“Jack the Giant Slayer”: Bryan Singer (Superman Returns” tries to do with “Jack and the Beanstalk” what Tim Burton did with “Alice in Wonderland”; turn a beloved children’s story into a big budget blockbuster. Burton pulled off his “Alice” reimaging by creating a lush, fantastic world and having his writers give the story a strong feminist underpinning. Singer has chosen to make his Jack (Nicholas Hoult) a bystander who gets swept up in the massive conflict between humans and giants after he plants the mythical magic beans and grows the beanstalk bridge between realms. Singer has thrown in a swashbuckling knight (Ewan McGregor), a scheming royal (Stanley Tucci), and a princess that needs saving (Eleanor Tomlinson), and a bunch of CG giants that need defeating in his quest for a billion dollar box office. I suspect Singer won’t succeed in his aim because as opposed to Burton, the “Usual Suspects” director isn’t a strong visualist and everything about the film’s narrative suggests a boiler plate adventure story, not an imagination-capturing epic. Funnily enough, even if this film is a flop it won’t effect Singer’s career much as he’s already working on the next X-Men film, and that’s a franchise film that could make money if it was directed Lance Mungia. Also starring Ian McShane,
Fun fact: The film release date was pushed back almost a year so as not to compete with Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises.”
“21 and Over”: From Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, writers of the first “Hangover” film, comes this similarly premised film about a young man (Justin Chon) who’s best friends (Skylar Astin, Miles Teller) take him out for a night of partying to celebrate his 21st birthday despite the fact that he has a medical school interview the next day. There’s not a lot of mystery in how a plot like this is going to resolve, but that’s not really the point. Movies like this are about the drug and alcohol fueled journey. If the wild antics and resultant property damaged are sufficiently entertaining, then the movie will a brainless romp, if not it’s the “Hangover Part II.” Regardless, the ideal presentation for a film like this is an uncut Blu-ray played after at least on alcohol beverage has been consumed. Also Sarah Wright, Francois Chau, and Samantha Futerman.
Fun fact: An alternate cut of the film made for the Chinese market that will feature a radically different plotline.
“The Last Exorcism Part II”: Formerly possessed young woman Nell (Ashley Bell) tries to put her life back together only to find dark forces pulling at her once again. The first “Last Exorcism” film was a better than average found footage film that danced on the line between psychological and supernatural horror but this follow up, by its nature as a sequel, doesn’t have any of the original ambiguity. There might be something interesting to be found in what looks to be a mercenary cash in (aside from producer Eli Roth, none of the first films creators have a hand in this film) that isn’t being screened for critics before its premieres but I’m betting that the film should be subtitled “Diminishing Returns.” Also starring Julie Garner, Spencer Treat Clark, and Muse Watson.
Fun fact: The first “Last Exorcism” is distributer CBS Films second highest grossing film to date. “The Woman in Black” is their highest grossing.
“Phantom”: Also in theaters this week is this mysterious Ed Harris led film about a rogue Soviet submarine commander. I call the film mysterious because until I looked up this week’s new releases, I had never heard of this film, which also stars David Duchovny as aboard Harris’ who hides a destructive secret. Ed Harris is a dependable screen presence and Duchovny has been good in everything outside of “Californiaction” but nothing about writer/director Todd Robinson’s resume or the film’s out of nowhere release suggest its anything but a direct-to-DVD movie with a wide distribution deal. Also starring Willaim Fichtner, Lance Hendrickson, and Sean Patrick Flannery.
Fun fact: The film’s frustratingly ambiguous trailer seems to bare my suspicions out.
Mario McKellop has written about film on Examiner for the last three years and can be reached directly at email@example.com