FlixChatter Review: JUNGLE CRUISE (2021)

Disney once again capitalize on one of their Disney park’s attraction and turn it into a movie. I suppose that’s no surprise since the last franchise based on a popular Disney ride, Pirates Of The Caribbean grossed a total of $4.5 Billion globally with five movies, making Johnny Depp extremely wealthy with a reported $300 mil total for playing Jack Sparrow. I’ve actually never ridden either rides before, despite having visited both Disneyland AND DisneyWorld several times. The original Jungle Cruise opened in July 1955 at Disneyland Park, making it one of its oldest.

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At the center of the story is Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), an explorer who’s a bit like Indiana Jones meets Rachel Weisz’s character in The Mummy. Armed with a map her father gave her and an ancient artifact object she acquired from in a fun heist opening sequence, she is off to the Amazon in search of an ancient tree which flower holds miraculous healing power. Thanks to a scenario of mistaken identity and a clever ploy involving a Leopard, Lily ends up hiring Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson), a wisecracking skipper with predilection for cheesy dad jokes on his ramshackle boat La Quilla. His intro during an actual jungle cruise tour is pretty amusing and fun.

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Much like in The Mummy, Lily and Frank didn’t get off on the right foot initially but surprise, surprise, they form a bond throughout the journey. Blunt and Johnson may seem like an unlikely duo but they have a pretty effortless chemistry and the two play each other off quite well, though some of the jokes/puns are cringe-worthy, especially Frank’s obsession with Lily’s pants. In fact that is his nickname for her, a light commentary of the misogyny of the 1930s period. Now, the plot is a bit too convoluted for a movie based on a ride, and the PG-13 rating is warranted given some of the petrifying jungle scenes and supernatural bits. It’s best not to overthink it and just enjoy the ride as it were, and marvel at the visual beauty of the Amazon river and the lush rainforest. 

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Barcelona-born Jaume Collet-Serra, known for his action flicks with Liam Neeson and the shark movie The Shallows (which I quite enjoyed) is pretty adept in directing the action scenes. “Everything that you see wants to kill you…and can.” Frank says, but of course the scenes of perils aren’t really that scary in a Disney movie, which automatically takes the suspense out of even the most intense action sequences. 

As far as the supporting cast go, Paul Giamatti is rather over the top as Nilo, a successful businessman in the Amazonian port town who often extorts money from Frank. Jack Whitehall plays Lily’s hapless brother MacGregor who’s often the butt of jokes for being absolutely clueless about what this dangerous journey entails. Disney attempts to be more inclusive with including an LGBT character though his coming-out scene is downplayed and feels like an after-thought. Edgar Ramírez is Captain Aquirre, one of the three soldiers in the mythology of the ancient tree, but he became kind of a throwaway character given how the ending is written (more of that later). Lastly, we’ve got a scene-stealing performance from Jesse Plemons as Prince Joachim, who’s basically a cross between an Indiana Jones + Bond villain complete with his hilarious German accent. I’ve only seen him in one Black Mirror episode so I’m not totally familiar w/ his work. His talking-to-bees scene and casually yelling “Hallöchen!” from his submarine while holding a machine gun are wildly amusing. I’m still giggling over how he pronounced ‘jungle’ as ‘chunkle’ in a German accent, mwahahaha!

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My biggest issue is the way Disney is forcing the romance between Lily and Frank. It’s so hugely unnecessary and adds nothing to the story. I realize that Romancing the Stone is one of the main inspiration for the movie, but the romance just seems so forced and would’ve worked better if Emily and Dwayne are just platonic friends. I also have an issue with the ending SPOILER ALERT (highlight to read) Now, in the beginning of the movie Lily says she’s convinced the flower from the ancient tree would change the future of medicine forever, and she’s willing to risk her own life to get it. Yet when she finally got the petal, literally by the skin of one’s teeth, she quickly gives it away to bring Frank back to life. The movie also wants to have the cake and eat it too by making the flower miraculously appear AFTER Frank is back alive again, render her sacrifice inconsequential. I think there’s an opportunity for the team of writers to offer somewhat of a redemption to Aguirre and his soldiers which would have been a more intriguing character arc instead of just having them being trapped by the jungle all over again.

