Witch Hunters Strike Back

Fairy tales were designed to be gruesome and to scare children into not doing something. Disney came along and turned them into romance and happiness. While this is a fun outlet, I am rather found of movies that get back to the dirt of the legends. Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunter was a rockling ride of gritty fun that takes the Disney out of the fairy tale.
Hansel-And-Gretel-Witch-Hunters-Jeremy-RennerIn this version of the Grimm tale, Hansel and Gretel are left out in the woods for their own protection. But being curious children they come across a house made of candy. The two learn that the best way to end a witch is to set her on fire and the two orphans become infamous for their witch slaying. The two are brought to a small town by a mayor who is desperate to keep children from disappearing. But the intractable sheriff wants to burn the first woman he thinks is a witch. It is up to the siblings to free her of guilt and find the culprit.
It seems the siblings are up against a gran witch that can take human form (played creepily by Famke Janssen). The witch has a plan to make herself and her cohorts invincible. To stop her, Hansel and Gretel must go up against a troll, make friends with a good witch, and find their roots by revisiting their childhood home.
Jeremy Renner is fabulous as Hansel. He shows swagger and emotion evenly and has a talent for dry wit. He plays beautifully off of Gemma Arterton who gives Gretel power as well as beauty. The two together make a power house team sending the witches back to the dust.
The overall tone of the movie is fun. While serious and downright grim instances occur, the movie never forgets that it is entertainment. Viewers forgive the few plot holes and suspend disbelief because the overall experience is so enjoyable. The writing is taunt with the siblings being blessed with brawn, beauty, and quick wit.HANSEL-AND-GRETEL-WITCH-HUNTERS-Image-10
The movie easily combines modern elements to a period piece. In the same way A Knights Tale seamlessly integrated ‘70s music into jousting, the film easily integrates a state of the art weapons into witch hunting. Automatic weapons and taser are just a few that give the orphans an extra kick against the witches. This in itself is fun because I have watched plenty of witch movies where I wondered what would happen if I took an automatic to them.
Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters is a fun romp in a fantasy world made for adults. It’s about time; we deserve some fun fantasy too.

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The Words Fall Flat

Contains Spoilers

The Words does not fare well as home entertainment. This droll drama came and went without much fanfare. It seemed sad at the time. The trailers hinted at a film of intrigue as Bradley Cooper is hunted down by a man whose book he plagiarized. But the movie delivers no such suspense or drama.
the-words-posterThe Words is straight forward with the old cliché of the author reading his own book. Cooper plays the character from said book. He is a struggling writer who comes across an old manuscript with an unknown author. Though he knows better, he publishes the work as his own and it becomes a best seller. It seems that his life is perfect…until he meets the old man who actually wrote it.
The movie is peppered with period scenes showing the actions of the stolen book. Audiences are treated to a book with in a book. But these scenes are dry and boring. It isn’t these characters the audience cares about. We want to know what happens to Cooper and his wife (Zoe Saldana).
The flow is also broken by excerpts of the narrator’s life. Dennis Quaid with no polish or emotion tries to add another romantic element by flirting with a girl who wrote on thesis on him and his book. It is within these scenes that the twist is “revealed.” As anyone would have guessed, Cooper’s character is just the fictional version of Quaid himself and that he wrote the novel in order to come clean of his deceit.
The acting is subpar. Quaid was just showing up for a paycheck. Saldana and Cooper have zero chemistry. Olivia Wilde is insipid and flat. It’s horrific to watch quality actors flutter about in this mess.
Suffering from a convoluted story line, bad acting, and horrible marketing, it’s no wonder that The Words came and went to theater with barely a whisper. The recent DVD/Blu-ray release does nothing to make The Words worthy of your time. Skip this one at Redbox and rent Hysteria instead.

