Friday, March 29, 2013

"G.I. Joe: Retaliation" Review

Remember when you were 8 years old, and you got up early on Saturday mornings to watch your favorite cartoons? For me, the classics were shows like Pokemon, Spongebob Squarepants, Spider-Man, and occasionally some reruns of old-school Bugs Bunny cartoons. Each generation has their favorites, but the one right before mine had arguably the greatest line-up of all time including shows like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Thundercats, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, and G.I. Joe.
Now, more often than not, these cartoons always had an accompanying set of action figures, trading cards, playsets, or video games. In the case of G.I. Joe, the action figures preceded the wave of 80's cartoons and spin-off movies. The first G.I. Joe action figures appeared in the 1960s and were billed by distributor Hasbro as "America's movable fighting man". The initial line of products offered tribute to four branches of the U.S. armed forces: Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. 
It wasn't until the 1980s when a storyline was introduced in a comic book that established the Cobra forces as the enemy organization of the G.I. Joes, now its own military organization comprising the best-of-the-best good guys from armed forces the world.

Any boy who grew up in the 70s or 80s has a special place in his heart for the G.I. Joes. As one of the most beloved symbols of young male childhood, Paramount Pictures and Hasbro have faced a daunting task trying to do justice to the fans with its recent big screen incarnations of the G.I. Joes. 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was packed with campy action and colorful characters, but overall the experience felt like the bloated sugar rush you get from one too many Saturday morning bowls of Frosted Flakes, including the exhausted crash afterwards. So the studio decided to try again with G.I. Joe: Retaliation, a movie that many questioned would even end up being made. Originally slated as a direct sequel to The Rise of Cobra, Retaliation underwent numerous re-writes and re-shoots that delayed its release by almost a full year. But on March 29th, 2013, G.I. Joe: Retaliation was finally released to the public, and the results are decidedly mixed.

While maintaining the genuine sense of humor and humanity the lack of which doomed its predecessor, Retaliation still offers little more than early Summer fluff. Having said that, there's plenty more for fans to be excited about here than in The Rise of Cobra. Retaliation isn't so much a sequel as it is a "re-boot" of the franchise with new lead characters and a new director.
In a story that sees our "Real American Heroes" lose everything at the hands of an impostor, Zombieland scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick manage to inject a fresh sense of humor that's actually funny, something that The Rise of Cobra failed to establish in 2009. When you have heroes as larger-than-life as Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee), and "I-still-got-it" General Joe Colton (Bruce Willis), it's important to not take yourself too seriously. For the most part, Retaliation succeeds at this and still manages to bring a Bourne-level of intensity to each action scene (which, in this case, is nearly every scene).

Now being a G.I. Joe picture, you expect some pretty spectacular action, but I've gotta be honest; I wasn't all that impressed with the stunts in Retaliation. Many of the fights recycle the same tactics we've seen before in better movies like Enter the Dragon. Hell, even if you remember the stunts from The Rise of Cobra, you might still be underwhelmed because honestly, it doesn't get much more over-the-top than The Rise of Cobra. (Thoughts of a decimated Paris come to mind...) But I will say, Retaliation does boast a pretty kick-ass cliffside fight, which is something I haven't quite seen before. Director Jon M. Chu's influence is most apparent in this scene. Like so many of his Step Up dance routines, the cliff scene is stunningly choreographed. It's probably Retaliation's most well-made and thrilling sequence.
But the bland action isn't the worst aspect of this movie. That distinction goes to Wu-Tang Clan's RZA with his God-awful performance as the Blind Master. The guy was never exactly a Sydney Poitier to begin with, but he's so much better in movies like American Gangster and Due Date where he holds his own against heavyweights like Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, and Robert Downey Jr. As the Blind Master, RZA overdoes it to a point where he's darn near unwatchable. Thank goodness his screen time is brief.
There are also some glaring plot holes regarding Cobra Commander that I didn't appreciate. Like, who leaves Destro, one of the biggest villains of the G.I. Joe-Cobra lore, out to dry halfway through the movie without a word? And when the Joes inevitably finish their duty, where is Cobra Commander to swear his revenge? If there's one thing The Rise of Cobra has on Retaliation, it's a stronger sequel setup.

