Recent years have seen classic fairy tales spawn a variety of cinematic adaptations. In some cases we see family friendly updates like Mirror Mirror. In others we see dark reimaginings like Snow White and the Huntsman. In each of these cases regardless of how successful they might have been in achieving their artistic visions it was clear what type of movie was being made. With Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters such is hardly the case.
The film opens with a playful macabre tone hearkening back to the family-friendly (but nonetheless scary) Halloween movies of the '80s and '90s and prompting hope for this attitude to carry forth throughout the movie. The brimming imagery silly dialogue and overacting of the introductory scene makes it feels like the kind of thing you'd have loved as a child — the sort of film you'd make a tradition of watching every October... until you reached 9th grade and were forever robbed of your innocent love of simple pleasures.
But following the intro — which sends young Hansel and Gretel off into the pitch black woods after their mother and father are forced to hide them from an undisclosed threat and subsequently throws them into the clutches of a decrepit old witch in a candy house — we're treated to a movie with a stark identity crisis.
The subject matter pacing aesthetic style and sophistication of the material all suggest a film for children. But for some reason this movie seems bent on proving itself "mature." Kind of like when you reached 9th grade and were forever robbed of your innocent love of simple pleasures and felt the need to prove just how grown up you were Hansel and Gretel "rebels" against its childlike nature by throwing in very jagged flashes of grotesque gore and misplaced expletives.
The two youngsters manage to escape the wrath of a witch and then devote their lives to taking the witch race down hired as bounty hunters by a small town mayor to recover the kidnapped children of a handful of villagers.
Now this could successfully translate in two different ways: it could take form as a fun-for-all-ages adventure wrapped in black magic and kooky characters or as a dark adult deconstruction of the classic tale. What we get instead is a grab for both and an achievement of neither with the confusion of the mixed message landing Hansel and Gretel in a nebulous middle ground.
The story we're faced with seems best suited for young ones. Simplicity is the name of the game for titular heroes Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arteron who don't have much in the way of character beyond "We kill witches!"
Renner is the puggish kill-first-question-later gun-toter stricken with diabetes (the strangest element of this movie) after his run-in with the candy house witch; Arteron is vicious with a crossbow and a headbutt but more even-keeled and demanding of evidence of witchcraft before imparting her wrath.
The duo are teamed with the likes of Mina (Pihla Viitala) an enigmatic woman saved from torch-wielding villagers by Hansel and Gretel Ben (Thomas Mann) an overly eager young fan of the pair who looks and acts like he's straight out of Growing Pains and eventually Edward (Derek Mears) a closed-mouthed troll who takes a liking to Gretel for mysterious reasons. The uncomplicated characters fast-flying broomstick chases and incredibly accessible overarching plot would and should land us with a PG-13 gunner.
But the prevalence of the aforementioned gore nonstop violence and harsh language stamps the picture with an R-rating.
And for the adults to whom this brand of movie is limited something like Hansel and Gretel would come off as brainless. Not dull — the pacing ensures that you won't be bored. Not overwhelmingly bad in any way really. Just lacking in substance and charm. In a word dumb.
While preteens and young teens might eat this kind of thing up (whether or not they should is an entirely different question) adults will find it unfulfilling.
Empty characters paper-thin plots effortless (this is not a compliment) acting by the whole cast — even generally talented players like head witch Famke Janssen and villainous sheriff Peter Stormare — will give a sophisticated viewer nothing to hold onto.
But for some reason the movie insists on its head smashings and awkward exclamations of "F**k!" Throwing these to the wayside might have actually granted the movie a more successful mission statement.
Hansel and Gretel doesn't have anything at its disposal capable of making it a great movie or even a good one.
But a decision as to whom it wishes to please would at least have bumped it up a notch or two. No it's not a painful watch nor an offensive one. As suggested above it simply offers nothing discernible. And to whom? That's the big question.
Dancing With The Stars wants so, so badly to be epic. Exhibit A: the bizarre, superhero-themed opening credits, which feature some stars (Shawn Johnson, Apolo Anton Ohno) showcasing their real-world talents, and others (ahem, Bristol Palin) looking kind of silly.
Actually, you have to hand it to Bristol. She looks worlds more confident this season. At least, that is until she gets put in front of the mic — then you can tell she’s absolutely terrified. Guess she should stick to the dancing.
