Posts Tagged ‘ new line cinema ’

Jack The Giant Slayer

jack_the_giant_killer_ver10Taking its inspiration from the classic fairy tale of Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack the Giant Slayer is set in a fictional English kingdom during the middle ages. As in the fairy tale, the main character is Jack, a tenant farmer trying his best to make ends meet.

Needing money to repair their room, Jack’s uncle tells him to go to the market and sell their horse. While there, Jack meets a mysterious monk desperate to purchase a horse and give him a handful of “magic beans.” Hesitant at first, Jack is moved by the man of God and, being a trusting sort of lad, makes the exchange.

His significantly more cynical uncle, however, doesn’t care about what the monk told Jack. All he cares about is the desperately needed money that the horse and cart were supposed to fetch so that he could sleep under a newly thatched roof without fear of drowning from the ensuing rain!!!

Shortly thereafter, a storm descends upon the kingdom, water spilling through all those unthatched holes in Jack’s roof, as well as the dirt bellow the floorboards of the house where a magic bean just happened to find its way. Before Jack knows what hit him, a beanstalk sprouts up in his living room, carrying away not only his house, but the princess within it, also.

Positive Elements

Jack is a likeable hero, both because he is rather down to earth, and also become he has some good character qualities. Despite his fear of heights, Jack volunteers to accompany the king’s rescue party up the beanstalk (and we aren’t talking a little twiggy stalk here). In the scenes that follow, we see this poverty stricken farm boy showcase traits such as humility, boldness, bravery, and resourcefulness. He saves Elmont (the brave leader of the royal guard and the man who really stole the show, in my opinion), the princess, and ultimately the whole kingdom. And there is just something very unassuming about Jack that made him a hero I could like, instead of roll my eyes at.

Jack’s not the only courageous character here, either. Elmont has pledged his life to King and Country, and we see him stand fast beside both. He often risks life and limb to protect not only the Princess and the King, but also his men and the low-born Jack.

The King won many brownie points when he chose to lead from the front (a trait that I greatly admire) when other men of power might be inclined to rush to safety. In addition, we see that he is a wise man, and one who knows his place as a true leader. In one seen we see him make the decision to cut down the beanstalk (the only hope he has of ever seeing his daughter again) in order to save his kingdom. While it is a heart wrenching call for him to make, and we see him tearfully whispers for Isabel (his daughter) to forgive him for what he must do, we feel like it is the right call for him to make.

Also, Isabel gets points for being just the right mixture of plucky and princessish. Often I am turned off by female characters, but this princess was one I could like. She lives with a desire to be the kind of queen her mother, a kind and wise woman, was, and she sees the value in learning about the people she is going to rule in order to be the best sovereign she can be.

Negative Elements

Violence is obviously everyone’s big concern. With a title like Jack the Giant Slayer, you just get a violent vibe, which is perhaps why I was shocked that the movie really wasn’t that violent. I mean, we do have lots of giants eating lots of people, but the actual act is never shown, and blood is pretty much none existent.

In Jack the Giant Slayer, there are several war scenes reminiscent of Lord of the Rings styled fighting (flaming trees get flung over the castle walls and giant boulders get slung in sling-shot fashion at the castle walls), just one a much tamer level. Also, it is safe to say that the giants are… well, man eating giants, and thus, humans get stepped on, grabbed from atop horses, and so forth, but as I said above, the action is never a focus of any shot and most of the time you only see the giants spit out someone armor, letting you know that they are now deceased.

To be fair, though, the humans do a good bit of infliction as well, on each other and the giants. The villain and his obnoxious side-kick kill multiple people (it should be noted the death is always off screen). Sword fights commence, one giant is stabbed, another skewered in the tongue with an arrow, but all in all, it’s very tame and bloodless.

Perhaps the movie’s most grotesque moment comes when someone is torn apart by a rapidly growing beanstalk coming from inside their body, eventually blowing them to pieces (the camera does focus in on a head while this happens).

A smattering of language is also included in this tale, which was, to be quite honest, the worst part of the film, and even that was shockingly few. The words “b –rd,” “p ,” two uses of “h “, and one misuse of the Lord’s name were it for the entire film.

It should also be noted that in the beginning of the film, the princess falls into a rough crowd who eyes her lecherously, but nothing comes of this and she is very quickly rescued from them. She and Jack also share a tame kiss.

Worth concluding with is the fact that the whole beanstalk mess was created by monks who, in their sinful quest to reach heaven before their time (sound like the tower of Babel?…), create beans from dark magic. We’re told that the land of the giants is located halfway between earth and heaven, and God is acknowledged by both humankind and the giants.

