Closed Circuit: when the barrister of a high-profile terrorism case dies in an accident, his replacement feels like he’s being forced into a predetermined outcome. Sure it’s all a bit ‘Bourney‘ what with the sweeping conspiracies that twist, turn, and unfold for the duration (some revelations more original than others) – but it’s all done satisfactorily. Shunning the prospect of any sensationalism, it’s got a rather realistic and bureaucratic-based plot, outlook, and no frills directorial style, which lends the movie authenticity: good for believability, but makes it all a wee bit grim, as it is about domestic terrorism, street bombings, and a massively incompetent governmental agency. Eric Bana is on good form, and sounding convincingly London! Rebecca Hall also puts in a good shift, albeit in a rather limited role. Closed Circuit is a competent, but unremarkable big-brother / conspiracy thriller that’s proficient, but doesn’t bring a whole lot of new stuff to the party.
John Carter of Mars: an American civil war-vet accidentally teleports to Mars in the middle of a war. At over an hour long the setup drags on, and the whole film never really shakes off the ‘teeing up a franchise’ vibe as things are cintinually explained – including all of the confusingly named species, planets, and cities – feels like Bill Cosby suggested a couple. The script isn’t the best, although there’s a few comedy gems poking out between clunky, formulaic dialogue and sections of explanation – that would have been better to get over with in one big voiceover. There’s some half-decent actors making a quick buck here Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, Willem Dafoe – who are all good, but nobody has much scope with flat, stock characters, the most entertaining and likable of which is a non-speaking dog-like alien. Some other undertones felt out-of-place, like the environmental agenda segments (including literal green warriors!) Some positives of note: graphics are awesome considering most of it is CGI/Green Screen, several gratuitous big action set-pieces, the score is top drawer and is reminiscent of Indy films, skimpy outfits on the Princess are awesome, a smart ending, and there are parts that feel like a solid old-fashioned action adventure. Unfortunately, despite the source being an ‘original’ space story (almost 100 years old) it’s been copied and ripped off so often over the decades, leaving a major air of déjà vu. Finally, I know we’re supposed to suspend disbelief, but given advances and general knowledge in astronomy / physics / space and science… a lot of the unknowns from 100 years ago now feel like massive, tardy unexplained plotholes – but that’s a minor gripe. John Carter is undoubtedly an impressive story; but it’s just not presented as best it could be (down to the framing device – it’s necessary, but could have been done better), and because of this, it never got me going once, which is disappointing for a film this big.
The Woman in Black: whilst figuring out a reclusive widow’s estate, a young lawyer awakens a nasty ghost that terrorises the local town. Everything is inherently creepy; it’s a timeframe that we associate with ghosts, the setting is the classic cut-off haunted house, crazy weather, and there’s just something uneasy about staring/possessed/haunted children. It’s well-ececuted with lots of suspense and randomly placed big/noisy jumps; nothing groundbreaking, but very effective. Despite being a tad young, Radcliffe – and his sideburns – do well given there’s a lot of non-speaking sections, and Hinds truly lights up the scenes he’s in. The woman herself is better when not seen, and after the dig-up, the film loses its old-skool fear as the ghost’s behaviour becomes more ‘modern horror’. Being a pansy, for a film rated 12A, this had me in knots all over the place with some truly unbearable moments – it’s definitely not for kids. All characters also suffer from classic horror tropes; why go chasing ghosts, why go back to the house, why dot the townspeople refuse to re-locate? But these are probably better unanswered. Like Hammer itself, The Woman in Black is it’s a classic genre picture, very british, and good to see back on the silver screen.