Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle


Viewed – 12 June 2018  online-rental

I find myself liking Dwayne ‘the rock’ Johnson more and more with every movie I see him in, and this sort-of sequel to the Robin Williams original has him on fine, comedic and action hero form joined by a colourful cast.  He plays the videogame counterpart of a nerdy kid who along with a bunch of high school misfits, gets transported into the world of Jumanji after unwittingly powering up a videogame console.

jumanji-welcome-to-the-jungle

By attempting to bring the board game comes to life idea of the first movie, up-to-date by making Jumanji a videogame, some of the charm is lost but replaced by a unique twist of the usual high school teen movie formula, and I certainly enjoyed seeing actors like Jack Black and Karen Gillan play somewhat the opposite of how they look for some great fun moments.  Jack Black eyeing up The Rock, anyone?

I’d have liked to learn more about the world and what makes Jumanji what it is and it’s rules etc, but we get nothing.  This goes hand in hand with the thin characterisation, that although playing on clichés, are still clichés regardless.  Yet we do get some decent action and the people transported into a world with videogame logic works every bit as well (if not a little better) than it did in Ready Player One.  So yes, this is easy watching and a lot of fun.  However it’s not much more.

Verdict:  3 /5

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The Disaster Artist


As a movie fan I have stumbled upon the general infamy of the low budget cult movie ‘The Room’ and the absurd celebrity status of it’s director and star Tommy Wiseau. However the attention such an ill-conceived endeavour has garnered has me somewhat puzzling, but not overly surprised when these days we give a spot light to some of the biggest idiots on the planet and help them become celebrities.  However when I heard the rave reviews this tongue-in-cheek dramatisation of the true story behind said film had been getting … I’ll admit I was curious.

the-disaster-artist

James Franco plays Tommy Wiseau and his younger brother Dave Franco plays Greg Sestero, two hapless wannabe actors chasing the Hollywood dream.  Despite a rather oddball personality, Greg is drawn to Tommy following a rather unconventional acting class routine, and soon an uneasy friendship is formed.  Tommy is a mystery, keeps his age and where he originates a secret but is able to put his hand to seemingly endless funds, especially once the two decide to make a movie following little to no luck landing an acting job.  As a snapshot of indie film-making and the acting scene in Hollywood, I was fascinated even if we’re following two guys who probably need to consider totally different career paths.  Wiseau is unhinged and a bit creepy but played well by Franco who is doing a spot on performance of a very strange person.  Dave proves the likable lead for the audience to anchor themselves to and I ended up sympathising with Greg much more than Wiseau.  Yet ultimately this is cringy and bizarre, just like the man it portrays and the movie that came out of the experience, with little to say other than being rubbish at something can still make you famous.

There’s more fun here spotting the various celebrity cameos than what’s actually going on, and you do wonder what the point is other than seeing two guys spectacularly make utter shite.  Is it fun watch?  Definitely.  Is it a story that needed to be told?  Not really.

Verdict:  3 /5

Thor Ragnarok


Viewed – 13 March 2017  Blu-ray

I had heard a lot of good things about this and confess to really enjoying the Thor character and the lore surrounding him, even if I like many was underwhelmed by the last solo Thor outing, Dark World.  In this third instalment, sandwiched somewhere between Avengers: Age of Ultron and the forthcoming Avengers: Infinity War, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is captured by a demonic being who is said to bring about Ragnarok, the end of days for Thor’s home world of Asgard.  However he sets about preventing this only to return home and find step-brother Loki up to his old tricks again, this time impersonating their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins).  However a turn of events brings another family member out of exile in the shape of Hella (Cate Blanchett) who vows to claim her rightful place on the thrown of Asgard even if it means killing everyone who stands in her way.

