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Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (Blu-ray Review)

Hansel-and-GretelWhen my friend Gregg asked me if I saw the trailer for Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters last year I promptly said no.  But once I realized Miss Tamara Drewe, Gemma Arterton, was in it, my eyes were all over it a New York “second.”  However, despite longing to see every body of work Gemma (including her own body) puts onto the big screen, I just wasn’t into what I saw, unfortunately.  And yeah, I guess it’s no secret that it it didn’t win over any critics either.  But guess what?  It sure made a splash at the box office…the international one.  So much in fact that Paramount has already announced a sequel is in the works.  So what’s a guy to do?  I was torn between watching 90+ minutes of one of the most gorgeous actresses out there today or taking the 14% rating on Rotten Tomatoes seriously enough to stay the hell away.  And then I found this article, “10 Reasons Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters Is Secretly Great,” over at Cinemablend and I was instantly all over this like a fat kid drooling over a freshly baked slice of chocolate cake knowing that down the road he’ll probably develop diabetes.  Bring it on!  Serve it up.  Let’s get this thing started!  If nothing else, there’s going to be a lot of Gemma Arterton pics so I am cool with that.  And I get to say her name a lot too, which I like.  See, if you look hard enough there’s positives in everything!

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Film

So like I said above, despite the lackluster reception of the film (currently at 14% on the Tomatometer), it was golden at the box office, especially in countries such as Russia, Brazil and Mexico.  They must like their Gemma as much as I do (insert snarky smile).  It managed to bring in a worldwide box office gross of over $224 million, more than enough to cover its measly $50 million dollar production budget.  Not bad, eh?  Can you say a cult classic?  I can!  Whether you love it or hate, there are a lot of people in this world who simply adore Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, or unless the opposite is true…they were all suckers and taken at the box office like so many will be this weekend with The Hangover Part III.

Before we can get down to the nitty gritty in regards to talking about the actual film itself, we have to unfortunately get all the history and familiarities out of the way first.  The screenplay, co-written and also directed by Norwegian filmmaker Tommy Wirkola, is billed as a continuation to the German folk fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel,” which was recorded by the Brothers Grimm and published in 1812.  In addition to one of the most gorgeous leading ladies there currently is, of course I’m talking about Gemma, the film also stars Jeremy Renner, which rumor has it that the filming was delayed for ten months because of his appearances in The Avengers and The Bourne Legacy, Thomas Mann, Peter Stormare, Phila Vitala and the ever beautiful, in my opinion, Famke Jansen.

So before we get into the main ingredients such as plot and story, what I like about this feature is that it’s self aware.  It doesn’t take itself too seriously like most of these non-sensical flicks do.  It knows what it is unlike Nicholas Cage trying to make the Ghost Rider character or film for that matter actually plausible.  And it’s a gore hound!  Yes, hard to believe, but it’s very much a hard Rated R flick, more so than the tragedy that goes by the moniker of 2013’s Texas Chainsaw.  Heck, there’s even nudity!  No!  I’m not kidding.  I wasn’t expecting that at all.  See, you just got to look for the good in things (insert another little snarky smile).

In a nutshell, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters tells the fabled story of the brother, Hansel  (Renner), and sister, Gretel (Arterton), hellbent on avenging their parents’ deaths by hunting down and killing any and all witches that they come across.  And you would think after a lifetime of doing so that they would be good at what they do.  Wrong!  My girlfriend pointed out repeatedly how horrible and sloppy they were at their jobs.  Ordinarily, I would defend any character that Atrterton portrays, but I cannot tell a lie.  She’s right.  I understand that all witches, like the specters in The Ghostbusters, are different, but wow!  They certainly don’t look like they have been doing this for a lifetime.  They seem very much like amateurs, which doesn’t fare well with them in the current situation they find themselves in the middle of as they face the greatest evil they ever encountered in Famke Jansen’s grand witch character.

Now story aside, it’s always painful seeing actors you love cast in horrible movies.  They can be the greatest actors in the world, but even they can’t save a bad script, bad dialogue and predictable plot points.  Whether you’re Kiefer Sutherland, Ashley Judd, Bradley Cooper or even the beautiful Gemma Arterton, it doesn’t matter.  It’s like the vessel Titanic.  A bad script is a bad script.  It’s going to sink regardless.  So you can’t find fault with the actors here.  From what I witnessed they gave it their all with the diminished quality they had to work with.  Thankfully, the action was plentiful, the kills were merciless and spectacular at times and oh yeah…Gemma and Famke were very…very…easy on the eyes.

