Seventh Son

“Seventh Son” is a masterpiece replete with witches, dragons, shape shifters, “spooks,” creatures, and other engaging remnants from medieval mythology.

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Seventh Son (2014)
Cast

Jeff Bridges as Master Gregory
Ben Barnes as Tom Ward
Julianne Moore as Mother Malkin

Directed by

Sergei Bodrov

Written by

Charles Leavitt, Steven Knight

Other Info

Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Rated PG-13
1h 24min

Can witches save the day? I suppose in “Seventh Son” they can try. Our age-old fascination with witches is shown on the big screen here. There is a new concept I hadn’t heard of called the “spook” profession. These are basically witch hunters. They are endowed and recruited through generations to destroy bad witches. Jeff Bridges is a powerful one. Ironically we find he once had a romance with a witch but he is evermore hateful of witches and his occupation is to burn them so they don’t cause cataclysmic trouble.

And so we have the backdrop for this epic tale. It’s more sorcery than good and evil. We learn that sometimes good witches watch over the land as other times, evil humans do more hard than any evil witch could ever do. This story line requires your full attention so if you’re a “multitasker” as you watch films, you’ll need to set your phone down and take in the foundation of the story which are very interesting indeed.

Like so many movies these days, it is based on a book. I can’t imagine a book being as visually stunning as this film is. I felt like I was on a swashbuckling roller coaster most the time. The effects didn’t come cheap, the film cost almost 100 million dollars to make. The good news for them is that it did well at the box office earning well above and beyond its costs. I gave this quasi-medieval action, adventure, fantasy a perfect 5 stars. I recommend it!

The Love Bug

There are formulas that work in movies. Walt Disney was always looking for the next hit. “The Love Bug” is a family film that carries its own weight off the race track!
the_love_bug_poster_1-1-9962055Title: The Love Bug
Number of times I’ve seen it: Probably a dozen
Genre: Comedy, Family, Fantasy
MPAA Rating: G
Year: 1969
Director: George A. Romero
Top Billed Cast: Dean Jones, Michele Lee, David Tomlinson
Brief Synopsis: A washed up race car driver returns with the help of a supernatural VW.

I remember the warm feeling I had seeing this in the theater around 1977. It is a 1969 release that played over and over for years in theaters, always selling plentiful tickets. Who can resist when Herbie honks his horn and saves the scene. The actors are top notch as well. It’s no wonder there were so many sequels. “Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo” is another one I enjoyed in my youth. The cliche “They don’t make them like they used to” comes to mind. I had fun watching this most recently at age 46: the same age of the movie!

Krampus

“You better watch out.”

A lot of kids beg their parents to watch horror. You can’t protect your kids from everything. I’d say let your guard down with this one. It received a pg-13 rating but I think kids 10 and up (who are over the Santa Claus thing, otherwise there may be all sorts of confusion) will have a rock and rolling time.

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Krampus (2015)
Cast
Adam Scott

as Tony Engel

Toni Collette

as Sarah Engel

David Koechner

as Howard

Directed by
Michael Dougherty
Written by
Todd Casey, Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields
Other Info

Comedy, Fantasy, Horror
Rated PG-13
1h 38min

There are some really scary scenes but if you talk about it with your kids, they should get a kick out of it. “Krampus” is also a film for grownups. Fans of straight up horror may be put off by the juxtaposition of comedy, but for those wanting something sarcastic and quite different in horror, this is a good one to see.

Rotten Tomatoes didn’t like this film much. What that means s, a compendium of critics’ ratings averaged out below 67%. That almost kept me away from this film. I’m glad I persisted and saw it, despite the critics. It was a lot of fun!

I wouldn’t call this film horror. It could better be described as a Christmas comedy like “Home Alone” with horror conventions. If that sounds good to you, you have to go see this film. It starts out with all the trappings of a John Hughes film and then busts out with amoral killing, blood, guts, and even a doll that resemble sthe one from “Saw.”