It’s the Silver Lining

Rarely, there is a movie that critics and the movie going audience can agree on. I have read a lot about Silver Linings Playbook. Critics love it and it has already won awards and many nominations. I had high hopes when I finally had the opportunity to see it. I was not disappointed.
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOKSilver Linings Playbook, based on the book of the same name by Matthew Quick, is the story of Pat (Bradley Cooper) whose wife has an affair. The event is exacerbated by his undiagnosed bipolar disorder. After attacking the man involved, Pat is sent to a mental institution to get his disorder under control. The movies begin as Pat’s mother checks him out of the hospital against the advice of his doctor. Pat must struggle to put the pieces of his life back together.
Very quickly, viewers notice that Pat inherits his mental issues naturally. His father (Robert De Niro) is an obsessive compulsive gambler who puts a lot of pressure on Pat to be his lucky charm. Pat and his father have a tenuous relationship at best. Pat continues to focus on his external appearance and physical fitness to help him overcome the disorganization of his brain. On his runs, he frequently encounters Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), widow who was recently fired for balancing her depression with sexual promiscuity. The two come to agreement; Tiffany will get letters to Pat’s wife if he will be her dance partner in an upcoming dance completion.
The script and casting are fantastic. The story moves between very touching and emotional scenes to light hearted humor and dry wit. The movie gives a very truthful look into mental illness (though not of therapists), and the audience is moved by the two character’s struggles and victories and setbacks. Viewers easily become invested in their lives.
1353437488_silver-linings-playbook-560The characters are brought to life by their actors almost magically. Cooper deserves the Oscar as he oscillates between the crazy manic side of Pat to the self-reflective and very “normal” aspects of the same character. He uses body language and voice inflection masterfully showing how much is really going on in Pat’s head. Cooper shows that he is more than just a pretty face; he has major dramatic acting chops.
Lawrence gives a great performance though not as finely tuned as Cooper’s. She embodies someone who is aware that her actions are not the best but not regretful or her journey. De Niro is perfect as the overbearing but loving father. He manages to make his characters OCD look like a disability instead of joke fodder.
There was only one moment I was truly disappointed with the movie. When Pat finally gets to interact with his wife, the movie does not elaborate on what he says to her. While this could be a method of saying that it doesn’t really matter, as a viewer I wanted Pat to recover and hear the whispered exchanged as proof.
Touching, yet funny, Silver Lings Playbook does a lot to make the public aware of what it is like to live with mental illness but entertaining at the same time. Touching performances by Cooper and De Niro bring the characters to dynamic life. Silver Linings Playbook is worth every accolade it’s received.

Jack Reacher is a Great Thrill Ride

I love a good thriller book. The crime thriller genre may not be the best or mot well written but it keeps you on the edge of your seat with outrageous plot twists, beautiful romance, and killer excitement. The film Jack Reacher brings that genre to life on the big screen.
In the adaptation of Lee Child’s One Shot, Tom Cruise plays an ex-military investigator who stays off the radar. He is a ghost, and when he suddenly appears after a mass shooting, the authorities clue into the idea that there is more to the shooting than meets the eye. Hired by the defense counsel, Reacher delves into what actually happened the day of the shooting.
The movie is written like a thriller novel. No scene lasts too long and there are perfect pauses for release as if it had its own built in chapters. The movie is focused more on current action with some background. There isn’t too much character development to drag the action down. These characteristics make Jake Reacher a great novel adaptation.
I personally have never read any of the 17 Jack Reacher novels, so I really enjoyed Tom Cruise in the title role. No mater how crazy he may be in his personal life, he is a good actor oozing charm and embodying the characters he becomes. He becomes Reacher and a force to be reckoned with. What is really cool is that is character has so much training that his size dose not matter when facing enemies. It is impressive to see 5’7” Cruise beat up a group of big burly guys. This lends to extra excitement in the fight sequences.
jackreacherrpRosamund Pike is excellent as the DA’s daughter who hires Reacher. Pike never once lets her English come through and is both vulnerable and tough as nails at the same time. These are the characters Pike excels at, and I hope to see her more on the American screen.
For fans of the novels, Reacher was terribly miscast. Reacher is a 6’5” blond muscle man. This is completely different from Cruise’s frame. Miscasting can often ruin a movie for fans. How I feel about Twilight is how most probably feel about Cruise’s casting. But hopefully, fans can put that aside. Jack Reacher has the potential for a movie franchise.
While this is not a marvelous action movie, it’s a great way to pass time. Instead of picking up a book on a Sunday afternoon, go see this one. It brings to life those thrillers that you would be at home reading.

This is Funny

Judd Apatow is known for his silly humor while keeping an undercurrent of real story. This is 40, the sort of sequel to Knocked Up, moves beyond past a novel premise that ends happily ever after. This is 40 is real. And that is where its humor lies.

