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Seventh Son: Magic, Witches & Dragons in Run-of-the-Mill Fantasy Adventure
Based on young-adult novel, The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch, Sergey Bodrov's Seventh Son is built on the old folklore tale of 'the seventh son of a seventh son' holding some kind of mystical powers – in this case, the hero of the piece, Tom Ward (Barnes), is able to have prophetic visions of impending doom.
The film develops into a classic master-and-apprentice set-up when the world-weary Master Gregory (Bridges) – grieving the loss of protégé, Billy (Harrington) – find his replacement in Tom. Our young and naive hero-in-the-making is a quality lump of clay waiting to be moulded and shaped to reach is true potential. It's a tried-and-tested filmic and literary formula; the rest of the story writes itself as the two go on to battle the evil Mother Malkin (Moore) and her armies of shape-shifting witches for reasons that are largely incomprehensible, but acceptable nonetheless.
While it may not quite be in the league of other bigger and better fantasy productions, there's still plenty of action and imaginative elements to appreciate in Seventh Son. Even just Watching Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore – who haven't appeared on screen together since their work in The Big Lebowski in 1998 – battling it out against the backdrop of dragons, wizards and larger-than-life supernatural creatures isn't the worst thing to snuggle up to a some popcorn in front of. However, even though Bridges seems fitting for the tired and worn-out warrior, his ambiguous, slurry accent is hard to digest and Moore – decked out in full black witch attire – wades into cartoonish territory a little too often.
The visuals, which come courtesy of cinematographer and special effects veteran, John Dykstra, are (disappointingly) nothing more than average and contribute a bare minimum to the overall aesthetic of the Medievel backdrop. Nothing bursts off the screen and there's a distinct lack of wow-factor that is largely dictated by the fact that the script in itself lacks a distinguishable flair.
Although the story's fun but forgettable hundred-minute running time feels undemanding, there isn't enough magic in the Seventh Son to get one excited about the sequel that is almost certain to follow. And it will come.
Despite its seemingly aggressive and gory premise, Nick Simon’s The Girl in the Photographs is one of the most uninspiring slasher movies you will have the misfortune of seeing. Attempting to cultivate a sense of paranoia and dread, the film is completely devoid of suspense, despite the late, great Wes Craven being attached as executive producer.
The story begins with college student, Janet (Isabelle), who, after returning home late one night from watching a bad movie at the cinema, is brutally attacked and killed in her home mask-wearing madmen, Tom (Baines) and Gerry (Schmitt) who, before disposing of her body, photograph their and put her pictures up around the sleepy town of Spearfish, South Dakota.
Connecting the discovery to some kind of roguish art, the police is totally unmoved by the evidence; however, local grocery store clerk, Colleen (Lee), seems to think that there is something more malicious at play. The murder soon attracts the attention of a predatory photographer, Peter Hemmings (Penn), who decides to travel from L.A to Spearfish along with his assistant Chris (Wormald) and a group of models in order to seek inspiration and create his own art. Finding Colleen, Peter soon becomes obsessed in re-creating the sadistic photo and event, but as more people go missing and the photo count increases, chaos and paranoia takes over the town.
The Girl in the Photographs is one violent and gruesome picture which doesn’t sugar coat its sadism and depictions torture. However, while the grisliness of it all seems perfectly suited to its Slasher-movie premise, the execution comes across as a little dull with the story investing very little time or interest in building any sort of mystery or suspense. The snail-like pacing is another damaging factor with director Nick Simon – working a the script written by a group of largely inexperienced screenwriters – wasting too much time allowing for a scene to unfold, igniting boredom rather than tension, while the performances fail to rise above the tedious script.
On the visual front, the film is slightly more effective thanks to the contributions of legendary cinematographer, Dean Cundey – see Jurassic Park, Apollo 13, Back to the Future. Gory, violent and exceptionally inane, The Girl in the Photographs is not completely without its terror-inducing moments, but there isn’t enough of its redeeming features to sustain it.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.