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Review: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Haunted by a nasty childhood experience with an evil witch and a house made out of confectionery, Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton and her duck face) have turned into bounty hunters as adults, now tracking down and killing witches all over Europe. In the town of Augsburg they take on the assignment of tracking and killing the witch who has abducted the town’s children to prepare for an upcoming Blood Moon ritualistic sacrifice. Famke Janssen plays Muriel, a powerful witch with a past slowly revealed, whilst the always nutty Peter Stormare plays the nasty local sheriff who takes an instant dislike to Hansel and Gretel after they interfere in a would-be witch-burning where Hansel thinks the intended guilty party is likely innocent.

A sure-fire turd of the first order...wait, this film actually isn’t bad? Colour me seriously surprised. The ads made this 2013 film from writer/director Tommy Wirkola (whose “Dead Snow” was a disappointing Nazi zombie flick that nonetheless …

Review: West of Memphis

A re-telling of the trial of the ‘West Memphis 3’; Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and intellectually impaired Jesse Misskelley, charged with the murders of three young boys in Arkansas in 1993. The locals wanted blood, and these Metallica-loving defendants, especially Wicca enthusiast Echols, seemed like good enough culprits and were relatively quickly convicted with the belief that they were Devil-worshipping Satanists who killed the boys in some kind of penis-eating ritual. Yes, this really happened (this is in the Bible-belt of America, remember), and Echols was even given a death sentence. The “Paradise Lost” trilogy of documentaries detailed the trial and convictions, and argued that these three young men were railroaded (Misskelley’s ‘confession’ was embarrassingly inept and clearly led by the cops looking for an open and shut case) and pointed to other suspects.

This film details efforts made by New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson and wife/co-producer Fran Walsh, in conjunction …

Review: Punch-Drunk Love

Barry (Adam Sandler) has issues. Constantly berated by his flock of sisters (one played by Mary Lynn Rajskub) who he just wants to leave him alone, crying at random moments, even admitting ‘I don’t like myself sometimes’. Working at a crummy toiletries company probably does that to you sometimes. He also has barely concealed rage issues (that he sometimes fails to conceal when he just can’t take his sisters’ crap anymore), and has recently found himself the victim of a scheme involving a phone sex worker, whose boss (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is none too pleased. But Barry is also a lost soul, and one day he happens upon another odd duck, Lena (Emily Watson), who seems to get Barry like no other. Their ‘dirty talk’, for instance, is just plain bizarre (‘I'm looking at your face and I just want to smash it. I just want to fucking smashit with a sledgehammer and squeeze it. You're so pretty’). But with all the other chaos in his life, can Barry get it together to be with the girl …

Review: The Man With the Iron Fists

A far too low-key RZA stars as a freed slave and blacksmith in 19th century China. No, I’m serious. He makes weapons for the two warring clans, and is trying to save enough money to free his girlfriend Lady Silk (the gorgeous Jamie Chung) from continuing to work in a brothel run by Madame Blossom (Lucy Liu). Things get complicated when Silver Lion (Byron Mann) and Bronze Lion (Cung Le) turn up to fuck shit up, looking for supposed hidden treasure and a mercenary named Zen Yi (Rick Yune). Zen Yi is son of Gold Lion, the leader whom Silver and Bronze Lion have overthrown. When the blacksmith refuses to tell them where Zen Yi is, his hands are removed from the rest of his body. He is nursed back to health by a mysterious, possibly psychotic, and frankly pervy English brothel patron named Jack the Knife (Russell Crowe), and his hands are replaced by huge iron fists. Now joined by Zen Yi, the trio are ready for battle, but Silver and Bronze Lion also have the hulking assassin Brass Body (D…

