February 19th, 2012

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt , DH2, It All Ended

Post-Potter Weekend

This has been a good week-end for enjoying Post-Potter performances from Potter alumni.

Friday, I went to see Emma's first Post-Hogwarts movie, My Week With Marilyn. Emma's got a small part. She's terrific, but hardly the focus, and I'd be a doofus if I really viewed this as an "Emma Watson movie."

It is, however, a truly magnificent little movie, and Michelle Williams, as Marilyn Monroe, is preternaturally good. Her Marilyns -- for there are two: the desperate, sad woman, the infinite pit of need, who can never, for more than a few seconds believe she has any worth; and the persona she's created, coquettish and sexy and funny and naughty, designed to please, the only thing that she believes anyone wants from her -- are both clearly delineated, and the whole construction is heartbreaking. This is a career-making role for Williams, and she owns the screen. Eddie Redmayne brings Colin Clark a brashness and kindness and cockiness that make you believe ha can be a success.... And the callowness that we see let him believe that he can be Marilyn's saviour. Dame Judy Dench and Kenneth Branagh are predictably wonderful, and one of the best parts of the movie, for me, is that almost all of these characters, because of what drives them, act in completely counterproductive ways, making things worse for all concerned.

If you never "got" the legend and mystique of Marilyn Monroe, this movie will leave you really feeling it, and the tragedy and the waste and the inevitability of the arc of her life will resonate with you.

Today, I saw Dan Radcliffe's "After Harry" debut, The Woman In Black, and again, I was very pleased and impressed. Dan's performance is strong and touching, and the movie is wonderful! It's a truly fantastic ghost story in the grand old tradition, featuring possibly the greatest haunted house in movie history, and is directed with a sure, moody touch.

I want to pause on this for a moment, because, while it's sure that 'modern technology' had a place in the effects, they are subtle, relying my more on suggestion, on things unseen or glimpsed from the corner of the eye or in distant shadows. I was reminded of the 1999 Jan deBont-directed remake of The Haunting: Where deBont's film, with in-your-face computer animations, was a dreadful failure, James Watkins' direction of The Woman In Black, with its sparing, subtle effects and evocative moodiness, produces genuine scares. I'm not as sure about the ending, for reasons I can't discuss without spoiling the story, but I did thoroughly enjoy the movie.

One of the draws for me, in addition to supporting Dan, was that this was also a resurrection of sorts for possibly the greatest name in the history of scary movies, Hammer Films. In the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies, Hammer Horror was a watchword for the very best in horror movies. Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing pursued one another through stylish, colorful, thrilling, and often terrifying adventures, redefining Dracula and Frankenstein for new generations. It's a proud name that means a lot to those of us who love classic horror. I don't know if anyone in the current Hammer Films has any connection with the studio that produced so many delicious shrieks and chills in my youth. For all I know, these new guys just bought the rights to the name. But I will tell you this: If they did just buy that name, they did it out of love and devotion for the classic fright-films that were released under its banner. And I'm delighted to be able to tell you, HAMMER HORROR IS BACK!

I just wish they'd gotten Christopher Lee to do a cameo.