On DVD & Blu-Ray: June 18, 2013

After being postponed nearly a year for post production reasons that involved more time for the special effects (where were the results of that?) as well as for a bigger marketing push we finally have the first new film from director Bryan Singer in four years. A retelling of the classic fairy tale, Jack the Giant Slayer (formerly titled Jack the Giant Killer) is another in a long line of Hollywood attempting to capitalize on a trend that never made it past the first lap. You can't completely fault them as this film was greenlit in 2009, well before Tim Burtons Alice in Wonderland began the trend of bringing old fairy tales to the modern audience with gigantic budgets.Though this trend hasn't exactly proved a winning one it will surely continue far past this fun, forgettable film that brings nothing new to the genre of fantasy and pure escapism but does nothing to harm it either. It is a perfectly acceptable two hours of amusing and imaginative storytelling that plays out exactly as we imagine it might, but the keyword is imaginative. Director Singer has always had a fun imagination and has incorporated it into both his stories and filmmaking techniques. Whether it be The Usual Suspects, X2, or even Superman Returns and Valkyrie I have always found something about the guys films to be endearing and impossible to dislike (yes, I liked Superman Returns, so sue me). This feeling continues with this film and whether it be the fact I have a soft spot for Singer or that I am more easily convinced in a pure fantasy world that everything is fun, I had a good time watching this movie. I didn't love it and it certainly has room for improvement in several areas, but it was enjoyable nonetheless and I'm not too upset about that outcome. C+

It was inevitable that this years comedy that opened in March and also beginning with the number 21 would get nowhere close to the glory of last years. 21 Jump Street's dynamic duo of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are a tough match yet despite all of that the boys of 21 & Over, Miles Teller and Skylar Astin, were able to put up a good enough effort to win them a good bit of credibility and respect. 21 Jump Street this is not, but coming out almost a year to the day after Project X (that one produced by Hangover director Todd Phillips) this all night long party of a movie is more in the vein of films such as that juvenile outing. This one, surprisingly enough, has a more sophisticated (for lack of a better word) approach and no handheld camera schtick or as large an element of disbelief distracting us either. As written and directed by the same guys who penned the original Hangover script, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, I'd have to say I was surprised by how much I took away from this film. It goes by at a breakneck speed and hits all the right, formulaic marks before finding a conscience at the end that teaches a fine enough lesson without feeling too hypocritical. The film is nothing anyone will find to be particularly groundbreaking and certainly won't stick around in anyone's mind for long, but it is well enough fun and much better than it had any right to be. For that, it deserves a bit of positive word of mouth. It is one of those films easy to dismiss, hip to pass off, but if someone were to put it on in the background at a party I guarantee a good portion of the people would find their attention drawn to the antics onscreen. C

I re-watched 2010's The Last Exorcism before watching this unnecessary sequel as I remembered liking it much more than I expected, but not for the reasons one expects when going to see a horror flick. No, I was never truly scared by what I saw on screen with the original film but more I was intrigued by the originality of it. Just when I thought I'd seen every kind of incarnation in which an exorcism could be presented on screen this found footage, documentary-like movie set a new standard for the exorcism film. The heart of that film, despite Ashley Bell's wonderfully innocent performance as sheltered yet possessed farm girl Nell Sweetzer, was Patrick Fabian as Reverend Cotton Marcus. Fabian created a charismatic character that was difficult to like, but at the same time able to create a sympathetic reasoning for his actions. He was a con man toying with peoples beliefs, but he was funny and to be fair he always had the best of intentions. The first film that needed no sequel, that called for no continuation of the story, or left anyone with a desire to see what happened to Nell (I think we all just assumed she died giving birth to a demon child!) was a brief hour and twenty-seven minutes long. The Last Exorcism Part II (which may be the most misleading title in the history of cinema) clocks in at only a minute longer, but feels like it goes on for days. It has an episodic feel to it that never picks up and never feels like a coherent work but instead a compilation of scenes that show our protagonist running from something and we're never given a real reason as to why, but are expected to be frightened every time a loud sound interrupts the scene over and over again. D-

I don't even know where to start with this movie. I haven't thought about it since seeing it in theaters and I didn't really ever want to again. For a year before its theatrical release I'd heard rumblings of what exactly Movie 43 was or what it was supposed to be. Naturally, the main thing we heard about it was that it contained an onslaught of Hollywood A-listers that were melded together to form some kind of rampant comedy that moves through its stars as fast as it does offensive jokes. Problem with the film is that it is trying way too hard and only succeeding once in a blue moon to really capture any genuinely funny moments. I won't lie in saying I was somewhat excited to see the film after the first trailer and as someone who enjoys mainstream comedy this one in particular had seemingly no regard for what people might say about it no matter who it offended, which made it rather intriguing and hopefully fun. I can buy into that kind of thing and see having a great time with it but even more than being completely tasteless, Movie 43 is more than anything just plain dumb. With this ridiculously large, sprawling all-star cast you might expect there to have been some real incentive making each of them want to participate or feel attracted to the project and with a reported budget of only $6 million it certainly wasn't for the money. What could it have been that drew in so many big-name actors and actresses an convinced them this was a good idea? We may never know because all we are left with is a steaming pile of unfunny droppings of underdeveloped sketches that wouldn't even make it onto a bad episode of Saturday Night Live. F

The concept of Upside Down is enough to intrigue anyone, but what that concept ultimately becomes is a bit of a let down in terms of what the synopsis and trailers seemingly promised. That isn't to say this was a bad film or that I'd accuse it of false advertising, but it turns out to be more The Notebook than Inception. When a film promises it will take place in a different solar system where two twin planets each with their own and opposite gravity causing a disruption between societies there is reason for a sci-fi fan to be excited and optimistic. More than simply societal differences, these two worlds are better compared to the Capulets and Montagues. It is an interesting thought, to take the star crossed lovers story and apply it to an original idea that might allow the functions and rules of a new universe to give bigger and fresh obstacles to our two protagonists, but the entire time I was watching this film it felt more like the makers had become so entranced and swept up in making sure the logistics of this world worked properly that they forgot how well (or not so well) they were developing their characters and the story they were trying to tell. It is easy to see how Upside Down might have been a roller coaster adventure as a novel or seemed absolutely engaging as a script (the thoughts of how this might all look being too ambitious an undertaking for the actors to turn down), but as it is delivered in what fortunately feels like a brief hour and forty-seven minutes the film never seems to find its footing and dig into where it could have gone until way too late. The narration from Jim Sturgess' Adam hints at the idea that writer and director Juan Solanas would like to make a few more films set in this universe, and I wouldn't mind venturing back, but before he does so he would need to make sure the story will be just as involving as the visuals. C

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