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Film Review: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

“Welcome to Jumanji!”

Despite the fact that the Robin Williams starring, 1995 adventure romp Jumanji was somewhat dismissed by many critics when first released despite it being a somewhat successful item at the box office, the cult status and underground following of the movie since has subversively led to both a re-examination of its’ qualities by many and as per the norm of many cinematic releases in the current climate, a unwarranted sequel. Directed by comedy staple, Jake Kasdan and featuring a script co-written by Chris McKenna, whose previous credits include the likes of The Lego Batman Movie and Spider-Man: Homecoming, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a functional if rather predictable and laborious adventure romp which utilises the star power of its’ cast to shrug off the many, many weaknesses which encompass its’ existence, and whilst many will be swept up in the wisecracking humour and electric editing pace, Kasdan’s movie is the epitome of a release which can be crammed into the genre of “not exactly my cup of tea”.

With the titular gaming sensation transforming its’ form to keep up with the popular trends of the twenty first century, our leading four youthful heroes are sucked into the jungle of Jumanji where complete control of their gaming avatars forces them to play the game and defeat the threat of Bobby Cannavale’s power hungry, insect ridden villain. With Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan taking over for the majority of the movie therefore, the narrative mixes the absurd nature of our heroes’ surroundings with ongoing banter style comedic quips, most of which ironically do make an appearance in the film’s trailer, and although the chemistry between the leading quartet is undeniable, the film never really progresses from its’ opening gag, resulting in endless penis and body transformation jokes which do end up becoming increasingly grating amidst one of the most self-aggrandizing performances from Johnson ever in his on-screen career. With Cannavale’s pedigree as a villain well known after his turn on Boardwalk Empire, his character is ultimately completely wasted in favour of numerous CGI-ridden action, and whilst Kasdan and the crew are obviously having a superb time, the fun only resonates for a short spate of time, and for a film which runs on for two hours, well, you can do the math.

Overall Score: 4/10

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Film Review: Paddington 2

“Paddington Wouldn’t Hesitate If Any Of Us Needed Help! He Looks For The Good In All Of Us…”

Amidst talk of political scandals, sexual harassment allegations and the threat of nuclear armageddon, what an absolutely fantastic and necessary time it seems for the release of Paddington 2, Paul King’s live-action sequel to the runaway success of the titular Peruvian bear’s first real big screen appearance back in 2014, a film which not only put the marmalade loving charmer back into the hearts of millions, but reminded that when done well, the reinvention of a classic, culturally important character can lead to successes for both filmmaker and its’ respective audience. With the inevitable sequel upon us therefore, Paddington 2 reunites the bulk of the original movie’s cast with the added inclusion of acting heavyweights Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson, and whilst sequels rarely surpass the brilliance of their predecessor, King’s return is an undeniable heartwarming delight from beginning to end, utilising Paddington’s fundamental characteristics of kind-willed ignorance to great comedic effect, alongside a note perfect ensemble cast who seem to be having as much fun as the rest of the audience within a movie which perfectly caters to younglings and adults alike. Anyone for marmalade?

With Paddington well and truly moulded into the lives of the Brown family, his attempts to raise money for an exquisitely designed pop-up book for Aunt Lucy is thwarted when the item is stolen and Paddington blamed, resulting in the Peruvian settler quickly incarcerated alongside the menacing figure Brendan Gleeson’s Knuckles McGinty. With a plan on the outside from the Brown family to locate the real culprit, with Hugh Grant’s narcissistic Phoenix Buchanan being the top target, Paddington has to use all his charm and unwavering loyalty to escape prison and clear his name. With comedic elements which seem to have been directly influenced from the likes of Monty Python and the movies of Wes Anderson, with the prison sequences almost uncannily referencing The Grand Budapest Hotel, and emotive, beautiful set pieces including an early journey through a pop-up view of London and a concluding reunion which is bound to make even the sternest of audiences reach for the tissues,  King’s movie not only continues the brilliance of the original but dramatically improves upon it, with the casting of both Gleeson and Grant a major factor in its’ many successes, and in a time when uncertainty and ambiguity is rife within the real world, Paddington 2 is a family-friendly work of escapism which everyone could do with a slice of.

