There seems to be a theme among January releases: Gangster Squad, The Last Stand, The Baytown Outlaws, and now Hansel & Gretel all are chock-full of scenes of excessive gun violence and a fetishism for the weapons. Seems a tad out of touch of what has happened very recently in our nation. Then again, none of these movies could have predicted that. I suppose it’s just a case of wrong time, wrong place. There are a few other movies in release this week, but we kick things off with the aforementioned gun violence picture of the week.
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters – Old tale, new twist is the tagline, Grimm’s Fairytales with a punk sensibility. Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) are those familiar characters who were lured into a candy house where a witch was planning to eat them. H&G flipped the script and ended up baking the witch alive. Considering how that might scar a child, they grew up to become lifelong witch hunters for hire and for pleasure. The witches of the world unite and the hunter becomes the hunted, and like all good noir pieces, it’s not just an enemy that hunts you, it’s your past as well. Sadly, that looks like where the allusions to good noir pieces end. Supporting performances from Famke Janssen, Peter Stormare, and Thomas Mann (actor, not the author) and written by D.W. Harper, Tommy Wirkola, Dante Harper with Wirkola in the director’s seat. Out in wide release from MGM and Paramount Pictures.
Happy People: A Year in the Taiga – Music Box Films has another fascinating documentary out this month and this one feature the voice of none other than the great Werner Herzog. The Siberian Taiga is enormous, one and a half times the United States of America and deep within the wasteland is the village of Bakhtia, home to only 300 people who live without phones, electricity, medical aid, or running water. Their lives and culture have remained untouched and unchained for hundreds of years. Herzog and Russian co-director Dmitry Vasyukov smartly turn their cameras on this phenomenal existence and observe a life completely foreign to anyone watching it. Out in limited release from Music Box Films and you can find the release schedule here.
John Dies at the End – It’s a terrible thing when the future of humanity has been entrusted to a couple of stoners who are college drops outs that can barely hold a job. John (Rob Mayes) and Dave (Chase Williamson) find a drug called “soy sauce” on the streets that promises the ultimate hallucinatory trip. The catch, once you return, you are forever changed, and not for the better. While on one of these trips, John and Dave catch wind of an otherworldly invasion against humanity, and they have to do what little they are capable of to stop it. Predictably, neither one of them is up to the challenge. Written and directed by Don Coscarelli with assistance from Dave Wong on the script. Magnolia Pictures releases the movie into limited theaters and can be found everywhere on VOD.
Knife Fight – Oh, politicians. How screwed up they all are. Maybe it’s the just the movies zeroing in on the scum, or maybe it’s the political game that attracts them, but there are very few movies out there about honest-to-goodness politicians. If you are looking for that angle, then Lincoln is still in theaters, I suggest you give that one a go, if you want something from the other side, I give you Knife Fight. Rob Lowe plays Paul Turner, The Master of Disaster, the man politicians turn to when they need bailing out of the most torrid of affairs. He does what he does to help morally weak people get into a position where they are intellectually strong and can possibly make a difference. Or so he tells himself. I’m sure there is a life lesson in here, hopefully it’s not buried too deep. Lowe leads a pretty impressive cast including Carrie-Anne Moss, Jamie Chung, Julie Bowen, Amanda Crew, and Richard Schiff. Script by Bill Guttentag, Chris Lehane with Guttentag directing, IFC Films gives this one a limited theatrical run.
Movie 43 – How much can you take? How deep is your perversion? I mean that, this is not for the easily offended or faint of heart. Movie 43 is an omnibus effort from twelve different directors of twelve different segments that connect three teenagers scouring the internet trying to find the most banned movie ever. If you loved Jackass and have fond memories of Kentucky Fried Movie, this is right up your alley. A series of rude, crude, offensive sketches starring some of Hollywood’s finest and funniest: Kate Winslet, Hugh Jackman, Liv Schreiber, Naomi Watts, Jeremy Allen White, Anna Faris, Chris Pratt, Kieran Culkin, Emma Stone, Jason Sudeikis, Justin Long, Leslie Bibb, Uma Thurman, Kristen Bell, John Hodgman, Halle Berry, Richard Gere, and on and on and on. Directors: Elizabeth Banks, Steven Brill, Steve Carr, Rusty Cundieff, James Duffy, Griffin Dunne, Peter Farrelly, Patrik Forsberg, James Gunn, Bob Odenkirk, Brett Ratner, and Jonathan van Tulleken. Out in limited release from Relativity Media.
Parker – Set in the sun drenched beaches and decadent glitz of Miami’s South Beach, Parker (Jason Statham) is out for revenge and his cut of the prize. He is double crossed by his crew, left for dead, but they fail to finish the job and now he is back to finish them. Teaming up with Leslie (Jennifer Lopez) won’t hurt one bit and Parker is kicking ass and taking names. John J. McLaughlin adapts Donald E. Westlake’s novel and Taylor Hackford (Head of the DGA and Mr. Helen Mirren, Taylor Hackford) directs the fun in the sun. Clifton Collins Jr., Nick Nolte, and Michael Chiklis star as well and FilmDistrict release Parker in limited theaters.
Resolution – It all started innocently enough. Mike (Peter Cilella) visits his friend Chris (Vinny Curran) in his cabin on the edge of an Indian Reservation to help him get clean. When Chris denies that he has a problem or wants to cure it, Mike handcuffs him to the cabin and waits for him to dry out. While he is waiting, the cabin begins to take on very odd characteristics, and the things that go bump in the night start to manifest themselves in very problematic ways. Is Mike losing his mind, or are dark forces at work here? Written by Justin Benson, and directed by Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead. Out in limited release and VOD everywhere from Tribeca Films.
Supporting Characters – Working on two different levels here, the surface is the story of how our lives are populated with supporting characters, but the actors in this movie typically play supporting characters. Nick (Alex Karpovsky) and Darryl (Tarik Lowe) are two editors who are hired to salvage a comedy where the director (Kevin Corrigan) flew the coop. While working on the project, Nick falls for Jamie (Arielle Kebbel), the pretty little actress, and that throws one heck of a monkey wrench in Nick’s already screwed up relationship with fiancée (Sophia Takal). Small, intimate, off-putting… almost the definition of New York Independent Cinema. Written by Tarik Lowe, Daniel Schechter with Schecter as director. Out in limited release from Tribeca Films.
The Taste of Money – Korean cinema has really taken off recently, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s not exactly the easiest thing to boil down an entire country’s output into one singular description, but I think ‘style’ is a great place to start. The Taste of Money has excellent style to it, deep focus, attention to the framing and positioning of the characters, and a very expressive color palette. Just those shiny blacks and scarlet reds are enough candy for the eye. Set in the outskirts of Seoul, a rich Korean family’s secrets are threatened to be revealed once an affair upsets the balance of power in the mansion. Im Sang-soo directs and Kim Kang-woo, Youn Yuh-jung, Maui Taylor, Baek Yoon-sik, Kim Hyo-jin, and On Ju-wan star. IFC Center gives this one a limited release, and it is worth your time.
Yossi – This is the only sequel out this week, a rarity as of late. Jagger, from Yossi & Jagger, has died and now Yossi (Ohad Knoller) throws himself into his work, burying his feelings and his homosexuality. He is a cardiologist, and when he treats a patient from his past (Orly Silbersatz) his world is thrown into disarray. Yossi takes a trip from his job in Tel Aviv and on his way to Eliat he encounters a group of young Israeli Officers. These are the men who will help Yossi finally bury his past and start to live his life again. This Israeli movie is written by Itay Segal, with Eytan Fox directing. Out in limited release from Strand Releasing.