Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Movie Review: Silver Linings Playbook (R - 122 minutes)

Over the past few years – I have made more of an effort to see "Oscar" pictures; as many of the Best Picture Nominees as possible.  It is always a bit of a chore for me because honestly, those types of movies really do not interest me.  In general, film-festival circuit/Oscar movies always seem to be very intense character-study dramas.  There is sometimes the odd musical or ‘comedy’ (the academy’s definition of comedy is very different from mine – one awkwardly mildly humorous scene does not a comedy make).   For the most part, the movies are brilliantly made, but depressing to watch.  This is usually why the Oscar movies do not have the box office that summer tentpole movies have:  while they may be quality, they do not have the mass appeal that whatever giant CGI popcorn fest of the year had.  On very few occasions, there is some crossover – Braveheart won best picture in 1995 (back when Mel was privately crazy, but not yet publicly crazy), Gladiator in 2000, and LOTR Return of the King in 2003 (it won 11 Oscars that year). 

Of the 9 nominated films for Best Picture last year – I ended up seeing 5 of them…and not liking any of them; well, the Descendants was at least a little watchable.  Of the 9 nominated films this year, I have seen 5 with plans to see 1 more.  I can tell you with complete honesty that I loved Argo – it was my second favorite movie of last year.  While Avengers was easily the best movie I saw all year (and for the last few years), Argo was surprisingly fun, entertaining, and really well made.  In slowly working through the remainder of the list, I managed to see Silver Linings Playbook.

David O. Russell, best known for the Fighter in 2010 – another Oscar movie I sort of liked – directs this “comedy” (it’s not a comedy – or, it’s a comedy in the same way The Beginners with Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer was – that is to say, not at all).  This is about a man, Pat; just pulled out of a mental institution early by his mother after having been institutionalized for beating man to near death after discovering him in the shower with his wife and being diagnosed as bipolar.  He goes back home to live with his parents, a quiet mother and a compulsive father, determined to do what is necessary to reconcile with his ex-wife.  Along the way he meets Tiffany, a young widow dealing with issues of her own.  The two become friends, do a lot of running, practice for a dance competition, and eventually fall in love.  The movie is not funny, but is an intense character-driven drama about Pat and Tiffany connecting and helping each other move on and forward. 

It is worth mentioning that the book was written in 2008, and while the movie seems to follow the book closely, there are some differences.  The Stevie Wonder song that haunts Pat in the movie was a Kenny G song in the book.  The dance contest is the climax of the movie – but seems to happen somewhere in the middle of the book.  Pat recognizes that Tiffany wrote the letter in the movie, in the book – there were several letters and Tiffany tells Pat she wrote them.   After this, Pat runs in a strange neighborhood, gets mugged and goes to the hospital, visits Nikki – sees she’s happy with her new family, then finally realizes he needs Tiffany.  So – I will say the movie sounds more concise and with a quicker, happier ending.  But – bear in mind, I still want to complain about the 2 + hour running time. 

·         Bradley Cooper does a good job with Pat, equal parts determined and confused as he attempts to move towards what he believes to be his goal.  This may be the best Cooper has ever been, but the character is so upsetting, it’s almost hard to pull for him.  Not entirely his fault though, being pulled out of the hospital early didn’t help, but refusing to take his medication is making it worse.  Pat is determined to normalize his life and look for the “silver linings” – there you go, title worked in.  He’ll always be Will from Alias to me – but he sure is good in this.

·         Jennifer Lawrence is very good – and is a lock for the Best Actress Oscar.  Again, I didn’t like the character, but not her fault.  She is processing being a widow at a very young age as best she can; which is not well at all.  Lawrence pulls off both tough and vunerable, almost at the same time.

·         Robert DeNiro plays Pat Sr., and is clearly compulsive – mainly about the Philadelphia Eagles.  You can draw your own conclusions as to whether or not mental illness runs in this family.  Admittedly, I have never been a fan of DeNiro; for the last few years, he seems to be playing the same character over and over again (Pacino seems to be doing this as well).  He is very good in this movie.  He wants to help his son, but also can’t get over his own issues and compulsions.

·         Jacki Weaver plays the mother; she’s also nominated, but it is a small role.  She’s not nearly as big a character as any of the others.  She pulls Pat out of the hospital trusting that what he needs to get better is to be at home. 

