The New Release Rack: 'Jack the Giant Slayer' takes fantasy spectacle up the beanstalk
Plus 'Quartet' with Maggie Smith, 'Brass Teapot,' 'The Last Exorcism Part II,' and more
"Stoker" (Fox), the American debut of South Korean director Park Chan-wook ("Oldboy"), stars Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, and Nicole Kidman as an uneasy family with a dark legacy. Videodrone's review is here.
"Jack the Giant Slayer" (New Line), Bryan Singer's entry in the fairy tale-as-big-screen-adventure-spectacle moviemaking, stars Nicholas Hoult as the titular Jack, Ewan McGregor as a dashing knight who leads the charge up the beanstalk to save the princess (Eleanor Tomlinson), Stanley Tucci doing villain duty as the snide turncoat, and Ian McShane and Bill Nighy. It also reunites Singer with longtime collaborators Christopher McQuarrie (who takes a hand in the screenplay) and John Ottman (music and editing).
"[A]n impressive cast and an action-packed second half make the film suited to anyone eager for an escapist fantasy outing," recommends MSN film critic Kate Erbland. ""Jack the Giant Slayer" struggles to find proper pacing and tone for its first half, bogged down by Singer's apparent eagerness to get up the stalk and into the action while also attempting to get his audience invested in a multitude of characters. It's all much better (and much more entertaining) once the herd has been thinned and we can focus on the characters and plots that are truly engaging."
Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, and DVD, with deleted scenes, a gag reel, and an UltraViolet digital copy for download and instant streaming. The Blu-ray editions feature the "Becoming a Giant Slayer" mode, which allows you to branch off to see featurettes and other supplements while watching the movie (hosted by Nicholas Holt). Also On Demand
"Quartet" (Anchor Bay), the directorial debut of Dustin Hoffman, takes us into more grown-up territory, with Maggie Smith as flamoyant opera diva who moves into a home for retired musicians just as they prepare for a fundraising concert. Tom Courtney is her former husband and Pauline Collins and Billy Connolly fill out the foursome of the title. "All these very conventional setups and machinations being what they are, the movie actually becomes an active pleasure once the players are finally set in their places," recommends MSN film critic Glenn Kenny. "The writing -- the movie was scripted by Ronald Harwood, who won an Oscar for "The Pianist," and he adapted it from his own play -- is sharper and wittier and more generally astute than you get in almost every other help-the-aged picture that comes along these days."
Blu-ray and DVD, with commentary by director Dustin Hoffman and a collection of short featurettes. Also On Demand and at Redbox
"The Brass Teapot" (Magnolia) stars Juno Temple and Michael Angarano as a young couple who discover a magical brass teapot that pays off every time they hurt themselves, which pits their greed against their well-being. MSN film critic Kate Erbland writes that "Bolstered by charming chemistry between its leads, "The Brass Teapot" is a fun enough watch, but for a film that attempts to speak on such big topics as morality, greed, and fidelity, it has little lasting value." Blu-ray and DVD, with director commentary, featurettes, interviews, and deleted scenes.
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"The Last Exorcism Part II" (Sony), if anything, makes clear that it, in fact, wasn't the last exorcism after all. Ashley Bell is once again getting possessed and Ed Gass-Donnelly (of "Small Town Murder Songs") directs, jettisoning the "found footage" look for a more classical approach. It did not win many fans and the reviews were not kind. Blu-ray and DVD, with the featurettes "Shooting in New Orleans" and "Hair Salon Scare." Exclusive to the Blu-ray is commentary by director Ed Gass-Donnelly and the featurette "Nell's Story," plus an UltraViolet digital copy for download and instant streaming. Also On Demand and at Redbox.
A pair of comedies trying to milk laughs out of excess failed to get the "Hangover" crowd. "21 & Over" (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand) came in on a low-budget with a cast of unknowns binge-drinking for laughs and faced overwhelmingly bad reviews (MSN film critic Kate Erbland was kinder than most), but "Movie 43" (Fox), an attempt at a skit-comedy feature in the "Kentucky Fried Movie" vein with a cast of big stars (among them Kat Winslet, Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts, and Liev Schreiber) throwing self-respect to the wind, was one of the worst reviewed films of the year and a massive flop to boot, despite an indie budget (reviews here).
Indies and oddities:
"American Mary" (Xlrator), directed by filmmaking team Jen and Sylvia Soska (aka the Twisted Twins), stars Katharine Isabelle (of the "Ginger Snaps" films) as a medical student who funds her education by performing underground surgery and body modification, with a side of revenge. More in the B-Sides round-up at the end of the month, but check out Don Kaye's interview with Isabelle at Parallel Universe.
"Saving Lincoln" (SavingLincoln.com, DVD), a low-budget drama about the friendship between the President and his longtime bodyguard, Ward Hill Lamon, with actors shot against civil war-era photographs. DVD, with commentary and featurettes. Reviews here.
"The Ghastly Love of Johnny X" (Strand, DVD) a spoof of fifties drive-in movies, and "Come Out and Play" (Flatiron, Blu-ray and DVD), a remake of the Spanish horror "Who Can Kill a Child?," will also be covered in the B-Sides.
"Let My People Go!" (Zeitgeist) plays with Jewish and gay stereotypes in a comedy about a flamboyant gay man in Finland who returns home to Paris for Passover with his Finnish boyfriend. Carmen Maura co-stars as the pushy matriarch and Christophe Honore co-writes the screenplay with director Mikael Buch. French with English subtitles, DVD, with a featurette. Reviews here.
"Room 514" (Film Movement), from Israel, revolves around a military investigator and a senior officer accused of abusing an Arab family, and the fallout from the case. Hebrew with English subtitles, DVD, with a bonus short film "The Promised Land" from the U.S. Reviews here.
Most releases are also available as digital download and VOD via iTunes, Amazon, and other web retailers and video services.