Even though the movie feels much more like a genuine action picture than its cartoonish predecessor, G.I. Joe: Retaliation still offers the same candy-coated payoff. There's fun to be had, and for a moment, you may once again feel that sense of awe you had when you were 8 years old, but when it's over, you'll probably just let it go, much like those old action figures left buried in the basement.

(However, if you find yourself having thoughts about Adrianne Palicki as Lady Jaye the next day, that's perfectly normal.)


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Bates Motel - "Nice Town You Picked, Norma..." (Mar. 25, 2013)

In the second episode of A&E's Psycho prequel series Bates Motel, Norman's wayward half-brother Dylan drops in for an extended stay. The cops continue their investigation of the disappearance of Keith Summers while other mysterious crimes start to plague the town of White Pine Bay. Norman continues to assimilate into his high school, and even makes a heart-pounding discovery with one of his new friends while working on a project.

I enjoyed this episode better than last week's pilot. Inter-character relationships are starting to flesh out, more unexplained events occur, and the show's overall sense of tension has greatly improved. I like the addition of Max Theriot as Dylan, Norma's wayward son and half-brother to Norman. It's fascinating to see Theriot play an antagonist of sorts to the antagonists he's living with, and he works well against the peculiar dynamic Norma has with her younger son.
I still am on Team Freddie as I think Mr. Highmore is a great choice for Norman. I love getting to know this infamous character in his formative years. He's getting the girls, making the grades, and trying to do right by his family. Life seems good, right? I know how he ends up as a grown man, but as a boy, I can't help but root for Norman. I'm so conflicted! I'm rooting for the villain, but is he actually a villain yet? What exactly ends up happening to him that makes him a Psycho? It's this uncertainty and element of unpredictability that makes Bates Motel so much fun.

Oh, speaking of Norman getting the girls, I like the dynamic that the young women add to his character as well. The presence of Bradley (Nicola Peltz) and Emma (Olivia Cooke) help drive Norman's assimilation into his new school and town. Things take an interesting turn with Bradley in this episode, so I'm interested to see where her relationship with Norman goes after this week. For now, he's got Emma Decody, a character who comes off very much like a Luna Lovegood-type for you Harry Potter fans out there. She's flawed but beautiful and seems to know a little bit about everything. She and Norman make a narrow escape in the wake of a huge discovery, and I can't wait to see how they face the consequences and continue on together.

Look out next week as Norma's relationship with Deputy Shelby begins to blossom, and Norman continues to uncover the mysteries of White Pine Bay alongside love interest(?) Emma.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Walking Dead - "This Sorrowful Life" (Mar. 24, 2013)

Wow. Just wow. So much craziness this week, it's gonna be tough to avoid SPOILERS but I'll do my best and keep it brief...

The day finally comes for Rick to make a decision on whether or not to turn Michonne over to the Governor. Merle makes some character-defining choices that result in him once again coming face-to-face and head-to-head with his brother, Daryl. Glenn has an important request for Herschel, and Rick makes his true feelings known to the group regarding his leadership.
Seeing as this is the second to last episode of Season 3, I had a feeling going in that this week would be solid, and I wasn't disappointed. I was most impressed by Merle's character transformation, as he seems to go from his normal status as a nagging itch that just can't be scratched, to a Wreck-It Ralph-like bad guy trying to play "hero". He seems to flip-flop between those two characterizations, and in the end I think Merle comes out on the right side. It's just too bad for him that things take a drastically unpredictable turn...

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Andrew Lincoln (a.k.a. Rick) confirmed that 27 characters will die in next week's finale. Not twenty-seven walkers, mind you, but twenty-seven cast members. I'm not sure if that total includes tonight's casualties, but either way, I think fans are in for a wild ride on March 31st.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Bates Motel - "First You Dream, Then You Die" (Mar. 18, 2013)

If you're looking for something good on TV on Monday nights, look no further than A&E's Bates Motel, a brand-new prequel series that shows you the genesis of the villains from Alfred Hitchcock's classic film Psycho.
If there's one thing I love in movies and television shows, it's solid character depth & development. I already love Psycho for its memorable characters, plot twists, and the way it lends genuinely frightening psychological terror to its story at a level that remains unmatched 53 years after its release.

