surprise a lot of moviegoers with intriguing characters, cool visuals, and an increasingly gripping central storyline.
Following the exploits of average teens Andrew (Dane DeHaan), Steve (Michael B. Jordan), and Matt (Alex Russell), Chronicle begins when the friends encounter a mysterious entity that – after afflicting them with days of bloody noses – results in the trio developing advanced telekinetic abilities. The boys quickly discover that their newfound super powers can be manipulated, honed, and strengthened – resulting in the ability to control larger objects, as well as mimic other traditional enhanced “abilities,” such as flight and invulnerability. However, as their powers increase, so does their potential to unintentionally (or intentionally) cause harm to others. Ultimately, the friends agree to keep their abilities in check, but it’s a delicate balance that one member of the group – the proverbial loner who has suffered physical and emotional abuse at home and at school – isn’t as ready to accept.
While there’s no shortage of awkward ways in which the events of Chronicle are caught on film (especially in the last act, where none of the primary characters have time to carry actual cameras around), some of the implementations represent a major step up for the genre. Early on, Andrew perfects the ability to move the camera with his telekinetic powers – resulting in much more dynamic and fluid cinematography that subsequently allows all the characters to be in various scenes, instead of always having one hiding behind the camera. While that method obviously can’t be applied to other found-footage films, it doesn’t detract from the creativity of the Chronicle filmmakers, who were especially methodical in delivering both an entertaining and unique movie that’s made better because of its found-footage format.
Another area where the film excels above similar genre fare is the trio of super powered protagonists. Chronicle doesn’t try to strong-arm audiences from action sequence to action sequence, and actually takes the time to build a cohesive character journey for its characters. Instead of flat and shallow protagonists, Andrew, Steve, and Matt each have interesting interpersonal dynamics and arcs that flourish as they explore both their abilities and their newly formed friendships. While the succeeding events might be somewhat familiar to comic book movie regulars, the characters offer plenty of entertaining and believable moments – even after the movie starts to take a dark turn.
Watching the guys discover and revel in their abilities never gets old, and the “rules” of the film open up a lot of fresh opportunities as the friends grow stronger and more capable – resulting in increasingly interesting super-power sequences, as well as a lot of fun nods to traditional superhero source material. That said, while the movie presents plenty of cool visuals, it is Chronicle‘s dedication to its characters and their experiences that truly elevates the experience. The end result is a surprisingly charming and humorous ride for the majority of the proceedings.
As mentioned, the overarching narrative arc is also pretty dark and touches on some disturbing elements that could be challenging for some moviegoers expecting a more whimsical superhero film. Andrew endures a number of realistic bullying and abuse scenarios – which are not at all understated. While it’s unfair to criticize a PG-13 film for being “dark,” events in the third act do come fast and furious, representing a pretty sharp shift in tone that some viewers might not feel is entirely “earned” – even if the proceedings are believable and successfully grounded in the larger storyline.
Though some of the character moments might prove to be too intense for younger superhero enthusiasts, Chronicle offers an intense and riveting finale that is on par with plenty of bigger budget action films. The use of camera phones, security footage, and police surveillance tapes might seem like a hokey way to showcase the final climactic moments of the film, but surprisingly that doesn’t actually distract from the strength or success of the final set piece. There’s no doubt that Chronicle will raise the bar for visual spectacle in future found-footage movies.
Director Josh Trank, paired with a cast of likable actors, has definitely proved potential naysayers wrong – Chronicle is not a genre mash-up cash grab. Due to some truly creative thinking and intriguing cinematography, the filmmaking team has shown that “found-footage” doesn’t have to be relegated to thin story lines and flat characters who do nothing more than move audiences from jump scare to jump scare. Chronicle isn’t just a unique found-footage movie or superior superhero film, it’s a truly enjoyable blend of the best each genre has to offer.
Ben Moore blogs at Screen Rant.
With Goat Rodeo Sessions, the latest offering from this eclectic quartet, there are so many musical styles at work that it should sound like a jumble, a curious train wreck best quietly forgotten. If music executives had come up with this Big Concept, they would have been shown the door, or perhaps shoved out the open window of the 87th floor.
Thankfully, it was the musicians themselves who found each other on their own musical journeys, and found in each other kindred spirits for making music that was fun, bluesy, and utterly original.
I’ve been to classical concerts, and I’ve spent many a fine afternoon swatting mosquitoes at late-summer bluegrass festivals. Goat Rodeo Sessions somehow encapsulates both of those worlds, and blending them into a musical whole that makes sense. All without the smell of a porta-potty.
