Hansel & Gretel

Swanner: If anyone is expecting a Disney film when they go to see Hansel & Gretel they are in for for a very big surprise. This R-rated action film is not for the kids although they would probably like it. Hansel & Gretel are witch hunters. After their very publicized event as children the two decided to make it their family business. Jeremy Renner (Hurt Locker) and Bond girl Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace) play the title characters all grown up and ready to kick butt. Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow) directs.

The film has that Brother’s Grimm feel to it but with more camp. The action is nonstop and all the stunt work is really well done. I sure that a lot of it CGI but when I can’t tell I consider that a job well done. If your unfamiliar with the Norwegian director you should check out his first film (Dead Snow). It’s about a group of skier who uncover a brigade of Nazi zombies that have been buried in the snow for years. I know this movie will be panned by most critics. The comedy is too broad, the music is too load and the story is thin and of course predictable. I’ll admit it’s really a dumb movie but it’s short enough and moves so well that it’s over before you get tired of it.

Overall the acting is good and the special effects are better. One thing I will mention is that this film’s 3D had me flinching a lot. They have everything flying out at us…so, I suggest the 3D. I don’t do that very often but the 3D was very much a part of why I liked the film. If you’re a fan of big loud dumb popcorn movies then you’ll like Hansel & Gretel. If you looking for art try a different fairytale.



Swanner: When they say that nothing good comes out to theatres in January that’s not always the rule. Occasionally something good slips in. Last year it was Contraband but this year it’s Mama. Mama tells the story of two young girls that were lost in the woods for 5 years who have been found. How did they survive all that time alone…or were they alone? Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones) star.

Judd: Guillermo Del Toro, producer, has a very good habit of giving new directors a shot at the big-time, and overall it’s paid off. He lends his sense of the story-book macabre to the film, but otherwise lets Andres Muschietti take the reins. The movie’s scares for the first half come from some pretty standard thrills – feral children, bumps in the night and unknown spirit. The movie really shines in its third act, where the villain is given an emotional value not commonly seen in these types of films.

Swanner: It’s a gothic tale set in modern times. It feel a lot like The Woman in Black that came out last year but as gothic stories go it’s all pretty standard. I did think that the acting was really good. Chastain really held her own. She didn’t become a screaming leading lady. She reminded me of Sigourney Weaver’s Alien character that does not hold back when the shit hits the fan. I also thought the script was solid and it was nice seeing that emotional element come into play as you mentioned before.

Judd: I also liked that we got to see the monster/ghost. Back in the day, when it was wigs and rubber masks, the audience got to see the villain in all its cheesy SFX glory. Now that we have the technology to create life-like ghouls through CGI, today’s horror movies want to create suspense by shaking the camera and delivering quick, out of focus glimpses. I liked that we got to see Mama, up close and face to face. The rest of the movie was made the same way, no cheap budget-cutting scare gimmicks.

Swanner: The scares were good ones. Mama can really move when she wants too. I also thought the two girls in the film were really good. Isabella Nelisse plays Lilly who played the creepiest of the kids and Megan Charpenier played Victoria. I think we’re going to be seeing good things from her in the future. Without giving anything away I was very pleased with the ending. One, for the unconventional ending and two, that they didn’t try to set us up for a sequel. I remember the moment it ended everyone was expecting some lame last scare and it didn’t happen. Thank you for that.

Judd: The movie does not have a typical ending and it was interesting to observe the audience’s reaction. While I think Mama is fairly typical for the first half, the characters are richer than your typical haunted children movie, and the second half makes up for any early clichés.



Gangster Squad

Swanner: In 1949, a group of cops do what they need to do to drive the Mob out of Los Angeles. Josh Brolin plays John O’Mara, a good cop that leads these good guys against Sean Penn’s Mickey Cohen, an east coast mobster trying to make LA his turf. Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Robert Patrick, Michael Pena and Nick Nolte make up this big cast. The film was moved from September to January after it’s unfortunate preview was attached to The Dark Knight Rises print that played before the Colorado shootings in July.

Judd: It’s a wonder that this movie was released at all given the shooting incidents that have followed Colorado. The Gangster Squad is the exact type of movie that some factions believe to be a catalyst to these tragedies; the amount of gun fire in The Gangster Squad is extreme to say the least. That being said, taking the movie out of the current political context, The Gangster Squad can be classified as an old-fashioned shoot ‘em up, light on plot heavy on lead.

Swanner: It’s a very standard story of good guys vs bad guys. You have no problems knowing who’s good and bad either. No surprises. Director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) keeps the action going and the actors deliver good performances but the script by Will Beall (Castle) based on Paul Lieberman novel offers up nothing new or terribly exciting. There was a lot of gun fire in the film and I found myself watching the exits though the movie. I know it’s silly but i had my escape route planned.

Judd: Claiming to have been based on real events, I could find nothing about The Gangster Squad or the events that led to Cohen’s arrest in the movie. Like De Palma’s Untouchables from the 80’s Gangster Squad plays fast and loose with the facts, so don’t expect to learn anything. That being said, for being a September/January release, the movie was more entertaining than I anticipated.

Swanner: I agree. I was not expecting the movie to be that entertaining or even good. Delayed from September is no vote of confidence and opening it in January just plain bad mojo. Hopefully folks will give the film a change. Brolin and Penn do give really good performances. The film also has a nice look to it and the shoots of Los Angeles 1949 are nicely done. Fans of the genre should be pretty happy with the film and with the drought of films opening it’s a good option.

Swanner: 1/2


Zero Dark Thirty

Swanner: Zero Dark Thirty chronicles a decade long hunt to find Osama bin Laden. CIA agent (Jessica Chastain) spends her entire career and most of the first two hours watching interrogations and combing through files to find anything that might lead her to the location of bin Laden. Director Kathryn Bigalow (The Hurt Locker) takes us on this obsessed journey and Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker) delivers another bloated script that doesn’t really deliver till the last 40 minutes. At least in his Hurt Locker script he gave us a character to care about, Chastain’s Maya was just focused on the prize and we never got to see what drove her to become the agent she became.

Once Maya is confident she has discovered where bin Laden is living the film turns into a mess of red tape. How certain is she that it’s really him, they need the White House approval to go in and kill the terrorist leader. As idiotic as this seems at least the film picks up here leading to the Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 doing there job. I was actually surprised how many things actually went wrong during the raid but i guess while we were caught up in the excitement of the deed we probably weren’t that concerned with the how.

Don’t get me wrong about the film. It’s well made and definitely delivers in the end but it’s 2:37 running time could have and should have been shaved down about 40 minutes. Chastain gives a good performance but was better in any of the seven movies she made last year just because they challenged her where this film has her trying not to look too pretty. I did want to mention that the interrogation scenes are extreme and hard to watch. If watching people get tortured bothers you… yes, even the bad guys…you may want to think twice about seeing the film since those scenes do make up quite a bit of the story.