Turning "Jack and the Beanstalk" into a Lord of the Rings-style fantasy epic sounds like the premise of a MADtv sketch, but director Bryan Singer (X-Men, Superman Returns) finds a happy medium between grand action filmmaking and the dapper whimsy of an Errol Flynn adventure with Jack the Giant Slayer. The movie nods to its storybook origins: the characters are slight, the villains are goofy, and every action is painted in the biggest, boldest, most colorful stroke possible. It's fluffier than Rings, and that's not knock on the film. Jack is light on its toes, making it the perfect entry-level fantasy film for genre buffs and their kids to enjoy.
Jack suffers most of its problems in the first 10 minutes, a plodding, stylized recounting of man's history with giants. It's a tedious stretch that also introduces us to Jack (Nicholas Hoult), a farm boy whose dreams of a thrilling soldier life cloud his ability to do anything right. His kingdom's princess, Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson), suffers from the same inability to escape her life. When she finally goes on the run in one last effort to escape her suitor Roderick (Stanley Tucci), the princess takes refuge on Jack's farm. The two instantly connect, but their rainy night in is rudely interrupted by a few misplaced magic beans, which produce a towering beanstalk straight through Jack's bachelor pad. Jack watches as Isabelle and his home disappear into the clouds. The king and his army immediately spring into action to rescue the princess, and Jack's newfound connection to Isabelle drives him to join the team.
RELATED: 'Jack' Might Have Just The Right Amount of Nonsense — Trailer
Jack the Giant Slayer's lengthy setup feels frivolous in both script and execution, a series of hurdles in the way of the real fun of the movie. Jack partners with head knight Elmont (Ewan McGregor) and the king's advisor Roderick (like Jafar!) — who hides a secret connection to the towering beasts — to climb the beanstalk and track down Isabelle. Singer knows his way around an action set piece and turns the scaling of the beanstalk, even with CG enhancements, into a dizzying vertigo experience. When the group arrives in "Gantua," the land of the giants, they immediately encounter the floating land's residents and are outnumbered (not to mention, outscaled). Singer has his cake with the design of his monstrous ensemble: they're both cartoonish (maybe a bit so in the case of Bill Nighy's General Fallon, who has a second, blabbering head) and realized with detail and familiar motion. The giants have distinct personalities, and they clash with both their human adversaries and each other. Most of Jack the Giant Slayer is from Jack's ant-like perspective, like a medieval Honey I Shrunk the Kids.
Hoult is up to the physical task of outrunning (and occasionally slaying) the giants, a gimmick that never gets too repetitive thanks to Jack's 90-minute runtime. Livening up the set pieces are McGregor and Tucci, who both chew up their fair share of scenery along the way. McGregor is sprightly as the noble knight. At one point, the actor finds himself wrapped in dough, fated with becoming a human-sized pig in a blanket. Silly, but McGregor knows it — and plays it through for laughs. Tucci has a ball as the diabolical villain, sneering and sniveling against the computer animated giants. The man knows what he can get away with in a fairy tale movie and takes full advantage. The two eventually share a duel and its the highlight of the movie.
RELATED: Nicholas Hoult Goes to War In 7 New 'Giant Slayer' Pics
Teased in the trailers, Jack and the Giant Slayer caps off with a grand battle. The movie takes one too many cues from the fantasy films of yore (moments in the score feel directly ripped from Rings), but impressively, Singer's stamp never disappears, even in the biggest scenes. A sequence where the beanstalk is cut and topples over across the open fields is expertly crafted, while the warring finale moves swiftly from small moments, like Elmont and Jack organizing troops for battle, to vistas filled with destruction. When giants attack, they go big. Singer always knows just where to have us looking — at a firing catapult, at a bellowing giant, at knights pushing against the castle gate to ward off intruders — and it's cut together for maximum thrills.
