'Hansel & Gretel' is hodgepodge of fun and fright
What critics are saying
An R-rated horror action comedy fairy tale -- how's that for genre bending? "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" is more Gatling guns and grenades than The Brothers Grimm. It takes the kidnapped kiddies into adulthood, where they've parlayed their fame at cooking a witch's goose into a business. Got a witch problem? Call H & G -- the extermination experts. High concept pitch or no, the movie doesn't really work. They were shooting for sort of a witch-hunting "Zombieland," an f-bomb-riddled "Van Helsing" packed with comical anachronisms -- a Bavarian forest past with witch trials, pump shotguns and primitive tasers, where bottles of milk have woodcut pictures of "missing children" on the labels. Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) show up just as the village of Augsburg is about to burn a redhead. ("Gingers" were a favorite target of witch hunters.) Hansel shrugs off this barbaric crime, but Gretel insists that the locals need "evidence." That puts them in conflict with the sheriff (Peter Stormare), who can't get a handle on their "witch plague" and the missing children who come with it. H & G have been hired to do what he cannot. It isn't long after Hansel mutters "Anyplace we can get a drink in this hell hole?" that the siblings are on the job, chasing lesser witches in pursuit of the Great Witch, played by Famke Janssen as if the makeup is going to do all the acting for her. And there may be trolls involved. Hansel and Gretel have a groupie (Thomas Mann), and the woman (Pihla Viitala) they saved from burning in the opening scene wants to repay the favor to Hansel, a repayment that involves skinny-dipping. And when they're on the clock, they have all manner of clever gear to help them battle the wand-wielders -- pistols, rifles, a semi-automatic crossbow, the aforementioned taser (hand-cranked). Writer-director Tommy Wirkola focuses on the fights and flings all manner of viscera at the 3-D camera as limbs are whacked off and heads and torsos explode. Less attention was paid to the story, and the dialogue is a tad over-reliant on the random f-word to land a laugh. The cleverest touch? Hansel's mania for candy-covered houses is what landed Hansel & Gretel in that witch's clutches all those years ago. Now he carries an ancient hypodermic needle and takes injections to ward off insulin shock. The film contains strong fantasy horror violence and gore, brief sexuality/nudity and language.
Parker (R, NEW)
Based on a novel in a series by Richard Stark, the alter ego of the late, great Donald E. Westlake, the film is basically a heist-and-payback movie. As played by the ever-stoic Jason Statham (the "Transporter" and "Expendables" films), Parker is more antihero than hero: He operates on the wrong side of the law, but he's got a complicated code of ethics. He will steal -- and steal quite unremorsefully -- but only from people who can afford it, he says. If you stumble into one of the many crimes he commits, he won't hurt you as long as you do exactly what he tells you to do. He doesn't go looking to hurt innocents. But all bets are off if you don't follow directions, and woe unto anyone who dares to cheat him. A double-cross is precisely what happens in the opening scenes of "Parker." A crew carries out a daring robbery at the Ohio State Fair, the heist does not run smoothly -- not all the thieves in this bunch are as detail-oriented as Parker -- and after their escape, the second in command, the menacing Melander (Michael Chiklis of "The Shield" and "Vegas"), demands that Parker turn over his share of the profits to help finance the next job. Parker is skeptical, so he refuses and gets shot, robbed and dumped at the side of the road for his trouble. The rest of the movie follows what happens when Parker recovers and decides to get his money back from -- and revenge on -- the guys who left him for dead. This requires him to figure out precisely what the next job is and where it's happening. The road to payback leads him to Palm Beach County, Fla., where the movie was partially filmed, and into the orbit of Leslie (Jennifer Lopez), a real estate agent dying for her first commission. This film contain strong violence, rough language throughout and brief sexuality/nudity.
