Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
Jeremy Renner has been getting a lot of screen time recently, but he is not going much out of a very narrow comfort zone of playing the reserved tough guy. This worked wonderfully in The Hurt Locker, but is being cheapened by repetition in The Avengers, The Bourne Legacy and now Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. This twist on the fairytale has Hansel (Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) as gun toting, crossbow firing, sword-wielding bounty hunters taking out evil witches in a medieval fantasy world. They have a secret past and they face a new kind of evil which puts their witch killing chops to the test. The film has a rather derivative feel, with the trailer suggesting something of a cross between Hellboy 2 and Mr and Mrs Smith.
The Last Tycoon (大上海)
Big budget Hong Kong movie set in the decadent Shanghai of the 1930s. The Last Tycoon is directed by Wong Jing (王晶) and stars Chinese movie royalty Chow Yun-fat (周潤發) and Sammo Hung (洪金寶), and veterans Francis Ng (吳鎮宇) and Monica Mok (莫小棋). The film pays tribute to crime epics like Once Upon a Time in America and Goodfellas, spanning many decades, telling the story of a young man who is framed by his mother’s lover, goes to prison, and finds himself on the first step of the ladder in the mob hierarchy. He rises through the ranks, his mixture of ambition, skill at negotiation, and loyalty making him one of the most respected crime bosses in Shanghai. Eventually he gets caught between a devious government secret service and Japanese imperial ambitions, a situation that is complicated by his meeting up once again with his first love.
A nice concept goes awry. Killing Bono is based on a semi-autobiographical book by journalist Neil McCormick that tells the story of two brothers in Dublin aspiring to rock stardom. They can only look on in horror and dismay as a bunch of school friends go on to international success as the band U2. The film, which has some similarities to Nowhere Boy in taking a fictionalized look at the early growth of an important band, tries to do too many things, and while the picture it paints of the 1980s music scene is rich with comedy, the film is overstuffed with subplots and trite character arcs.
David Krentz and Erik Nelson’s computer-animated look at the age of the dinosaurs refuses to falsify its subject by ascribing human motives to its players, a source both of the film’s strength, but also of its fatal weakness. Portraying a repetitive, senseless and brutal struggle for survival, all of which takes place in the shadow of a pending asteroid-based apocalypse, the film has some exciting moments. These are given thematic heft in a narration by director Werner Herzog, who finds his own species of pleasure in the oncoming destruction of the dinosaur world, and discourses in doom-laden tones on the Earth’s cycles of life and death, chaos and order. The animation is reasonably good, though looks a little cheap if you take something like Avatar as the gold standard for this kind of work.