Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters Review

Dir: Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow)

Cast: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Pihla Viitala, Thomas Mann, Peter Stormare

Story: In this spin on the fairy tale, Hansel & Gretel are now bounty hunters who track and kill witches all over the world. As the fabled Blood Moon approaches, the siblings encounter a new form of evil that might hold a secret to their past.

 

Have you ever thought about what happened to Hansel and Gretel after they escaped the evil witch’s gingerbread house? Maybe, I know I have, and Norwegian writer/director Tommy Wirkola did as well, and in his world the pair grew up to be witch hunters, complete with leather and some pretty cool weapons.

 

The beginning of the movie shows the story we know, at least to some point. Hansel and Gretel are lead into the woods by their father and end up in the infamous witch house. They end up in a little fight with their first witch and shove her into an oven that starts a cool animated opening sequence that shows what they’ve done in their hunting. The movie then picks up 15 years later, where the grown-up pair (played by Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) has been bought to a mountain village to deal with missing children. Along the way they meet the witch responsible, Muriel (Janssen) who has a greater plan then just kidnapping kids and the Sheriff of the town (Stormare) who doesn’t like Hansel and Gretel.

 

Now before I get more into my review I want to say this. I know the idea seems silly to some and I’m not saying the movie is perfect either. The movie has its moments where it does seem maybe a little cookie cutter and predicable at some points but it’s still a lot of fun to watch. While the trailers make the movie seem like a pure action thriller, there is a lot of humor. Of course this is probably with the help of Wirkola who has managed to bring some not over the top or spoof humor, but well timed humor that makes sense to the movie. The action is also a lot gorier and brutal than you may expect, again something Wirkola brings to the table. The movie does fall into CG blood in areas but most of the work, makeup wise, looks particle.

 

Performance wise, Renner and Arterton give great performances when they are bonding as siblings and not hunting. The first time we actually see them they are addressing a large crowd and I don’t know what it was but Renner’s speech felt a little awkward to watch. When there not together they have some brief moments to shine, both eventually becoming love affections to characters. Renner to a woman he saved from being burned earlier in the movie (Viitala) and Arterton to a Ben (Mann) who wants to become a witch hunter and is maybe a little too obsessed with them.

 

The weak link in the movie is unfortunately Famke Janssen. She brings a weird accent to her character and just gives a bad performance (she has said in a past interview that she took a break from acting before doing this to pay for a mortgage after running out of money while working on her directorial debut).

 

All in all, Hansel & Gretel is cheesy at times but has some really fun moments. The movie does a possible set-up for a possible franchise or sequel, which will depend on the box office haul of course. However, that seems unlikely anyway since they delayed the movie almost a year.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

3.5 out of 5

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Mama Review

Dir: Andres Muschietti (directed the short Mama)

Cast: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Isabelle Nelisse, Megan Charpentier, Daniel Kash

Synopsis: Annabel and Lucas are faced with the challenge of raising his young nieces that were left alone in the forest for 5 years…. but how alone were they?

 

Hollywood has found some new ways of finding “inspiration” for movies. Besides remakes and reboots of old movies and franchises they have started to move to different mediums. Young Adult novels are now the craze with The Hunger Games and Twilight but they are starting now to adapt short films that pop out online. Mama is one of the examples. However, instead of giving it to somebody that would most likely mess it up it’s produced by the master of freaky ghost stories himself Guillermo Del Toro, and directed by the shorts director Andres Muschietti. Here, Del Toro and Muschietti take that premise of the short and expand upon it.

 

Mama starts with Game of Thrones Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, as Jeffrey, taking away his two young daughters (Victoria and Lilly) in a fit of disarray. They wind up in a cabin in the woods, where a mysterious force comes out of the shadows and takes out Jeffrey, leaving the two girls by themselves. From there, a typical del Toro beautiful opening credits sequence lays out the five years of the children’s lives through a series of kids’ kind of creepy drawings.

