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.
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.
The first movie was my favourite of 2014, so the prospect of a sequel was very exciting. This time around we find the unorthodox gang of heroes causing strife with a race of beings after Rocket the Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) gets a little light-fingered with some batteries. However following a space battle that could cause the guardian’s lives to end abruptly, a mysterious stranger saves the day. Turns out Star Lord (Chris Pratt) has a Dad who just so happens to be a pretty powerful guy himself, played with charismatic flair by the ever dependable Kurt Russell.
This fills in a few gaps left over from the last movie, especially the question surrounding Chris Pratt’s father and it was great being back in the company of these very likable characters again. The dialogue is especially sharp throughout, something that was a highlight of the last movie and the jokes & references come thick and fast to make this a ton of fun. Pratt’s character constantly makes quips about eighties pop-culture such as TV shows like Cheers and characters such as Skelator and Pac-Man, and makes him a very relatable and refreshing presence in this sort of movie. I was also glad to see that, despite the trailers, Baby Groot isn’t over-used but damn is he cute and very funny every second he’s on screen.
The soundtrack, another highlight last time around isn’t quite as memorable (apart from a great use of Mister Blue Sky by ELO) and a left-over side plot involving sisters Nebula (Karen Gillen) and Morgana (Zoe Saldana) felt unnecessary. I also did not get much out of the gold-painted race that turn up at the beginning and chase after our heroes. That being said Michael Rooker’s Yondu was again a joy and I’ve always liked the actor and we get some great moments with him here. The same can be said for scene-stealing Dave Bautista as Drax. Action generally is top-notch but the plot didn’t grab me as much or feel as layered this time, with the whole Kurt Russell’s planet sequence stopping the movie dead at one stage.
As it stands though this was a solid sequel and I can’t wait to see what comes next. The Guardians of the Galaxy will return!
Craig, take a breath, try not to be too gushy over this one. Ok, calm restored! This Marvel comic book adaptation has a human kid called Peter Quill who following the death of his cancer-stricken mother, is seemingly abducted by aliens – jump forward 26 years and he’s become a bounty hunter calling himself star lord who tracks down valuable items for the highest price. On one such mission he steals a sacred orb and soon a powerful warlord is on his heels as the orb carries with it great power. Yet star lord gets himself thrown in a high security prison after a ruckus on a neighbouring planet breaks out and before long he’s housed up with a rag tag group of outlaws – a green female assassin, a muscle-bound prisoner seeking revenge, a genetically engineered racoon (!) and a big tree / plant creature. Not your typical heroes.
After the usual plethora of sequels and comic book super hero movies that hit during the summer, this one flew for the most part under my radar, even though I always liked the look of it. Now despite the fine job Marvel have done with the likes of Iron Man, Captain America etc. this is going in a different direction. It has strong echoes of classic eighties genre piece Battle Beyond The Stars (remember that?) and for me felt a breath of fresh air in a summer that for a few years now has felt stale and stuck in a rut. With a very sharp script, some great characters (and great actors to play them) and a stand out Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket, this just seemed to keep me grinning throughout. Add to this some great fights (the showdown between Zoe Saldana’s Gamora and Karen Gillan’s Nebula), flashy, exciting battles and several punch-the-air feel good moments (“you said it yourself bitch, we’re the guardians of the galaxy”) – this just surprised, impressed and won me over again and again. Chris Pratt as Peter Quill / Star Lord is brilliant, has a Hans Solo lovable swagger and some of the movie’s best lines and jokes (dance off man!), but the character of Groot (sort of voiced by Vin Diesel) is also a show-stealer.
I simply can’t praise this one enough – it played with clichés like weapons, had a truly brilliant soundtrack that had no place being in this sort of movie (really, the end credits are ‘I Want You Back’ by the Jackson Five? – Genius!). So hat’s off to Marvel and director James Gunn – this is one to be beaten.
Some movies it’s good to go into totally blind. No viewing of trailers, no reading of reviews. Although I had heard this was meant to be pretty good as far as the glut of supernatural horrors of late, ala Insidious and The Conjuring. This tells the tale of a young twenty something guy (James Van Der Beek look-a-like Brenton Thwaites) freshly released from a psychiatric hospital following an incident in his childhood. Reunited with his sister, she reminds him of a promise they made when they were younger, and following an auction, sets up a night of observing what happens in the company of an antique mirror, that may or may not hold within a dormant, malevolent entity.
The movie skilfully and cleverly jumps back and forth from the present and to that fateful night when the siblings were just children, and the events that lead up to the guy’s incarceration. This is spooky, has some great ideas and two very strong performances, especially from the gorgeous Karen Gillan (yes, former Doctor Who assistant) as the guy’s elder sister. It plays on your perceptions, twists your head into wondering if what you see is happening or just in the character’s heads, and throughout various red herrings and freaky encounters really got me questioning what was going on. It’s certainly a horror that keeps you on your toes, and some hallucinations, including a memorable light bulb / apple mix up as well as some Ring-like creepy woman moments all made for a genuinely unsettling experience.
It doesn’t get as nasty or as disturbing as some horrors can be (probably a good thing), and could be seen as more an exploration of the adverse affects of a childhood trauma and the transition into adulthood. Yet the always scary concept of a possessed mirror and along with the time jumps … meant this horror fanboy came away rather impressed.
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