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

*NEW* ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING REVIEW *NEW*

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I would recommend that you see absolutely anything else.

And that’s coming from a Python fan! On paper, Pegg and the Pythons spelled perfection. Pull the other one!

A group of eccentric aliens confer a human being (Simon Pegg) with the power to do absolutely anything as an experiment.

After watching the Monty Python reunion at the O2 arena, I was a little anxious about their latest offering. The old gags felt stale and the gang just didn’t deliver for me. I understand that they couldn’t reach that level of energy and eccentricity (Come on, they’re in their seventies) BUT at least they used to be funny. Tragically that rut has continued.

The premise was pretty much a British take on Bruce Almighty. BUT even that fell short by comparison. The flat opening really didn’t get things going.

The Pythons provided their voicing gravitas to the aliens. It was silly enough but far too tame as they translated their alien names into female ones and bickered about destroying Planet Earth.

Pegg certainly carried this lead balloon as much as he could and was a likeable lead. Once he got his powers, things really got into the flow. Shame that the momentum couldn’t stick. BUT I was entertained for a good twenty minutes.

Pegg’s bathroom body enhancements had me howling. Hang on. Let me rephrase that. The fact he asks for the body of a great man and turns into Albert Einstein delivered the silly chuckle. And a gag involving the changing of one’s appendage was unexpected but dropped a cracking punch line.

All the little jokes from the dog mess cleaning itself up to Pegg’s mate getting his own cult, ticked the boxes but it just wasn’t enough. Maybe I expected too much after growing up with the Python movies and TV shows. The Holy Grail and Life of Brian were iconic comedy classics. BUT this? Dreadful. The rest of the gags and set pieces were ridiculous, corny and stupid for all the wrong reasons.

The stunning Kate Beckinsale did her best with her role but the love subplot with Pegg was too bland and nauseating to care about. Sanjeev Bhaskar didn’t do a bad job as Pegg’s best friend and tried to keep things watchable.

Joanna Lumley was terrible in her cameo. You know you’re onto a loser when Ab Fab’s Patsy can’t save the day. The idea of a book critic grilling authors for scandal and ratings over intellect and culture may have sounded good on paper (In fact it doesn’t). BUT the finished result certainly wasn’t and by the end you wondered why her character was even involved.

There was a saving grace with the late but always great Robin Williams as Dennis the dog. He was hilarious. Meshing all sorts of crazy voices including a spot of the old Doubtfire. The canine’s obsession with biscuits and running commentary on any passing thought that popped in his head delivered the much needed laughs.

Eddie Izzard wasn’t in this enough as the Headmaster. He delivered with the tiny tidbits he was given. While Rob Riggle, on the other hand, was in it far too much. Normally you could bank on the chap to deliver the goods after his appearances in Step Brothers and Let’s Be Cops. But this time around, he was irritating and highly unfunny.

It didn’t help that the divide between the Pythons and Eric Idle was so obvious. Even as an alien, Idle was separate from the team. Whether it was meant to be a joke in itself baffled me. He even had his own skit as a racist skeleton. You read that right. I don’t know if I made that sound better or worse.

The tone was all over the place. It was macabre in one sequence. A joke about Pegg’s classroom blowing up certainly delivered the shock factor with a surprise asteroid attack. BUT in the next frame, we had people running around London with webbed feet and big fluffy ears. It felt like the gang suddenly realised that the film was supposed to be a 12A and watered it down. Killing off the last 30 minutes. The last 30 minutes of an 86 minute film.

I knew it was always going to fall short of the iconic Life of Brian and Holy Grail BUT I expected so much more. For good portions of the film, I was bored or cringing at how dire the gags really were.

Disappointed would be an overstatement. Pegg and the cast do their best and there were some laughs to be had BUT it was all for nothing. One star for the cast and one for the jokes that did tickle me.

2/5

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB REVIEW

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One last time? Probably for the best.

The first one I’ve actually seen all the way through and thankfully the last.

The others I’ve always caught bits. They seemed a little silly but fun. All you can hope for with the influx of films filling the big screen.

So what happens in this one? Larry (Ben Stiller) spans the globe (Well . . . London), uniting favorite and new characters while embarking on an epic quest to save the magic before it is gone forever.

In a word, meh. Not bad but not great either.

A bizarre Indiana Jones-esque opening didn’t really get things going. Some predictable Egyptian mumbo jumbo about a curse surrounding the magic tablet felt a little unnecessary.

However, we are soon back at the Smithsonian with the gang doing their thing. BUT alas, the tablet is corroding and the statues are acting weird. Causing havoc on the public and pulling strange faces.

