Movie Review: Seventh Son (2014)

Action | Adventure | Fantasy, 102 minutes
Director: Sergey Bodrov
Starring: Ben Barnes, Julianne Moore, Jeff
As a seventh son of a seventh son, young “Thomas” (Ben Barnes) is the new apprentice of witch-slayer “Master Gregory” (Jeff Bridges), appointed to replace his now deceased predecessor. Once Thomas' training begins, he faces the added challenge of the coming of the new blood-moon. At such time, “Mother Malkin” (Julianne Moore) — once imprisoned by Gregory — has broken loose to unleash havoc on the world.

In the long and winding quest to destroy witches, which even the church seems reluctant to attempt because these witches are too powerful, Thomas meets and falls in love with “Alice” (Alicia Vikander), another witch, putting a conflict of interest between himself, his master, and his destiny.

The movie Seventh Son has all of the alluring language and symbolism of a good Dungeons and Dragons quest, but most of this is wasted on canned CGI-imbued action sequences, recurrent physical transformations, and unprincipled enemies or otherwise specter presences floating around. It becomes obvious early on that Bridges is having perhaps the most fun of anyone on screen, but only because his reused accent, taken straight from R.I.P.D. (2013) and True Grit (2010), stuck with audiences and he still has fun playing around with it.

Movie Review: Taken 3 (2014)

Action | Thriller, 109 minutes
Director: Olivier Megaton
Starring: Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Maggie Grace
"It Ends Here!" is the tagline. Well, I think that is a great idea.

This is Olivier Megaton's second Taken installment. He brought us Taken 2, and whereas the styling feels the same, this movie takes a noticeable step back in terms of both quality and ambition. 

This time, ex-government agent "Bryan Mills" (Liam Neeson) is framed for a murder he did not commit. He has a sharp detective, "Dotzler" (Forest Whitacre) coming after him. His daughter "Kim" (Maggie Grace) is now mature and out on her own. Her mother "Lenore" (Famke Janssen) is back before us, but not for long. 

Movie Review: Cake (2014)

Drama, 102 minutes
Director: Daniel Barnz
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Adriana Barraza, Anna
The movie Cake is nothing if not bold in its intentions concerning what it set out to do. It gives us a look into the moody and depressing life of "Claire Bennett" (Jennifer Aniston).

Claire has seen better days. After a terrible accident took the life of a family member and left her to survive in extreme pain, she spends her days self-medicating and attending a support group for chronic pain sufferers. The movie begins with Claire attending this group and getting tossed out as a result of her sharing her overly kurt feelings about another member who took her own life.

Now on her own in the everyday struggle with herself, she enjoys Percocet, excessive amounts of wine, and under-appreciating her loyal housekeeper "Silvana" (Adriana "Drag Me to Hell" Barraza). On top of all her other problems, Claire needs to work on her personality.

An infatuation develops with Claire on the girl who took her life, "Nina" (Anna Kendrick), and finally, with her husband "Roy" (Sam Worthington). It's a gloomy struggle, all in all, and the unhappiness is no small feature of the film for anyone.

Movie Review: Lucy (2014)

Plot synopsis: A woman (Johansson), accidentally caught
in a dark deal, turns the tables on her  captors
and transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond
human logic.
Runtime: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Rated: R (for strong violence, disturbing
images, and sexuality)
Director: Luc Besson
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman,
Min-sik Choi
Action | Sci-Fi
In Lucy, a scared and clueless young woman (Scarlett Johansson) gets abducted by ruthless Taiwanese drug-lords. She is made to work as a mule for distributing their goods. When a part of a package she is carrying gets loose in her system, the full potential of her brain is chemically unlocked, allowing her to become more than a match for her enemies—and possibly also, for any other super-hero that has ever been conceived.

