Tag Archives: retelling

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters – Review

30 Jun

I’m the kind of person that loves defending my guilty pleasure movies, especially the 2004 action/fantasy/horror film Van Helsing. There are certain movies that you have to go in to and just forget about all the rules and be able to switch your brain off for a little bit. Those are some of my favorite kinds of movies, and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters definitely falls into the brainless category. Here’s the thing, this certainly can’t be objectively classified as a “good movie.” Sure. What I can personally classify it as is a new guilty pleasure that could have used just a little bit more energy.

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After surviving a traumatic encounter with a witch in her house of candy (we’ve all heard the story), Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) dedicate their lives to hunting down and slaying witches. It’s a bloody business, but somebody has to do it, and they just so happen to do it well. After being hired by the town’s mayor, the duo arrive in Augsburg to take on a job to catch a group of witches that have been taking children from the town. What starts out as a run of the mill mission for the two witch hunters ultimately turns into something completely different when they learn that they are dealing with a grand witch named Muriel (Famke Jannsen), who has powers far greater than anyone they’ve ever faced. As blood continues to be spilled by the gallons, Hansel and Gretel gear up for their final confrontation with Muriel, and a more mysterious confrontation with their own past.

So let’s just get the obvious out of the way. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is not meant to be taken seriously, and anyone who tries to take it with even an ounce of seriousness will begin nitpicking at the most unimportant little flaws, and therefore miss the point of the entire movie. The film’s writer/director, Tommy Wirkola, is no stranger to the world of ridiculous movies. After all, he’s the guy who made Dead Snow and its sequel. This is a movie that is meant to be viewed as just a silly way to escape from reality for a short while, and the movie does its job… sort of. Alright, yeah, it could’ve been better.

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I’m gonna start with the negatives, because they’re just no fun at all. Some of the writing in this movie is shockingly awful, and I’m not talking about the one liners. I love the one liners. I’m talking about the characters and their interactions with one another. As the movie progressed and the action scenes would take a break, the characters seemed like they were trying to develop and form relationships with one another, but it just never happened. This made it hard to care about when something good or bad happened to anyone. Even if you aren’t meant to take a movie seriously, you still have to care about what happens. There were also a few characters that were wasted before they even had the potential to do anything. It would’ve been cool to see Hansel and Gretel team up with a few more people to take down this gang of witches, but I’ll take what I can get. Finally, Famke Janssen’s acting got a liiiiiiiittle too annoying for me to handle at points. She just doesn’t pull of the “over the top evil” thing as well as others.

Let’s be real though, this is a movie I’m going to remember and have fun talking about, because it’s a movie that looked like it was a blast to write and even more of a blast to make. There’s style in every inch of this movie. It’s steam punk meets a Grimm fairy tale, complete with exploding heads, some excellent make up, and Gemma Arterton… I love this woman. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that this movie is a treat (no pun intended). I feel like in a world of remakes and reboots, it’s cool to see a completely unique twist on something that is very well known, a twist that is packed to the brim with imagination. You can sort of feel Wirkola’s passion about this film leaping off the screen. This is a movie he wanted to make, and it shows, even though there are major flaws. Despite the flaws, you have to admire the attention and focus that Wirkola seemed to put into making his vision come to life.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is not a movie that’s going to be forgotten too soon, like it or not. I can almost guarantee that in ten or twenty years time, people will still be using it as an excuse to create a new drinking game, and those people have the right idea. This is a movie made purely to entertain, no matter how you watch it. There’s a lot of sloppiness splattered throughout the entire hour and a half run time, but the movie never loses its fast pace and its sly, self aware sense of humor. If you go into this movie expecting to hate it or expecting anything that is going to challenge your cinematic sensibilities, just relax. Remember how to have fun, just for a little bit, and you might just have a good laugh.

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Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

8 Oct

I’m gonna just come out and say it. I’ve never Masaki Kobayashi’s 1962 samurai classic, Harakiri. That being said, I can’t really compare these two movies. Today, I’m going to be talking about Takashi Miike’s 2011 retelling, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai. I knew that Miike was capable of successfully crafting a samurai movie after his expertly made remake of 13 Assassins. The difference between these films is how he goes about telling the story. 13 Assassins is a quick paced action film that delivers on the goods when it comes to swordplay. Hara-Kiri, on the other hand, is most certainly not an action film. This is a slow paced family drama that tells of how the caste system in this time period spelled doom for the unworthy.

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On a day like any other the House of Li gets a visitor by the name of Tsugumo Hanshiro (Ichikawa Ebizō Xl), a poverty stricken ronin who asks if he may use the house’s courtyard to perform a ritual suicide. Before a decision is made, Hanshiro is told a story about another ronin, Motome (Eita), who came to the house a few months earlier for the same reason. It turns out that he was bluffing in order for pity to be shown on him, and maybe some money given to him. He is brutally killed for this. Hanshiro then tells a story of his own; a story where he reveals his relation to Motome and the reason behind his bluff. Tensions rise as he tells his story of family, death, and his goal of revenge.

This is a strange movie for a director like Takashi Miike to take on considering his filmography, which is out of this world I might add, consisting of over 90 movies. Look at films like AuditionGuzo, and his controversial Masters of Horror film Imprint. These are brutally violent horror films, and while he does work in other genres, he’s known as being one of the leading horror icons in Japanese cinema. Therefore, to even think that he could tackle a dramatic samurai film such as this is surprising. He handles Hara-Kiri like he’s been making movies like this his whole life. This is a legitimately excellent samurai drama that may leave some in the cold who were expecting an action packed movie with memorable sequences of swordplay.

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Ichikawa Ebizō Xl in his role as Hanshiro may actually be the best part of this movie. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this actor before, but he reminded me a lot of Toshiro Mifune, the go to actor of Japanese film legend Akira Kurosawa. He brings a feeling of gravity to all of his scenes, whether it’s joyful, angry, or downright somber. Another person who deserves a great deal of credit is Miike’s cinematographer Nobuyasu Kita, who again feels like he could’ve been doing this 50 or 60 years ago when samurai movies were at their height. He makes the scenery really pop in this movie, but also makes the climax of this movie look absolutely beautiful. It was all together a big team effort that really pays off big time in the end.

This is also an interesting samurai movie because it deals with a theme that feels fresh to me. In most of the films involving samurai and their code, their way of life makes them strong and excellent warriors capable of bringing the most powerful of armies to their knees. This is not the case in Hara-Kiri. This film explores the negative side of the samurai code and dares us to think of how honorable they could have actually been. Sure they fought bravely in battle and offered their services, but only to those who were able to pay. The very last line of dialogue sums up the entire movie in a very ironic way, and is an excellent coda to such a thematically powerful film.

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai is an excellent addition to Takashi Miike’s stunning filmography. The fact that he has made so many quality movies is a pretty remarkable feat. This is not a movie that will leave you on the edge of your seat or one that will it give you a surge of adrenaline. This is a thinking man’s samurai film with themes that question what honor the samurais actually had. If you’re a fan of samurai films or even of Takashi Miike’s work, you have to check out this movie. It sums up his talent pretty damn well.