 

Cut to the present and we see that Jeffrey’s twin brother Lucas, also played by Coster-Waldau, has been trying to find his nieces since their disappearance, while his gothy girlfriend Annabel (a barely recognizable Chastain) tries to support him in the search. When the kids are found they live with Lucas and Annabel and of course the adults don’t know that Mama came with them

 

From here Mama becomes a horror ghost story that only del Toro can bring to the big screen. The atmosphere of the house is kind of eerie knowing that Mama is there but you have the mystique of del Toro and Muschietti bringing the same atmosphere he did in the short. Both of those things help the movies creep factor go to high but also makes the typical horror movie clichés be almost okay.

 

Although Victoria and Lilly are Lucas’s nieces we mostly follow Annabel who isn’t too thrilled with have children coming into her life. Matter of fact, the first time we see Annabel she’s taking a pregnancy test and celebrates the negative results. Then Annabel starts to see that Victoria and Lilly are acting strange even after what they have been through. Of course that is the complete opposite of Mama, who will do anything she can to take care of children that aren’t even hers. Don’t get me wrong, Mama does cause some trouble to people that she thinks are unsafe around Victoria and Lilly but she’s doing it for other reasons as well.

 

While pretty creepy in her CGI design Mama is actually given a back-story that, depending on how you view the situation, makes her more of a sympathetic spirit. This also makes her a more interesting and even makes the viewer understand why she cares for these kids. Speaking of the kids, they are not your typical horror movie kids either. One of the things I love about del Toro’s movies, even the ones he produces, is the way he handles children. Victoria and Lilly have been through this terrible situation and then are thrown back into the “real” world. They have to deal with the fact that they have other people to support them now and not just Mama. Muschietti handles this very well for a first time director and it’s a sign of a good director that can make children believable in movies.

 

The whole movie builds to a somewhat poetic ending that I think more del Toro fans, or open minded viewers, will appreciate. It’s nice that they went in the direction that they did and it actually took me a bit by surprise that Muschietti would take the route.

 

All in all, Mama was a creepy ghost story that did a pretty good job expanding a story that was told through an equally creepy short.

 

Mama

4 out of 5

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The Last Stand Review

Dir: Kim Jee-woon (A Tale of Two Sisters, The Good the Bad the Weird, I Saw the Devil)

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Peter Stormare, Eduardo Noreiga, Luis Guzman, Jaimie Alexander, Johnny Knoxville, Rodrigo Santoro

Synopsis: The leader of a drug cartel busts out of a courthouse and speeds to the Mexican border, where the only thing in his path is a sheriff and his inexperienced staff.

 

It’s been about ten years since we’ve seen Arnold lead a movie (his roles in The Expendables are really cameos) so it’s understandable that there would be some hesitation about seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger, now 65, trying to reclaim his action hero title with this. And while there is no denying he’s pretty rusty at many points, The Last Stand still manages to deliver exactly what you would suspect in a Arnold action movie.

 

Schwarzenegger plays Ray Owens, a former LAPD narcotics officer who left after an incident to become the sheriff of the sleepy New Mexico border town of Summerton Junction. As you expect with a small town nothing really much happens there, but that’s about to change. In a bit of Western fashion, the villain is headed their way and it’s up to the sheriff and his deputies to stop him and protect their town.

 

That bad guy is notorious drug lord Gabriel Cortez (Noriega), who escapes from FBI custody and is making his way towards the Mexican border in a specialized Corvette ZR1 (aka one of the fastest cars on the planet). The FBI task force boss Agent Bannister (Whitaker) thinks it’s a slim chance that Cortez will pass through Summerton, but there would be no movie if he were correct.

