‘The Last Witch Hunter’ Review

last_witch_hunter_ver2

Director: Breck Eisner

Writer: Cory Goodman, Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless

Cast: Vin Diesel, Rose Leslie, Elijah Wood, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Julie Engelbrecht, Joseph Gilgun, and Michael Caine

Synopsis: The last witch hunter is all that stand between humanity and the combined forces of the most horrifying witches in history.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

What better way to celebrate the approaching Halloween than with a film with witches. Vin Diesel stars and produces this film which I’m sure to him feels like one of his D&D games gone full scale – because Diesel has admitted he’s a nerd for that kind of stuff. While The Last Witch Hunter is filled with mythology and magic, there are time when the film loses some of its charm as it trudges through.

the-last-witch-hunter-official-image

The film starts off in the middle ages after the plague breaks out, which just so happened to be the work of the Witch Queen (Engelbrecht), which leads a group known as The Axe and Cross, which includes Kaulder (Diesel) to hunt her down into the snowy mountains to a her lair. There they encounter the Witch Queen and her underlings, which leads to a battle and Kaulder coming face-to-face with the Witch Queen where he kills her, but not before she curses him with immortality. We then cut to the present day where witches and humans now live in a truce, but there are still witches out there that want to go back to the olden days. The truce is kept in order by Kaulder, who still works for the Axe and Cross and takes his orders from the group and a head figure known as The Dolan, which at the start of the movie is played by Michael Caine, and is the thirty-sixth.

vin-diesel-leads-the-all-star-cast-of-new-fantasy-flick-the-last-witch-hunter-your-382002

However, when Dolan the 36th is attacked this leads Kaulder and the new appointed Dolan (Wood) to investigate and find out that someone wants release the Witch Queen. Realizing that he can’t do this alone and trying to decipher a message left for him to remember his past, Kaulder seeks Chloe (Leslie) to help him. They farther they go however, the more dangerous the mission becomes.

Vin-Diesel-and-Rose-Leslie-in-The-Last-Witch-Hunter

The Last Witch Hunter is a huge mix bag of a movie. There are some things that are serviceable and that work, but then again, there are things that lack to grab you. Some of the world-building aspects are fun to see play out and establish itself, and granted, the film is about witchcraft so that’s fun to see. But, when it goes away, which it does at one point, it slows the movie down a bit. It also doesn’t help that some of the dialogue is a bit heavy handed at times, and a bit sluggish.

witch-image-3-9-29

The visuals are also hit-and-miss. Some of them really work within the scene like the transition to the “dream-world” or the landscape shot of the Witch Queen’s lair at the beginning and again later on. The bad CG is pretty bad and does take away from the movie when you compare it to the rest of the movie’s visuals. Of course, one of the highlight visuals is the heavily promoted flaming sword, which looks pretty cool when Diesel’s Kaulder is using it.

75-1

Speaking of Diesel, he’s serviceable as the immortal witch hunter. Diesel brings his natural charisma to the role and thankfully brings some levity to the role as opposed to be just the tough guy that can’t die. He does have his moments of intensity in the film, but it’s what you’d expect in a Vin Diesel movie. Rose Leslie’s witch character, Chloe, does the best she can in the role she’s given. She thankfully has something to do rather than just be Kaulder’s love interest – which is a tad forced, but whatever – and has her own desires. Elijah Wood as the new Dolan is rather refreshing as a character and also brings some levity, more so at the beginning, and has his moments to shine, but it otherwise a supporting character and disappears in the middle of the movie.

45-last-witch-hunter

Olafur Darri Olafsson as Belial, a warlock that antagonizes Kaulder throughout the movie, is pretty intimidating as a villain, so it’s kind of a shame that he doesn’t have more scenes and is used as a secondary villain. Julie Engelbrecht, a Canadian actress in her first American film, plays the heavy makeup Witch Queen. The design of the Witch Queen is okay, but she’s surrounded by CGI that it takes away from her character a bit, and she only has only limited screen time. Finally, Michael Caine has only a very small role in the film as Kaulder’s friend and mentor.

