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' Jack the Giant Slayer'


3 stars = Good
Ratings explained

"Jack the Giant Slayer" takes the fairy tale and, like magic beans, makes it sprout on a grand scale.

In addition to Jack, an orphan "not wildly keen on heights" played with wonder and gumption by Nicholas Hoult, the story features a spunky princess, her regal father, an untrustworthy suitor, a knight charged with her safekeeping and a gaggle of giants on their sky-high turf and miles below on Earth.

The bones -- and beans -- of the bedtime story are still here, but writers Darren Lemke, Christopher McQuarrie and Dan Studney have made changes small and very large.

They nicely set up parallel stories of young Jack and Princess Isabelle and jump a decade ahead when Isabelle's mother has died and Jack is 18 and living with his tenant-farmer uncle since the death of his widowed father from the plague.

Jack is sent to sell their horse and cart but becomes distracted, saves a young woman who turns out to be the princess, loses the cart and swaps the horse for beans, with the promise of money to come. The princess later strikes out on her own, gets lost and lands at Jack's cabin, where a leaky roof ends up watering the beans and sending the house shooting heavenward.

When Jack and others -- including the weasel Roderick (Stanley Tucci), who is supposed to marry the princess, and chivalrous knight Elmont (Ewan McGregor) -- start up the beanstalk, they get much more than they bargained for.

Director Bryan Singer ("The Usual Suspects") knows how to paint on a big canvas in this old-fashioned adventure with 25-foot-tall giants.

-- Post-Gazette

' Stoker'


2 1/2 stars = Average
Ratings explained

"Stoker" is a visual treat from the creative opening credits to the colorful splendor of nature that's almost blinding. Director Park Chan-wook embraces texture, shapes and colors with such exuberance that each scene is a celebration of the visual. It's almost brilliant enough to distract from a plot that has some very dark problems.

Mia Wasikowska turns in a creepy performance as India, a young woman who just turned 18 and has lived an emotionally confined life. That world gets even smaller and darker when her father dies in an automobile accident. The arrival of Charles Stoker (Matthew Goode), an uncle she never knew existed, could be the spark she needs to come out of her emotional cocoon.

The film's big question is whether she will emerge as a beautiful butterfly or a killer moth.

The script by Wentworth Miller, a 1990 graduate of Quaker Valley High School best known as the star of the Fox TV series "Prison Break," delves deep into these questions: Are we predestined to be the people we become? Does our family or the environment shape the way we become? These deep questions can't be perfectly answered in the 98-minute running time and that forces the film to make large leaps that leave points in its dust.

-- By Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers

ALSO THIS WEEK:

• "The Last Exorcism: Part II" (1 star): Picking up where the 2010 movie left off, Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell) is found terrified and alone in rural Louisiana. Back in the relative safety of New Orleans, she realizes she cannot remember entire portions of the previous months, only that she is the last surviving member of her family and evil is still haunting her.

• "Web Therapy: The Complete Second Season": Lisa Kudrow plays a therapist who holds her sessions through video chats.

• "Rectify": First season of the cable series about the release of a man who has been on death row for 19 years.

• "21 and Over": A birthday celebration goes very bad.

• "Quartet": Concert at a home for retired musicians is disrupted by the former wife of one of the residents.

• "Movie 43": The dark comedy stars Gerard Butler, Hugh Jackman, Richard Gere and Julianne Moore.

• "NOVA: Meteor Strike": A 7,000-ton asteroid falls to the ground near the Ural Mountains in Russia.

• "Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated Season 2 Part 2": Spooky Stampede": Features 13 mystery solving episodes.

• "Understanding Art: Hidden Lives of Masterpieces": Series documents the Louvre's study days, in which works by major artists are examined.

• "Springhill, Series 1": A family's life is thrown into turmoil by an unwelcome arrival.

• "The Brass Teapot": A couple find an antique that could be the answer to their financial woes.

• "Workaholics: Season 3": TelAmeriCorp's chief slackers clock in for another shift.

• "Nature: Great Zebra Exodus": A look at the zebras who live on Botswana's Makgadikgadi Pans.

• "The Jungle Book: Adventures of Mowgli Complete Collection": When young Mowgli finds himself alone in the heart of the jungle, he's adopted by the Seeonee Wolf Pack.

• "Call the Midwife: Season Two": Jenny Lee (Jessica Raine) is a young midwife in 1950s London assigned to the working-class East End.

• "The Wild West": Miniseries that looks at the real stories behind three of the West's most famous figures.

• "The Amazing Adventures of the Living Corpse": Horror fantasy that brings new life to the zombie genre.

• "Drop Dead Diva: The Complete Fourth Season": The three-disc set contains 13 episodes of the cable drama.

• "Dino King 3D": Baby Tarbosaurus flees his homeland after his family is killed by a one-eyed T-rex.

• "Prank": Three high school students, sick of living in fear of bullies, plan the ultimate payback.

• "Justin Bieber: Always Believing": A behind-the-scenes look at the singer's life.

• "Lifeforce": The Tobe Hooper film is now available on Blu-ray.

• "American Idiots": Four friends head to Las Vegas to stop a wedding.

• "Summoned": A woman is suspicious when a fellow juror dies.

• "Slugterra: Slugs Unleashed": Five episodes of the animated series.

-- Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers

moviereviews

First Published June 20, 2013 4:00 AM


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