 

The rest of the cast is rounded up by Luis Guzman who plays pretty much one of the sidekicks. Jaimie Alexander (Thor) holds her own being the only real female role in the movie. Rodrigo Santoro (300) plays someone that has connections to Alexander’s character and gets a shot at redemption by helping out the crew. Peter Stormare plays his typical bad-guy role as one of Cortez’s henchman. Then there is Johnny Knoxville as the village idiot and weapons museum curator whose odd collection of weapons helps our outnumbered and outgunned heroes to save the day. He may be there as the movie’s comic relief, but its Arnold who actually gets the best funny lines (and of course his classic one liners)

 

As I mentioned before, Schwarzenegger has a little rust but the movie plays up that he’s getting older, perhaps not as much as The Expendables 2 did but it’s still there. Arnold is still physically imposing which helps him pass the action hero role still. Eduardo Noreiga plays kind of the cheesy movie villain giving weird and almost over dramatic performance while Whitaker tries to make his character seem more interesting than he really is. He’s really just there to provide exposition about the bad guy and to create a push and shove relationship with his character and Arnold’s small town lawman.

 

However, for me one of the stand outs was director Kim Jee-woon who makes his stateside debut with The Last Stand and manages, at least from what I noticed, to avoid some mistakes that some foreign filmmakers make on their first big Hollywood movies. He understands exactly what kind of movie he’s been hired to make, yet he manages to compose a few artfully staged action set-pieces, some of which involve Cortez’s corvette and some of the shootouts.

 

All in all, while The Last Stand is not going to win any awards for acting, it had some brief good acting scenes, it’s probably not the reason you’re really watching this movie. It’s still a ton of fun to watch and seeing Arnold back on the big screen leading a movie isn’t too bad either.

 

The Last Stand

4 out of 5

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Award Show Winners

So here we are again. With the Oscar nominations coming out it’s time to start raising your pitchforks in rage for the snubs that happened. However here YOU made the decision on who won or lost. While I didn’t get as many votes as the past two years I’ve done this there was a descent amount of votes. But, there was a lot of cases where there was a big tie so with those categories I’m going to name the winners but make a decision of my own to announce a winner. So let’s get things started

Now remember, instead putting that long list again I’m only going to put the nominees that actually got votes.

Best Animated

Nominees: Brave, Rise of the Guardians, Wreck-It Ralph

Winner: Tie

Thoughts: Since I started doing the “Show” (on my previous account) the animated category never really got a clear winner. Obviously things haven’t changed. I actually happened to watch these three movies and if you saw my “Best/Favorite Movies of the Year” list you know that Wreck-It Ralph was, at least in my opinion, the best animated movies this year. So if I played tiebreaker then Ralph would definitely get my vote.

 

Best Horror

Nominees: Paranormal Activity 4, The Possession, Sinister, The Cabin in the Woods

Winner: The Cabin in the Woods

Thoughts: No real complaints here. I loved Cabin in the Woods and not because I’m a big Whedon fan. I loved what they did for (and to) the horror genre.

 

Best Comic Book:

Nominees: The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises

Winner: The Avengers

Thoughts: I think every comic book fan had a hard choice with this one. I loved both movies and both were very different in tone and in overall product so choosing one would be really tough.

 

Best Fight

Nominees: Skyfall: Bond vs Patrice (Tower)

The Dark Knight Rises: Bane vs Batman (Sewer)

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: Abraham vs Adam’s Vampires (Plantation)

The Avengers: Thor vs Iron Man vs Captain America, Haywire: Mallory vs Paul, Ted: John vs Ted

Winner: Ted: John vs Ted

Thoughts: I mean lets face it, it’s a teddy bear against an actual person and it’s going to be funny. I actually loved all the fights that were voted but if I had to add another to the list it would be the fights from The Raid (The Raid: Redemption in America).

 

Best Villain

Nominees: (Write In)Giovanni Ribisi – Ted

Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen – Django Unchained

Javier Bardem as Sliva – Skyfall

Kate Beckinsale as Lori – Total Recall

Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie – Django Unchained

Tom Hardy as Bane – The Dark Knight Rises

Tom Hiddleston as Loki – The Avengers

Winners:

Tom Hiddleston as Loki – The Avengers

Tom Hardy as Bane – The Dark Knight Rises,

Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie – Django Unchained

Thoughts: Three great choices and I loved all of them for multiple reasons. It was fun seeing Leo do something different from usual. If I had to add another it would be Bardem’s Sliva from Skyfall.

