Double Feature: The Last Witch Hunter (2015) & Bait (2012)

Welcome to the next double feature! Something of the odd and ends paired up for this one as we look at 2015’s action-fantasy The Last Witch Hunter and 2012’s Australian shark film, Bait, which is coming up in a Movies and Tea’s After Hours 4th Shark Week choice. Before that, I’ll do a little review here since I do love talking about creature features and shark films a lot.

Let’s check it out!

The Last Witch Hunter (2015)

The Last Witch Hunter

Director: Breck Eisner

Cast: Vin Diesel, Rose Leslie, Elijah Wood, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Rena Owen, Julie Engelbrecht, Michael Caine

The last witch hunter is all that stands between humanity and the combined forces of the most horrifying witches in history. – IMDB

While The Last Witch Hunter wasn’t well-received, I’m not going to lie that I still had hopes of it being a fun watch. Vin Diesel has a reputation to be cast in certain roles and in certain types of characters. In the case of this film, its something along the lines of past movies like Van Helsing which I actually enjoy quite a bit. With that said, there are glaring issues with the movie as its mostly a mindless entertainment and incredible amount of fluff. Its story is not that deep even if it tries to pull out some twists which honestly doesn’t execute all that well and if you think too much about it all, it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense either. Not to mention, there isn’t a whole lot of actual witch hunting so it has a little dragging feeling.

However, being as objective as I can be and fully noting all its flaws, The Last Witch Hunter is for people who enjoy the generally more one liner sort of anti-protagonist if you will that Vin Diesel plays. Not to mention, there is a good cast here with a somewhat cameo appearance of Michael Caine and a supporting role by Elijah Wood and a female lead with Rose Leslie. They all do bring something more to this film. The Last Witch Hunter is understandably not liked by its general viewers and there are a lot of issues with it, not to mention that its pretty forgettable but as a Vin Diesel fan, it still was a passable movie experience. Not something to rewatch but it had its fun moments.

Bait (2012)

bait

Director: Kimble Rendall

Cast: Xavier Samuel, Sharni Vinson, Adrian Pang, Yuwu Qi, Alex Russell, Phoebe Tonkin, Martin Sacks, Alice Parkinson, Lincoln Lewis, Damien Garvey, Cariba Heine, Richard Brancatisano

A freak tsunami traps shoppers at a coastal Australian supermarket inside the building – along with 12-foot Great White Sharks. – IMDB

There are a lot of shark movies. So many of them are just really bad B-movies. As sharks as the underwater predator becomes such a constant use, its easy to be a little desensitized and pickier about how its used and what type of scenario to toss at the characters. In the case of Bait, while it doesn’t do a lot of things that are new, it still has quite the hook of creating a one location movie with a great deal of characters and different types of relationships: family, romance, work. Its set during a tsunami that traps its characters in a underground supermarket primarily setting it within a flooding supermarket and parking garage and two sharks circling those waters while alternating between the two locations to figure out their way out before the dangers surrounding them takes them down, both shark-related and not.

With that said, Bait does a lot of good execution here. One of its best things is using a top down camera to capture the underwater shadow of the shark location which gives the audience more knowledge than the characters and builds tension. At the same time, it doesn’t reveal the shark a lot and just uses the point of view of its characters to create the tension of the unknown, giving the sharks a much more quiet predator that will ambush them. The shark elements here are done pretty well.

If there’s anything to probably criticize a little, it would be its characters which are plentiful so the survival rate is fairly high. That’s not a bad thing but with a movie like this, deep characters usually are already hard to create especially when its a balancing act to not bring in too much petty drama and keeping in sight the bigger problem at hand, like survival. The characters are very basic and don’t really stand out. But then, let’s be honest, I’m not expecting deep characters in a shark movie. Maybe its just my expectations are low to start with and I’m just looking for a thrilling time. On that level, Bait delivers pretty well. Although, I would have liked the shark reveal a little later, just to give it more mystery but there is enough moments to make it pretty exciting to watch.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two movies? Thoughts?

The Shallows (2016)

2016 release reviews have been far and few here. Especially the bigger ones. Nothing just seemed to peak my interest enough to get me to go to the theatres other than the whole Fantasia phase in late July. Regardless, I rented The Shallows a few weeks ago and gave it a go. The Shallows crept up on me. I had no idea that it was coming out until it was released and mixed reviews showed up (although a lot of them were on the favorable side, I believe).

Let’s check it out!

The Shallows (2016)

The Shallows

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Cast: Blake Lively, Oscar Jaenada, Brett Cullen, Sedona Legge

A mere 200 yards from shore, surfer Nancy is attacked by a great white shark, with her short journey to safety becoming the ultimate contest of wills. –IMDB

 I love shark movies. To actual bits. Sure, there are a few really fluky ones but whether its the “so bad its good” Sharknado or the 90s Deep Blue Sea or the Australian horror thriller The Reef and of course, the classic Jaws, they are packed with so much awesomeness. The Shallows looks like it has that grasped well and it does deliver for the most part. Sure, there are always things of circumstance like we learn that our protagonist Nancy (played by Blake Lively) is studying to be a nurse. What better than a nurse with some medical skills to be attacked by a shark, right? Except while The Shallows is about Nancy and her fight to survive back to shore, its also a character study and development. Jaume Collet-Serra has directed a good portion of thrillers in his filmography, half of them are action thrillers with Liam Neeson but there are some standout titles like Orphan which is the first time I’ve seen his work and love that one quite a bit. Its nice to see him jumping back into a horror thriller like this one. While I do have to say it packs more thrills than horror, there is a lot about how he makes The Shallows and not revealing the shark so much but rather the water perspectives that make the movie a much more thrilling and engaging experience. When you bond with a seagull, you know that the protagonist and the plot has had some effect.

The Shallows

While there are a few scenes with other characters, like the opening bits mostly, a good part of this movie is really just spending time with Nancy alone in the middle of The Shallows with the beach only a little ways away. What makes Nancy great is that she is smart and resourceful. While there are some convenient situations, there are always changing factors to keep the pacing intriguing to see what else she can do and what other options her character thinks of. Especially because Nancy is not only trapped and hunted, but she is hurt. It is a race with time for her especially the changing tides. The Shallows is a thrilling race to safety and survival against a shark but we slowly realize that Nancy isn’t just a hot body, she also has some issues she needs to work out. It is why she surfs and why she hasn’t decided to settle down and stop surfing and travelling around the world and pursuing her career. Blake Lively has gone a long way. I’ve always enjoyed her as an actress, whether it was in her younger roles in The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants or later on in Gossip Girl and this role shows how much she has grown as an actress.

The Shallows

It is a little funny how I’m writing this coming off of discussing another thriller called “Blood in the Water” over at That Moment In which you can find here. What we criticized in that one as making it even more lackluster was what I liked a lot about this one. Essentially the finale of the movie is somewhat shown in the beginning and then it backtracks to the days as we hit that moment we started with. Another thing that is pretty nice about The Shallows is that while it takes great joy in being a serious thriller, there are still taunting moments that are fun, even if a little predictable of the outcome. They fit together to piece together what we do see in the opening scene as well.

The Shallows

Thrilling shark movies are rather hard to find. The Shallows is one that I truly enjoyed a lot. It had tense and intriguing moments. It tries to be thoughtful and aims for a deeper character study of than just human vs. shark and Blake Lively pulls off a great performance as Nancy, a smart and competent character. There is a lot to love in shark movies in a genre that is generally full of tropes and predictable moments, this one pulls off a few fun surprises and a thrilling movie experience.

Have you seen The Shallows? What is your favorite shark movie?