Kelly Monaco says “there’s a certain fire” in being part of the show. But is there really? Again, DWTS is trying so hard to be relevant it almost hurts. Also, let’s talk about Kelly’s constant Val-staring. It’s making me uncomfortable. That reminds me: It’s time to start the “Number of Times DWTS Made Me Visibly Uncomfortable This Week” tally. It currently stands at one.
Pamela Anderson seems to be taking hair and makeup cues from Adele. But her strange coif was soon overshadowed by the bombshell she dropped: She’ll be performing on Broadway. Wait. What? Is this real? Broadway? The apocalypse is nigh, people.
Joey Fatone and Kym Johnson celebrated vandalism in their video this week, trashing photos of the judges inside the rehearsal studio. The pair — former partners and clearly very close friends — talked about bringing fun back into the competition. Which makes no sense, because they’re, well, kind of boring.
Drew Lachey and partner Anna seem really awkward together. Is that just me? From their interview, it seems like she tortures him in rehearsal, and they clearly have some kind of weird unspoken tension. Is there drama? I hope there’s drama.
I kind of feel bad for Apolo Ohno and Shawn Johnson. I get that they’re both famous for being Olympic gold medalists, but every single interview compares this show to the Olympics in some way. Can’t we find something else to focus on, just once? I’m just glad Apolo’s pink cheetah suspenders reappeared. Those things should win the trophy.
The second visibly uncomfortable moment of the night goes to Helio and partner Chelsie Hightower for their recap video, in which Helio has to give Chelsie a lesson in geography and colonialism. Yes, Chelsie, Brazilian people speak Portuguese because they were once colonized by Portugal. No comment on why Americans speak English. It was cringe-worthy all around.
Ah, yes, the American Dream. Did you know it can be defined as “winning Dancing With The Stars?” At least, that’s how Gilles Marini defines it. But what does he know? As we saw in the recap video, he’s not a dancer. Does that mean my American dream involves winning a national hula-hoop championship?
Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke gave an encore performance of their cha-cha. It’s actually amazing what that man can do with his hips. And you have to love him for being honest. Instead of playing along with the scripted questions — Tom asks if he remembers a conversation they had during his original tenure in Season 3 — he quips, “No, that was six years ago.” Tell it like it is, Emmitt. Tell it like it is.
Shawn Johnson is the cutest person in the world. It’s impossible not to find her endearing — especially when Derek makes Tom sit down so everyone can be at the same eye level. Turns out Shawn is a little fun-sized ball of lethal gymnastic ability. As she tells us, she once literally knocked out Mark Ballas just by spinning around. The reason? “I guess I don’t know my own strength!” she says nonchalantly. You see? If you don’t think she’s cute, Shawn will literally beat you up.
In terms of both cuteness and deadliness, fan favorite Sabrina Bryan is giving Shawn a run for her money. Louis Van Amstel seems to be under the impression that her fans will kill him if he doesn’t do well, and Visibly Uncomfortable Moment #3 goes to this pair for his “Once a cheetah, always a cheetah” comment. Okay, it was kind of adorable.
Kirstie Alley is one of the most easily likable cast members this season because, despite the weird comments and occasional spontaneous make-outs, she’s just so real. When Maksim told her she’s the best partner he’s ever had, I actually got a little emotional. But then she started acting creepy again and I forgot all about it.
Special shoutout to Joey Fatone for earning Visibly Uncomfortable Moments numbers 3, 4, and 5 for his, ahem, frank description of his nerves: He doesn’t know whether to laugh, cry, pee, poop, or fart. Thanks, Joey. I wanted to think about you farting – how did you know?
I thought about ignoring Pitbull’s performance as just more filler, but then he had a GIANT LED ROBOT SPRAYING FOAM. I honestly can’t make this up. Pitbull, do you need a girlfriend? Can it be me? Later, Justin Bieber apparently felt the need to compete with Pitbull’s futuristic robot – his backup dancers were waving what looked like giant pieces of aluminum foil, which gave the impression that he was in a giant toaster.
In the end, the contest came down to Bristol, Drew, and Pamela in final jeopardy, so no surprises there. Pamela Anderson’s eventual elimination after earning the lowest score last night was even less surprising.
So, that’s it. Two hours later, hardly any of the drama we were promised in the trailers. Sorry, DWTS. It’s hard to build up suspense when it’s so obvious what’s going to happen. Better luck next week?
[Image Credit: ABC]
Dancing With the Stars: All Stars Recap: Lip Service
Dancing With the Stars: All Stars Premiere: Which Couple Made Your Head Spin?