It was a shame knowing that this was Robin Williams’ last film. Especially when his character Teddy Roosevelt was a little lacklustre and flat. His farewell speeches did hit home a little harder. BUT it felt like a blip on an extensive film career from a comedy actor that was gone too soon.

It was also farewell to another comedy icon, the late Mickey Rooney in a blink and you’ll miss it cameo.

The cast do their best but the gags seem few and far between. And the premise to get them all together for one last hurrah was lazy and a little tame.

Ben Stiller was entertaining (as usual). The discovery of his neanderthal counterpart Laaa shouldn’t have worked BUT somehow his stupid face pulling got a chuckle out of me.

BUT some of the gags were old hat. I mean the scene in which he must explain why Laaa must stay behind (Only to then follow him or mimic him) was predictable and done to death.

Dick van Dyke has still got the moves but I felt his appearance wasn’t needed. A feeble attempt to get all the gang back in the movie.

Ricky Gervais always did irritate me (in these films). And from the opening, he still did. However, the more rubbish he spouted and the flimsier his floundering became, I found my face cracking.

Things did seem to get going when Stiller finally got to London to stop the curse.

I thought Rebel Wilson was going to poke fun at the British stereotype a lot more and annoy me but no! She was just being Rebel Wilson. When she got to improvise it wasn’t bad. BUT she did go on a little too much.

Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) was brilliant as the newest addition, Sir Lancelot. He made a hilarious entrance and took it up a notch. However, once he started suffering from a little Buzz Lightyear syndrome, my interest waned.

The whole “I’m a knight not a statue” routine did go on. BUT that was only because there wasn’t much else on offer.

Even Larry’s subplot with his son seemed rushed and put together poorly to try and fill the void. The corny “Choose your own path and don’t drop out of high school” spiel just felt predictable and run of the mill.

The special effects were brilliant and I think they missed a trick by not shooting it in 3D. However, the overuse of CGI on Dexter the monkey did spoil things. BUT then you’re not going to get Crystal the Monkey to disco dance. Or hang off a trapeze for crying out loud!

For every good gag, they seem to repeat it or milk it dry. Tut tut tut.

Steve Coogan and Owen Wilson had two good gags that were heavily flogged in the trailers. One involving a giant Roman catapult to operate a keyboard to post a humourous comment and another involving a fire and a monkey that used the only liquid available at his disposal.

Yeah . . . You get the picture.

The pair were hilarious in the other two films but this time round, they weren’t in it enough and when they were; they just didn’t hit it off or make you laugh as much as you hoped. Which is pretty much my summary of the film.

And the big secret to help save the tablet was laughable. No, really! All those hit and miss shenanigans for a terrible conclusion.

There were some fantastic cameos that I didn’t expect from the legendary Sir Ben Kingsley, Alice Eve and a certain Marvel icon. I won’t say much more. It didn’t have me howling with laughter but he certainly got the odd titter.

A running gag with said mystery actor went on far too long.

The closing moments were nicely done but then it seemed to end so abruptly and flatly that was a bit anti-climactic. It made sense but I haven’t felt so baffled and disappointed with an ending since Lost.

If you want to distract the little ‘uns for 90 minutes, it does the trick but there are better family films out there. *Cough* Shaun the Sheep *Cough*

2.5/5

INTERSTELLAR REVIEW

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STELLAR casting and special effects. Shame, I just wasn’t INTER it.

I know. Not my best. BUT here we are. Well, certainly hyped. BUT did that hype help or hinder? There’s only one way to find out.

Christopher Nolan tackles the sci-fi genre in one of his most ambitious projects to date and . . . to mixed results for me.

Now for the record. I am a Nolan fan. Memento is still up there in my top movies list. Inception left me in awe. The Prestige was a well crafted thriller. I loved what he did with the Dark Knight franchise and Insomnia was an underrated crime thriller with the late great Robin Williams.

So it pains me to say that his latest offering left me unfulfilled.

I mean, science fiction isn’t my favourite genre but I love Twelve Monkeys, Blade Runner, etc.

In a nutshell, Interstellar is about a team of explorers who travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity.

BUT this is Christopher Nolan. And as we know, it’s never going to be that easy . . . or that simple.

He chose a perfect leading man in Matthew McConaughey. Great to see him fully resurrected from the movie scrapheap.

I will do my utmost NOT to divulge too much spoilerific information. So consider this a warning.

The opening hour was slow burning but had the slightest feel of a dystopian Signs. Thankfully without the CGI aliens allergic to water.

The idea that crop farming is a crucial asset as food and supplies are vastly running low was a scary and all too realistic premise.

I loved the satire in which the children have been re-educated into learning that man did not land on the moon, just to focus on their agricultural studies. Crazy. Delusions of grandeur no longer an option (Regardless of what conspiracy nuts think of the Moon landing).