Judging from the long line waiting to get into Boston’s House of Blues, this week, to attend a live performance of Goat Rodeo Sessions, there are a lot of people who get what it is that Ma, Meyer, Thile, and Duncan are trying to do. And judging from the crowd’s call for more – and one young fan’s unsolicited marriage proposal to Thile, wisely turned down – the crowd liked what they got.
From their first number, a bluesy number called “Quarter Chicken Dark,” you realize this is new musical territory, and there’s so much more to explore. Meyer’s bass provides the heart-beat that keeps toes tapping. Duncan’s violin provides the melody that one hums for days afterward. Yo-Yo Ma somehow manages to work in incredibly rich cello solos, while keeping it all together with eye contact with each player. Thile is the kid genius, swiveling like Elvis, and ripping through mandolin solos that would make Hendrix consider switching instruments.
What Ma, Meyer, Thile, and Duncan are doing, of course, is not entirely revolutionary. Antonin Dvorak and Aaron Copland and George Gershwin also incorporated American folk melodies in their compositions. But I suspect they didn’t have as much fun as Ma, Meyer, Thile, and Duncan.
In a phone interview, Duncan says he was thrilled when Chris Thile called him up to suggest the Goat Rodeo project. He just had one question: What in the world would they have in common to play.
“Before I had the chance to say, ‘wow, we’re going to have to pretty much write everything ourselves,’ Chris says, ‘….and the plan is to write everything ourselves.’”
Duncan, who has played 25 years with the Nashville Bluegrass Band, said he found that the differences between the musicians had more to do with personality type than with musical genres.
“The big surprise was how effortless it all was for Edgar and Chris,” says Duncan, “and maybe because they’re math guys. Well, Edgar is a calculus guy, like, he reads it for fun. He and Chris did the entire recording without music, in fact. That’s something both Yo-Yo and I did not do. We’re both sheet music people. I think Yo-Yo Ma, he’s like me but from a different angle. Being able to read something as well as he can, but still no matter, it takes a while to where you feel comfortable with the music.”
I’ve listened to this album dozens of times now, and I still don’t know which song I like the best. But I love the urgency of “Here and Heaven,” sung by Chris Thile and featured vocalist Aoife O’Donovan. In the midst of the House of Blues, I found myself closing my eyes, and being transported. Yeah, that’s the good stuff. (Here’s a clip, recorded at James Taylor’s barn-studio in the Berkshires, where the album was produced.)
(The Goat Rodeo Sessions, performed at House of Blues on Jan. 31 was simultaneously broadcast live in 430 cinemas around the country, thanks to NCM Fathom and Sony Masterworks. The program was also taped by WGBH and is expected to be re-broadcast on PBS stations later this year.)
The Woman in Black is the third major film to be produced under the Hammer banner in the past few years (the other two being The Resident, starring Hilary Swank, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Christopher Lee, and Let Me In, the English language remake of Let the Right One In), and in a many ways it feels like the Hammer horror films of the 40s, 50s, and 60s.
Earlier this week, we had the opportunity to talk with Daniel Radcliffe about starring in The Woman in Black — out this Friday — Hammer horror movies, being skeptical about ghosts and the supernatural, and playing Allen Ginsberg in the upcoming Kill Your Darlings.
On his favorite thing about stepping back in time and into the role of Arthur Kipps, Radcliffe said:
“On a completely superficial level? The costumes. If I could wear that stuff all the time, I really would. […] When you put [one of those costumes on], it makes you stand differently – it kind of ages you slightly, actually. It’s quite helpful in that effort.”
Indeed, one of the most jarring things about the opening moments of The Woman in Black is seeing Daniel Radcliffe – the boy who lived, Harry Potter – in the role of father and widower. Granted, this film takes place at a point in history when young men (Radcliffe is 22-years-old) were already well on their way toward grandfatherhood. Still, it’s initially difficult to break free from our preconceived notions of the actor as anything but a boy wizard, since we’ve known him almost exclusively as such for the past decade.
On the subject of the period of the film, Radcliffe continues:
“What’s kind of great about that period is that it came […] after five thousand years of [England] being a completely pagan nation. We fell out of love with any kind of spirituality as soon as Christianity came in. [Then], in the Victorian era, [England suddenly] started to come around to the idea of spirits and demons and the notion of there being [an] afterlife.”
