Jack the Giant Slayer, 21 and Over and three valuable documentaries reviewed

Jack and the Beanstalk becomes a giant 3D spectacle, but not for little kids.

Just one more thought on the shoddy Academy Award show. The worst part was invisible. During the In Memoriam segment, how could they not include Petro Vlahos? Who? Exactly, but they knew who he was. They gave him five awards over his long career in visual effects. He perfected the blue and green screen process that let Ben Hur race that chariot, Dick Van Dyke dance with penguins, made Star Wars, Avatar and just about every special effects film possible. I’d say he’s has had more effect on modern movies than a hundred agents and money men but last Sunday ... not even a photograph.

Here are this week’s films:

Jack the Giant Slayer: 3 stars

Trouble in the Peace:  4

The House I Live In:  4 ½

The Gatekeepers:  4

21 and Over:  2

Spaghetti Westerns: --

3 films I’ve not seen:  The Movie Out Here,

The Suicide Shop and The Last Exorcism, part 2

JACK THE GIANT SLAYER:  Brian Singer, the director of The Usual Suspects and two X-Men movies (and a 3rd coming) stooping to make a movie out of Jack and the Beanstalk? Not quite. He fills out the simple fairy tale with an old story from Cornwall about another Jack who kills giants. Then he wrangles the latest visual effects, a cast of well-known actors and a soaring imagination to deliver this mammoth adventure.  It’s definitely not for young kids; too scary, giants intent on the “sweet nectar of revenge” and lines like “Kill him, Jack” tossed around. Nine-year-old boys (and older) will enjoy.

Jack  (Nicholas Hoult, the zombie in Warm Bodies) is sent to sell a horse. A monk gives him some magic beans for it and cautions don’t get them wet. Of course they get wet, spawn a beanstalk that carries a princess up into the sky where the giants have been banished and want release. Jack joins a royal guard (Ewen McGregor) and a conniving official (Stanley Tucci)  to go up to find her. The real action happens when the giants come down. We get giant battle scenes, not unlike Lord of the Rings, and a visual effects homage to Ray Harryhausen the man who gave us skeletons sword-fighting on a beach and other wonders years ago. Singer captures the spirit of his work and the sense of wonder and rich ambience of old story books. Size differences allow him to make great use of perspective and 3-D. With few surprises in the story, it’s not a classic film of its type  but, thanks to its look, almost a contender. (Scotiabank, The Dolphin and many suburban theatres) 3  out of 5 

TROUBLE IN THE PEACE: As the BC government hitches so much more of our economic future to natural gas, here’s a stark reminder of one consequence. Call it collateral damage. Farmers in the Peace River area are being crowded aside by the industry, the gas wells, the exploration,  trucks on their rural roads and, according to some, illness caused by the sour gas that is burned off at night in eerie flares that light up the horizon. We’ve heard about this for some time. A film about Wiebo Ludwig a couple of years ago also covered it. There were bombings and big protests in his day. Today there seems to be more resignation than resistance and the film doesn’t even get to the hot topic of fracking.


More in New Movies

Conflicting toy movies and two films to mark National Indigenous Peoples Day

Also: Anna, the assassin with a slight feminist bent and a Fakir’s international wanderings

Two comedies about women at work and a stunning documentary about an Aboriginal artist lead this week

And they’re joined by a musical look back, a fashion industry success story that didn’t last and the hipster zombie film that opened Cannes this year

Two giant sequels and several worthy smaller films reviewed

Including new appreciations of Emily Dickinson and Pavarotti, the real story of auto builder John DeLorean, a British filmmaker inspired to draw on her own life and two oddball seniors falling in love
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