Movie Review: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

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No one was exactly excited to hear that there was a sequel to 1995’s Jumanji, yet here comes Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle directed by Jake Kasdan — and the holiday season just became a bit brighter. Having cabin fever from being sick, I had to make sure I took my daughter to see this film and it was well worth the trip to the movies. 

Arguably even more engaging than its predecessor, this one is about four high school students discovering the magical game (which has reconfigured itself from a board game into a video cartridge) and being sucked into its dimensions. The clever hook is that these four kids have been placed into the bodies of the character players (played by Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan) yet retain their teenage personalities.

The result is an enjoyable and pure entertainment film, with a fun plot balanced with just the right amount of the stars’ irresistible characters. Those who have played video games before, especially on older gaming consoles, may appreciate the humor more than other people. My daughter and I loved so many moments in this movie, particularly the laughable strengths and weakness for the players. The film had a good balance from making repeat jokes for their strengths of “smoldering intensity” and “dance fighting” without overusing either of them.

Dwayne Johnson gets some comedic moments, Karen Gillan did a great job in her karate-kicking role, and Jack Black to us is the character that stole the movie, as he mimicked a teenage girl on a journey to self-discovery. He was in better terms, freaking hilarious. Of the four, only Kevin Hart mostly plays himself. And while Hart is still funny, his character doesn't get to do or learn much aside from it's OK to be friends with someone who is not considered cool.

Sure, not all of the jokes worked out, but enough of them do to keep the audience laughing during an entertaining action-packed flick. The movie is self-aware of what it's trying to do (and the benefits of who it cast) and pokes fun of itself enough to make it a worthwhile movie to grab when you're not looking for anything heavy this holiday season. I give it 3.75 out of 5 stars. Stay warm out there! -xo Mel 

 

Movie Review: 'Stars Wars' The Last Jedi

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YAY! I am finally able to write my review of this film. I was waiting until more people were able to snag some tickets and watch it. But if you're a geek like me, you probably have seen it twice before Sunday came rolling along. After two long years of waiting, The Last Jedi is finally here, answering many of the questions we had from The Force Awakens. We know that Snoke is not a giant; we found out what Luke’s been up to for the past 19 years, and we finally seemed to get an answer about Rey’s parents. 

As we saw at the end of The Force Awakens, new Jedi on the block Rey has finally made contact with Luke Skywalker who’s been hiding out on an island populated by Porgs. Meanwhile, in another part of the galaxy, General Leia is doing her best to keep the Resistance from being crushed by the First Order. In other story strands, the bravery of  Poe is weighed against his recklessness; Finn finds a new friend in maintenance worker Rose, and Kylo Ren continues to throw his tantrums with the best of them. Ok got the gist of the story? Now let me get into my likes and dislikes. WARNING: This post contains mild spoilers. 

LIKES

1. Hamill and Fisher. My favorite moment is watching Hamill and Fisher again explore and expand upon their iconic roles. Dearly departed Carrie Fisher gives a strong final performance for Princess Leia, and there are several instances where it looks as though she’s about to die onscreen, only for her to survive to the end credits. I’m hoping her character will peacefully die offscreen before the next installment, which is surely the most tasteful thing to do, given the circumstances. I am kind of worried Disney is going to use technology to continue her story, but they have stated that they want, even if they’d really like to. As for Hamill, this might represent one of his finest work in the 40-year-old franchise. Johnson allows the character of Luke Skywalker to evolve in some unexpected ways.

2. Kylo and Rey. One of the greatest scenes in the film is between Rey and Kylo (most of the great scenes involve the two, really) in Snoke’s fabulously red throne room - he’s not an attractive man, but he certainly has a great style for interior design. When Kylo betrays Snoke, Rey and Kylo end up fighting his guards which was a pretty awesome scene you clearly can tell who is the stronger fighter of the two. 

DISLIKES

1. Then, there are the Porgs. They were pointless. Yes, I said it. I know Star Wars has a history of inserting Beanie Babies into scenes where they don’t belong, but hell, these creatures aren’t even cute. And they’re everywhere, breaking the tension, interrupting scenes like blaring toys, which is what they are, really.

2. The Death of Snoke. We finally get to see Snoke, and then he dies in the dumbest way ever. With so much power and scariness (great CGI by the way), he dies by Kylo Ren’s force, even though Snoke was always ten steps ahead of everyone. I would of much rather seen a huge battle between him and Luke Skywalker. Fight to the death with lightsabers! Now that would have been the ultimate showdown.

