Tag Archives: Jack Black

Jumanji – The Next Level (2019) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

Jumanji The Next Level Review

Director: Jake Kasdan
Writers: Jake Kasdan, Jeff Pinkner
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart

In recent years, the terms “Remake” and “Reboot” have become very popular in Hollywood. Much to my annoyance. In most cases, these knockoffs are just a shadow of the original. Not to say abominably bad and horrible to look at. The biggest example of this (for me personally anyway) is the movie “Ghostbusters” from 2016. If Bill Murray was no longer among the living, he would have turned around in his grave. A needless copy without humor and full of recycled ideas. A few years ago when I was told that a remake was being made of the famous film “Jumanji” (with the unparalleled Robin Williams in a leading role) from 1995, I was shocked. And certainly when it turned out that Dwayne Johnson hijacked the leading role. Yet another redundant and ridiculous attempt to imitate a past milestone.

To my surprise, however, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” turned out to be an exceptionally successful experiment. And that’s because of the unique idea to replace the “Jumanji board game” with an old school console game where four innocent students are teleported into and where they need to complete a quest while playing a character in this game. It’s the only way to escape the game. Not only was it a funny movie (due to the interactions and personality contradictions between the real youngsters and their avatar in the video game). The concept was also original. Adding video game features such as NPCs, cut scenes, and the fact that each character has a limited number of lives, was a masterful move. It’s not without reason that the film was a real success in the theatres. And the inevitable happened. The sequel “Jumanji: The next level” is a fact.

Unfortunately, as I feared, this new sequel doesn’t take the saga to a new level. To be honest, I thought it was simply an uninspired story that simply tries to take advantage of the previous film’s success. An easy solution to squeeze the last dollars out of a milked-out project. The novelties can be counted on a broken abacus. Not many, in this case. The characters are all still the same. This time supplemented with two old grumpy retirees (Danny DeVito and Danny Glover) who used to be business partners when they owned a thriving restaurant. As with every new level in a video game, the environment in which the adventure takes place is different from the previous level. So you’ll be presented with a sandy location with associated oases. And also, our friends will encounter a completely different fauna on their path.

The most successful aspect of this sequel is the fact that the different characters were initially mixed. That makes for hilarious moments when you see Dwayne Johnson imitating the characteristics of a Danny DeVito. But besides that, there’s nothing innovative to discover in this sequel. It’s a well-known story with a new look. It’s the same as when a new “FIFA Soccer” version is being released on the game market. Graphically it may look a bit sharper and some new players and options have been added. But otherwise, the look and feel are similar and you have trouble discovering the points of improvement. Well, “Jumanji: The Next Level” was entertaining and packed with sometimes masterful CGI. A good alternative to fill a pleasant movie night. But the source from which creative ideas are created is exhausted. Let’s hope they bury the game “Jumanji” in a well-hidden spot once and for all, so nobody can lay their hands on it again. I think we’ve had enough of this.

The House With A Clock In Its Walls (2018) Movie Review By John Walsh

House with a Clock in Its Walls Review

Director: Eli Roth
Writers: Eric Kripke (screenplay by), John Bellairs (based on the novel by)
Stars: Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro

I’ve seen ‘The House with a Clock in Its Walls’ described as a mildly diverting Halloween appetiser that serviceably channels early Harry Potter and whilst I’d wholeheartedly agree with that summary, I’d go one step further and add some early Tim Burton into the mix too. Eli Roth isn’t a man known for tackling the family, fantasy genre, he’s made his name doing horror, so it’s perhaps not a surprise then that some of that seeps it’s way into this film. 

It’s got a reasonably simplistic plot, as you’d probably expect for a family friendly, flick. It follows Lewis Barnavelt (Lewis Vaccaro); a young man with an already troubled existence. He’s lost both his parents when we meet him for the first time and is off to live with his estranged uncle. Jonathon Barnavelt (Jack Black) is very quickly established as a strange, but ultimately amiable and warm figure, that welcomes the arrival of his nephew with open arms.

