Review Roundup: ‘Jack the Giant Slayer,’ ‘21 & Over,’ ‘Phantom’


This week’s all about the guys, at least at the nation’s box office. Yes, it’s a testosterone-laden mix of action, comedy and drama as the world waits for next week’s appearance by a particular wizard.

The biggest release this week is Jack the Giant Slayer. In this melding of the classic fairytales “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Jack the Giant Killer,” Jack (Nicholas Hoult) accidentally links the kingdom of Cloister to a world filled with giants through the use of magical beans, and in the process sends Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson), the kingdom’s princess, into the land of the giants. Jack must fight the giants to save himself, the princess, and the kingdom.

Jack the Giant Slayer is the latest in a slew of fairytale adaptations to hit screens in the last few years.With a few exceptions, most of these films have bombed, and considering the quality of most of the films, there are ample explanations for these failures. While it’s not positioned to do well, Jack the Giant Slayerdeserves a fighting chance. While there’s some inherent darkness to the story presented here, Jackmaintains more focus on the adventure and romantic aspects, and there’s a definite joy to the proceedings that’s been lacking in many of the fairytale adaptations of late. The inclusion of 3D works well here, too, thanks to the decision by director Bryan Singer (X-MenSuperman Returns) to avoid the typical post-production 3D process and shoot the film in 3D instead.

Jack is also blessed with a ridiculously talented cast, led here by Nicholas Hoult. Jack marks Hoult’s second lead appearance this year, following Warm Bodies, and between the two performances, he’s providing proof that he may very well be the Next Big Thing in Hollywood. The supporting cast includes excellent performances by Ewan McGregor and Ian McShane, and it also provides a genuinely delightful madcap performance from Stanley Tucci. While the film is being marketed to families, audiences of all ages should at least get some enjoyment out of the film.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a film that will (likely) not include children in the audience, 21 & Over may be the way to go, depending on how you like your comedy. The story finds buddies Miller and Casey reuniting with friend Jeff Chang, with the intention of taking Jeff out for a drink the night of his 21st birthday. What ensues is a crazed evening of debauchery and madness. Go figure.

Fans of The Hangover might find 21 & Over a bit familiar, and they should—Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the writers of The Hangover, make their directorial debut here. 21 & Over is essentially a slightly toned down version of The Hangover—the hardest thing consumed in the film is alcohol, and the action takes place on a college campus instead of Las Vegas. There is a perk here, though: ample male nudity from all three of the main stars. If there’s one redeeming factor about watching 21 & Over, it’s seeing Skylar Astin (Pitch Perfect) naked.

Finally, new film distributor RCR releases their first theatrical film this week with Phantom. Set in the late 1960s, and loosely based on a true story (more on that in a moment), Phantom follows Demi (Ed Harris), a Soviet Navy captain given one last, mysterious task involving an old submarine. The presence of KGB officers, who have their own mission, threatens to bring the world to the brink of World War III.

Where to begin… You know there’s a problem with your film when a cast that includes remarkable character actors like Ed Harris and William Fichtner can’t make your film watchable. Phantom is a tedious film with a production quality that belongs on cable TV at 3 a.m., not on 2,000+ screens across the country. For a film set in the 1960s Soviet Union, even if it’s largely aboard a submarine, having all of your actors speak with definite American accents is a horrible, horrible decision. I won’t get into the ending here, in case anyone reading this actually decides to watch the film, but I will say this: acknowledging after the final scene that the events surrounding the main part of your story are largely unknown, and that the film is basically pure speculation, means that your film really should avoid the whole “based on an historical moment” angle in promotional materials. As previously mentioned, this is RCR’s first theatrical release, and if the rest of their works in production are on this level of poorly-composed messiness, the upstart should reevaluate their future plans.

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