Old and New. Movie reviewed: The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death, PLUS Best movies of 2014

Posted in Best Picture, Cultural Mining, Horror, Movies, UK, WWII by CulturalMining.com on January 2, 2015

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

Happy New Year! It’s a time to look ahead at what’s coming and back at what we did. So this week I’m talking about something new a scary movie from the UK, and something old, my choices for best of 2014

WOMAN IN BLACK 2The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death

Dir: Tom Harper

It’s London, during the Blitz. German bombs keep falling, reducing streets to rubble, but Miss Parkins, the indefatigable school teacher, (Phoebe Fox) vows to carry on, and keep the aspidistra flying. The strict headmistress (Helen McRory: Harry Potter) keeps things orderly and on time. The dozen or so boys and girls face new losses each day. Especially little Edward (Oaklee Pendergast) who stops speaking at all when both his parents are killed in an air raid. So they all breathe a sigh of

WOMAN IN BLACK 2relief when the school is relocated to the countryside out of harms way. (Or so they think…) And on the train ride out, pretty Miss Parkins meets handsome RAF pilot Harry Burnstow (Jeremy Irvine: War Horse) who is from the very town they’re heading.

Everything seems fine until they arrive at their new home, a crumbling, decrepit mansion. The headmistress is aghast when she sees the peeling WOMAN IN BLACK 2paint, dusty floors, and broken furniture. This is unacceptable! she says, but there’s nowhere else to go. So they’re all stuck on the seacoast, on a spooky island. It’s separated from the nearby town (home to various creepy locals) by a causeway that is flooded each day during high tide. So Miss Parkins decides to make the best of it. It’s just an old house.

But things seem different at night. Strange shadows appear, creaky noises, and fleeting images of a woman dressed in a black veil. The children – especially little Edward — are terrified because their bedroom is located directly below a dusty old nursery. And at night, when they look up they can see straight up into it a hole in the ceiling. It seems to be where all the bad karma is concentrated. And when people start to die, WOMAN IN BLACK 2one by one, surely something evil this way comes. The headmistress says its just rubbish – there’s no such thing as ghosts. But Miss Parkins, with the pilot’s help, wants to save them all from the diabolical forces. What happened in this house? Is it haunted? Will they ever find out the truth? And will little Edward ever speak again?

The Woman in Black 2 is of course the sequel to another movie with the WOMAN IN BLACK 2same title a couple years back that starred Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe. Same location, same spooky mansion, same mysterious woman in black who’s always searching for her missing child. Other than that it’s a totally different movie. It has some spooky parts but a lot of cheese, too. And in case ghosts and horror aren’t enough, they throw in psychological dimensions – all the main characters have hidden secrets from their pasts. As for the Angel of Death, if you’re looking for a storyline involving angels, or the Grim Reaper holding a scythe you’ll be sorely disappointed. There isn’t any. It’s really just a haunted house / horror movie set during WWII. The historical aspects are done very well, and the cast is uniformly excellent, including all the kids, but the movie itself wavers between scariness and goofy, clichéd silliness. Not bad, but clearly a “B” movie.

Now for some really great movies.

Over the past year, I saw and reviewed some really amazing films. The list only includes movies I’ve seen, reviewed and loved. There are other ones with great reputations that I haven’t had a chance to see yet (Lego Movie, Guardians of the Galaxy), others that I saw and loved but haven’t been released yet (The Tribe, Phoenix), and others that I thought were great but just couldn’t fit in the list (Corbo, Heartbeat, among many others). And I angelique-horizontaldon’t include documentaries or made-for-TV movies.

Here are my picks for the Best movies of 2014 (in alphabetical order).

Angelique is bodice-ripping potboiler from France set in the time of the Three Musketeers. A lot of fun, and the sort of movie rarely seen anymore.

522e0321-d51a-46bd-a141-3a695a35b29aBoyhood, directed by Richard Linklater, is a remarkable movie that follows a boy from age five to adulthood, played by the same non-actor over a 12-year period.

Force Majeure is a quirky but hilarious Swedish comedy about a married forcemajeure_03couple and their kids on a ski trip to the Alps whose relationship starts to fray when the father, facing a disaster, does something terribly wrong that calls his Michael Fassbender in FRANK, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.masculinity into question.

Frank is a comedy about a man in a band whose charismatic lead singer never takes off his giant, bulbous papier-mache head.

Ida is a small but perfect film from Poland about an orphan girl raised in a ida-3convent who ventures outside for the first time to discover her real name, her real history and how she ended up there.

THE IMITATION GAMEThe Imitation Game is an amazing WWII thriller starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, who broke German codes and invented the computer only to face persecution in England for his sexuality.

The Lunchbox is a movie from India about a long-distance relationship between two strangers who communicate via notes left in Bombay tiffin lunchbox_02boxes.

Mommy is Quebec’s Xavier Dolan’s look at the dysfunctional 62558-000060890018-mommy_aopilon1-creditphoto_shayne-laverdic3a8rerelationship between a highly sexualized mother and son, and the depressed teacher who lives next door. Shocking, funny and over-the-top.

The Notebook (Le Grande Cahier) is a stunning Hungarian film about identical-twin boys forced the-notebook-courtesy-sony-pictures-classics-a9b0f912-da11-4387-ac89-ef8ea0fde720to take care of themselves during WWII.

nymphomania-chapter_2_photo_by_christian_geisnaes_2Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac is a an extremely long, satirical sex-comedy about a young woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and the people she has sex with.

Under the Skin stars Scarlet Johansen as an enigmatic, not-quite-human scarlett-johansson-in-under-the-skin-courtesy-of-mongrel-mediabeing who pics up men in the Scottish highlands, has sex with them and then does something very strange to them.

Whiplash-5547.cr2Whiplash is an intense drama about a young drummer at a music academy who is asked to join their award winning jazz band. But doesn’t realize the band’s director is cruel and sadistic. A wonderful level of tension between the two characters played by JK Simmons and Miles Teller.bgndyy__wildtales_01_o3__8254116__1406599920

Wild Tales is a hilarious dark comedy from Argentina. It’s a series of short revenge stories about ordinary people who take it too far.

The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death opens today. And these movies are now playing: Force Majeure, Whiplash, The Imitation Game. And starting today, be sure to check out the Canada’s Top Ten series now playing at the TIFF Bell Light Box. 10 movies for 10 bucks each, including Mommy, Corbo, Felix and Meira, In her Place, and Harold Crooks’ The Price We Pay. Go to tiff.net for details.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com

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