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Beecham House is a retirement home for classically trained musicians who can’t afford to live anywhere else, and they’re excited. They’re excited not because of the annual gala they’re about to perform – a gala that will help raise money to keep the retirement home afloat – but because of the soon-to-be new arrival, though no one knows who that new arrival will be. The new arrival turns out to be opera singer Jean Horton (the wonderful Maggie Smith) and it’s her presence that upsets everything and everyone. Like the stately home, Quartet is built on solid foundation. The cinematography is always well-framed and nicely shot and director Dustin Hoffman (yes, the Dustin Hoffman) populates the widescreen to great effect. Quartet is actor Dustin Hoffman’s first work as a director. You might think that a genteel British comedy is an odd choice for an American performer to direct, but on closer examination, maybe not. Quartet is pure and simply an actor’s film, and if there’s one area of expertise that Hoffman would know the most about it’s acting. Plus, at the age of 70, if there’s something else Hoffman must presumably be aware of it’s the need to age with dignity, something that every character in this appealing and hugely entertaining film desires. Available in both DVD ad Blu-Ray formats.
Nicholas Hoult was last seen as the all-American zombie in the horror/romance Warm Bodies. Now he’s back on his home turf as Jack, the English country boy in a retelling of the Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale, Jack the Giant Slayer. Evidently, market research showed the word ‘Slayer’ to be more family-friendly than ‘Killer.’ Despite lapses in logical storytelling – I know, it’s a fairy tale – Jack the Giant Slayer is a lot of fun with an involving plot, colorful characters, a lot of good humor, and action scenes that actually thrill. The image of a slew of giants charging out of a forest is particularly impressive. The film goes on for twenty minutes longer than it should. The real story ends the moment Jack and the princess start climbing back down the beanstalk, but huge and hugely expensive films like this have to have an even bigger finish, so we have scenes where all the giants climb down from their kingdom and cause chaos back on terra firma. It’s a spectacular conclusion, but it’s more a case of going through the motions and not half as much fun as the first two thirds of the film. Available in both DVD and Blu-Ray formats, plus a special 3D version is available for those with a 3D TV and Blu-Ray player.