Tuesday, June 18, 2013
JohnnyTwoToes shares his love/hate for this dark action fantasy
Usually when someone says to me, "You have to be drunk or be high to appreciate such and such film," I usually think, "Gee, thanks for the pick-me-up. Can't wait to watch." Some such person told me to get drunk before I watched Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters and I would 'appreciate the film' much more.
Well, I gave up swilling boozebe a long time ago so I went in dreading the outcome; sober. Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters is camp and cheese that Roger Corman would be proud of. It's tag line is,"Classic Tale. New Twist." got it? Ooooookay.
This classic re-spin stars Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as Hansel and Gretel who have taken up ridding the world of witches after their own near death experience with a witch when they were kids. Now as adults they travel around the land chopping, slicing, dicing, burning, hacking, and disposing of witches with whatever means is available. I say they travel the land but they end up at Auberg (near their home!) which is now in ruins. How you travel all over and conveniently end up near your home without recognizing the terrain, AT ALL is beyond me, but okay, whatever.
When they are told that the town has had 11 children kidnapped by witches, Hansel and Gretel begin to investigate and find that a ritual that will make all witches impervious to fire and/or burning is coming up in a few days. The BLOOD MOON ritual is what its called, the witches need 12 children and time is running out. Getting the drift?
Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters has some good things going for it. Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton are two. They seem to know they are in a dog of a movie but the movie makes good use of their talents as they drop the F-bomb and witches simultaneously. Most of the film is goofy but Norwegian writer and director Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow / 2009) is not interested in substance but style. Hansel and Gretel deploy various gadgets to combat the witches but the most difficult witch to kill is Muriel played by Famke Janssen. She seems to know the two hunters from their childhood. How? They killed the witch that tried to kill them. It does not matter. If you are looking for reason, look elsewhere.
Never mind the fact that, if my children story lore serves me correctly, weren't Hansel and Gretel of German descent? Yet, the only one that even comes CLOSE to a German accent is the local sadistic sheriff played by the always reliable Peter Stormare. There is a subplot involving a good witch and Hansel that I wished they had spent more time on. Which brings me back to Renner and Arterton. They are attractive leads and they have good chemistry and the film relies HEAVILY on their chemistry. I was particularly impressed at how damn attractive Ms. Arterton is in a pair of leather pants and sporting a crossbow. She has dropped her thick British accent because it apparently was easier for her to adopt an American accent than it was to have Renner adopt a British accent.
There are scenes that seem out of place, most notably a rape scene with Gretel being attacked by the sheriff and his henchman. I don't recall any rape in the original Hansel and Gretel story. Does anybody? Wirkola has also tossed in a troll for good measure. I don't recall any trolls in the story, either. It does not hurt the film but is seems kind of odd with Trolls being with Witches. But like I said this film is nonsensical fun, albeit cheesy fun and a box office success too (a sequel is in the works!)
Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters has more in common with a better film, Van Helsing from 2004 with Hugh Jackman that EVERYBODY seemed to hate, but I liked it. Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters is total cheese and stupidity on a grand scale, but it is not without its charms. Most of the characters....awww scratch that.....ALL of the characters talk like they are from Sacramento not Europe and it is clear everyone is in on this joke.
This film is acted well enough and there is some undeniable fun action sequences and Alti Orvarsson's (an Icelandic composer) score is a good one. He has a mostly orchestral score that compliments the action succinctly, with some electronics and synthesized percussion for the close quarters combat scenes. This is not exactly a good film but it kind of won me over, in spots. Would I recommend Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters? Meh, depends on your mood. If you are still sober and just want to settle in for some popcorn and cheese then Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters is for you; sober or not.
There are two versions of Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters, an R rated version that runs 88 minutes and an unrated director's cut that is 98 minutes. I watched the unrated director's cut, but would wager there is very little difference between the two versions. When in doubt, ALWAYS go with the director's cut of almost any film. Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters-**1/2 out of 4.
Saturday, June 15, 2013
Friday, June 14, 2013
That Glorious Moment has come!
Its time to rejoice and thank every one of you! Around half past 4 pm on June 11, this blog reached a new milestone - 1 Million Page views. You read it right, 1000000 page views (that's 6 zeroes).
For noobs, it simply means that the websnackerblog.com has been visited/viewed for over 1,000,000 times (not necessarily by 1 million unique visitors though) but still a hard feat a very few blogs can manage to achieve (pardon the shameless self-promotion)
Skeptics as usual will disagree and claim I am exaggerating. So, for their eyes (and yours), I have also attached a current screenshot of my Google Blogger Statistics.
Obviously, this is ONE BIG achievement and it would have not been possible without the support of all you readers, guest bloggers, crew and fans out there! From the bottom of my heart and the depths of my soul, I am truly grateful to all of you!
