Commentary

February 15, 2013

Fly Over: ‘Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters’, ‘Identity Thief’

In theaters:

Hansel-and-Gretel-poster

‘Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters’

Broomstick riders beware

Being a big fan of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, I was excited to see that they were recreating the old bedtime story “Hansel and Gretel.” I was also curious to see how this film would do after sitting on the shelves for almost two years waiting to be released.
Some movie-goers may not know that Will Ferrell (known for movies like “Elf” and “Step Brothers”) and Adam McKay (writer for “Step Brothers” and “The Other Guys”) are co-producers of this film — a fact that might persuade them to go see the movie if they were even slightly interested beforehand.
The film begins with the same story as the one we heard growing up. A young Hansel (Cedric Eich), and Gretel (Alea Boudodimos) are abandoned by their father in a dark forest where they come across a witch’s cottage built of gingerbread and candy. After taking a few bites out of the cottage, they enter inside and are quickly nabbed by the old witch. The witch forces Hansel to eat candy to fatten him up while Gretel prepares the oven. The two outsmart the witch and throw her into the oven and escape. From there, director and screen writer Tommy Wirkola changes the Grimm’s story just a bit.
The next scene is years later and a now older Hansel, played by Jeremy Renner, and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) are bounty hunters hell-bent on taking down everyone who rides on a broomstick.
The two siblings find themselves hired by Mayor Endglemann (Rainer Block), who is the mayor of Augsburg, to track and find children who have been abducted by witches, 11 children to be exact. Upon their arrival, Hansel and Gretel prevent Sheriff Berringer (Peter Stormare) from executing Mina (Pihla Viitala), a woman who was accused of witchcraft.
Because the sheriff doesn’t like the idea of outside help, he hires four trackers for the same mission. This is where we meet the powerful grand witch Muriel aka Candy Witch, played by the beautiful Famke Janssen. And yes, I was surprised that she was in the movie and playing the role of the lead villain. He kills all but one tracker who he sends back to town with a warning for Hansel and Gretel.
Muriel, along with the help of two witches, is preparing for the Feast of the Blood Moon, which requires sacrificing 12 children — six boys and six girls, each born on a separate month. With the help of Edward the troll, the witches successfully abduct the 12th child. Hansel and Gretel, along with a local boy named Ben (Thomas Mann), must find a way to save all the children before they are sacrificed on the night of the Blood Moon.
During all this witch-hunting and killing, childhood secrets are revealed and we delve more into the childhood history of Hansel and Gretel. But I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll stop at that.
So with all the automatic crossbow-wielding, witch-slaying, anachronisms and zooming around, I still left the movie theater feeling a little disappointed … entertained, but wishing for a little more. I also found the movie predictable, but like I said, I was entertained. So if you find that you have 88 minutes to spare then go ahead and check out this film, or better yet, wait for it to come out on DVD.
This film is rated R.

 
…..and also in theaters

Identity-Thief-poster

‘Identity Thief’

It’s not rare to see a trailer of a movie and get really hyped about it only to realize that once you see it in theater you realize you’ve already seen the best parts. This is more or less the case with “Identity Thief,” a comedy that doesn’t do too well in the humor aspect but still has some redeemable factors.
After getting a call from someone he believes to be his credit card company, Colorado businessman Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) gets reports that he’s reached the limits on his accounts and he had missed a court hearing in Florida. The police quickly discover this was the work of con artist Diana (Melissa McCarthy), but cannot do much for Sandy since all of her charges are out-of-state. To make matters worse, Sandy’s company is threatening to let him go considering the criminal charges Diana has put on his record. Sandy decides to head to Florida and bring the con artist back for the police, but the two also find themselves being chased by thugs who also have a score to settle with Diana.
There’s a basic formula that every road trip movie seems to follow: the car has to be destroyed, someone has to lose his pants (with his phone and wallet) and some bonding needs to take place between the characters.
“Identity Thief” follows this formula to the point where there’s really no surprise, but it’s still fairly entertaining thanks to the characters of Sandy and Diana. The best parts are actually in the serious moments that go into Diana’s past and personality. My real concern lies with the criminal plot, which is a major part of the story and yet the aspect that gets the least amount of attention. I didn’t really understand why it was so important for this mob boss-like character to want Diana dead.
Personally I’ve always thought Jason Bateman was a little bland (his role in Dodgeball being a hilarious exception) and he really doesn’t change my opinion here. Still, he makes Sandy a likable-enough guy, and some of his deadpan responses did make me laugh. Melissa McCarthy does a really good job, though, handling her comedic and dramatic scenes very well.
Everyone else involved is pretty forgettable, but that is understandable considering the movie focuses on just the two stars. Robert Patrick does leave more of an impression though as a psychopathic bounty hunter chasing Diana (unfortunately, there are no Terminator 2 jokes or references).
What “Identity Thief” seems to rely on the most for its comedy is Diana’s crudeness and the physical humor. While I did laugh at every throat punch she delivered, one of which still makes me smile just thinking about it, I was not a fan of some of the more “gross-out” jokes. Those who prefer that kind of humor though, will probably laugh more than I did. There were also some minor, technical things that took me out of the movie, like a driving scene where the background movements did not match Bateman’s steering.
“Identity Thief” isn’t necessarily a bad movie; there are things to enjoy in it, but just like its supporting characters there really isn’t that much to help it stand out.
This film is rated R.




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