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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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Ryan Gosling’s ‘First Man’ is an Awe-inspiring Space Spectacle

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Ryan Gosling, Corey Stoll, and Lukas Haas in Damien Chazelle’s First Man.

Image: Warner Bros.

“First Man is a big film about the small things that went into an enormous event.

It’s no spoiler that the climax here is Neil Armstrong’s 1969 walk on the moon. For the first 90 minutes, though, First Man holds back on the inherent drama of that premise.

It follows Neil (Ryan Gosling) as he makes his way through the NASA ranks, and at home as he mourns the death of his young daughter. It spends time on a bunch of promising missions that go nowhere, and on complex questions the engineers will have to solve. There’s some action sprinkled in there, and a few precious moments of euphoria. Mostly, it’s sweating the small stuff.

That choice is puzzling at first, even frustrating: We know the guy gets to the moon, so let’s get on with it already! Why are we wasting time with all this minutiae?

But those tedious concerns and disappointing dead ends are exactly the point. First Man is about work, and more specifically about the enormous amount of work (and luck) that goes into an achievement as momentous as the moon landing. It demands patience, but it gave back what I put into it several times over.

A rocket takes off in First Man.

Image: Warner Bros.

Director Damien Chazelle keeps his eye on the unromantic details that usually get glossed over in retellings of historical events. Literally: Much of this movie is composed of shots of dials, switches, and the top half of Gosling’s face……………………..”

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/first-man-movie-review/

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David Gordon Green’s ‘Halloween’ is a satisfying treat

Charmaine Blake

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Laurie Strode and Michael Myers face off once more in the new Halloween.

Image: TIFF

Like most long-running horror franchises, the Halloween series has seen its share of ups and downs over the decades.

But those skeptical of the newest incarnation, directed by David Gordon Green, can put their fears to rest. This one’s good. Really good.

Faced with the challenge of sorting out the messy mythology of the sequels, Green (along with his co-writers, Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley) doesn’t even try. Although there are references to the others, only the original Halloween is completely canon here, and all of its relevant plot points are recapped in the new Halloween.

That said, it’s still a good idea to (re)watch the 1978 film before going into the 2018 one, because it’ll make the latter all the more satisfying. Green has fun recreating or subverting specific images and sequences from the first film – maybe too much fun, if you were hoping for something more surprising.

The premise is this: 40 years have passed since the first Halloween, and Michael Myers has spent all that time in prison. But he manages to escape just in time for his favorite holiday, and naturally he goes after Laurie Strode, the girl who survived his last killing spree. She, in turn, has spent the past 40 years waiting and preparing for just this occasion.

In that time, Michael’s notoriety has only grown. People are fascinated by this silent enigma, for all sorts of foolish reasons. Is he capable of rehabilitation, or is he an incorrigible force of pure evil? What might he say if he ever spoke? What’s going on in his head? What’s it like to be in his head?

Always nice to see a familiar face.

Image: TIFF………………………………..”

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/halloween-movie-review/

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A Star is Born Review: It Makes a Movie Star out of Lady Gaga and a Star Director out of Bradley Cooper

Charmaine Blake

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Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in A Star is Born.

Image: Neal Preston / Warner Bros.

“It’s the same story told over and over. All the artist can offer the world is how they see those 12 notes.”

The character who utters this line in A Star is Born is talking about music, but he may as well be talking about the movie he’s in. This is the third remake of an 81-year-old movie, one whose beats are so familiar that you’ll recognize them even if you’ve never laid eyes on any of the other versions.

There’s the sad celebrity self-medicating with booze and drugs, the talented ingenue who becomes an overnight sensation, the whirlwind romance threatened by the cold, hard light of day. You can see where all of it is headed from two miles away.

But that doesn’t matter, not when Bradley Cooper is executing the formula so well. From the view at TIFF, A Star is Born looks to be a commercial and critical success that’ll have people buzzing all fall, and maybe even into this winter’s awards season. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Lady Gaga is a movie star, baby

That Gaga had pipes worthy of a movie musical was never in doubt. But A Star is Born proves she’s a hell of an actor, too. Her Ally has the more dramatic arc of the movie, evolving from bright-eyed nobody to glamorous pop star, and Gaga’s performance rings true every step of the way. For large swaths of the movie, I forgot that I was watching at one of the most famous musicians in the world – she was just Ally.

2. Bradley Cooper has a bright future as a director

A Star is Born is Bradley Cooper’s debut as a director, but you’d never know it by watching. This film has the surefootedness of someone who’s done this a dozen times before, and made me curious to see what he might get up to next.

Oh, and another of Cooper’s gifts as a director? He’s very good at directing one Bradley Cooper. Jackson Maine is one of Cooper’s most riveting performances – Cooper knows exactly how to bring out the nuances playing across Jack’s face in the many scenes he spends gazing at Ally.

3. The chemistry between Cooper and Gaga is

When Jack and Ally meet for the first time, it’s not immediately apparent just how hot this connection is going to run. Cooper gives his characters time to warm up to each other, letting them goof around and reveal their personalities before they fall for each other – so that when they do finally connect, it feels like watching a house catch fire.

4. The music might give you chills

The best moment in A Star is Born is also the best moment from the A Star is Born trailer: The absolute wail that comes from Gaga’s throat during the song “Shallow,” the first time Jack and Ally perform together onstage…………………………..”

Check Out the Rest of the Article Here: https://mashable.com/article/a-star-is-born-movie-review/

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