Conclusion

Despite the fact that this is a fairytale (albeit a more adult version of the retelling), in the end we see that fairy tale endings don’t just come about. Jack didn’t get to just live happily ever after because some magic bean came his way. No, he had to make sacrifices and put the needs of others before his own in order to get that happy ending.
I really enjoyed this movie. It wasn’t the most brilliant script, it had a few plot holes, and the villain could have been a bit more… well, less ridiculous, but all that said, it was a fun movie with likeable characters and surprisingly clean content. That, added with the stunning visual effects, and the fact that the giants were fierce warriors instead of bumbling brutes, I felt the film was worth a re-watch, which I did with my family in tow. It may not be able to contend with The Avengers, but Jack the Giant Slayer is well worth the watch, if you are as into fairytales and fantasy as I am.

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Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

Journey 2: The Mysterious IslandSean Anderson hasn’t exactly had a normal childhood. His father died when he was a baby, but still, Sean inherited the family trait from him — Vernianism. His family has always been Vernians, believing the works of author Jules Verne to be fact rather than fiction. This belief has already led Sean on an adventure to the center of the earth with his uncle, and now he’s picked up a signal from a ham radio somewhere in the Pacific.

It’s from Sean’s grandfather, and it’s from Verne’s Mysterious Island.

Reluctantly, Sean’s stepfather, Hank, allows Sean to visit the coordinates indicated in the radio message — but only if Hank comes along with him. The mission looks dangerous from the start, however. The only way to get out to the coordinates is in a rickety old helicopter, piloted by the simple, childlike Gabato and his beautiful daughter Kailani. And to reach the coordinates, the party will have to fly directly into the eye of a class five hurricane.

Is Sean’s grandfather really alive? Does the Mysterious Island exist, and if so, can the group make it there and off alive? And is Hank right when he says the truth behind the whole adventure is that Sean needs a man in his life?

The Good

There were really a lot of good elements to this film. Once it gets rolling, it’s a fun, rollicking adventure that is in places nothing short of delightful. It was relatively clean, with just a few issues that I will mention in a moment.

Many of the themes were also admirable. Hank is a commendable stepfather, who goes out of his way to nurture Sean and win his heart, to be there for him when no one else will. At every turn of the grand and sometimes very dangerous adventure, he’s there to not only protect Sean, but strengthen him to be a man, and in his own words, “Give him a sense of responsibility.”

From Sean’s perspective, this is at first annoying and embarrassing. He thinks he’s not a kid anymore, and doesn’t need help or advice, and he repeatedly pushes Hank away. At one point he says to Kailani, “Isn’t that the worst, when they try so hard?” to which she replies, “No, the worst would be if they didn’t try at all.” In the end, Sean admits that he truly does need Hank.

Kailani too, while she is not without problems, is a very sweet picture of daughterhood, standing by her father and respecting him even though he’s poor, childish, and bumbling. She helps him faithfully, and accepts the fact that he can’t afford to send her to college with grace and contentment. He in turn loves her with all his heart, and is willing to risk his life in an endeavor to make her life better, even if it is in foolhardy ways.

The Bad

While the film is fairly clean, there are some small content issues. Kailani is very immodestly dressed throughout the film, in short shorts and a very revealing tank top. At one point, while trying to help Sean get her attention, Hank suggests he pop his pecs, and demonstrates the technique. While the tone is definitely comedic rather than sexual, and Sean is disgusted, this is definitely a concern. A character gets covered in bird excrement, and there are one or two other similarly mild crude jokes.

Also, Sean’s attitude for most of the film is very rebellious, to the extent that it is a bit bothersome even though he learns better by the end. The film opens with him on his motorcycle, trying to evade the police after breaking into a satellite facility. He speaks disrespectfully to his stepfather on numerous occasions, though he does learn to respect him greatly by the end.

The romance in the film, while fairly clean, is problematic. Sean is immediately attracted to Kailani, and spends many moments of the film trying to catch her attention, even lying about his hobbies at one point. She is, however, somewhat more serious about it, and calmly deflects his attentions for most of the film. She appears more serious about the relationship, admitting to her father at one point that she does like Sean, but doesn’t see a reason to pursue or accept a relationship, since they will go separate ways after the adventure. However, she does finally give in, and kisses him in the end.

The only other concern is the potential scariness of many scenes — flying into the eye of the storm, the characters being chased by giant lizards and birds, and nearly being zapped by an enormous electric eel, among many other dangers. Kailani encounters a skeleton at one point in the film, and one character dislocates his ankle. While it wasn’t anything excessive, it is worth noting for younger viewers.

The Art

Overall, the film is satisfactory, but really not exceptional. The story goes a little too quickly for the first act, but is otherwise pretty well paced. It’s over the top in some places, and some of their deductions about Verne’s clues seem to leap logic a little, but it’s mostly just a fun ride.