John Lithgow was wasted in his role. He was somewhat passive and frankly unnecessary. Merely the guardian to Cooper’s kids.

Mackenzie Foy was brilliant as Murph. She worked well with McConaughey and made their fractious father/daughter relationship that much more endearing and engaging.

Murph’s fascination with a ghost in Cooper’s den made this feel more like a rural supernatural drama than a sci-fi flick.

However after an hour and some cryptic puzzle solving (keeping that as vague as I can), Cooper is soon initiated into NASA for a life-saving and utterly bonkers mission.

That did annoy me a little bit. We had all this build up for an hour or so AND THEN SUDDENLY BOOM! LIFT OFF! We’re in space.

Such a quick transition after some mind-numbing exposition about wormholes and coma-induced hyper-sleep by regular Nolan stalwart and screen icon, Michael Caine. All this scientific mumbo jumbo and not even a training montage?

Cooper is an engineer. That’s good enough for us. Chuck him on the ship. Okay . . .

Michael Caine isn’t very good at accents (AND a lot of people know that) BUT he still makes a memorable impression in his rather subdued science guy supporting role.

The cinematography of Hoyte Van Hoytema (that’s a real name) was breathtaking. A visual tour-de-force for the eyes alone. Even the desolate planet that is essentially made up of crashing waves looked stunning. This certainly rivals Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey on looks.

The second half of the film was tense, strange but hypnotic as tempers rose and theories pondered. A lot of bloody theories. Although I was intrigued by how staying on one planet for one hour would equate to 7 Earth years!  Mental!

The film score by the legendary composer Hans Zimmer complimented the atmospheric tension perfectly.

I don’t know whether it was me or the the cinema surround system BUT it was incredibly loud. So much so that it drowned out several of the characters and the scene stealers that were TARS and CASE. Seriously by the end, I wanted Zimmer to SHUT UP! I couldn’t hear what they were saying!

TARS and CASE? What the – What’s an interstellar journey across time and space without some robotic companions?!

The visual effects brought the robots to life. Their rapid wheel movements made the geek in me EEP a little. Voiced brilliantly by Bill Irwin (How The Grinch Stole Christmas) and Josh Stewart (Criminal Minds).

Irwin’s deadpan delivery made for some top notch banter between the robotic comedian and Cooper. Reducing his humour functions. I wish I could do that on a few people.

Anne Hathaway was very good as Brand. Her speech debating the ethics of love should have come off a little pretentious and long winded BUT her delivery made it highly engaging philosophical guff.

The cast was a fantastic selection BUT I felt that a few faces just blended into the background; William Devane, David Oyelowo, Casey Affleck and Wes Bentley (Oh dear!).

David Gyasi delivered a good turn as Romilly while Jessica Chastain was excellent which was crucial as the film drew to it’s mind boggling conclusion.

The quest for habitable planets did have some surprises along the way and made for some tense and exhilarating moments. A race against time as supplies and resources are running thin for our crew. Don’t worry, my lips are sealed. I ain’t saying nothing. BUT of course, there is a twist.

The twist! It’s the Nolans. Of course, there is a twist. Now, I saw it coming a mile away (Don’t mean to brag or anything). But the how? Woah. Not so much.

The explanation is crazy! Timey-wimey wormhole guff involving God knows what. Jonathan Nolan certainly put his theory of relativity into practice. BUT I felt that the deciphering and explanation went on far too long and then where I thought I had figured it out, I then didn’t and so on.

Inception had me actually stunned. This left me baffled and as I asked my colleagues what happened? I realised I did know what was going on BUT found plot holes. The scientific stuff might have been accurate but the decision making and events leading up to said twist were NOT so clear.

It didn’t help that as I went to tweet my 140 character review; the #InterstellarPlotHoles had already started trending.

The mix should have been heaven for me but it’s just didn’t deliver for me. I felt numb and had a head ache. I’m not stupid BUT this made me feel a little.

I respect the Nolans for bringing brains back to the blockbuster. It is very clever and brilliantly shot. The effects are to die for. BUT the story and pace dragged on too long for me and the final result wasn’t all it cracked up to be for me.

It’s hard not divulging plot points to quarrel elements. I mean the drone? What up with that?

It is certainly worth seeing and did something that not many films do these days. Get you thinking and talking. BUT for the right reasons? We shall see.

Timey wimey and hardcore sci-fi fans will love this. Others may feel a little bored and a little baffled. Best film of 2014? Sorry, that falls short. Different and diverse BUT also dense and difficult at times for me.

Alright, alright, alright for me.

3.5/5