Lovers Lane
Copernicus Center

Digital Divide: June 2012

| May 31, 2012

It’s got to be quite a daunting task: how do you make the transition from creating an iconic film character beloved around the world, to leaving it behind and staking your claim to a long and successful career? Some, like Sean Connery, manage to pull it off with ease. Others only have marginal success — not exactly leaving the business, but hanging around behind the scenes. Hello, Mark Hamill.

The Woman In Black marks the first big-screen outing post-Hogwarts for Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe.

It’s an interesting choice. At a time when the average horror flick contains the Eli Roth brand of torture porn or the “found footage” plots of the Paranormal Activity films, The Woman In Black stands as a good old-fashioned haunted-house spookfest.

Set in the early 1900s, Radcliffe plays widower Arthur Kipps. He and a young son head to settle affairs at the old (and magnificently British) Eel Marsh House. Of course, it’s in the middle of nowhere, and of course the townspeople all believe it to be cursed and are therefore prone to issue dire warnings to anyone venturing in its direction.

But Kipps has a job to do, and so let the hauntings commence!

That TWIB would come as a period thriller, should come as no surprise when you see it was produced by the revived Hammer Films. From the mid-’50s through the early ’70s, Hammer was the legendary British studio that produced the Christopher Lee/Peter Cushing Dracula series, as well as other notable bodice-ripping gothic chillers. It’s good to see them back.

The Woman In Black is an effective thriller, and while Radcliffe acquits himself nicely, the only qualm is he’s just a bit young for the role. The various spooks and ghosts and things that go bump in the night are a bit easier to swallow than being asked to believe that Radcliffe, 22, has a 4-year-old.

The Blu-Ray comes with commentary by director James Watkins and Screenwriter Jane Goldman, as well as the obligatory making-of feature and a piece on Radcliffe and a digital copy.

This Means War
Fox Home Entertainment

And the decline of the romantic comedy continues.

This Means War takes a standard rom-com plot where a career-dedicated hot chick (Reese Witherspoon) has to choose between the affections of two career-dedicated hot dudes (who happen to be best friends) and adds action.

See, the hot dudes (Chris Pine and Tom Hardy) are C.I.A. agents who just happened to have pissed off a straight-out-of-central-casting Eurotrash arms dealer. Naturally, that’s a secondary plot point that no one needs to consider until the film bogs down and an action sequence is called for.

It’s got to be just mega cool to be a field agent for the C.I.A.

According to This Means War, you get to work in a giant, high-tech warehouse space with only your friend and a couple of other co-workers around. Plus, you get to use all the assets at Homeland Security’s disposal, like tasking satellites and bugging civilian homes, just so you can spy on the girl of your dreams. To hell with the fact that if anyone working at the agency came anywhere close to doing what these two inbreds do: they’d be in jail before you could say J. Edgar Hoover. Unless, of course, they were spying on the Muslims. That seems to be O.K.

The Blu-ray set features deleted scenes, two alternate endings, and commentary from director McG.

Also available: Stony Island (Cinema Libre), the directorial debut of Chicagoan Andrew Davis (The Fugitive, Under Siege), tells the story of a white South Sider trying to make it in the R&B world. The 1977 film, finally getting a DVD release, features not only Davis’ debut, but appearances by a pre-Bangles Susanna Hoffs, as well as a pre-“NYPD Blue” Dennis Franz. Already worth the time and effort, a making-of documentary makes it better still.

— Timothy Hiatt

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Category: Columns, Digital Divide, Monthly

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