Dancing Backstage With Louis Van Amstel: Sabrina Bryan Was So Happy She Cried
Just to remind everyone, this is the 14th season of Dancing With The Stars. That’s right. We’ve seen 13 different groups of celebrities awkwardly wiggle their hips for a shot at glory, and somehow we’re not over it yet. Fan favorites from Sabrina Bryan and Kirstie Alley are back this season to compete for the coveted title (and somehow, Bristol Palin ended up in there too).
This season, DWTS has modified scoring to include half points, and whether it’s to earn ratings or to test our math skills, we’re not sure. But either way the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been… but then, how high were they to begin with?
This early in the season, it’s hard to tell who’s going to dominate, but every participant got off to a strong start. Well, almost every participant. (Remember, Pamela Anderson is competing this year.)
Season 4’s Joey Fatone gave us a fake-funny (and actually, kind of creepy) intro video followed by the cha-cha performed to “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” with Kym Johnson. Okay, Joey was in *NSYNC – we know he can dance, so no surprises here. His facial expressions, though, were extreme to the point of distracting. The judges applauded his comeback, but Bruno Tonioli cautioned him to watch his technique this season.
Shawn Johnson, the youngest competitor this season, performed an upbeat foxtrot with partner Derek Hough. She was, as always, as bright and cheerful as her sunny yellow dress and the flower in her hair (which, by the way, was gigantic). And the former gymnast (and former DWTS champ) showed that her skills don’t end on the mat.
Cheetah Girl Sabrina Bryan was viewer’s choice for this season after her surprising elimination in Season 5. She performed the cha-cha to “What Makes You Beautiful” with partner Louis Van Amstel. You have to hand it to her: girlfriend is talented. All three judges warned her against overdancing: Len Goodman actually got booed for calling her too “hard-hitting.” But based on the audience’s overwhelming cheers, this girl isn’t going anywhere soon.
Season 5 winner Hélio Castroneves danced the foxtrot with partner Chelsie Hightower. It was good, if uneventful, but I’m more impressed by how dapper he looked in that suit. The dance was enjoyable if not earth-shattering, and his spirit shone through in his stage presence and characteristically upbeat demeanor: Len described him as a “joy to watch.” Side note: his intro video, filled with embarrassing falls and awkward butt grabs, was definitely the best of the night.
Pamela Anderson was, well, Pamela Anderson. Mostly naked and mostly weird, she seemed more concerned with her facial expressions, which rivaled Joey’s for general insanity. The distraction may have been intentional, though: Her dance was lackluster and despite her quip to partner Tristan MacManus that “you have to contain me somehow,” she seemed pretty well contained on her own.
Poor Melissa Rycroft. She can’t go anywhere without being identified as “that girl who was dumped on national TV.” The former Bachelor finalist and partner Tony Dovolani performed a showy foxtrot, and she was praised for her clean lines and technical skill, although both Bruno and Carrie Ann pointed out a lack of body contact.
Apolo Anton Ohno, Olympic speed skater and Subway spokesman extraordinaire, is back on DWTS to prove he can do more than be in commercials in which he makes “avocado” a 10-syllable word. Partner Karina Smirnoff acknowledges that he’s a bit “rusty,” and it definitely shows: Len calls it a bronze-medal performance. But their “Party Rock Anthem” cha-cha involved glow bracelets. I repeat, GLOW BRACELETS. How is that not gold-medal worthy?
Score: 22 (and a personal 28.5 for the best costumes of the night)
Bristol Palin, who as Pamela Anderson said “has the whole Tea Party behind her,” was supported by mom Sarah’s heavily emphasized presence in the audience (a ratings grab, but I’ll take it). Although her very presence this season raised eyebrows from viewers, Carrie Ann dubbed her “most improved,” and her cha-cha showed off a confidence we haven’t seen since… ever. An underdog story? Let’s not get our hopes up – it’s still the first episode, people.
Season 2 winner Drew Lachey has been out of the DWTS game for a while, and things have changed since his reign. His foxtrot was lackluster and the judges noted his rigidity, but the added drama of a boy-band rivalry (thanks to his brother Nick, who was in the audience) may keep him around for a few weeks longer.
Like Lachey, actress Kelly Monaco has been out of the loop for a long time since winning the show’s first season. That didn’t stop her, though: The pair’s cha-cha was one of the strongest dances of the evening, the sexual tension wasn’t awkward (a rarity on this show), and the judges praised her technical skill. “You weren’t this good in Season 1!” Len chided. Ouch.
