OK, if you liked “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” you should like “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” even more. There are a couple of famous movie stars in the film for one thing and there is a very warm and cuddly troll that you just want to go hug. So that’s fun. If you want a film to just relax and watch the pictures go by and put your brain in the bread box, this is for you. People love it and made it No. 1 on the charts this week.
Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola has made his first big time movie and it seems to be a hit. He had a budget of $50 million to work with and he spent it on cool special effects and nice paydays for his stars.
This is a big change from his previous small budget Zombie film, “Dead Snow.” Zombie flick fanciers like “Dead Snow” as perhaps the finest Norwegian Dead Nazi Zombie film ever made. And it was done on a farthing. Wirkola also wrote the script for “Hansel and Gretel,” as he did “Dead Snow.”
Up and coming super star Jeremy Renner (“Hurt Locker,” “The Town”) plays Hansel. Renner is now an accomplished action hero, which is just what this role calls for. Hansel and Gretel parlayed their childhood success as witch killers into a career as a sort of bounty hunters — witch killers for hire in early modern Germany.
Gemma Arterton, a 26-year-old with a long string of roles in both TV and film, has the role of Gretel. She looks great in skin-tight leather pants, which is all that is asked of her in terms of acting.
This is not an actor’s movie; it is a special effects guy’s movie.
Framke Janssen, who wowed fans as Jean Grey in the X-Men films, is the evil witch. The witches in Hansel and Gretel have extensive and deadly magical powers and Janssen wields them with élan.
Also featured is Wirkola’s fellow Norwegian Ingrid Bolso Berdal. Berdal is an award winning actor. Her two big assignments in “Hansel and Gretel” are to frolic naked in a pool with lucky Jeremy Renner and to machine gun a band of witches to pieces with an electric chain gun that somehow became available in 17th century Germany.
Who cares? In this kind of a movie you expect jarring stuff to happen, but if it results in spectacular destruction of a huge gang of kiddy-killing magic wielders, so much the better.
This average three saw blade action flick is rated R for violence, exploding witches and a good long look at the lovely Ingrid Bolso Berdal.
Director/writer Tommy Wirkola looks to be able to return his producers $50 million. The first week worldwide gross of $59 million is a good start.
A real deal action flick
“Last Stand” is a standard issue Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle, that is to say a rip snortin’, rootin’, tootin’ R rated action flick done with all the support of a major studio. It is not something like such recent actioners as “The A-Team” or “The Expendables,” which are more like super-violent comedies.
“Last Stand” is a real deal action flick. Every single script turn might not make perfect sense, but it is a fictional film, not a documentary. It is fun and exciting with some cool stuff. Like a night time scene in which a police helicopter tracks the bad guy in a car that can go 200 mph. The bad guy must elude the helo, the chopper must track the bad guy. It is a clever, cool scene.
The actors, besides Arnold in his first post governor, post marriage film, include the terrific Forest Whitaker. Whitaker can make even a supporting role important; here he is the FBI agent in charge. Whitaker is balanced by Johnny Knoxville and Louis Guzman. Knoxville plays a dull-witted gun fancier who ends up unexpectedly saving the day by providing Arnold with a WWI machine gun. Guzman is a deputy in the pattern of Barney Fife, earnest enough, but not exactly Green Beret material.
Schwarzenegger himself can still pull it off. He plays an Arizona sheriff at the end of his career; a refugee from brutal LA in a quiet little desert town. But he is not about to let some stinking drug lord just blow through his turf, especially after one of his guys goes down.
Jamie Alexander is the obligatory pretty girl deputy. Instead of just being someone to rescue, she turns out to be an excellent sniper and does her part for the team when the paint really hits the fan. I give points to new to the majors director Jee-woon Kim for using her in a humane way. The deputy she portrays is game, but over her head. Kim lets her be a deputy instead of using her to titillate the viewers by having her disrobe at any possible excuse. In fact Kim does quite well in his first time in directing a major film.
First time writer Andrew Knauer penned a perfectly acceptable script.
In this average, three saw blade slammer we have strong if unremarkable acting, especially by Whitaker and Arnold himself. We have writing and direction that meet the requirements. And yet, the viewers are not flocking to the Cineplex. This is a $45 million production which seems to be having a difficult time at the box office. It has only brought in a scant $14 million so far at the global ticket booth. The public did not embrace Arnold’s last non-Terminator films, “Collateral Damage” and “6th Day” (I liked them both) and both failed to turn a profit. Can it be that he has lost his cinematic mojo?