Each of the above four are nominated for the four big awards at the Oscars.  However, there are other people in the movie.

·         Chris Tucker has his first major film role since 1997 as another patient at the hospital.  He keeps leaving the hospital, saying that his treatment is done – then being picked up by staff stating he was not supposed to leave.  He does liven up the movie a bit – and it did make me realize I missed seeing him, and no – I’m not surprised he’s in this.  Remember how genius he was in The Fifth Element?

·         Anupam Kher (the dad from Bend it Like Beckham) plays Pat’s therapist – who he then meets up with at a football game. 

·         Julia Stiles and John Ortiz play married friends of Pat – and his ex-wife.  They host the dinner at which Pat meets Tiffany – so essentially this whole thing is their fault.

·         Dash Mihok plays the cop assigned to keep an eye on Pat now that he’s out of the hospital. 

I have reached the point in my life where I no longer apologize for not liking these types of movies.  In my jaded viewpoint, they sometimes feel like they are made for the purpose of winning awards.  I like movies for entertainment – to escape.  Something dramatic about the hard, cruel truth of mental illness – despite being really well put together and performed – makes no sense as a movie to me.  Now, this is only my opinion – I know there are lots of people out there who enjoy intense character dramas, and other festival-circuit fare.  I hated this movie (not as much as I hated the movie Flight), but I can tell you it was well done, and Lawrence for sure deserves the Oscar, and DeNiro too.  Personally, I would rather watch whatever nonsense is on SyFy on Saturday night; no thinking, no depressing reality – just total and complete fun craziness.

3 out of 10.  Only not getting a 2 because I gave Flight a 2 and I liked it a little better than that.  Gained points for Chris Tucker – who gives a really good performance.  Lost points for all the running.  Seriously, half the movie is running.   Lost points for the dance contest .  Lost points for the inevitable fight at a football game, not between our characters and fans of the opposing team, but between our characters and a bunch of racist fans of the same team.

Bonus video 1:  Bradley Cooper on Alias – remember how good that was?  Before J.J. Abrams got distracted by working on Lost?  Then Lost was good, but he got distracted by doing Mission Impossible movies and Alcatraz?  Then those were awesome but he started doing Star Trek?  And now Star Trek is awesome, but suddenly he’s doing Star Wars? 

Bonus Video 2:  The Fifth Element – one of my absolute favorite movies – Chris Tucker is great in this.

Bonus Video 3:  Cast Interviews

Monday, February 18, 2013

Movie Review: A Good Day to Die Hard (R - 97 minutes)

Die Hard, released in 1988 and starring a then little-known TV comedian, is the greatest action movie of all time.  That’s not just my opinion, that’s also the AFI opinion.  It featured an everyman hero who didn’t really want to be in that position, fighting to save his loved one against unbeatable odds.  Plus – it happened at Christmas, thus making it the perfect holiday film for years to come. 

It’s near flawless, and if you haven’t seen it (what’s wrong with you?!?) or haven’t seen it in a long time (again – same question), rent and watch it now.  The two true sequels – Die Hard 2 from 1990 and Die Hard with a Vengeance from 1995 are decent, if not great.  I favor the third over the second, but they each have some pretty great moments, without living up to the perfection of the original.

The fourth movie, Live Free or Die Hard (2007 – 12 years after the third movie), almost seems like a completely different story.  It basically could have been a Bruce Willis action flick, and not necessarily a “Die Hard” movie.  That is not something I felt with the two original sequels.  The fourth is a thrown together actioner where Timothy Olyphant uses computers to confuse John McClane, who is already confused as to why he is hanging out with Justin Long and why Kevin Smith shows up.

In the newest movie in the series – John McClane is heading to Russia to rescue his wayward son, Jack, who seems to be about to go on trial for murder.  Unbeknownst to McClane, Jack is actually a CIA agent, and on mission.  McClane screws up Jack’s plan, and hijinks ensue.  These hijinks include car chases, arguing, old Russian bureaucrats and scientists, slow-motion walking Russian judges, dancing villains, a visit to Chernobyl, uranium, and gunfights…multiple multiple gunfights.