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Given Disney has removed the ride’s problematic colonialism stuff and the racially-insensitive depiction of the jungle natives, the movie also wisely subvert that narrative of them being primitives and offer a fun twist about the indigenous people. Visually, the movie looks beautiful, which is to be expected given the large budget. The movie is shot in Hawaii though obviously there are plenty of CGI use for most of the action scenes. Just don’t expect a gritty depiction of the jungle, everything looks too clean and artificial, down to Lily’s hair and red lips that doesn’t seem to be affected by all the hullabaloos. The production design by Jean-Vincent Puzos is fun to look at and I enjoyed the music James Newton Howard, apart from the weirdly bombastic rock music playing during the jungle flashback scene.

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At over 2 hours, it’s a bloated adventure movie that could’ve easily been trimmed down. Overall though it’s entertaining enough for the whole family, though perhaps not for really young kids. Surely they’re banking on Jungle Cruise to be another lucrative franchise for the Mouse House, though it’s not one I personally am clamoring to see. I’m being generous with the rating here, but a full point belongs to Plemons’ hilarious portrayal, I actually can’t wait to rewatch the movie on Disney+ just for Prince Joachim’s scenes!

3/5 stars


What did YOU think of JUNGLE CRUISE?

FlixChatter Review – JUMANJI: The Next Level (2019)

When I first reviewed Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle back in 2017, I said that director Jake Kasdan closed the door to the idea of there being another sequel. Yet, here we are; two years and millions of dollars later, Welcome to the Jungle became a critical and commercial success and was just begging for another sequel. So Kasdan, along with his co-writers Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg, decided to capitalize of the success they saw from Welcome to the Jungle, with great actors and a compelling story, to make Jumanji: The Next Level. As you can probably guess, the sequel offers many of the same characters from the first movie; the four main characters are back: Spencer Gilpin (Alex Wolff), Anthony “Fridge” Johnson (Ser’Darius Blain), Bethany Walker (Madison Iseman) and Martha Kaply (Morgan Turner).

Also returning are their avatars; Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), a very rugged and muscular explorer who is also an archaeologist, Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart), a short in height zoologist, Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), a commando, martial artist, and dance fighter and Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon (Jack Black), cartographer, cryptographer, archaeologist and paleontologist. In Welcome to the Jungle, the game Jumanji let the humans choose who they their avatars to be and see what happens to them when they get to be someone else inside a video game. This isn’t necessarily the case this time around…more on that later. This time around, the movie opens with the friends returning home from college on winter break. We are introduced to Spencer’s grandfather Eddie (Danny DeVito) who’s staying with family due to his deteriorating health. Also we meet Eddie’s long-lost friend and business partner Milo (Danny Glover).

One night when Spencer goes missing, Martha (Turner), Bethany and Fridge (Blaine) discover that he’s actually gone back inside Jumanji. They decide to go back inside the game and seemingly one by one, they are transported inside. But what they don’t realize is that they’ve accidentally brought Eddie and Milo with them inside the game. This is where it takes a while to realize which avatar belongs to which real human. It turns out that this time Fridge ends up in Jack Black’s avatar, Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon. Also, Eddie and Milo find themselves in the form of the strapping Dr. Bravestone (Johnson) and the tiny zoologist Finbar (Hart), respectively. While Bethany is not taken inside the game, Martha is back as Ruby Roundhouse (with extra humor from Gillan). At first, they start inside a jungle terrain, much like the first sequel. But soon thereafter, they are transported into a desert wilderness where they are being chased by a pack of ostriches.

Dwayne Johnson is hilariously on point with DeVito’s somewhat signature northern New Jersey accent and Kevin Hart also is pretty funny with Glover’s elderly, more serious and statesmanlike accent. The avatars soon learn that they must snatch the jewel called “the Falcon’s Heart” from a ruthless warlord named Jurgen The Brutal (Game of Throne’s Rory McCann), who’s responsible for the deaths of Dr. Bravestone’s parents. Also returning in The Next Level are Nick Jonas as Jefferson “Seaplane” McDonough: the real world Alex (Colin Hanks)’s avatar who is a young aircraft pilot we know from the first sequel and Cyclone, a black Pegasus (horse) who is actually SPOILER alert (highlight to read): Bethany’s avatar. The players have to free the Falcon’s Heart jewel to escape the game once and for all, but they must do so in only three given lives (as in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) or forever be lost inside the game.