Jack the Giant Slayer is blockbuster entertainment built upon fairy tale logic. Scrutiny does it no justice, but from a giant's point of view — or atop the beanstalk, if you're a pesky human — the big picture is good fun.
What do you think? Tell Matt Patches directly on Twitter @misterpatches and read more of his reviews on Rotten Tomatoes!
[Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]
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This week's episode of Glee was a complete and total whirlwind of emotions. From the shock of learning that McKinley High has a sewing club, to the excitement of seeing Carrie Bradshaw back in the Big Apple and the devastation of watching our favorite couples drift apart.
We've got a lot of ground to cover and I take my title of Glee-recapper very seriously (Side-Note: I wear my official sash and tiara with an immense amount of pride.) So sit back, relax and let me catch you up on everything that you may have missed.
So Here’s What You Missed on Glee:
Who runs the world? Blaine!: The episode opens very similarly to last week’s, but now it’s time for Blaine (Darren Criss) and his beloved bowtie to strut down the McKinley hallways with a voice over, declaring that this is his time to shine. So what does he do? He signs up for every single club imaginable while singing a beautiful version on “Everybody Wants To Rule The World.” Super Hero Side-kick Appreciation Club? Check! Blaine admits that his over-excessive clubbing is just a way to fill his time now that his beau is no longer in Lima. Of course they talk and text and skype as much as possible, but it’s just not the same. (Side-Note: the only thing more adorable than Blaine dressed up as Robin is Blaine and Kurt’s movie date via Skype!) So Blaine decides to fully commit to something and decides that he wants to run for senior class president and of course Brittany (Heather Morris) is less than pleased.
Brittany turns to Artie (Kevin McHale) and attempts to coax him into being her running-mate for the election. After calling him part robot and forgetting the fact that they once dated, she somehow convinces him to be her vice-president. In the last episode we saw that Brittany and Sam (Chord Overstreet) are the now the world’s cutest blonde besties, so you can imagine how hurt he was when he learned that he would not be helping Brittany in the election. Not to worry, gleeks, Brittany has it all under control! She suggests that Sam should be Blaine’s running-mate and then challenges the two to a debate.
The presidential pairs begin to prep for their debates and after a quick wardrobe change and a super rocker duet of “Celebrity Skin” Brittany and Sam are ready to go. At the debate, Sam suggests that Blaine ditches his signature bow-tie and shockingly he agrees. (Gasp!) We watch as Artie pours out a speech that goes on for a little more than a decade and Sam goes back to his stripper ways. (Side-Note: Oh gosh those abs… swoon!) Now it’s time for Brittany and Blaine to face off, and their speeches weren’t much better. Blaine goes on a rant about hairgel and Brittany says that because she loves her school so much, she is going to ban weekends and summers so that the students will be at McKinley everyday. Artie utters, “And we’ve just lost the election”
Kurt and Rachel Take New York: After finding the perfect outfit, Kurt struts his way into the offices of Vogue.com ready for the interview of his dreams. (Side-note: yay for the return of the hippopotamus brooch!) Enter the oh-so lovely Isabelle Wright (Sarah Jessica Parker) the senior editor of the website and Columbus Ohio native. The two fashion lovers strike up a quick bond. A hop, skip and a jump later, our lovely Porcelain was given the most glorious of gifts: an internship at Vogue.com and what seems to be the coolest boss ever.
On his first day interning, Kurt is doing a marvelous job of passing out coffees while Isabelle and her team of eccentric fashion experts pitch different ways to incorporate leather into their wardrobe. (Side-Note: I’m sorry, but there is no way I will ever sport a “cowhide brassiere.” Not only does that sound awkward, it sounds horribly uncomfortable) However, it only takes one small disapproving look from Kurt to shatter Isabelle confidence in her decision-making skills. It turns out that Isabelle is terrified of failing at her new job and has lost all sense of confidence to spot the newest trends. (Side-Note: Maybe Isabelle should watch one of my favorite fashion-inspired shows, it’s called Sex and The City.)