The Krampus christmas devil is not new. From what I can gather, the mythology has been around for centuries. Apparently the Christmas devil will come visit you if you renounce Christmas and good will toward men. I think it’s hilarious how they took this story and made it into an instant Christmas classic. I’m a teacher of 28 ten year olds and I asked for a show of hands yesterday of how many kids had seen “Krampus.” The tally was: 28/28. Sometime old fogies on Rotten Tomatoes measure a film by tradition values and trends. One shouldn’t do that with Krampus. It will be on my Christmas viewing list for sure along with “A Christmas Story,” “Nacho Libre,” “A Miracle of 34th Street,” and “A Christmas Carol.”

As an aside, I’ll be pulling back from using Rotten Tomatoes as a first line impression of movies I am curious about. I think what’s happening is a lot of movies are not me seen by yours truly due to a low score with the critics. Sure, you take a chance not reading a rating for a movie but at the same time, that rating can act as a sort of brainwashing, a muddying of the waters that are your views about the movies. I’ve loved RT for years and I still do in a way but my usage is now going to be far less. Now, go rent Krampus and have some scary laughs >:) I gave it 5/5 stars because it is exactly what it advertises to be and I love movies that are true to themselves that way.

A Cure for Wellness (2016)

I’ve shared before how much I am drawn in to asylum films. There is just something patently creepy about them. I think we all wonder what’s going on with the patients in strait-jackets and more importantly, do they know something we don’t? This film deals in those questions and fears.

A Cure for Wellness (2016)
R | 2h 26min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror | 17 February 2017 (USA)
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An ambitious young executive is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from an idyllic but mysterious “wellness center” at a remote location in the Swiss Alps, but soon suspects that the spa’s treatments are not what they seem.
Director: Gore Verbinski
Writers: Justin Haythe (screenplay), Justin Haythe (story by) | 1 more credit »
Stars: Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth

If there was a place where all the great people of the world went when they reached their mental end, it would be in this film. Einstein, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and the like would all be living out their long final chapters in this asylum. But it isn’t a bad deal really. There are baths, exercising, healthy food deliveries, and serpents. Well okay, I know the serpents are non-sequitirs. I will say there is some excellent acting in this film and the writing up until the last act is pretty good too. I have some issues with the end that make me question how much I should recommend it to you. Because the majority of it is so great. I will go with 7/10 and leave it at that. The way it was all wrapped up sort of weakened it’s ability to captivate me.

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The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

Fans of horror films know that some are genuine works of art like the Monalisa or Starry Night. They look past the things that shock others etc. to unearth a spectre of understanding of human greatness on the screen. This film is one of those for many horror fans. I truly hope more people, including non-horror fans, get a chance to see this lovely foreign film.

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The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
Cast

Marisa Paredes, Eduardo Noriega, Federico Luppi

Directed by

Guillermo del Toro

Written by

Guillermo del Toro, Antonio Trashorras, David Muñoz

Other Info

Drama, Fantasy, Horror
Rated R
1h 46min

What are ghosts? Why do we get scared as children when we hear ghost stories? These are primal questions we may never have a scientific answer to. In this film, ghosts are beings that are stuck. They keep doing the same thing and it is thought of as haunting. Carlos is a boy in an orphanage in the Spanish civil war. His father has died in battle but no one tells him. Instead, he is abandoned at a small orphanage. In front of the orphanage is a mammoth sized defused bomb. This is that backdrop and setting for this drama that contains elements of horror.

The ghost is referred to as Santi, or “the one who sighs.” He looks a little like a zombie but he can talk and probably use reason. He was once a boy just like Carlos. Santi seems to be somewhat of a protector of the orphanage. His mute eloquence speaks volumes about how war is hell and how men can be overwhelmingly evil.

This film is a beautiful painting. Guillermo del Toro calls it his “most personal work.” When the boys get into their mischief, I couldn’t help but imagine a young Gullermo there. The horror is scant but it serves it’s purpose in telling this entrancing story. The characters are so well written and played, I felt I was watching a live university theater production. There are tons of quotes shared by the narrator and after watching it I felt wiser. There are subtitles and the film is entirely spoken in Spanish. Still, the cinematography and deft writing kept my eyes glued to the screen. I do speak Spanish but I am not a native speaker. I gladly read the subtitles that capture some subtleties of the language. This is beautiful film to watch and to listen to despite the subtitles. There is so much else here. Any horror film lover must see it and even if you aren’t one, this is an incredible drama with ghosts, fantasy, and revenge.

