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: STUBER (2019)

When you order an Uber on any random day, you hope to be able to get from point A to point B in the fastest possible way, and the Uber driver hopes to get a high rating on the trip from the passenger. Well, Stu (Kumail Nanjiani), the Uber driver in the movie Stuber, actually demands a five-star rating from all of his passengers. He’s actually quite intent on getting that five-star rating that he will do just about anything to get that rating from his riders. He goes through the fast food drive through for his passengers, even when they seem a little more than intoxicated. Then, he has to deal with the ramifications of a drunken passenger throwing up all over his leased electric car. But Stu never, in his wild dreams, ever expected that his Uber would get called for a job by LAPD detective Victor “Vic” Manning (Dave Bautista) to go chase down criminals involved with a notorious drug lord named Oka Teijo (Iko Uwais) who recently killed his partner in cold blood.

Speaking of, the movie starts out with detectives Victor Manning and Sarah Morris (Karen Gillan) chasing down the ruthless drug trafficker and cop killer Oka Teijo, who escapes in the crowds of basketball fans leaving the Staples Center, but not before Vic is seen having issues seeing his partner and Sarah catching up to Teijo, only to be shot in close range by him in the confusion and mayhem of the fans running up and down the LA Live complex. The next day, Vic decides to get corrective laser eye surgery so he can finally be able to see. The surgeon tells him that he won’t be able to see clearly for at least a few days and gives him special darkening glasses to wear on his way home. He is driven back home by his daughter Nicole Manning (Natalie Morales), who reminds him that her sculpture show is happening that night, to which Vic promises that wouldn’t miss it for the world. She pulls up the Uber app on Vic’s phone and programs the address of her sculpture show, so this way he has no excuse about not knowing the address, or not being able to see where he’s driving.

Cut to later that afternoon, Vic gets a call from on his informants that Teijo is planning a major drug deal, but the phone dies before Vic could get all of the details from the informant. Vic, still not able to see almost anything, decides to rush out in his car and drive it to the informant. He quickly realizes that he can barely drive the car straight down the road, let alone get on the highway or anything; he ends up quickly crashing his car into a construction zone. Left without a car, Vic remembers the Uber app the his daughter Nicole added to his phone and he requests a ride from the nearest driver, who just happens to be Stu’s Uber (if you haven’t figured it out by now, Stuber stands for Stu’s Uber, and is the name Vic starts calling Stu, just so he can remember his name). Vic flashes a badge at Stu’s Uber just as Stu is pulling up, and he demands to be taken to a certain LA neighborhood. This is where Nanjiani shines, as he riffs his comedic lines into existence. “You can’t just shout out random neighborhoods. That’s not now Uber works,” Stu tells Vic as they get into an argument inside the Uber. “Let me guess, you want me to drive you to all the Sarah Connors in the city?” asks Stu of Vic, as she notices his grizzly size and strange-looking sunglasses – the ones he’s still wearing after corrective laser eye surgery.

At this point, the movie goes down an unnecessarily complicated path, as Stuber director Michael Dowse and writer Tripper Clancy take the duo of Stu and Vic down a rabbit hole, taking them from a factory to a drug dealer’s house, to a male strip club, and then to a veterinary clinic where some animals get involved (but don’t get harmed). They finally intercept Teijo and chase him into a Sriracha bottling factory, where Stu has another hilarious moment. He sees a red phone on the factory wall, as Stu and Vic are hiding from Teijo. He picks up the phone next to him; “Hello, operator, we need help. Someone’s trying to murder us,” just then his voice comes up in the factory speaker. Teijo relegalizes the Stu is using the company’s intercom system and laughs at them. Even at a point where you’d think that Stu and Vic have the upper hand against Teijo, they really don’t. When Stu tries to shoot Teijo, the gun doesn’t shoot, and he throws the gun at him, Teijo catches it, punches Vic with it and throws it back in Stu’s face knocking him out. They are given some unexpected assistance, and eventually do overwhelm Teijo.

The problem with Stuber is not how many laughs Nanjiani or Bautista deliver for their audience – there’s plenty of that – and most of it comes in back and forth scenes between the two. The problem is that Stuber forgets about the character development of everyone else – the bad guys, Vic’s daughter, Stu’s love interest, and other Uber drivers – to satisfy their need for quick jokes, once every minute or two. They kind of hint at the fact the being an Uber driver isn’t easy – most Uber drivers have to put up with many different personalities that make sometimes outrageous demands, just so the drivers can earn the much desired five-star rating. They often work ridiculously long hours, sacrificing any free time them may have had, with family, friends or any show at a love life. The director and writer fail to make the connection between what Stu is going through personally, with the similar backstory that Vic is going through with his own daughter.