This-is-40-squaredPaul Rudd and Leslie Mann reprise their supporting roles from the hit Knocked Up and become the focal point of their own story. Pete and Debbie are both turning forty within weeks of each other and each one handles this age milestone in their own way. Debbie handles it the classic woman’s way: working on her body, changing her eating habits, and denying her age. Pete, on the other hand, has less time to deal with this change because, unbeknownst to his wife, Pete’s business is going down the toilet. Pete becomes frustrated trying to deal with business, the changes in his wife, and the hormones of his newly teenaged daughter. Pete and Debbie handle life with truth and humor and as they deal with stealing employees, difficult parents, and raisin g two daughters.

Rudd and Mann are at their best as they matter of fatly discussing the issues of life we all think about. One of the best scenes features the two lying in bed discussing the methods they would use to kill one another. This light hearted situation helps take the stress out of their life situation. These scenes remind us that we need to have more humor and less anger with our significant other. They also show us that successful couples do have problems and there are ways to deal with both successfully, and as we see in the film, unsuccessfully. In fact, this movie is one of Apatow’s most thought provoking film to date.

Many movies suffer in their ending, but the resolution to this film stays within the parameters already set up in the development.leslie-mann-as-debbie-in-this-is-40-2012 Without giving too much away, things work out but they don’t have a fairy tale ending. Making a “Happily Ever After” ending would have ruined the theme and tone of the movie. This movie is about real life not the Hollywood version of it (even though they have over expensive car and Pete has enough money to give his dad $80,000 in two years), and Pete and Debbie’s story echoes the path of everyday people.

Apatow productions always have great supporting cast. Megan Fox does her best work as a slutty sales clerk and Jason Segel is hilarious as Debbie’s personal trainers. Mann and Apatow’s real life daughter show exactly what raising children can be like and add emotional depth to many of the scenes. But, unlike previous Apatow installments, these supporting actors do not make the movie. The main characters are the engaging part of the movie, unlike Knocked Up, which was at its funniest when Seth Rogan was hanging out with his posse. Apatow took two characters he knew we liked and expanded their world into a fantastic story.

With movies like this Apatow proves he can move beyond silly and dirty jokes. He shows heart and depth and does well personifying life for what it is. This is 40 is a must so for anyone in their adult years.

Tarantino Unchained

Django Unchained received lots of hype: great acting, the excessive use of the “n” word, and good writing. For many fans, this is yet another crowning achievement in Tarantino’s insane world of overly-bloody violence and whacked out plots. But for non-Tarantino fans, this adventure is long and droll.

django-unchained-01Django Unchained starts as a decent film, like a more intelligent version of Blazing Saddles. The plot is humorous as a black slave rises up as a bounty hunter going after the white men who enslaved him.  Django’s journey from slave to gunman is funny, moving, and enthralling. Viewers are eager for him to find his wife and rescue her from the evil plantation owner.

But suddenly, the tone shifts. As Django and his mentor come to the Candy Land plantation, humor is left behind for violence and darkness. As soon as they reach the plantation, they must watch a runaway slave be torn apart by dogs, and the viewers have to watch too. The movie becomes more violent and serious from there as Django and his mentor negotiate for the wife’s freedom. The negotiations get bloodier and bloodier.

The movie has three major flaws. The first is the aforementioned change in tone while the second one is the casting. The majority of the acting was atrocious. Some actors, such as Don Johnson, were supposed to be bad because it was funny. But this was no excuse for Jamie Fox, who did his best work when silent, or Christopher Waltz and his horrible accent. His character was supposed to be German? Go figure.  The only actor who lived up to the hype was Leonardo DiCaprio who, I have decided as I have gotten older, really is a talented actor.

django-unchained-leonardo-dicaprio-movieThe biggest issues, though, is the timing. The movie drags in its final paces. Instead of a simple resolution, Tarantino drags it on from bloody fight to bloodier fight. All traces of humor or morality are gone. Had the movie kept tone of the first half and not let the story drag, it could have been a great piece of film. Instead of just a bloody mess designed to be art.

While Tarantino fans may have a ball, those who are not into the director’s quirkiness are better off not seeing this one. There isn’t much Django Unchained for the rest of us.

2012 in review- THANK YOU FOR READING!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 8 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.