"Now You See Me"

I like caper movies. A slick heist is pulled off, the cops are in hot pursuit and you don't know until the end if they get caught. What's not to like?

This film has a fresh take on the formula by adding in a magic theme. Four street magicians, united by a shadowy figure, perform audacious tricks, including robbing a bank and distributing the ill-gotten money to their audience in a Las Vegas casino. All the while a bungling FBI agent (the ponderous Mark Ruffalo) is trying unsuccessfully to catch up.

While the magic theme is steeped throughout, one need not be a fan of conjuring to appreciate the fast pace and clever plot. Unlike some movies in which the mystery is easily solved, leaving viewers waiting and waiting for the inevitable payoff, this film had me guessing until the final minutes.

My only real complaint: like "Oceans 11" before it, this ensemble movie is burdened by too large of a cast and hence lacks compelling characters.

Bloodless but frequent violence make this best for kids at least 11 years old. (PG-13: Violence, language and sex). 1 hour and 55 minutes.

Ratings (out of 4 stars):

Overall: 3 stars

Kids: 2 stars

Teens: 3 stars

Adults: 3 stars

Seniors: 3 stars

Should you watch it? Yes -- an inventive, easy-to-digest crime film.

"Jack the Giant Slayer"

I had low expectations for this live-action remake of the classic "Jack and the Beanstalk" fairy tale. So I was pleasantly surprised by the end result of a fun, action-packed film, despite the overused Ye Olde England setting.

While the script is utterly predictable, given that we all know the underlying premise, the acting was fresh and the special effects convincing. Nicholas Hoult is charming as the improvised Jack who acquires the magic beans, while Eleanor Tomlinson is endearing as the princess inexorably in need of rescuing.

The giants Jack encounters at the top of the beanstalk are truly repulsive. And while all figments of computer-generated animation, they weave seamlessly into the scenes.

Lots of people and giants bite the dust, so not a good fit for kids younger than 10. (PG-13: Violence and language). 1 hour and 54 minutes.

Ratings (out of 4 stars):

Overall: 2½ stars

Kids: 3 stars

Teens: 3 stars

Adults: 2½ stars

Seniors: 2 stars

Should you watch it? Yes -- a good enough fantasy film.

"G.I. Joe: Retaliation"

The first line of the film had me laughing -- for all of the wrong reasons. As subtle as a howitzer, this bullet-o-rama sequel can't decide if it wants to be for an adult audience like "The Expendables" or be more palatable to the kids who own the action figures of the same name. So it splits the difference with mediocre results.

Dwayne Johnson plays the commando leader who kills lots of bad guys. If you're looking for plot or nuanced acting, keep on walking.

Too intense for kids younger than 11. (PG-13: Violence and language). 1 hour and 50 minutes.

Ratings (out of 4 stars):

Overall: 1½ stars

Kids: 2½ stars

Teens: 2 stars

Adults: 1½ stars

Seniors: ½ star

Should you watch it? No -- solid action scenes don't compensate for lousy everything else.

J.B. Alderman lives in Piedmont and can be reached at jason@alderman.net.