Sunday, February 3, 2013

Rated D - Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Ding Dong the Witch is D’d!

Welcome Back to Rated D!

Once upon a time… we followed a trail of popcorn crumbs to the alluring candy covered counters and into the dark theatre to see "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters".  SPOILER ALERT:  The classic fairy tale siblings have grown up to be bounty hunters and must save a small town being terrorized by witches.

“What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…”  That applies here, right?  I mean, come on!  When I first saw the title “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters”, I literally peed in my pants with excitement.  Next, I looked up the word literally and realized… I forgot to pay my electric bill.  Still, incontinence or not, movies with weird titles or weird plots could easily be disregarded as a ridiculous waste of time… and if they always were, we might’ve never wound up seeing things like: “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”, “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire”, “City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold”, or “Rudy”.  I guess what I’m saying is, just because a movie has a weird or even ridiculous title, there’s always a chance it could be the best movie of the year… or maybe even your lifetime… that’s right… and you wanna’ know what else?… This one… sucked big butts.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe everything I said above, but that doesn’t change my opinion that this movie was a huge missed opportunity!  You get everything you need from the title:  Hansel & Gretel (Hey!  I know those guys!)… Witch Hunters (That’s what they do for a living!).  It’s a great idea.  We love twisted fairy tales and why shouldn’t we?  After all, we know the characters, we know their story, and we know they’re villains, but we as an audience also like to have some shred of mystery… so retelling and tweaking classics helps us have our cake and modernize it too.  But, alas, with great movie idea comes great responsibility and unfortunately this one doesn’t live up to its end of the bargain.

After showing us the story we know (for-the-most-part), to kick things off, we jump years into the future to the small town of Augsburg, from which the children are mysteriously disappearing, presumably by the evil hands of witches.  When there’s something strange… In the spooky woods…  Who you gonna’ call?  Witch Hunters!  Cue Hansel, played by Jeremy Renner (S.W.A.T., The Town) and Gretel, played by Gemma Arterton (Rockn’Rolla, Quantum of Solace)!  The two strut into the German town with nothing but a bagful of futuristic weaponry (…alright…), American accents (…loving it…), anachronistic dialogue (…here we go!), and a lukewarm script that does nothing to help them out (…<insert your own onomatopoeia for ricochet here>....).

Ok, enough of the lead ups… Not that the direction was great or anything, but I couldn’t help but feel like someone had spent a good chunk of time coming up with a decent enough mythology and acceptable back story for Hansel and Gretel in a period-parody, and then had completely neglected the dialogue!  Somehow, Renner and Arterton are both leather-clad and completely committed while only simply striving for the same subpar statuses of the stars of last year’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer”. While the costumes and scenic elements are spot on and more than satisfying, the script gives the actors almost nothing to work with inserting boring-recycled-dialogue-in-what-relies-on-a-fresh-take-story-I-say-gritting-my-teeth and ever-so-funny f-bombs to drive the point home, even if the point is “Hey!  We’re making a joke!  It’s similar to how Famke Janssen (Goldeneye, X-Men) seems to act as if…                                  like that… she seems to stop caring anybody notices she is there.

Again (the again referring to me referring to my humbleness), in my humble opinion, Director Tommy Wirkola got his hands on something potentially good and somewhere between carefully shot action sequences and clichéd confrontations, he forgot to find someone to do a script polish to make this whole thing a little more fun!   While we all attentively listen to the (in all fairness) pretty original take on the Grimm story, most of what we do is see our two protagonists looking badass while carrying their weapons (which they look great doing) but coming up with our own "he/she should've saids..."  And because of that… sadly, “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” isn’t playful enough to be some good cheesy fun and too serious for its own good.  No, wait!!!  I meant to say, “It’s crumby!”  Dammit!  I’ve got to stop missing those!

