“Jack the Giant Slayer” (Action/Adventure: 1 hour, 54 minutes)
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Stanley Tucci, Ewan McGregor and Ian McShane
Director: Bryan Singer
Rated: PG-13 (Violence, some frightening images and brief language)
Movie Review: Jack (Hoult), a young farmhand, unknowingly creates a passage to the land of the giants after magical beans grow into a large beanstalk that reaches into the sky. This reignites a long battle between humans and giants. To save a kingdom and its Princess Isabelle (Tomlinson), who Jack fancies, Jack becomes a slayer of giants.
As entertainment, this is energetic. It is an adaptation of Jack and Beanstalk, the English folktale. The visual effects and action should be enough to keep any audience member charmed, yet its visual effects overpower and make characters flat.
Hoult is convincing as an actor. He always makes sure he fits his role uniquely and convincingly. His boyish charm works here.
Actors Tucci and McGregor are good, too. However, this action-adventure does not allow their roles to be the meaty material these fine actors could bring into play.
This exists mainly because they are overshadowed by overdone visual effects. The computer-generated imagery is too plentiful.
Still, Jack manages to be an adequate enough treat for those looking for light entertainment and easy-on-the-brain exploits. Singer (“X-Men,” 2000) has directed better, but “Slayer” is good enough to suffice in the interim.
Grade: B- (He should slay most audiences.)
“Quartet” (Drama/Comedy: 1 hour, 38 minutes)
Starring: Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins, Billy Connolly and Michael Gambon
Director: Dustin Hoffman
Rated: PG-13 (Strong language, crude humor and sexual innuendo and suggestive material)
Movie Review: While nothing powerful, Dustin Hoffman directs this film, his first, with gusto. It features several prominent people who are tenants at Beecham House, a place for retired musicians. Life at the retirement home is status quo until the arrival of Jean Horton (the legendary Dame Maggie Smith). She is a diva and the former wife of Reginald Paget (Courtenay), one of the residents. This disruption comes just as the Beecham House prepares for its annual Verdi Festival to celebrate Verdi’s birthday.
“Quartet” is good film. This exists mainly because of its seasoned cast.
Smith is phenomenal, no matter the role. She has been charming international audiences for decades. She deserves plenty of admiration for her turn here. She forever remains captivating.
Courtenay provides some of the film’s best dramatic moments. His scenes with Smith are fascinating.
Collins is energetically fantastic, and she plays a woman losing her memory superbly. Connolly and Gambon are pure humor. Connolly is especially endearing. He easily steals scenes as a promiscuous old man with plenty of jokes. The cast is the reason to watch this film. They play their roles with zeal. They are impressive. Hoffman directs them like a master craftsman.
“Quartet” is a neat independent film. It is equal parts drama and comedy. The drama is weaker because the story inserts comedy at random moments. The dramatic and comedic moments clash at times. This is the great fault of this otherwise inspiring photoplay.
Grade: B (A commendable grouping.)
“The Last Exorcism Part II” (Horror/Thriller: 1 hour, 28 minutes)
Starring: Ashley Bell, Julia Garner and Spencer Treat Clark
Director: Ed Gass-Donnelly
Rated: PG-13 (Violence, sexuality and thematic elements)