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The Cricket
Sean P. Means
Sean is the movie critic and columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @moviecricket.

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(Courtesy photo) Leslie Nichols, a teacher in a Colorado town, delivers food-bank packages to families of her students, in a moment from the documentary "A Place at the Table." The film discusses the problem of hunger in America.
Friday movie roundup: "Jack" and other tall tales

March comes in like a lion, with one giant-sized blockbuster.

"Jack the Giant Slayer" is another amped-up version of a classic fairy tale, this time "Jack and the Beanstalk." Jack (Nicholas Hoult) is a valiant farmboy who ends up with magic beans that plant a giant beanstalk on his farm – and endangering a princess, Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson). Jack joins a contingent of the King's men, led by the trusty Elmond (Ewan McGregor) to climb the beanstalk and rescue Isabelle from the computer-generated giants lurking above. Director Bryan Singer ("X-Men") creates some cool visuals, but the characters are thinly conceived and none too engaging.

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The college comedy "21 and Over" is directed and written by the guys who wrote "The Hangover," and this rancid apple doesn't fall far from that tree. Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin) take out their pal Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) on his 21st birthday, and must get his unconscious body back home before morning – when he has a major medical-school interview. The gang's adventures are sometimes funny but repetitive, with a randomness in the raunch that will leave you scratching your head. (For The Cricket, the movie was mildly nostalgic, as it was filmed at his alma mater, the University of Washington.)

Also opening wide this weekend is the oxymoronically titled "The Last Exorcism, Part II," a horror sequel that was not screened for critics.

Also not screened for critics – at least not in Utah – is "Phantom," a Cold War thriller set on a Russina nuclear submarine. The movie stars Ed Harris, David Duchovny and William Fichtner.

The best movie of the week opens at the Broadway: "A Place at the Table," a thoughtful and beautifully filmed documentary about hunger in America. Directors Kristi Jacobsen and Lori Silverbush follow families touched by hunger, and interview experts and celebrities (including Jeff Bridges and "Top Chef" judge Tom Colicchio) who have championed the cause.

Lastly, there's "A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III," director Roman Coppola's everything-and-the-kitchen-sink fantasy/comedy that follows a self-absorbed graphic designer (Charlie Sheen) in the middle of a breakup. Despite a supporting cast that includes Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Patricia Arquette, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aubrey Plaza, the movie is a snooze – largely because we're subjected once again to Sheen sleepwalking through another vaguely autobiographical role.



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