BIG RELEASE: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (Jan. 25)
THE BIG PICTURE: We are deeply indebted to the Brothers Grimm. Without their painstaking collection of folk tales in the 16th Century, our only movies today would be based on 1980s Hasbro toys (i.e. Transformers and G.I. Joe), comic books and Channing Tatum's abs. Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton play adult versions of Hansel and Gretel -- years removed from their legendary encounter with a vicious, sweet toothed forest witch. And, of course, they've become professional witch hunters. (Is there anyone left in Hollywood who isn't a vampire, monster or werewolf hunter? They're the accountants of the film world).
FORECAST: Witches on broomsticks, witches being decapitated, witches being gunned down by machine guns, Siamese twin witches, sexy witches, ugly witches, sexy ugly witches... this movie's got it all covered. "You've got to be kidding me," Gretel intones in the trailer. Touché. While this one might make for a passing distraction, it will leave you wishing the Brothers had still been alive to write the adapted screenplay. The dialogue looks as dicey as some of the hunted witches. But the movie does bring up an interesting side issue: We all know that Charlie Sheen is a warlock. But I can't be the only one who has ever wondered if there are any "real" witches in Hollywood? If there were an office pool, I'd hedge my bets on Joan Rivers, Angelina Jolie and Oprah).
BIG EVENT: The Following (Jan. 21, FOX, CTV, CTV Two, 9 p.m.)
BIG PICTURE: When I first heard the title of this series, I thought it was a reality show about Justin Bieber's Twitter followers. When I heard Kevin Bacon was starring in it, I assumed it was a documentary series explaining one of nature's greatest, enduring mysteries: how everyone on the planet can be related to the Hollywood actor by only six degrees. Turns out the The Following is a promising, dark new drama in which Bacon plays former FBI agent Ryan Hardy, a broken man lured back into the field to apprehend his arch nemesis: a charismatic, brilliant serial killer called Joe Carroll. Carroll gives all new meaning to the phrase "crazy like a fox." Bacon's character soon discovers that the fugitive somehow created a network of demented followers while in prison -- an evil cult or "a super league of psychopaths" if you will. (By the end of Episode 2, I'm guessing Carroll will be sitting around a table plotting schemes with Cobra Commander, Voldemort, Sauron and the president of Fox News)
Forecast: Bacon is good for you (both kinds). The Following deserves far more followers than your average network police show. James Purefoy is a scene-stealer as the magnetic killer and Bacon's weathered features and restless energy fit the bill perfectly. The pilot leads and viewers will certainly follow.
BIG RELEASE ON JAN. 22: Ra Ra Riot (Beta Love)
BIG PICTURE: All those serial killers and witches got you down? The catchy, polished indie pop rock of Ra Ra Riot will allow you to dance away the gloom. In their first album as a four piece, the band explores a new sound and unlikely source material: the works of cyberpunk novelist William Gibson and futurist Ray Kurzweil. It may sound heavy, but the music will do anything but drag you down.
FORECAST: Ra Ra Riot has a lot to live up to following its critically acclaimed 2010 release The Orchard, but Beta Love will prove that this Riot has no end in sight.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Bad Religion (True North). Don't let the groups name fool you. They aren't the house band for Scientology. The iconic California punk rockers are back with their first effort since 2010. F*** You is the title of their first single off the album. (I guess they haven't lost the attitude.)
"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,"
but these days, a guide through the seemingly endless flurry of pop culture offerings is just what we need. With that in mind, here's
what's on the radar screen in TV, music and film for the coming week.