Overall, Stuber delivers great ad-lib comedy from the two leads, but little substance in the overly-complicated plot. The thrills are about as exciting as an electric Uber blowing up after rolling down a slight embankment. If you want a summer movie that is absent of any major plot or character development, but does make you chuckle every couple of minutes, then give Stuber a try. For me, it was only worth the two-star ride, thanks to the quick comedic hits, primarily from Kumail Nanjiani.


  Review by Vitali Gueron


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

Everybody’s Chattin + Trailer Spotlight: The Big Short

EverybodysChattin922

Happy Tuesday everyone! Well, it’s a three-day work week for me so technically today’s already *Friday* for me, wahoo! 😀  I’ll be taking a week blogging break as my hubby and I are flying to Arizona Thursday to hang out with an old friend of hours who moved there last year from MN. I’m also going to be visiting my friend Cindy B. whom I met through the blog! I’ve had the privilege of meeting a few blog friends over the years, it’s truly one of the perks of blogging! 😀

So about those links…

  • Speaking of Cindy, she just posted a classic review of The Terrace, starring real life couple Paul Newman + Joanne Woodward
  • Michael posted some thoughts on Sicario, which Ted will be seeing tonight as I can’t make it to the press screening. On a related note, Adam reviewed another Denis Villeneuve film, Prisoners.
  • Mark reviewed the acclaimed documentary AMY on Amy Winehouse, whilst Jordan apparently isn’t wowed by Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut The Gift.
  • Jay & her crew have been busy covering TIFF 2015 and posted this awesome TIFF by the numbers post.
  • A lot of Oscar front-runners are no doubt coming out of TIFF and other film festivals, but check out one of the most important blog award, that is Drew’s Fisti Awards on the year 1990
  • Last but not least, have you checked out Margaret‘s Tom Hardy Appreciation yet? I always love celeb crush appreciation, and who doesn’t love Tom Hardy? 😛


Trailer Spotlight: The Big Short

Boy, for some reason I hadn’t even heard of The Big Short! Apparently it’s been in the works for some time and even movie pundits thought it wouldn’t be ready until 2016. Well, today they released a trailer and sounds like this could be an award contender for Christian Bale and Steve Carell. I love the casting of those two, but why’s Bale sporting the same haircut as his younger Bruce Wayne days?? Despite my indifference (I’m being nice here) to Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling, I am looking forward to seeing this!

The film is based on the book by Michael Lewis (The Blind Side, Moneyball) focuses on men who made millions from a global economic meltdown. Here’s the official synopsis:

When four outsiders saw what the big banks, media and government refused to, the global collapse of the economy, they had an idea: The Big Short. Their bold investment leads them into the dark underbelly of modern banking where they must question everyone and everything


I saw Marisa Tomei and Melissa Leo in the cast list but I could barely spot them. Heck, Karen Gillan actually got third billing on IMDb but she’s not even in the trailer (or if she was, it must’ve been a blink-and-you-missed it moment). I have no idea how thisIMDb STARmeter works but how in the world is her starmeter higher than Carell AND Gosling?? [scratch head]

Anyhoo, a few trivia about this movie from IMDb… This will be Adam McKay‘s first time directing a drama and also his first film not starring Will Ferrell. I really enjoyed The Other Guys and Ant-Man but he also wrote Get Hard which I have absolutely no desire to see. We’ll see how he fares in a drama though it’s not devoid of comedic moments judging from the trailer. According to Michael Lewis (the author of The Big Short novel), the big four: Bale, Pitt, Gosling, and Carell all agreed to take significant pay cuts in order to be in the film.

According to THR, Oliver Stone’s Snowden moved out of the Christmas frame to 2016, opening up the slot for The Big Short. Paramount will release the film in limited release on Dec. 11 and then wide on Dec. 23. The film also will make its world premiere as AFI’s closing night film on Nov. 12. Man, there are SOOO many good movies coming out this Christmas.


So what do you think of The Big Short trailer?

Exclusive Deleted Scene of ‘Not Another Happy Ending’ featuring Stanley Weber via We Are Colony

NAHE_WeAreColony_Karen

You already know how much I adore this movie. If I had to do a list of top favorite cinematic discoveries by year’s end, surely Not Another Happy Ending AND Stanley Weber would be at the top of the list. I’ve seen this charming Scottish rom-coms more than a dozen times and it still feels fresh to me every time I watch it. Karen Gillan is lovely in the lead role, supported by a set of wonderful Scottish actors: Iain De Caestecker, Henry Ian Cussick, Kate Dickie and Gary Lewis. But having a French actor as Karen’s co-lead adds an international flair to the movie, plus Stanley’s got a great comic timing and works so well together with Karen.

