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‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ is a fun but unoriginal holiday distraction

Charmaine Blake

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This review for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is spoiler-free.

Jumanji, the 1995 fantasy adventure featuring the world’s deadliest board game, was not—on the surface—a movie clamoring for a sequel. It’s a crowd-pleaser (one that made a bunch of money at the box office) that later became a frequent TV presence. Yet the announcement of another Jumanji movie still invoked an air of “is nothing sacred” from fans and casual viewers.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle has enough subtle ties to connect to its predecessor without stampeding on the original like one of the game’s elephants. It’s a perfectly entertaining film that excels on the charm of its cast, but it’s sometimes weighed down by its own exposition and doesn’t leave much of a mark.

Yes, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a proper sequel. While its start is nearly a direct continuation from the 1995 movie with a nod to the character Robin Williams portrayed, Welcome to the Jungle functions largely within its own, often virtual world. Instead of a board game, Jumanji is now a video game, having transformed itself so it can entice a new generation of players. This time around, it’s a group of high schoolers (a la Breakfast Club) who discover Jumanji in an old console while stuck in detention. After they turn the game on and pick their avatars, they’re sucked directly into the game.

Sony Pictures Entertainment/YouTube

Spencer (Alex Wolff), a knowledgeable and awkward gamer, becomes Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson), a muscular archaeologist who has literally no weaknesses. Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) is the jock who turns into Franklin “Moose” Finbar (Kevin Hart), a zoologist and sidekick. Popular and image-obsessed Bethany (Madison Iseman) is now Shelly Oberon (Jack Black), a middle-aged cartographer with no cellphone. And Martha (Morgan Turner), a shy geek with her eyes set on Princeton, is now Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), a skilled fighter who is instantly pissed about the outfit her avatar is wearing.

That outfit drew immediate backlash last year after Hart posted a photo of the cast together on social media—contrasting with the layers of clothes Gillan’s co-stars wore—with critics decreeing the out to be sexist. It’s reminiscent of the original Tomb Raider game, and considering how long the Jumanji game has probably been sitting around and collecting dust the connection is probably intentional, although it’s probably not an explanation that will sit with everyone. (And unlike other games that feature a scantily clad female character, one of the other characters eventually gives Martha a jacket to wear.)

Sony Pictures Entertainment/YouTube

The game itself, which the kids have to complete before they can exit, is pretty simple. The characters need to return a stolen gem to its original resting place to cure Jumanji (the place) of a curse. Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale with a much different look than the character in the 1995 film with the same name) is trying to hunt them down for the jewel. All of that—and other gaming concepts including the concept of non-playable characters (NPCs), cutscenes, a listing of each character’s strengths and weakness, and how their lives in the game work—are all explained with some tongue-in-cheek nods to a bunch of video game tropes. Even the names are on the cheesy side.

The cast holds the film together and tells a coherent character story through sheer charm (and maybe a smolder or two). Each character is given moments to shine and grow, but Black—whose performance could’ve easily leaned completely on caricature—stands out, as does his rapport with Gillan’s Martha. There’s plenty of humor in the growing pains of testing the limits of their video game characters, in some of their characters’ deaths, and attempts to dupe henchmen who aren’t programmed to fight sentient video game characters.

Sony Pictures Entertainment/YouTube

Some of the film’s better moments are tucked between action and fight sequences, as several characters face the baggage that led them to Jumanji or awaits them once they make it out. The avatars may be archetypes, but the characters expand enough to avoid that trap.

Jumanji as a game isn’t complicated, and neither are many of the NPCs (non-player characters) Spencer, Fridge, Bethany, and Martha encounter through the game. The bazaar is little more than a backdrop for a level and otherwise, Jumanji looks nearly uninhabited. For all of its vast and beautiful landscapes, Jumanji feels very closed off as a place compared to the havoc the creatures and the original Van Pelt were able to cause in the 1995 movie. This version of Van Pelt, who can control animals and occasionally has insects crawl out of his ears, is forgettable, and the mission and levels themselves are rather flimsy. The threat and the stakes never feel real.

Sony Pictures Entertainment/YouTube

Did we really need a Jumanji sequel? Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle remixes the Jumanji game and offers a fun story—one that doesn’t solely rely on its own nostalgia. But I’m not exactly sure it adds anything beyond being a worthwhile distraction from holiday mayhem. 

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle debuts in theaters nationwide Dec. 20, 2017.

Read more: https://www.dailydot.com/parsec/jumanji-welcome-to-the-jungle-review/

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‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ is one of the best superhero movies ever: Review

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There’s a new Spider-Man in town, and he’s freaking amazing.

Image: Columbia / Sony

“To say that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse feels like a comic book come to life may sound like faint praise, seeing as we’re two decades into a superhero movie boom that the original Spider-Man helped jump start.

