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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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‘Incredibles’ is back after 14 years, and it hasn’t missed a step

Charmaine Blake

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Elastigirl is the badass star of Incredibles 2.

Image: Disney / Pixar

“In the 14 years since The Incredibles came out, superhero movies have exploded. Circa 2004, we got maybe two a year; in 2018, Incredibles 2 is the third such film within the past two months.

In that context, it’s easy to imagine Incredibles 2 getting swallowed up by the wave, buried under the meta jokes of Deadpool and the ambitious world-building of Marvel. Instead, however, Incredibles 2 rises above it. Here’s how.

The action is, well, incredible

Incredibles 2 opens with a city-destroying battle of good versus evil that’s become a staple of the genre. But Pixar pulls it off with such style and finesse that it retroactively makes the competition look sloppy.

The choreography is sharp and dynamic, playing with each character’s specific strengths and weaknesses. Elastigirl’s bendiness contrasts and complements Mr. Incredible’s brute force, while Dash’s super-speed combines nicely with Violet’s force fields.

Other superhero movies could stand to learn from Incredibles 2.

Image: Disney / Pixar

Meanwhile, the camerawork and dialogue keep our focus on the characters, not just the spectacle. It serves as quick reintroduction to the leads, their personalities, and their relationships, in case your memory’s grown fuzzy after a decade and a half, and underlines why this particular fight is important to them.

It’s like the best of the Avenger-on-Avenger bits from Captain America: Civil War or Avengers: Infinity War – only better, because….”

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/06/11/incredibles-2-movie-review/

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‘Ocean’s 8’ is a fizzy good time, and not much more

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Round up the gang this one’s a good group hang.

Image: Warner Bros.

“Ocean’s 8 is the LaCroix of movies: It’s sparkly, it’s fizzy, it goes down easy, and there’s not really any there there.

It’s not totally dumb, but nor is it particularly clever. It’s nice enough to look at, thanks to all its glamorous stars and their glitzy costumes, but not especially stylish. 

But just as flavored water can really hit the spot on a hot summer day, so can Ocean’s 8. It’s fun enough to serve as an excuse to chill with some friends, or while away an afternoon in movie theater air-conditioning. 

And for all its shortcomings, it does deliver in some key areas. Here are five reasons to check it out. 

5. The girl-power message, I guess

Ocean’s 8 is for all the little girls out there who want to be jewel thieves when they grow up, or something.

Image: Warner Bros.

The basic premise of Ocean’s 8 is that it’s Ocean’s 11, only with eight women instead of eleven men, and with the Met Gala instead of Las Vegas. In this era of shared universes, of course there’s a narrative link to the earlier films – the ringleader in 8 is Sandra Bullock’s Debbie Ocean, sister of George Clooney’s character from the Steven Soderbergh movies.

The act of recasting what was once a “male” property with female leads still feels like a statement in this day and age – even if it all it’s saying are “women are people, too.” Ocean’s 8 occasionally nods in the direction of feminist messaging, having one leading lady point out to another that women get ignored (a plus, when you’re trying to pull off a heist) and another execute a stunt involving the country’s “Founding Mothers.” 

For the most part, though, Ocean’s 8 lets those themes recede into the background. It doesn’t want to tell you how powerful it can be when women band together in a man’s world – it just wants to show you how fun it’d be to round up a girl gang and steal some jewels. In its own way, that’s kind of empowering, too. 

4. The vivid personalities – and fanfic-worthy pairings

Heck yes, Ocean’s 8, I ship it.

Image: WARNER BROS.

Like any good ensemble caper, Ocean’s 8 establishes a cast of colorful personalities, and spends some time sitting back to see what happens when they mix.

There are a few scenes that seem tailor made to inspire fan fiction.

This particular crew does happen to be starrier than usual. In addition to Bullock, there’s Cate Blanchett as….”

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/06/06/oceans-8-review/

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Reviews are in for ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’

Charmaine Blake

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“The latest installment of the Jurassic Park series sounds like a palatable film for fans of the series but doesn’t offer up a completely enrapturing experience the whole way through.

Reviewers have weighed in on the upcoming Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the sequel to Jurassic World, and it isn’t getting the most thrilling praise so far. In this movie, a volcano at the Jurassic World theme park has erupted, sending the human protagonists and a handful of dinosaurs away from the island and into normal society which is fine for the humans but not so great for the dinosaurs.

Read on to see what the critics thought of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The visuals don’t disappoint

Matt Chapman, DigitalSpy:

Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) guilts Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) into returning to the island to rescue his beloved raptor Blue, before an out of control volcano kills every living thing. What follows is some of the most beautiful destruction you’ll ever see onscreen, with a few heart-in-mouth moments for our intrepid dino wranglers and their support staff, Daniella Pineda’s spunky scientist Zia and Justice Smith’s jumpy tech guru Franklin.

Gav Murphy, IGN:

If you thought there was going to be too much CGI in Fallen Kingdom, you’re wrong. There’s a surprising amount of practical effects on display – in fact, it’s the first time I’ve felt genuinely disgusted by these creatures. From the flies buzzing around Rexy’s stinking sleeping body to the mucus and phlegm we see, there’s an impressive blend of both CGI and practical effects in use that helps bring us closer to the dinosaurs. This closeness helps us either feel more afraid or in the case of Blue, a dramatic medical treatment scene really highlights the bond that Owen has with her. Practical effects and CGI are merged seamlessly here and we end up with a touching sequence that also draws in video flashbacks of Owen raising Blue which are obscenely cute.

Dinosaurs aren’t the main event

Owen Gleiberman, Variety:

The film provides plenty of encounters with our stomping, gnashing primeval beastly friends — yet for much of Fallen Kingdom, they are caged, shackled, sedated, wounded, and otherwise subdued. They’re right up there on screen, but too often they don’t feel like the main event….”

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/06/05/jurassic-world-fallen-kingdom-review-roundup/

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