1430404727-game-of-thrones-last-witch-hunter

All in all, The Last Witch Hunter does have its fun moments, but some glaring misstep of structure and CGI keep the movie for being far more than it should be and from what people would probably want.

The Last Witch Hunter

3.5 out of 5

Vin-Diesel-stars-in-The-Last-Witch-Hunter

Kingsman: The Secret Service Review

kingsman_the_secret_service_ver7

Dir: Matthew Vaughn

Writer(s): Matthew Vaughn & Jane Goldman

Cast: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Sofia Boutella, Mark Strong, Sophie Cookson, and Michael Caine

Synopsis: A spy organization recruits an unrefined, but promising street kid into the agency’s ultra-competitive training program just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

Director Matthew Vaughn once again adapts a Mark Millar graphic novel (previously adapting Kick-Ass) with Kingsman: The Secret Service. The movie brings a lot of the well-established tropes we have seen in other spy films form the past, but brings them in modern times and adds a highly stylized Millar and Vaughn-esque violence, cleverness, humor and cheekiness.

 

The films follows Gary Unwin aka ‘Eggsy’ (Egerton) who is good-hearted but a bit reckless, as he steals a car from a friend of his mother’s abusive new boyfriend and ends up in jail. He ends up getting out of it from Harry Hart aka Galahad (Firth) who turns out to be part of an elite group of operatives/modern-day knights known as The Kingsman. Harry sees the value and potential in Eggsy and sets him up to enter the training program to see if he is Kingsman material. Problem is, a wealthy tech magnate with a speech-impediment, Valentine (Jackson) and his razor-footed henchwoman Gazelle (Boutella) are ready to unleash a powerful weapon to start a new world order.

 

Again, Kingsman has a great sense of knowing what it is, but doesn’t get too tongue-in-cheek about it. It makes references to other spy films and non-spy-films but never beats you over the head with it or looks at the screen to let you in on the joke. Vaughn knows what he is doing and adds the combination of well known tropes and brings them into modern times with new technology. But, at the same time Vaughn knows how to have fun with the subject material and knows when to go over the top. Of course, it is based on a graphic novel so the hyper stylized violence is there – like it was in Kick-Ass and the sequel – so don’t be surprised when the violence or anything is a bit over the top.

 

kingsman-the-secret-service-taron-egerton-colin-firth-600x399

 

When it comes to the cast, well, they are what makes the film shine. Newcomer Taron Egerton brings equal parts of charisma, toughness, and vulnerability to ‘Eggsy.’ Whether it’s ‘Eggsy’ going though the crazy tests to becoming a Kingsman or dealing with bullies and his mother’s boyfriend, Egerton holds his own and arguably be a big star one day. He even holds his own with on-screen veterans like Colin Firth, Mark Strong and Michael Caine. Another newcomer to the scene is Sophie Cookson, who plays Roxy – another Kingsman recruit – also hold her own being the only female during the recruitment process and has her moments to shine.

 

Colin Firth plays Harry Hart aka Galahand (his codename), who, yes, has his moments to kick some major ass in the film. We know that it has become a trend in Hollywood now to give older actors a “restart” in their career to become action heroes after Liam Neeson did it so well in Taken. Firth plays Harry as the proper English gentleman that carries himself with the outmost prestige, but when it comes down to fight, he goes all out. Which comes into play in one of the biggest action sequences in a church (more on that later) and a standout one at that. I, and many others, would never have seen Firth as an action star, but he does pull it off here in Kingsman.

 

kingsman-villains-

 

Samuel L. Jackson is really having fun playing Valentine. He gives him a lisp – which Jackson apparently actually had – and is a blend of recent villain and old school Bond villains. His main weapon is a technology-based one but he uses mountain-based secret lairs and has a lovely but equally lethal henchwoman that does all his dirty work, since he can’t stand the sight of blood, by cutting off people bodies parts with her razor-sharp prosthetic legs. Sofia Boutella plays said henchwoman named Gazelle (yes, her name is Gazelle) and beside the fight scenes holds her own with Jackson.