And in the descending order of readership - Thank you, Danke, Merci, Shukran, Gracias, Spasibo, Shukriya, Khàwp- khun khâ, Nandri...until the next 1 million!~
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
JohnnyTwoToes is in love with this intriguing thriller
Steven Soderbergh is about the only filmmaker I have ever seen to direct no less than six films in less than two years and most of them, good films that warrant a watch. The list you ask? Okay real quick: The Last Time I Saw Michael Gregg, Contagion, Haywire, Magic Mike, Side Effects and Behind The Candelabra. I have seen all of'em except the first film (The Last Time I Saw Michael Gregg), which honestly I have never even heard of, (apparently it is out of Australia).
Of all the films above, Side Effects stands out and for good reason. It is a slowly effective pot boiler about a mentally disturbed woman named Emily Taylor under psychiatric care whose mental state seems to unravel with the release of her imprisoned husband Martin (Channing Tatum in an unusual casting - seen also in Magic Mike). It's not that he is a bad sort. He has been in prison for insider trading and before incarceration they were living the high life. Now that he has been in, Emily has been reduced to a modest apartment with a little money but nothing more. She works for an ad agency but her mind is starting to buckle under all of the strain from life itself.
After a failed suicide attempt, she is admitted to a psychiatrist, Dr. Jonathan Banks (a fantastic Jude Law). He starts her on some prescription meds that he has a sample of named Ablixa. Emily starts to sleepwalk and do some VERY strange things. When she lands in trouble with the law for a crime she may or may not have committed while under the influence of Ablixa, suspicion falls to Dr. Banks for his prescribing Ablixa to start with. That is all I can say without spoiling Side Effects.
Side Effects is an effective urban drama, not flashy or abrasive - taking the science of mental instability, diagnosis and treatment with respect without becoming cheap or tawdry. Soderbergh does not feel the need to assault the viewer with odd or strange camera effects so common in a lot of films these days. He has a great script by Scott Burns to work with and these characters are all smart and well written. They behave out of natural instincts not forced storytelling and what happens to them is believable.
Let's say, I cared what happened to all of them; even Emily's arrogantly bitchy former psychiatrist played with icy coolness that you could store meat in by Catherine Zeta Jones. Law's Dr. Banks is a good doctor, who cares about his patients even to the detriment of his marriage. What happens in Dr, Banks' life after Emily's crimes is handled effectively and subtlety and not overdone.
Soderbergh is a masterful director who knows how to construct an delicate subject as in Side Effects. He takes his time and lets this film build and build until the true intentions of all involved remedy the situation; believably and with dire consequences for some - the final act you will have to pay attention to because you will not see it coming. Side Effects will not appeal to all of you as it does take its sweet time in unfolding, but if you have the patience and time, you'll love the finale.
Thomas Newman provides another stand out score with his music also being quiet but it pulsates enough to keep the film moving. His use of an orchestra, electronics and his choice of an eclectic array of odd instruments make Side Effects creepy and interesting. This composer is in my top five of all time and he has never disappointed me. If you have the means, get the soundtrack.
Steven Soderbergh has stated that he wants to retire and after his busy schedule I don't blame him. Hopefully, this is just the exhaustion talking and after a rest with NO ABLIXA he will return. This is a director that keeps getting better with each film, takes chances and usually comes out on top. Not many directors can make that claim so , my plea to Mr. Soderbergh, PLEASE DO NOT RETIRE. Side Effects-***1/2 out of 4
Saturday, June 8, 2013
Saving the Worlds Oceans
June 8th is World Oceans Day. More than 70 percent of the globe is covered by the ocean and half the world's human population lives within minutes of the coastline. Rich with resources and potential, our oceans have long been thought of as both infinite and indestructible. But they are not.
Overfishing, climate change, pollution, acidification, dead zones, irresponsible tourism and more have put the world's ocean and marine life at great risk. Increasingly, we face the real possibility of seas without edible fish; an acidic, plastic-filled ocean in which nothing can survive except jellyfish; rising sea levels and mass extinction of fish and mammals. Yet if we take action now, this grim future can be avoided.
Thursday, June 6, 2013
Not your usual movie review
With Independence Day 2 reportedly in the making, here's a fun review of the 90s Pseudo-Action Sci-fi adventure. (The original review is here.)
Starring - Millions of dollars of special effects that still manage to look like sets Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland built in the barn!
Meet: super anonymous pentagonians spewing pseudo military mumbo jumbo and the cute looking brylcreem president Bill Pullman - he's an ace pilot, he's the no-nonsense president and he's a darn good father, too! all-in-one guy!
Meet: The generic gay guy, Harvey Feinstein doing generic gay business. "Oooh! I'd better call my mother!" The generic old Jew, Judd Hirsh. He stoops, he complains, his every word a sarcastic quip.
Meet: The Movie! A war movie, an alien movie, a love story! what a deal! all-in-one all inclusive package.
