The Woman in Black: If you had asked me, shortly after the release of the final Harry Potter movie, who among the big-screen Harry, Ron, and Hermione would make it as a movie star, I would’ve said Emma Watson, with the asterisk that all bets are off now that Neville grew up to look like Clive Owen with a way bigger fanbase. I still suspect this will be true: Rupert Grint seems content to drive an ice-cream truck; Daniel Radcliffe, stripped of his Potter glasses, doesn’t turn out to really have strapping leading-man looks; Watson wins by the default, plus she’s pretty. But that Potter could land on top yet. True, toplining a horror movie, as Radcliffe does this week in The Woman in Black, doesn’t seem like a prestige move. Emma Watson, for example, is in current Oscar bait My Week with Marilyn—doing absolutely fuck-all, but still. Even Grint turned up in Driving Lessons, an absolutely terrible bit of British coming-of-age poppycock. Radcliffe has been doing Broadway in between wizarding gigs, so I haven’t seen him in other movies, even in crap roles. In fact, the first time I saw Radcliffe play anyone but Harry Potter was three weeks ago when he hosted Saturday Night Live. So while he does have a bit of that homunculus look going on, starring in a low-key horror movie that will probably be, at very least, less craven than the starlet-devouring Platinum Dunes horror remakes that often dominate January and February, may be a smart move.
The Innkeepers: Haunted house aficionados in the Greater New York Area can program a new ghostie double-feature this weekend, as Ti West follows up his creepy, retro-80s House of the Devil with another presumably creepy/retro horror tale (though probably not as period-retro as Woman in Black). It’s about a haunting in Connecticut. But it’s not A Haunting in Connecticut. It’s also not my proposed Haunting in Connecticut sequel: A Vermonster in Rhode Island.
Chronicle: Found-footage anything has been rendered as ordinary as it looks by three Paranormal Activity movies in three years, plus any number of ripoffs ‘n remakes. But word is this found-footage teenage-superhero origin story has a few tricks up its sleeve, and I’m eager to see it for the simple reason that I’d love to see a superhero story minus the reverent franchise-building of Marvel, which has come to dominate the scene in between the years where we get an awesome Batman or X-Men movie. Watch this one carefully; Fox likes this director for the new iteration of Fantastic Four, and it’s always hard to tell if Fox is in X-Men: First Class/Rise of the Planet of the Apes we-totally-get-it mode, or Mark Steven Johnson/Rob Bowman who-the-fuck-cares-as-long-as-it-comes-in-on-time mode.
Big Miracle: I wonder if the same loyalty and seemingly genial nature that keeps John Krasinski on The Office long after his storylines and the show itself have peaked keeps him in a weirdly traditional sitcom-guy movie career. Sure, he did take the lead in Away We Go, to surprisingly strong effect (along with surprisingly-stronger Maya Rudolph), and he did score some Clooney time with Leatherheads (though no one really saw it), and he did direct Brief Interviews with Hideous Men a bunch of years ago. But most of his movie resume is big-screen sitcom stuff: It’s Complicated; Something Borrowed; Big Miracle; License to Wed. Don’t they all sound like movies Elaine would’ve championed on Seinfeld, a la Sack Lunch?
He doesn’t have that post-Internet TV comedian thing where you’re equally comfortable starring on a good sitcom, doing goofy big-screen comedies, and/or cameoing in whatever your buddies are up to in whatever medium (see Steve Carell, Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, etc.). He even sticks for his sometime Office (and License to Wed!) director Ken Kwapis for Big Miracle, an inoffensive and even semi-interesting save-the-whales true story. Though no one will confuse the director of The Beautician and the Beast for David Fincher, Kwapis does show some attention to the process of how various groups (environmentalists, oil men, politicians, Alaskan locals) came together to save some whales in danger of getting frozen under the Alaskan ice in 1988 (yes, like Donnie Darko, this movie is set against the backdrop of the Bush/Dukakis presidential race).
A few times during the movie, I found myself thinking that this could’ve been an Altmanesque ensemble comedy under different circumstances, and while it isn’t, I bet no one thought of the word “Altmanesque” during that Dolphin Tale movie from September. Big Miracle is pretty forgettable, and the romantic stuff between Krasinski and Drew Barrymore (as a Greenpeace… well, the movie never exactly says what her job is) isn’t just pointless, it’s actually kind of off-putting, based on how little they seem to like each other. But if your kid wants to watch a bunch of TV stars and character actors band together for whales, it’s not a rough sit. For Kwapisologists: it’s his best movie since Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants!