JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE REVIEW

Welcome to the Jungle. We’ve got fun and Dwayne.

Four teenagers are sucked into a magical video game, and the only way they can escape is to work together to finish the game.

When I first heard the rumours circulating about a Jumanji sequel/reboot/whatever, I screamed to the movie gods . . . Why?! Do Hollywood hold nothing sacred?

Jumanji was one of my favourite childhood movies that featured the late (BUT always great) Robin Williams.

BUT then I saw the cast and thought, “This could work”. And it did.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t perfect by any means BUT Jumanji: WTTJ offered big, dumb fun by the bucket load.

I liked how the team tried to make the premise their own. Taking it in a completely different direction BUT still throwing fitting nods to the 1995 classic (Classic? It’s only 95 mate).

The opening set the tone as the dusty relic of a board game realized that it was behind the times. Morphing instead into a vintage 80s video game console . . .

Yeahhhh BUT it worked. Pulling four dysfunctional youths into the abyss.

I loved how the different personalities took over the wrong avatars. Delivering the laughs straight off the bat.

The nerdy hypochondriac Spencer taking on the unit that is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

The Rock knows how to deliver a popcorn movie. Embracing the ridiculousness of it all as his avatar has no weakness and endless abilities. The smolder . . . Seriously? Only the Brahma Bull could pull that one off.

The dumb arrogant high school jock taking over the miniscule servant Kevin Hart. An avatar riddled with an array of weaknesses (No pace, no stamina and . . . CAKE. That’s right. Cake). Brilliant.

You knew you were in for a treat when The Rock and Kevin Hart were involved. They work so well together and you couldn’t tell how much of the banter was part of the script or just off the cuff. Judging by the Rock’s face . . . A lot of improvisation was going on.

The shy academic nerd taking on the Lara Croft bad ass avatar (Karen Gillan). I know Gillan had a little backlash over her skimpy outfit BUT The Rock was poking fun at his physique. Plus the joke picked out some of the sillier aspects of early video games/imagery.

Gillan owned it. The only thing I could pick at her performance was not anything she did BUT her character’s fighting tactic. Dance fighting?

Beating people up to the sweet sounds of Big Mountain’s Baby I Love Your Way? The first sequence wasn’t too bad BUT the several that followed . . . Yeah, not so much.

However, her exchanges with Jack Black were fantastic. Especially when Black gave her lessons on how to attract a man. I was in stitches.

And despite how good everybody was . . . Jack Black, take a bow.

He stole the show as the photogenic selfie taking high school beau Bethany took over his overweight professor avatar. Even when he went to the toilet in the jungle with the lads, I was howling. The School of Rock star has been missed.

I don’t think this would have worked without the cast. Nick Jonas didn’t play too bad a part BUT his character was a little bit boring for me.

The limited lives threat gave it a little more edge as the gang had to adapt to their avatars fast! You die in the game, that’s it!

It was entertaining with enough thrills, spills and avatar kills. Seriously, I wasn’t joking about the CAKE thing.

The special effects and fun set pieces delivered enough ooohhs and aaahhhs.

The stampede sequence will never top the original. BUT it was still mental to watch (Even if it was a little disorienting and packed with some shoddy CGI). Bearing in mind, the orignal is now 23 years old (23! Now I feel old), the effects looked more dated in this one.

However . . .

Flight of the Conchords’ Rhys Darby was completely wasted as a virtual avatar.

And Bobby Cannavale as Van Pelt? Now you could have banked on the Boardwalk Empire maestro to inject some villainy to his sinister demeanour. BUT maybe this was a miscast?

His freaky warlock bugged me. No literally, what was the deal with all those bugs crawling around him and in his ears? *Shudders* Yikes.

We needed someone with the pantomine delivery of Jonathan Hyde. He had the right balance of mayhem. Crazy but cold blooded. The dynamic (That chemistry) between him and Alan was missed in this. Cannavale’s Pelt was too bland and generic. Shame.

  

My main issue was the pacing. It took a while to get going as we had to endure the build up and get a sense of the teens. Easygoing stuff BUT you couldn’t help BUT think, “When are they going to find the flippin’ game?”