So as a fan, I was both ecstatic and skeptical to hear about the Bates Motel television series which chronicles the goings-on of teenager Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore, looking very much like a young Anthony Perkins) and, of course, his twisted mother Norma (Vera Farmiga). I was ecstatic to get a detailed look at the genesis of these infamous horror-movie villains, but I was also skeptical about it tarnishing Hitchcock's legacy. But with the solid development crew of Lost's Carlton Cuse and Friday Night Lights's Kerry Ehrin, a bit of my faith was restored, and I'm glad to report that they didn't let me down.

The first episode features a newly widowed Norma and her son moving to a new house overlooking the Seafairer Motel in California. Young Norman begins to assimilate into his new school by trying out for the track team and making new friends, with a budding love interest to boot.

It's fun watching Norman try to emerge from his shell while also coming home to deal with his controlling mother, but I got confused at times with the continuity angle the writers were trying to take. Bates Motel is clearly a precursor to 1960's Psycho, so why does everyone have an iPhone? I suppose this is a ploy to move the story into the present day, which is fine; it just didn't align with my expectations right off the bat.

My favorite scene this week came after Norma & Norman stash a dead body in the bathtub of one of the motel rooms. The cops come by to introduce themselves just as the Bates' are removing the blood-stained carpeting. Sheriff Romero (The Dark Knight Rises's Nestor Carbonell) asks to use the toilet and walks into the same bathroom where the body is stashed. I loved the aerial shot they got looking down at the body in the tub from above with Sheriff Romero standing at the toilet directly next to it, completely aloof. And the looks on Highmore's and Farmiga's faces were priceless!

I really loved the first episode this past week, and I'm anxious to see what's in store for us next at Bates Motel. A must-watch if you're a fan of the original film or FX's American Horror Story.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Walking Dead - "Prey" (Mar. 17, 2013)


This week on AMC's The Walking Dead, Andrea decides to leave Woodbury and makes a dangerous escape. Meanwhile, Tyreese, Sasha, Ben, and Allen face some dissension within their group.

With only a couple of episodes left this season, I was disappointed once again with the pacing this week. Last week effectively served as a setup for the epic showdown to come, and I'd hoped we might get a little taste of that this week. This isn't the case.
Things are pretty slow until the last 20 minutes when there seems to be a sudden onslaught of zombie action. All effective manners of burning, shooting, impaling, and stabbing are employed in the last half of the episode.

I also couldn't quite wrap my head around the significance of the episode's title, "Prey". Towards the end, it made a bit more sense when the Governor and Andrea played cat-and-mouse in an abandoned warehouse after her defection from Woodbury.
I liked the ending though. It had a creepy "Saw" vibe, which was kind of a fresh horror element to go along with the consistent sense of dread from the zombie and human threats.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Office - "The Farm" (Mar. 14, 2013)

Back from another awkward, mid-season hiatus, The Office begins its home stretch with "The Farm", an episode which is undoubtedly the failed NBC pilot for a spin-off series about Dwight and his misadventures as proprietor of a new farm he and his cousins/siblings inherit from their deceased aunt. That's essentially all that happens in this episode. That, and a side story about Todd Packer's return from rehab* to make amends with everyone in the office. (*SPOILER: His "return from rehab" turns out to be just another elaborate prank involving drugged cupcakes.)

This really wasn't a great half-hour. It wasn't very funny, save for a segment with Andy and Kevin that highlighted the duo's late-night, drug-induced antics at the office. It's presented alongside a "morning after" narration, and it's just hilarious. Aside from that, I wasn't impressed. Not really worth your time this week, although I'm pretty sure we now know what Dwight will be up to once the series ends. If you're still watching The Office like I am, it's nice to have that piece of the puzzle at least. Fingers crossed for a better outing next week.

(A week or two ago, John Krasinski, a.k.a. Jim Halpert, tweeted about the last table read for the final episode that included a photo of the script. Certainly they're at least in the filming stages by now, if not close to wrapping. If it hasn't already, it looks like this "office" is just about closed.)