I bought the bundle from We Are Colony a few weeks ago. It’s so well worth it as I can watch the movie over and over, plus there are tons of behind the scenes goodies to complete the experience. So when a rep from We Are Colony contacted me to collaborate on a post on this exclusive deleted scene featuring Stanley Weber himself, of course I’d be happy to do it! Check out this newly-released clip below:

Frustrated by Jane’s defection to prestigious publishers Klinsch & McLeish, Tom (Stanley Weber) does his best to poach one of their leading writers Glen Buchan (Tom McGovern).

So get your Not Another Happy Ending bundle and enjoy this charming movie time and time again! Also check out the We Are Colony website to get exclusive access on a ton of great independent films that include exclusive extras, including ‘making of’ documentaries, behind-the-scenes interviews, deleted scenes and much more!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Win Karen Gillan signed press book (and signed posters for runner-ups) + limited edition jewelry from Bonnie Bling!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sign up to win these goodies!

Competition closes June 21, 2015
Winners will be notified by email


Check out the film’s trailer:

 

Music Break: Not Another Happy Ending (2012)

NAHE_collage1

I’ve been wanting to do this post for over a month now. In fact, if I had my way I’d just be blogging about this movie and Stanley Weber until my fingers bleed. But that’s what Tumblr is for 😉

Ok so you probably know by now I’ve been obsessed with this Scottish rom-com for some time. I’m gonna do a massive post on it when I can get my act together but one of the things I’m obsessing about is the songs! I love that the producers/filmmakers feature Scottish musicians which fit perfectly with the tone of the movie and the Glasgow setting.

NAHE_GlasgowCafe

Thanks to NAHE for introducing me to Sandi Thom. I really like her pop/folk/rock style, so definitely an artist to watch for.

I also love the instrumental score by Scottish composer Lorne Balfe.


There’s a certain Scottish charm in this song by TeenCanteen. It fits the rather neurotic personality of Karen Gillan‘s character perfectly! I love how their thick Scottish brogue is audible in the song, too.

NAHE_collage3

Another track by Sandi Thom, a melancholy ballad that always gives me all the feels whenever I think of the male lead in the movie, ehm.

///
This one is a beautiful ballad from Scottish R&B artist Emeli Sandé. I absolutely adore this song, it’s become my daily routine to listen to it.

NAHE_collage2

Now I especially love these two songs because the scenes they appear in are my favorites in the film. If you’ve seen the movie, I think you’ll know why 😛 But seriously, these songs are so awesome I’m glad I came across The Proclaimers and Twin Atlantic. Boy, the Scottish music scene must be quite spectacular!

 


Hope you enjoy this music break! Are you familiar w/ any of the songs/artists featured here?

FlixChatter Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

GuardiansOfGalaxyPoster

I have to admit that I wasn’t remotely interested in seeing this one from the moment I first heard about it. For one thing, I was beginning to get bored of yet another Marvel superhero movie, and another reason is I have never even heard of who these characters are. Though it seems that a lot of my fellow bloggers are getting superhero fatigue, clearly the average movie goers are still gung ho about them, as GOTG has proven itself to be another big hit for Marvel. According to Box Office Mojo, by Friday estimates, it already out-earned two of Marvel’s sequels: Captain America 2 and Thor 2 and on its way to make close to $100 mil by the first weekend, wow!

The audience in the packed advanced screening on Tuesday seemed to have a good time with this movie, and I was surprised too how entertaining it was. The protagonist this time isn’t a superhero, he’s a regular boy-next-door human named Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) who got abducted by a space ship just minutes after his mother died at a hospital. Fas forward twenty six years later, we see Peter on planet Morag stealing an orb that turns out to be a highly-coveted artifact wanted by the master villain Ronan (Lee Pace). The scene is reminiscent of Raiders Of The Lost Ark opening sequence and you could say Peter has the kind of swagger and cheeky attitude of Indiana Jones. Needless to say, Peter then gets embroiled in a manhunt, not just from Ronan but also from a group of space pirates led by Yondu (Michael Rooker) who apparently the same folks that snatched young Peter from earth years ago.