Review: Being Flynn

Based on a memoir by Nick Flynn, Paul Dano stars as- get this- Nick Flynn, a wannabe great writer, who is the estranged son of Jonathan Flynn (Robert De Niro), a wannabe great writer in his own right. Actually, he already equates himself with the greatest of American authors like Mark Twain and J.D. Salinger. Yeah. But in reality, Jonathan (who also works as a taxi driver. Yeah, I’ve seen that movie too...) is on the skids and going to waste. He has been evicted from his messy apartment, is racist and homophobic, and now needs the son he hasn’t seen in nearly 20 years to come pick him up. So Nick, flanked by his gay and African-American roommates (*sigh*) go and collect the old man. The next time he sees his father, Nick is working in a homeless shelter when Jonathan (an alcoholic) walks in looking for a roof over his head for the night, having exhausted the patience of everyone else in his life. Unfortunately, Jonathan proves more than a handful, and frankly just ungrateful and mean.…

Review: Savages

Aaron Taylor-Johnson (as a philanthropist Buddhist) and Taylor Kitsch (as a former Navy SEAL) play a couple of Laguna Beach marijuana dealers, who are so close they share just about everything, even O (Blake Lively). They have gained the attention of powerful and ruthless Mexican drug czar Elena (Salma Hayek), her sadistic chief henchman (Benicio Del Toro) and her unscrupulous attorney (Demi├ín Bichir). Elena offers the trio a chance to join up in partnership, and things go to hell when they refuse (our resident Buddhist wants to retire to do charity work in Africa!), leading to O’s kidnapping. John Travolta plays a corrupt DEA agent whose allegiances seem to go to the highest bidder. Emile Hirsch plays a tech wizard associate of the central trio.

Oliver Stone might be the most erratic and inconsistent filmmaker currently active (capable of great films like “Platoon”, “JFK”, and “Born on the Fourth of July” as well as turds like “Nixon”, “U-Turn”, “W.”, and “Natural Born Killers”). So …

Review: Bambi

The story of the titular young fawn as he makes his way through life into adulthood, learning many of life’s lessons. We’re not just talking about the nice lessons either, as the threat of hunters with their guns is always in mind, leading to one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the history of cinema.

Although it doesn’t reach the magical heights of “Pinocchio”, how can anyone not love this 1942 Disney classic from (supervising) director David C. Hand? Not only is it basically a rite of passage for every youngster, but without this film there would certainly be no “Lion King” (probably its most direct descendant- we won’t talk about “Bambi II”, nor will I ever watch it), “Fox and the Hound”, or “Finding Nemo”, to say the very least. It’s the archetypal Disney animated film with animated animal characters. It’s such a lovely film in many, many ways, but it’s often referred to as a coming-of-age film, and yes Bambi does learn that this is a cruel piece of shit world sometimes, and pe…

Review: Tears of the Sun

All hell has broken loose in Nigeria, and rebels have assassinated the President and his family. Bruce Willis leads a Navy SEAL team sent there to rescue an American (by marriage) doctor who runs a small Catholic mission in the jungle. There is only a small window of time afforded to them, and when they get there, the good doctor (played by Monica Bellucci) is reluctant to leave without her 70 odd sick/injured patients. The higher-ups (represented by Tom Skerritt with a walkie-talkie) say no, but Willis and his men find themselves having a crisis of conscience. Eamonn Walker, Cole Hauser, Nick Chinlund, and Johnny Messner play the other SEALs, whilst Fionnula Flanagan plays Athene Seyler, from “Inn of the Sixth Happiness”, basically.

Remember John Wayne’s “The Green Berets”, the Vietnam war film where the sun ludicrously set in the East? Well this 2003 Antoine Fuqua (the overrated “Training Day”, the inexplicable “King Arthur”) flick may not be anywhere near as offensive or dated as t…

Review: Killing Them Softly

Two low-life morons (Aussie tool Ben Mendelsohn, and Scoot McNairy) team up with a low-level crim and Laundromat owner (Vincent Curatola) to rob a secret mob poker game run by Markie (Ray Liotta). Markie has been accused of robbing the game himself before (and rightly so), so they figure it’s easy money and the unfortunate Markie will make for a perfect patsy. In spite of their own idiocy they manage to pull the job off and go their separate ways. Richard Jenkins plays a nerdy-looking middle-man in the mob who looks like an accountant and who hires expert hit-man Brad Pitt to clean this situation up once it becomes pretty clear that Markie didn’t do it, but these two idiot losers. However, Pitt even goes after Markie to appease the disgruntled card players, whether he’s actually guilty this time or not. Pitt, as the title suggests, likes to kill his targets from a distance, without them even knowing he’s there. Basically, he would’ve hated being the guy sent to whack John Turturro in

