“In the bleak midwinter…”
From Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola comes Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, a 3D action flick that re-imagines the grown Grimm children (played by Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) as bounty hunters. Though business is good, the pair suffer a setback when Gretel is held captive by an evil witch (Famke Janssen), leaving Hansel to go in with arrows blazing to rescue his sister from the sorceress’ clutches. After making a mark in the Mission: Impossible, Avengers, and Bourne franchises, this silly-looking revised fairy tale seems like an odd choice for Renner, whose upcoming collaborations with James Gray and David O. Russell are far more encouraging. Still, some hope remains thanks to Wirkola’s last major film, the Nazi zombie horror/comedy Dead Snow, which my Norwegian source (yes, he exists) informs me is wonderful.
Over a decade after The Transporter turned him into a global superstar, I remain surprised at Jason Statham’s action-hero success. While I continue to find it strange that the wise-cracking Brit from Guy Richie’s Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch is kicking international butt, the rest of the world has moved on and embraced his more popular persona. The pattern continues with Parker, in which Statham’s titular thief seeks revenge after being double-crossed. Directed by the capable Taylor Hackford (Ray, D0lores Claiborne) and with a supporting cast (Nick Nolte, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Chiklis, Bobby Canavale, Clifton Collins Jr., etc.) that could be a lot worse, the potential for some mindless fun is certainly there. After the high bar set by The Last Stand, however, Parker may very well look conventional by comparison.
Movie 43 sports a Who’s Who cast, multiple big-name directors, and promises to push the boundaries of comedy. What it’s actually about remains to be seen. IMDB describes it as “[a] series of interconnected short films [that] follows three kids as they search the depths of the Internet to find the most banned movie in the world.” The trailer suggests all sorts of offensive, gross-out bits given legitimacy by recognizable faces. If I escape with a few good laughs and my dignity, I’ll consider it a victory.
Fleeing the Scene
With the DVD less than a month away, Argo ends its impressive run at the Carolina, but could very well land at Cinebarre between now and the February 24th Oscar telecast. By contrast, the only thing impressive about A Haunted House is that it will no longer plague our lovely town.
The excellent musical mystery Searching for Sugar Man has been nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar and is my favorite of the five contenders. Unable to charm the Academy in his follow-up to the beloved Precious is Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy, an unfairly maligned pulpy Southern sizzler. Similarly ignored awards-wise is the found-footage cop drama End of Watch, which would be my nominee for Worst Cinematography, though I’d write in Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena for Best Camaraderie.
As for films that didn’t play locally, there’s For a Good Time, Call…, about a pair of phone-sex entrepreneurs (frequent comedy scene-stealers Lauren Miller and Ari Graynor), and a pair of direct-to-DVD action sequels, Death Race 3: Inferno and Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, both of which have been widely praised.
On Netflix Instant
Leading the way are several well-reviewed festival films of the past year. Indie rom-com The Giant Mechanical Man has been on my radar since it played at Tribeca ’12, thanks to its adrift-30somethings story and a cast that includes Chris Messina, Jenna Fischer, Topher Grace, Malin Akerman, Rich Sommer, and Bob Odenkirk. The French thriller Sleepless Night is beloved for a supposedly phenomenal fight scene that takes place in a kitchen and its trailer suggests a top-flight action film overall. Also promising is the Civil Rights documentary Booker’s Place: A Mississippi Story.
On the more mainstream level is Orlando Bloom’s return to leading-man status as a blackmailed young physician in The Good Doctor. Last and perhaps least is the mistaken-identity sperm donor comedy The Switch, starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman, the latter of whom will thankfully soon be seen in new episodes of Arrested Development.