There are four new movies opening today, and the two we've seen -- "Jack the Giant Slayer" and "21 & Over" are both worth watching ... for totally different audiences. As for the other two, we didn't get invited to "Phantom" and there were no screenings for "The Last Exorcism Part II" (which hopefully, will really be the last). But ... onto what we *did* see ... and love:

"Jack the Giant Slayer"


Last year, we saw two adaptations of the fairy tale "Snow White," one dark ("Snow White & The Huntsman") and one more lighthearted ("Mirror, Mirror"). "Jack the Giant Slayer" -- a big budget, big screen version of "Jack and the Beanstalk" -- falls in between.

Part action and part humor, it's an exciting if not expected adventure. Other reviews have critiqued the film's genericness, but they seem to forget it is an adaption of a children's tale. Its plot is inherently simple -- good vs. evil, boys meets girl, rich loves poor -- but that's what makes it fun.

Nicholas Hoult plays Jack, a farmer who accidentally creates a bridge to the Land of Giants via, you guessed it, a giant beanstalk. His quest includes rescuing the kingdom's princess (Eleanor Tomlinson) and defending the castle against the rampaging giants.

Unlike "The Hobbit," which felt long and had too many characters and little resolution, "Jack the Giant Slayer" is a perfectly contained adventure. It's special effects heavy, but the action is actually followable, unlike the "Lord of the Rings" pre-story (note, "Jack," "The Hobbit" and toofab are all Warner Bros.). 

Supporting castmembers Ewan McGregor and Stanley Tucci play familiar roles. Ewan plays a knight and the princess' protector, the same role he played in "Star Wars." There are points where you expect him to say "good job, Anakin" instead of "good job, Jack." Stanley plays the scheming type he's portrayed in countless other films.

Singer made some curious choices. Jack's anachronistic costume looks like it belongs on a hipster instead of a farmboy. The giant's two-headed leader, Fallon, is cartoonish. And if there are female giants, none were seen (or their lack of existence explained).

Despite these drawbacks, "Jack the Giant Slayer" is an enjoyable film, good for the family (although some of the more violent scenes may scare young children). If you're looking for something more adult, read on.

-- Lawrence Yee

"21 & Over"


Who doesn't fondly recall their 21st birthday? Well, ok maybe not always fondly, and recall might be problematic as well -- it definitely is for Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) in the new flick, "21 & Over."

The birthday boy gets a surprise visit from his high school BFFs Casey (Skylar Astin) and Miller (Miles Teller), who insist on celebrating with a crazy night, as one should for their 21st. The problem is that Jeff Chang (yes, always call him by both names) has a huge medical school interview the next morning, and if he misses it, his super-strict and terribly scary father (Francois Chau) will murder him.

The dudes compromise, agreeing to go for one drink ... but come on, you know that's not happening.

Jeff Chang quickly gets wasted and passes out (not before projectile vomiting while riding a mechanical bull!), leaving his friends to take him home -- except they don't remember where he lives.

The rest of the movie revolves around the hysterical shenanigans that occur along the way, including breaking into a sorority house, massive amounts of drinking games, a buffalo running rampant, and -- lest we fail to mention -- a lot of nudity. Hysterical, awkward nudity.

The flick was directed by the writers of "The Hangover," Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, so you know it's funny and the situations are ridiculous. The pair also make their directorial debut with this film.

It sounds weird to say I don't want to give away spoilers for a comedy, but trust me, being surprised by half of what happens is so totally worth it. Definitely check it out this weekend!

-- Wendy Vinglinsky

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