THE WOMAN IN BLACK 2: ANGEL OF DEATH REVIEW

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Looks like the franchise died before it could even begin.

This hollow (but occasionally jumpy) sequel feels like nothing more than a ghost of it’s predecessor.

As the film came to a close, I had a horrible feeling. Not one of unease or relief but one of disappointment.

Now, I have never seen the theatrical production of the Woman in Black but have been told endlessly to invest (Which I shall!) but I did see the first feature installment.

It was Daniel Radcliffe in his first post-Potter role and was hyped as the must-see horror film of the year. Challenge accepted. And to my surprise, both were actually very good. Tense, atmospheric with a solid British cast and it even managed to make me jump quite a few times.

A success. Quite rightly so. Which meant one thing. A sequel, of course!

So here we are. Dear, oh, dear.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad. The opening showed promise. The Eel Marsh house in all it’s eery and (terribly grainy) detail. A heart beating as the camera pans closer and closer. Creepy stuff.

The beats juxtaposed with the air raid bombing was a clever technique. Director Tom Harper didn’t overdo his handling of the Blitz. The panoramic view of the damage of the Blitz on London was subtle but harrowing.

The bombing quickly established a likeable lead in Phoebe Fox. I expect to see more from her. The characters were quickly introduced and sent on their way in one nice package.

I liked the concept of the evacuees escaping to the countryside. That’s what did happen and it made the whole revisit to the manor that much more believable. Plus it allowed for a few more interesting things to happen. I say a few. One thing involving a dummy airfield.

Fox was a strong character and I actually cared for her. Which always helps. A lot of horror films fail to tackle this issue which makes it harder for you to get caught up in the scares. Even if the scares are pretty tame, you still need to care what happens to the characters.

Helen McCrory (Peaky Blinders. A series I strongly recommend) played the stern headmistress as well as she could. Her character Jean Hogg felt too much like a stereotype. Don’t get me wrong, women were strong during the war.

But she seemed a little lifeless behind her “I am hard because I have to be. We are in a war” face. I can relate to it certainly but there wasn’t much else to her sour faced demeanour.

And that was a major problem this time around. Even though the sequel felt like a pale imitation of the first, the characters also felt like ghosts of themselves.

Jeremy Irvine (War Horse/The Railway Man) was incredibly stocky and bland. It was only near the end of the film in which the inevitable fling heated up and some chemistry finally occurred that I found myself interested.

There were only three of the children that got moments to shine. The rest . . . Well, frankly. They didn’t need a class of them. Not even red herrings for the dark menace. I mean, lady.

Oaklee Pendergast (Real name. I know, right) was excellent as Edward Lee, a pupil orphaned by the Blitz. He played the role well and brought the relationship between Fox’s Miss Parkin and Lee to the fore.

George Steel’s cinematography was terrible. Normally I commend an attribute but it was all too grainy and dark. I couldn’t see a thing. In certain scenes, it added to the tension. In others, I couldn’t even see where Parkins was going in the derelict village.

It made it all look so painfully dull. I understand that it was the Blackout and the war time BUT I couldn’t see the demon doing her thing!

There were good portions where the tension and atmosphere built things up well. BUT a majority of the time to no avail.

Don’t get me wrong. There were a couple of jumpy bits that got me pretending that there was something wrong with my chair as to why I moved so frantically.

BUT at the same time, I felt the film had to rely on incredibly loud music to get you to jump. I don’t have a cinema sound system at home and I’m sure if (IF) I watched this again, it wouldn’t have half the impact.

It also relied on the original gags to get your pulses racing. The window, the rocking chair, the noose. All managed to get me twitching and twerking (No, not that twerking) again but it felt a little lazy. Relying on all the things that made the first film so good and not building on or re-working it in any capacity.

Ned Dennehy (Peaky Blinders/Storage 24) did his best to deliver as the creepy blind hermit, Jacob. For some bizarre reason, he really doesn’t want you to look at him. For those who have seen it, you’ll know what I mean.

Adrian Rawlins (James Potter from the HP movies) as the irritable Dr Rhodes had potential but didn’t really go anywhere or . . . come back for that matter.

I had to get a Potter reference in there somewhere. To be honest, I was waiting for Radcliffe to float in and scream, “EXPECTO PATRONUM!” just to get this dull, dreary flick going.

It had a faint whiff of The Others with The Ring BUT it just didn’t reach the heights you’d expect and it all finishes so flatly and predictably that I felt a little miffed. Putting it mildly.