"The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" Review

You've seen the ads on TV. By now, you're probably familiar with goofy lines such as "I doubt you've seen anyone spend the night... on hot coals," or "Your skin makes me cry." Oh, and let's not forget the botched "glass box" stunt. I bet you brushed this one off and said, "All the funny parts are in the commercials". If that's the case, I'm here to tell you that you'd be wrong to think this way.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a consistently hilarious, heartfelt comedy starring Steve Carell (The 40 Year Old Virgin), Steve Buscemi (TV's Boardwalk Empire), Jim Carrey (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective), and Olivia Wilde (The Change-Up). It tells the story of a Las Vegas magician named Burt Wonderstone (Carell), his rise to fame alongside partner Anton Marvelton (Buscemi), his fall from grace at the hands of edgy street performer Steve Gray (Carrey), and his redemption with the help of his former assistant (Wilde) and childhood hero (Alan Arkin).

It's essentially the same riches-to-rags-then-back-to-riches formula we've seen a hundred times in movies like Talladega Nights and Anchorman. Like those films, Burt Wonderstone is light on plot but jam-packed with laughs, not all of which are dispensed in the previews. The all-star cast is great, and the ending just might evoke a childlike sense of wonder and make you believe in the power of magic. At least until the real trick is revealed. Even then, you'll still be doubled-over with laughter. Just make sure you stick around for it during the first half of the credits.

As always, Steve Carell and Jim Carrey are a blast to watch in their respective skins. It's just a shame that, with four screenwriters, they aren't given a script with quite enough bite to make it a classic. Burt Wonderstone could've been much better if it allowed its stars the longer leash of an R-rating. As it stands though, the film is solidly, consistently funny for a PG-13 comedy.
In addition to the fine performances from Carell and Carrey, Olivia Wilde is charming as Jane, Burt's assistant and love interest who has a few tricks of her own, and the lovable Alan Arkin makes an endearing turn as Burt's childhood inspiration Rance Holloway.

With such a solid cast, consistent laughs, and several moments that illicit a sense of childlike wonder, it's easy to ignore Burt Wonderstone's shortcomings in terms of plot. However, you can't help but feel slightly let down by the film's lack of comedic edge with players like Steve Carell and Jim Carrey involved. I wouldn't call it "incredible", but I still had a blast at this magic show, and I think you will too.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Walking Dead - "Arrow on the Doorpost" (Mar. 10, 2013)

This week on The Walking Dead, Rick and The Governor meet to hopefully come to terms on a peace agreement. Later, Rick seeks advice from Hershel.

In terms of emotional content, this episode is rife with it. The interactions between Rick and The Governor are on point. It's clear that the two despise each other and that their conference is just delaying the inevitable, but I like seeing the leaders in an intimate setting before having them square off on the battlefield. If you're looking for zombie action however, you've come to the wrong place. There's maybe a minute of interaction with the walkers where Martinez and Daryl do their best rendition (of sorts) of "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better". Martinez has some gut-wrenching kills with an aluminum baseball bat, while Daryl uses his knife and crossbow. Aside from that brief scene, there's no zombie violence to speak of.

So, action seekers will be disappointed, but if you prefer lots of talking, (and love scenes that come off quite steamy for cable television), then "Arrow on the Doorpost" is the episode for you. Overall, a decent time this week as the dialogue sets the tone for the season's last 3 episodes.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

"Oz the Great and Powerful" Review

"All hail the great and powerful"? Ehhhh, I don't know about that...

Spider-Man and Army of Darkness director Sam Raimi brings us family entertainment of grand design in Oz the Great and Powerful, a prequel, of sorts, to Victor Fleming's 1939 cultural milestone The Wizard of Oz. It tells the story of how The Wizard (James Franco) comes to find himself in the merry ol' Land of Oz and how he "saves" its people from the wicked hands of witches Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Theodora (Mila Kunis).

What I very much enjoyed about this film is the fact that it lends solid character development to many of the original Oz's familiar faces. The deep characterization of The Wizard, the Wicked Witches of the West and East, and Glinda the Good combine with eye-popping visuals and other clever nods to the original to make Oz the Great and Powerful a must-see for fans of Fleming's film, as well as of L. Frank Baum's classic stories.
I just love the depth that writers Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire lend to Oz's main figureheads. Anyone who's seen the original film might remember that, at the end, Dorothy discovers that The Wizard isn't quite the man she's expecting. We're reminded of that again in Oz the Great and Powerful. Only this time, the secret is apparent from beginning to end, both to the audience and to a few of the characters. It exposes The Wizard as a man seemingly so far out of his element that he's not quite sure what to do or believe. In a way, his character here is much like Dorothy, and that's not a bad thing. Except Judy Garland's wide-eyed wonder is much easier to buy into than James Franco's.
The depth the writers lend to Franco's character is tarnished by his performance, which lacks the life necessary to make this movie truly memorable. It all seems like a grand show for Franco, who comes off as an overacting scumbag more often than the good-hearted savior Oz has been yearning for. Franco's inconsistent performance makes this "Wizard" very hard to root for.