3. The Pointless Comic Reliefs. It starts out with the very first scene, with Hux’s threat to Poe turning into a prank call, was totally off. Guardians of the Galaxy was heavily influenced by Star Wars, and now it seems that inspiration has turned full circle. In fact, although some of the humor was welcome, there was far too much wisecracking throughout the film. At the end, I half expected Rey’s ship to crash land on Earth and encounter the Avengers. It felt quite similar to MCU. 

4. Finn and Rose. Which should have been the dynamic duo turned out to be not so dynamic. It seems like such a forced romance between the two. They meet up, go to a casino scene (waste of time) to find a breaker to hack into Snoke’s ship and stop the tracker, and at the end, Rose kisses Finn, It overall was uncomfortable like a brother and sister kiss scene. Plus, there’s a lot of time spent at a space casino, with little payoff. It would have made for a better story if Rose was the one who can crack the codes and unlock doors. 

5. The Death of Luke Skywalker. We were deeply saddened to see him go. First Han Solo, now the great Luke Skywalker. Oh, the pain! I loved his dramatic lightsaber scene with Kylo, and him peacefully fading off into the Force after a long, accomplished life seemed the most fitting end to the space Messiah. But we still feel like he should of went out with a bang and maybe be the one to kill Snoke, perhaps

6. Put your shirt back on Kylo. Star Wars is not the place for that. Leave that to Thor. 

The Last Jedi is tough to define; I really loved some moments in this film and disliked others. Luke had his finest appearance on screen, as far as I’m concerned, and a understandable send-off. Princess Leia is supremely dignified throughout, especially that scene when she peeks over her cape – pretty badass, and you finally see her use the force in a creepy way. Rey’s emptiness was balanced by Kylo’s complexity, and Finn, Poe, Rose and whoever Benicio Del Toro was, were all … there. Oh, and I forgot to mention Captain Phasma. But that’s ok because she never did anything.

But all in all, I left the theatre still satisfied. I have always loved the story of Star Wars since I was little, you fall in love with the characters, and you can easily get lost in the galaxy. I give it 3.75 out of 5 stars. If you have seen it, let me know what you think. May the force be with you this week. -xo Mel 

Movie Review: All In? Justice League

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So, the reviews are in and … yeah, the critics didn’t like Justice League. It’s certainly fair to say that DC has been less successful with movie adaptations of its superheroes compared to its comic rival, Marvel. In recent years, only the Wonder Woman film has been given a general thumbs-up; Suicide Squad was okay-ish, while Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was as just plain bad, starting with the word ‘Martha.’ But, I will have to fight them on this one – Justice League definitely entertained me! DC made two movies in a row that don't suck. Finally, so ... good for them. Well done. 

Justice League is not the mess it could have been, and that is actually saying a lot. The film was shot, reshot, lost Zack Snyder as a director, and director Joss Whedon stepped in and reshot again. Look, this one isn't going to win any movie awards, but for whatever reason, it worked. It's fun, the team feels like a team, and all the cast for what its worth played their part … well. Maybe it's just that the bar has been set so incredibly low, but I'm perfectly happy with a Justice League movie that does almost nothing more than move from plot A to plot B and so on until it ends.

The plot, of course, is pretty standard. Steppenwolf, a really big bad guy, is about to destroy the world by collecting the mother cubes, which will let him... destroy the world. The only way to stop it is to form a team -- a team of justice. With Superman (Henry Cavill) gone, Batman (Ben Affleck) decides he has to pull this team together and recruits Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). And you get the rest of the story without me giving any spoilers out.

Side note: Justice League could have really used four or five more movies leading into it. Good job to Marvel who does that well. While the character introductions are handled pretty slick they are clearly rushed, especially for The Flash (no pun intended) and Aquaman, whose introductions leave open so many unanswered questions. The beginning of the film jumps around so much from character to character it's tough to ever focus on what's actually going on. Batman to me (sorry Ben Affleck) felt flat and seemed like he was just going through the motions. He didn’t have his coming out the darkness, one-step-ahead thinking, and fight in him like we see in his previous movies and his suit in this movie looked pretty fake (sorry not sorry). 

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Maybe my expectation levels have sunk low, but I was pleasantly surprised by Justice League. Of course, Wonder Woman’s moments were definitely some of my favorite parts as she gets me hype everytime she fights. Flash was definitely the comedian in this film, and Aquaman's body -OH MY GOODNESS! As far as the movie goes, this was hugely enjoyable and the ten-year-old me left the cinema looking forward to the next Justice League. It tells a good-enough story and executes it in a good-enough way, so it's good enough to make me excited for what's to come next. If you saw Justice League, let me know your thoughts. I give it 3.75 out of 5 stars. Have a great week everyone! - xo Mel