Season of the Witch

For all its special effects, its Hollywood stars, its humungous Teutonic battle scenes, Season of the Witch reminded me of those old made-for-tv Hammer House of Horror movies. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – low expectations and all that. I’m just not sure that’s the effect the filmmakers were going for.

Nicky Cage and his hair piece (and you all know how I feel about them both) is Behman, a Knight who has deserted from the Crusades due to some piffling and much-belated sense of guilt. As part of a punishment, he is charged by the church with escorting a young woman across the plague-ravaged mountains for trial. She has been accused of witchcraft, and an is-she? isn’t-she? game of cat-and-mouse takes place as the journey progresses and various foul and freaky events befall them.

It filmed in variously in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Austria – more on the locations at imdb. The “Filming Locations Detective” has a photo or two at Flickr.

Last Holiday

I had the TV on in the background this morning, and Last Holiday was showing, starring Queen Latifah. She plays a sweet, unfulfilled New Orleans shop assistant who is diagnosed with a brain tumor and given three weeks to live. Deciding to live the rest of her life large, she sets off on a trip of a lifetime to Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic.

Oh, we all know how it’s going to play out. So it’s not exactly profound, and it’s not exactly original (it’s a remake, after all) but it is completely delightful. I mean completely. And 99% of the delight is Queen Latifah; she is magnificent, charming, warm and winning, and you buy into her transformational journey absolutely. Karlovy Vary – in particular the Grand Hotel Pupp – matches the charm with splendour.

Babylon AD

Zrnka, bear with me on this review of Vin Diesel’s shlocker Babylon A.D

It’s pure violence and stupidity. The movie is supposed to teach us that the education of our children will mean the future of our planet. All the action scenes had a goal: They were supposed to be driven by either a metaphysical point of view or experience for the characters… instead parts of the movie are like a bad episode of 24.

Which critic would pan the film so? Um, the Director actually.

Babylon AD tells the story of a mercenary (Diesel) in the year 2019 who is hired to transport a woman and her guardian from the collapsed and anarchic New Serbia (natch!) to New York. Throw in a pregnant virgin, a gun-toting nun, some creepy cyber-techy stuff (impants, clones, passports injected under the skin – yikes) and a nasty cultish religious order, and you at least had the a possibility of a decent film.

But in spite of some great set pieces in a collapsing world, some decent CGI and the brooding presence of  chunky XXX himself, the final cut is disjointed, chaotic and essentially disinteresting. At least it’s short,  though it would appear that the movie’s brevity – at anywhere between 15 and 70 minutes slashed by the studio from the director’s cut – is very much part of the problem. No wonder the Director was pissed.

Babylon AD shot in Prague and Ostrava in the Czech Republic, with the desperate evacuation across the bering Strait actually picked up in Norrbotten Ian, on the Gulf of Bothnia in the northern Lappland part of Sweden.