But few recent films have embraced the comic book style and sensibility — its visual quirks and anything-goes openness — as wholeheartedly as Spider-Verse has, or enjoyed as fully the potential in combining the two mediums.

Right off the bat, Spider-Verse acknowledges that it’s probably the 700th Spider-Man story you’ve seen in the past few years. A voiceover “yada yadas” the basics of Peter Parker’s origin story, while winking at almost every iteration of it; even the much-maligned Spider-Man 3 gets a rueful shoutout. This movie isn’t afraid of a laugh at its own expense, though the knowing humor is more affectionate than biting.

Spider-Verse has a distinct feel unlike any other Spider-Man movie before.

When that montage ends with Peter telling us “there’s only one Spider-Man,” it plays like another joke, because we’ve seen so many Peters over so many years. And becomes even more of one once we meet Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore).

Though Miles has been a fan favorite in the comics since 2011, Spider-Verse marks his first time on the big screen. Accordingly, Spider-Verse has a distinct feel unlike any other Spider-Man movie before it.

Spider-Verse eschews both the slick three-dimensional look of most modern studio animated movies (think Pixar or Illumination) and the gritty “realism” of most live-action superhero movies, in favor of a flatter, sketchier aesthetic bursting with poppy colors, Ben-Day dots, and motion lines. It’s an obvious nod to Spidey’s ink-and-paper history, but it’s also an expression of how Miles, himself a character who’s grown up admiring Spidey and reading Spidey books, might view his own superhero saga…………………………………………”

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/spider-man-into-the-spider-verse-movie-review/

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Creed II review – Rocky saga continues with knockout sequel

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“Before he delivered arguably Marvel’s most dazzling chapter to date, Ryan Coogler had managed something close to impossible in Hollywood: he had found a fresh way to reboot a dusty franchise. In a landscape of endless thirst and vacant remixing, he had somehow managed to concoct a nifty, imaginative way back into the Rocky saga with Creed, a film that felt old-fashioned yet fresh, intimate yet grand, a rousing return from the grave.

By focusing on the son of Rocky’s competitor-turned-friend Apollo Creed, Coogler was also able to reteam with Michael B Jordan, who made such an indelible impression in his first film, 2013’s devastating fact-based drama Fruitvale Station. The duo worked together again in Black Panther earlier this year, with Jordan switching tacks to play villain Killmonger, and so soon after, seeing him return as Creed is a further reminder of his broad star appeal, the sort of rare leading man one can imagine remaining at the top of his game for years to come. Given his time in Wakanda, Coogler was unable to return but he has handed over directorial duties to Steven Caple Jr, who impressed in 2016 with debut feature The Land, and it is a similarly deft rise from micro-budget indie to franchise film-making.

While it’s not quite the showstopper that its predecessor was, Creed II is still another knockout piece of entertainment. There’s a keen awareness of what made Creed work so well without it feeling like a lethargic rehash. This time, Adonis (Jordan) is the heavyweight champion of the world, in a loving relationship with his pregnant musician girlfriend Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and still living near and working out with a recovering Rocky (Sylvester Stallone). But there’s discontent from……………………………………..”

Read More Here: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/nov/16/creed-ii-review-rocky-sylvester-stallone-michael-b-jordan

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They Shall Not Grow Old review – a breathtaking journey into the trenches

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Written by Mark Kermode, Observer film critic

“There’s a familiar mantra that computers have somehow taken the humanity out of cinema. In an age when it’s possible to conjure spectacular action from digital effects, many modern movies have developed a sense of weightlessness – the inconsequentiality of artifice. Along with Avatar director James Cameron, New Zealand film-maker Peter Jackson has been at the forefront of the digital revolution, with his twin Tolkien trilogies (The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit) pushing the boundaries of computer-generated entertainment.

Yet with his latest project, a revivification of the Imperial War Museum’s archive of first world war footage, Jackson has done something quite remarkable: using 21st-century technology to put the humanity back into old movie stock. The result is utterly breathtaking.

Commissioned for the Armistice centenary by IWM and 14-18 NOW in association with the BBC, They Shall Not Grow Old is not a document of the world at war. Rather, it is an arresting snapshot of the lives of British soldiers who went to fight in Europe, many of them having lied about their tender ages to enlist. There are no historians, narrators or political commentators to guide us; the voices we hear are those of veterans, many gathered by the BBC during the making of its 1964 documentary series The Great War.

As we watch a line of soldiers marching through mud towards the front, something extraordinary happens. The film seems almost miraculously to change from silent black-and-white footage to colour film with sound, as though 100 years of film history had been suddenly telescoped into a single moment. Stepping through the looking glass, we find ourselves right there in the trenches, surrounded by young men whose faces are as close and clear as those of people we would pass in the street. I’ve often argued that cinema is a time machine, but rarely has that seemed so true………………………………………………”

Read the rest of the article here: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/nov/11/they-shall-not-grow-old-peter-jackson-review-first-world-war-footage

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