Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters Review (Kirk Haviland)

Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters banner

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Pihla Viitala, Derek Mears, Thomas Mann, Rainer Bock and Peter Stormare

Written by D.W. Harper and Tommy Wirkola

Directed by Tommy Wirkola

New in theaters this week is the first big budget Hollywood production from the Norwegian director of the horror comedy Dead Snow, Tommy Wirkola: the horror/fairy tale reinvention Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton star as the legendary siblings. In this version of the story the two have become full blown witch hunters after disposing of the witch in the candy house of the original fairy tale.  But can Hansel and Gretel match the absurdly fun Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, from last year, on the enjoyment scale?

After getting a taste for blood as children, Hansel (Renner) and Gretel (Arterton) have devoted their lives on their hell bent retribution against all witches. Now, unbeknownst to them, Hansel and Gretel have become the hunted, and must face a nemesis far greater than the average witch. As the fabled Blood Moon approaches, the siblings encounter a new form of evil that might hold a secret to their past. Along the way the pair must deal with an over bearing Sherriff (Stormare), a pair of determined admirers in Ben (Mann) and Mina (Viitala), and a troll (Mears), named Edward, in league with the evil witch Muriel (Janssen).

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Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is not a good movie, it’s ludicrous and ridiculous in concept and sadly does not know exactly what to do with it. The film languishes in the middle, not pulling back enough to be taken seriously and not going far enough over-the-top to be considered a full out tongue-in-cheek romp. Unlike last year’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Hansel and Gretel lacks charm and the loveable goofiness of the presidential supernatural flick. The script and direction play a major part here, as director Wirkola seems to be afraid to let his cast go completely over the top. You can almost see the reigns being pulled back on the actors steering them directly towards straight line readings on dialogue so perverse in parts it’s practically screaming for an ironic/comedic delivery. In fact, Stormare seems to be the only one getting exactly what he is supposed to be doing here, devilishly smiling and sneering throughout and screaming almost 50% of his dialogue until his admittedly fun demise.

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But that brings us to the biggest issue on display here, the total miscasting of Jeremy Renner. Arterton’s turn as Gretel is actually very satisfying, especially considering the limitations of the script she was presented with. It’s Renner as Hansel that really lets the film down.  Renner seems to lack the ability to just completely cut loose and go comedic, his punch line delivery is uninspired and does not work, and as a result spends the film mainly in a gloomy/moody haze that he hops out of for action sequences then drops right back into. Adding to this is the ‘phoned in’ performance of Famke Janssen as our main villain. Janssen seems disinterested, as if he were under the influence of marijuana, throughout the film and in the end lacks any real gravitas as a foil for Hansel and Gretel.

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The special effects work is one of the highlights here as there are many aspects that impress. The legendary ‘house of candy’ is a visual treat when we first see it, and looks grimy and unkempt when we see it later on.  Hansel and Gretel’s arsenal is quite impressive, including Hansel’s modified shotgun and Gretel’s souped up crossbow, and the weapons cache used in the final showdown is impressive as is the damage it delivers. But the real highlight here is the work done with Edward. Edward looks impressive and immense, but also becomes endearing and a crowd favorite.

Ultimately Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is a shiny looking wrapper with an empty center. It lacks the substance at the heart of the film to truly engage for more than moments at a time. With content and aspects of production that do work, the film seems like a rudderless ship that constantly drifts back towards the areas that don’t work. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is a non-recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films, festivals and film related events in Toronto.

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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Blu-Ray Review (Kirk Haviland)

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter Blu-Ray

Starring Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell and Jimmi Simpson

Written by Seth Grahame-Smith

Directed by Timur Bekmambetov

Now out on Blu-Ray and DVD from Fox Home Entertainment, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is the teaming up of writer Seth Grahame-Smith, Producer/Director Bekmambetov and Producer Tim Burton, to bring the first of Grahame-Smith’s books to home screens. With its over-the-top visuals and absurdist premise, will Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter be among this year’s most fun purchases for your home theater or will it be this year’s Jonah Hex?

We first meet Abraham as a child as he interferes with the beating of a local black child, Will, and ends ups getting part of the beating himself. After his father and mother interfere on his behest, Abe’s parents are fired and their debt is collected in the form of a vampire attack resulting in the death of his mother. An adult Abe (Walker) goes after the man who killed his mother, Jack Barts (Marton Csokas), after his father’s passing. Upon shooting Barts Abe discovers that he is indeed a Vampire and is summarily beaten to a pulp until a mysterious figure interferes on his behalf. Abe wakens to discover that his savior, Henry Sturgess (Cooper), is well versed in the vampire nation and has been fighting them since he lost his own family to them.

