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Hammerle on 'Jack the Giant Slayer,' 'Identity Thief'

Robert Hammerle
March 13, 2013
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bob hammerle movie reviewsJack the Giant Slayer

Say what you want about 14-year-old boys, but they reach their maximum potential when they function as an unashamed movie companion for films like “Jack the Giant Slayer.” Again, I am speaking of my grandson, Connor, who shares my enthusiasm for mythological action films.

The irony is that while we truly liked “Jack the Giant Slayer” and this year’s “Warm Bodies,” both starred Nicholas Hoult. In “Warm Bodies,” he was a struggling zombie falling madly in love with a human girl, and here he is a poor farm boy attracted to a young princess. Dead man walking or a lad who tills the soil, the kid knows how to get ahead in life.

While “Jack the Giant Slayer” tells the story that we all know, it does so with some splendid acting and superior special effects. Some nasty giants live in the world between Earth and heaven, and a young princess, played effectively by Eleanor Tomlinson, finds herself whisked into their world by an uncaring beanstalk. Jack joins a group of soldiers from the realm to climb the stalk to rescue her, and the ensuing adventure becomes far more exciting than critics dare acknowledge.

ratingjack.gif The film is enormously helped by performances from Ian McShane, Stanley Tucci and Ewan McGregor. In his small role as the kind king, you are left hoping that Mr. McShane could express his agony over his missing daughter in the extraordinarily foul language of his memorable character in TV’s “Deadwood” (2006-2009). God I miss Al Swearengen.

Mr. Tucci appears here as the selected betrothed of the horrified young princess, though he has an idiotic plan to put power ahead of sex with the help of the gnarly giants. Mr. Tucci is a stitch as the gap-toothed villain, and he again demonstrates his wide acting range as recently seen in last year’s “The Hunger Games.”

Mr. McGregor is always sensational, and he serves as the king’s emissary with both cunning and a delightful twinkle in his eye. Regardless, if you’re not up to seeing this film, hunt him down in “Beginners” (2010), “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” (2011) and last year’s “The Impossible.”

The giants are a collection of truly ugly monsters, led by the great Bill Nighy. Playing General Fallon, he is cursed with two heads and an attitude that Satan himself would admire. Though the character is profoundly hateful, you can’t help but love Mr. Nighy when you recall his last role as the suffering husband in last year’s spectacular “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”

Finally, what shouldn’t be missed is the desire of the princess to seek adventure, as she simply believed that it would allow her to run her kingdom with an eye to improving the lives of her subjects. Maybe our national politicians who defend the sequester should get out of Washington and hunt a little adventure of their own.

Who knows, maybe they could dedicate themselves to leading in a way that helps their subjects, today known as citizens.

Identity Thief

“Identity Thief” is a flamboyantly absurd film that treats idiocy like a human strength. It contains absurd sequences involving car chases, hit men/women and a killer bail bondsman. There are sporadic moments where you can do little more than simply shake your head.

On the other hand, as profoundly foolish as this film is, it is at times embarrassingly entertaining. Without question this is entirely due to the endearing talents of both Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy. He is as warm and vulnerable as she is venal, asocial and maliciously funny, and the two form an unlikely team that finds a way to entertain you.

Mr. Bateman plays Sandy Patterson, a businessman in Denver fighting to support his pregnant wife and their two children. As he gambles on a new job with other disgruntled employees, he learns that he has been victimized through identify theft by some unknown scalawag in Florida. He finds himself massively in debt, not to mention named in an arrest warrant for failing to appear in court.

For unexplainable reasons, the police, his wife (played with little energy by Amanda Peet), and his business associates allow him to travel alone to Florida to return with his nemesis. In the process, he links up with his target, a mean-spirited Ms. McCarthy. Overcoming her best punch, a vicious jab to the throat, she is e

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ventually forced to accompany him on his journey to Colorado.

What makes “Identity Thief” rise above its profound weaknesses is the gradual bond formed by Mr. Bateman and Ms. McCarthy. The film is further helped with a screamingly funny performance by Eric Stonestreet from TV’s “Modern Family.” Let me just say that it involves Ms. McCarthy’s drunken seduction of him in a cheap motel room while describing Mr. Bateman at length as a woefully impotent husband who only wants to watch.

Ms. McCarthy again proves that she is a diamond in the cinematic rough. Her performance in “Bridesmaids” (2011) remains a memorable classic, and her wildly hysterical performance in a small role in “This Is 40” (2012) was the only thing that made that film watchable.

Recently, a well-known national film critic came under deserved criticism for referring to her as a “hippo.” His words were condemnable, as both Ms. McCarthy and Rebel Wilson (think of her as Fat Amy in “Pitch Perfect”) breathe life into the definition of feminism by any standard.

Consider the way women are seen today as both newscasters and weather forecasters on TV. From ESPN to Katie Couric, nearly all of the women you see on the screen either involve full body shots or with them sitting in chairs wearing short skirts, their legs crossed and wearing very high heels. Could the men behind most of television programming be doing little more than selling women on their physical allure? Surely not!

Regardless, I would love to see Ms. McCarthy and Fat Amy in that role.•

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Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.
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