In The Next Level, director Jake Kasdan doubles down on the audience not knowing which real player is playing which avatar and finds a way (through some magical waters) to be able to switch the avatars (and characters’ voices) midway through the movie. This gives each actor the ability to show off their abilities to embody the different characters; the overly confident jock, a jittery nerd, a prissy cheerleader, and a cantankerous elderly persona. It is not right away that is revealed where Spenser is this whole time. SPOILER ALERT (highlight to read) In Jumanji: The Next Level, Spencer is in the avatar of Ming Fleetfoot, who specializes in burglary, pickpocketing, and lock-picking. This avatar is masterfully played by Awkwafina.

In my opinion, it isn’t Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart or Jack Black that are the standouts of Jumanji: The Next Level, – it is Awkwafina! Kasdan even finds a way for Awkwafina to take on Danny DeVito’s signature accent – and she does so brilliantly. There are many impressive video game-esque CGI scenes, including floating bridges, aggressive and menacing mandrills, and an absolutely amazing ostrich herd vs dune buggy race (it’s worth every penny!)

But if there aren’t the impromptu moments between Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan and Awkwafina, then Jumanji: The Next Level won’t have the same commercial and critical success that the first sequel saw. Luckily for us, these moments are absolutely there with this movie and they are an absolute treat. What Kasdan and his team do next with Jumanji is anyone’s guess, but he does leave the door open for yet another sequel. So don’t rush out the door before you’ve seen the very last ostrich exit stage left!

– Review by Vitali Gueron


Have you seen JUMANJI: The Next Level? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: HOBBS & SHAW (2019)

If you were to tell me back in 2001 that a simple action film about cops and robbers would’ve spawn several sequels and now a spin-off and became one of the most profitable movie franchises in Hollywood, I would’ve laughed in your face. But almost 20 years later, that’s exactly what happened. Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs and Jason Statham’s Shaw both appeared in the last two FAST & FURIOUS films and with a good chemistry in the last film, the big wigs at Universal Studios decided to milk the franchise even more by making a movie about them.

When a group of MI6 agents decided break into a secure area to steal a deadly virus called Snowflake from some very bad people, they were interrupted by another set of bad guys and to prevent the bad guys from getting the virus, MI6 group’s leader Hattie (Venessa Kirby) decided to inject the virus into her body. This of course upsets the bad guys’ leader Lore (Idris Elba), a man with the speed and strength of a super human and in fact he refers to himself as Black Superman. Hattie being some kind of a super spy herself, was able to escape from Lore and his men. Now on the run not just from the bad buys but her own agency and the CIA, Hattie is going to need some help in order to survive.

Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) now lives a simple life with his daughter in Los Angeles. When his old CIA agent pal shows up (a famous face cameo) and ask him to go to London and track down Hattie and the Snowflake virus, Hobbs wasn’t interested. Of course, he changed his mind when his pal said the virus is very contagious and will wiped out everyone on earth if it ends up on the wrong hands. Once he landed in London, Hobbs runs into someone he doesn’t like very much, Shaw (Jason Statham). As it turns out, Shaw was also recruited by the CIA to track down the virus and Hattie. But Shaw comes willingly because of personal reason, Hattie is his sister. After some bickering, Hobbs and Shaw located Hattie but so did Lore and his men. What follows is a chase that spans across the globe. Since this is still under the FAST & FURIOUS brand, the film includes several big car chases, shoot outs and hand to hand combats.

The last three FAST & FURIOUS films were in the same style as the James Bond and Mission: Impossible films and that’s exactly how this one turned out. In fact, writers Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce stole so many elements from MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 and SKYFALL that fans of those films will notice the similarities. The film looks great and I appreciate that director David Leitch shot every action scene with care and didn’t go with the annoying fast editing and shaky style that plagued a lot of action films within the last decade. Unfortunately, most of the action were pretty boring to me, with the exception of a nifty motorcycle and car chase through the streets of London, the rest of the set pieces were just too bland and over CGI’d. I also think Leitch is not a very good storyteller, I enjoyed his last film DEADPOOL 2, but his other action picture ATOMIC BLONDE was kind of a dud. That film has so much potential to be great, but I found the pacing to be off and that’s how I feel about this film. The film relied too much on Johnson and Statham, but their constant bantering gets tiresome real fast. I think with a director who has more experience with comedy, it would’ve been a fun summer flick.