Director John Moore is from Ireland and is perhaps best known for Flight of the Phoeniz, The Omen (2006 version), and Max Payne (so terrible).  He does a good job with this one, the action scenes are great – the car chases are fantastic.  There are some odd zoom in moments, but for the most part, I thought he did well.  I particularly like the characters jumping out of a building and the camera following them down into a pool.  I also appreciated all the homages to the original movie: the helicopter crash and the fire hose, and the bad guy’s demise.  It is a very similar demise to the original, where Alan Rickman had perhaps the best death scene of a villain in any movie, but this one has a twist – of the rotary variety.

The cast is standard action fare:

·         Bruce Willis as John McClane:  well, he could play him in his sleep by now.  He’s great, and old, and tired, but still looks completely capable kicking some ass.  I have always been a fan of his (I own his “Return of Bruno” CD), so I’m biased, but he’s fun and well aware of his age in this movie.

·         Jai Courtney as Jack – another Australian making good here, Courtney was just the heavy in Jack Reacher, but I will always think of him as Varro in Spartacus.  He’s great in this, the American accent is not bad, only seemed to slip a couple of times.  I hope to see him in much more.

·         Sebastian Koch plays Russian scientist Komarov, and Jack’s mission while in Russia.  He’s pretty good – his character does flip a switch I did not see coming.

·         Mary Elizabeth Winstead played Lucy McClane in the last movie and returns to play her here.  Small part, but good job.  Incidentally she was one of the better parts of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

·         Yuliya Snigir plays Irina, Komarov’s daughter, whose character had a flip I did see coming. 

·         Radivoje Bukvic plays Alik – the aforementioned dancing bad guy.  Seriously.  He’s actually pretty good, quietly menacing.

·         Cole Hauser is very briefly in this as Jack’s contact, but even more briefly, Leverage’s Aldis Hodge (and my pick for T’Challa if Marvel ever makes a Black Panther movie) is in this movie as a random CIA operative.  And I do mean briefly – don’t blink.  This is worth mentioning because Aldis and his brother Edwin (last seen in last year's Red Dawn remake) were the two kids at the beginning of Die Hard 3 with Sam Jackson.

Overall, it’s not nearly as bad as I was expecting.  True – it’s nowhere near the original Die Hard, but then what is?  Besides Under Siege?  Check it out – don’t set your expectations too high, it’s a good enough action picture, but not a Die Hard movie.

7 out of 10.  Gained points for Komarov asking after Jack leads him and McClane down a ladder and over some roofs, “does he know how old we are?”  Lost points for the motorcycle outfit unzipping that you see in all the trailers, a completely useless scene only there to get a half-naked-chick shot in.  Gained points for McClane being almost as confused in this one as he was in the last one.

Bonus Video 1:  The much maligned Hudson Hawk.  I love this movie, and I’m one of the only ones…but, just in case you forgot about it –

Bonus Video 2:  I loved season 1 of Spartacus (RIP Andy Whitfield) – here’s a clip of Whitfield and Courtney preparing for a scene in which they’ve been punished by being thrown into a ‘pit’.

Bonus Video 3:  The best thing Cole Hauser has ever done – Pitch Black.

Bonus Video 4:  Cast Interviews!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Movie Review: Bullet To The Head (R - 92 minutes)

I recently gave a favorable review to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s newest flick: The Last Stand.  Mainly because it’s hilariously over-the-top, and Arnold does a great job of acknowledging the fact that he’s old, and only getting older.  I’m not sure I can say the same for Sylvester Stallone. 

While I have a long list of Schwarzenegger favorites, it’s much harder to pick a Stallone favorite.  While Rocky did win the best picture Oscar in 1976, I’m not a crazy big fan of it – I actually prefer Rocky IV.  First Blood was good but then was tainted by the multiple sequels.  I still love pointing out that he wrote Staying Alive, because everyone seems to forget that he’s actually a good writer.  You’re not going to believe this, but I will tell you that my favorite Stallone movie is Oscar from 1991.  It’s a comedy, set in the 30s, and Stallone plays a gangster trying to give up his life of crime and go straight and based on (of all things) a French play from 1958. 

