Film Review: JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE

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Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Poster
Four teenagers discover an old video game console and are literally drawn into the game’s jungle setting becoming the adult avatars they chose.

Director:

Jake Kasdan

Writers:

Chris McKenna (screenplay by), Erik Sommers(screenplay by) | 4 more credits »

 

Jake Kasdan (son of Lawrence Kasdan) takes over the director reins from Joe Johnston who made the original JUMANJI movie where back when with the late Robin Williams.  JUMANJI WELCOME TOTHE JUNGLE is a stand-alone sequel paying tribute to Williams.

Kasdan’s lazy script is cliche ridden with the typical fairy tale adventure aimed at pre-teens.  The story is nothing remarkable.  It all begins when a father discovers a hidden boardgame covered in the sand while jogging on the beach.  He gives it to his son, Alex who is more interested in video games (the year is 1996).  Overnight, the game changes so that the box’s contents are now a video game cartridge, but when Alex puts it in his console and turns it on, he vanishes.

20 years later, a high school detention group finds the video game in the detention room .  They decide to play the game, each player taking on a game character.  They get sucked into the game each transforming into the game character they picked,  The premise is that they have to  win the game in order to get back out of the game to their normal lives.  

The four game players are Spencer Gilpin (transformed into Dwayne Johnson), his former best friend, Anthony “Fridge” Johnson (Kevin Hart), who he helped with his homework by writing Fridge’s essays for him.  The other two are Bethany Walker (yes, Jack Black), a beautiful girl who was caught talking on her phone during a quiz and Martha Kaply (Karen Gillian), a socially awkward girl who objected to being made to participate in gym class. 

They find themselves in a jungle, all four are shaken to realize that they have become the avatars they chose for the game, with the result that Fridge is now a short zoologist, Bethany is now an overweight middle-aged man, Martha is a beautiful athletic woman, and Spencer is a muscular, tough man.  The group encounter Nigel, who lays claim to the legendary gem, the “Jaguar’s Eye”.  The removal of the gem from the large jaguar statue will grant the villain Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale) control over the animals of Jumanji.  In order to complete the game, the players must return the gem to the jaguar statue and call out “Jumanji”.

As a game movie, the under-exciting Jumanji game is overlooked for the villain Van Pelt and his motorcycle gang.  The game contains several levels that the players must complete, a missing piece in the form of Alex (Nick Jonas) and a few other uninteresting bits.  But the motorcycle chases are not much more exciting either.

The cliched story involves each high school charter learning to be better people while transformed into their avatars.  Fridge and Spencer learn the meaning of true friendship, Bethany learns that there is a world outside herself and her cell phone while Martha develops social skills.

The film takes a while to secure a footing.  What makes the film work is the great ensemble acting from all the main stars.  Black turns out to be the funniest as the transformed Bethany still possessing her girly mannerisms.  The funniest segment is Black teaching Gillian how to be sexy and seduce the transport guards and her after performing what she had learnt.

The film is more suited to a younger crowd, who appear to be cheering and laughing thigh the promo screening.  For adults, the film should also be enjoyable enough.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QKg5SZ_35I

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Film Review: BAYWATCH (USA 2017)

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baywatch.jpgDevoted lifeguard Mitch Buchanan butts heads with a brash new recruit. Together, they uncover a local criminal plot that threatens the future of the Bay.

Director: Seth Gordon

Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario, Priyanka Chopra

 BAYWATCH is the latest edition of films based on a successful TV series that has very little to do with the series – like the JUMP STREET films. But it the marketing works. BAYWATCH is a modern re-working of a popular TV series of the same name. It cost $40 million to make and is estimated to gross $45 million the opening American long weekend.

BAYWATCH is an action-comedy film directed by Seth Gordon (HORRIBLE BOSSES) starring with Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron with a list of general unknowns Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach, Jon Bass, Ilfenesh Hadera, Priyanka Chopra and Indian actress Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as the villain. David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson are present with cameos and excellent ones, coming as neat surprises in the film.
The film concerns Mitch Buchannon (Johnson), the gung-ho leader of the elite Baywatch lifeguard squad. He believes he is making a different in the world, clashing with the local police as he outdoes his duties by trying to stop drug trafficking at the same time. Matt Brody (Efron), a washed-up pro athlete is brought in as the new face of the organization. However, when a dead body is recovered from the ocean, the two must put aside their personal differences and work with their team to stop a criminal mastermind’s drug trafficking operation. Mitch gets relieved of his post while Matt ends up saving the day with the help of Mitch’s crew. The film is at least smart enough not to make any preachy statement, but just let the comedy/action takes its course.