Overall Score: 8/10

Film Review: Geostorm

“We Were Warned And We Did Not Listen…”

Although hailed as some form of guaranteed audience grabber, Gerard Butler’s most recent backlog of film appearances isn’t exactly the greatest run from the growling, wide-chinned Scot, with the likes of Gods of Egypt and London Has Fallen being two of the worst cinema releases in recent history, and whilst there is always hope for redemption, the release of the CGI-fuelled Geostorm brings with it a heavy sense of, “here we go again!”, particularly after months and months of trailers hyping up a movie which on the face of it, might give Independance Day: Resurgence a run for its’ money as worst big-budget science-fiction disaster movie of the past few years. Directed by American debutant Dean Devlin, whose past producing credits ironically include the likes of Resurgence and erm, Eight Legged Freaks, the latest movie to showcase how much destruction can be created from the screen of a computer in the form of Geostorm is unsurprisingly a gag-inducing barrel of garbage, one which takes the cliched notion of leaving your brain at the foyer to a whole new level of unparalleled literalness and too a movie which just makes you question why and how it ever made it past the cutting room floor.

With Butler showcasing the limited amount of range he has as an actor, portraying a supposed super intelligent science engineer with all the efficiency of a leather based raincoat, Geostorm is the type of movie which doesn’t even begin to offer credible reasons for making the audience believe any events which depict on screen are even capable of actually occurring, and whilst end of the world, disaster movies fundamentally require a minimal level of audience open-minded participation, the mind-boggling and headache inducingly bad narrative at the heart of Geostorm leads to a movie which although features scenes of tidal waves, gigantic laser beams and gargantuan explosions, is undeniably boring from beginning to end. With plot turns aplenty all resulting in a synchronised round of sighs from the audience and a tacky, saccharin sweet family narrative thread acting as the film’s through line, Geostorm is trash unrefined, and whilst Devlin’s CGI-based load of hogwash isn’t exactly the worst film of the year, it is undeniably the stupidest.

Overall Score: 3/10

Film Review: The Dark Tower

“You Can’t Stop What’s Coming. Death Always Wins…”

Growing up with Stephen King books going as far back as I can remember, the cinematic accessibility of the American’s many novels has resulted in a variety of classic movies over the course of nearly half a decade, and whilst The Shining, The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me are arguably the standout examples, even when Kubrick’s famous horror barely resembles the source material, The Dark Tower series has seemingly been in production hell since the first whispers of a possible adaptation came to the floor at the turn of the 21st century. With previously attached filmmakers J.J. Abrams and Ron Howard both passing on the project, the task has fallen into the hands of Danish director Nikolaj Arcel, who along with King’s own blessings and Howard’s descent into a production role, has finally managed to create a live-action adaptation of King’s monstrous fantasy epic. Being an avid reader of all things King, The Dark Tower series is indeed a collection of novels which I have enjoyably devoured, and whilst King’s own notion of such a series being a cross between The Lord of the Rings and Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy, the novels do have weaknesses, particularly within the concluding three releases, and whilst many have bulked at particular high profile changes which have occurred in the transition from paper to screen, Arcel’s adaptation is a release I have been eagerly awaiting since the first trailer was announced and with the fundamental and historical issues some stories have when making the jump to the big screen, the question on everyone’s lips is; was it worth the wait?

In a nutshell? Not quite, and whilst Arcel’s adaptation of King’s novels suffers from a wide range of basic filmmaking issues, The Dark Tower was a movie in which I was never bored, never lost in the rapid overlapping of plots and crucially, never bothered by the gargantuan and radical differences that have occurred between the process from paper to screen, and because of this, the movie was a rare case of a film which seemed to be rather enjoyable even when the weaknesses are so apparent on screen. In my own view, my ability to overlook such downfalls such as awful editing, ear-scraping dialogue and cheesy special effects, is ultimately down to my affinity to the source material and although the convoluted plot will undoubtedly seem incoherent and completely bonkers to an audience coming to the film with no previous knowledge of the characters or the setting, Arcel’s movie is so obviously an adaptation made solely for the readers of the series, and for that alone, I applaud the ballsy approach to create such. With obvious production problems at the heart of the finished article, The Dark Tower is a movie which worked more than it failed, and whilst the rafter of negative reviews and poor box office numbers will unfortunately class the film as a failure, Arcel’s adaptation will no doubt be the beginning of a series which is destined to be explored much, much more either on the big screen or the small.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