As usual, Johnson and Statham were good in their respective roles. They knew what kind of film they’re making and had fun with it. But as I mentioned before, their constant insults to one another got old and felt forced as the film progresses. After seeing her in last summer’s MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT, I was a fan of Venessa Kirby. I felt like she kind of look lost in this film. She wasn’t bad or anything, I just think comedy might not be her strength, but she did looked good doing all the action stuff. Her character is supposed to be close in age to Statham’s character, but in real life, he’s old enough to be her father. It would’ve been better if they’d written her character as his long-lost daughter or something besides being basically his twin sister.

Elba looked like he’s having fun with his evil role, but I don’t like seeing this pattern of him being cast as the villain in big budget films. Ever since I saw him in THE WIRE, I was a fan and thought he would be the hero in big action films by now and not the villain. Let’s hope he turn down any other villain role that studios will likely offer him again.

I believe this is the last of the big budget film of the summer and I thought it kind of underwhelmed. The film has potential to be a fun ride, but it’s just stuck in one mode and never really took off. Besides some laughs from a couple of famous cameos, the comedy also fell flat. Not the worst in the franchise (that belongs to part 2 and 3) but nowhere near as fun or exciting as the franchise’s best FAST FIVE.

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So have you seen HOBBS & SHAW? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: SKYSCRAPER (2018)

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Review by Vitali Gueron

I was eagerly anticipating the release of the movie Skyscraper, partially because it is not a sequel and it is one of only a few blockbusters coming out this summer that aren’t part of a franchise. The movie is written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber and stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Will Sawyer, an amputee who is forced to save his family from terrorists inside a burning building. Sawyer walks with a prosthetic leg due to a hostage situation gone wrong that costs Sawyer his leg while working as an FBI agent. This is how the movie opens, and in all places, a fictitious remote town in Minnesota in the middle of winter.

We next see Sawyer 10 years later, as a security expert consulting for the Hong Kong skyscraper known as “The Pearl.” The structure is billed as the tallest building in the world, easily eclipsing the real life tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and nearly tripling the height of the Empire State Building in New York City, at a height of over 3,500 feet. The signature touch of the building is the spherical object at the crest of the tower, looking just like a freshly-plucked, shiny pearl form the bottom of the sea. Sawyer also brings his family to Hong Kong, including his wife Sarah (played by Neve Campbell) and two grade school children. They are put up in the yet-to-opened residential section of The Pearl, on the 98th floor of the gigantic building. While Sawyer gets ready for his security presentation to The Pearl’s owner Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han), along with his fellow former FBI agent Ben (Pablo Schreiber) who has set up the meeting, his wife and kids set off to visit the famous local panda bears of Hong Kong.

When Ben leads Sawyer to an offsite apartment in Hong Kong, we realize what Ben’s true intentions are and soon enough we realize that he is not on our side. Speaking of bad guys, we are introduced to a team of villains, led by the menacing Kores Botha (Roland Moller), who have broken in to the building with highly flammable chemicals and intend to steal something belonging to Zhao Long Ji inside his penthouse, 220 stories above ground level. The situation intensifies when Sawyer’s wife Sarah calls him to tell him that they’ve returned to The Pearl after one of his kids wasn’t feeling well. When Botha’s men ignite the highly flammable chemicals on the building’s 90th floor, and manager to turn off the building’s fire suppression system, Sawyer’s family becomes trapped on the 98th floor of a burning skyscraper in the middle of Hong Kong Island. It is then up to Sawyer to return to the skyscraper and try to rescue his family before the whole building is engulfed in flames.

This is when the movie begins to completely fall of the rails as Dwayne Johnson scales a nearby construction crane – over 90 floors and without a harness – and uses the crane’s hook to break a window of the nearby skyscraper so that he can swing in – or jump inside the building, all while being chased by and shot at by the Hong Kong police who actually think he is the bad guy (I guess they’ve never seen a Dwayne Johnson movie). At times, the movie looks more like a modern day Die Hard with explosive sequences rather than a situation where it could potentially happen. But the character Will Sawyer is no John McClane, and as the action gets increasingly absurd, most of the suspense and excitement dissipates, mostly because it’s clear that neither Sawyer, nor his family are in any real danger. Although, this cannot be said for building owner Zhao Long Ji, who becomes trapped in his penthouse on the 220th floor, and when his security staff is taken out by the team of villains, he has to rely on Will Sawyer to save him. Don’t worry! The billionaire owner of The Pearl knows who to trust at the end of the day.