The characters are mostly good, and the verbal sparring for supremacy between Hank and Sean’s grandfather, Alexander, is amusing. Gabato’s childishness tends to be more annoying and silly than funny or endearing, though he has his moments.

Andrew Lockington’s music does a very good job balancing themes from the first film while still adding plenty of new material to fit with the new story, and is a decent score, accenting the action and emotion well.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is a fun ride with lots of merit to it, but it is not exceptional, and caution is advised. A classic? No. An enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours? I’d say yes. And with that in mind, I’d give the film a 2.5/5.

Inkheart

Mo is a Silvertongue. That means when he reads aloud, characters and objects from the book appear in the real world – and sometimes people from our world disappear into the book. Mo discovers his ability when he reads several villains out of a book – and his wife vanishes.

For years Mo desperately hunts for a way to bring is wife back. But the characters from the book have other ideas. Dustfinger, a fire performer, wants to be read back into his world, while the villains are very content to stay in ours. Bent on terrorizing the world, the villains kidnap Mo and demand that he read for them. And the villains know exactly how to get Mo to bend to their will – by threatening his daughter Meggie.

Inkheart, based on Cornelia Funke’s book by the same name, is a masterful drama that captivated me with the intensity. With all the impossible situations and endearing characters, I often feared the worst would happen – even though I knew there would be a happy ending. But for all the intrigue, Inkheart still rides the line. I cannot decide whether to love it or leave it be. Here’s why.

Regarding Silvertongues

The Silvertonge ability to read characters into and out of books is an intriguing premise that provides both pros and cons. On the list of pros is the dramatic and complicated situations the ability creates. Silvertongues cannot control what will come out of a book or who will go in, making it impossible to please the bad guys without creating disaster.

High on the list of cons, however, is the magical/mystical nature of the Silvertongue ability. Silvertongues can hear books whispering to them in the silence. While they cannot control who is read in, Silvertongues can often determine what comes out of a book by choosing which passage to read. At the climax, [spoiler!] the author and a Silvertongue write and read a revised ending to the book to defeat the bad guy.

The Silvertongue ability also raises interesting questions about destiny. Dustfinger, after hearing the end of his story, hotly tells his author “You’re not my god.” Later, the author tells him “You don’t have to be selfish just because I wrote you that way!” Dustfinger’s struggles show us that we have free will and need to make the right decisions; we are not a slave to destiny, and we must take blame for our own faults. However, in other places, things happen exactly as the Silvertongue reads it. While this may be similar to our lives – where some “plot twists” are ordered by the master Author beyond our control – it raises questions about the consistency of the theme and the rules dictating the magic.

The Good

Outside of the magic, however, there is a good dose of positive subthemes. Both Mo and Dustfinger are extremely devoted to their families, giving them a strong desire to protect and restore. This sacrificial affection is wholesome and thrilling. However, the men are desperate to the point of being willing to manipulate each other in pursuit of their own goal. When both men realize that they are being driven by the same honorable motive, they keep their promises to help each other, even at the sacrifice of themselves.

Meggie’s aunt starts out as an obnoxious tagalong who is grumpy, short-tempered, and fussy. She would rather stay out of the adventure, but in time she realizes her own devotion to her families and risks all to help them.

The Bad

Unfortunately, the movie also has a significant amount of negative attributes. While most of the issues in and of themselves are minor, the combination of them might tip the scale:

  • There is a smattering of language and some level of immodesty – both cleavage and shirtless men.
  • Although Meggie cherishes her father and ultimately seems to trust him, she rebels against his wishes once or twice. She is also sometimes disrespectful – even occasionally calling him “Mo.”
  • While discussing the disappearance of Meggie’s mother, her aunt talks about how the women in their family always seem to run off on adventure (except for her). She also claims that she’s no worse for having been raised without a mother, although Mo snorts at this.
  • The other Silvertongue that appears in the story stutters. He is mocked for this disability and appears to be a bit of a weak man overall, although he ultimately fights on the good side.
  • Mo reads a thief out of Arabian Nights, who proceeds to use his ability for “good” causes without being reprimanded.
  • One of the henchmen is superstitious and carries a magical pouch. Dustfinger uses this against him by stealing the pouch and then pretending to curse him.
  • Dustfinger is able to generate fire on his hands. It is not explained whether this ability is magical or just an illusion, although he teaches another character to do it.
  • Lastly, the intensity of the film is somewhat of concern. It is a reasonably dark film, with a lot of scary images, violence, men threatening each other, and the bad guys mistreating their prisoners.

he End of it all

Overall, it is still hard for me to say where I stand with Inkheart. I cannot deny the drama, and the emphasis on family is both endearing and wholesome. But the magical nature of the Silvertongue ability is of concern, and darkness is not to be laughed at. Will the negatives tip the scale and keep the movie from finding a place on my shelf? I don’t know yet. But perhaps I shall try the original book.

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