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The giants are loose 'Jack Giant Slayer.'

The giants are on the loose in "Jack the Giant Slayer."

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Updated: July 22, 2013 3:34PM



NEW THIS WEEK

JACK THE GIANT SLAYER

★★★½

Rated

PG-13 for intense scenes of fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief language

Stars

Nicholas Hoult, Stanley Tucci, Ewan McGregor, Eleanor Tomlinson

Credit director Bryan Singer, working from a clever inventive script co-written by Christopher McQuarrie, plus a well-chosen cast and some impressively threatening, disgusting CGI giants, for kicking the action-adventure elements of “Jack the Giant Slayer” into overdrive early on. Counterbalanced by humor of the dry, British variety and a fair amount of fairytale true romance. In broad outline, the story shapes up pretty much the way you might expect, with farm boy Jack (Hoult) climbing a magic beanstalk to the land of the giants. Some new stuff has been added, though: Jack is less interested in making his fortune than rescuing the kidnapped princess (Tomlinson) he’s fallen for and the giants are eager to conquer mankind. It’s worth noting that this modernized “Jack” might be too intense for younger kids.

THE LAST EXORCISM PART II

★★½

Rated

PG-13 for disturbing violent content and terror, some sexual references and thematic material

Stars

Ashley Bell, Julia Garner, Spencer Treat Clark

The best thing about this plodding, meandering, but modestly spooky horror sequel is its ending, which appears to be paving the way to intriguing new territory for demonic-possession shockers. It’s just a drag that until that freaky finale, there’s very little that’s new going on here. The double-jointed Bell (those back-breaking postures aren’t CGI effects) returns as the unfortunate Nell, a demon-infested teen who survived the unexpected 2010 hit “The Last Exorcism” and finds her way to a halfway house for runaway girls in New Orleans. Bell has impressive range as an actress, encompassing shifts from meek vulnerability to paroxysms of terror to ominous suggestions of underlying power, and director Ed Gass-Donnelly does a nice job creating a generally creepy vibe and generating a fair number of jump-out-and-say-boo scares. Unfortunately, there are a few too many dull lulls in the action and unnecessary plot complications for “Part II” to sustain suspense, along with a bit too much emphasis on milking Nell’s plight for drama. This is a horror movie, after all, not an after-school special.

MOVIE 43

★½

Rated

R for strong pervasive crude and sexual content including dialogue, graphic nudity, language and some violence

Stars

Dennis Quaid, Greg Kinnear, Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Common

This almost unbelievably bad and mostly unfunny sketch comedy omnibus actually begins starts with something like promise. If you can imagine that a blind-date sketch involving a man with testicles on his neck wouldn’t immediately send you running for the exit. It helps that Jackman plays the man with the inopportunely placed appendages and that Winslet plays his appalled date. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for most of the remaining dozen or so shockingly vulgar vignettes, filmed by a dozen directors recruited by Peter Farrelly of the Farrelly Brothers with prominent performers including Gerard Butler, Naomi Watts, Richard Gere, Emma Stone, Live Schreiber and Halle Berry. A few of the sketches are good for one or two laughs (mixed with groans) simply because they’re so shockingly crude. Their comic appeal is limited, though, because there’s not much of a shock anymore about just being shocking.

QUARTET

★★★½

Rated

PG-13 for brief strong language and suggestive humor

Stars

Maggie Smith, Sir Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins

“Quartet” is a light piece of work, but it’s meant to be that way, with just enough melancholy mixed in to keep the story from turning to treacle. And Dustin Hoffman, in his directorial debut, along with an ideal cast, make that delicately balanced formula work to perfection. The film is set in an unbelievably posh, charity retirement home for retired opera performers and classical musicians, where the residents put on a benefit concert each year to help make ends meet. When their resident superstar becomes ill, it looks like the show is over, until the equally celebrated diva (Maggie Smith) reluctantly moves in — much to the dismay of three singers (Courtenay, Connolly and Collins) who used to sing with her in a famed quartet. Smith refuses to sing again, however, and sparks fly with her ex-husband, who she jettisoned to advance her career. The featured performers are spot-on perfect and Hoffman is savvy enough to make that the focus of his film.

21 AND OVER

★★

Rated

R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, some graphic nudity, drugs and drinking

Stars

Miles Teller, Justin Chon, Skylar Astin, Sarah Wright

A couple of old high-school buddies named Casey and Miller decide to celebrate the 21st birthday of best-bud number three Jeff Chang (Chon) by getting him blind drunk as a “sacred rite of passage.” Never mind the fact that he has a crucial med-school interview in the morning and a domineering dad who will kill him if he screws up. There’s a lot of pseudo-dramatic stuff about friendship and looming adulthood in the directorial debut of screenwriters Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. Mostly, though, it tries very hard, to generate laughs with over-the-top slapstick, which works pretty well. Or with over-the-top gross-out gags, which don’t.

ALSO NEW THIS WEEK

CALL THE MIDWIFE: SEASON TWO

Eight episodes from the U.K. series about a 1950s midwife providing quality care for the poorest women in London’s East End. Extras include the 2012 Christmas special plus cast and crew interviews.

DINO KING 3D

This South Korean-made CGI fantasy-adventure for children features Freckles, a young Tarbosaurus, who flees his homeland after his family is killed by an evil T-Rex, then returns as an adult to fight for his ancestral hunting grounds.

THE HOWLING COLLECTOR’S EDITION

A Shout! Factory reissue of director Joe Dante’s 1981 werewolf classic featuring the groundbreaking special effects of Rob Bottin. Extras include commentary by Dante and cast members, a multi-part making-of documentary, a photo gallery and theatrical trailers.

JUSTIN BIEBER: ALWAYS BELIEVING

A comprehensive profile of the teen idol timed for the North American leg of Bieber’s “Believe” tour.

NOVA: METEOR STRIKE

This “Nova” documentary explores the phenomenon of the 7,000-ton asteroid that exploded in Earth’s atmosphere and fell to Earth across a wide swath of Russia’s Ural Mountains, injuring 1,000 people — the largest event of this type since 1908.

SAFETY LAST!

Silent comedian Harold Lloyd’s classic 1923 stunt-comedy gets the deluxe Criterion Collection treatment. Extras include a new 2K digital restoration, an alternate score, commentary by Leonard Maltin, a 1989 feature-length documentary on Lloyd and three of his newly restored short comedies: “Take a Chance,” Young Mr. Jazz” and “His Royal Slyness.”

THE WILD WEST

Three episodes of the short-lived BBC/Discovery channel docu-drama series with episodes featuring General Custer, Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid.

AVAILABLE NEXT WEEK

Hey, hey, hey, ’70s Saturday Morning TV returns with “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids: The Complete Series,” hunger in America gets a thorough examination in “A Place at the Table” and the epic Holocaust documentary “Shoah” makes its Blu-ray debut.



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