Once again, it seems like Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) can’t make it a single day without some cheerio, teacher, or freakishly tall ballerina making fun of her. Two of Rachel’s NYADA classmates have a problem with her wardrobe choices, “I didn’t know Lena Dunham was joining us today,” one quipped. (Side-Note: How dare you smite the good name of Lena Dunham, you twiggy, sock bun-wearing brat!) Of course, leave it to Kurt to come up with a brilliant idea to save his best friend’s confidence.
Kurt brings Rachel to the Vogue.com offices and after swiping a keycard into some pretty fancy-looking security devices, the two former Ohioans enter the couture vault with two missions in mind: give Rachel a makeover and create a brilliant music video for his new boss lady. But when Isabelle shows up, we're excited and kind of surprised to see that the editor is fully into the idea and she, Kurt, and Rachel perform a glorious mashup of “The Way You Look Tonight ” and “You’re Never Fully Dressed.” (Side-Note: Wheeee! Sarah Jessica Parker is singing, and it’s just lovely!)
Over in the NYADA dance studio, we see a newly dolled-up Rachel and out of nowhere Brody (Dean Geyer) waltzes into the exact same studio. Brody complements her make-over and once again reiterates his feelings, “I like you.” Rachel invites him to sing a duet, a first for this flirtatious duo. Singing “A Change Would Do You Good” Rachel and Brody partake in some scandalous dance moves and scamper throughout the streets of New York. (Side-Note: Why on earth are they running? And what was with that awkward ice-cream moment? Can someone please answer me these important questions?) Rachel then asks Brody the one question that breaks the hearts of Finchel fans everywhere, “What are you doing tomorrow night? I want to cook you dinner.”
NEXT: Will Wants More!
Will Wants More: Over in the choir room Mr. Schue (Matthew Morrison) announces that due to the New Directions' victory last year, they now get to host the national show choir’s rules committee meeting. (Side-Note: Does the choir room look different to anyone else this year? It seems almost wider?) And Sam makes a very funny point that all gleeks can consider giggle-worthy, “Why can some kids sing like six songs and others only do one?” We soon learn that Mr. Schue is completely out of good ideas for their sectional performance and slowly but surely, he's in a full-blown panic.
After talking with Coach Sue (Jane Lynch), Will realizes that he has lost his drive and spirit as an educator. Basically he’s feeling blah. Now that his dream of being national champs has come true, Will feels like there must be more out there for him to accomplish. At the National Show Choir rule committee meeting, we quickly learn that many schools’ glee clubs are being cut since there is not enough money to fund the arts. (Side-Note: Holy Crap, it’s Kirk from Gilmore Girls!)
Will is interested in joining the Blue Ribbon Panel, a slect group of individuals who aim to improve arts education and funding throughout the country. Although it sounds great, Will admits to Emma (Jayma Mays) that if he gets this position, he will have to leave McKinley for several months. Emma graciously tells her fiancé to follow his dream and encourages him to apply for the panel. (Side-Note: And once again we’re reminded as to why Wemma is one of the sweetest things to happen to this world since chocolate frosting.)
The Finale Five: As Artie predicted, Blaine and Sam (aka Blam) have won the election and the New Directions celebrate in a confetti-filled Breadstix. Unfortunately, Blaine is not really in the celebratory mood because he has not heard from Kurt since winning the the title. We see the new bow-tie free Blaine dial up his man again, but over in New York it seems that Kurt is too busy with his new Vogue friends. He physically presses “ignore” on the phone call. (Side-Note: I literally just screamed at my TV screen, “What the eff Kurt?!” Not cool, dude!) After a momentary identity crisis, Sam calms Blaine down and helps him realize that just because Kurt is gone doesn’t mean that Blaine should feel out of place at McKinley. We also see Sam and Brittany share yet another sweet moment together and Brittana fans are now waiting on pins and needles to see whether or not Ryan Murphy is going to pry Brittany away from her lady.