While Dwayne Johnson has been relatively successful in his recent movies Rampage(see Ted Saydalavong’s review from earlier this year) and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (see my review from last year), Skyscraper becomes just another film that squanders Johnson’s movie-star charisma and witty sense of humor. Apart from a few scenes where Will’s resourceful and bad-ass wife (with just a few on-screen minutes from Neve Campbell) almost single-handedly saves the day, the over-the-top CGI sequences that could have been converted to 3D and added during post production (but were not for whatever reason). The film left me wanting something more than what this scorched skyscraper disaster flick had to offer. The faster they tried to top other films in this genre in terms of sheer spectacle, the harder it became to take seriously, even as Sawyer’s children stay trapped inside the towering inferno (pun intended) facing all but certain doom. I was certain this movie was void of any character, emotion and soul from early on and sadly I was never proven wrong by the end.


Have you seen SKYSCRAPER? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: Rampage (2018)

I donʼt get Hollywood obsession with turning video games into films. Most of them were met with little box office and/or critical success, yet each year we seem to get one or two films based on video games. Last monthʼs reboot of Tomb Raider barely made a dent at the box office, now we get another film based on a video game that I doubt the target audience would remember or know much about it. But this one stars the always charismatic Dwayne Johnson and it just might turn out to be a big box office success than previous video game-based films.

After an experiment in space gone wrong and the space station was destroyed, debris containing mysterious chemicals fell to different parts of the United States. One landed near a San Diego zoo where Primatologist Davis Okoye (Johnson) is running the show and his albino ape named George was exposed to the chemical. George is a friendly ape but after the exposure, he became more aggressive and growing bigger and bigger each day. Then a doctor named Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) showed up at the zoo and told Okoye she knows whatʼs wrong with George and can help cure him. Meanwhile in downtown Chicago office, leaders of the company that owns the destroyed space station, Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman) and Brett Wyden (Jake Lacy) are planning to recover those chemicals.

They dispatched some military men lead by Burke (Joe Manganiello) to recover their product. Unfortunately for Burke and his men, when they arrived at the location, they found a giant wolf that was exposed to the chemical and had to fight for their lives. Back at the zoo, George became even more aggressive and starts attacking people but a group of mysterious agents was able to sedate him. The agentsʼ leader named Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) decided to arrest Okoye and Caldwell, he believes theyʼre responsible for Georgeʼs erratic behavior. Of course they couldn’t contain George and heʼs able to escape and itʼs up to Okoye and Caldwell to save everyone from the monsters, including a giant crocodile.

Four screenwriters were credited for the screenplay, so that means several drafts of the script were written before it got approved. Now I donʼt envy them on how to come up with engaging story based on a video game about giant animals smashing things. I guess what they came up with worked well as a big budget action/adventure, although I thought some parts of the story was too serious for its own good. Director Brad Peyton did a good job of not making this into some kind of serious picture, he knows heʼs making a movie about giant animals smashing things and he didn’t hold back on the mayhem. I do wish heʼd came up with something more inventive for the big climatic action sequences in downtown Chicago. The action scenes reminded me of Man of Steel where Superman and General Zod were fighting one another and just got too repetitive and boring. Otherwise, he put together a decent action picture that would satisfy the intended audiences.

For the human characters, well, unfortunately most of them were pretty one dimensional. Dwayne Johnson always seems to know heʼs in a silly movie and heʼs having a good time playing another larger than life action hero. Naomie Harris is your typical sidekick/love interest character but thankfully they didn’t turn her into a damsel in distress and needs a rescue. Both Akerman and Lacy are your typical villains, theyʼre greedy and will do anything to save their own butts once they realized their products are responsible for the mayhem. As for Jeffrey Dean Morganʼs mysterious agent character, Iʼm not sure why they even included him in the story, Morgan looked like heʼs having a good time playing the role but heʼs kind of just a wasted character. Now maybe he might be a major player for the sequel, assuming this one makes enough money and turn into a franchise for the studio.