Okay at a push. And that is only because I have seen so many terrible horror movies the last few months that this manages to trump over them. BUT that wasn’t necessarily a tough barrier to break into.

Atmospheric in parts. The odd jumpy moment. BUT it fails to capture the fear, the characters or the gusto that made the first film so good. I fear though that there may be another on the way. If so, whoever takes it on make sure not to slap any old thing together or else that will face an exorcism like this one!

2.5/5

THE RIOT CLUB REVIEW

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Such a riot! Tragically not. Two first-year students at Oxford University join the infamous Riot Club, where reputations can be made or destroyed over the course of a single evening, leading to . . .

A mediocre class satire that had so much potential to be so much more.

To be honest, the concept should have stayed as a play. The adaptation fails to carry itself on the big screen. If not for the prolific British cast attached to this, I don’t think it would have been done at all.

The only actor that will survive this poor affair will be Sam Claflin (Love, Rosie) who was deliciously revolting. His character Alistair Ryle was a perfect panto villain. Camp and vile. It is a shame however that he was very much a stereotype. A snobby toff that “hates poor people”. As if we needed to cement the stereotype further with that. I can’t believe that was actually written in the script.

Max Irons (The Host) played the lead as well as he could but he was terribly bland up until the final 20 minutes in which he finally had a little bit of meat from the script to chew on and do a bit of acting. He was able to share some chemistry with Holliday Grainger (The Borgias) but it’s all so predictable.

BUT Irons was always going to finish second to the rest of the cast comprising of young future British prospects; Douglas Booth (Romeo and Juliet), Ben Schnetzer (Pride) and Sam Reid (Belle).

It does not help that the tone is all over the place. Riding off the Made in Chelsea vibe, the opening act was farcical and terribly OTT as we are given a brief history about the founder of the infamous club, Lord Riot. A genius and a . . . TOTAL LEGEND.

I could feel my hopes for this film fading in an instant. However, the club members did provide enough tomfoolery for a silly but watchable half hour. The initiation sequence had a demented Dead Poets Society feel and I really hoped it was going to keep heading in that direction dealing with the class and society issues within the confines of the school.

The club’s initial introduction and candidate hunt was quite funny. Sam Reid’s overtly flamboyant Hugo chasing after Irons’ Miles for his own intentions. The boozing and sleeping around felt like a mash of Skins meets Made in Chelsea.

However, the tone gets a little bit serious when the club unite to dine. The dinner sequence was a perfect platform to stage a cross-examination of the upper class but it took so long to get going. As tempers rise and more booze and drugs are ingested at the dinner table, things finally begin to bubble up.

There are some tense moments but it’s tough to do a commentary when all the characters are merely stereotypes. It made a change that it wasn’t a piece on hoodies peddling drugs and committing crimes on a council estate but rich spoilt brats poking fun at the working class is just fuel for fire.

I can respect what the writer was trying to say but the characters and the aftermath are exaggerated so theatrically that I can’t take them seriously. I mean at one point the lads are picking at the 10 fowl main course because one bird is missing. Terrible.

They were nothing more than the seven posh dwarves; Dopey, Sleazy, Shouty and Crackhead. The tension soon subsides and leads to complete and utter chaos with relentless destruction (an elongated five minute Extreme Makeover sequence that was beyond overkill) and a predictable twist.

Jessica Brown-Findlay (Downton Abbey) played the waitress as well as she could but it was a wasted role. Anyone could have played her. She merely scowled and had the odd jibe back at the posh plebs.

The alluring Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) had the easiest cameo going. Her character was nothing more than a catalyst to fuel the tempers of horny, drug induced toffs in the form of a misled escort.

My quip besides playing on the mainstream red band papers and hyping up stereotypes was that there wasn’t enough story for me. The idea of them discussing their views during a dinner had potential. BUT it’s goes from nothing to everything.

It was too slow, the characters were un-relatable and it ended oh so predictably and lazily with the usual commentary that the rich get away with anything, apparently. Hardly a spoiler. After the dinner incident, I thought there was potential for a suspenseful stand off as the gang begin to give each other up. BUT it’s wrapped up within minutes so flatly and easily. Disappointing.

I predict a riot for people heading towards the door.

2/5

PLASTIC REVIEW

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Surprisingly watchable and entertaining. Hardly original or groundbreaking. Pretty much a darker Hustled up Hollyoaks hybrid but with a likeable and talented young British cast, I can think of worst ways to kill 90-odd minutes.