In New York, we see that Rachel has taken full advantage of her new makeover and picked out what Brody considers a “smokin” new outfit. After burning the dinner that she was preparing for him, Rachel and Brody share a classic New York style pizza on the floor of her apartment and drinking what I’m assuming is sparkling cider. (Side-Note: Remember people, she’s supposed to be 18!) The two share some childhood secrets and then right after Rachel brings up Finn (Cory Monteith), the two of them share a kiss. (Side-Note: Brody! What are you doing?! I thought we had something special!) Their kissing starts to really heat up, but then there’s a knock at the door. Rachel, assuming it’s Kurt, is completely astonished to see that Finn is standing directly in front of her. Finn’s expression changes from happy to confused to really mad in a matter of seconds once he realizes there is another guy in his girl’s apartment.
Most Heart-Warming Moment: Watching Isabelle, Kurt and Rachel prance around Vogue and living out our inner fantasties.
Most Heart-Breaking Moment: The excited look on Finn’s face when Rachel first opens the door.
“I think by bridging the human-slash-robot divide we'll ensure that both students and vending machines will be voting for us”—Brittany on campaigning with Artie
”Your complete lack of adult friends means you’re well on your way as a pedophile birthday clown.”—Sue to Will
“Ladies and gentlemen, telling anyone what the can and cannot put into their hair is disgusting. It’s the first step towards tyranny, my friends. The next thing you know they’ll start burning books, and then they’ll probably burn people too.”—Blaine
”I‘ve never been the cook-a-guy-dinner type. I’ve always been just the annoy-a-guy-for-a-year-until-he-finally-gives-in type.”—Rachel
Vote it out!
&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a href="http://polldaddy.com/poll/6567214/"&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;What was the best song of the night?&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Talk to me guys, what did you really think of the episode? Who’s freaking out for the fate of their favorite couple?! What do you think is going to happen in next week’s episode “The Break-up”? Let it all out in the comments below! Follow Leanne on Twitter @LeanneAguilera
[Photo Credit: FOX]
‘Glee’ Recap: Breakdowns, Brothers, and Britney 2.0
Michael Haneke is not in the "movies for entertainment" business. Or, at least, not the kind of cinematic entertainment that relies on bombastic visuals and wild plotlines to hook audiences. He's a realist, a philosopher, and the dramatic equivalent of MMA fighter Randy Couture. Get in the ring with him and he'll knock you out with only a few punches.
His latest film Amour, which had its North American premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, once again challenges viewers in blunt and terrifying ways, but with an added layer of sentiment that expands the German director's oeuvre. In the past, Haneke has directed films that center on a family's mass suicide (The Seventh Continent), home invasion and media violence (Funny Gmaes), sadomasochism (The Piano Teacher), and a town of inherently evil children who will eventually grow up to be the Nazi party (The White Ribbon). He's no stranger to downers. And while Amour has its own haunting twist, it might be the closest thing to a romantic tale the director will ever spin.
In true Haneke style, the setup for Amour is rather simple: Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva star as Georges and Anne, an elderly couple living in Paris who spend their days lounging around home, occasionally shopping for groceries or catching a show in the evening. One morning, Anne suffers a spat of complete memory loss, only to "reawaken" minutes later. The unprecedented incident prompts Georges to seek medical assistance, and a jump forward in time reveals it was only the beginning of Anne's health issues. In the wake of the minor incident, Anne suffers a stroke, leaving her paralyzed in one half of her body — even more devastating considering Anne's passion for playing the piano — and with a mind that's slowly dissipating. The couple's daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert) heads to Paris to help care for her mother, but Georges insists he can do it. He's a loving man dedicated to nursing his wife back to normal.
