Movie Reviews with Matthew Jonassaint

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I’ve been waiting for Daniel Radcliffe. He’s had a mostly flat and easy character; as a friend recently told me, Harry Potter is only interesting because everyone else around him is. But I believe Radcliffe’s got it in him to work with a complex character, and I’ve been hoping he gets his chance.


“The Woman in Black” isn’t that chance. Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a widower and lawyer who’s last chance to keep his job lies with settling the affairs of Alice Drablow, who recently died alone in her house. The town is hushed and hostile, and Arthur unravels the mystery around him, where children disappear and a black figure screams from the shadows.


Radcliffe isn’t working with a complex character here, but that’s because this well-directed film has beautiful production design, from locations to the costuming, and the real star of the film is the haunted house itself. Filled with the right shades of black and purple, blue and gray, and hellish wind-up toys, the house chills you. You leave the theater feeling as if you’ve spent one too many moments yourself in its creepy hallways.


Radcliffe is one element of a bigger set piece that, combined with foggy landscapes (and a slightly pestering score), establishes the perfect haunted atmosphere. There’s a great scene where he wields an axe in one hand, and a candle in the other, breathing tightly to slowly peak behind a door…Radcliffe may not be that memorable in this film, but it may be a good start, because it shows he’s able to really shed Harry Potter and slip into someone somewhere else.



New in the redbox: “Drive”


Nicholas Winding Refn directed Tom Hardy’s performance in “Bronson,” which informed Christopher Nolan’s decision to cast Hardy first in “Inception,” then as Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises.” In “Drive,” Refn directs Ryan Gosling in another seminal performance. He’s simply incredible, and unmissable.


Gosling plays a quiet heartthrob in a scorpion jacket known only as the Driver. By day he’s a stunt driver, and by night, a getaway driver. His character recalls the Zen heroes of 1960s Westerns like Clint Eastwood, noir heroes like Alain Delon in “Le Samourai,” and 1970s existential car movies such as “Vanishing Point.” He doesn’t seem to have much of a past, and his present is empty of almost all desire, except to drive — until a young woman (Carey Mulligan, “Pride And Prejudice”) and her son come into his life. The film switches from suspenseful thriller to an 80s teen romance filled with sunlight and synth music…and then there is another man in her life, and violence begins to enter their world, and the Driver has some choices to make and skulls to break.


Each actor, including Ron Perlman from HBO’s “Breaking Bad,” does a marvelous job, but in the end it is Gosling who convinces us, through subtlety, of a monstrous intensity lying within him.


The chases are good, the story is heartbreaking and the soundtrack is perfect. If the first five minutes and opening titles do not grip you, maybe the only car movies for you star Vin Diesel. But “Drive” is connected to the only great car movies, and Gosling’s performance will be remembered among his best. Those two factors alone make it worth some of your attention.



Also worth watching: “Easy Rider” (1969)


“Easy Rider” was produced at the end of the 1960s, and it shows. As the film progresses, you witness how the optimism in American culture began to take its dark turn at the dawn of the 1970s. Remembered as one of the finest road movies ever made, although it’s not very well made, Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda star as two motorcycle buddies headed for New Orleans and looking for the dream.


The film is worth watching for many reasons, but among them would be to see Jack Nicholson give an early performance, the first of many. Here, there’s not much of the depth he gains over the course of the ‘70s, but you see he had a good beginning; he plays a “square” who tags along for much of the ride, representing some of the American innocence that died after 1969.


By Matthew Jonassaint