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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THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY REVIEW

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Well done Mr Gunn! Marvel have done it again.

I would have thought after numerous Marvel entries and the fear of milking this rich cow dry, this may have pushed the mark.

I mean, another origin story to introduce another group of characters BUT with this cast and these characters, I’d be happy to see more entries like this again very soon.

Now, the plot is hardly original, the inevitable union of these intergalactic criminals was always going to happen, as well as those pesky sequel teasers propping up all through the film.

BUT what makes this sci-fi blockbuster hit tick all the boxes for the me is the pace, the humour and the fantastic soundtrack.

After a strong and emotional opening with 1occ’s I’m Not In Love playing, I knew I was in for a treat. It helps that the cast are perfectly chosen for their roles.

What’s it all about? Now keeping it vague as I don’t want to spoil this as I want you guys to see this . . .

Light years (in a galaxy far far away. No. Stop it) from Earth, 26 years after being abducted, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) finds himself the prime target of a manhunt after discovering an orb wanted by Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace).

The charismatic Chris Pratt, already on a roll after the mega blockbuster hit that is the Lego Movie, applies his laidback, fast talking schtick to the film’s protagonist Peter Quill to perfection.

You knew what to expect from the moment he breaks into a song and dance around a space cave using a mutated lizard thing for a mike.

Zoe Saldana just proves she looks incredibly hot as any alien or anything for that matter (What?) but is also fantastic as Gamora.

The surprise turn for me was Dave Bautista as Drax. Now let’s be honest, I know he’s had acting experience in WWE but this is a whole different playing field and I wasn’t convinced with his jughead performance in Riddick.

It helps to have great lines at his disposal but Bautista’s delivery is brilliant as the eloquently spoken if utterly stupid henchman. He takes everything literally which makes for some funny one liners and memorable moments.

Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel provide their voicing talents to two new animated cult characters. Scratch that, Bradley Cooper provides his voicing talents. Vin Diesel must have been laughing when he read the script and got his paycheck as the tree humanoid Groot.

The animation and detail on Groot is impeccable. I mean don’t get me wrong, Diesel’s conviction on saying “I AM GROOT” numerous times is good and no doubt an iconic one liner but come on?! Cooper is fantastic as the talking volatile raccoon hybrid Rocket.

Now while the animation is impeccable, 3D . . .  Not so much. It’s certainly more prominent BUT not a must.

Lee Pace and Karen Gillan were almost unrecognizable both by their incredible make up and by their accents as the villains in this space opera.

Michael Rooker (Gunn regular) was great as Yondu Udonta, the interstellar smuggler. The only problem with so many characters and such a big cast, some characters or actors (more specifically) get cast aside.

Glenn Close, sporting a funky haircut, as Nova Prime was wasted in this installment.

John C. Reilly, the comedy legend that he is, only really got to get a bit of meat to chomp on in the closing minutes.

Inevitably, Benicio Del Toro’s mysterious Collector pops his ugly white head again.

Djimon Hounsou was only memorable due to a humorous encounter with Quill in which he attempts to enforce his self titled nickname, Starlord.

Peter Serafinowicz (Shaun of the Dead)’s straight faced pallor had potential . . . BUT didn’t really get used. BUT that’s minor quibbles.

Now it’s hardly an origin story. It briefly provides a minor back story to answer the questions (as and when they pop up) to give a little dimension to our lively crew.

As it drew to its exhilarating finale, I found myself wanting more. There were unanswered questions which left it all open for more mischief.

Little teasers and “if there’s a sequel” hints . . . BUT with the wide array of characters in this universe and great music and great dialogue, I’m happy to strap in and go for another ride across the galaxy again.

Of course, they will return. One of the better ones.

4/5 for me

P.S. There is a little teaser at the end of the credits but I don’t think it was worth waiting around for. Nothing to quack home about. I mean, shout.

OCULUS REVIEW

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Oculus no scaro. What a shame. An intriguing premise that fails to deliver, revealing nothing behind its glassy surface and turning out to be just as wooden and lazy as the film’s antagonist.

I think I’m going to have to throw in the towel with horror movies. Not that I haven’t already. I was at least intrigued to see a new horror film that wasn’t using handheld cameras or being a “found footage” film, which Hollywood has succumbed to these days. Endless entries of Paranormal/Blair Witch rip offs. If something is good, copy it and milk it until it’s dry. Rant over on that little one. However, this felt like an old school horror film. Back to basics. Suspense, actual acting and well . . . we had one out of two, so not bad.

Gillan (Doctor Who) does her best with the material but it’s all so boring and unintentionally laughable, even with her flawless mastering of the American accent. The premise of Oculus is pretty much about a woman trying to exonerate her brother, who was convicted of murder, by proving that the crime was actually committed by a supernatural phenomenon. That phenomenon being . . . a manipulative mirror. Another film to go on the list of bad killer mirror movies. Is there even a good one? Minus Snow White . . . at a big push.

Now when dealing with a mirror that has managed to survive by its own defence mechanisms for centuries by manipulating time, space and god knows what, there is only one tragically irritating outcome which kills any intrigue that this film desperately tries to convey. Gillan and Brenton Thwaites play the siblings hell bent on destroying the antique foe as well as they can. The flashback structure didn’t work too badly as we go back to their childhood when their father (Rory Cochrane – Right At Your Door) first brings the mirror into their household.

Inevitably strange things start happening. The odd jumpy moment. Two I can recall. A creepy looking woman loitering around the office. The only thing that is annoying is that any suspense or tension built up is soon crushed by the fact that this is a replay. We know that the kids live to tell the tale . . . so far. However, when we go back to the children grown up; all they are doing is being pranked, at times, quite darkly by the mirror.

Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan do a sterling job at playing the young Kaylie and Tom. To be honest as the madness ensues with the Gillian and Thwaites siblings, I couldn’t help but feel that maybe the film would have been stronger, sticking with the kids story line alone as there was enough suspense and moments to keep you at least stop complaining at why they didn’t just smash the damn thing. However, that is finally demonstrated and explained later on.

There was one laughable moment in which Gillan explains how many victims the mirror has claimed. Okay, I’ll buy it. But endless reports and slide shows turning an initial one minute tension burner into a full blown ten minute crime expose. Droll, boring, we get it. The mirror kills people!

Mike Flanagan tried to break the mould but it still yields the same results, regurgitating the same old typical by the book “scares” or jolts (mine was from my elbow slipping off the seat after nodding off) that leads to the same old monotonous, predictable finale. At one point I was more intrigued by the possessed pony tail of Karen Gillan.

The cast do their best and it was great to see kids that didn’t get on my nerves taking the fold. Katee “Starbuck” Sackhoff does her utmost to play the tormented mother who is at her wit’s end with the medieval mirror menace. But it’s slow, boring, predictable. A couple of watchable moments does not a good film make. Also for the Medium fans, what a waste for poor Miguel Sandoval. A wasted talent in a pointless role. Such a shame. 1.5 out of 5 for me!

Currently ranked 178 out of 186!