It’s witty, silly, funny, and always makes me laugh out loud.  I have often wondered if Stallone would do more comedy, but Oscar, and his other comedic attempts (I will not mention Stop – or My Mom Will Shoot) have largely been panned by both fans and critics.  I would like to see both he and Arnold age gracefully enough to slowly step into ensemble pieces, and supporting roles. 

With Bullet To The Head – it would seem that Stallone has no intention of doing anything of the sort.  This movie looks and feels exactly like a late 80s/early 90s direct to DVD action flick.  Now, there is nothing wrong with that, except of course that Dolph Lundgren has cornered that market – and I expect more from Stallone.

Bullet to the Head was adapted for the screen by the same man (Alexis Nolent) who wrote the Graphic Novel (Du Plomb Dans La Tete – French) on which it is based.   Having not read that, I can’t tell you if it is an accurate translation or not, but it does feel very pulp-y and graphic novel-y.  It was directed by Walter Hill – who is super-familiar with big time 80s/90s action flicks, having directed The Warriors, 48 Hours, Red Heat, Johnny Handsome, Undisputed and SuperNova (which is crazy and if you haven’t seen it –Peter Facinelli goes crazy and attacks Angela Basset, LDP, and James Spader).  Lately he’s mostly been directing TV shows.  The strange thing is, this was originally going to be directed by Wayne Kramer with Thomas Jane starring in the number 2 role.  Kramer clashed with Stallone over the tone (Stallone can be very controlling about his projects – just what I’ve heard) and quit the project.  Thomas Jane suggested Walter Hill as a director (Jane knows his classic action pieces), Hill cam on, and brought Joel Silver to produce the movie.  Silver decided he wanted a more “ethnic” actor in the number 2 role and fired Jane to hire Sung Kang.  If the behind-the-scenes is this disjointed, it’s not surprising that the finished product is disjointed.

The tone does jump around from deadly serious to bizarre buddy-action back-and-forth dialogue, and is very inconsistent throughout the movie.  Stallone is difficult to understand on a good day – and seems to Bale-style-Batman his voice for this particular character.  He’s overly tough and cocky, which is fine – but seems oddly forced here.  He plays a New Orleans hitman who loses a partner on a job.  Sung Kang plays the D.C. cop who comes into town investigating the death of his own partner.  Apparently the crimes are connected, and the two team up (reluctantly) to ‘go after’ the bad guys: Kang to ‘bring them in’ and Stallone to ‘put them down’.  The potential is there for some great back and forth, but it mainly comes off as awkward and uncomfortable.  Even the couple of “hey- you’re an Asian guy” schtick (which was so much better done in Showdown in Little Tokyo) bits were flat and uncomfortable.

The cast is somewhat surprising in this movie:

·         Stallone as Jimmy BoBo (no, seriously, Jimmy BoBo) is fine, but again – if he had half of the ‘aging’ nonsense that Arnold pulled off....  He still looks huge, to the point where I was a little grossed out by his super veiny arms. 

·         Sung Kang is best known from all the Fast/Furious movies, and from the spectacular Ninja Assassin, and is actually pretty good in this – well paced and natural, but has nothing surrounding him to help out.  The budding relationship between his character and BoBo’s daughter would have been interesting, but is mainly left up to the audience’s imagination.

·         Speaking of which, Sarah Shahi from TV’s Life and Fairly Legal, sports a bunch of fake tattoos to play the daughter.  She is okay, but again – flat because there’s nothing really for her to do.

·         Adewale Akinnoye-Agbaje – the best part of the Mummy Returns (well, one of the best parts – that giant Rock/Scorpion thing was pretty cool) plays the politician behind the plot.  Knowing how fit he is from seeing him in G.I.Joe: Rise of Cobra, watching him fake walk around with crutches in this movie was humorous.  He’s slick and evil – and does a good job treating everyone as though they are dispensible.

·         Christian Slater – who hasn’t been in theater-released movie in 8 years – shows up as the lawyer; because these types of plots always have a lawyer.  It was great to see him super smarmy and weasel-y. 

·         John Seda plays the hitman who gets offed in the beginning – not much to say there; likewise with Brian Van Holt, who has one scene – but it’s pretty entertaining…I mean – how often does someone get to say, “Stallone killed me in a bath-house.”

