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Movie REVIEW: Jack the Giant Slayer

A good flick for older kids and young teenagers. Parents or adults may like some of what they see but will realize they have seen better. So, when dealing with farm boys, Singer still struggles.

7.0 out of 10 | DVD or Rental

Rated: PG-13 Intense scenes of fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief language.

Release Date: March 1, 2013

Runtime: 1 hour 55 minutes

Director: Bryan Singer

Writers: Darren Lemke, Christopher McQuarrie, Dan Studney, David Dobkin

Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Eddie Marsan, Ewen Bremner, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy, Cornell John, Andrew Brooke, Angus Barnett, Ben Daniels

SYNOPSIS: The ancient war between humans and a race of giants is reignited when Jack, a young farmhand fighting for a kingdom and the love of a princess, opens a gateway between the two worlds.

REVIEW: Valkyrie and X-Men director Bryan Singer returns to the big screen with a fantasy adventure based on the classic tale of Jack and the Beanstalk. A cadre of writers flesh out the original tale, including Shrek Forever After scribe Darren Lemke, Jack Reacher screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie, plus David Dobkin and Dan Studney. Can Singer succeed with a farm boy named Jack where he failed with a farm boy named Clark.

Jack (Nicolas Hoult, Warm Bodies) loves to hear about the legends of King Eric, magic beans created by monks trying to commune with their god, a massive bean stalk that led them to a realm between heaven and earth - a realm ruled by Giants with the thirst to acquire material objects and acquire the taste for human meat. Only the creation of a crown created from the hard heart of a Giant and worn by King Eric was able to stem the tide of the pillaging giants ravaging the earth and return the leviathans back to their realm. Fact became fiction. Fiction became legend. Legend became myth and stories to be told to children from fairy tale books. Young Jack revels in the stories his father tells of the legendary giants. Ten years later a more grown up Jack works on his uncle's farm, sent to the kingdom's castle to sell a horse and cart. While there, Jack intercedes when a young woman Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson, Alice in Wonderland) who is being accosted by village drunks. When Isabelle is sought out and rescued by the guardians of King Brahmwell (Ian McShane, Snow White and the Huntsman). As Princess Isabelle flees from the castle in search of adventure, she stumbles upon Jack's farm where an errant magical bean creates a beanstalk that transport Isabelle up to the mythical  floating lands of the Giants. The King summons his most trusted guardian Elmont (Ewan McGregor, The Impossible) to take a team up the stalk to rescue his daughter. Roderick (Stanley Tucci,The Hunger Games), Isabelle's arranged husband-to-be volunteers to go with the retrieval team, as does his assistant Wicke (Ewen Bremner, Great Expectations) and Jack himself. When they get to the top, they come face to face with a throng of Giants led by General Fallon (voiced by Bill Nighy, Total Recall), including Fee (voiced by Cornell John,The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian), Fye (voiced by Andrew Brooke, Nice Guy), Foe (voiced by Angus Barnett, Hugo), and Fumm (voiced by Ben Daniels, Luna).

Based on the classic Jack and the Beanstalk tale, Bryan Singer and his stable of writers take the story and create a different spin on the tale of a farm boy taking on a land full of Giants bent on the pilfering and destruction of the human race. Can one forgettable boy birth succeed where royals and the noble ranks cannot? The tale is one of perseverance of a wayward dreamer pushing on in the name of romance and love. Add in the threat of mankind-hating Giants and you have a fantasy tale that a pre-adolescent audience will enjoy.

The Jack the Giant Slayer cast fit very well this fantasy adventure. Nicholas Hoult plays both the dreamy eyed farmboy and soon to be heroic conqueror of giants in equal measure. Ian McShane brings back a character similar to that he played in The Seeker: The Dark is Rising, always moving and speaking in even stoic tones. Tomlinson's Princess and future Queen Isabelle takes after her mother with a rebellious nature and adventurous spirit. She is beautiful enough to catch a man's eyes and tough enough to stand up for herself in the wild. Ewan McGregor, playing the King's General of the Guardians Elmont, takes a chapter from his later Ben Kenobi role to lead his men with grace, preparedness, and nobility. Stanley Tucci's Roderick and Ewen Bremner's Wicke represents the worst of humanity as he and his assistant only looks to take over the kingdom for his own power and gain, willing to use the Giants in the kingdom in the clouds to decimate the peoples in the lands Roderick wishes to rule. Bill Nighy leads the voice actors as the Giants' General Fallon.

Watching Jack the Giant Slayer is like watching The 7th Voyage of Sindbad or Jason and the Argonauts on Saturday morning television. While the story is fun and entertaining, the effects don't live up to expectations. The Giants in their own land in the clouds are stylized and well-defined but they don't really hold when on screen against the human actors. Maybe meant to be fanciful and stylized, the scenes with human actors against a green screen on a soundstage with additionally shots exterior horses and actors and CGI work behind doesn't mesh well together at all. In this world of The Lord of the Rings franchise or any of a number of superhero action adventures one would think that Brian Singer could have put together a tighter CGI fantasy effort.

Brian Singer is known for exemplary work with films like X-Men United, Apt Pupil and The Usual Suspects. He is no stranger to fine storytelling or good work with special effects. Somehow in this effort Singer missed the mark with FX that detracts from the story.

Jack the Giant Slayer will be a good flick for older kids and young teenagers. Parents or adults may like some of what they see but will realize they have seen better. So, when dealing with farm boys, Singer still struggles.

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