His house is a rickety, old, oddity of a place, full to the brim with all manner of clocks and other objects. When questioned by Lewis about the apparent OCD-esque collection, he brushes it off with a defensive, wit filled retort. It’s not until later that we fully grasp the real reason behind his collection, which harkened up memories of Sebastian the doll maker from Blade Runner. Roth makes the decision to slowly drip feed out details of Jonathan’s true identity, the story and the initially dead antogonist, which wasn’t a bad idea. Hierarchy, a rather more disturbing film from this year, followed a similar route in equally good fashion. 

No, he handles the character development, introductions and plot very well. One such character that provides much of the exposition, along with Jonathon is Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett), an on-off, romantic, unofficial wife figure. I enjoyed the relationship between those two and the bickering, the withering insults and the chemistry as a whole. But I digress, the perspective flip flops between Lewis’ trials and tribulations at his new school, being a fairly weird, shy figure that flits around the edges of social interactions, whilst back at home, he’s making discoveries about warlocks, magic and learning spells. 

Incidentally, I enjoyed the clear distinction between the two environments. Whilst he’s ostracised in the main for his strange propensity for wearing goggles at school, though not by the popular kid, Tarby (Sunny Suljic), a weasel of a git that’s revealed to have ulterior motives; he’s actively encouraged to embrace this side of his personality by his uncle and unofficial aunt. Which to be honest was one of the primary themes I thought the film explored well. Lewis realises in the end that being yourself, embracing the inner quirkiness and surrounding yourself with like minded people is the way forward.

The antagonist of the film is an evil warlock and ex-best friend of Jonathon, called Isaac Izard (Kyle McLachlan), if you didn’t know. And why would you? He performed a blood magic spell a year prior to the events of the film, killed himself in the process and placed an elusive, doomsday clock behind the walls of the house to drive Jonathon mad. It’s for this reason that he has the myriad of different clocks in his house and it’s also for this reason that he frantically paces the house in the pitch black with an axe. Isaac proves to be an underwhelming, but still enjoyable figure for the short time he’s on the screen.

In actual fact, the sight of the dolls and clocks muttering away to themselves and one sentient stained glass window, creepily heralding his return along with the deaths of the current occupants was more disturbing than the man himself. I’m not surprised this film has left younger audience members a tad shaken, because the final act does turn a little dark in places, but I thought Roth got the balance right and always managed to lighten the tone with well worked humour at the right moments. 

Jack Black is fantastic in this film. I watched it because of him and he brought his trademark blend of humour, whilst bringing his wacky, warlock character to life. His chemistry with Cate Blanchett was a highlight and speaking of the latter. She was excellent too, as the formidable witch with a hidden tragedy, who couldn’t perform magic anymore. You know what you’re getting with her, she’s one of the best actresses in the business.

Young Owen Vaccaro was arguably the standout however. He delivered a mature performance, belying his younger age, as a shy and misunderstood kid that had went through terrible personal upheaval and tragedy. He excelled in displaying the awkwardness of being the new kid in school, trying to claw his way into a friendship that was clearly non reciprocal. On the flip side though, he also had decent chemistry with Black and Blanchett, and there was some funny moments between them. From a character standpoint, Jonathan and Florence were the perfect remedy for his loss, ultimately springboarding him into the role of unlikely hero. 

Can you discuss this film and not mention the amazing set and costume design? I don’t think you can. That had a huge part to play in the charming, lived in, magical tone this film exuded. The Nathan Barr score, which was fantastic, only added exponentially to that early Harry Potter feel.

I know this film is an adaptation of a novel which, surprise, surprise, I haven’t read, and as such, have no idea whether it’s a faithful interpretation or a butcher job. But for a less than two hour long film, I thought Roth did a decent job of world building and character development. It was a charming, magical little film with solid visuals and even the superfluous characters, like the chair dog and hedge cat were enjoyable. It packed some darker, creepy moments and had a solid, if unspectacular antagonist. The acting was was good across the board, but the leading trio and their chemistry ultimately made this film the enjoyable watch that it was. 

