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.
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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.
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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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Though ostensibly successful 2009’s The Final Destination represented to many a horror franchise on its last hackneyed legs. Rote uninspired and humorless it scored a (modest) hit only by virtue of the novelty -- and added ticket price -- of its 3D transfer. Two years later Final Destination 5 arrives with a slightly tweaked formula a beefed-up storyline actors you might actually recognize and genuine honest-to-goodness 3D. It’s still schlock mind you -- but artful schlock and a marked improvement over the preceding entry.
The story begins in familiar fashion with a cursory introduction to the characters followed by a grisly premonition that sees them perish wholesale. An assortment of cubicle-dwellers at a paper factory are being bused to a corporate retreat when one of them Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto perpetually bug-eyed) dreams of a massive bridge collapse in which he and his co-workers are impaled beheaded bisected crushed by cars singed by tar -- however many ways a suspension bridge can kill a person the film’s opening set-piece explores it gruesome detail. Sam awakens duly horrified and demands the bus be evacuated. Seconds later the employees watch in horror from the sidelines as Sam’s vision comes to fruition.
You know what happens next. One-by-one death stalks the survivors who meet their fate in a series of elaborately-staged incidents. Some are relatively straightforward; others involve fiendish head-fakes and red herrings. The range of victims is older and more colorful than in previous Final Destination films in which death preyed exclusively on attractive nubile teenagers but the end result is invariably the same. (Not to give anything away but those considering acupuncture or laser eye surgery would be wise to avoid the film entirely.) As death’s scheme becomes achingly evident Sam his lachrymose girlfriend Molly (Emma Bell) and his increasingly unhinged buddy Peter (Miles Fisher) become increasingly desperate. Enter the ever-ominous Tony Todd returning to the franchise after (wisely) taking the previous film off offering a potential way out. But is it genuine or just another of death’s cruel tricks?
Director Steven Quale a James Cameron protege hired principally for his 3D expertise takes full advantage of the added dimension delivering some of the most vivid and immersive 3D sequences in recent memory. Unlike The Final Destination which seemed little more than a amalgam of crude one-liners Final Destination 5 feels like a real movie one with a discernible plot an element of suspense and a handful characters who are more than just punchlines. Most of the actors are surprisingly competent save for Fisher a credible doppelganger for Tom Cruise (he parodied him 2008’s Superhero Movie) who imbues every line with couch-jumping intensity.
Final Destination 5 ends with a twist that while genuinely unexpected feels like a Hail Mary for a franchise that can’t forestall its inexorable descent into stale irrelevance despite the best of efforts from Quale. Its trademark formula has simply lost its potency -- a problem no amount of cosmetic upgrades however welcome can fix. That the film is bracketed by two pointless and time-consuming montages -- the first an animated sequence that hurtles various hazardous objects at the audience the second a greatest hits compilation of memorable kills from previous Final Destination films -- is a telltale sign that the saga’s creativity is on life support. Perhaps it’s time to pull the plug.
It’s a simple enough idea. Three friends with three fiendishly
terrible bosses let a little liquid courage help them down a dastardly
yet not all that surprising road: kill the bastards. And as ridiculous as the idea behind Horrible Bosses is as low-brow as much of the humor
is and as hard as it tries (and fails) to ground itself in real world
issues it still works. And when I say it works I mean it’s just really
At the film’s center we have Nick (Jason Bateman) Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day) and their well horrible bosses: Dave
Harken (Kevin Spacey) Bobby Pellit (Colin Farrell) and Dr. Julia
Harris D.D.S. (Jennifer Aniston). In order for any of this potential
murdering to work the film has to truly vilify this trio of bosses and
on that token it succeeds almost too well. Spacey’s terrifying
psychopath of a boss isn’t exactly funny though he did make me want to
crawl under my seat and hide. Farrell’s cokehead kung-fu master is
probably the most surprising of the three though he doesn’t get nearly
enough screen time. And finally we find Aniston the woman who can’t
seem to shake the term “America’s Sweetheart ” as the insatiable
psychotic sexual deviant. I can’t say Aniston will be able to get away
with this sort of thing in the future but the shock factor of seeing
her flip her switch like this garners some laughs this time.
Of course none of this would work without our hapless heroes.
Bateman does his usual shctick as the loveable level-headed straightman
trying to keep himself afloat while the other two can’t seem to stay
out of trouble. Sudeikis brings his deep-voiced frat boy antics to the
screen and while they normally don’t do it for me Bateman and Day
balance him out. Of course when we get down to it Day is the one who
steals the film. He’s not exactly delivering the unbridled insanity
we’ve come to know and love on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia but
that’s only because in this film he actually plays a normal functioning
human being. And when you combine Day’s signature spasms and raspy
high-pitched verbal fits with Aniston’s overdrawn predatory practices
you get a few bursts of hilarity however uncomfortable.
Finally we get a few chuckles out of Dean "MF" Jones
(Jamie Foxx) but the actor himself was completely wasted. The character
simply rests on the idea that we know Foxx as a personality outside of
the film -- much like Aniston’s character does -- rather than actually requiring
any legwork from such a capable onscreen presence.
But there's a little method to this madness; without this giant cast of talented major players the
script itself would likely fall a little flat. A few wayward jokes drag
it down including a desperate attempt to connect this workplace issue
to the financial crisis by including a former Lehman Brothers employee
rendered so desperate by his circumstances that he trolls Applebee’s
offering sexual favors. The movie succeeds as a superficial goofy
comedy – it really has no place trying to nudge its way into real world
Of course there’s one thing I find incredibly refreshing about the flick ; while it certainly has the typical trio formula – the straight
man the smartass and the nutjob – it gives all three equal billing.
Nick isn’t the main character and his two friends aren’t his sidekicks.
Director Seth Gordon opens the film with three segments of equal length
wherein each peg of our trio takes a moment to explain their own
personal slice of daily hell with a particularly hilarious brand of
explicit language before the film gets down to business. It makes Nick
Kurt and Dale a true trio and gives weight to each of their cartoonish
tribulations as the film's punctuated pace eventually descends into complete insanity.
You probably won’t add Horrible Bosses to your list of classic
comedies and it certainly doesn’t merit extensive praise but the bottom
line is that despite a few overreaching elements it’s just a
fast-paced outrageous hilarious summer comedy. And really with a film
like this that’s all we’re hoping for anyway.