Rampage is nothing more than a silly action picture, it reminded me of last yearʼs Kong: Skull Island, if youʼre going into it expecting to see some kind of great cinema than youʼll be disappointed. Itʼs full of plot holes and one dimensional characters, the people who makes Honest Trailers should have a lot of fun when they release the trailer for this movie. If youʼre in the mood to see some crazy action scenes and a fan of Dwayne Johnson, then you might enjoy this.

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So have you seen Rampage? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: JUMANJI: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

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Review by: Vitali Gueron

When people utter the word Jumanji, they can’t help but think of the 1995 fantasy adventure movie Jumanji, starring the late Robin Williams, and adapted from the 1981 children’s book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg. The film stars Williams as Alan Parrish, a man who is trapped in a board game for 26 years, until 1995 when the brother/sister pair of Peter and Judy find the dusty old board game in their attic. When they start playing it, they inadvertently release a swarm of giant mosquitoes, some monkeys, a lion and a 26-years-older Alan who has been surviving the animals and jungle of Jumanji. While Alan, Peter and Judy all survive, so does the game and we last see it on a beach as it lies partially buried in the sand.

Fast forward twenty-two years, we are introduced to the direct sequel of Jumanji called Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. The movie starts off in 1996, a year after the events in the original movie, when a father discovers the same half buried board game while jogging along the beach. He removes it from the sand and bring it home for his teenage son Alex Vreeke to play with. But Alex, being the mid-90’s teenager that he is, is not interested in board games but rather video games and heavy metal music. As he throws the game aside, the game morphed into a video game cartridge – the kind that fits right in his video game console which is hooked up to his bedroom television. The game is now all but daring Alex to play it and having no choice, Alex begins to play it and gets sucked inside the video game.

We jump to present day, now twenty years later, where we are introduced to four delinquent high school students, all given detention for various infractions throughout the day. Nerdy gamer Spencer Gilpin (Alex Wolff) is caught writing essays for his former friend and football jock Anthony “Fridge” Johnson (Ser’Darius Blain), self-centered cheerleader Bethany Walker (Madison Iseman) is all-but-glued to her cell phone and does not want to stop using it during class, and Martha Kaply (Morgan Turner) is a shy bookworm who refuses to participate in physical education. All four teenagers are sent to clear out the junk from the school’s basement, and soon-there-after the four find Jumanji, now a five-player action-adventure console game.

The teens decide to start the game, choosing the four remaining video game characters, as one is already in play. Spencer chooses the avatar of Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), a very rugged and muscular explorer who is also an archaeologist. Fridge chooses the avatar of Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart), a short in height zoologist and weapons specialist, when Fridge mistakenly reads the character’s nickname as “Moose”. Martha chooses the avatar of Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), a commando, martial artist, and dance fighter and Bethany is left with no choice but to pick the avatar of Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon (Jack Black), cartographer, cryptographer, archaeologist and paleontologist. Bethany originally believes that her avatar “Shelly” is female but as soon as they find themselves in a jungle, she realizes that Professor Sheldon Oberon is actually an overweight, middle-aged man. She also has an amusing stint at first as she discovers her avatar’s male genitalia.

The teenagers, now avatars in the game, soon learn that each of their avatars also comes with special skills and weaknesses (some are quite hilarious and provide for the adult humor in the movie). Each avatar has three lives and if they lose all three, the teens will actually die in real life. Professor Oberon is almost immediately eaten by a hippo (a well-made CGI creature) and as his next avatar comes into the game from the skies above, he conveniently lands upon Franklin Finbar, who breaks his fall with his who body. This is where the trio of Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson make Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle an absolute blast to watch. We are soon introduced to the film’s villain, Russel Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale), who has developed the ability to control the dark and creepy creatures of Jumanji.

An encounter with a snake – which the avatar initially try to outwit in a staring contest – makes for an absolutely hysterical scene with Black, Hart, Johnson and Karen Gillian all screaming for their lives as the CGI snake after them. They soon meet Seaplane McDonough (Nick Jonas), the avatar of Alex Vreeke (the fifth player) whose’s a skilled pilot. They also learn that Alex has survived for twenty years in the game but is down to his very last life. With Alex’s help, the group now has the chance to escape the game, but first the players must return a jewel (captured by Van Pelt) to an enormous jaguar statue and call out “Jumanji”. While I will not reveal how the film ends, I will just say that all’s well that ends well and we do see teenagers back in the real world again, along with a now-adult Alex.