When it was funny, it was hysterical. When it was action packed, I was riveted. BUT all the stuff in between lumbered the whole thing and got me a little fidgety.

BUT a great cast, top laughs and some mad fun made this one to watch for everybody.

Enjoy!

3/5

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*NEW* DADDY’S HOME REVIEW *NEW*

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Daddy should have stayed away.

Marky Mark and Ron Burgundy take each other on in a mediocre reunion.

Stepdad, Brad Whitaker (Will Ferrell), is a radio host trying to get his stepchildren to love him and call him Dad. But his plans turn upside down when the biological father, Dusty Mayron (Mark Wahlberg) returns.

Not bad. If you’re expecting The Other Guys 2, you might be left a little disappointed. We open to a ridiculously OTT sequence with Ferrell’s sickly sweet Brad praising fatherhood. Well, step-fatherhood. He plays the dim-witted simpleton so well. It doesn’t even feel like the guy’s acting. He’s a natural. Happy to have a family even if his delightful step kids draw demented doodles of him with a knife in his head and “homeless man poop” for hair. His response? Relief. Relieved that he’s NO longer dead in the pictures.

It’s easygoing enough BUT not quite as laugh out loud or as engaging as I hoped. Things pick up when Wahlberg makes his introduction. The game afoot from the get go as Dusty leaves Brad waiting at the airport.

The pace dipped in and out as Brad’s naive step dad is repeatedly duped and manipulated by the ultra cool Dusty. The 12A rating restricted the pair from really pushing the envelope. I missed the random improv that they had in The Other Guys. Don’t get me wrong. They still had that chemistry and worked well off each other. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think it would have worked.

The OTT stunts were stupid BUT delivered the laughs. Ferrell trying to showboat on a motorbike resorted in half the house being renovated. A back yard skate off drew some unexpected laughs BUT soon went on far too long. And that was the problem for me.

For every snappy one liner and crafty gag, there were a dozen duds. Thomas Haden Church’s (Sideways) radio producer was a mixed bag. If it wasn’t for his random stories that had no relevance, I would have cut him out altogether. The kids were funny. To be honest, they could have been in it more. The stunning Linda Cardellini (ER) was far too straight faced in this mad mess. The running gag with Griff (Hannibal Buress) the handyman overstayed its welcome like the character. Seriously, it really annoyed the hell out of me.

The whole “he’s better at you in every way” spiel was a little predictable. BUT that wasn’t to say that it didn’t deliver. Dusty’s fairy tale bed time story of the wicked step king wasn’t too bad and the endless battles to outdo each other on giving the kids presents or saying good night had a chuckle here and there.

Bobby Cannavale (Ant Man) was terrible in his cameo as a fertility doctor. Merely setting up a gag for the pair to draw swords (If you catch my drift). The recurring gag of Marky Mark without a shirt pops up yet again. It didn’t quite work as well as Date Night BUT I’m sure the ladies won’t be complaining. Performing crunches and lifts while Ferrell watches in awe.

Brad’s desperation to win the family back got the better laughs. His drunken meltdown at a basketball stadium had me in stitches. I may have shook my head at the nauseating father/daughter dance finale BUT I couldn’t resist the buffoonery of Wahlberg and Ferrell.

It did feel like a case of the “best bits in the trailer”. If you were lucky NOT to see them than it might be a bit more entertaining. It was all far too cheesy, OTT and a little slow at times. If NOT for Gamble and Hoitz, I mean Brad and Dusty, this would have been a write-off. It killed the time BUT not their best.

2.5/5

SPY REVIEW

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I Spy a surprisingly entertaining comedy.

A desk-bound CIA analyst (Melissa McCarthy) volunteers to go undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer (Rose Byrne), and prevent diabolical global disaster.

McCarthy takes on the spy genre and it’s everything you could expect. If you’re a fan, that is.

I love McCarthy. The Heat was one of the funniest films I’ve seen in quite some time. BUT then she made Tammy. A major step backwards. When I first saw trailers for Spy, I feared the worst.

And as the opening sequence began, my anxieties were justified. Jude Law’s Bond doppelganger Bradley Fine (Nicely done) was certainly entertaining enough. Delivering the naff punch lines with a cheeky wink.

