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Jack the Giant Slayer

The Last Exorcism, Part II

March 7, 2013

Jack the Giant Slayer (***) PG-13

I’m not sure that anyone was really clamoring for a big budget, big screen adaptation of the classic fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk. I know I certainly wasn’t and I’ve yet to actually meet anyone who was, but if it had to be made there are worse ways to accomplish this feat than what director Bryan Singer (Usual Suspects, the first two X-men films) has done with that old chestnut of a story in Jack the Giant Slayer. No, the film isn’t perfect; it suffers from overlength and, on a few brief occasions, some unconvincing motion-capture work. Still, having said that, you wouldn’t have to look far to find much worse fairy tale adaptations—think Hansel and Gretel—that make Jack the Giant Slayer look splendid by comparison and a welcome addition to this genre of film.

The film begins with two different sets of characters relating the story to youngsters. It’s a nice way to frame the story by giving two different perspectives. The actual tale begins pretty much as we remember it, with the magic beans taking root and sprouting a gigantic vine, although in this version of the tale the King’s daughter, Isabella (Eleanor Tomlinson) is whisked away heavenward along with the beanstalk. Isabella’s father (Ian McShane) already has plans for her to marry an older man named Roderick (Stanley Tucci), although Roderick is more concerned with climbing the beanstalk for his own financial gain.

Enter into the picture, Jack (Nicholas Hoult), who not only inadvertently started this mess with his beans, but also is intent on saving the King’s daughter.

McGregor, Tomlinson & Hoult in ‘Jack’

Along the way Jack is joined by a group of soldiers, eventually striking up a friendship with their leader (Ewan McGregor) as they later wind up helping each other out in ways they could not have foreseen.  The film has a few interesting twists and turns in its final act that I won’t go into here but, for the most part, manages to keep the proceedings moving at a decent clip. Ten or fifteen minutes being cut from the film’s early section may have helped, but by the time Jack the Giant Slayer reached its destination I was willing to forgive the filmmakers for this minor irritation.

Though some of the motion capture sequences involving the giants aren’t quite as convincing as one might expect, the film definitely deserves credit in the department of production design. Even by today’s jaded standards, the film manages to look quite convincing, with the beanstalk itself being interestingly rendered. Jack the Giant Slayer may not have any resounding impact after you leave the theater but it’s a good bit of fun while it is transpiring and that’s something I didn’t expect to say about this film. It’s good to be surprised every now and again.

The Last Exorcism, Part II (No Stars) PG-13
 
By all accounts, the 2010 film The Last Exorcism was a decent creepfest tackling the subject of the possession of a backwoods Southern girl.  I’m relying on the reports of others because I missed that film from several years ago. Still, from what I’ve gleaned about the previous film, the very thing that made The Last Exorcism so deliciously enjoyable—the hand-held, found footage style of filmmaking—is absent from The Last Exorcism, Part II (I’ll leave the zingers regarding the film’s ridiculous title to others). What we’re left with instead are fake scares every few minutes and endless scenes of the main character of the first film, Nell (Ashley Bell), wandering around the city of New Orleans aimlessly, as the audience desperately waits for something—anything—interesting to happen. The scariest thing about this whole endeavor is that some movie financier with a questionable IQ was actually conned into putting together the money to get this film made. That act in itself should be tantamount to criminal behavior when one stops to ponder all of the more deserving projects waiting to receive financing, only to see their potential funds be used to bankroll a turkey like this instead. In short, The Last Exorcism Part II is the worst film I’ve seen this year, bar none, and though it may be early in the year, it’s hard to imagine a worse film experience.

For those of you who actually care, I’ll give you a quick summation of the film’s plot, such as it is. Nell, the lead character of the first film, hardly remembers the events from the first film and has apparently given birth to a demon child of some sort.

Doin’ the limbo in a beauty salon! Last Exorcism, Part II

She seems to be suffering from some type of post-traumatic stress disorder and is thusly turned over to the care of a New Orleans foster home. Of course you can imagine that strange occurrences of the demonic possession variety are bound to transpire. They do to some degree, but since the film is rated PG-13, the audience knows right away that it isn’t going to get any kind of thrill on the level of, say, The Exorcist. As I said, what we’re left with is not much of anything to get excited about as Nell wanders around from place, looking as if she’s sleepwalking through most of the film. After an hour or so of these shenanigans, most viewers will be ready to scream, although not from any frights found in the film.

In terms of horror films, The Last Exorcism, Part II, is about as bad as they come. It’s hard to imagine a more ineptly made and less frightening film than this. The only audience members I can imagine responding to anything in the film would be those with no knowledge of the demonic possession film genre at all and in today’s society where would you find them? Anyone else will be jaded enough to see where this is headed long before it gets there. Not only would one be better off re-watching The Exorcist, they would probably be better off watching Abby, the infamous 1974 Exorcist rip-off featuring an all black cast. At least that’s a film that can show you something you haven’t seen.

Jack the Giant Slayer and The Last Exorcism, Part II, are playing at the Carmike Cinemas in Hickory and other area theaters.

Questions or comments - email Adam Long at filmfan1970@hotmail.com

 

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