Oh, Kirstie Alley, how we love you. Just when the show starts to drag, you come out and do something hilariously weird to keep everyone on their toes. I’m not talking about the dance – her foxtrot with partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy was great if not exceptional, but the real show started once she finished twirling: she threw off the whole crowd by locking lips with Tom Bergeron. And yes, it was just as weird as you’d imagine.
Score: 19, and a perfect 30 for the aftershow.
The night closed out with former football pro Emmitt Smith, whose cha-cha the judges pronounced the best performance of the evening. He and partner Cheryl Burke have insane chemistry, and they secured a strong lead going into the competition. Will they keep it up in the coming weeks? It’s hard to say but with hip movements like those, it doesn’t look like Smith is heading home anytime soon.
Did you watch the all-stars premiere? Will this season be better than ever? And do we live in a universe in which a Palin could actually (gasp!) win?
[Image Credit: ABC]
Dancing With the Stars: All Stars Premiere: Which Couple Made Your Head Spin?
Maksim Chmerkovskiy Is Quitting Dancing With the Stars After 15 Seasons
Let’s Judge the Dancing With the Stars: All Stars Couples Pictures
In the romantic comedy What’s Your Number? Anna Faris plays Ally Darling a fun-loving 30-something who learns via a magazine article that a woman’s chances of marrying become infinitesimal if she’s slept with more than 20 men – a number which just so happens to be Ally’s exact tally. Apparently the highly suggestible sort she accepts the magazine’s somewhat dubious findings at face value. Loath to embrace a spinster future she gives up sex and concocts a scheme to revisit each of her past lovers to see if any of them might actually be The One enlisting the aid of Colin (Chris Evans) a crass but amiable ladies’ man from across the hall who dabbles in detective work to track them down.
The immutable laws of rom-com dynamics dictate what happens next. One by one Ally pursues each of her exes to see if any of her old flames might be worth reigniting even as it becomes increasingly obvious that she and Colin are meant for each other. Ally’s quixotic endeavor lands her in one awkward and humiliating situation after another. True love eludes her; laughter eludes us. Faris is one of the most skilled comedic actresses in Hollywood today but even her formidable talents can’t do much with the hackneyed scenarios proffered by Gabrielle Allan and Jennifer Crittenden’s middling script.
Faris and Evans make a pleasing pair and their chemistry is one of the few aspects of What’s Your Number? that doesn’t feel forced. It’s what keeps it afloat in between each unfunny gag. Sure Ally and Colin’s eventual union is telegraphed from the opening frames but that isn’t necessarily a problem. What is a problem is the story’s slavish adherence to formula which renders not just the outcome but also the preceding plot points achingly predictable.
What’s Your Number?’s R rating and saucy subject matter portend raunch but in truth the film’s humor is actually quite tame save for a handful of filthy lines. For all its flaws the script is not without wit. There just isn’t nearly enough of it.
Bristol Palin, 19, ended her first engagement to Johnston last year (09) after giving birth to their son Tripp in December 2008.
The pair subsequently became embroiled in a bitter custody battle, only to reignite their relationship after a meeting earlier this year (10).
Palin and Johnston announced they were set to exchange vows once more in an exclusive cover interview with American tabloid Us Weekly last month (14Jul10) - with the teen mum admitting her own mother had no idea about the nuptials.
She said, "We got engaged two weeks ago. It felt right, even though we don't have the approval of our parents... It is intimidating and scary just to think about what her (Sarah Palin's) reaction is going to be. Hopefully she will jump on board."
But Bristol has now split from Johnston after accusing him of using her and her family for their fame.
She tells People.com, "It's over. I broke up with him. He's just obsessed with the limelight and I got played."
The 19 year old called off their engagement and split from Johnston last year (09) after giving birth to their son Tripp in December 2008.
The pair has since been locked in a bitter custody battle, but they reignited their relationship after a meeting earlier this year (10).
Palin and Johnston have now announced they are to wed - but Sarah Palin has been kept in the dark about the impending nuptials because Bristol is "scared" about her reaction.
She tells US Weekly magazine, "We got engaged two weeks ago. It felt right, even though we don't have the approval of our parents... It is intimidating and scary just to think about what her (Sarah Palin's) reaction is going to be. Hopefully she will jump on board."
Speaking about rekindling the romance she adds, "When he left that night (after the custody meeting), we didn't hug or kiss, but I was thinking how different it was. He texted me: 'I miss you. I love you. I want to be with you again'... I was in shock."