We Want Action: Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters (2013)

hansel and gretel witch hunters I’ve been pretty tired lately, which means I’ve started a lot of movies and left them half-watched at best. Yesterday I was trying to figure out the last time I actually finished a flick and realized it was just last weekend when the wife and I gave Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters a watch. I didn’t know much about the film aside from seeing the trailers and a vague understanding that it didn’t do very well, at least in the States. Apparently people wanted a serious film about witch hunters starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, but instead got a tongue-in-cheek spin on things.

The Tommy Wirkola written and directed film kicks off as anyone familiar with the fairy tale would expect, with the title kids wandering through the woods, finding a house made of candy and getting into it with a witch. After that, they grow up and travel around acing witches for fun and profit. The main thrust of this story finds them in a particular town with a witch problem that turns out to be much bigger and more revelatory than they expected.

Sounds pretty rad, right? And it is, but there’s also a jokey layer of the film that probably got on a few nerves. For instance, Hansel is diabetic after being force-fed candy by the witch and injects himself with a substance, presumably insulin or something like it, every time his wristwatch goes off. I think it’s actually a really clever idea, but obviously anachronistic. If that’s the kind of thing that will turn you off too much from enjoying a fun action romp with a TON of decapitations, then you should probably skip Hansel & Gretel. If you have a sense of humor to go along with movie-based blood lust, then I think this will be your jam.

A big reason I found the film so enjoyable was because of the cast. I enjoyed Renner in Avengers, but let’s be honest, Hawkeye’s not really a character for most of his scenes. This is what I wanted from that film: a cocky hero who’s really good at shooting things. I’m not super familiar with Arterton aside from seeing her in Quantum Of Solace and Pirate Radio, but I really enjoyed seeing her play a strong, badass lady who’s equal to her brother in the witch hunting game if not better. Famke Jannsen also seemed to have a great time as uber-witch Muriel just rolling through the film chewing scenery and reveling in her badness.¬†Plus, Peter Stormare is in this thing. That guy earned my fandom from Prison Break and I still get excited every time I see him skulk onto screen.

There’s even a few fun plot elements that weren’t exactly mind blowing, but still enjoyable. The troll looked rad and it features some of the coolest movie weapons I’ve seen in a while. Who wouldn’t want one of those side-shooting crossbow thingies? So cool. If that sounds like the kind of thing you want to see on screen, give Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters a look. It’s even on Netflix, so it’s easy to get at!

Lockout (2012) Is Awesome

Ho. Lee. Crap. When I first started seeing trailers for Lockout earlier this year, I knew I’d like it. You know why? Because it was a little movie, not well advertised and yet it just looked so damn cool. It looked like the kind of movie that John Carpenter would have made in the 80s and, really, it is: “Escape From New York in a space prison.” That’s a very apt description, one that I used when explaining this movie to a friend the other day. Basically, Lockout is like a Neil Marshall or Neveldine & Talyor movie, the kind of thing you watch and say, “Man, they do NOT make movies like this anymore!”

Co-directors and co-writers James Mather and Stephen St. Leger know the kinds of films they like and made a movie that fits in with them without being too, too homage-y. In the future, prisons are actually these huge ships in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Guy Pearce’s Snow is a CIA agent who gets framed for murder and is offered the chance to make things right by heading into one of the prisons after a visit from the President’s daughter (Maggie Grace) incites a riot and breakout. From there, Pearce gets dropped into the prison, teams up with Grace and goes about trying to save her and clear his name.

It’s a pretty simple plot that gets a little more twisty and turn-y at the very end, but for the most part it’s a straightforward action movie the likes of which you just don’t see anymore. When I say that I mean that this is a pretty high concept film that did a surprisingly good job when it comes to special effects while still being fun and exciting. I did some looking over on Box Office Mojo, though, and it doesn’t seem like this movie was a huge success. It cost $20 million to make, but only made $28 million worldwide, so while it obviously made its money back, that’s not a huge return on investment.¬† Interestingly, Lockout actually grossed more then Escape from New York with that film making $25 million in 1981.

I want to see more movies like this and hope people keep giving Mather and Leger money to make flicks because, if nothing else, they showed that you can do a helluva lot with not a lot of money (in Hollywood terms). Also, I would very much like to play a video game based on this film, so if someone could make that happen, I’d be a happy dude.

Halloween Scene: The Batman Vs. Dracula (2005)

Did anyone else watch The Batman? It was a pretty rad cartoon that got off to a slow start in my opinion. What bogged the show down, for me, was that the first season or so just introduced all of the various Batman villains, something I’ve seen in several incarnations over my many years of being a Batfan. It eventually went on to feature Batgirl and Robin, team up the various villains with each other and even bring in the Justice League. It wasn’t up to the same caliber as Batman: The Animated Series or as fun as Batman: Brave and the Bold, but it was a fun little series from the episodes I saw (it lasted 5 seasons, one of which included an awesome rendition of Dark Knight Returns). The figures they put out were super cool too.

What first grabbed my attention about the series though was this straight-to-DVD movie which pitted Bats against everyone’s favorite vampire. I had heard it was pretty good, but never got around to watching it until last night as I played a little Russian roulette with my NetBox queue and landed on or near it. And it was pretty freakin rad. You never know with something like this how vampy it will get. It is a WB cartoon afterall and these are the guys who edited the crap out of the Batman Beyond: The Return Of The Joker movie (another one I need to check out, which is also on NetBox).

So, no, you don’t get full-on scenes of Batman staking vampires, but you do see vamp versions of The Joker and Vicky Vale and Batman fighting off the undead with batarangs. Batman of course develops a cure for vampirism that he injects into every single vampire in a fight scene straight out of the Arkham Asylum game (but, you know, three years early).

Lack of blood and guts aside, this is a super fun movie. You know how a lot of vampire (especially Dracula movies, like 1979’s Dracula) are really boring in the beginning? Well, with this one, you start with an Akrham breakout, action with Joker and Penguin (Penguin goes on to take the Renfield role), Dracula hunting victims, a party at Wayne Manor that Drac attends, Batman fighting Drac, Batman fighting VampJoker and the big final battle. The fight scenes are rad, on the level of JLU and it’s especially fun seeing Batman actually losing his first fight with Dracula. It’s even more fun to see the vamp-fighting gear that he and Alfred develop to level the playing field and give Batman the final victory. Speaking of the final fight, it’s a hard fought one for Batman and Alfred that includes a pretty great “smoke clearing reveal” scene and Batman getting a pretty fantastic one-liner in before, well, before the end. I don’t want to spoil it as it’s pretty cool.

All in all, it’s probably one of the better Dracula movies I’ve seen (at least one of the more action-packed ones)and it gave me something I didn’t think I’d ever seen in animated form: Batman fighting a vampire Joker. Plus, it’s an easy 83 minute watch and it’s on instant watch, what more do you need?