I went in expecting the worst and was relieved. A watchable easygoing crime caper, even if the end result is predictably the same. Ed Speelers has finally found a project to show off his talents after a number of misfires; Eragon and ITV’s Echo Beach. Playing the charismatic lead Sam, desperate to make a quick buck, he leads a rag tag team of chosen criminals who inevitably end up messing with the wrong people. In all fairness, the first 20 minutes zipped along quite nicely with the little fraudsters starting off as little Del Boys, fobbing off stolen merch to stereotypical posh toffs at uni. Stereotypical if hilarious riffs on the Made in Chelsea numpties.

The team of grifters get a passion for plastic. Stealing credit card information and data to buy a lot of expensive jewellery and  harvest a lot of wonga. The ease in which the team obtain their data is scarily realistic; perfectly demonstrated in a petrol station sequence in which cameras are positioned perfectly to catch pins and fake machines. A crime that does need to stop as the world goes DPA crazy. The “subtle” social commentary on the fact that students who are studying their degrees or have achieved them are probably not going to get a job in that field is a harsh reality that I can relate to. But resorting to corporate espionage and card crime, meh, I’ll stick to blogging. The lazy jibes about the economic crisis wasn’t necessary. We’re all stuck in it. Been there. Can’t afford the t-shirt. Felt like a mere excuse to help justify the cockney rebels’ cause.

However, the team soon rip off the wrong man, the ever reliable slithery Thomas Kretschmann (Dracula/Wanted). Not enough of him to be honest but he manages to make a mark. Hardly Brick Top from Snatch but impressionable none the same. He gives them a deadline of two weeks to pay up a £2 million “compensation” fee, leading to one massive, crazy, can’t-believe-it-but-apparently-a-true-story, con. Will Poulter (We’re the Millers/Son of Rambo) was arguably overshadowed. And for some reason, the lad had not grown up enough to carry the conviction his character craved. In one scene, the gruff gangster worked, the other he seemed more like he was doing one of his performances in School of Comedy. He delivers some of the more comical one liners. I mentioned overshadowed as one culprit in particular steals every scene and that goes to old Theon Lovejoy (prefer that comparison to sibling of Lily Allen) Alfie Allen.

Allen has always been able to play the shady, slick faced shithead but he does it so well and delivers yet again as the volatile Yatesey. A necessary, if untrustworthy, evil. A ticking timebomb waiting to explode. The beautiful eye candy, I mean, Emma Rigby (Hollyoaks) doing her best to be nothing more than a stocky love interest. I couldn’t believe that Graham McTavish (Dwalin from The Hobbit franchise) was in this, playing the ridiculous OTT and gullible mark to perfection, lapping up every minute.  It was great to see Ashley Chin (Starred Up) and Robbie Gee (speaking of Snatch) in somewhat limited roles. But talented enough to stand out. And Malese Jow. I only ever remember her from that Nickelodeon show Unfabulous. Wow. Stunning. But perverted comments aside, she plays the supporting role well. Sebastian De Souza (Skins/The Borgias) was originally quite a funny character and you did feel for him as he is rewarded the more irritating gigs but his character soon gets quite annoying and luckily subsides into the background. Shame.

As Sam says at the start of the film, “it’s not how it started but how it ends. How you got there”. And that’s a little bit of the problem, the start was highly watchable and once the con gets going, the plot holes start appearing and once the crazy Mission Impossible costume work comes into it, well it all gets a little silly. There were missed opportunities; most notably in Sam’s recruiting techniques. Intriguing at first, it soon didn’t surmount to anything by the end, without spoiling too much. And when I say, silly. The strange overuse of slow motion by the end of the film was irritating. I mean, a tense build up to an inevitable shoot out sequence borders on parody by the end, with people being shot left right and centre, then popping back up like they have been re-spawned in a game of Call of Duty.

Arguably this could have been a TV movie but in comparison to the bigger budgeted and supposedly more talented counterparts that have been released this year, this fares reasonably well. More so for me as a movie aficionado after an atrocious April of one star cinematic car crashes. Enough to stay afloat. At this moment, I’m looking for films that are watchable and this one falls into it. If you’re expecting Lock, Stock then you will be disappointed. I’m glad that this didn’t try to be, it’s better for it at that sense. But maybe a little of that ambition would have helped it fare a bit better and all. It’s 3 (just) out of 5 for me!

Currently ranks #86 out of 170!