Review: Fire With Fire

Josh Duhamel stars as a fire-fighter who witnesses white supremacist crime boss Vincent D’Onofrio murder a couple of people in a convenience store. Cop Bruce Willis puts Duhamel into Witness Protection so that he can testify at D’Onofrio’s trial. This sees him completely leave his life and loved ones to be relocated in New Orleans, under the watch of federal agent Rosario Dawson, whom eventually becomes his lover (and also teaches the ‘Average Joe’ Duhamel how to fire a gun). Sometime later, it appears that D’Onofrio has gained access to Duhamel’s identity, and is putting his loved ones back home in the hospital. Duhamel has taken just about all he can take and decides to fight back. Bonnie Somerville plays the Assistant DA, Julian McMahon plays an assassin in D’Onofrio’s employ, James Lesure plays Duhamel’s best friend back home, Richard Schiff plays D’Onofrio’s soulless lawyer, 50 Cent and Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson play a couple of gangbangers, Vinnie Jones plays D’Onofrio’s chief a…

Review: Paranormal Activity 4

A new family experience unsettling and possibly paranormal things as they take care of a neighbour’s kid named Robbie (Brady Allen). Teen daughter Kathryn Newton is convinced that Robbie is a little bit creepy and ropes her douchy boyfriend into helping her investigate. Meanwhile, Robbie and the family’s similarly aged boy Wyatt seem to be bonding, and that’s when things get even weirder. Real-life couple Alexondra Lee and the late Stephen Dunham (who died after filming, tragically) play Newton’s parents, typical Doubting Thomas’s.

It’s not supposed to be like this. Oh sure, I could say that “Friday the 13th Part 3” and “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter” are the best films in a crap series, but for the most part, sequels are supposed to get progressively worse, not better. The first “Paranormal Activity” was a pretty effective ‘found footage’ horror film that even managed to make me a little uneasy during the middle of the day. The second one was appalling in its blatant and lazy mi…

Review: Frankenweenie

Set in the town of New Holland (no, not Australia), this film concerns a young social misfit named Victor (voiced by Charlie Tahan), and his beloved dog Sparky. He’s into science, but his dad (voiced by a possibly miscast Martin Short) urges him towards the sporting field. One baseball-cum-vehicular mishap later, and poor Sparky is dead. So what is a young, scientifically-minded social misfit to do? Well, let’s just say young Victor was very much paying attention to science teacher Mr Rzykurski’s (voiced by Martin Landau) experiments involving electricity and dead frogs. Other characters include a creepy fellow social outcast named Edgar (voiced by Atticus Shaffer), whose interest in the scientific arts come from a more unseemly place than Victor’s, and Elsa Van Helsing (voiced by Winona Ryder), the sweet girl next door. Catherine O’Hara provides the voice of Victor’s mother.

Not all of Tim Burton’s films have appealed to me, but I feel like we have a lot in common in terms of the kin…

Review: Celebrity

Kenneth Branagh plays a tabloid writer, would-be novelist and wannabe screenwriter, who is desperately trying to gather interest in his screenplay, approaching actors played by Melanie Griffith, and a troubled, hotel-trashing Leonardo DiCaprio. This results in a lot of parties, drinking, and women. Chief among these women are a hot model (Charlize Theron), his book editor (Famke Janssen), and a struggling actress (Winona Ryder). Judy Davis stars as Branagh’s repressed ex-wife who seeks ‘professional’ help from veteran hooker Bebe Neuwirth on pleasing a man, before being charmed by producer Joe Mantegna. Gretchen Mol plays DiCaprio’s abused girlfriend, with Sam Rockwell and an amusingly (retroactively, at least) cast Adrian Grenier as his entourage.

You probably know by now that I don’t much like Woody Allen movies, with the exception of a few (“Deconstructing Harry”, “Annie Hall”, “Hollywood Ending”, and maybe “Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Sex”). This 1998 film isn’t …