The Woman in the Window (2021)

womwindwIf you’re going to steal, steal from the best. Well, maybe that’s not fair. Its possibly not this film that was doing the stealing (one has to point a suspicious finger towards the original novel written by A.J. Finn that this film is based on) but that being the case, visually this film is so wholly indebted to a certain directors filmography its almost brutal; there is no subtlety at all. They even have clips of some Hitchcock films playing on the in-movie television screens as if there’s some knowing in-joke that might escape us. Don’t worry, we get it.

There’s also something sad about A-list Hollywood talent, in front of and behind the camera, slumming in a C-list movie (I write that with all due respect to Liam Neeson). It generally results in a very pretty, stylish, visually sophisticated film with high production values with very good actors in very underwritten roles uttering banal dialogue from  a derivative, seen-it-all-before-in-better-movies script. Which so entirely sums up The Woman in the Window that I really don’t need to write anything more. Amy Adams tries, I guess, although her better roles seem to threaten to fade into obscurity considering some of her later role choices, and Julianne Moore is really good, but the rest, most notably Gary Oldman who clearly seems to be wishing he was someplace else (we’re with you on that, Gary), well, its pretty dire stuff on the thespian front. 

Most damning of all… well, if you’re going to steal, come up to the bat and offer at least one reason why you think you’re worthy of stealing from a classic like Rear Window, some modern twist other than changing the sex of the protagonist. You don’t just put Amy Adams in the Jimmy Stewart role with agoraphobia instead of a broken leg and think that’s twist enough, in a film as redundant as the Christopher Reeve 1998 Rear Window tv-movie remake (albeit I’ll always give Reeve his a pass), and think that your modern production tricks can supplant Hitchcock. Because it can’t and you won’t. 

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

kings2I quite enjoyed Kingsman: The Secret Service, a confident, zany twist on the James Bond spy genre based on a popular comic/graphic novel from Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. It enjoyed considerable success and a sequel was quickly greenlit, which I’m a little late finally getting to (I think they are currently filming a prequel).

In the tradition of sequels, this one is bigger, louder and zanier, and while on those terms its enjoyable enough it simply isn’t better– indeed, it’s quite inferior to the original film. Something is missing. I suspect it’s just too bigger, louder, zanier, going far over the line into the ludicrous – sort of dafter, sillier, madder. I’m pretty sure it has its fans and in some ways those fans that loved the first are just as likely to love the second for exactly the same reasons that I found it lacking.

But any film that can waste Jeff Bridges has a bad mark against it in my book. It could be anyone playing his part in this and that’s a crying shame, and it’s somewhat curious to see Halle Berry in a largely wasted role too – with talent like this involved, the film really should have been better. Which is to say nothing of the waste of Julianne Moore as the villainous drug dealer Poppy Adams, a daft pantomime performance that Moore likely thought was fun but leaves the film lacking the balance and drama of what I would consider a proper villain/bad guy. She’s crazy in the grand tradition of many of Bonds’ daftest megalomaniacs but she’s surprisingly bereft of any threat. Sure, she promises the death of millions of people but these are reduced to blatantly animated CGI characters (there’s actually far too much CGI in this, distancing us from any real dramatic tension either in the OTT fights or the grand establishing shots that look false and cartoony- only accentuating the strange distance I felt from the action). Indeed, it slipped uncomfortably close to the kitsch camp of the Adam West Batman show of the 1960s, and that may have been intentional, but it didn’t help the film at all in my view. Afterall, when a bullet to the brain doesn’t mean death, how seriously can you take anything that happens, or much less even care? I half-expected to see Mark Strong limping around in a post-credits sequence…


Carrie (2013)

c12016.75: Carrie (Film Four HD)

We get the films that we deserve, and this one surely is a prime example of where films are right now. When horror fans heard about this remake of Carrie I guess most rolled their eyes in disgust at Hollywood’s ability to reboot/remake absolutely anything for the mighty dollar, and in all honesty this film really doesn’t further the argument for the validity of such remakes.

It can’t be denied though that there is a morbid fascination in watching them. Throughout it feels simply unnecessary, a pale shadow of the 1976 De Palma film- with its use of social media, Internet and mobile phones it is certainly bringing it up to date for the modern cinema crowd, but I don’t think it really has anything new to say. Maybe I’m missing the point- I never read the original Stephen King book so I cannot say that this film is any more faithful to it than the De Palma film. Something feels wrong though; the film seems to race by, hurtling towards that inevitable Prom Night horror that everyone will recall from the original film. And its there that the film finally implodes. Suddenly it seems to realise it isn’t a horror film at all, but a superhero movie.

Maybe its the intention all along, but there aren’t really any scares in this film at all, and when Carrie finally unleashes her powers she is less a reluctant nightmare than an avenging superhero- she just lacks the fancy costume or cape. She unleashes her powers with balletic grace, arms gracefully performing arcs in the air, looking like a bloodied Scarlet Witch from a Marvel film, and it suddenly dawns on me that I’ve been watching an origin movie for a Stephen King Marvel comic. Indeed, I’m almost surprised we haven’t since seen a Carrie 2 being announced (I guess this didn’t do too well at the box office).

c2Chloë Grace Moretz as Carrie is fine, although perhaps a bit too pretty to really qualify as a nerdish Outsider who has been socially maladjusted by a crazy mother. I guess she gains our empathy well enough and has our sympathy, but, well, she just looks too pretty. I always thought the whole thing about Carrie was that she didn’t stand out in a crowd, that she could pass by unnoticed like she was never even there, but Moretz is just too pretty, with too much screen charisma, to really carry any of that off. She’s a beautiful actress playing a lowly Plain Jane/Outsider and it always feels like it- its not her fault, but Moretz simply glows in everything she is in, and does so here.

Julianne Moore, playing her crazy mom, is, well, suitably unhinged/borderline maniac, veering a bit too far over that line that Jack Nicholson crossed in The Shining.  There’s an intimation that she is real the victim, but we lack any prologue showing her own youth and how she became corrupted (pregnant) and how this impacted her, or how her own upbringing (in a highly religious background?) may have dominated her- maybe the book delves into this, but the film doesn’t.  From the very start she is batshit crazy, thinking her pregnancy is cancer until the baby pops out, and even then she’s inclined to stab it to death with her scissors.

Carrie never has a chance to be normal. But a super hero? I don’t know. Maybe there’s just too many popcorn blockbuster superhero films theses days, and too much reliance on spectacle over characters and drama, that it was inevitable that this film went this route. Maybe the filmmakers thought it was the best way to differentiate it from the 1976 film. Maybe I was expecting a different movie. Its not a bad film, just not the film I thought it would be, and besides, Marvel does this stuff better, so it all feels rather pointless and horribly misguided. A Stephen King superhero movie- who’d have thought it?