The best part of the sequel is the humor that the avatars portrayed by Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillian gave to the plot of the movie. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle becomes a more refined Central Intelligence (the 2016 Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson action comedy) meet Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (the 1984 Steven Spielberg classic). The combination of actors, storyline and CGI actually work pretty well in this movie and the high school aspect makes it empathetic and relatable to the target audience.

While director Jake Kasdan closes the door to the idea of there being another sequel, it thankfully doesn’t mean that Jumanji will forever disappear as it has managed to survive in various forms for many years, both as a game inside the movie and as the real life movie, watched again and again by the next generation of kids and teenagers. The sequel to Jumanji is worth a revisit to the jungle, and would make Robin Williams proud, but above all, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle makes for one heck of a good time!


Have you seen ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle‘? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: The Fate of the Furious (2017)

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The first Fast and Furious film came out 18 years ago and no one would have predicted that it would became one of the most successful franchises in Hollywood. Heck, when I saw the third sequel The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift, the worst in the series, I thought for sure we won’t be seeing anymore Fast and Furious films. Boy was I wrong, the later sequels somehow became more financially successful than the previous ones.

The eighth film in the series begins with Dom (Vin Diesel) and his now wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) honeymooning in Cuba. While there Dom ran into a mysterious woman who turns out to be a super cyber terrorist named Cipher (Charlize Theron). Cipher wants Dom to help her steal some super powerful weapons from the US, Russian and German government so she can start World War 3. Of course Dom being Dom, he refused but Cipher is holding someone closes to him hostage and if he won’t do as she says, that person will be killed. That’s pretty much the basic storyline for this entry, Dom has to betray his team/family and throughout the film, there are tons of car chases, explosions, shoot outs and of course good looking people running around in skimpy clothes.

The script by franchise’s regular Chris Morgan is pretty simple, he knows his audience and fans of the series won’t be disappointed. I do have some issues with the script, I won’t spoil it here but he tried to wrap everything up from the last two films that kind of made the previous pictures irrelevant. Apparently, they’re planning to make two more films after this one. Stepping into the director’s chair this time is F. Gary Gray. I’ve enjoyed some of his previous work and it’s obvious he was chosen because he’d worked with most of the actors in this film in the past. With a reported budget of $250mil, Gray staged some pretty crazy action sequences, including a pretty fun big car chase through the streets of NYC. But compare to the previous films, especially the ones directed by Justin Lin, his action sequences lacked energy and kind of boring. A climatic chase that involves a submarine could’ve been a lot of fun but he decided to inter cut it with some silly flashback sequence that explained a “twist” that most viewers could’ve seen miles away. I think he and his editor should’ve done a better job with what I assume was the most expensive sequence to shoot for the film.

As for performances, Diesel is again took his role way too seriously and he even shed tears in one scene! I think he needs to simmer down with his performance in the next one and have a good time. On the other hand, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Jason Statham knows the kind of film they’re in and having a great time with it. Their bantering gets the most laughs and of course they look good kicking butts. I don’t remember when The Rock’s character Hobbs became superhuman but he’s somehow fights like Superman in this film. Theron is moving to more action related films in this phase of her career and she’s great as the Bondish supervillain. Heck I think the Bond producers should cast her as the main villain in the next Bond film. The rest of cast were fine as usual and they even introduced a new pretty boy to replace Paul Walker. Clint Eastwood’s son Scott is now the new team member and I’m sure we’ll see more of him in the future films. Also returning is Kurt Russell as a super secret government agent who provides Hobbs and his team with everything they need to stop WW3 from happening. Last but certainly not least is Helen Mirren who seemed to have a great time in her small a cameo role.

I have some issues with the script, mostly of the “twist” towards the end but otherwise, I had a fun time with this latest sequel. Fans of the series should be pleased with it since it delivered what they wanted to see. Big car chases, shoot outs and of course explosions. So if you’re planning to see it, go to the biggest screen you can find and hopefully it’s equipped with Dolby Atmos.

TedS_post


Have you seen The Fate of the Furious? Well, what did you think?