Tag Archives: Famke Janssen

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)

(Netflix Streaming, April 2015)  Call it encroaching old age, but I’m getting a bit tired of mashups combining historical references with monsters.  Whether those monsters are zombies, vampires, robots or (in this case) witches, and whether those familiar references are fairytales, established genres, historical figures or classic fiction, the result often doesn’t have anything to offer but a blend of buzzwords.  Pride and Prejudice and ZombiesAbraham Lincoln: Vampire HunterJack the Giant Killer!  The concept becomes the crutch, and once you’ve grown accustomed to buzzword blending, there’s often nothing beyond the high-concept.  All of which to say that Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is nothing more than what it says in its title (ie; grown-up fairy-tale heroes become witch hunters… I told you it was the title), and that it doesn’t do much with its own premise.  There is a bizarre mixture of high comedy (most absurdly a reference to a missing kid picture on a milk carton) and low horror that never quite solidifies into something meaningful.  Many of the action sequences repeat themselves, and the occasionally-good visuals doesn’t excuse the film’s overall tedium.  What’s too bad is that I quite like Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, but neither have much to do here aside from running and shooting.  (Famke Janssen does seem to have fun playing pure evil, though.)  The script is weak and contrived –especially when it comes to the heroes going back to their childhood home and discovering that their backstory means something in the current moment.  While the martial anachronisms can be amusing, most notably by providing Big Guns to dark-ages heroes, the film doesn’t quite seem to know what to do with the assets at its disposal.  The problem with Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters isn’t its premise; it’s that it’s just its premise.

X2 [X-Men 2: X-Men United] (2003)

(In theaters, May 2003) Faster, meaner and, yep, better than the often-tepid original, this is one sequel that assumes everyone’s seen the original and so dispenses with the usual load of dull exposition. The motif of bigotry is still present -and so is the unsettling political subtext-, giving weight to the film. Despite sometimes-unconvincing special effects, those action sequences are indeed spectacular, with particular props going to the opening sequence and a very cool sequence involving iron-enriched blood. The most spectacular part of X2, however, is how it can juggle a cast of a dozen (including three Oscar winners) without too many lapses. Hugh Jackman once again steals the show, endowing Wolverine with the most steadily engrossing presence. Others deliver mixed performances: Halle Berry is better than in the original, but she, like Famke Janssen, looks bored with what she’s given to work with. (And the least said about James Marsden’s Cyclops, the most appropriate.) As summer entertainment, X-Men 2 is a strong entry, even with the rather overlong third act which degenerates in a “sacrifice” that feels contrived. But by the time the credits roll, everyone’s had enough entertainment for their money. Until the third instalment, then…