 

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Willow Shields as Primrose Everdeen – The Hunger Games

Anne Hathaway as Fantine – Les Miserables

Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill – The Avengers

Charlize Theron as Meredith Vickers – Prometheus

Naomie Harris as Eve – Skyfall

Winners: Tie

Thoughts: All of these ladies deserve some sort of recognition for their work in 2012. Hathaway seems to making waves and may end up winning the Oscar this year, while Theron played a very cold role in Prometheus

 

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Colin Firth as Bill Haydon – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Woody Harrelson as Haymitch – The Hunger Games

Richard Jenkins as Sitterson – The Cabin in the Woods

Bradley Whitford as Hadley – The Cabin in the Wood

Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson – The Avengers

Idris Elba as Janek – Prometheus

Michael Caine as Alfred – The Dark Knight Rises

Chuck Norris as Booker – The Expendables 2

Christoph Waltz as Dr. King Schultz – Django Unchained

(Write In) Leonardo DiCarpio – Django Unchained

Winners: Tie

Thoughts: All great choices and not a single complaint from me. If I had to add in anybody it would be Alan Arkin in Argo and Bruce Willis in Looper.

 

Best Actress

Nominees: Gina Carano as Mallory – Haywire

Kerry Washington as Broomhilda – Django Unchained

Anna Hutchison as Jules – The Cabin in the Woods

Mila Kunis as Lori Collins – Ted

Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy – The Amazing Spiderman

Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle – The Dark Knight Rises

Anna Kendrick as Janet – End of Watch

Judi Dench as M – Skyfall

Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany – Silver Linings Playbook

Winners: Tie

Thoughts: The ladies of Hollywood always bring their A game and everybody here did that once again. I really enjoyed all of these performances and probably the highlights of this list are Hathaway’s Selina Kyle, Lawrence’s Tiffany and Dame Judi Dench as M.

 

Best Actor

Nominees: Michael Fassbender as David – Prometheus

Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez – Argo

Brad Pitt as Jackie – Killing Them Softly

Suraji Sharma as Pi Patel – Life of Pi

Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln – Lincoln

Liam Neeson as Ottway – The Grey

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man – The Avengers

Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America – The Avenger

Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk – The Avengers

Winner: Michael Fassbender as David – Prometheus

Thoughts: The men have been stepping up their game and everybody on this list completely deserves to be here. Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln is obviously one of the frontrunners if not the favorite for the Best Actor as the Oscars.  Neeson gave a tremendous performances at the beginning of the year with The Grey and Downey will be Downey. But the winner is Fassbender’s equally tremendous performance as the android David in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.

 

Best Director

Nominees: Joss Whedon – The Avengers

Christopher Nolan – The Dark Knight Rises

Mans Marlind/Bjorn Stein – Underworld: Awakening

Joe Carnahan – The Grey

James Watkins – The Woman in Black

Gary Ross – The Hunger Games

Drew Goddard – The Cabin in the Woods

Steven Soderbergh – Magic Mike

Rian Johnson – Looper

Ben Affleck – Argo

Henry Joost/Ariel Schulman – Paranormal Activity 4

Sam Mendes – Skyfall

Quentin Tarantino – Django Unchained

Winners:

Joss Whedon – The Avengers

Christopher Nolan – The Dark Knight Rises

Thoughts: Well this is interesting. A tie between two great directors and directors that made two of the best films of the year. Nolan gets a lot of love pretty much everywhere else but not at the Academy. This also gives Nolan’s second win here at my Award Show. He won two years ago now with Inception so Mr. Nolan is popular around these parts.

 

Final Thoughts: Thank all of you that voted this year. It was interesting to see who would pull through this year considering this year was a great year of movies. I’ll be doing this again at the end of this year so be on the look out for that at years end. Otherwise, be sure to stick around to check out Reviews, News, and other cool things happening here.