On whether or not he was paying tribute to the Peter Cushing/Christopher Lee Hammer horror films of yore – The Woman in Black is a Hammer film – Radcliffe said:
“Absolutely. Peter Cushing was the still center of all those films around which that chaos could develop. So yes. [And if I wasn’t] actually paying tribute, I was certainly aware that had this film been made in a different time, Peter Cushing would’ve got the part.”
Cushing was, of course, later known for his role as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars, but his most prominent work was with Hammer Film Productions – as Baron Victor Frankenstein in The Curse of Frankenstein, as Van Helsing in Dracula, as John Banning in The Mummy, and as Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles, amongst others.
On the topic of Hammer Film Productions, Radcliffe continued:
“The Hammer banner is wonderful, it’s a fantastic thing for […] me particularly because, having been in the British film industry all my life – if you’re not working with people who actually worked the [Hammer] films, you’re working with their kids. The person who did my makeup on all the Potter movies, her dad, Eddie Knight, did all the original Hammer makeup. So, growing up in the industry in the England, you’re always very aware of those films and the importance they had and what they did for the industry […] in England.
“[It’s also great] because we can push the horror a little more, because Hammer’s there. We can have go back to old standards of creepy toys and a haunted house and all those kind of things that recur. And because it’s Hammer, […] nobody questions it.”
Easily one of the best things about The Woman in Black is its reliance on practical cinematic trickery and effects as opposed to CGI or digital enhancement. The film, for the most part, is a truly old-fashioned haunted house film. There are times when it feels too much like something we’ve seen before – the ending, for example, will likely come across as predictable – but where the scares and cinematography are concerned, its aged style is ironically a breath of fresh air.
On whether or not Radcliffe drew from the Susan Hill novel on which The Woman in Black was loosely based, he said:
“Obviously, I did read the book and, you know, [our film and the book] are very different in terms of how the story is framed. This is a very different adaptation, but also, I find some comfort in the fact that every adaptation of this book has been very different. [The story] has had to be changed in some way to fit the medium in which it’s going into.”
The Woman in Black has now been adapted four times — once for television in 1989 on Britain’s ITV network, twice for BBC Radio in 1993 and 2004, and now by way of film. The story of the film is very, very different from the book, which utilized a much less conventional ending, and arguably a sadder one.
As for whether or not Radcliffe based his portrayal on the book version of Arthur Kipps, he said:
“It was the same when I played Harry – I go off the script. Here’s the thing, if I go home and I read the book and I say, ‘Oh, that’s great, that’s really, really good, I like that a lot,’ and then I come in [on the set] the next day and I say to James [Watkins, the director], ‘Can we try and put this in somewhere?’ Then it will mean James will have call Jane [Goldman], the writer, and Jane will have to speak with Susan and [et cetera, et cetera]. So […] rather than cloud issues, it’s best to just go off the script, on a day-to-day level.”
On the biggest scare, in his opinion, of The Woman in Black, Radcliffe said:
“I think it’s the hand going up to the window. When I touch the window and the face [of the Woman in Black] appears [in the reflection]. And that was one I knew was there, and it still got me. [...] Actually, when I was filming, I didn’t know – you know that shot in the trailer [where I’m looking out the window and she appears behind me]? That shot, which is brilliant — I had no idea that that’s what was eventually going to happen […], so when I saw the trailer for the first time, I did go [lurches backward, makes indescribable frightened noise].”
On the status of his own belief in ghosts, Radcliffe said:
“[It’s] nonexistent. I don’t have any belief in ghosts or the supernatural or anything like that, unfortunately.”
On why his character stays in the house of the Woman in Black to do, essentially, paper work, despite the fact that there is a terrible and ghastly ghost woman in black tormenting him:
“One of the first questions I asked James was, ‘Why does [Arthur] stay there?’ The moment you read the first page [of the script], you know it’s going to end badly. Get out of there, idiot. I had that question, too. And there’s that great line where I say to somebody, ‘Oh, no, it’s fine, I’ll just work through the night.’ [Laughter.] So I said to James, ‘Why does he stay in the house, what’s that about?’ And James said, ‘Well, here’s a young man who has lost his wife and he goes to this house and he suddenly starts seeing the – what he thinks is – the ghost of a dead woman. To have any kind of confirmation that that is what he is seeing would mean that he would be able to confirm the fact that there is an afterlife which means he will perhaps one day see his wife again.’ So he’s staying there for some kind of sense of conciliation, I suppose.”