“It’s Our Mission That Doesn’t Make Sense, Sir…”

With French filmmaker Luc Besson not succeeding in making a decent movie since the 1990’s when it comes to directing, the array of fingers which he has managed to stick into a wide range of cinematic pies including The Transporter and Taken series, means that particular film companies still feel the need to finance certain projects which stem from the mind of a man who continues to live off the success of his earlier and much more impressive bodies of work, of which Nikita and Léon still remain the standout features. With his latest release of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets this week, aside from having arguably the most arduous and stupidest film title in recent memory, Besson’s return to science fiction brings with it a relative amount of caution, particularly when the finished product could either be the silly, blockbuster fun of The Fifth Element or the idiotic, laziness of a film such as Lucy, and whilst there is no doubting that Valerian is filled to the rafters with a mountain of issues and quandaries, Besson’s latest is the type of movie which you begin to hate from the outset but then slowly edge through acceptance, excitement and enjoyment as the film reaches its’ long-awaited conclusion. Valerian is stupid, nonsensical and completely bonkers, but boy, I didn’t half enjoy it.

Although the screenplay is primarily based upon the French science fiction comic series, Valérian and Laureline, there is no doubting the visual splendour of the film takes cues from a wide variety of movies from fantasy cinematic history, and whilst it comes across as lazy to simply paint Valerian as a Star Wars rip-off, the sandy plains of the opening act and the introduction of characters that so clearly resemble famous faces from a galaxy far, far away is strikingly undeniable, even when the film effectively manages to be designed in such a superbly crafted fashion it’s impossible to not applaud the creative process behind it. With the visuals so flashy and impressively detailed, the cheddar-cheese dialogue and questionable acting does manage to be somewhat overlooked, even when Cara Delevingne manages to act almost everyone off the screen including leading co-star Dane DeHaan whose montone affinity results in him coming across as a next-generation Keanu Reeves cast-off, and with a narrative as bonkers and fundamentally confusing as the one at the centre of it, Valerian is that rare case of a movie being so wrong it’s right, and whilst I may be in the minority when the dust eventually settles, Besson’s latest isn’t a masterpiece by any measure, it’s just ridiculous, braindead fun.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: The Mummy

“Welcome To A New World Of Gods And Monsters…”

Adding a new layer to the ongoing genre of Universal Horror, a cinematic legacy which began all the way back in the 1920’s. the newest blockbuster franchise comes in the form of the so-called “Dark Universe”, a directed step into another legion of remakes and re-imaginings which begins this week with The Mummy and is set to continue into the future with fresh interpretations of classic monster movies which are reported to include the likes of Van Helsing, Frankenstein’s Monster and of course, Dracula. Taking the time away from beating the heck out of people in Jack Reacher and flying super speedy jet planes in the upcoming Top Gun sequel, Tom Cruise leads the way as the flagship star of the franchise’s beginnings in the latest incarnation of The Mummy, a well-known and well-versed adventure tale, with arguably the most popular representation being the Stephen Sommers led take in 1999 which featured a clean shaven Brendan Fraser and a pre-Daniel Craig infused Rachel Weisz. With Alex Kurtzman on directorial duty, a filmmaker with a background in the likes of movies such as Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness and Mission: Impossible III, the latest incarnation of The Mummy is unfortunately a generic, overblown snooze-fest, ultimately resulting in a movie which begins the Dark Universe franchise in a rather mediocre manner to say the least.

With a narrative which is more than familiar in terms of the overall set-up of the titular bandaged antagonist, The Mummy suffers too from a wild scope in tonal bipolar, changing from B-Movie horror to cringe-inducing comedy in between an array of soulless set pieces which either consist of endless CGI hollowness or people wildly screaming whilst being shot at with both never actually managing to induce a sense of threat into the proceedings. At the heart of the action, the duo star power of both Tom Cruise and Russel Crowe never really have anything juicy to work with either, and although Crowe’s character reveal was quite charming in a in-joke, canon kind of way, Cruise’s overly cocky and quite annoying leading character is at its’ best a poor depiction of Brendan Fraser. Similarly, although Boutella has all the hallmarks of a beautifully seductive Egyptian princess, her campy leading villain is ultimately a dead rubber alongside a long list of supporting characters who are either there for cannon fodder or for cranking the creaky narrative into place. The Mummy isn’t exactly terrible, it just reeks of laziness, and for a movie which is meant to propel a new franchise into some sort of success, Kurtzman’s movie doesn’t do the job effectively enough to wonder where it ultimately goes next.

