When a film just whelms – Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters - Official Poster from IMDB.com

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters – Official Poster from IMDB.com

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)

Director: Tommy Wirkola
Writer: Tommy Wirkola
Stars: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Peter Stormare

There has been a definite revival of fairytales over the years. Snow White, Cinderella (oh so many), Peter Pan, etc etc etc. Hansel and Gretel is one of those fairytales that I’m never sure how to feel about. It’s about a couple of kids being deserted by their parents because they can’t feed them, a witch captures them and then they kill the witch. How is that a kids story?! Well the new rendition of the Grimms Brothers fairytale definitely isn’t for children. The updated and expanded story of Hansel and Gretel all grown up is not a great film. It has it’s good moments but it really is just another supernatural action film. The only reason I went to see the film was because of Jeremy Renner, and it was worth it for that. It isn’t a bad film, but neither is it a good film, which makes me wonder how to review such a piece. The action sequences are brilliantly choreographed and the humour is pretty great. The stand outs of the film is Thomas Mann who plays Ben, the witch hunters little fan boy, and Derek Mears who plays the troll Edward. Ben and Edward provide humour and heart to a film that is just about beating up witches and shooting old school big guns. Edward the troll is possibly the best admission to the story as it provides a different kind of look at a beast that is so awful in other stories. Edward is your big, friendly, witch protecting, morally good troll. He is bound by his task to protect witches, but is able to decide how to go about that task. And then there is sweet but tainted Ben who has followed the stories of Hansel and Gretel and dreams of being a witch hunter like them. Ben is sweet and starry-eyed and provides a great comedic relationship between himself and Hansel.

I saw this film in 3D and for the first time I regretted seeing a film in 3D. It was a little unnecessary and would’ve been as good, if not better in 2D. I felt a little ill in parts because of the quick movement of the camera in the fight scenes and it was hard to watch at points. I also had a moment of my inner feminist coming out in a scene with Hansel and Mina as the filmmakers decided that it was fine to show the female character undress but didn’t show the male character do the same, which is just silly and sexist (and who doesn’t want to see Jeremy Renner strip down?! So disappointing…)

All in all I wouldn’t necessarily ever recommend Hansel and Gretel but it was still a fun film to watch.
2/5

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Let’s Dance – Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Lingings Playbook - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Silver Lingings Playbook – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Director: David O. Russell
Writers: David O. Russell (screenplay), Matthew Quick (novel)
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro

Always look for a silver lining is the philosophy of Pat (Bradley Cooper) who has just spent time in a mental institution after being arrested for assault on his wife’s lover after he caught them in the shower together. Not a great way to find out that you have a bipolar or that your wife is cheating on you, especially when you are obsessive about your marriage. Pat is determined to get Nikki back. But there is a restraining order and her general not wanting to see him that is getting in the way of Pat restoring his marriage. In walks Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) the sister of his Ex’s best friend. Recently widowed and recovering from depression and a slight sex addiction, Tiffany and Pat form an unlikely friendship. Throw in a mix of Pat’s crazy parents and a large bet that goes wrong and you have Silver Linings Playbook.

Though the story line is your basic comical love story, it is the characters that make this film the fantastic film it is. From Bradley Cooper’s quirky and socially blunt mannerisms to Jennifer Lawrence’s swift mood swings and determination to Robert De Niro’s perfectly rational superstitious gambling habits, this film is filled with actors doing exactly what you want them to do, embody the characters. It’s no wonder that the actors in this film have received so many nominations for this film, they are extraordinary.

Silver Linings Playbook is fun and quirky and will charm the socks off you. It’ll stick with you and make you smile for weeks after seeing it from remembering Lawrence and Cooper’s performances.

4/5

Competition is Cruel – Party Animals

Party Animals - Poster

Party Animals – Poster

Party Animals (2007)

Creators: Robert Jones, Ben Richards
Stars: Andrew Buchan, Shelley Conn, Andrea Riseborough and Matt Smith

There is something wonderfully foreign yet altogether too familiar about seeing the behind the scenes of political parties. I mean we kind of see it on the news every night. Someone has offended someone else which then makes their policy look better and so on and so forth. And with the familiarity of most of the western world with The West Wing and it’s glorious success, there wasn’t really much going for Party Animals. But I didn’t really know anything about it going into it. All I knew was that it had Matt Smith in it before he went and became the eleventh Doctor on Doctor Who.

Party Animals is a British TV show that ran for only 8 episodes. With it’s main characters based in politics it has a West Wing-esque feel but with a British swing. With main characters Scott Foster (Andrew Buchan), lobbyist, his brother Danny (Matt Smith), researcher for a Labor MP, and Ashika Chandirimani (Shelley Conn) the head researcher for the Tory MP opposition to Danny. Their story intertwines in real and dramatic ways as they all go up against one another professionally whilst trying to work out how to succeed in work and love. With big themes of friendship, loyalty, politics, love and grief, it has a dramatic core with an ever-shifting outer coating of political intrigue and romance. Each character throughout the season is faced with heavy moral and ethical questions which provides us viewers with a real insight into what politicians and lobbyists must have to deal with to be successful.

I really enjoyed the series and was left with a hole in heart for the characters. All the actors are brilliant in their portrayal of their characters and the production of the series is done with a British grittiness and lightness that reminds me of Skins and Spooks. It is both enjoyable and painful to watch as it brings the characters lives alive on your screen. You really end up caring deeply for Scott and Danny’s relationship and the future of Ashika as she deals with the fall out of her life choices and losses. It throws into light the darkness of high powered and pressured occupations and how they take their toll on everyone differently.

I really recommend getting your hands on this brilliant yet short series. It’ll give you a new perspective on politics and the difficulties that come with the job of all involved, especially the women.