On Misha Handley, Daniel’s real-life godson, playing Arthur Kipps’ adorable young son, and whether or not he wants to be an actor as he gets older, Radcliffe said:
“I don’t think he [wants to be an actor] now. He’s four. He wants to be everything [and that’s] changing every day. You know, he has no ambition whatsoever in this area, to my knowledge. I think he had a really good time on the film [and] I think he’d do it again, but not for any other reason than ‘that got me out of school for a few days.’ I mean, yeah, it was fantastic having him there. I became totally protective of him. And, like, just worried, because he was four when we filmed it. And I was hoping, the first time he stepped on set, it would be like a really nice day and he’d have a fun time – no, it was a night-shoot, it was freezing cold, we were on a train platform somewhere. He had a nice time for like the first two hours and then he was like, ‘It’s cold, can I go to bed now.’ […] I was so obsessed with [him having a nice time] at the time that I didn’t really notice that he actually gave a really nice performance and he’s really sweet and good in the film.
“What was really great about it was, he didn’t really know what we were doing there. It would get to the point where he’d have to say a line and he’d just not say anything. I’d give his hand a little squeeze and he’d look up at me, like, ‘What?’ And I said, ‘Say hello, Sam.’ [And he said], ‘Hello, Sam.’ And he’d look at me again, like, ‘Happy now?’ The way I kind of told it to him was, like, ‘I’m playing a dad in this, so I need you to help me.’ So he was just – helping Uncle Dan. And that was what he thought he was doing.’”
On the subtext of the film, Daniel Radcliffe said:
“That was one of the things I felt about it, was that [the subtext] felt unusual for the genre. [‘The Woman in Black’ is] unashamedly a horror film, but it’s character-driven and it does have some really strong themes. For me, the film was about what happens to us if we don’t move on from a loss. If we can’t move on. Arthur is somebody who has been devastated by his loss and has become devastated from the world, from his son, from his life. The Woman in Black has had a terrible wrong done to her during her life and has, of course, been unable to move on from that and [was] consumed by grief and rage and has carried that desire for revenge into the afterlife with her. Then there’s the fisher’s marriage, which has all gone wrong. [There’s] the fact that Ciaran [Hinds] is in denial [about his son’s death] and Janet [McTeer, who plays Ciaran’s wife], is having visions. Everybody is reacting to grief in a different way in this film.
“And if you like the kind – the ‘battle’ in the film, as it were, between Arthur and the Woman in Black, it’s kind of a fight for closure. A fight for who can move on first. […] They’re the two most extreme reactions to a death.”
On whether or not he’s a fan of horror films, Radcliffe said:
“I would [consider myself a fan], but I wouldn’t consider myself an aficionado in any way. I’m not one of those guys that will just see a trailer and [say], ‘Oh, I’m going to go see that.’ […] I’m like that about some [genres], but not about horror, I’ve never had that [obsession] about this particular genre. Which comes, in part, from the fact that I could never cope with gore or anything like that.”
On whether or not he’s more comfortable acting on stage or screen:
“The audience is really easy to forget about [on stage]. The camera is not. That’s what I find hard. I also find hard the broken up nature of filming, which is odd, because I’ve done it all my life, so it should be natural. And these, by the way, are conclusions I’ve come to very recently. […] On stage, I don’t have to think about [the intention of the scene] because the whole story’s being told in one go, and all I have to do is get on stage and listen, which is what I’m very good at. Listening, being engaged – I have no problems with. […] Whereas on film, because it’s so broken up, it can sometimes mean you come back to a scene [and be] slightly unsure of what exactly you should be doing.”
On what he’s looking most forward to with regard to playing Allen Ginsberg in the forthcoming Kill Your Darlings, a 2013 film about murder and the great poets and writers of the beat generation:
“What’s been wonderful so far is doing all the research. I’ve been looking into his childhood and his life and I’m reading the journals at the moment. I’m about to read the biography. It’s fantastic. He’s obviously an extremely interesting character. […] What’s interesting about him — the more I learn about him, in his life, he was more or less the most placatory person you could ever have met. He was all about trying to keep peace and trying to keep any situation calm. His mother had a deep personality disorder, so he was at home a lot of times as a kid just watching – just trying to make sure everything was okay. […] Which is why it’s intriguing that he was so confrontational in his poetry. It was like that side could never come out in any kind of actual social interaction. [I’m] mainly [looking forward to] working with the director. It’s his first film. He’s a young guy called John Krokidas. I think he’s going to make a fantastic, fantastic movie. He’s co-written it as well. He’s just really super-smart.”
On whether or not he has a dialect coach yet to get his non-British accent up to snuff, Radcliffe said:
“Oh, absolutely. I’m working on my New Jersey Jew at the moment.”
Ben Moore blogs at Screen Rant.