Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)

Hansel And Gretel Witch HuntersIf you go down to the woods today… Well, don’t. You’re likely to find some wizened old hag living in a gingerbread house. That’s what happens to young Hansel and Gretel who, as the Brothers Grimm fairytale goes, incinerate the witch in her oven and live to fight another day. Literally, according to Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, as the ‘hero orphans’ grow up to roam the land in skin-tight bondage gear, kicking ass.

In the woods near Augsburg, Germany, something’s hunting children. These aren’t the rhapsodic woods of Terrence Malick’s imaginings – they’re positively stuffed with scabby-chinned witches.

Which is where strapping Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and whip-tongued Gretel (Gemma Arterton) come in, hired by the Mayor of Augsburg to take out Grand Witch Muriel (Famke Janssen) before the Blood Moon rises. If only Janssen could stop over-acting long enough for them to lop off her head.

Complicating matters is swaggering Sheriff Berringer (Peter Stormare, barking every line), who doesn’t like the idea of the heroes swooping in to save his town, and sends his own murderous posse to get rid of them.

Cue blood-splattered skirmishes in which Dead Snow director Tommy Wirkola demonstrates he’s still unafraid of the red stuff, but has no clue how to stage an edgy stand-off.

That lack of tension hobbles the entire film, not least in a studio-bound climactic witch-fight that feels like a lost scene from Xena: Warrior Princess.
The world Wirkola creates doesn’t make a jot of sense – our not-so-terrific twosome trade in oddly futuristic weaponry and for all the gore and F-bombs, H&G:WH feels too simplistic to be anything other than a kids’ film.

Shame; as a concept, it’s airtight: with Will Ferrell producing and Wirkola keen to inject more blood into Hollywood horror, this seemed primed for a good old-fashioned B-horror bum-kicking.

Instead of delivering a fairytale Evil Dead, though, Wirkola’s film stakes out similar terrain to 2012’s po-faced Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, bleeding its premise into a husk that’s devoid of life or humour.

It’s disappointing considering the strength of Wirkola’s amusingly barmy Dead Snow. Sadly, the Norwegian joins a long line of European filmmakers who’ve upped sticks to Hollywood, only to lose their verve along the way. By the time Janssen hisses, “The end is nigh”, you’ll be praying she’s speaking the truth.

Verdict: Though it gives good splat and the scenery’s to die for, Hansel & Gretel gets just about everything wrong. Hammy, boring, chronically unfunny – there’ll be nightmares before bedtime. 2/5

Via Total Film

Movie 43 (2013)

movie 43Quite why A-listers Kate Winslet, Hugh Jackman and Emma Stone (among others) aligned themselves with this excruciatingly moronic compilation of shorts is anybody’s guess.

Dealing in piss, poo and period gags that your little brother outgrew by 15, Movie 43 follows three kids as they scour the internet for the elusive (and very possibly made-up) flick of the title.

As their search vomits up one cringe-worthy skit after another, Movie 43 amounts to little more than filmic self-flagellation for all involved.

Winslet’s on a date with Jackman, only there’s something wrong with his neck. Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber home tutor their teenager, but get it all wrong. Anna Faris proposes to Chris Pratt, but not how he expected.

And in Movie 43’s maddest offering, Johnny Knoxville gives Seann William Scott a leprechaun (played by Gerard Butler) for his birthday.

As the fake tits, genitalia jokes and (literal) excrement pile up, the most shocking thing is that not once during Movie 43’s four year production did producer/director Peter Farrelly stop to consider that, just maybe, his film was about as funny as losing your virginity to your own mum. (Yes, this actually happens in Movie 43.)

Worst of all, Farrelly’s film just never knows when to give up, subjecting audiences not only to a never-ending credits sequence gag reel, but yet another post-credits short starring Elizabeth Banks. She gets pissed on by a cartoon cat.

Expect Movie 43’s only genuinely funny moments – two faux ads for Tampax and children enslaved to a life working inside cash machines – to end up on YouTube in the near future.

For everybody else, though, this is a great, huge stinker of an embarrassment on their CV. “It makes you shit out your intestines,” warns JJ (Adam Cagley) right at the beginning. He’s not far off.

Verdict:

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first turkey of 2013. Squandering a gold-star cast and as tasteless as a foam dog poo, Movie 43 deserves not one of your hard-earned pennies. Expect it to sweep next year’s Golden Raspberry awards – it deserves every single one of them. 1/5

Via Total Film

The Last Stand (2013)

The Last StandArnold Schwarzenegger’s just hurtled through a café door and landed in a heap. “How are you, sheriff?” asks the owner, peering over the counter. “Old,” huffs Arnie as he creaks into frame. No kidding. Nigh on a decade after his last lead role (in Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines), the Austrian Oak’s finally lumbered back into cinemas. He’s older. He’s bigger. His hair’s somewhat thinner. But, really, it’s like he’s never been away.

Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) is whiling out his twilight years in sleepy farm town Sommerton Junction. As we meet him, sock-free and noticeably scruffy, he’s about to take a much-needed few days off. “Should be a quiet weekend,” Arnie muses, somehow unaware that he’s in a movie starring himself, which means quiet is the last thing on the menu.

Sure enough, Sommerton Junction turns out to be the meeting place of escaped con Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) and his gun-loving gang, which is headed by slithering mercenary Burrell (Peter Stormare). Cortez is roaring towards the Mexican border in a swish Corvette ZR1, and his gang are preparing safe passage for him through Owens’ town into Mexico. Meanwhile, FBI Agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker) is on Cortez’s trail – but can he reach him in time?

This first hour of The Last Stand is easily its weakest. Short on laughs, low on Arnie, it’s too busy introducing characters we have no interest in to give us what we really want – Schwarzenegger. Any Schwarzenegger will do, especially after the teasing likes of the Expendables movies, which only featured him as a supporting player. But despite mildly diverting thrills in an impressive (if implausible) jail bust and numerous car-related action kicks, director Kim Jee-woon’s first English-language film feels as weary as Arnie often looks.

Thankfully, that all changes once our favourite Austrian is let off the leash, and around the hour mark, The Last Stand transforms on a dime into something unexpectedly, uproariously entertaining. When Burrell and his men storm Sommerton Junction, they’re surprised to find it’s not only ready for them, but armed to the hilt. The ensuing orgy of mayhem delivers hilariously gory deaths, bloodshed aplenty and just a few of those patented Arnie one-liners.

We’re not kidding ourselves, though. Arnie’s heyday came and went with the 1980s, and it’s unlikely he’ll ever reach the thrilling heights of that muscle-busting run again. After seven years playing California Governor, though, Arnie still knows how to deliver a good time (there’s even a moment of shiver-inducing acting from the guy as he mourns a dead colleague), and he looks thoroughly comfortable back up there on the big screen. “This is my home,” he says near The Last Stand’s close. Welcome home, Arnie. 3/5

Via Grolsch Film Works