McCarthy’s analyst commentary was a little flat. Her swooning over Fine was a little bland for my liking. And when their room was infiltrated by a swarm of bats from the ventilation shaft, I could feel my hopes fading fast. Not even Miranda Hart was doing it for me. (Comedically speaking. Oh, grow up).

And the opening theme song was awful. Clearly a homage to the classic Bond movies BUT they could have made the song funny or done a proper one. A little weak. Sung well though.

BUT as soon McCarthy was brought into the fold, things got a lot better and a whole lot funnier. The supporting cast were a mixed bag in every which way.

I really thought Miranda Hart would be a lot more irritating. I loved the first series of her self-titled sitcom Miranda but she soon regurgitated the same old spiel for two more series and really killed off the buzz. She was excellent. I expected a lot more silly buffoonery and endless collapsing with the occasional faint spell. There was only one moment where she got carried away as a bodyguard.

Otherwise, she came out with some corkers and worked really well with McCarthy. The pair complimented each other perfectly. And Hart’s unexpected hook up with a celebrity rapper was the most random and funniest thing I’ve seen in some time. NO SPOILERS on the rapper but what a good sport.

Jason Statham. Where do I begin? I have never lost the faith with the Stath. If I was wearing a hat, I would take it off to the chap. It’s great when you get to that stage in your career that you can play a parody of yourself. He was hilarious. Imagine Jay from the Inbetweeners with spy status. His endless BS and bizarre stories that get crazier by the minute had me in stitches.

His endless attempts to swoop in and save the day and belittling put downs on McCarthy took things up a notch when the film seemed to get a little too bogged down with the story. He was like a Crank-ed up Clousseau. A completely different side to the British bad ass.

Rose Byre looked stunning (if a little thin) as the villainous Rayna Boyanov. Even with a strange bee hive on her head. Cue endless one liners from McCarthy on that one. Her put downs with Byrne were great. “Did your father get you to dress like a slutty dolphin instructor?”.

McCarthy’s reactions and improvised banter got a lot more laughs than I expected. Sometimes when she is let loose, it can be very hit and miss. Most notably when she tries to play the tough guy. BUT her confrontation with a Swedish contact reduced him to tears and me. Fantastic.

There were so many set pieces. And the stunts were not bad. If anything, they were relentless. Seriously, Paul Feig wasn’t afraid to throw some carnage in there. The pieces were made better by the fact that McCarthy was doing them.

Her normal woman spiel really worked for this film and balanced the ludicrous humour and mad set pieces. When she tries to jump into a scooter and tumbles over, it shouldn’t have worked as much as it did but I was in stitches. “Why do you have a roof on these things? Who do you think you are? The Pope!”

I couldn’t believe that a certain Ukrainian dance group that featured in Eurovision a few years back made an appearance during a Parisian gig sequence. No spoilers. *Cough* DANZEN! *Cough*

Peter Serafinowicz (Shaun of the Dead) was great as the eccentric Italian contact, Aldo. His infatuation and sexual advances on McCarthy’s Susan. Words escape me.

However, there were a few things that let the side down.

Morena Baccarin (Homeland) was reduced to a nothingy role. Merely the spy candy that Hart and McCarthy despise. She didn’t look even that great and her character was highly unmemorable.

Bobby Cannavale managed to make more of a impression with his weak Bond villain in the fiery finale. For most of the film, he was non-existent. His mincing about in a pursuit chase did get a chuckle.

Alison Janney’s hard ass CIA boss role was so bland. It only worked because she would pass McCarthy’s new identities. Seriously every one brought a smile.

The story was weak. The whole double crossing/triple crossing spiel was predictable. It may have happily poked fun at the endless spy plots from yonder years but it wasn’t really that interesting and slackened the pace and killed the jokes.

It was OTT, manic, random BUT funny which covered the dud gags (which there weren’t a lot) and to be honest, those two hours flew by and I came out smiling.

Mission Accomplished, Ms McCarthy

3.5/5 (Just)

DANNY COLLINS REVIEW

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Brilliant!

An ageing rock star (Al Pacino) decides to change his life when he discovers a 40-year-old letter written to him by John Lennon.