·       "New Conan" Jason Momoa from Game of Thrones and Stargate Atlantis plays the heavy.  He’s the henchman of the villains until he has enough and strikes out on his own.  Plays a mercenary, and seems to be in the movie for the exclusive reason of showing off those combat skills he learned for Conan.  He looks amazing doing it – seriously, that dude is crazy beautiful.

All in all – weak story, flat characters, okay acting, some good action sequences.  I can’t recommend you pay full price, but if you’re a huge Stallone fan check it out.
6 out of 10, just over average.  Lost points for Stallone’s attempt at one-liners, just terrible.  Gained points for Slater being weird.  Lost points for the PTS…come on – it’s not 1989.  Gained points for the fight sequence at the end. 

Bonus Video 1:  SuperNova Trailer – I told you, it’s weird.  You should still rent it.

Bonus Video 2:  Bits from Showdown in Little Tokyo – I know, I know, I keep mentioning it…but it’s how movies like this are supposed to be – silly and fun!

Bonus Video 3:  Ninja Assassin – bloody good ninja action.

Bonus Video 4:  Cast Interviews!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Movie Review: Identity Thief (R - 112 Minutes)


The Seth Gordon directed Horrible Bosses was one of the funniest movies of 2011.  If you haven’t seen it, check it out, especially if you’ve ever been trapped in a job working for someone you could not deal with.  It is truly funny, and earns the R with both harsh language and raunchy situations. 

This year marks the second feature film directed by Seth Gordon, Identity Thief.  This movie is not quite as funny as Horrible Bosses, but has a lot more heart. 

Jason Bateman stars as a hapless Denver businessman, Sandy Patterson, who is on the brink of a new job that will help to solve the financial problems he and his pregnant wife are facing (they already have two daughters). 
Suddenly, he begins to run into difficulties as a woman, Diana, in Florida steals his identity and starts to run up insane charges on his credit cards (she buys a jetski, and parks it in her front yard).  Because the Denver police won’t go down to Florida to pick her up, Sandy decides to go down to Florida and pick her up, bring her back, convince her to talk to his boss so he can get his job back, then secretly have the police waiting to arrest her.   He gets her, and hijinks ensue:  they have to avoid hitmen, a bounty hunter, a randy car salesman, and her ongoing and attempt to flee. 

The trick to any comedy, especially one that has only two main characters, is a bunch a strong supporting funny characters.  The cast in this movie is funny and makes the most of the time they have.

·         Melissa McCarthy as Diana is, once again, hilarious.  The character of Diana is way over the top and ridiculous, but does get some moments to have genuine touching scenes that made me again appreciate how talented she is, and what she is capable of.  Keep your eyes open for her husband, Ben Falcone, with a great cameo as a hilarious desk clerk at a hotel.

·         Jason Bateman is always funny as the ‘straight man’ in the midst of comedy nonsense.  If you don’t believe that, go back and watch some Arrested Development.  He does a great job in this movie, is absolutely believable as a regular guy who has to take this crazy trip to make sure his family will be provided for.  The touching scenes between Bateman and McCarthy are fantastic – and prove that both of them have abilities beyond raunchy comedies.  However, they are at their best with the all-out improve comedy sequences, and again – I cannot wait for the gag reel.

·         Amanda Peet has the small role of Patterson’s wife.  She’s pretty good in the few scenes they have.  I haven’t seen her onscreen in a while, and I liked her quiet subtle performance in this.

·         Robert Patrick inexplicably shows up as a bounty hunter, who comes off as a cross between Dog the Bounty Hunter and Ralph Garmin’s Dog the Bounty Hunter rip-off on the Joe Schmo Show.  He is actually very funny, and a little scary, as he attempts to hunt down Diana.

·         Jon Favreau steps in as Patterson’s boss, who really could have fit into Horrible Bosses.

·         T.I. and Genesis Rodriguez play cartel hitmen that are after Diana.  I wasn’t entirely clear on why they were after her – something about credit cards she sold them.  They are both capable in this, and play scary and tough just fine.  T.I. was actually surprising and might have potential in comedies, but man, so much Atlanta in his accent that he’s tough to understand.

·         Morris Chesnut plays the Denver cop who won’t go down to Florida.  He plays the charater very reassuring, while at the same time, doing absolutely nothing to help.  It’s a small part, so he’s just fine.