GuardiansOfGalaxyStills1

I think people who read the comics would appreciate this movie more, as they’d be more familiar with the cosmic universe where everything takes place. A lot of the things happening here baffles me but I went along for the ride anyway. Peter suddenly ends up in planet called Xandar and ends up getting arrested by Nova Corps, the space militia led by Glenn Close, sporting similar hairdo as in 101 Dalmatians. It’s in the Xandar prison that Peter meets his would-be teammates: a wisecrackin’, gun-toting, raccoon called Rocket (Bradley Cooper), a tree-like humanoid named Groot (Vin Diesel), bad-ass assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) who has a personal vendetta against Ronan. It’s an unlikely quartet that constantly bicker and fight, but of course they have no choice but to work together.

Guardians of the Galaxy is more of a space action comedy, akin to Galaxy Quest or The Fifth Element. But the irreverent and at times cheesy humor works here and there’s such a fun spirit throughout that is contagious. The one-liners are packed with goofy 80s pop-culture references (Kevin Bacon, John Stamos) to self-satirical ones like “I’m gonna die, surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy.” Director James Gunn and writer Nicole Perlman (first female writer of a Marvel movie, yay!) are certainly aware of the its inherent silliness and the movie definitely works because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Perhaps this is an antithesis of sort to the standard superhero fare as none of the characters here possess any kind of super powers. But what the characters have in spades is humor, charm and even warmth, as the unlikely group slowly bond together.

GuardiansOfGalaxyStill3

Now for the cast, I have to say that Chris Pratt [now part of the Marvel trifecta of Chris-es w/ Chris Hemsworth & Chris Evans] is a hoot and no doubt this movie will launch him to be a star. There’s a scene where a space henchman calls him Star Lord and Peter quips ‘finally!’ It’s almost art imitating life as Pratt has been in a bunch of major movies in supporting roles, in fact, three of them were nominated for Oscar 3 years in a row: Zero Dark Thirty, Moneyball, and Her. But now it’s his moment to shine and he’s such a charming, affable dude you can’t help but root for him. The rest of the cast is pretty good in their roles and I have to say Cooper as the fast-talking raccoon with a chip on his shoulder is quite the scene-stealer! I wonder just what the heck Cooper was thinking taking this job after a two Oscar nominations back to back, as he could easily play Peter Quill as well, but y’know what, I think he did a smashing job as Rocket. Diesel too, surprisingly makes the most of his only one line in the movie, ‘I am Groot’ all the way to the end.

It’s always nice when a movie surprises you in a pleasant way when you have such little expectations about it. But still I’m surprised by the stellar reviews that seem to surpass even Captain America: The Winter Soldier which I think is a better movie. Yes of course GOTG is a lot of fun and I was genuinely entertained, but it’s hardly flawless. Some critics call it edgy but the plot is not exactly fresh, we’ve got a space psychopath hellbent on destroying the world and it’s up to these unlikely heroes to save everyone, nothing new there. It doesn’t help matters that the villains are pretty ho-hum and lacking real menace. Poor Lee Pace is rather wasted here as Ronan is as boring as the villain in Thor 2. Same could be said for his female sidekick Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Thanos (uncredited Josh Brolin), which to me makes more impact in The Avengers‘ post-credit scene than here. I do like Rooker as Yandu, his performance reminds me of Michael Wincott who’s no stranger to playing bad guys.

GuardiansOfGalaxyStills2

So the good guys definitely have more fun, even John C. Reilly is a hoot as a Nova Corpsman, especially in the hilarious finale. For sure the heroes were never in any danger in being upstaged by the villains. Visually speaking it’s as good as I expect from a big-budget Marvel movie, the 3D is pretty good but at the same time I honestly can’t think of an action scene that stand out to me. What’s truly awesome is the soundtrack! As a big fan of 80s music, the retro soundtrack is pure nostalgic fun! The gist is that Peter’s mom made an Awesome Mix Vol. 1 tape for him that he constantly plays on his walkman. Most Millennials probably think of it as some ancient artifact ahah, but hey I definitely remember those and making tapes of songs from the radio [oh boy am I dating myself or what?] The song played in the trailer, Blue Swede’s Hooked on a Feeling, will be forever associated with this movie, and there are others I definitely recognize even if I can’t remember them by name.

Amidst all the clutter of all the goofy actions, there’s actually a bit of emotional touches here and there. So overall this movie proves to be a pleasant surprise and one I don’t even mind watching again. Not as spectacular as people led you to believe, but still worth a look if you’re initially skeptical. Everyone of all ages should enjoy this, just don’t expect too much in the way of plot and you’ve got yourself two hours of a rollicking good time.

3.5 reels


So what do YOU think of Guardians of the Galaxy?