My girlfriend and I debated long and hard about this.  We liked it better than Mama, but not by that much.  Gemma, Jeremy and Famke saved this movie from the lower score it probably should have received, but again, even that’s not saying much.  Thank God for the production quality.  It’s not as terrible as the effects in Mama or the ridiculousness that is the flaming skull on Ghost Rider’s head, but nevertheless, the witches and dialogue are equally laughable.  Now who else thinks Gemma would be perfect as Leai’s daughter in Star Wars: Episode 7?  Shall I start a petition?  I had to change the subject.  Don’t hate.

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Video 

While a sane individual would normally find fault with the film itself, you’d be insane to say the AV presentation was the culprit.  BECAUSE IT’S NOT.  Bad script, remember?  Haha.  I’m sorry.  I digress.  Paramount Pictures brings the witch slaying tale to the Blu-ray format with a sharp 1080p MPEG-4 AVC codec framed in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  For the most part, this one looks fantastic.  You really have to be nitpicking to find fault here.  Thankfully, that’s what I do best in life.  Complain!  There were a couple examples where the black levels could have been a sliver darker and one instance of blocking, but other than that things are razor sharp, vibrant, color balanced and crystal clear throughout thanks to the feature’s digital capture.  Sure it’s not a true cinematic presentation, but you’d be hard pressed to find anything else wrong other than what I previously stated.  Even the cracks in the witch makeup, which were nicely done by the way, pop with the three-dimensional Blu-ray quality we all have come to love about the format over the years.

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Audio 

Paramount strikes near perfection once again, this time in the Audio department with their bold, loud and boisterous Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless surround track.  The action comes to life with gunshots, blasts and decapitations as the surround sound engulfs you  in the middle of all the mayhem and the LFE thumps your living room and commands your undivided attention.  I did have trouble occasionally hearing some of the dialogue, but those moments were very far and in between.  And I bet you didn’t know this because I didn’t tell you above, but the brilliant mind of Hans Zimmer served as a soundtrack producer here so you better believe things sounded full, rich and orchestrated throughout.  Too bad it wasn’t no Dark Knight Rises or a movie with a little more girth to accompany a hefty score like this.  You know what I mean?    You can also find in the disc menus French, Spanish and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital surround tracks as well as English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.  Regardless about how you feel about the film, there’s no denying the A/V presentation here is rock solid, but how about those extras?

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Extras 

Not that it bothers me any, really, but there’s little to be found here in this department.  So why don’t you just stop your complaining and be happy with what you got.  I mean after all if you are a fan of this film, then you’re in for a nice surprise.  You see, Paramount just doesn’t give you any old iTunes Digital Copy, they give you a High-Definition one!  Glory be to the Lord for that!  So now you get to take your favorite film on the road with you and watch it anywhere in glorious 1080p.  What can be better than that (rhetorical question please)?  So without further ado, that means delay, let’s take a closer look at the small quantity of hidden treasures you will find here in this Blu-ray combo pack.

  • Unrated Cut (HD, 97 mins.) – First up, we are treated to an Unrated version of the feature film where it’s just not your typical couple minutes added.  In this case it’s packed “with intense new footage not seen in theaters” with even “more witches, weapons and action” and more importantly…10 more minutes!!!  For what it’s worth, this is the version I watched for this review.
  • Reinventing Hansel & Gretel (HD, 15:41) – This is your basic making of, albeit a short one, documentary of everything Hansel & Gretel including the reinterpretation of the characters, the casting (Gemma…Gemma…Gemma!!!), the violence (like we could ever have enough of it) and more.
  • The Witching Hours (HD, 9;01) – Here we take a closer look at the story, like we need one (snarky comment I know), and the film’s witches.
  • Meet Edward the Troll (HD, 5:25) – Well like the title implies, meet Edward the film;s troll character.  Need I say more?
  • Digital Copy (HD, 87 mins.) –  Oh yeah, baby!  Oh yeah!  This brings this small Extras department up to a score of a 2!
  • UltraViolet Copy (?) – I hate UltraViolet so much that I don’t care if it’s HD or not.  It sucks nonetheless that the studios are adopting this good for nothing format.
  • DVD (87 mins., SD) – The feature film is presented in its theatrical version on a second DVD disc.

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Summary 

So there you have it.  This one’s all about a matter of opinion.  Your opinion!  If it was me, I couldn’t recommend this as anything more than a rental.  But if you are a hardcore fan of the film, one of those 14% of the population I mentioned above (or even like Ghost Rider and Catwoman), or maybe you’re a Gemma Arterton completist like me and you have to have everything she has appeared in, then you know what to do.  I have graciously provided you a pre-order link here as well as below because that’s the nice kind of guy I am.  Make no doubt about, Hansel & Gretel will be back in a theater near you very soon.  So it’s up to you if you want to be ready for it now or later…or not at all like the 86% of the population probably wish they had that choice again knowing what they know.  Any way you slice it, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is coming to retail stores everywhere on June 11th and is already available early as a Digital Download at your favorite online retailers like iTunes or Amazon.  Choose your path wisely.

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Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

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