·         John Cho is a little underused as Patterson’s new boss.  Knowing that he’s capable of truly hilarious over-the-top comedy, it’s a little disappointing that his character is so straight-laced. 

·         Eric Stonestreet might be the one who steals this movie.  Yes, he’s funny (and Emmy nominated) on Modern Family.  His turn in this as “Big Chuck” is fantastic, hilarious, and again – surprisingly touching!

All in all, I thought this was very funny.  Again, not as funny as Horrible Bosses, and I’m sorry to keep comparing it to that, but it’s the only other thing this director has done.  It’s funny, and has some really surprising touching moments.  You’ll like it, you may not love it.
7out of 10.  Gained points for Robert Patrick – funny.  Lost points for T.I. – I want him to do more comedies, but with a dialect coach.  Gained points for the fight scenes between Bateman and McCarthy.  Lost points for not letting John Cho be funnier.  Lost points for not playing the gag reel over the end credits – come on people, always put the gag reel over the credits!!

Bonus Video 1:  Horrible Bosses Gag Reel

Bonus Video 2:  Ralph Garmin playing Jake Montrose on The Joe Schmo Show – you should be watching  this show.

Bonus Video 3:  Cast Interviews!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Movie Review: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (R - 88 minutes)

The original story of Hansel and Gretel was written by the Brothers Grimm and was published in 1812.  The story is typical of the Grimms and is brutal and dark.  Two children, whose stepmother decides due to a famine, she and her husband can no longer feed the children; has the children taken out into the woods and abandoned.  The first time she tries this, the children take white pebbles with them to lay a trail they can follow in the moonlight back to the house.  The stepmother tries again, and the children use breadcrumbs, which birds eat, and so they become lost.  They stumble across a cottage built of candy and gingerbread.  The children are hungry, and start to eat the house.  The house is owned by a witch, who catches the children and forces Gretel to clean, and Hansel to eat, in an attempt to fatten him up and eat him.  She cannot see well, and Hansel keeps holding up a bone instead of his finger to make the witch think that he is not gaining weight.  Eventually the witch plans to eat Gretel, she demonstrates how she wants Gretel to bend near the oven, and Gretel shoves the witch into the oven, slams and bolts the door, then listens to the witch screaming in pain until she dies.  Gretel frees Hansel, they find precious gems in the house, get carried across an expanse of water by swans (what?), and end up back at home with their father – the stepmother has conveniently died.  With the stolen gems, they live happily ever after.

Flash forward to 2013, and we are treated to the super-short and crazy entertaining Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.  This movie is 88 minutes, and in a January filled with three hour depressing Oscar movies, it’s a huge relief.  And – as I have stated before, I love movies that do not take themselves seriously and everyone in them is having a great time.  Again, a great example of this is any movie on SyFy Saturday night; or, my favorite, Kull the Conqueror – delightfully terrible.

In Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola’s movie, Hansel and Gretel are now adults.  Gone is the evil stepmother, replaced by two loving parents who took the children into the woods one day to protect them.  Having defeated the candy house witch as children, they grow up and become famous witch bounty hunters/killers.  They are hired by a town to come and rid them of their witch problem.  The witches are stealing children from the town – looking to collect 6 boys and 6 girls, each born in one of the 12 months.  Hansel and Gretel, now hardened witch-killers with their own custom weapons, take the case, and end up finding Muriel, the witch behind the plot.  She’s looking to collect the children to perform a blood moon ritual with the heart of a white witch to protect her from fire, which, as you know, is a witch’s greatest enemy, just like the Martian Manhunter.  Hansel and Gretel meet a young fan of theirs, a witch hunter in the making; tackle a bunch of witches with surprisingly fast brooms and even more surprisingly good hand to hand combat skills; interact with a troll named Edward; belittle the town’s sheriff; and hook up with a white witch named Mina (well, Hansel does).  In the end (spoiler alert), they foil the witches plot, and ride off into the sunset with their new sidekicks to continue fighting witches.

