Monday, February 24, 2014

Movie Review: Hansel & Gretel "The Witch Hunters" 3D (2013)

Ever since Twilight became a moneymaking machine, Hollywood has been on a kick to make vampire and other paranormal themed movies to cater to the tween set. Hollywood even had the awful idea of remaking an important historical figure such as Lincoln into a vampire slayer. I just about gagged when I saw the previews in the theater. What's next? Martin Luther King as a werewolf? Not quite, Hansel and Gretel: The Witch Hunters certainly sprang from the same idea but it gives the classic fairy tale a twist. We all know the story of Hansel and Gretel, a couple of kids who were playing in the woods and stumbled upon a house made out of candy. Unbeknownst to them, a witch lived inside and used the house to lure unsuspecting and naive children in so that she can eat them. But those two kids were clever and tricked the witch and eventually baked her in her own oven. That is the starting point of this movie.
In this retelling of the story, the children are woken up by their parents and led into the woods by their father and abandoned there. Once they realized that neither parent was going to come back and get them, they wandered further into the forest and see a house made out of candy. Of course the two children save themselves and kill the witch, but it was such a traumatic turn of events that the children grew up to be witch hunters of some reknown. And what witch hunters they are, they are equipped with weaponry that is far too advanced for the time that they live in and their arsenal is such that they could conduct their own war. How they happen to have the money and skill for these creations is a loose end in the film, and there are many. However this is a movie so it requires you to suspend reality and not delve too deeply.
As adults, Hansel and Gretel, have made it their mission to eliminate as many witches as possible. They were hired by a mayor of a town where some children have been stolen by witches. They get no help from the sheriff who has his own agenda. However they soon suspect that the witches are plotting something evil and are involving the townspeople's children to carry it out. The race is on to stop the witches but Hansel and Gretel soon find out that their past catches up with them.

The movie's director, Tommy Wirkola, borrows heavily from the movie 300 with the gratuitous violence, the quick and abrupt cuts, the heavy use of computer generated images. There are parts of the movie that I feel are not appropriate for children so I wouldn't want the little ones to see this movie. All in all I had a passably good time, the twist in the story is engaging, The storyline itself has a lot of holes but this is a fantasy so either you believe it or you don't. The way the roles of Hansel and Gretel were written was very facile and therefore I had the feeling that you could have any actor play the action hero/heroine. Gemma Arterton and Jeremy Renner, who play the sister and brother team really couldn't do much with the roles. If you can, wait until the movie comes on Netflix or DVD.

Rating: R
Runtime: 88 minutes
Originally published February 26, 2013

Movie Review: Flight (2012)

As a frequent flyer, this movie hit uncomfortably close to home and made me think about the men and women who make up the crew that serves on our nation's airplanes.
Captain Whip Whitaker is a cocky veteran commercial pilot who does the impossible by landing a plane that experiences a serious malfunction and crashes. He is hailed as a hero because he saved the majority of lives. However six people die, two flight attendants and four passengers. As part of procedure, the National Transportation Safety Board investigates the event to determine who is at fault. Whitaker is defensive and blames the crash on the broken plane but he harbors a secret; he drinks heavily and takes cocaine. His drinking and drugging has destroyed relationships and the one thing that he hangs on to is his job as a commercial pilot. While he is at the hospital recovering from his wounds, he meets Nicole, a drug addict and alcoholic who is desperate to turn her life around. They are kindred souls and start a relationship. In the meanwhile, his lawyer, Hugh Lang, struggles to keep Whitaker's alcoholism secret and out of the investigation. Slowly, Whitaker's life continues to disintegrate as he cannot acknowledge his alcohol dependency. Soon the NTSB investigation culminates in a hearing that will determine Whitaker's future and no one knows whether Whitaker can save himself.
Denzel Washington is riveting playing a man who wrestles with his demons and struggles to answer to a higher duty. I was horrified that a pilot could function so well under such a huge disability. You sympathize with Don Cheadle's character, Hugh Lang, who is desperate to help Whitaker keep his career. Bruce Greenwood plays the sympathetic and loyal friend, Charlie Anderson, who is helpless and bewildered in the face of Whitaker's alcoholism. Nicole, played by Kelly Reilly, is not fully fleshed out but it is the fault of the writing not the actor. The ensemble acting is top notch and I was engrossed at the NTSB's investigative process in determining who is at fault and how much does the role of the pilot and crew, the airline's maintenance, and the aircraft itself contribute to a crash. My stomach however clenched during the flight sequence when the plane was going through the turbulence and I was praying that I would never have to experience anything like that.
Originally published November 21,2012