Overall Score: 5/10

Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge

“Find Jack Sparrow For Me And Relay A Message From Captain Salazar. Tell Him: Death Will Come Straight For Him…”

Praise be and grab your rum of choice, it is indeed that time once again. After believing that the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise had sailed its’ last sail with On Stranger Tides, a third sequel to Curse of the Black Pearl, Disney’s flagship theme park based series swiftly returns this week with Salazar’s Revenge or perhaps, Dead Men Tell No Tales, depending on where exactly you will be spending your hard earned cash in order to witness the newest CGI orgy of famous actors dressing up like second year university students hitting the town and pretending to act serious when shouting “arghhh” and battling invisible, digitally created cannon fodder, all of whom are eager for disposal by death. Holding my frightfully cynical tone for a moment, the release of Salazar’s Revenge might controversially be the film which reinvents my opinion of the gargantuan series, and even with expectations as low as the depths of the pacific ocean, the addition of Norwegian directorial pair Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg alongside the ever reliable presence of Javier Bardem is a cause for cautious optimism, particular with the latter’s ability to carry off a damn fine villain when necessary. Inevitably, Salazar’s Revenge instead is yet just another CGI-fuelled bore-fest, one which trades set pieces for narrative and acting ability for budget costs within a skin peeling two hours which confirms the series has indeed sunk to the depths of mediocrity without any sign of resuscitation aboard.

Whilst the film centrally is based around the retrieval of a mysterious object which breaks every and any curse laced upon the many characters within the Pirates universe, Salazar’s Revenge also has to try and squeeze in the titular character’s quest for violent justice, with Javier Bardem’s CGI-masked villain setting his sights on the figure of Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow, a Captain Jack Sparrow who has seemingly worsened in every subsequent movie, resulting in a performance which has increasingly become a caricature of itself in an almost cringe-like fashion. With a script which is laced with cheesy and ear-grating dialogue, Depp has finally managed to confirm that his time in the spotlight as the world’s worst pirate must finally come to some sort of a dignified end, and whilst the inclusion of Orlando Bloom and a completely silent Keira Knightley could leave some fans jumping for joy, the return of their respective characters adds absolutely nothing to the overall enjoyment of the movie. Alongside some terrible sound editing and a complete lack of threat, Salazar’s Revenge is unsurprisingly a meaningless, dull affair, one which continues the woeful track record of blockbusters this year and a film which rivals David Beckham for worst cameo of the year so far. I mean, Paul McCartney, what are you thinking?

Overall Score: 3/10

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy go Telltale Episodic!

After months of waiting, Telltale have finally released a trailer for their upcoming series of the Guardians of the Galaxy which has received a very mixed response.

Watch it here!

It appears that Telltale have stepped away from their iconic art style that’s prevalent in The Walking Dead and Borderlands releases and opted for a style similar to Disney’s Infinity games. As a fan of the developers, I prefer the scratchy and darker hues that Telltale have demonstrated and feel like GotG is going to be commercially driven – similar to the Minecraft series. We see the emulation of the property owners styles to fit into the mainstream expectations of the younger, more mainstream audiences rather than the comic book fans and hardcore fan bases. The characters appear very long and slender with a lot of block based colours and little defining features to portray itself as a Telltale game.

In all honestly, i feel the trailer demonstrates nothing of significant value. The action and comedy factors that underpin that Guardians of the Galaxy aren’t showing through and it feels more of a show reel of that characters we will be seeing through the 5 episode series.

What do you think of the trailers, are you excited or as wary as us? Let us know in the comment section down below!