Thankfully, I can't say the same about the film's leading ladies Weisz, Kunis and Michelle Williams as Glinda. Weisz is deliciously convincing as the wicked temptress Evanora. Williams brings her classic good looks and charm out to play as Glinda, a role she seems perfectly comfortable in. But my favorite of the trio has gotta be Mila Kunis as Theodora. Her transformation at the hands of The Wizard is truly spectacular, and one could make the case that she is his greatest magic trick of all. This is Kunis like you've never seen her, and she's a blast to watch.

Aside from the leads, fine work is also turned in by Zach Braff and Joey King, who pull metaphoric double-duty much like Ray Bolger and Bert Lahr did in the original. In Kansas, Braff plays Oz's assistant, and King plays a wide-eyed young girl in a wheelchair who comes to see Oz's magic show. In the Land of Oz, Braff plays Finley, a flying monkey who accompanies The Wizard as his assistant, and King plays a talking China doll whose legs The Wizard mends after her village is ravaged by Evanora's flying baboons. If you ask me, the connection here is more noticeable than in the original. See for yourself and decide.

The special effects are also wondrous to behold. The Emerald City is dazzling, and the rest of the land is rich with color and detail. For as over-the-top as many of the set pieces and stunts are, not once did the CGI appear cartoonish or hackneyed. It's clear that Raimi's art department gave their tender lovin' care to do justice to Baum's and Fleming's original visions.

As I said before, what really ruined the film for me was James Franco. With another actor in the part, perhaps this Oz could've truly lived up to its "great" and "powerful" name. Aside from that, there's still fun to be had in Oz the Great and Powerful with astounding visuals, nice character development, and subtle odes to the '39 classic. A good movie overall, but don't feel like you have to journey down the Yellow Brick Road to your nearest theater. Save a few bucks and just rent the Blu-Ray when it comes out.

6.5 / 10 STARS*
(*Switching to 10 STAR rating system instead of traditional 4. Gives me a little more leeway.)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

"Safety Not Guaranteed" Review

Last night I hopped over to Netflix to check out Colin Trevorrow's first feature, Safety Not Guaranteed, a charmer that puts its own spin on sci-fi. It was given a very limited release, and unless you spend your time trolling the internet for movie news, it's likely this film slipped underneath your radar.

I think I had found out about Safety at some point on IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes; trailers, positive critics ratings, etc. But most of all, and even much like the characters themselves, I think I was simply drawn to the mystique of the title Safety Not Guaranteed and, if you've seen it, the minimalistic theatrical poster that goes along with it.
Aside from the Little Miss Sunshine plug, you don't really know if the movie's a sci-fi action adventure or a comedy. Or both. It's that level of mystery that called my attention to this film and prompted me to take a look.

I'm really glad I did because I was very pleasantly surprised. Safety Not Guaranteed has a simple, tender story with loads of heart and is packed with laughs that feel earned as opposed to potty jokes that come cheap.
It tells the story of three Seattle magazine writers (Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson, Karan Soni) who hit the road to find the guy responsible for issuing a classified ad seeking a partner for time travel (Mark Duplass). In the process, the trio find love, have misadventures, and learn to believe in the impossible. For fear of giving too many details away, I'll leave it at that.

I will tell you, however, that the ending feels slightly contrived. It's great right up until the last few seconds before the credits. At 86 minutes, Safety is almost too short. I was left with several unanswered questions about the characters that could've been resolved with an extra ten minutes or so. I'm uncertain at this time about the prospect of a sequel, so the true outcome might just be left to the imagination.

Update your Netflix instant queue and make sure you check out Safety Not Guaranteed. It's got a great story, charming performances, lots of laughs, and earns high marks for being a true sci-fi/comedy genre-bender. It'll make you believe in the impossible too.

3.5 OF 4 STARS

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Walking Dead - "Clear" (Mar. 3, 2013)

On this week's episode of The Walking Dead, Rick, Michonne, and Carl go on a supply run back to Rick's hometown where they have an encounter with an old friend.