D's Recommendation – 1 out of 5 – Not Sweet on This One

Between Rated D, Rated DVD, & D’s List This Edition Marks 200 Movies Reviewed!
Movies I’ve probably seen 200 times…

1.  Reservoir Dogs (1992) –
Favorite Line:Alright Ramblers, let’s get ramblin’” 
Description:  After a botched robbery, a group of thieves try to determine who among them is “the rat”. 
D’s Scription:  You’ll never look at “Stuck in the Middle with You” the same way again.  This awesome, dialogue-based crime thriller in a warehouse was the first feature film by Writer-Director Quentin Tarentino.  It’s not quite as violent as his other films (with the exception of one scene, but even for Tarantino it’s toned down) but it’s every bit as cool and sharp.     

2.  Leon: The Professional (1994) – 
Favorite Line:  Evvvvvveerrrryyyyooooonnnnnneeeeee!!!!!
Description:  A twelve year old girl becomes a lonely hitman’s apprentice after her family is brutally murdered by corrupt cops.
D’s scription:  Such a simple tale that works incredibly well as a film.  The script and story are both very good, but really it’s the performances from Gary Oldman as a crooked, pill-popping detective, Jean Reno as an introverted hitman with a heart of gold, and the stunning breakout performance of the Miss Natalie Portman (who was just as good then as she is now).  There’s plenty of action and intense moments, but some of the best stuff comes between all of that as the troubled young Mathilda (Portman) and the lonely Leon (Reno) develop the unlikeliest of relationships.

3.  Scream (1996) –
Favorite Line:  We’re gonna play a little game.  It’s called ‘Guess How I’m Gonna Die!’
Description:  A small town is terrorized by a horror movie obsessed slasher in a ghost mask.
D’s Scription:  Based on that description, it’s amazing this movie is even still remembered.  Kevin Williamson, a fan of the genre, and Wes Craven, one of its forefathers, teamed up to create the anti-horror movie horror movie with this smart, analytical thriller that pays homage to its predecessors while calling them out their flaws… Hence why I was so disappointed during my Rated D – Scream 4.

4.  Chasing Amy (1997)  
Favorite Line:  Because you’re Holden f*cking McNeil, the most persistent traveler on the road that's NOT the path of least resistance!”
Description:  A comic book artist falls in love with a girl only to find she is a lesbian.
D’s Scription:  So it might not be the most existential movie that there is, but I still found it to be an excellent dramady years ago.  Kevin Smith says screw you to film standards and gives everyone a monologue and Ben Affleck shows us some of his finest acting before hibernating for several years and it all works out nicely on the screen.  Sure, this one might not be one that I’m dying to watch as much as I loved it back in 2001, but it’s still got a great indie feel and original script.

5.  The Rock (1996) 
Favorite Line:  The Entire Script
Description:  An aging spy and lab geek must stop an elite team of mercenaries who have taken over Alcatraz.
D’s Scription:  People say a lot about Michael Bay movies being crap… and most of it is true.  But that couldn’t be farther from correct when it comes to this film.  This is the template that all other action movies should use: a smart, funny script, three-dimensional characters, and action sequences and scenes that actually propel the story forward.  Without those things, this one could just be another forgettable, subpar explosion-fest, but instead, it remains fun and exhilarating 17 years later.

Rated DVD –
The Bourne Legacy –

Hmm… I think I liked it… right?

In the “Bourne” fashion, this one digs in midway through the already existing story and goes from there, cleverly taking advantage of our previous knowledge and instantly investing us in the story.  This time, however, we aren’t following the story of Jason Bourne; we’re following the story of Algernon… er… I mean… Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), another potential superspy who must escape from the clutches of his creators.

The newest installment in the “Bourne” series seems like less of a movie and more like part one of the next trilogy… and they’re not trying to hide it.  Don’t get me wrong, the action sequences are as good as usual and the “shaky-cam” or “my-God-he’s-having-a-seizure-cam” has gotten toned down a bit, but there are a whole lot of antagonists that we basically didn’t see for the last half hour of the movie.  Still, “Legacy”, while not breaking new ground (not yet anyways), offers up a mostly fun action flick that is attempting to build from here.  No, wait!  Give birth… uh… get born… Have a new franchise Bourne from here…. Nailed it?

Next Time on Rated D...
Warm Bodies – Like I said, it could be the movie of the year...

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