Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – Review

In the year 1996, about a year after the events of the first Jumanji film, the mysterious and deadly board game is found washed up on a beach by a jogger. He takes the game home and gives it to his son, Alex, who discards it because “no one plays board games anymore”. Disheartened (I guess is the word I’m looking for), the game transforms into a console and cartridge overnight so that it can claim its next victim. Alex wakes up and plays the game only to be sucked in and never seen again… Fast forward 20 years and four teenagers are cleaning out a basement at school for detention. They find the game, start to play it, and they get sucked in too.

Sounds familiar? Yeah, the plot line of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is pretty thin however is the performances of the actors, the comedy and the self-awareness that really makes the film stand out. When I first heard that they were making a new Jumanji film, I thought that it would end up being a cash grab. Then, I saw the trailer and where they wanted to take the franchise and it piqued my interest. The film takes the characteristics of the game and modernises it to create something that feels fresh but at the same time, familiar. The video game aspect was an interesting take and it led to some good jokes about NPCs and other video game cliches. I say the plot line is thin, and it is, but at the same time, a lot of video games, especially the older ones, have very short plots. It’s usually “get this thing to that thing” or “save the world” (hint: they may have something to do with the movie).

Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Jack Black and Kevin Hart play the video game avatars of the four students played by, Alex Wolff, Morgan Turner, Madison Iseman and Ser’Darius Blain. The actors both portray the characteristics of the characters really well. The standouts to me were Karen Gillan nailing a Morgan Turner impression and Jack Black playing a teenage girl in a middle-aged over-weight man’s body. While the characters felt a little weak at first, you have a nerd, a football player, a popular girl and a shy bookworm, they grow a little through the film and learn to trust each other. So there is a small amount of character development.

Rounding out the cast is Nick Jonas as Alex(the kid that went missing in 1996)’s avatar in the game. Bobby Cannavale as Van Pelt, the evil explorer who wants to control Jumanji and Rhys Darby as the game’s guide. I thought the cast all did good jobs and you could tell how much fun (especially the in-game characters) were having on set.

The film is surprisingly good. The jokes are funny and the actors and the chemistry between them is light and fun. The action is good even though some of the CGI animals looked a little rushed and fake. There are also some nice little hints to the original film.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a standalone sequel in the Jumanji universe, you don’t have to have seen the original (although do, it’s a great film). It’s refreshing to see something that isn’t rebooting or remaking a story, while some could consider it a soft reboot, it is also very much a sequel. I enjoyed this film but I don’t see any new films in the universe for a while. This film is very similar thematically to the original so they would have to go in a very different direction for a sequel so the franchise doesnt go stale.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle: Surprisingly, Above Average

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 – Review

The galaxy’s favourite A-holes return.

It’s been a few months since the Guardians of the Galaxy defeated Ronan the Accuser. Since then, they have been picking up jobs around the galaxy due to their notoriety from this feat. While the film opens with a flashback to 1980 where Ego (Kurt Russell) and Peter Quill’s mother, Meredith (Laura Haddock) are young and in love the main story kicks in with a fight between the Guardians against an inter-dimensional monster, the Abilisk for a client, known as the Sovereign.

During the fight Rocket Raccoon steals some important batteries which pisses of the Sovereign in the team being chased down. After a series of events resulting in the Milano being damaged, and then Peter meets his Dad – lovely.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 continues the colourful style of outer-space in the Marvel Cinematic Universe while making more of a point to develop each character and fostering some new relationships. While there is a lot of action akin to the first film, there does feel like there was more exposition in this film, which while important to the character progression, did slow down the story in some places. The visual effects tough, were again top notch.

Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill is so Chris Pratt-y that I don’t consider the role as acting all that much, but he brings it again and I can’t fault him on it. Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan’s performances as Gamora and Nebula played off each other quite well in the few scenes they had together, most of it was exposition, Nebula explaining to Gamora why she hates her and what happened to her etc. Look, it was good and effective and you really get why Nebula is so damaged but I couldn’t help but think, “How has this not come up before?”

Dave Bautista, now there’s a man that knows (and has admitted to) knowing very little about acting, but boy can James Gunn get it out of him. Some of Drax’s jokes were a little forced yes, but all in all he continued to be a good character. Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) had some beautiful moments showing his softer side, and of course, everybody loves Baby Groot, who brought a lot of lighthearted comic relief to the already comedic film.

Other characters included; Mantis (Pom Klementieff), who had her own comedic parts, particularly with Drax. Yondu’s faithful First Mate, Kraglin played by James’s brother, Sean Gunn. As well as Taserface (Chris Sullivan), Stakar Ogord (Sylvester Stallone) and Sovereign leader, Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) who all served their purposes as side-antagonists well.

Wow! Holy ensemble cast! To round it off; Michael Rooker, oh man. He’s just so cool as Yondu Udonta. We get more into his character in this one as the role he played of side antagonist in the first movie was taken by the Sovereign in this film. I wont go too much in to it but he was fantastic. Kurt Russell also did pretty well as Ego, Peter’s Father and living planet, but to be fair it was Kurt Russell playing Kurt Russell.

The soundtrack was good and fit in with the scenes well, most of the soundtrack finds it way in to the movie as diegetic sound, played from sources actually in the film, headphones, car speakers etc. The songs were good, maybe not quite as memorable as the original soundtrack but still good quality.

James Gunn shows his love of these characters in this film, it’s hard to imagine what the Guardians of the Galaxy would be like with out his loving hand. Whether good or bad, just before the film came out he announced that we would be returning to write and direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 sometime after Avengers: Infinity War and the currently untitled, fourth Avengers film.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2‘s main short fall was the unexpected hit Guardians of the Galaxy was. I think a lot of people have gone in wanting it to be better than the first film was. While I would say that it might not quite beat it predecessor, the important thing is that it’s different, it develops the characters we have grown to love and it furthers their story.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2: Above Average