 

The other supporting cast is rounded out by Mark Strong and very small role by Michael Caine. Caine plays the head of the Kingsman and pops in and out of the film to fill us in and drive home some of the more important scenes. Strong plays Merlin, the man overseeing the Kingsman recruits and eventually helps out with the final act. It’s a shame there isn’t more of Merlin in the film because he definitely is a great character. Also, for comic book and nerd fans alike, Mark Hamill pops in for a small role too.

 

MV5BNTE4MTM0ODQ4NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTY5OTQ5MzE@._V1._CR38,9,2924,1212__SX1202_SY532_

 

Now, I haven’t read the original source material so I don’t know if this particular scene is in the graphic novel or not, but Millar is known to push the boundaries in this work. The scene I’m talking about is the church scene that you can see in the trailers which involves Harry going at it with the churchgoers. Without going too much into spoilers, it is the first time Valentine uses his weapon and we see the full effect of it. Harry happens to also be effected and goes into full blown berserk mode, which shows how dangerous the weapon can be and how effective a killer Harry is. The basis of the scene is in question and could have some people talking. I don’t know really what to think about the scene. On one hand, the scene is a highlight action sequence (and in one take no less) and in the other, is the scene justified? Is Valentine just picking one random spot or is trying to prove something? Again, up for debate, but you argue that the scene is freaking great to watch.

 

All in all, Kingsman: The Secret Service is a ton of fun. It brings aspects of old spy films but brings them into modern times and flips them on their head. The cast and action to great to watch and overall it’s funny too. It won’t be for everybody and besides the church scene, there is another scene near the end that will make people laugh (I know my theater with me did) but it shows how far Valentine’s plan went. If you walk into Kingsman anticipating a good time, chances are you are going to get it. Also, there is a mid-credits scene which is a nice way to end the film.

 

Kingsman: The Secret Service

4.5 out of 5

‘Interstellar’ Review

interstellar_ver2

Dir: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Wes Bentley, Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy, David Gyasi, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow, Matt Damon, and Michael Caine

Synopsis: A group of explorers make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage.

 

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review*

 

 

Christopher Nolan is back behind the director’s chair and he didn’t take the easy. Nolan decided to tackle doing about a movie about wormhole travel and finding a new home for the human race in a different galaxy. It’s really heavy stuff and maybe a bit too much. Interstellar has some great things about but sometimes the movie should have slowed down to allow us to catch up with some of the scientifically information.

 

Let’s try to put Interstellar in simple terms. Cooper (McConaughey) is a former pilot and engineer who now farms corn, which is Earth’s last sustainable crop. All the other crops have been hit with “The Blight”, which has killed every crop around and has caused massive dust storms. During one of the storms, Cooper’s daughter Murph (Foy) gets a message from her supposed “ghost” trying to talk to her, but it ends being something else. The message eventually leads them to a secret base and find out there is a mission to save humanity and find a new home, in a different galaxy. Cooper eventually joins scientist Amelia Brand (Hathaway), Doyle (Bentley), and Romilly (Gyasi) to travel through a wormhole near Saturn and find their new home.

 

Simple right? Wrong. The major obstacle is the theory of relativity. If they spend too much time in one world it could equal years back on Earth. Time is not on their side, so they have to work fast or their will be no one on Earth left to save.

 

MandM

Young Murph (Mackenzie Foy) and Cooper (Matthew McConaughey)

 

As I mentioned, Interstellar is cramped with a lot of stuff. The world that Nolan has made puts us in an undated future where farmers are the most important job in American and the military is basically no more and replaced with cool looking robots. And I can’t even begin to describe all the science material and theory, but I will say the movie does a great job of making sure you know what’s going on and doesn’t lose you when it starts going on its long exposition.

 

It’s also one of those movies that you should go into not really knowing much about, especially with the final act. The film is a tad long but is engaging enough that you stick with it and want to know if the mission will end well and see where they go. It’s really exciting stuff and could leave you asking questions about the possibility of this happening and what would you do.

 

MandA

Amelia (Anne Hathaway) and Cooper (McConaughey)

 

The acting is great here, which is no surprise since Nolan has a way getting performances from his actors. McConaughey, even though he was a pilot and engineer, his Cooper character is kind of like the everyman in this situation, but he does know what he’s talking about on some occasions. Anne Hathaway gets some standout sequences at the middle of the movie while her father character Michael Caine playing Professor Brand is always great but doesn’t do much here.