Thor Ragnarok

It would be easy for me to yawn at this plot, it being yet another Marvel disgraced family member coming out of the woodwork and vowing revenge against those that shunned him (or her).  It was done in the previous Thor movies and also (spoiler!) Black Panther, that it’s now getting very tired.  Thankfully then that isn’t the entire focus of this movie.  Oh no, firstly the dialogue is particularly sharp, with very funny banter from various characters, especially a wonderful, awkward buddy set up between Thor and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).  Add to this great support from Jeff Goldblum as the other-worldly ‘grand master’, several quirky side characters (the hilarious rock dude) and of course a still brilliant Tom Hilddleston as Loki – and this was just great entertainment throughout.  The movie treads a careful balancing act between all out comedic farce and straight up action adventure, but somehow manages it, and even if Cate Blanchett’s villain is a walking cliché, the actress usual screen presence and charisma stands out and has such a cool design, familiarity can be forgiven in this instance.

It’s often better when these kinds of movies don’t take themselves too seriously, whilst still managing to deliver great action, memorable characters and gob-smacking spectacle.  This is one such example. Highly recommended.

Verdict:  4 /5

Black Panther


Viewed – 21 February 2018  Cinema

Following the death of his father, Prince T’Challa aka Black Panther returns home to claim his birth right and become king of Wakanda.  However when news surfaces of a terrorist who has stolen some of his homeland’s resources, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) springs into action to stop his home’s sacred power being used for evil.

Black Panther

This has had a great deal of attention and is now one of the highest rated Marvel movies on RottenTomatoes.com, surprising when the character has never been what you’d call a household name like Thor, Spiderman etc.  For whatever reason this movie has gained such attention, what we actually have is a fairly basic super hero movie with the twist of an African setting and largely black cast.  Panther is an interesting, layered character and fairly refreshing compared to the usual machismo we get with other characters; but with a rise and fall and rise again story ark, I failed to see how this was any different than what we’ve been getting for several years now.  Add to this an underwhelming Michael B Jordan as the villain who’s character is basically a carbon copy of another Marvel villain, and like in Creed has no screen presence and is instead feels miscast beyond his impressive pecks.  Yet we do get a fantastic car chase sequence, decent CGI and some tense fight scenes, along with good support from Martin Freeman and especially Letitia Wright as T’Challa’s sister – who gets all the best lines and funniest gags.

As it stands this was very pretty, often fun but very drawn out considering it’s simple plot, and felt more like an ‘also ran’ in the juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe than anything else.  I still had a good time, but like a lot of heavily-hyped things these days … I also came away wondering what the fuss was about.

Verdict:  3 /5

Happy Death Day


Viewed – 20 February 2018  online-rental

Blumhouse Productions seem to getting quite a reputation for making high concept, well received horror what with the popular Purge franchise and the sleeper hit of Don’t Breathe.  So we come to this recent offering that again has a clever concept at it’s heart, and follows a day in the life of University student ‘Tree’ who finds herself stalked by a masked killer and ultimately killed.  No, this isn’t spoiler territory as that’s when Tree’s day starts repeating itself ala Groundhog Day, and so it quickly dawns on her that she has to find how who her killer is, to hopefully set things right again.

Happy Death Day

It’s not a new idea but given a teen-movie twist along with the central character having to solve her own murder is at least a novel spin.  Yet despite strong potential in a creepy and played straight opening, once it descends into the day repeating, ill-fitting comedy comes into play and transforms this into a sillier movie than I’d have liked.  This is not helped by a mostly unlikeable group of characters, who despite best attempts at quirky pop-culture spouting dialogue, come off as self-absorbed idiots, including our lead.  Yep, she’s got some tragedy in her past, but does that mean she should be so utterly stuck up?

It attempts to save itself in some fun, if tame stalk and slash sequences and a couple of twists did keep me guessing … but when we have the final reveal, it’s pretty ‘meh’ again because of it’s wafer-thin characters.  There’s some moral lessons to take away here, but overall this was nothing to rush out and see.

Verdict:  2.5 /5