Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters Review (Kirk Haviland)

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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

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ChickFlicking – The Avengers Assemble Some Serious Eye Candy! (Nadia Sandhu)

Not a lot can be said about The Avengers that hasn’t already been said.  Joss Whedon’s film has been previewed, reviewed, and even sparked a media feud on the way to a record opening weekend.

Call it Spring Fever, but despite this wall of coverage I did manage to find an angle that required immediate exploration- the bicep to tricep ratio of the world’s heroes.  Drool.  Marvel and Disney’s casting department really hit this one out of the park:

Captain America is like Superman. This is a role that can go horribly, horribly wrong for an actor.  Earnest, upright, brightly costumed- that’s a tough gig these days.  But wow.  Chris Evans is a revelation from the golden sheen of his slicked back hair, to that square jawed resolve… hawt.  This man (and his shoulders) really sold that red, white and blue costume. Consider me a pre-sale for Captain America 2 tickets.

In a rare moment towards the end of the film when Robert Downey Jr. isn’t being smarmy or sarcastic as Tony Stark, one is suddenly reminded that this is one damn fine looking man.  It’s those puppy dog eyes.  Gotta be.

Mark Ruffalo is a nice guy, which can be death on the big screen, but his Bruce Banner manages a geeky chic that is awkward and endearing at the same time.  Kudos Mr. Ruffalo.  It takes a real man to rock those hideous faded cords and hide those broad shoulders under a ratty, oversized jacket.

Jeremy Renner is everywhere.  Literally.  I saw the Hurt Locker and he does play soldier very well, but why is this man in every movie franchise?  Mission Impossible, Bourne and The Avengers in 2012 alone!  Well after a close assessment of his work in The Avengers I believe the answer lies in a combination of piercing blue eyes and some really very nicely proportioned arms.  Shoulder to bicep, those arms will not be denied!

Nicky Fury covers all sins.  I am almost  ready to forgive Samuel L. Jackson for the debacle that was his portrayal of Mace Windu in the regrettable Star Wars Prequels.  Eye patch. Leather jacket.  Swagger.  Case closed.

After suspecting it during Thor, I am inching ever closer to the thesis that Chris Hemsworth equals the New Brad Pitt.  And what Hollywood needs right now is another Brad Pitt. Rawr.  Someone get on that Legends of the Fall remake, STAT!

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The Avengers Review (Matt Hodgson)

Three months in France and 10 days in Italy; I can’t even remember the last time I had an opportunity to see a new release in a movie theatre that wasn’t the victim of a coldly indifferent dub job. Luckily, Rome seems to be a little more conscious of preserving film experience, and this past Thursday I had the opportunity to check out one of the most hyped and successful films of recent memory – The Avengers.

Now being in Europe the theatre experience was a whole different beast than I was accustomed to – in fact I could probably write a review just on Italian theatres! For example, seats were assigned for each ticket holder, and at roughly the middle-point of the film the projector was shut off and the overhead lights unceremoniously turned on to make way for an intermission accompanied by a popcorn vendor trolling down the aisle. But I’m not here to review the Italian cinema experience, rather one of the most enjoyable action blockbusters to come out of Hollywood in a long, long time.

In case you’ve been living in a pre-Y2K underground shelter, The Avengers is the cinematic version of the comic book of the same name. The Avengers is comprised of some of the most popular superheroes in the Marvel universe, and the film version casts similarly popular Hollywood actors in the roles of these heroes: Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Evans (Captain America), Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), and Samuel L. Jackson as Samuel L. Jackson Nick Fury.

As a boy and an avid comic book fan I was certainly aware of who The Avengers were, but in the 90’s they hardly seemed like a hot Ticket. The X-men dominated the marvel universe, while the skin-deep coolness of the Image universe was temporarily stealing fans from ‘classic’ superheroes like The Avengers. Since then we have had a plethora of superheroes movies, and despite being a previous comicbook fan, I have to admit that Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight’ version of Batman was the only one that seemed to resonate with me. This has definitely changed with the release of The Avengers.

Joss Whedon the writer/director of the film has chosen and depicted the perfect subject matter for a superhero film; the fate of the world is threatened by an alien god (Hiddleston), threatening an alien invasion – nothing more, nothing less. The heroes, earth’s only hope for surviving this ordeal, are introduced throughout the beginning of the film, and the issue quickly becomes whether or not these extraordinary individuals can overcome their differences and work together as a team. A simple concept, one that could even work on TV’s ‘The Office’, but when you have a egomaniac-playboy-billionaire with a nearly indestructible suit of armour, a super-soldier from the 40’s, a Norse God, and anger management’s least successful participant, getting along and working as a team seems barely short of infinitely impossible.

The Avengers can be charged with some sloppy dialogue at times, not the fault of the Whedon, but of Jackson and Johansson early on in the film and some of the secondary actors. However, after about 30-40 minutes the script and the actors begin to work wonderfully together and there are some truly hilarious lines and moments, not to mention REAL superhero dialogue. Also, the action sequences will leave you sitting on the edge of your seat, your support firmly behind one of the combatants, but still worried about their fate despite their superhero status. A particular action sequence in the first half of the film with Thor, Ironman, and Captain America is as close as Whedon could have hoped to approach perfection.

Robert Downey Jr. is an absolute scene stealer with his deadpan delivery of comedic dialogue that we’ve become so accustomed to. Also, it may sound strange, but the filmmakers really nailed the appropriateness of the special effects. The effects rarely seem to be too much for the subject matter (an issue that I think many Hollywood movies are struggling with nowadays, studios often blowing viewers away resulting in stimulus overload), that said, the film is still packed with some crazy visuals!

Finally, the reveal at the end of the credits left me wanting to walk out of The Avengers and directly into Avengers 2. Rarely have I been this satisfied with a Hollywood movie. The Avengers is a must see for anyone with a sense of adventure or a desire to meet some of earth’s greatest heroes.

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