Although, I'm sure that the large budgets for these movies warrants each their own review, they feel similar enough to me that I'm going to combine them. Both are retelling of classic tales using computer graphics and 3D to enlarge the storytelling.
Jack the Giant Slayer
This is the re-evolved story of Jack and the Beanstalk. It has a clever storyline with some new twists. It's an entertaining movie, just not a great movie.
Jack, played by Nicholas Hoult of "About a Boy" fame, does a good job portraying Jack's youthful exuberance. The story really begins when Jack meets Isabella (Eleanor Tomlinson), the young princess of the realm with a strong desire to escape the confines of the castle in search of adventure of her own. She seeks shelter at Jack's cabin on a dark, rainy night and when a stray bean fall beneath a floorboard the story of the beanstalk begins. The growth of the beanstalk is very well down as its roots expand across the ground in order to gain the strength to grow up through the clouds to the land of the giants.
The giants are grotesque, ghoulish and frequently disgusting. The lead giant, General Fallon is voiced by Bill Nighy ("Love Actually"), is a two headed distortion, which reminded me of one of the characters in "Men in Black" sequels. One head..normalish, the other a babbling idiot. I did find the giant dialogue a little hard to understand, but ultimately you know where things are going.
If you've seen any of the previews and commercials for this movie, I'm betting you can already guess who steals the movie. It is Ewan MCGregor as Elmont the King's Captain of the Guards. Whenever he is on screen, the movie finally elevates to level it should be. I have no idea how he does it, but he lights up the screen. He really is and should be the hero of this film.
The movie does this incredibly quick wrap up ending that was a bit disappointing. They really could have done a better job here.
The movie does earn its PG13 rating. Some people get gobbled up pretty quickly, but there are moments that a 10 year old boy will love. Suffice it to say, gross giant habits will make them squeal with delight.
Oz, The Great and Powerful
This film has many elements to make a great movie. Good story, a great trio of witches and beautiful computer graphics. If you are sensing a BUT coming here, you are right. All these element are very good, but...the casting of James Franco as Oz is awful. His acting is lethargic at best and reducing his character to a mediocre magician using his limited skills to seduce women really left me scratching my head. He doesn't have that leading man, leave the women swooning je ne sais quoi. He seems oily and a little tired all at the same time. I can't help thinking that Robert Downey Jr., who was first in line to play this part, would have been a better choice and bring Oz to life.
The trio of witches, played by Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams were well cast and did a great job playing their roles. I won't spoil the "who is the Wicked Witch" twist to the story, but the story does provide some amount of empathy for her character.
I really enjoyed Zach Braff as the voice of Finley the flying bell hop monkey. He provides many of the lighter moments in the film.
As boys will enjoy the gross out scenes in Jack, the girls will love the character of China Doll (Joey King) here. She is charming, spunky and very pretty.
This movie received a PG rating, but I'm providing some caution that the witches flying monkeys are far scarier this time around and they were pretty scary in the original. And as this is 3D the monkies now jump out at you, so be prepared to cover eyes as necessary.
(Stinky used to have me do that when he was scared at a movie. He couldn't cover his own eyes, I needed to do it. So sweet.)