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So I take it the current big thing in Hollywood is mining age old--and importantly royalty free--fairy tales and adapting them as big budget spectacle then? Seems to be if the past couple of years are any indication. We've seen recent silver screen offerings of such stories as Red Riding Hood in the form the Twilight-esque, well, Red Riding Hood, two very different takes on Snow White in the whimsical Mirror, Mirror and dark and brooding action adventure Snow White and The Huntsman, and most recently the flawed but ridiculously entertaining--and not for the kiddies--take on those children who got lost and cooked a witch with Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. Now comes Bryan Singer's latest take on another well known fairy tale, Jack and the Beanstalk.

Jack the Giant Slayer
Jack the Giant Slayer tells the story of an ancient war that is reignited when a young farmhand unwittingly opens a gateway between our world and a fearsome race of giants. Unleashed on the Earth for the first time in centuries, the giants strive to reclaim the land they once lost, forcing the young man, Jack, into the battle of his life to stop them. Fighting for a kingdom, its people, and the love of a brave princess, he comes face to face with the unstoppable warriors he thought only existed in legend—and gets the chance to become a legend himself.

I got the sense while watching Jack the Giant Slayer that what Bryan Singer really wanted to make was The Princess Bride, only with a bit less romance, a lot more action and special effects, and with a budget that--even when adjusted for inflation--would have probably paid for the 1987 classic several times over. And you know what? He almost succeeds. While it's not as light-hearted, charming and infinitely rewatchable as Rob Reiner's picture, it's an entertaining and enjoyable romp that the kids will enjoy for the fast pace and action, and most adults will like for some of the humor and the screenplay's attempts at being clever, which both hit their target more often than not.

Nicholas Hoult, last seen in the very different Warm Bodies, was a solid choice when selecting the lead and pretty much carries the film through out, and it doesn't hurt that he's got a very good supporting cast in tow with actors such as Ewan McGregor, Eleanor Tomlinson, Eddie Marsan, Stanley Tucci and Ian McShane all looking like they're having a good time with the material. I also liked the special effects for the less than real aesthetic and vibrant color they brought to the picture, and while other comments may differ, I found them to be a refreshing change of pace from the "darker, grittier" effects seen in similar films like Snow White and the Huntsman. My only real problem is that I did get the sense the basic Jack versus Giant story was stretched a bit thin about two-thirds of the way through, but the rest of what I liked about it made up for it in the end.

Jack the Giant Slayer
Video
Warner's AVC encoded, 1080p video transfer of the film is excellent and you'll find no complaints here. The sights of Jack the Giant Slayer's magical world pop off the screen in extremely vibrant color. Likewise, contrast and black levels are very well done, detail is razor sharp and I couldn't detect anything wrong with the transfer like blocking, edge enhancement or aliasing that might detract from the picture. Being a newly released theatrical film, there also aren't any defects in the video that might have been carried over from the source used. Overall this is a reference quality transfer of the film on Blu-ray, and those that enjoyed the film's slightly cartoonish special effects will get a lot of mileage out of every little detail that can be seen through the quality of it as a whole.

Jack the Giant Slayer
Audio
Big, loud and intense. That's basically what you get with Warner's included DTD-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, and you wouldn't want it any other way. This is a track that takes full advantage of the surround and LFE channels and you'll hear a great many effects whizzing about and around your living room with thunderous crashes and booms reverberating your teeth. None of this, however, comes at the expense of perfectly audible dialogue coming from the center channel, and it's a real credit to the sound engineering on display that you'll likely never miss anything said or heard. I also didn't pick up on any defects with the audio that might detract from the experience, so no worries on that front. Overall this is an audio track that more than matches the video and completes the presentation as a whole perfectly.

Jack the Giant Slayer
Extras
Warner Home Video has included a few extras in the package for Jack the Giant Slayer, and all in all while not a bad lot the bulk are wrapped around an interactive game you're forced to play in order to view the featurettes included in the 'Become a Giant Slayer' feature. I absolutely hate stuff like this, and every time I run into it I'm reminded of the troubles navigating the bonus disc included with the original A Nightmare On Elm Street collection on DVD. Once you do get to one of the intended featurettes (Know Your Enemy, Suiting Up, Attack Tactics, The Magic of a Beanstalk, How To Zip, Giants' Kitchen, Saving the Princess and Defending Your Kingdom) you'll find that they're your basic behind-the-scenes stuff which while short on running time are interesting and offer a decent look into the film's production. The disc also includes around seven minutes of deleted scenes without final effects work and the obligatory gag reel. The two-disc set also comes with a standard definition copy of the film on DVD and an UltraViolet digital copy.

Jack the Giant Slayer
Overall
There are other fantasy films that I've enjoyed more over the years, and of those that strive to hit a family friendly target The Princess Bride is still the standard-bearer, but Jack the Giant Slayer is an amusing adventure that most will enjoy if they give it a chance. It has enough whimsy and a likeable enough lead in Nicholas Hoult to be charming, but there's also the big battles, excitement and spectacle that many have come to expect from such entertainments. Warner Home Video's Blu-ray presentation of the film on Blu-ray features reference quality video and audio, but the extras--which would have benefited from what would have likely been a good commentary track from director Bryan Singer--are a bit on the weak side and frustrating to navigate. Overall this is a decent rental for the kids, though a fair amount of adults will certainly like it as well.

The images on this page are not representative of the quality of the Blu-ray presentation on the disc.



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