Jack the Giant Slayer Grade: C
In Jack the Giant Slayer, Jack (Nicholas Hoult) and Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) both yearn for adventure. They get it when Isabelle stumbles upon his house and a magic bean Jack unwittingly traded his cow for sprouts a gigantic beanstalk that brings Isabelle up into the unknown sky. Jack goes on an expedition up the beanstalk to rescue her with Elmont (Ewan McGregor), the loyal leader of the king's guard, the suspicious Lord Roderick (Stanley Tucci), and a few other nameless, expendable soldiers. When they get to the top, they realize they're in the land of ... GI-GI-GI-GIANTS!
The first shot of one of the giants is an extreme close-up of his face, with amazing, minute detail in the movement of the eyeball and the tongue. Otherwise though, the visuals aren't really spectacular and often seem dull and pasty like the worst parts of the new Hobbit movie.
The real problem is the script, which gives really nobody anything interesting to do or say. 95 percent of the movie is them running away from the giants, which is intriguing for all of 20 minutes.
The movie is dark, if only because dark things (like people brutally dying on a whim, or giants eating soldiers and then throwing the rest of their body to the ground like a rag doll) happen. But due to its overall lightness, it still doesn't feel dark in tone.
Rated PG-13 for intense scenes of fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief language.
21 and over Grade: D+
Old high school buddies Casey (Skylar Astin) and Miller (Miles Teller) visit their friend at college for his 21st. The birthday boy's name is Jeff Chang (Justin Chon), and a running joke throughout the movie is how his friends only call him by his full name. Oh, and his violently overbearing father wants him to be a doctor. Don't worry though -- uncomfortable stereotypes only make up about half of the "humor" in this tedious movie.
The other half is derived from the set-up, which is that Jeff Chang gets hammered and passes out on a bench outside a bar, leaving his friends to find their way back to his apartment with him in tow. So they run through the standard teen movie cliché situations (a drinking game montage, altercations with bigger, jock-ier villains, a borderline sexual assault sequence where they paddle blindfolded sorority girls, blah blah blah) and some instant classics, like them chasing Jeff Chang around as he's wearing nothing but a pink bra on his chest and a stuffed animal glued to his crotch. Comic gold.
It seems like a cop-out to say that there's nothing wrong with stupid comedies as long as they're funny, but it's true. Dumb and Dumber is great. So is Superbad. But those movies had ingenuity to go along with their stupidity; 21 and Over doesn't.
Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, some graphic nudity, drugs and drinking.
Phantom Grade: D
Phantom is one of those movies destined to reside permanently on HBO2 at 1 a.m. on weekend nights -- if it's lucky.
Calling Phantom a run-of-the-mill submarine potboiler would be an insult to potboilers, submarines and mills. The movie primarily takes place in a Soviet nuclear sub during the Cold War. But when you inevitably turn it on halfway through on late-night TV, you won't realize the sub's heritage, as all the actors explicitly use American accents.
Captain Demi (Ed Harris) has one final mission: To take his old, near-obsolete submarine out to the water and to do some secret mission when he gets there. Those orders are superseded by Bruni (David Duchovny), a KGB agent who takes control of the ship to activate the titular "phantom," a cloaking device that will make the ship give off another country's homing signal. So if the ship were to bomb the U.S., it would look like some other country did it -- it's a classic Ding-Dong Ditch scenario.
The boring dialogue is 90 percent submarine mumbo-jumbo, 8 percent generic, moralistic proselytizing, and 2 percent bad jokes. The real waste is Duchovny, whose bland performance doesn't even come close to the charismatic ones he's capable of (Johnny Volcano on Life With Bonnie was hilarious).
In the end, the submarine just isn't as gripping or claustrophobic as it should be. But that might be a good thing: Lucky for you, you can get out while you can.
Rated R for violence.