Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (R) ** Of all the classic fairy tales stretched or twisted into feature films, this is one of the least likely...and less successful. H & G (Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton) survived the witch and her candy-coated honey trap of a hovel, then grew up to become itinerant witch slayers in a vaguely Medieval era. They would travel from besieged village to other besieged village like masterless Samurai to save the locals from their hag du jour.
They are summoned to one imperiled hamlet after nearly a dozen children have been abducted. They soon realize that a coven or two of evildoers is apparently massing in the adjacent forbidding forest for some major event. So much for the plot. The rest is all about the f/x, as H & G do their thing with an arsenal of anachronistically advanced weapons, which they need because these witches show some mad Ninja skills to go with their magical powers. The fights are more fast and furious than the auto races in a certain series of flicks that traded on those terms.
If you go, try for a 3-D, preferably IMAX, screen, because a number of the action sequences deploy the technology far more adroitly than the author did with words for the screenplay. Despite one hilarious early sight gag and a few amusing throwaway lines, the rest is played more seriously than it should have been. In the hands of a Quentin Tartantino, Robert Rodriguez or Sam Raimi, this production could have been a hoot. (1/25/13)