As an action comedy, the film devotes an equal amount effort to both comedy and to the action. The special effects especially the underwater segments (during he fire rescue) are impressive. It is rare when the action and comedy come together. The best and most hilarious segment occurs at the film’s start (which cannot be matched), when the logo BAYWATCH appears on the background accompanied by three synchronized choreographed dolphins after Dwayne Johnson saves some babes on his watch.

Dwayne Johnson has proven himself apt as an actor comfortable in both action and comedy. Zac Efron is however not that funny when portrayed as a victim. He is at his hilarious best (as in the film DIRTY GRANDPA or in NEIGHBOURS) when he is the instigator or the super drunk or drugged up super hunk. This best scene in BAYWATCH is when he punches out his supervisor and when his muscles are flexed doing the obstacle course. Jon Bass is given a lot of screen time doing the funny fat guy. All his antics – the co-ed shower, the beach CPR, the disco dancing are lame. Bass comes across as more annoying than funny. Audiences are not going to be happy paying good money to watch an amateur comedian fail on the screen.

BAYWATCH could have been better for all the effort put in, especially the fantastic special effects on display. Still, it is relatively entertaining, for those not expecting much from an evening at the movies.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDteZ0YrhSU

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Film Review: THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS (USA 2017)

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fast_and_furious_8.jpgDirector: F. Gary Gray
Writers: Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson (based on characters created by)
Stars: Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Charlize Theron, Kurt Russell, Nathalie Emmanuel, Luke Evans

Review by Gilbert Seah

 
With so many in the FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise with the false promise that the last FAST AND FURIOUS would be the last one, this 8th edition, nicknamed F8 provides much, much more of the same, louder and noisier as most sequels promise. (I had lost count and thought this was the 9th.)
This latest edition assumes that the audience is familiar with most of the characters and does not bother with any flashbacks or explanations.

With so many characters, it is probably a good idea not to do so. The film allows the audience to guess what has occurred in the past and for a film like this, it is only the action and fast cars that count – not the characters.

The plot of THE FATE AND THE FURIOUS, not that it really matters, follows the events of Furious 7. Dominic Toretto aka Dom (Vin Diesel) and his wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) have gone on their honeymoon, and the rest of the crew have begun to settle down to a more normal life. But when a mysterious woman, later to be revealed as Cipher, a super villain (Charlize Theron) convinces Dom to work against the people that he is closest to, the rest of the crew must face trials they have never seen before – including some former enemies – in order to bring back the man who brought them together in the first place.

In case one has forgotten. the other crew members include Like DSS agent, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Deckard Shaw, a rogue specialist (Jason Statham), mechanic Tej Parker (Chris Bridges), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), former criminal Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) among others.

As far as the film goes, this is male chauvinist pig material all the way – all the more for decent women and men to hate this kind of film. The beginning race for example is started by a scantily dressed female in extreme shorts waving down a flag. Vin Diesel exploits his male macho body to no end. Apparently Diesel is an a**hole in real life as mentioned to be by a fellow critic who had interviewed him. His co-star Johnson also called him horse s***. Johnson is a pleasure to watch on screen but I can hardly say the same for Diesel.

It is odd to see that the script by Chris Morgan which clearly lacks any hint of character development whatsoever take on the issue of the importance of family. Helen Mirren has a cameo as he mother of Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) stressing the importance of family values and the inclusion of his brother (Luke Evans) into his activities. Deckard spends a chunk of screen time saving Dom’s baby. Dom says his baby is the most important person in his life.

Oscar Winner Helen Mirren (THE QUEEN) shows that even a dame of the British Empire is willing to take an easy pay check for a cameo role in big budget Hollywood rubbish like this one. The term is called slumming and many famous stars have slummed before.

THE FATE AND THE FURIOUS (budget of $250 million) is slotted to make more than $100 million this weekend. The film is nothing more than silly special effects that though looks stunning in iMAX (the film contains a record number of cars trashed) does nothing for the movie industry or the human race.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwMKRevYa_M

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Film Review: MOANA (USA 2016) ****

moanaDirected by Ron Clements and John Musker

Stars: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House

Review by Gilbert Seah

MOANA (pronounced MO-ANNAH) is a 2016 American 3D computer-animated musical fantasy comedy adventure film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios, the first time the Studios have released two features in a year. No complaints here. Like ZOOTOPIA (or ZOOTROPOLIS as it is called in the U.K.), both are exceptional animated features full of wonder, magic and entertainment. The film features music written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa’i, and Mark Mancina. The songs are as original as they are catchy, especially the one entitled “You’re Welcome!”