 

Mackenzie Foy plays young Murph, and does a tremendous job even though most of her screen time is limited to the first half hour/forty-five minutes of the movie, but she leaves her mark. Jessica Chastain plays the older Murph in the last half of the movie and does pretty well with what she’s given. Older Murph ends up as Professor Brand’s assistant and helps him with his work.

 

JinInt

Jessica Chastain as (Older) Murphy

 

The rest of cast is hit-or-miss but feel like they are there so that McConaughey and Hathaway can play off of. Wes Bentley and David Gyasi as the other two scientists chew up scenery as they delve into all the material. John Lithgow plays Cooper’s father-in-law and Topher Grace pops up as Chastain’s helper but doesn’t bring much to the role. Bill Irwin and Josh Stewart voice the two robot helpers that bring some surprising humor to the film in TARS and CASE. Finally, Matt Damon shows up right before the final act as one of the scientists and explores that have done through before Cooper’s team. His character adds an element to the film that will probably make question some of the events of the film and what the whole mission is about.

 

The special effects however are something to see. Nolan and the special effects department really bought their A-game to the film. The overall look of the film is great and the wormhole stuff is unique to see. Even the worlds that are created like world of mountain waves that have been promoted in every ad or the ice world that is seen in the trailers as well, everything feels real and makes the viewing even more enjoyable.

 

All in all, Interstellar isn’t perfect and does lose a bit of steam in the third act, which also might even cause some viewers to tune out and lose them completely. However, overall it is a quality film with great performances and special effects. I happen to see the film in IMAX and I honestly think that is the best way to watch it.

 

 

Interstellar

4.5 out of 5

interstellar_ver7

‘Now You See Me’ Review

now_you_see_me

Dir: Louis Leterrier (Transporter 1 & 2, Unleashed, The Incredible Hulk, Clash of the Titans)

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Melanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine

Synopsis: An FBI agent and an Interpol detective track a team of illusionists who pull off bank heists during their performances and reward their audiences with the money

 

*Review Note: As always this is a non-spoiler review*

 

The movie opens with “The closer you look, the less you’ll see” whether that’s true or not is of course left to the viewer.

Calling themselves “The Four Horsemen,” street magicians J. Daniel Atlas (Eisenberg), Jack Wilder (Franco), mentalist Merritt (Harrelson), and escape artist Henley (Fisher) are bought together by a mystery person. A year later they are now a hugely successful Vegas magic act that begins to pull off daring and seemingly unbelievable heists much to the delight of audiences. However that doesn’t bode well with FBI agent Rhodes (Ruffalo) and an Interpol agent (Laurent) assign to the case after they steal from a bank in Paris.

Along the way we meet a tycoon played by Michael Caine in a very small role and a former magician-turned-mythbuster (Freeman) who the FBI may or may not be able to trust. And despite all the marketing focusing on the Four Horsemen, this is really Rhodes’ story. He’s the one who is chasing them down and with the help of Laurent’s Alma Dray and Freeman’s Thaddeus Bradley he finds out what’s going on.

Ruffalo, as always, is great as his frustrated, non-believer, and hard driven agent that wants to take the Horsemen down for their crimes. Laurent’s Interpol agent is more open minded then Rhodes and tries to convince him into thinking it’s possible that the magic is real. The movie does slow down a bit when it’s just the two of them together at times but never really hurts the movie.

As for the rest of the cast, Eisenberg and Harrelson get the most screen time of the Horsemen. Franco and Fisher have their moments but they fall through the cracks as the movie progresses. Which is kind of a shame since their characters in other cases are underwritten. They all play their characters with a bit arrogance which you can’t blame them but it does make it them a little harder to like in some cases.

Now You See Me does have some fun with some “common” magic tricks but some of the magic does have some help with CGI, which has upset some people but since the movie is about a wider objective hopefully people can look past it. Even the revels for the tricks are really cool to see, although some are more hit and miss.

All in all, Now You See Me is a fun and at times funny movie that delivers some clever moments and keep viewers entertained and thinking about the big reveal.

Now You See Me

4 out of 5