In case you were confused about the type of movie this is, it's produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay.  Wirkola has stated that he’s a fan of Tarantino and Sam Raimi, and you can see some old school Raimi tributes here and there.  He sets up the tone immediately by showing a farmer selling his milk in glass jars, with illustrations of missing children strapped to them.   He does a great job directing the action, which is really all that is important in this movie.  The dialogue scenes are fine, just not nearly as entertaining.  Again, I love the length of this movie.  At just under an hour and a half, it’s fast and fun.  It does earn the R, with some f-bombs, and some blood and gore, all of which make for some really fun nonsense.  Everyone in the movie is clearly enjoying themselves; no-one is taking anything too seriously.

The casting in this is pretty great:

·         Jeremy Renner got this job before Mission Impossible, Avengers, and More Bourne.   One of the reasons this was postponed from the March 2012 opening date was that there were two large Renner movies coming out that year.  He’s great in this, lighthearted and fun; does most of his own stunts; and almost convincingly pulls off 1800s diabetes.

·         Gemma Arterton plays Gretel and seems to really enjoy kicking witch ass.  She handles the revelation of being a white witch (spoiler alert) pretty well, and gets to do a lot of cursing, which doesn’t really seem to fit, but what the heck, you have to earn that R.  She does get some pretty great hand-to-hand combat sequences, taking on 5 of the sheriff’s men before Edward the troll shows up and literally stomps the hell out of them.

·         Famke Janssen stated that she took this role to pay her mortgage, and complained about the three hours of makeup daily.  However, I have to say, I don’t think I’ve seen her have more fun with a role in anything prior to this.  She’s pure evil, and seems to relish it.
·         Norwegian Actress Piha Viitala plays Mina, who the town was about to burn at the stake as a witch, but Hansel and Gretel save her, stating that she doesn’t have the witch-rot (you know, the witch-rot).  I’ve never seen her in anything before, and her character’s plot twist (?) is predictable, but entertaining.

·         Thomas Mann from the upcoming Beautiful Creatures (also a witch movie) plays the Hansel and Gretel superfan who becomes one of their new sidekicks.  He does a good job of geeking out at them even when Hansel uses him as a shield to block an exploding dude filled with grubs – seriously - that happens.

·         The hilariously crazy Peter Stomare plays the town Sheriff.  He seems to be in this just to take abuse from Gretel, and provide some nonsensical comic relief.  He’s better in this than he was in The Brothers Grimm (which was one of the worst movies I had ever seen), but worse than he was in Constantine (he was absolutely the best part of that nonsense). 
I have read some other reviews which point out the unpretentiousness as a shortcoming, but in my opinion – it’s all positive.  The opening credit sequence is beautifully done – all old-timey illustrations.  Another reason I absolutely loved this was the shocking amount of practical effects.  Wirkola has stated coming up making movies in Norway, he had no money to afford CGI.  When he does use it, he likes it to just be used to polish up his practical effects.  There are three witches that we follow through most of the movie, and each of their makeups is fantastic.  At the end, during the blood moon ritual, there are dozens of witches, each of which has their own amazing practical crazy makeup.  That scene could have been a SyFy Face Off challenge.  Also – every time a witch flies off on her broom (which are really just sticks), it’s mostly all done with wire work.  And, there are surprisingly well choreographed hand to hand combat sequences.  Honestly, the witches are ninja-like and beat the hell out of Hansel and Gretel.  The sets are beautiful; the costumes are great; the custom-made weapons that Hansel and Gretel carry around are big time fun.  I haven’t even mentioned the fabulous troll – which is Derek Mears (my third favorite creature actor, behind Brian Steele and Doug Jones) in a fantastic troll suit/makeup.
I loved this – it’s easily the best thing I’ve seen all year so far (okay, that’s only three movies, but you know what I mean).  It's silly, it's crazy, it's violent and bloody, it's terrible, and it's fun.  As long as you don’t take it seriously, and you know what you’re getting into, you’ll have a good time.
8 out of 10 – gained points for the witch makeups; lost points for the exploding grub-filled dude, ick; gained points for the candy house set – it looks good enough to eat; gained points for the fight scenes, awesome.

Bonus Video 1:  Face Off on SyFy, again – if you’re not watching this, you should be.

Bonus Video 2: HellBoy 2 – Guillermo del Toro is one of my favorite directors, and the HellBoy movies have amazing practical effects as well.

Bonus Video 3:  Stomare playing the devil in Constantine.

Bonus Video 4:  cast Interviews!