Another film version of the grim German fairy tale hits theaters next weekend with Gretel & Hansel. The fantasy horror flick comes from director Oz Perkins and he’s the son of Norman Bates himself – the late Psycho star Anthony Perkins. Sophia Lillis, Sam Leakey, Charles Babalola, and Alice Krige lead the cast.
This offering comes six years after Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters with Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton bowed in late January to a $19 million premiere. The inversely titled 2020 interpretation is not anticipated to get anywhere near that. For one thing, we just saw a version of the this in 2013. There’s also been plenty of horror pics for audiences to choose from recently.
Considering that, I believe double digits is highly unlikely and mid single digits is most probable.
Gretel & Hansel opening weekend prediction: $5.1 million
Like the whodunnit paperbacks that Jennifer Aniston’s character reads to distract herself, MurderMystery is a flimsy experience that you’ll quickly forget. It’s not bad while it lasts, but I wouldn’t count on retaining it. Adam Sandler and Aniston team up again after 2011’s middling JustGowithIt and that title aptly describes this. Don’t expect much other than a few amusing moments from the cast and it’s probably best viewed in transit somewhere as a minor distraction.
Sandler is New York cop Nick, who yearns to be a detective but can’t pass the exam. Aniston is his hairdresser wife Audrey. They’ve been married 15 years and she’s bitter that Nick hasn’t made good on his long standing promise of a European vacation (Amazon gift card is more his speed). He finally acquiesces and on the ride over, Audrey befriends the dashing Charles (Luke Evans) who invite the couple to join his family on their luxury yacht.
Charles is nephew to Malcolm Quince (Terence Stamp), a mega billionaire who owns the vessel. He stole Charles’s young fiancée and their nuptials are imminent. Others on the boat are financially dependent on Malcolm, including his son (David Walliams), a Hollywood actress (Gemma Arterton), a Formula One driver (Luis Gerardo Mendez), and a hip hop influenced maharajah (Adeel Akhtar). When Malcolm is killed, Nick and Audrey find themselves aboard a plot akin to her throwaway books.
The body count rises as the head couple become the lead suspects. Nick must utilize his detective skills, which are most certainly not considerable. MurderMystery is often as generic as its name. Sandler is in goofy nice guy mode while Aniston plays exasperated for an hour and a half. They do share a comfortable chemistry that helps as this moves along. Some of the supporting players momentarily rise above the material, including Arterton (her reaction to accusations of being the culprit is genuinely funny).
It’s not exactly high praise to say that this isn’t bad like some of Sandler’s other Netflix excursions. Mildly diverting is more apt. For a watch involving a flight or long train ride somewhere, MurderMystery could fit the bill for Sandler and Aniston admirers if you decide to just go with it.
There is probably a fascinating motion picture to be made about the seedy underworld of online gambling (a thriving multi-billion dollar industry), but Brad Furman’s Runner Runner isn’t it. To add to the disappointment, we have two lead actors involved that clearly have better things to do and have spent the last several years doing them. Runner Runner isn’t worth their time or ours.
Justin Timberlake plays Richie, a poker whiz who’s going for his Master’s Degree at Princeton when his financial woes lead to him to Costa Rica to seek out Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), who runs the largest online gaming site in the world. They become friends and business partners, but Richie soon learns his new glamorous life is a lot more dangerous than he thought. In short, Ivan is Gordon Gekko. Richie is Charlie Sheen’s character. In the Daryl Hannah role of the girl who’s caught between both men is Gemma Arterton of Quantum of Solace and Hansel&Gretel: Witch Hunters fame. And there’s Anthony Mackie as a FBI agent hot on Ivan’s trail.
The most memorable item about the pic is its lovely scenery with Puerto Rico doubling for Costa Rica. That’s about where my praise ends. The performances aren’t bad, but the actors aren’t given much to work with. Affleck is essentially recreating his character from a stronger effort, 2000’s Boiler Room. Timberlake is serviceable, but we’ve seen him much better in The Social Network when he has a character that’s more fully developed. Arterton’s thinly written love triangle with the two principles is perfunctory.
Runner Runner‘s main failure is the director and writers utter failure to generate any suspense. Ivan Block is a bad guy, but the audience never feels that Richie’s life is truly in danger. As mentioned, the picture’s subject is ripe for examination but you won’t find it in this by the numbers and lazy effort. 2008’s 21, with Jim Sturgess and Kevin Spacey, focused more on blackjack and it’s nothing special either, but at least it was directed with energy.
The good news is that Mr. Timberlake and Mr. Affleck have been doing remarkable work over the last few years, in their respective musical and directorial careers. Runner Runner is the type of movie that they don’t need to waste their time with anymore, but unfortunately they did. My advice is just to ignore it and pop in Argo or look forward to Gone Girl or cue up “Mirrors” and “Suit and Tie” to appreciate what they’re capable of.