Henry takes Abe on as his apprentice, we get the obligatory training montage as Henry teaches Abe to focus his power and passes on the pertinent vamp killing info (in this tale silver can be used to strike down vampires), and it becomes clear that Abe’s skill doesn’t lie with firearms but with his trusty axe. Abe is sent off to New Salem in order to rid it of a vampire infestation hit man style with Henry assigning him targets. It’s here Abe meets Speed (Simpson), a local shopkeeper, the adult version of Will (Mackie) and the woman he would marry Mary Todd (Winstead). Things progress until Abe get the assignment he’s been waiting for in Barts. Soon after Abe’s successful destruction of Barts, he puts away his axe to focus on his political aspirations, but fate will intervene again many years later.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is one of the most ludicrous and insanely over-the-top films I’ve seen all year, and watching it again at home did not change the fact that I loved every minute of it. Bekmambetov plays out the entire movie with tongue planted firmly in cheek as the film never loses sight of what it really is, a goofy romp where nothing is out of bounds. The script is ludicrous in most parts, yet actually incorporates numerous real situations and events in Lincoln’s life, with the vampire slant of course. Thankfully everyone in the film seems to be in on the joke as well. Walker’s Lincoln is a straight laced proper gentleman but always has a mischievous look or smile not too far away; he is clearly having a good time. Cooper’s Henry Sturgess is a boozy vagabond with a troubled past, yet is never far away from a quick one-liner. Winstead’s Mary Todd is pretty much the one character played straight up, which is good as it reminds us that Abe’s actions will have consequences and grounds the film enough so that it doesn’t become so ridiculous that it’s unwatchable. Another standout is Sewell as the main villain. The effects work here is non-photorealistic, over-the-top and insane, but this adds to the overall tone and feeling of the film.

The Blu-Ray comes loaded with a feature length documentary on the making of the film that is informative and entertaining. We get a feature length commentary from writer Seth Grahame-Smith and a music video. Last but not least there was a fantastically executed special short film/motion graphic novel The Great Calamity.

So the question remains, is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter worth the purchase price or are you better of paying a rental price? For all its goofiness it is also packed with charm and wit, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a solid buy recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films, festivals and film related events in Toronto.

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Abraham Lincoln Re-Animated – Nimit Malavia and Matt Whelan discuss their short film The Great Calamity

Abraham Lincoln Re-Animated – Nimit Malavia and Matt Whelan discuss their short film The Great Calamity

Hello All. Kirk, aka Movie Junkie TO, here again with another interview. This time with Nimit and Matt, two of the guys behind the new animated short/motion graphic novel The Great Calamity. The short film is from the Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter DVD/Blu-Ray out this week from 20th Century Fox. Nimit is the Key Concept Artist/Illustrator and Matthew is the Animation Director. At the time of the interview recording I had not been able to see the film, but I have been able to catch up with it now and can say the animation is fantastic. Enjoy!

Movie Junkie (MJ) – Hey guys, glad we could get to talk today. So how did you guys end up on this project?

Nimit Malavia (NM) – Back in September 2011 I was contacted by our director, Javier Soto, and asked if I would be interested in designing some concept designs and environments for this animated short. He had seen a piece of my work online and reached out to get in touch with me to ask if I had any interest. I was very interested by what I heard and that was how I got involved.

Matthew Whelan (MW) – I was contacted in January 2012 through House of Cool studios where I work, and got involved on the tech side. The script was already fully formed and Nimit had a direct style in terms of what we were trying to achieve.

MJ – So what is the concept/story behind your motion graphic novel?

NW – Well the film could be more accurately described as an animated short. Fox is going with a motion graphic term but animated short applies just as well.  It’s an elaboration on the novel and tells the story of younger Abe when he still a Congressman. He was building up to the main events of the film and still hunting lower level vamps. In our story we focus on his relationship with Edgar Allan Poe and a discussion they have on the origin of vampires in America.

MJ – Great, that’s aspect of the novel that the film doesn’t really address at all. It seems like it’s ripe with opportunity.

MW – Javier was really excited to expand that part of the story and Poe is such an interesting character that it seemed like an obvious fit.

MJ – Great! So what style of animation have you guys chosen to utilize? Is it hand drawn or more CG based?

MW – That was one of the big challenges from our end. Javier wanted everything to look 2D. But the thing about the 2D, and one of the reason’s I’m shy about calling it a motion graphic/animated graphic novel,  is that historically these are done with moving drawings. We pushed hard for everything to be in 3D so even when there are paintings in the film we mapped them on the geometry and all of the characters have Nimit’s drawings over top. We actually had Nimit fly down from Ottawa to work on this with us and had him drawing right on the computer to really push his 2D style even though it’s a 3D piece. I think you’ll see if you pick up the Blu-Ray on Oct 23rd that any individual frame in the short hopefully looks more like a drawing that a standard 3D animated character.

MJ– So then how long were you down there working with them, Nimit?

NM – I was down for about 4 or 5 days working in the studio and learning the technology. Matt was showing me exactly what they were doing and what things they needed my touch on. I also followed up with some work from my home studio and shared in the back and forth on any additional designs.

MJ – So was the script a collaborative effort?

NM – It was all written by Javier Soto. Javier wrote a great treatment and it came fully formed to me as it had gone to Matt. When we were developing the concepts and characters, Javier sent me the script and I read it over. It was really well written and the characters really came through so it made my job finding the look really easy.

