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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Jack the Giant Slayer

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Sentry Giant, a digitally animated character voiced by Peter Elliott, is seen in the movie "Jack the Giant Slayer."
Faith-tinged and fun, "Jack the Giant Slayer" (Warner Bros.) is director Bryan Singer's 3-D retelling of the classic fairy tale, into which screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie and Dan Studney blend elements of the related story "Jack and the Beanstalk."

The resulting hybrid, which also combines live action and animation, offers teens and their elders a mostly harmless adventure.

Still, the gruesome fates awaiting various bad guys, together with a touch of salty language, make this fable inappropriate fare for the smallest members of its source material's original audience.

We all know Jack (Nicholas Hoult): Absent-minded but goodhearted, he exchanges a perfectly serviceable horse for a handful of purportedly magic beans. In this version, the same trip to the market finds Jack, a mere peasant boy, falling for the plucky Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) who is, in turn, equally taken with him.

Their newfound romance is imperiled, however, when one of the aforesaid legumes shows that it has supernatural qualities after all. Accidentally exposed to water, it suddenly sprouts into a gigantic beanstalk, carrying poor Isabelle aloft to a land of aggressive giants.

Unfortunately for Isabelle, these outsized ogres—led by the two-headed Gen. Fallon (voice of Bill Nighy)—have a taste for human flesh. So a rescue mission is imperative.

In the course of this perilous quest, Jack gains the patronage of a chivalrous nobleman named Elmont (Ewan McGregor) who becomes his patron. But he incurs the displeasure of Roderick (Stanley Tucci), a conniving official in the court of Isabelle's father, King Brahmwell (Ian McShane).

With the cooperation of the guileless king, but much against the princess' own will, slippery Roderick has been angling for an arranged marriage with Isabelle.

In the alternate version of the Middle Ages that provides the setting for "Jack the Giant Slayer," monks and other characters freely, if only incidentally, acknowledge God. They bless themselves at times of danger and offer each other encouragement with such phrases as "May God help you."

Though the details of the overly complicated back story reveal that some monks once dabbled in the "black arts," they are said to have done so only under compulsion. Their successors are now anxious to make up for this lapse by advancing the cause of good—even at the cost of considerable sacrifice. As one of their number puts it, "We owe it to God."

The film contains scenes of bloodless but potentially disturbing violence, brief references to the occult, some mildly scatological humor and a couple of crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi: Mystical ecstasy is the elevation of the spirit to God in such a way that the person is aware of this union with God while both internal and external senses are detached from the sensible world. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi was so generously given this special gift of God that she is called the "ecstatic saint." 
<p>She was born into a noble family in Florence in 1566. The normal course would have been for Catherine de' Pazzi to have married wealth and enjoyed comfort, but she chose to follow her own path. At nine she learned to meditate from the family confessor. She made her first Communion at the then-early age of 10 and made a vow of virginity one month later. When 16, she entered the Carmelite convent in Florence because she could receive Communion daily there. </p><p>Catherine had taken the name Mary Magdalene and had been a novice for a year when she became critically ill. Death seemed near so her superiors let her make her profession of vows from a cot in the chapel in a private ceremony. Immediately after, she fell into an ecstasy that lasted about two hours. This was repeated after Communion on the following 40 mornings. These ecstasies were rich experiences of union with God and contained marvelous insights into divine truths. </p><p>As a safeguard against deception and to preserve the revelations, her confessor asked Mary Magdalene to dictate her experiences to sister secretaries. Over the next six years, five large volumes were filled. The first three books record ecstasies from May of 1584 through Pentecost week the following year. This week was a preparation for a severe five-year trial. The fourth book records that trial and the fifth is a collection of letters concerning reform and renewal. Another book, <i>Admonitions</i>, is a collection of her sayings arising from her experiences in the formation of women religious. </p><p>The extraordinary was ordinary for this saint. She read the thoughts of others and predicted future events. During her lifetime, she appeared to several persons in distant places and cured a number of sick people. </p><p>It would be easy to dwell on the ecstasies and pretend that Mary Magdalene only had spiritual highs. This is far from true. It seems that God permitted her this special closeness to prepare her for the five years of desolation that followed when she experienced spiritual dryness. She was plunged into a state of darkness in which she saw nothing but what was horrible in herself and all around her. She had violent temptations and endured great physical suffering. She died in 1607 at 41, and was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Let us never tire, therefore, of seeking the Lord—of letting ourselves be sought by him—of tending over our relationship with him in silence and prayerful listening. Let us keep our gaze fixed on him, the center of time and history; let us make room for his presence within us.

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