The antagonist is a class A asshole. I’ll spare you the spoilers but you will enjoy a few things surrounding his story. Towards the end you start to wonder who is a ghost and who is not. All in all, this beautiful piece of cinema serves to display the hell of war. It also raises the question of what ghosts are. Can they exist outside of religion? When we fear them, perhaps we lose sight of their help. Guillermo has said in so many words that we should not fear the dead as ghosts but the living. When we examine war and what it does to people, even children, we should remember that suggestion of his.

The BFG (2016)

This is a repost from last year, the BFG is now streaming on Netflix!

With highly advertised Summer films like The Secret Life of Pets out this Summer of 2016, this film has a lot to stand up to. Fortunately for the giant, he is 26 feet tall so he can stand up to audiences with confidence. Some movies like The BFG should not be over analyzed but rather surrendered to. It has been engineered to take you away as if you were in a dream. Some of the finest names in movie making, including Spielberg as director, have joined forces to do that. Set controls for the heart of childhood, The Big Friendly Giant is here to sweep you away.

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The BFG
Cast

Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton

Directed by

Steven Spielberg

Written by

Melissa Mathison (screenplay), Roald Dahl (based on the book by)

Other Info

Adventure, Family, Fantasy
Rated PG
117min

There are two main characters: Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) and the BFG (Big Friendly Giant – voiced by Mark Rylance). Both characters don’t quite fit into their respective worlds and find a special friendship with each other. There isn’t much by way of plot but that’s not a problem. The tenderness between BFG and Sophie is so powerfully developed and delivered, they can do anything and it’s engaging. Just watch them opening “dream jars,” for example. The plot is thickest when the other, larger giants threaten to eat Sophie. When that’s not happening, Sophie and BFG spend quality  time in “Giant Land.” At some point, they solicit the aid of a “head of state,” (I’ll call her that to not spoil the surprise of who she is) and the bad giants are dealt with.

bfg1-6628521At one point, BFG tells Sophie giants have been walking about since the beginning of time. There is no growth or transformation in either character, it’s not that sort of film. We are meant to admire them like art hanging in a gallery. Along those lines, one should remember the book is by Roald Dahl, all his books are highly visual. You see a world that is a reflection upside down on a lake. You also see peoples’ dreams in little pixie sizes, squeaking. There are signature silly words here just like inWilly Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. In fact, when a rich human serves him toast and jam, he yells out, “Scrumtapdiliumpcious!”

The main reason The BFG is effective and entertaining because it’s simplified. This is how it should be with a Spielberg film. He’s been making movies since the 1970’s and should know by now a few things that work. He leaves the worthless stuff out. Through the 2000’s his direction was hit and miss. I recall a couple real misses as examples: Cowboys and Aliens and Super 8. I went in to both expecting the caliber of E.T. and instead got uninteresting, worthless movies. Bbfg2-8733606ut after all the modern trial and error, it’s great to see him hit the bullseye again with The BFG. I want to recognize the screenwriter Melissa Mathison as I type my review. She has been a collaborator with Spielberg on several project including ET. She passed away tragically from cancer last year. She was only 65. By way of trivia, From 1983 to 2004, Mathison was married to Harrison Ford; they had two children together.

In conclusion, this is the Summer of 2016, and as most movie viewers know there is some family film competition, including The Secret Life of Pets. While a CGI character, the BFG has a lot of personality in his face and body movements. Clearly byt looking at the actor, you can see they fashioned him after Mark Rylance. He’s well known for winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as Rudolf Abel in Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies. The casting of Rylance in the BFG was an excellent choice. To me, he IS BFG. While it is performing slowly at the moment at the box office, I truly hope a lot of people get a chance to see this film.

Have you seen this film? Care to see it? Leave your thoughts about the film in the comments.