Director: Sergei Bodrov
Writers: Charles Leavitt, Steven Knight (screenplay), Joseph Delaney (novel)
Stars: Jeff Bridges, Ben Barnes, Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander
Based on Joseph Delaney’s novel, The Spook’s Apprentice, Seventh Son is the very definition of throwaway trash. Released to scathing reviews and even worse commercial traction, this fantasy-epic was thrown to the wolves by its studio overlords.
Seventh Son kicks off with the imprisonment of evil witch mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) by knight/monster hunter/badass (Spook) Gregory (Jeff Bridges) after their romance turned sour. The story jumps forward; Gregory – becoming the last of his kind – scours the land for similar demon-like creatures. After Malkin’s prison break, and his apprentice(Kit Harington)’s murder at her hands, hires aspiring local farmhand Will (Ben Barnes) to take up the mantle and save the kingdom.
Faced with an extraordinary share of production issues, Seventh Son is the by-product of blockbuster era gone by. The film languishes in forgettable fluff, once made whole by everything from Ridley Scott’s Legend and the original Clash of the Titans. Like the Clash remake, however, the plot lurches from one monster battle to the next. Lacking original story or character elements, the film goes through the motions.
Despite the dearth of emotion or intelligence, the action sequences – along with the CGi creations – are almost worth a watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The actors all put on a brave face, with Jeff Bridges hiding behind a thick (British?) accent and overall charisma. Moore, coming off her Oscar-winning performance in Still Alice, chews up the scenery. Up-and-comers Barnes and Alicia Vikander handle themselves eloquently.
Verdict: A silly, forgettable fantasy-epic.
Director: Jon Kasdan
Writer: Jon Kasdan
Stars: Dylan O’Brien, Britt Robertson, Craig Roberts, James Frecheville
The First Time is one of few films focusing on that scary, interesting era in everyone’s life. After the initial boyfriend/girlfriend stuff, the first physical encounter can spell immediate success or instant disaster. The film takes it on with considerable care and thought.
The First Time, in true teen dramedy fashion, follows the hit-and-miss life of Dave (Dylan O’Brien). Dave is a high school senior pining after long-time friend Jane (Victoria Justice). Stuck in the deadening abyss known as the ‘friend zone’, Dave watches on as Jane hooks up with one guy after another. One night, at a sex-fuelled house party, Dave meets Aubrey (Britt Robertson) and his life takes an immediate turn for the positive.
This coming-of-age dramedy pays homage to 1990s independent filmmakers known for human moments more so than plot. Mimicking Richard Linklater and Kevin Smith’s works, the film works best during extended conversations between our lead two characters. Unlike most contemporary movies, it makes a point of focusing on dialogue, human interaction, and on-screen chemistry. Its highs and lows thrive on O’Brien and Robertson’s effervescent performances.
Writer/director Jon Kasdan, brother of Jake (Sex Tape, Bad Teacher) and son of acclaimed filmmaker Lawrence (Star Wars), clings onto his less-is-more approach a little too far. The supporting characters, including Aubrey’s older boyfriend Ronny (James Frecheville), are pushed into the background.
Verdict: A solid, harmless date movie.
Director: Nima Nourizadeh
Writer: Max Landis
Stars: Jessie Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Connie Britton
Director Nima Nourizadeh is an up-and-coming comedy director known primarily for Project X; one of the past decade’s most unlikeable movies. Writer Max Landis, known for Chronicle and a Man of Steel rant on YouTube, is one of contemporary Hollywood’s most divisive figures. Put them together and you get American Ultra – a derivative, pointless action-comedy.
American Ultra focuses on pot-smoking layabout Mike Howell (Jessie Eisenberg) in Liman, West Virginia. Mike, cared for by his girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart), envisions a better life via his collection of graphic novel illustrations. Meanwhile, at Langley’s CIA headquarters, agent Victoria Lasseter (Connie Britton) learns that Mike, sole survivor of a particular sleeper agent program, is to be eliminated by Adrian (Topher Grace).
Light on action, laughs or anything of substance, this action-comedy creates a fan-fiction-esque universe of bizarre, over-the-top plot points, characters, and actions sequences. Talking down to their audience, Nourizadeh and Landis present simplistic, juvenile depictions of everything including relationships, stoners, and, well, basic human traits. Mike and Phoebe are caricatures, defined only by ticks and forced backstories. However, Eisenberg and Start, two of the 21st century’s most divisive performers, elevate their roles with undeniable chemistry.
The film’s strange anti-establishment agenda paints a concerning portrait of American security agencies. Landis and co. restrict the CIA players to caricatures and cyphers, using operation titles like ‘Tough Guy’ and ‘Ultra’. Character actors including Grace, Britton, Walton Goggins, and Bill Pullman are restricted to unlikeable, incompetent characters illustrating the CIA as horrific, bloodthirsty morons.