The perfect woman of your imagination – Ruby Sparks

Ruby Sparks - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Ruby Sparks – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Ruby Sparks (2012)

Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Writer: Zoe Kazan
Stars: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan and Annette Bening

What would you put on paper if you could write yourself the perfect romantic partner? What if the person you created came to life? That is the basic premise for Ruby Sparks but the film is so much more than just the exploration of love and relationships.

Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) is an acclaimed author, having his first success as a 19 year-old he hasn’t really produced another “literary work of genius” in the last 10 years. He doesn’t have many friends, apart from his brother, and since his last relationship he has been in therapy to deal with all his issues, especially to do with his inability to put pen to paper again. He is your adorkable reclusive author struggling to create his next work of art, and then he dreams of Ruby (Zoe Kazan). She stands backlit by the sun, talking to him and being the perfect imagining of the girl of his dreams. Calvin finds his muse and begins to write the story of Ruby and their relationship. But when strange bits of women’s clothing keep turning up and then Ruby appears in his kitchen one morning, fully formed, a person, a real person, just like in his book, just like in his dream, Calvin freaks out. And who can blame him, he has just seen the living, breathing, talking girl of his dreams. And so begins the bizarre and wonderful ride of Ruby and Calvin. There is only one problem: Calvin. In his creation of Ruby, she is the perfect girl for him, but is Calvin the perfect man for Ruby? And if he isn’t then how can he hold onto her, can he keep writing and change Ruby so she will desire and want to stay even though Calvin is just an asshole sometimes?

The film is beautifully crafted from every aspect of this idea and Zoe Kazan is a “genius” for being able to create such a well thought through and produced film. I cannot find flaws in this masterful creation of a film. The more I reflect on it the more I come to love it. Calvin is the right amount of romantic, recluse, and asshole. Ruby is a character of imagination and reality combined and Kazan brings to life the dream with a sweetness and depth that captivates. There are some key moments (which I will try not to spoil here) that brought me to a convulsion of wanting to laugh and cry at the same time, the shock, horror and pain of the way we treat each other as humans when we love so deeply is conveyed with such honest power that I can not even come to grips with how Kazan and Dano were able to act so fiercely and faithfully to their characters. The pain of love and loss is one of the reasons why this film works. It may be based on a silly, unrealistic hypothesis but it provides us as viewers with the perfect amount of imagining to process on what relationships can really be like. The complexity of love and the way it can transform us and engulf us is confusing. Love is a mystery of humanity that may never be fully understood but that we will always seek to find answers to. Kazan provides us with a way of exploring the aspects of love that cause us pain: miscommunication, unmet expectations, selfishness, pride, and stubbornness. But her real genius is helping us to see the solution to our pain. The way this film is resolved is satisfying and it feels resolved with that little added hope of a brighter future for our troubled protagonist.

Thank you Zoe Kazan for writing a beautiful, unconventional love story that will continuously remind me that relationships are always about two people, not just one, and that loving is about giving as much as it is about receiving.

Go and see this film, you will not regret it for a single moment.

Films I’ve Seen A Million Times – Oh The Cheese! – Get Over It

Get Over It - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Get Over It – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Get Over It (2001)

Director: Tommy O’Haver
Writer: R. Lee Fleming Jr.
Stars: Kirsten Dunst, Ben Foster and Melissa Sagemiller

There is something wonderful about overly cheesy films that can make fun of themselves. I have a particular love for them even though I know most people would probably not. It is a way of letting go of reality and living in a world where the ridiculous is accepted. It’s one of the reasons I love old school musicals like Singin’ In The Rain, Easter Parade, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. It is the way it allows you to accept the fantasy and giggle and cringe your way along through it. And especially in the case of a lot of musicals, it is the fantasy of falling in love with a man that will sing and dance around you that I love to live in. I’ve always said I wanted a guy who can dance, sing, and make me swoon, pretty much just because I want to live in a musical for a day. If you combine this with Shakespeare you have an absolute winner for me.

Get Over It is just this. It’s a quarter musical, a quarter Shakespeare, a quarter comedy, and a quarter romance film. And it’s awesome. Starring Kirsten Dunst, Colin Hanks, and Mila Kunis, among others, there is a wonderful cheesiness about this film that makes me laugh every time. It is a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and includes high school musical, slapstick comedy, and really random moments of unexpected hilarity along the way. The main character, Berke Landers (Ben Foster) is a guy with your usual high school problems, just been dumped by his long term girlfriend and soul mate Alison McAllister (Melissa Sagemiller), he signs up to the school musical, an adaptation of A Midsummer Nights Dream, to win her back from the sleaze of a boy band member she’s started dating (Shane West). Oh and his parents are sex therapists with their own TV advice/chat show. I mean it’s just comic brilliance. And with friends like Colin Hanks and his on-screen-sister Kirsten Dunst, who could imagine anything better? Parties, getting arrested by police at a strip club for being under age, public humiliation at the basketball match, a girl with an epic bad luck curse on her, getting shot by your best friend’s sister with an arrow. This movie has everything you could possibly ever want (and probably not want).

What makes it brilliant is the way it makes fun of itself which is balanced with Shakespeare’s brilliant love triangle. The comedy and music play against one another and the messy relationships that sprawl across the screen make this film so enjoyable for me. It’s also one of those moments when I relate to one of the characters incredibly closely to the point where it scares me a little, except they get the ultimate happy ending because that’s what the movies are all about. It really appeals to the things I treasure deeply, that are my insecurities, that I hold as honourable, that I hope for. I know that it plays on my imagination and makes me dream a little dream and that it isn’t the greatest film ever made by it is well made and just plain funny.

It’s my guilty little pleasure for when I’m feeling down which I know will always cheer me up and escape my negativity.

Do you have a guilty pleasure film that you watch but know isn’t that great?