After she is mentally liberated, Lucy (for some reason) becomes a different person – determined, brave, philanthropic, and just a hair's breadth away from all-knowing. And in some damn impressive high-speed chase sequences, with awesome telekinetic displays of power, she can travel through the 4th dimension. With this transcendence, Lucy tears through the those advanced aliens from Independence Day vs. some anthill on earth on a ranch in Elmendorf, Texas.

Movie Review: The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

Plot synopsis: A young couple (Zach Gilford, Roberta
Valderrama) works to survive on the streets after their car
breaks down right as the annual purge commences, as
they fight to survive with a mother and her daughter
(Carmen Ejogo, Justina Machado) and an unknown
gunman (Frank Grillo).
 Runtime: 1 hour, 43 minutes
 Rated: R (or strong disturbing violence, and for language)
 Director: James DeMonaco
 Starring: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford
 Action | Horror | Thriller

Taking place just two hours before the onset of the next bloody purge - in which all of "America Reborn" acts out their deadly anger without fear of legal repercussion - The Purge: Anarchy takes off in 2023 with a new cast and new characters. What is not new is what the film seeks to accomplish, which is exactly what the first one did (only, this one does so a little less effectively).

Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Plot synopsis: In the wake of a disaster
that changed the world, the growing
 and genetically evolving apes find
themselves at a critical point with the
human race.
Runtime: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Rated: PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi
violence and action, and brief strong language)
Director: Matt Reeves
Starring: Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Andy Serkis
Action | Drama | Sci-Fi
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes continues the human-vs-smart-ape crisis some ten years after the viral outbreak which cost humanity the vast majority of the world's population. The apes are starting to take the lead, but the humans still have the weaponry, with each side fighting harder than ever for domination.

Like the first Planet of the Apes revamping, this film has spades of action, tons of story, and a strong emotional appeal throughout, as it keeps audiences torn between rooting for their own kind and a new race of super-apes.

The film's remarkably static intelligent undercurrent shows the intellectual and emotional growth of Caesar as a leader who can make complex moral decisions and advance his cause, thereby reminding us of what fortifies character. The problem? Well, how about why audiences would ever be expected to go for such a premise behind a remake in the first place?

Movie Review: Deliver Us From Evil (2014)

Plot synopsis: NY police officer Ralph Sarchie
(Eric Bana) investigates a series of crimes. He
joins forces with an unconventional priest, schooled
in the rituals of exorcism (Édgar Ramírez), to combat
the possessions that are terrorizing their city.
 Runtime: 1 hour, 58 minutes
Rated: R (for bloody violence, grisly images, terror throughout,
and language)
 Director: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Eric Bana, Édgar Ramírez, Olivia Munn
Crime | Horror | Thriller
Director Scott Derrickson (Sinister, The Possession of Emily Rose) brings us Deliver Us From Evil, a crude-but-biblically titled horror that feels more like an apologetic video for a fundamentalist Catholic evangelistic effort aimed at lapsed, on-the-fence Catholics in New York as opposed to moviegoers at large.

And while Eric Bana (Hulk, Vantage Point) and Édgar Ramírez (The Bourne Ultimatum) work great together, the writing behind who they are and what they are doing is left hanging in a wishy-washy, unoriginal patchwork of a film that is neither interesting, nor scary.

Movie Review: Maleficent (2014)

Plot synopsis: A vengeful fairy (Angelina Jolie) is driven to curse
 an infant princess (Elle Fanning), only to discover that the child
 may be the one person who can restore peace to their troubled
Walt Disney Pictures
 Runtime: 1 hour, 37 minutes
 Rated: PG (for sequences of fantasy action and violence, including
frightening images)
 Director: Robert Stromberg
 Writers: Linda Woolverton, Charles Perrault (based from the
story "La Belle au bois dormant" by)
 Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley
 Action | Adventure | Family

Director Robert Stromberg (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Hunger Games) gives us Maleficent, a cunning re-invigoration of the story of Sleeping Beauty, the tale this time told from a much more modern point of view, with a newfound respect for acknowledging the dualistic nature of personhood.

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