New movies this week
Jack the Giant Slayer
The gist: It's kind of like the kiddie story Jack and the Beanstalk, except there are scads of special effects giants, and they wage war on humanity, threatening to drive us to the brink of extinction. That's a lot darker than we remember that story being. PG-13
The cast: Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Eddie Marsan and Ewen Bremner.
The buzz: An odd sort of fantasy action movie, not really bad, but not superlative. "It's stuck in a big-budget-movie middle ground — not quite thrilling enough to be an action movie, not quite funny enough for a comedy — and, once you've pondered the impressive size of the beanstalk, there's not much else there," the Seattle Times says.
21 & Over
The gist: The writers of The Hangover show us what happens when a guy blows off his medical school interview to go out on an all-night drinking binge with his deadbeat buddies. Hint: It's probably better to put that night of boozing off one more day until after the interview. R
The cast: Miles Teller, Skylar Astin, Justin Chon, Sarah Wright and Jonathan Keltz.
The buzz: There are very few reviews, and most of them are not too spectacular. Still, it will have its audience. "While comparisons to The Hangover are inevitable, 21 & Over is actually reminiscent of a different and specific kind of movie: the early Vince Vaughn-Jon Favreau romp," the AP says.
The Last Exorcism, Part II
The gist: Forget the jokes about the odd juxtaposition of having the word "last" in a sequel, it's simply ironic this came out the day after the pope retired. He must have really wanted to see it. PG-13
The cast: Ashley Bell, Spencer Treat Clark, Andrew Sensenig, Judd Derek Lormand and Julia Garner.
The buzz: Seriously, there are no reviews. Although if you saw the first one, you probably saw this one already.
The gist: A Soviet nuclear submarine goes on a covert mission that may touch off World War III. It's like The Hunt for Red October, but without even Sean Connery's middling attempt to provide his character anything even resembling a Russian accent. R
The cast: Ed Harris, David Duchovny, William Fichtner
The buzz: No bilge pump can save this one from sinking fast. "The potential for screw-tightening suspense gets lost amid the ineffectual dramatics in Phantom," Variety says in one of the kinder reviews.
West of Memphis
The gist: A documentary of the West Memphis Three, three teenagers accused of killing three 8-year-olds, not to be confused with HBO's Paradise Lost trilogy. R
The cast: Damien Wayne Echols, Jason Baldwin, Jessie Misskelley Jr., Lorri Davis, Peter Jackson and Eddie Vedder.
The buzz: A great doc about a heart-rending subject. "It tells the story of a terrible crime compounded by a grave injustice that's been remedied, but only in part, so it's impossible to have a single or simple response to the movie," the San Francisco Chronicle says.
— Joshua Gillin firstname.lastname@example.org