[Screen It]


(2015) (Jeff Bridges, Ben Barnes) (PG-13)

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Action/Fantasy: A medieval knight tries to train his new apprentice in the ways of battling and killing supernatural beings, all while the queen witch aims to become more powerful with the arrival of the blood moon.
Long ago in medieval times, one thousand knights defended humanity from witches and other supernatural beings. But now only one such knight -- a.k.a. a "spook" -- exists and that's Master Gregory (JEFF BRIDGES) a grizzled veteran who long ago believed he had locked away the most powerful witch, Mother Malkin (JULIANNE MOORE), for good. But she managed to escape, and with the upcoming once-a-century blood moon soon to arrive, she's poised to get her revenge on him and the rest of the world.

She does manage to kill his latest apprentice, William (KIT HARINGTON), before returning to her mountain lair, thus necessitating his need for a new assistant. He arrives at the home of Tom Ward (BEN BARNES), a young pig farmer who lives with his mom (OLIVIA WILLIAMS), father and siblings, and has recurring visions of fantastical things he doesn't understand. Gregory is looking for the seventh son of a seventh son, and that would be Tom. With his mother giving him a prized amulet to help protect him, Tom rides off with Gregory and is given a crash course in all things supernatural.

Little does he know that Mother Malkin's fellow witch sister, Bony Lizzie (ANTJE TRAUE), has sent her teenage witch daughter, Alice (ALICIA VIKANDER), to spy on them. Or that Mother Malkin is assembling a powerful group of supernatural beings, including Radu (DJIMON HOUNSOU), Urag (JASON SCOTT LEE) and Sarikin (KANDYSE McCLURE), to reign terror across the world. With the blood moon arriving soon, Gregory does what he can to teach Tom the tricks of the trade, with the help of his loyal monster helper, Tusk, all while worrying about his young apprentice falling in love with Alice.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
When it's all boiled down to its very essence, there are really just two reasons why a person decides to do something. It's either that they have to do it (for any number of reasons) or that they want to do it (also stemming from a variety of explanations). Of course, sometimes it's both, but the best results, contrary to common sense, don't always come from making a choice based on desire rather than necessity.

After all, men and women get romantically involved with the wrong people all of the time, others waste their money on things that turn out to be bad ideas in hindsight, and actors and actresses sometimes choose movies that leave everyone around them scratching their heads while thinking or mouthing, "Huh?"

Granted, many a new performer falls into the starving artist category and must work to eat and pay the rent, so pretty much anything goes. Others are veterans who might have fallen on hard times, experienced a string of box office bombs or faced some other difficulty that necessitated taking whatever role might be offered to them.

None of that, however, explains why Julianne Moore and Jeff Bridges opted not just to appear but also star in "Seventh Son." Yes, it's based on yet another of those so-called Young Adult" novels, and since a few of them have been turned into huge movie franchises, I can understand wanting to board the financial gravy train as it heads into town every few years. But more fail than succeed, and it's quite likely this adaptation of Joseph Delaney's 2004 novel "The Spook's Apprentice" will suffer a similar fate to many of the supernatural beings that appear in this offering. Besides, Moore has already taken this route with the "Hunger Games" series (and is a 5-time Oscar nominee), while Bridges has been nominated six times (with one Oscar victory) but apparently got bad career advice signing on for 2013's "R.I.P.D." and this film, originally intended for release that same year.

Notwithstanding all of that, a simple script read-through should have likely deterred both from appearing in this derivative and not particularly inspiring fantasy action flick that could have been called "The Anti-Sorcerer's Apprentice."

Bridges, once again doing a weird and not particularly endearing thing with his voice, plays the old Jedi master, uh, witch hunter, while Ben Barnes plays the titular character so chosen to be the next apprentice due to that family status. He needs to get up to speed quickly because Moore's queen witch character is waiting for the once-a-century blood moon to...well...I don't really know other than somehow make her powerful than she already is.

For reasons never explained considering her status, she needs the assistance of a bunch of supernatural beings (including ones played by the once promising Djimon Hounsou and Jason Scott Lee -- who at least could have played a shape-shifting dragon, what with having starred so long ago in "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story").

Even stranger, her sister (Antje Traue) has her own daughter (Alicia Vikander) spying on the two male witch hunters. C'mon, they're witches already! Can't they just cast a spell and do their dirty work that way? Yes, I know it's so that those two star-crossed youngins can fall in love and try to rake in audiences like Leo & Kate or Stewart, Pattinson & Lautner.

Alas those sparks don't fly, which also holds true for any sort of excitement out of swords clashing and clanging during the film's various actions scenes that also feature lots of special effects representing the various characters. To be clear, this isn't as eye-rolling bad as what occurs in this week's other big-budget, special effects laden offering ("Jupiter Ascending"), but it's, well, simply nothing we haven't seen before or that's been done better.

The only intriguing thing about this offering is what came over Bridges a few years ago to make such bad choices, and what had Moore thinking she should add to her young adult genre movie collection. Not a cinematic abomination but clearly nothing good let alone great, "Seventh Son," makes you glad you didn't have to sit through "First Son," "Second Son" and so on. It rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed February 4, 2015 / Posted February 6, 2015

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