Seventh Son

February 6, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Ben Barnes
Directed by: Sergei Bodrov (“Nomad: The Warrior”)
Written by:  Charles Leavitt (“Blood Diamond”) and Steven Knight (“Locke”)

Since the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy came along 14 years ago, followed a decade later by HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” popular culture has had all of its swords and sorcery needs met with high-end product, media that blends imaginative storytelling with committed performances and cutting-edge special effects. But that hasn’t stopped rival studios from attempting to make a quick buck riding the fad’s coattails. Now, it’s easier than ever to throw some actors in suits of armor and cloaks, ship them off to a Canadian forest, and film them swinging swords in the air while some special effects studio digitally renders a dragon or giant or whatever it is months down the road in a cramped Burbank office park. The latest knock-off is the dismal “Seventh Son,” and the only surprise in the film is how they managed to land both Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore for what has to be the worst-ever reunion of “The Big Lebowski” cast members committed to film.

Starting, as these things do, with a mysterious evil once thought banished returning to threaten the entire world, “Seventh Son” opens with a witch named Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) transforming into a dragon in order to escape her mountaintop prison. You see, the Blood Moon is coming up, and when witches do something on the Blood Moon, they can rule the world or whatever. But she needs something? Or she’s just waiting for the days to pass until the Blood Moon rises? Frankly this plan is thinly sketched. Anyway, Mother Malkin calls upon her “Mortal Kombat” reject family of witches and warlocks to prepare for the inevitable attack led by Sir Gregory (Jeff Bridges with an accent like a bad Sean Connery impression performed through a mouth full of peanut butter), an unfortunately-named Spook, a breed of knight who specializes in hunting down supernatural creatures. Along for the ride is his new apprentice Tom Ward (Ben Barnes), a seventh son of a seventh son, supposedly seven times stronger than the average man but really just sort of okay. And his mom is a witch too, so he’s got that. Ugh, this thing is a mess. Rest assured there’s a fight between the Spooks and the witches and it is all very boring.

While Barnes and his half-witch love interest Alice (Alicia Vikander) look pretty enough, absolutely no effort is made by either one to fit into the time frame, forgoing the genre standard British accents and speaking with flat American dialects and with the speech patterns and sarcasm of modern 20-somethings. At least they fare much better than whatever the hell it is Jeff Bridges is doing with his voice, chewing every single word like a piece of bubble gum and spitting them out through a sub-Peter Dinklage in “Game of Thrones” over-enunciated squawk. This aggression will not stand, man.

Easy Virtue

June 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jessica Biel, Ben Barnes, Kristin Scott Thomas
Directed by: Stephan Elliott (“Eye of the Beholder”)
Written by: Stephan Elliott (“Eye of the Beholder”) and Sheridan Jobbins

On paper, an era piece starring Jessica Biel just doesn’t look right. It’s like Cameron Diaz in “Gangs of New York” or Angelina Jolie in “The Good Shepherd.” It gets the job done, but seems incompatible and obscure.

Biel, however, proves that she can break past her well-known status as a Hollywood sex symbol to play an independent 1920’s American woman in “Easy Virtue,” an adaption of Noel Coward’s play of the same name. Here she flips a British aristocracy’s world upside down when she marries into their family.

Not only is Larita Whittaker (Biel) American, she also smokes, races cars, and speaks her mind no matter who’s around. Although somewhat endearing at first to a few members of the family (with the exception of the uppity matriarch – played by the wonderful Kristin Scott Thomas – who is offended even by her bleached-blonde bob), Larita slowly gets under everyone’s skin with her bubbly personality, vulgar opinions, and floozy-like reputation when her new hubby John (Ben Barnes from “Prince Caspian”) brings her to the family estate.

Larita, however, isn’t going to bend for anyone, including her spouse who has never worked a day in his life and is comfortable being catered to hand and foot while at home. What is supposed to be a three or four-day stay for the newlyweds turns into weeks. Soon, Larita realizes there really is no exit strategy from what she refers to as the “petrified circus” unless she plans it herself.

As a comedy of manners, “Easy Virtue” is mostly chippy and light on its feet especially when peppered with a very interesting soundtrack (a jazz version of Rose Royce’s 70’s hit “Car Wash” is one of the more ambitious song choices). There are few gags that run too long and other than Thomas, Biel, and Colin Firth, who plays the man of the mansion, everyone one else in the family blends well into the British countryside like all the other set pieces.

In the final act, debut screenwriter Sheridan Jobbins and director/writer Stephan Elliott (“Eye of the Beholder”) decide to turn playful sarcasm between characters into all-around revulsion. From here, “Easy Virtue” is no longer an energetic collection of zingers and quickly changes tone. It’s the darker turn where “Virtue” stops being a farce and makes a mad dash into melodramatic mediocrity. How very unbecoming.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

May 20, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Ben Barnes, Sergio Castellitto, Georgie Henley
Directed by: Andrew Adamson (“Shrek 2”)
Written by: Andrew Adamson (“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”), Christopher Markus (“The Life and Death of Peter Sellers”), Stephen McFeely (“You Kill Me”)

When humans rule the world of Narnia and fantastic creatures liked fauns, centaurs, and talking animals take a backseat to the man versus man conflict, there’s bound to be some allure missing during a 144-minute long film. In “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian,” the sequel to the 2005 film “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” writer/director Andrew Adamson fails to build on the mythology of his first outing and packages an epic C.S. Lewis story into a tiresome script.

If you’re hoping to see character-driven beavers and a valiant dialogue by the King of the Jungle, then “Prince Caspian” is not your knight in shining armor. Instead, Adamson and his writing crew revolve the story around King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto) and his pursuit to kill his nephew Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) so his newborn son can inherit the thrown and become king.

Meanwhile, back in England for a year since last stumbling into the world of Narnia from a wardrobe, the four Pevensie children – Lucy (Georgie Henley), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), Peter (William Moseley), and Susan (Anna Popplewell) – have no idea how much the world of Narnia has changed over the span of 1,300 years (Apparently one year on earth equals that amount of time in Narnia).

When the children are magically transported back into Narnia, they are all surprised and saddened to find that Narnians have been pushed into the forest where a majority of them live in hiding and in fear of the Telmarines (the human rulers). Determined to keep his spot in line for the kingship, Prince Caspian and the Pevensie children, all of whom are looked upon as “the kings and queens of old” and the saviors of Narnia, set out to defeat King Miraz and his army before they wipe out what is left of magical land.

While the sequel will provide some light escapism, fantasy film series like “The Chronicles of Narnia,” will forever be compared to “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. It’s just something fantasy films will have to get used to until the end of time. From a mainstream audience’s viewpoint, the film has already lost simply because the adaptation of Lewis’ work is far less rudimentary than J.R.R. Tolkien.

The storyline Adamson conjures up is not flavored and quickly dissolves as the film proceeds forward into plain scenes of computer generated hokum underwritten by its own standards. Where we had boisterous beavers and charming fauns in the first, we get a dull badger and a team of sword-wielding mice, which are entirely too reminiscent of the Shrek sidekick Puss in Boots (Adamson should have known better).

The best performance of the film comes from actor Peter Dinklage (“The Station Agent”) who plays a Narnian dwarf named Trumpkin. His enchanting personality, however, is no match for the dreary faces of the Pevensie clan. Although scenes of wartime heroics are high (and child-friendly), “Prince Caspian” is basic swordplay with little emotional pull behind any of the characters, CGI or not.