Movie 43 (R, NEW)
Several stories intersect and overlap in this irreverent ensemble comedy. Cobbled together by multiple writers and directors, the film stars Kristen Bell, Richard Gere, Terrence Howard, Chloe Grace Moretz, Chris Pratt, Kate Winslet and many, many more.
Parental Guidance (PG)
Two grandparents with an old-fashioned approach to child-rearing are called on to baby-sit their 21st-century grandchildren when the kids' Type-A parents go away for work. Written by Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse, and directed by Andy Fickman, this family comedy stars Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei and Tom Everett Scott.
Life of Pi (PG)
After a disastrous shipwreck, a young man is marooned on a lifeboat with a fearsome Bengal tiger in this adaptation of the 2001 Yann Martel novel. Directed by Ang Lee and available in 3-D, this thoughtful drama stars Suraj Sharma, Gerard Depardieu, Irrfan Khan and Tobey Maguire.
A hobbit is swept into an epic quest to help a group of dwarfs reclaim their lost kingdom from a fearsome dragon in this J.R.R. Tolkien adaptation. Written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro and Peter Jackson and directed by Jackson, this "Lord of the Rings" prequel, available in IMAX 3-D, stars Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Cate Blanchett and Orlando Bloom.
A family vacationing in Thailand fights to survive the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and reunite in its wake. Written by Sergio G. Sanchez and directed by Juan Antonio Bayonam, this true-to-life drama stars Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor and Tom Holland.
An ex-convict in 19th-century France seeks redemption while being pursued by a dogged police inspector in this adaptation of the long-running stage musical. Written by William Nicholson, Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg and Herbert Kretzmer, and directed by Tom Hooper, this sweeping literary epic stars Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried.
During his tumultuous final months in office, President Abraham Lincoln strives to end the Civil War, unite the nation and abolish slavery. Directed by Steven Spielberg, this historical drama stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Five years after their parents' murder, two girls who had been living alone in the woods are rescued and brought to live with their uncle and his girlfriend -- but an evil presence may have accompanied them. Written by Neil Cross, Andy Muschietti and Barbara Muschietti and directed by Andy Muschietti, this horror thriller stars Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Megan Charpentier.
After being double-crossed and framed by the mayor, an ex-cop seeks redemption and revenge. Written by Brian Tucker and directed by Allen Hughes, this city hall drama stars Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Two years before the Civil War, a German-born bounty hunter enlists a slave to help track his latest quarry, offering him freedom and a chance to rescue his wife from a ruthless plantation owner in return. Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, this violent period drama stars Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio.
In 1949 Los Angeles, a select group of LAPD outsiders will stop at nothing to break the ruthless mob boss Mickey Cohen's stranglehold on the city. Written by Will Beall and directed by Ruben Fleischer, this period crime drama stars Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn and Emma Stone.
A Haunted House
In this spoof of found-footage horror movies, a young couple move into a dream house and encounter a demonic presence that throws their lives into chaos. Written by Marlon Wayans and Rick Alvarez and directed by Michel Tiddes, this horror farce stars Wayans, Essence Atkins and Cedric the Entertainer.
The Last Stand
After leaving his LAPD narcotics post in the wake of a bungled operation and settling down in a sleepy border town, a small-time sheriff finds himself the last line of defense to intercept a notorious escaped drug kingpin. Written by Andrew Knauer and Jeffrey Nachmanoff, and directed by Kim Jee-Woon, this action/suspense film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker and Eduardo Noriega.
Silver Linings Playbook
After losing his wife, house and job and spending eight months in a mental institution, a former teacher moves in with his parents, tries to rebuild his life and bonds with an equally eccentric young woman. Written and directed by David O. Russell, this offbeat drama stars Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver.
Zero Dark Thirty
An elite team of intelligence and military operatives working in secret across the globe engages in a tireless manhunt to eliminate the terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. Written by Mark Boal and directed by Kathryn Bigelow, this contemporary military thriller stars Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton and Mark Strong.
With contributions from our wire services
A look at the star power of films now in theaters (out of four stars).