There is nothing more enjoyable than when you see a film with no expectations and end up being rewarded with great acting and good writing.

Al Pacino proves at 75 that he’s still got it. I was a little anxious after his recent endeavours. Understandably, he’s no spring chicken but Pacino looked like he was sleepwalking through his latest roles. In 88 Minutes, he was a mess. A zombie. A shell of the once great screen icon.

However, this time round? How glad I am to eat my own words. The man was on fine form. Funny, charismatic and lively. A resurgent performance.

This is very loosely, and I emphasize loosely, based on a true story about a musician who discovered a letter written to him by John Lennon 40 years ago. The rest, of course, is fictionalized.

We join Danny Collins as he drinks and drudges his way through the repetitive retread of his best hits. Hits he wrote 40 years ago. Pacino’s singing wasn’t bad. A little wispy but very much in the vein of Cat Stevens. I wasn’t expecting too much with his singing, to be honest.

His stage presence, on the other hand, was another story. Embracing his inner Barry Manilow. The velvet jackets, the flamboyant get up. Having a laugh and not giving two monkeys. A perfect showman. I’m not sure if the song ‘Baby Doll’ was made up for the film but it was quite catchy.

After receiving the letter, Collins (in typical movie fashion) soon re-evaluates his life and looks backs at all his regrets. Realizing that he might not be living the dream after all. Desperate to make amends and repair burned bridges, it’s not going to be an easy task for the ageing rocker.

Annette Bening was very good as the hotel manager Mary Sinclair. Forced to put up with the deluded musician and his many advances. The “patter” between the pair was top notch. They had great chemistry and you could tell they were having fun. There were moments where you couldn’t tell whether they were improvising or not.

It was good to see Jennifer Garner in a role. There wasn’t enough of her, to be honest. Giselle Eisenberg was adorable as Collins’ ADHD daughter. She played it really well and got the balance right. She didn’t irritate and stole the scene at every chance.

Bobby Cannavale proved yet again why he is such a versatile actor. The range that the man can do. To go from Gyp Rosetti in Boardwalk Empire to the Annie remake (Okay, the less we say about that. The better. But I never expected to see the gangster singing and dancing). He was brilliant as Collins’ estranged son, Tom. He worked well with Pacino and they really made the scorned father/son dynamic work.

It was also great to see Christopher Plummer play Collin’s best friend and manager. Not enough of him, either.

I was engrossed and impressed. An easygoing, entertaining affair. BUT even though the main cast were flawless, some of the supporting characters were a little weak.

Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) was wasted in his role (No, seriously. Was he drunk?). The opening interview scene was needed to establish the reason for Lennon’s letter but Offerman didn’t really get to shine or deliver a laugh. Shame. The scene was a little unnecessary. The tape recording of the interview would have sufficed.

Melissa Benoist (Supergirl/Whiplash) and Josh Peck (Drake and Josh) were a little disappointing. Their ongoing hotel staff romance felt forced. It was obviously an ongoing joke to break up the family stuff and Collins and Sinclair’s brewing romance but it didn’t really work and wasn’t that interesting.

The film may have been corny and a little predictable BUT there was enough charm and charisma from ol’ Scarface to breeze through it and the closing moments were tense, dramatic and uplifting.

The soundtrack was very good. And of course, it would be. You can’t have a story made around a loose John Lennon connection without using any of his repertoire. Writer/director Dan Fogelman made full use of the nine songs they were able to obtain from Lennon’s back catalogue. He incorporated every song to match a crucial moment in the film. A perfect example during a tense and awkward first meeting between Tom and Danny, the song ‘Beautiful Boy’ was playing in the background.

Why are films like this not getting enough publicity? It baffles me. The premise may seem like nothing more than a TV movie but there was enough talent and substance to make this stand out from the rest.

I highly recommend. Easygoing, funny, charming. A pleasant surprise.

3.5/5 (With room to change to a 4)

ANNIE REVIEW

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I think I’m going to like it here. Well, I didn’t like this.

A needless remake of a classic musical. OTT, ridiculously cheesy and to make it all worse, it was just rubbish.

