Movie Roundup 2012: February (The Woman In Black and Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close)

2012 has been a great year for movies. With a superb array of films coming from almost every genre we at Sound And Motion wanted to celebrate this fact, and bring you our lowdown on what we think have been the key pictures this year, from January to December.

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THE WOMAN IN BLACK

Released: February 10th.

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds, Sophie Stuckey, Jessica Raine, Janet McTeer.

Directed by: James Watkins.

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A movie full of scenes that hammer home the impossible to overstate point that children are some of the creepiest creatures to walk this land and should not be had by anyone, The Woman In Black sees Daniel Radcliffe move away from his role as Harry Potter, into something entirely different.

Young London lawyer Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) still mourns the death of his adored wife Stella (Sophie Stuckey), who died delivering their son Joseph (Misha Handley) four years ago. Given one last chance by his employer to keep the job his suffering is causing to slowly slip away, he is sent to the remote village of Cryphin Grifford in North-East, England to examine the documents of the recently deceased Mrs Drablow of Eel Marsh House. On arriving, after befriending wealthy local Daily (Ciaran Hinds) on the train, Kipps finds the locals very inhospitable, and is practically escorted back onto the train to London.

But, determined to complete his task and keep his job, Arthur makes his way to the rather stereotypical Eel Marsh House which, isolated from the mainland by the tide, he soon finds to be haunted by a vengeful spirit.

His first film role since The Deathly Hallows Part Two brought an end to the current Harry Potter saga, The Woman In Black proves without a shred of doubt that Daniel Radcliffe is more than capable of moving completely aside from the role and movies that made him a household name. Though some audience members may have been too ignorant to accept this fact or to resist yelling “You’re a wizard, Harry!” at the screen or “Avada Kedavra!” at the ghost, we at Sound And Motion can’t wait to see more from the boy that first graced the small screen as a young David Copperfield back in 1999.

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The Woman In Black is a scary movie. With bags of tension and moments that’ll have the most nervous of viewers jumping right out of their skin, it’s the ideal sort of ghost story; one with twists and turns that’ll keep you interested till the end.

That said it isn’t without its problems. We won’t go into too much detail and reveal too many spoilers, but we can’t help but point out that, really, would anyone actually be able to hang themselves using a rocking chair as support? No, not without a great deal of difficulty anyway, and they wouldn’t bother either, not with all those tables to hand. Bullshit.

With a sequel apparently on the way, The Woman In Black is definitely a highlight movie of the year. Daniel Radcliffe performs superbly, and who doesn’t love a good ghost yarn. Keep screaming.

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EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE

Released: February 17th.

Starring: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Dennis Hearn, Max Von Sydow.

Directed by: Stephen Daldry.

EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE

After Oskar’s father dies in the World Trade Centre attacks he becomes convinced that he has left one last message for him hidden somewhere in the city. Feeling distant from his grieving mother and driven by a relentlessly active mind that refuses to believe in things that cannot be seen he begins searching New York City for the single lock that fits a key he found in his father’s closet. His incredible journey takes him through the city’s five boroughs and away from his grief, leading him to gain a greater understanding of the observable world around him.

Featuring some big name, mainstream stars led by an art-house director “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” has been nominated for two Oscars at this year’s Academy Awards and, along with other similarly casted and directed movies like “The Tree Of Life”, had been predicted by many to be a huge success. So why has it been so universally despised by the critics?

Based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2005 novel the film opens with the truly haunting image of Thomas Schell (Tom Hanks) falling in slow motion against a beautiful blue background. Though very short the image is perhaps one of the most provocative that the film has to offer simply because it’s one that so many of us saw so many times as footage flashed about the world on that fateful day. But what’s surprising about it is the way in which it manages to stir up difficult to hide emotions that the real ones didn’t, probably because many of us simply didn’t let them. With such a remarkable and moving beginning it’s therefore even harder to understand exactly how and why the rest of “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” fails to deliver.

The premise of “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” centres around a game Oskar and his father used to play- reconnaissance expedition, a game designed to encourage the boy to step outside of his lonely shell and talk to people in the real world. Sadly the game helps his grief escalate after the fact.

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The last time Oskar ever heard his father’s voice was when he returned home on “the worst day”. Unaware that anything was even wrong he switched on the TV and heard messages left by his father, his father who was at a meeting in one of the towers. These messages reflect the madness of the day, and the feeling of unknown those inside would have felt. The use of these messages has the desired effect, they bring a lump to the throat of anyone watching, but they highlight something the movie is guilty of; instead of mourning the tragedy the film capitalises on it, using its impact to gain maximum empathy from an already pained audience.

“Extremely Loud &a Incredibly Close” was a great idea, even if does play out against a setting the movie world needs to step away from. What’s wrong is the way that director Stephen Daldry never sticks to one flow, instead jumping events around and making the whole thing seem even more nonsensical. The characters are another problem; Oskar is interesting, he’s afraid of everything and very quotable, but he doesn’t seem real, like the others he emits all the humanity of a plastic Ken doll. The movie also sabotages its moments of real emotional promise with distracting camera angles and shoddy film making. All in all it tries to be something new and powerful, but falls down flat on the pavement of the city it’s based in.

“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” doesn’t delve deep enough into its subject matter. It’s afraid to cut deep into the tragedy it tries to paint a picture of, and fails as a result.

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