MJ – Were you guys presented with any test footage from the film for reference?

MW – Javier actually went down and recorded with Benjamin and made sure to record all the takes needed for our piece. So we had that reference of seeing him actually performing parts from our script.

NM– And on my end, Javier provided me with a lot of production still and shots of all the different characters from the movie. The main thing was that he was emphasizing that he wanted us to make this our own so he provided all the reference and sort of gave an idea of the world the short would live in. It not exactly the same as the film’s and it’s not exactly close to the real Abraham looked like, but it exists somewhere in between the two.

MJ – That sounds fun. Thanks a lot for sitting down with me today guys, tell me what you guys have coming up next?

NM – I have a few projects coming up, mostly graphic novels, and I do a lot of gallery shows throughout the US. I have a  few lined up in San Francisco, and a few more I can’t talk about right now, but that and  some freelance illustration.

MW – For me what’s coming out next is Silent Hill: Revelations which I CG supervised on and moving forward I am working on more commercials.

MJ – Thanks again guys.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films, festivals and film related events in Toronto.

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Email me at moviejunkieto@gmail.com

The Movie Junkie’s 2012 Summer Movie Preview Part 1 (Kirk Haviland)

I know, I know. The Avengers has already broke records everywhere, and you’re doing a summer preview now? I must confess that I’m a bit of a traditionalist in that I feel the real summer season starts on Victoria Day in Canada/Memorial Day in the US. And since we recently had Victoria Day in Canada, it seems like as good a time as any for this article (ed – apologies, posting this a bit late). I’ll try to give indie/smaller releases their due along with the blockbusters. Ultimately, everything on here will be stuff that intrigues me…in either a good or bad way.

Ed – Two of the Movie Junkie’s picks already have reviews by him, MIB3 and Chernobyl Diaries.

JUNE

Piranha 3DD (June 1st)

The first Piranha (from 2010, not the James Cameron version I have yet to see) was a guilty pleasure. Will the next one have the same goofy campiness that made the first one, or will it “jump the piranha”?

Snow White and the Huntsman (June 1st)

The second re-envisioning of the Snow White story this year, Snowy and the Huntsman at least features Chalrize Theron camping it up as the wicked queen. The real question though is will we get the same emotionless performance out of Kristen Stewart as Snow White that she has become famous for in the Twilight series.

HIGH School (June 1st Limited)

This brilliantly overlooked comedy and Sundance sensation that has been sitting on the shelf for over two years will finally get a release, albeit a limited one. I saw this at Toronto After Dark in 2010 and loved it. Search this one out!

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (June 8th)

The gangs all back! *shudder*

Prometheus (June 8th)

Easily the most anticipated of the summer outside of The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus features a stellar cast and Ridley Scott’s eagerly awaited return to the Alien universe, although not a direct sequel/prequel. Consider this an opening weekend must see before it’s ruined by the proverbial “water cooler” on the following Monday.

Paul Williams: Still Alive (June 8th Limited)

The Tiff surprise hit comes to regular theaters, as Paul Williams proves he is still very much alive and struggling to keep the fame going.

That’s My Boy (June 15th)

Adam Sandler tries to destroy Andy Samberg’s career in this awful Happy Madison vehicle. *shudders again*

Rock of Ages (June 15th)

Tom Cruise doing Karaoke versions of classic 80’s hair metal tracks with Alec Baldwin running around in a very bad wig? This could be Hairspray “John Travolta in a drag fat suit” bad. The awful sounding soundtrack clips that have landed online aren’t helping.

Brave (June 22nd)

Pixar tries to atone for last year’s disappointing Cars 2 with this tale of a young princess in the highland times of movies like Braveheart. The animation looks crisp and every trailer makes me interested more and more. Merida could be the most adventuresome female Disney character since the underrated Mulan.

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (June 22nd)

Based on the best-selling novel, Abraham Lincoln is revisionist history where his parents have been killed by vampires and Abe seeks revenge Dark Knight style with a big axe. If this embraces the goofiness of its premise it could be the most fun in a movie theater this summer, or it could be this year’s Jonah Hex. Fingers Crossed.

G.I. Joe : Retaliation (Pushed back to 2013)

With Channing Tatum and Marlon Wayans out, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Bruce Willis in, G.I.  Joe looks like tons of fun and could be the surprise hit of the summer. The trailer scene with Cobra Banners emerging on the White House is still pretty badass.

Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection (June 29th)

Love or hate him Tyler Perry’s films make money, and lots of it, especially the ones with Madea. Expect this to beat out G.I.Joe  for the opening weekend.

The Loved Ones (June ?)

This brilliant TIFF Midnight Madness selection appears to be finally getting a release. Read my thoughts on the film.

In the meantime, keep your eyes locked on Entertainment Maven; the July and August portion of the preview is still to come!

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films and festivals in Toronto.

Follow me on twitter @moviejunkieto

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