From the opening musical number with the sassy Annie (Quvenzhane Wallis) making all the class clap and stomp in tune (The front row the rich, the rest of the class poor) I was cringing. I believe a face palm may have occurred.

Really, Hollywood? An urban take on Annie. On paper, I thought why not? There hasn’t been one BUT rehashing the classics badly with auto-tune? This could have been an opportunity to make a statement on foster care or the social care system under the veil of song but no, no, no.

A poor rehashing of the same old story line that felt even more dated and hammy than the original.

The music wasn’t bad but the “Hard Knock Life” remixed with “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” didn’t do it for me. I felt the choice of Hard Knock Life was a little lazy considering one (of a long list) of the producers was Jay Z.

The whole spring cleaning routine to it was choreographed well but it just didn’t work. “The City’s Yours” sung by Jamie Foxx and “Opportunity” by Wallis were very good.

I did warm up to Wallis by the end but I found her a little annoying and too headstrong for my liking. Look at me, I sound like an old man. But something just didn’t sit right until she was paired up with Foxx. They worked well together and made the predictable cheesy relationship a little more bearable.

Foxx delivered on the singing. Of course, he would. The man won an Oscar for Ray BUT his character Will Stacks was almost a caricature. A deluded politician out of touch with the people.

Hardly original but guzzling hand sanitizer after touching and kissing a few voters? Spitting food at the homeless? Too OTT for my liking.

The auto-tuning video of said food flinging incident did get a chuckle.

Cameron Diaz overacted to the max. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a musical but I couldn’t take her seriously as the volatile foster parent, Hannigan. I winced every time she came on wailing at the kids.

The conviction wasn’t there and she annoyed the hell out of me. That was until she sang. When she first started, I thought “Bloody hell” (Well there might have been a few other choice words) but as the song carried on, her voice got better.

And credit where it’s due. She hadn’t got a bad singing voice. One actress I wouldn’t have minded hearing sing a little more was Rose Byrne. In the scenes she supported, she had a nice voice.

I would have preferred to hear more of that than her long winded stereotypical Oxford talk about being a workaholic and having no friends. That was irritating.

Look, I know musicals are always exaggerated and in your face BUT normally you can switch off and be immersed in it. And that is because as much as the songs stand out, the characters do too but I felt they strung any old cliched character together and just thought “It’s a musical, they’ll love it”.

Let’s not forget Glee is going. The musicals losing their magic once again.

There were watchable parts and the pace zipped along for its two hour length. You could tell the cast were having fun and there were scenes where you got caught up in it NOT just poking fun at it.

The cast choices surprised me. They sung very well even if the reworkings were a little hit and miss. I think I’m Going To Like It Here wasn’t bad, bar Stephanie Kurtzuba’s ridiculous impromptu social worker performance. She did my nut in.

The cameos were a little random. Patricia Clarkson (The Maze Runner) as a focus group member suffering bad side effects after using one of Stack’s phones fell flat on it’s backside. Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje (Mr Echo from Lost) was nothing more than a smiling chauffeur. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

David Zayas (Dexter) didn’t do too bad with his flower shop mope role with a vendetta against the powers that be. Michael J. Fox popping up in a satirical PR campaign segment was a clever touch.

A mermaid movie premiere that ripped off Twilight involving Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher and Rihanna wasn’t bad. It certainly poked fun at the guff that makes money these days.

BUT the rest of the actual movie was just like it!

Bobby Cannavale was on scene stealing form until the last 15 minutes of the movie. Boardwalk Empire’s Gyp Rosetti singing and dancing?! Madness. His song and dance number with Diaz did leave a little to be desired.

But the whole PR campaign in which they used Annie as a marketing tool was a good little bit of satire. Shame there wasn’t more of that to make up for the lifeless characters. Cannavale’s ruthless PR executive certainly kept things moving.

Some of his one liners were spot on; “There have been worst politicians. I know. I got them elected. Schwarzenegger, Kim Jong-Il, that blood diamond guy”. It got one of a few chuckles.

The story was weak. Little orphan looking for parents that left her. Befriending a man out of touch and out of love. Finding each other. Yawnnn.

