Police psychologist Kate (Olga Kurylenko) is trying to determine if a woman named Helena (Rosie Fellner) brutally murdered her husband in their own bed. Helena claims her husband was being stalked by a demonic entity, but police detective McCarthy (Lance E. Nichols) thinks she should be locked up one way or the other. Kate’s investigation starts to reveal a series of similar deaths that may be linked to a sleep demon called Mara (Javier Botet) and worse yet…Kate might be next.
Very similar to the 2016 Dead Awake with Jocelin Donahue, which also involved sleep paralysis and a dream stalker, but this flick does right a lot of what that movie did wrong. Mara is a good example of how a skilled director, in this case Clive Tonge, can take very familiar story elements and make an entertaining and effective movie out of them. Jonathan Frank’s script offers nothing we haven’t seen before in films like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Mama (ironically also played by Javier Botet), but the film is atmospheric and gives us some nice chills thanks to Tonge’s good use of these familiar dream demon tropes. Olga Kurylenko portrays a strong and likeable heroine to emotionally invest us and there is also a sympathetic turn by Doomsday’s Craig Conway as a war vet who’s crossed paths with Mara and is desperately wanting to be believed. Mara herself is a bit of a routine boogie man (boogie woman?), but she is utilized well enough. There is nothing new or inventive here, but there is some effective direction and good performances to turn the familiar into spooky entertainment.
Neil Marshall’s Centurion is a fictional film based on the legend of Rome’s Ninth Legion, who are said to have marched thousands strong into the Scottish wilds to conquer the land from savage warriors known as the Picts…and allegedly disappeared without a trace. This film takes this historical mystery and turns it into a tale that is a fast paced and bloody action adventure about the slaughter of Rome’s 9th and the remaining handful of soldiers who are now fighting for their lives behind enemy lines. Adding fuel to their already perilous situation is that one of them murdered the Pict King’s son while they were infiltrating the Pict village and trying to rescue their captive general (Dominic West). Now they are stalked relentlessly through hostile territory by vengeful Pict warriors lead by vicious and cruel hunter Etain (Olga Kurylenko) and must fight for their lives every step of the way. Leading the beleaguered band is centurion Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender), a rescued POW who is now forced to take command of the surviving members of Rome’s 9th in an effort to get to friendlier soil with their throats uncut.
As directed by The Descent’s Neil Marshall, Centurion is a fast paced and savagely violent tale of survival on deadly ground. He gives us a group of noble heroes to root for and also instills the Picts with doses of savage menace making them a foe to be feared, as they hunt down the fleeing survivors. It’s a no nonsense action adventure that is filled with some gorgeous visuals courtesy of director Marshall and cinematographer Sam McCurdy and a lot of fierce and brutal action. Marshall gives us a lot of tension and suspense to go along with the battles and keeps things moving, but not too fast that we don’t get to know our characters enough to care.
As forthe excellent cast, including Fassbender, West, Kurylenko and Walking Dead’s David Morrissey, they do well taking the characters from the scripted page and making them very three dimensional, and thus giving the film some added emotional resonance as this small group of survivors become quite endearing. We root and fear for them, as they are mercilessly pursued and cut down one by one.
Beautiful Scottish locations are host to the blood soaked story andwith a reported $12 million budget, the film is far smaller scaled then 300 or Troy, but is all the more better for it, as our focus is on our embattled band of soldiers than epically scaled war scenes. Neil Marshall crafts a solid and entertaining action/adventure with refreshingly minimal CGI and no pretentious overindulgence. Highly recommended for fans of action and historical based drama.
Oblivion is set in a not too distant future where fending off an alien invasion has left Earth ravaged and all but uninhabitable. Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) also know as Tech 49 is left on the now evacuated planet with his communications officer and lover Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), his job is to maintenance the armed drones that watch over and protect large floating machines that are turing sea water into fusion energy for use on the human race’s new home on the Saturn moon, Titan. But, despite having his memory wiped, Jack has dreams of a pre-war Earth and a mysterious and beautiful woman (Olga Kurylenko). He finds himself drawn to the relics of the past earth though told to leave such thoughts behind by Victoria and his superiors in the massive command station that hoovers in orbit called The Tet. But, as the remaining alien forces know as ‘Scavs’ escalate their attacks on the drones and power stations, Jack continues to feel like something isn’t right. And as a ship crash lands on Earth carrying the very woman he dreams of and she and Jack are captured by the Scavs, Jack soon finds out that all is not what it seems and maybe he isn’t either. What I really liked about Writer/Director Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion is that it reminded me of the pre-Star Wars science fiction films of the 70s, when they were more story driven and less action oriented. And a lot of it’s story elements and visuals seem to draw from films like Silent Running and Omega Man and even more modern epics like Independence Day to name a few. Kosinski gives the film a leisurely pace as Jack slowly finds out more and more about the true nature of the world and life he thought he knew. There are some nice action scenes and these are well staged and move fast but, overall Kosinski wisely lets his story develop over the course of the film and we are along with Jack as he learns some hard to accept realities. The film has a beautiful visual style. I was not a fan of Kosinski’s Tron: Legacy but, it was a gorgeous looking film as is this. Sure the visuals seem to be inspired by past post-apocalyptic epics but, I still though the look and design was captivating. As for it’s minimal cast, Cruise is excellent as Jack. I feel Tom Cruise can be… well, Tom Cruise in a lot of his recent flicks but, here I saw and accepted him as Jack and he portrayed well the emotions of a man with a burning curiosity about things he’s told to accept as is and who finds his life may be a lie. Riseborough is fine as his partner in all respects. She seems sweet and she generally cares about Jack especially when his curiosity has him defy orders. Kurylenko is appropriately mysterious at first but, as the story progresses she meets the demands of the script. Rounding out the cast are Morgan Freeman and Game Of Throne’s Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who are fine as other humans Jack encounters. The production is relatively flawless with a really cool score by French band M83. When all is said and done I enjoyed Oblivion. I didn’t feel like I had seen anything new or innovative, and it’s secrets are not hard to figure out beforehand. It seemed like a lot of influences from past films blended together… though, very well, I might add… but, ultimately nothing groundbreaking or too surprising. I could probably pick out a lot more films whose elements I recognized but, Kosinski and company have crafted an entertaining sci-fi flick that warmly harkened back to an age where spaceships and laser guns were there to enhance a story and were not the point of the story so, I ‘ll give them a bit of a break. In conclusion Oblivion is an entertaining and very well made film that may not be anything new but, was still a refreshing return to when science fiction was about the story and characters and not Transformers and superheroes.