MOANA the film tells the story of Moana (the excellent voice of newcomer Auli’i Cravalho) , the strong-willed daughter of the chief in a Polynesian tribe, who is chosen by the ocean itself to reunite a mystical relic with a goddess. When a blight strikes her island, Moana sets sail in search of Maui (Dwayne Johnson, who yes, also sings in the film), a legendary demigod, in the hope of saving her people.

First and most important of all, the animation is nothing short of stunning from the depiction of water, fire, magic and in characters like the fiery lava monster.

Like ZOOTOPIA, the plot involves saving of the world the characters are living in. MOANA lives in an island paradise that is deteriorating. The fishing is depleting and the land is losing its fertility. Like in ZOOTOPIA that mirrors the problems of the modern world, MOANA also highlights the importance of the environment as seen in the oceans and islands.

Besides the seriousness of the plot, MOANA maintains the expectations of a Disney cartoon. MOANA contains lots of cutesy characters, like Moana’s pet piglet and her pet chicken – reported as the dumbest ever of all the Disney characters. The chicken called Heihei pecks at stones and rocks, that requires Moana’s saving and attention more than anything else. But Heihei is a winning inspirational character judging from the sounds of the chuckles of the children in the audience during the screening I attended.

The film contains frightening scenes that might not be appropriate for younger children. The sight of the lava monster attacking poor Moana and Maui might be too much, even though it sends the message across for older kids. The film also deals with death (the dying grandmother) and the hardship of living (as in fishing and farming).

The film plays like a fairytale. Who does not like a good old fairy tale? Moana is inched on by her late grandmother in the form of a stingray to accomplish the quest she was born to achieve – to save her tribe and perhaps all humanity while at it.

Dwayne Johnson, who can do no harm at any film he is in (watch out for him next in BAYWATCH) is excellent as the reluctant hero, Maui. I cannot imagine anyone better to voice the heroine MOANA than Auli’i Cravalho.

MOANA turns out to be excellent entertainment for both adults and children. It contains Disney’s most important elements – magic and wonder, which make the film stand out against all the other animation features from the other studios.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKFuXETZUsI

 

 

 

 

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Happy Birthday: Dwayne Johnson

dwaynejohnson.jpgHappy Birthday actor Dwayne Johnson

Happy Birthday wrestler The Rock!

Formally married to: Dany Garcia (3 May 1997 – 19 May 2008) (divorced) (1 child)

Read reviews of the best of the actor:

The Game Plan
Directed by Andy Fickman
Starring The Rock

The Other GuysThe Other Guys
dir. Adam McKay
Stars:
Will Ferrell
Mark Wahlberg

Get SmartGet Smart
2008
Directed by Peter Segal
Starring
Steve Carell
Anne Hathaway

FASTERFASTER
dir. George Tillman Jr.
Stars:
Dwayne Johnson
Billy Bob Thornton
Race to Witch Mountain Movie PosterRace to Witch Mountain
dir. by Andy Fickman
Starring
Johnson
Carla Gugino

fast fiveFAST FIVE
dir. Justin Lin
Stars:
Paul Walker
Vin Diesel

PLANET 51 Movie PosterPlanet 51
dir. Jorge Blanco
Javier Abad
Stars:
Johnson
Seann William Scott
Jessica Biel

TOOTH FAIRYTOOTH FAIRY
dir. Michael Lembeck
Stars:
Dwayne Johnson
Ashley Judd

MOVIE POSTERJOURNEY 2 THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
dir. Brad Peyton
Stars:
Josh Hutcherson
Dwayne Johnson

MOVIE POSTERGI JOE 2: RELATIATION
dir. Jon M. Chu
Stars:
Channing Tatum
Dwayne Johnson

MOVIE POSTERGRIDIRON GANG
2006
dir. Phil Joanou
Stars:
Dwayne Johnson
Xzibit

MOVIE POSTERTHE FAST AND THE FURIOUS 6
2013
dir. Justin Lin
Stars:
Vin Diesel
Paul Walker

MOVIE POSTERPAIN & GAIN
2013
dir. Michael Bay
Stars:
Mark Wahlberg
Dwayne Johnson

MOVIE POSTERSNITCH
2013
dir. Ric Roman Waugh
Stars:
Dwayne Johnson
Susan Sarandon

MOVIE POSTERSOUTHLAND TALES
2006
dir. Richard Kelly
Stars:
Dwayne Johnson
Sarah Michelle Gellar

MOVIE POSTERHERCULES
2014
dir. Brett Ratner

Stars:
Dwayne Johnson
John Hurt