Plus the plot holes were terrible. Annie sings about the note left by her parents. BUT then later on, reveals she can’t read?! What?!

Granted. Someone could have told her what it said. It would have been more of a twist if the note actually said something else. OR if all the sub-plotting and twists weren’t revealed in song. Seriously you knew everything that was about to happen. Would have been nice to have a little mystery.

Still would have been predictable BUT something.

The film ended so frantically and cheesily that I was shaking my head. All logic out the window for a racy finish. It was stupid. BUT no worries. Throw in some schmaltzy dialogue and a few jazz hands and everything will be okay.

Shudder.

It will be a while before the sun will come out on messy musicals like this. Not a complete write off. There will be enough for the little ‘uns and the hardcore musical maniacs who are not deterred by this review. Sorry, it’s a no from me.

2/5

CHEF REVIEW

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Jon Favreau cooks up another treat, a little overcooked and missing a little seasoning. This meal may be a little overhyped but a treat none the same.

Don’t worry, there will be more food punnery somewhere. Overall, not bad. An easy going, nice film. Makes a change to have an upbeat movie. The only problem is that it may be too nice and gets absorbed too much in it’s running length and preparation that it forgets to deliver the dessert (There we go) or in my case, drama or conflict.

The film is about . . . let me guess, a chef? Come on, stop it now. A chef (Favreau) who loses his restaurant job starts up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative premise, while piecing back together his estranged family. Favreau plays a likeable lead and the initial preparation in which we see his character’s relationship with his son and torn obligations between cooking the set menu and being creative makes for a watchable, if a little long, opener. However, once he ends up getting into a Twitter feud with a pestilent food critic (Oliver Platt) and has a Gordon Ramsey-esque meltdown, it all kicks off.

Favreau has a fantastic cast at its fingertips. Dustin Hoffman plays the arrogant owner to perfection. Scarlett Johansson is hot . . . What? And plays a restricted supporting role but pulls off the tattooed dark brunette look. Platt doesn’t really get to say much as Favreau’s chef lays into him before he has a chance. A shame as we know Platt could have done more with that role. His grimacing and face pulling were convincing, if that’s any comfort. Sofia Vergara (you may remember her from Modern Family) was surprisingly not irritating at all. I expected her to be whining and yelling like Gloria. Nope, a much more subdued role and to be honest, I wanted to see more of her. Not like that . . . well a little.

The main focus is on Favreau finding his passion again but also restoring his relationship with his son (Emjay Anthony). Anthony and Fav work well together and there are some nice moments. One critic did mention how this film was like food porn and my word, some of the dishes that are prepared, I was sweating and panting. My lord. Anyway, moving on. John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire) plays Fav’s knuckle head sous-chefs well. Leguizamo, in particular, proves yet again to be a good supporting choice. He doesn’t quite get enough of the laughs or time that his character deserves.

The only problem is the length for me dragged in parts. Once they have got on the road with the truck and served a few people, it gets repetitive. Mainly because everything is all tickety boo. No real drama along the way. Vergara is very supportive. Every one is getting on. The police appear at one point but only in the form . . . of the hilarious comedian Russell Peters. His Lady and the Tramp pic with Fav brought a chuckle. It’s all too nicey, nicey. Favreau seems to suddenly realise at the end. Hang on, can’t make it that easy. Let’s throw a quick spanner in the works but still make it alright in the end. It leaves little in plot development or surprises and gets a little predictable.

But it does keep you watching. The scenery and the dishes look fantastic. There are some funny moments. Robert Downey Jr makes a five minute, if slightly overhyped, cameo. He does deliver the laughs with him bumbling and baffling poor Fav. Friends doing what they do best. A nice touch.

The whole social media jibe worked really well, especially in this day and age with Favreau failing to understand the impact of one tweet and the issue of becoming a viral phenomenon. Favreau’s previous works have always seemed to suffer from either an overlong pace with little story or too much story and not enough pace. This was a mish mesh. Started off with a story but then the pace dragged it out that for a certain moment, I felt I was just watching two chefs work. But it’s not all bad. Chef is a nice movie to look at but just not as tasty as you hoped. Still worth a bite or two. 3/5

Currently ranked 63 out of 196!