Film Review: The Great Wall

“There Are Many Things Which You Have Not Seen…”

Rather annoyingly, yet undeniably avoidable, the amount of rabble surrounding the release of The Great Wall, the latest from Hero and The House of Flying Daggers director Zhang Yimou, seems to be one of a rather negative manner, focusing primarily on the notion of “whitewashing” which has encompassed the film’s production since its’ inception and the original announcement of Matt Damon in the lead role of a movie which consists of a primarily Chinese cast. Once again, cinematic history has been brought up to the floor in terms of the so-called “white saviour narrative”, a cinematic construction which has tarnished a selection of films ranging from To Kill A Mockingbird to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and whilst such an argument seems to be one in which I tend to extensively avoid, the case of Damon being front and centre of a film seeped in Chinese culture does seem particularly strange to say the least. After watching the movie however, the main concern regarding The Great Wall is how unbelievably boring and bone-shatteringly dull it actually is, with Yimou’s big budget project akin more to a Gods of Egypt-type disaster than as monumental and wondrous as the titular wall itself.

During a frivolous attempt into the heart of China to gather supplies of the precious “black powder”, Matt Damon and Game of Thrones star Pedro Pascal stumble across the famous Great Wall of China, helmed by a multitude of soldiers who are preparing for battle against the Taotie, a mythical alien race who rise every sixty years and attempt to destroy and kill anything and everything the other side of the wall of which has imprisoned them. Cue awful CGI and even worse dialogue, The Great Wall is the type of movie you can only scratch your head at in bemusement of the fact that such a film actually managed to pass through the first phase of development without someone having the balls to stand up and say, “this is a bit pants isn’t it?” Whilst Matt Damon’s involvement in the project at all is baffling, such a notion is completely forgotten five minutes into the movie when the whole audience in my particular screening realised what they had go themselves into. For a movie which cost 150 million dollars to make, The Great Wall is the biggest waste of a budget since Waterworld, a flop and a half of a so-called “epic” which highlights the argument that just because it’s bigger, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better.

Overall Score: 3/10

Film Review: John Wick: Chapter Two

“You Stabbed The Devil In The Back. To Him This Isn’t Vengeance, This Is Justice…”

Along with The Raid movies in 2011 and 2014 respectively, 2015’s John Wick stands up there as a prime example of how to do an action movie properly in modern-day cinema, utilising the somewhat distant characteristic of everyone’s favourite Lebanese export by creating a stone-cold merciless killer and placing him in the middle of a quite admirable neo-noir backdrop which offered the opportunity for the titular retired hitman to kill as many bad guys as humanly possible. Where the original thrived in the best use of a handgun since Michael Mann’s Collateral, with the thrilling action set pieces akin more to tightly packed choreographed dance scenes than just mindless free fire, the main pulling power of the original was the B-Movie-esque straightforward storytelling of the movie, one which at no point attempted to be something more than just a classic action adventure, inevitably resulting in a much more enjoyable thrill ride than one might have previously thought. As per the norm of current cinematic climates therefore, the success of Wick inevitably has brought with it a sequel, one which once again features Reeves in the leading role and a movie which actually manages to surpass the quality of its’ predecessor, featuring bigger set pieces, cooler kills and a heightened sense of sheer lunacy which creates a sequel which takes the OTT nature of the Wickverse all the way up to eleven.

Following on almost immediately from the conclusion of the first film, Chapter Two heads straight into the action-packed territory everyone in the audience seemed to expect, highlighting Wick’s reunion with his dearly departed vehicle after a mildly intense car chase, a bout of tough hand-to-hand combat battles, and a peace treaty with guest star Peter Stormare, who chews the scenery portraying the sheepish relative of Wick’s foes from the first movie in a theme-setting opening ten minutes. Although more stylised than the first movie, Chapter Two also ramps up the levels of violence depicted on-screen, with its’ titular character using everything from high-powered weaponry to an everyday pencil in an attempt to kill as many cannon fodder as humanly possible. In the leading role, Reeves too seems to have found peace with the character, having fun where necessary in a performance which is once again low on dialogue but ripe in complete bad-assery from start to finish. Whilst the plot is pretty straightforward, the ambiguity and strangeness of the underworld nature of Wick’s world is intriguing enough to carry the film to a conclusion which inevitably leads on to the certainty of a sequel, yet if the levels of quality continue to be as superb as Chapter Two, I look forward to see what eventually comes around next.

Overall Score: 8/10