Just listen to this minimalist dialogue that is the great empowering and heart-warming lesson of this film: HEY! We could all write this!
1. "Get me the secretary of defense!" (significant pause) "THEN WAKE HIM!!"
2. "Address the nation. There's gonna be a lot of frightened people out there." "Yeah, I'm one of 'em."
3. "You think we'll get to Washington and they'll be there?" (Poignant look) Jeff Goldblum opens the computer, "yap!,yap!,yap!," closes the computer, draws little circles all over the president's letterhead, opens the computer AGAIN, whirls it around... AND THE CLOCK IS TICKING!!!!!! A CLOCK! THAT'S IT! WE'RE DOOOOOOMED!!!
MORE WITTY DIALOGUE! "And then what?" "Check mate." "OH MY GOD!!" OH MY GOD IS RIGHT! The Shadow: Surprised looks (Ooh! It's big!) from the Hollywood Sign to the White House lawn to Central Park.
The Aliens: They've got an infinitely superior technology but no Virus Scanners. Doh! See the president outrun a fire ball and Will Smith's chick Vivica Fox : the only person in LA clever enough to find a cubby hole of safety. Rats can do it but, apparently, Americans cannot.
'Terrible movie but entertaining anyway.' Put Will Smith and an Alien in a wave-making, sex pool scene and maybe we'd do the same. It's July 4th and all's well in the world. With a wisecracking, alien-punching Military, Celebrate your Independence!
Monday, June 3, 2013
JohnnyTwoToes is angry with this jingoistic mess
Having been one of the few that did not even like the original Red Dawn from 1984, I was not holding out much hope for the new version that has made its way to video after a short and failing run in theaters. This version sadly offers nothing new and actually makes you wonder, why it was even remade?
Completed in 2009, MGM shelved this version waiting for rewrites in the script, re-shoots, and a change of the invaders of the United States from China (to access its box office) to current favorite North Korea. Seemingly more timely since a new North Korean leader (even more loony than his father) has taken over power, it probably must have felt as a wise choice but it still does not help the movie.
The problem I had with the 1984 original was the poor acting (and overacting) and a lame script by otherwise GREAT screenwriters John Milius (Apocalypse Now) and Kevin Reynolds (187, The Count Of Monte Cristo). Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore's script is also based on the 1984 film but however bad the original, this remake is worse. Dan Bradley's direction is amateurish and tepid, the script utterly bellicose and the action scenes (except a very few) boring. The movie stutters from the start as its poorly constructed with no pay off.
The hero Chris Hemsworth is a returning soldier from the Middle East who still has the fighting blood in him. His younger brother, Matt (Josh Peck) is the local high school football stud that everyone loves. After the Wolverine football team loses a big game everyone crashes for the night at their respective homes only to be awaken by the horror that North Korea has decided to invade America. Why? Not a clue.
North Korea barely has enough gumption to launch a fledgling missile into the Sea Of Japan, let alone launch a full scale invasion into a enormous country like America. I can suspend disbelief for a film provided it gives me a decent reason but Red Dawn (like its 1984 predecessor) fails in this department rather miserably.
Besides, these kinds of action films are only as good as the villains are. The villains in Red Dawn are paper thin with nothing to distinguish them beyond a cardboard cutout. The villains are ineffective because the viewer knows nothing about them at all. What? Did they have some bad food the night before, wake up grumpy and say "Dammit, I need some good food. Let's invade America!"?
The heroes don't fair much better. Hemsworth is an engaging lead; rugged, handsome with a swagger that The Duke would be proud of. The rest of the cast is okay but I have to talk about Josh Peck. Now I try not be vicious with films because, after all I can make my point without doing so. Even more so with performers, male or female but Josh Peck, at least in this film, has to be one of the crappiest actors I have ever seen. In Red Dawn he comes across as a simpering loser who would not last one minute going to the grocery store let alone in a real invasion of his homeland. He flashes his puppy dog eyes and everyone is supposed to swoon and give him a pass. I suppose I should not be too hard no him, but every time an emotional moment came to his character, Peck was about as convincing as Charles Manson convincing a parole board he was sane and should be released. Now before I get all kinds of hate mail shouting, "You are comparing an actor to a mass murderer?" , let me just NO I AM NOT COMPARING Josh Peck to a mass murderer. I am simply saying if you watch this film and then any of Manson's interviews on YouTube you will see that both fail miserably at conveying anything they want to convey.
The only good aspect of Red Dawn is surprisingly its music. Ramin Djawadi terrific score solitarily stands out - its superb during the main highlights, effectively punctuating even some of the less energetic action scenes as well. In fact, it's so good, its worth purchasing. However, it still cant save this mess.
So, take my advice and leave the film on the shelf. At a run time of only 90 minutes your pain will be short lived. Note to Hollywood, just because it is there, does not mean in needs to be remade. PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, stop remaking crappy movies with crappier movies!! * out of 4