What separates Haneke's work from so many films tackling similar subject matters is reality. Truth, no matter how ugly, is a keystone of his work and Amour never strays. Anne is at a point of her life where she can't get better. In fact, things only get worse. As time passes, the dying woman can't bathe herself, can't go to the bathroom on her own, needs Georges' assistance for tasks as simple as sipping water. Georges floats along helping how he can, but only seeing his own future in Anne. The pure love and joy in the man's heart makes Amour unexpectedly sweet, but the inevitable conclusion haunts every moment.
The slow death of old age isn't an easy concept swallow and Amour isn't an easy movie to watch. But even so, it's a must-see, an important dramatization of real life that we shouldn't be frightened to confront. Haneke and the two phenomenal actors (the physicality necessary to play a woman crippled by stroke deserves award recognition for Emmanuelle Riva) do the heavy-lifting. We just need to get in the ring.
Sony Pictures Classics is set to release Amour on December 19, 2012.
[Photo Credit: Sony Pictures]
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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On the surface Hugo looks like your run-of-the-mill Harry Potter knock-off full of whimsy spectacle life lessons and faux-imagination. But the young adult fiction adaptation is anything but factory-processed. Filled with more passion emotion and drama than most "Oscar contenders" of 2011 Hugo transcends its fantastical predecessors. Some call Hugo director Martin Scorsese's foray into kids movies but the film speaks to "kids" young and old. Every scene every moment every frame gushes with creativity and artistry and it's one of the best movies of the year.
Hugo doesn't sugarcoat the plights faced by the film's titular hero. When we pick up with Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) the savvy lad is living in the walls of a 1930's Parisian train station taking over the clock winding duties of his missing uncle (a drunk who took him in after his clockmaker father's unfortunate demise). Aside from his day to day duties Hugo faces greater challenges: evading capture from the station's resident orphan wrangler (Sacha Baron Cohen) and swiping parts from a toy store owner (Ben Kingsley) to rebuild his father's automaton a early 20th century robot designed for entertainment. Hugo's thievery is eventually discovered by the weary toyman who takes the child under his wing to make use of his tinkering skills. The professional relationship introduces Hugo to the toyman's goddaughter Isabelle (Chloe Moretz) who helps Hugo unravel the greater mystery behind his father's robot and "Papa Georges " as well as better understand himself.
As Hugo and Isabelle dig deeper into Papa Georges' history they unearth a history that's simultaneously magical and true—they aren't going to a far away land through an otherworldly portal but instead examining an aspect of history cinematic history in fact that feels foreign to them (and the audience). With a their innocent perspective the young duo marvel at stories of the early days of film and glimpses of long lost silents. This is Scorsese's playground. His love for the early days of film is infused into the design and story of Hugo giving the movie a timeless feel that sweeps the viewer up.
But Hugo isn't just a souped-up Film 101 course. The historical revelations are only part of Hugo's emotional journey which is equally enhanced by stunning 3D detailed production design and a supporting cast woven into the film's fabric to further expand the world. Cohen's Station Inspector is like a Buster Keaton character complete with pratfalls and heart. Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man Boardwalk Empire appears as Scorsese's proxy relishing the world of film while caring for Hugo and Isabelle. Even Christopher Lee's (Lord of the Rings) brief turn as a book store owner succeeds in evoking a smile. All the parts come together under the intricate train station set a beautifully realized period piece brought to life by Scorsese's dimensional 3D. Never before has a stereoscopic film worked so hard to bring you into the picture or enhance the storytelling (on sequence shows a cowering crowd experiencing film for the first time a train hurtling towards camera—an effect paralleled in today's 3D effects!). If the story doesn't suck you in the artistry on display in Hugo surely will.
We praised the film in an unfinished form when we caught it at New York Film Festival and the finalized version packs an even greater punch. Hugo is the perfect film to hypnotize young people with the magic of film or to revisit the heart-pounding experience of a person's first time at a movie theater. This isn't nostalgic baiting but rather expert filmmaking.