The entire duration of the episode follows solely this trio. To keep things from being too repetitive, the action is split between Carl and Michonne going to get supplies for baby Judith and Rick collecting weapons from Morgan, a character we haven't seen since the beginning of season 1. I found the action between Rick and Morgan fascinating. In both dialogue and setting, we get to see Morgan's psychosis since Rick's departure in season 1. I hope we see more of Morgan soon because watching him in his crazed state alongside an equally imperfect Rick is a blast.
Not sure I can say the same for Carl and Michonne. The pair's biggest highlight saw them narrowly escape a restaurant full of walkers when Carl goes in to grab an old picture frame of him and his parents. They work well enough together to keep things moving, but Rick and Morgan clearly had the driver's seat this week.

As for next week, it looks like Rick and The Governor might finally get to meet face-to-face. With only four episodes left, the high tensions of season 3 are quickly approaching their boiling point. I can't wait to see what's in store.

Friday, March 1, 2013

"Jack the Giant Slayer" Review

Like the giants themselves, BEWARE! (of SPOILERS)

Fee, fi, fo, fum! I smell the shi- I mean, blood, of a studio executive!

In the latest of Hollywood's string of mediocre folk tale re-imaginings, Bryan Singer's Jack the Giant Slayer attempts to take "Jack and the Beanstalk" to (pardon the pun) new heights. We all grew up with the story of a young farmhand who goes to town and sells his cow in exchange for magic beans that, in turn, produce a thousand-foot beanstalk that leads to a world inhabited by giants. That's all present in Jack the Giant Slayer. But the addition of some character development, a dangerous love interest, colorful supporting characters, and the re-igniting of an ancient war between giants and men provide the ground for which Singer and company ask us to "forget everything we know about the fairy tale".

That's all well and good, and Jack the Giant Slayer is probably the best of these edgy folk tales Hollywood keeps shoveling into theaters, the last of which being Paramount's Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, but that isn't really saying much. Enthusiastic acting performances and some edge-of-your-seat action manage to perch Jack above the likes of his recent cinematic contemporaries, but that doesn't prove to be enough to save the film from inconsistencies in tone, as well as special effects that are literally larger-than-life.

Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men) manages to wring fine performances from everyone in his cast. The talent is everywhere, and they make Jack the Giant Slayer a blast to watch. Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies) is spot-on as the titular hero who, most impressively, makes us believe and even root for him as a "giant slayer". Eleanor Tomlinson (Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging) is fun as the beautiful Princess Isabelle. She never seems helpless in the face of danger, and turns our hero into the brave, upstanding young man that he is. Without her, Jack would be a weaker character. Ewan McGregor (Moulin Rouge, Star Wars I-III) increasingly earned my trust as the royal knight Elmont, just as Jack increasingly earned his. Throw in a dastardly turn from Stanley Tucci as the evil Lord Roderick, and you've got quite a colorful cast. I was also pleasantly surprised by the intensity of some of Jack's action scenes. The violent growth of the beanstalk, a daring kitchen escape, and an epic citadel siege kept me on the edge of my seat.

However, I found fault with the way Jack the Giant Slayer carried itself in terms of tone. It seemed at times like the film might be taking a Princess Bride approach and acting more as a parody of its source material. Other moments had me thinking along the lines of a Lord of the Rings-type adventure. Rather than leaning one way or the other, Singer tries to split the gap and doesn't quite make it. I didn't know whether to laugh or cling to my armrests the entire time, so the end product ended up leaving a ho-hum taste in my mouth.
In addition to the miscues in tone, I can't talk about Jack the Giant Slayer without mentioning its larger-than-life special effects. The locations were awe-inspiring, but the giants came off appearing cheesy and cartoonish with physical features that look like they were inspired by burnt pizza crust. With today's advances in 3-D effects technology, I have a hard time believing this is the best look the artists could come up with. I would've rather seen more vivid, human-looking giants than these crispy-looking atrocities.

On the whole, Bryan Singer's edgy Jack the Giant Slayer climbs to new heights with colorful acting performances and surprising, action-packed intensity but takes a major tumble with tonal inconsistencies and cheesy special effects. The end product just feels middle-of-the-stalk.

2.5 OF 4 STARS