Rating: 3/5

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle (2017) Movie Review By Darrin Gauthier

Jumanji WTTJ

Director: Jake Kasdan
Writers: Chris McKenna (screenplay by), Erik Sommers(screenplay by)
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart and Jack Black

Plot:  Four teenagers are sucked into a magical video game, and the only way they can escape is to work together to finish the game.

Running Time:  119 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 76%   Audience 88%

Why I Watched It: The trailer looked like a lot of fun and then it came out and made a ton of money and also had pretty good reviews and yes I’m a fan of The Rock’s.

Random Thoughts: When I first heard they were doing another Jumanji my first instinct was this was a cash grab and there’s a whole generation that never heard of the first film and that also don’t play board games.  Then I heard The Rock was involved and they were updating it and it was more of a sequel/reboot so I was in.  This is something I wished Hollywood would do more of taking an older idea and doing something different with it.

What I Liked: Pure and simple this is a fun movie, you look up the definition of popcorn movie and you would see Jumanji’s  picture and that’s not an insult.  The film is just a lot of fun and it’s across the board fun, my 8 year old daughter loves it, I liked and the thing is they don’t play down for kids this is a funny action comedy for the whole family, yes I just wrote that.

Dwayne Johnson is truly on the top of his game, he’s not only good in his movies but he’s picking interesting films and films with good scripts, he’s not just gabbing the money he’s becoming a huge movie star.  He’s very good here playing type and against type in the same role, Johnson is very good playing off his imagine and I think the reason he’s so likable is that he has a very good sense of humor not many guys who look like Johnson have as good comedic timing as he does.

I also really liked Jack Black, who really nails playing a teenage girl trapped inside a middle age man and to be honest he gets the best lines and he’s kind of proven he’s back.  Karen Gillan now can put this beside Guardians Of The Galaxy on her resume, she’s a pretty good ass kicker.  I think the reason the film works so well is the four leads have great chemistry and all four are sharing the screen and not competing for it.

The action is solid and also they do a good job of turning a video game into a good action film, oddly Hollywood can’t do it with a real video game but here they capture the fun and style and it was really enjoyable.  The film also looks really good, they nail the tone and also the pacing to keep the story going.  I do think the main key is the humor, I think it what makes the film work without it you pretty much have a Indiana Jones rip off.

What I Didn’t Like: Nitpicks, really didn’t dislike much, Kevin Hart was playing Kevin Hart and it was too bad cause everyone else was playing against type but here Hart is doing very Hart like things, don’t get me wrong he’s funny but I wish he stretched a bit here.

They do a time thing late in the film, kind of a twist and it doesn’t make sense and that’s all i’ll say, but it is something that stands against the game’s logic.

And lastly I’ll say it, it’s a bit long at pretty much two hours, again nitpicks.

Final Thoughts: A fun film, a film you and you’re kids will like and a film that is very rewatchable.  A must watch.

Rating: 8/10

Goosebumps (2015) Movie Review by Darrin Gauthier

GOOSEBUMPS

Director: Rob Letterman
Writers: Darren Lemke (screenplay), Scott Alexander (story)
Stars: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush

Plot:  A teenager teams up with the daughter of young adult horror author R. L. Stine after the writer’s imaginary demons are set free on the town of Madison, Delaware.
Running Time: 1 hour 45 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 76%    Audience 62%

Why I Watched It: There was good buzz behind the film and the trailers looked fun, so I was hopeful.

Random Thoughts: This was a bit of a comeback for Jack Black, he got stuck in a rut, playing the same guy making good money but his films under preformed, going to a youth friendly film could be the kiss of death just ask Eddie Murphy.  I thought it was a smart change of pace give him a different character to play. The other thing about this movie that might confuse people R.L. Stine is a hugely successful author but this movie is not based on one of his many books, and here he’s a character in it.

What I liked: This film reminded me a lot of the first Jumanji, which is not a bad thing, the thing that the film nails is tone, it’s not too scary and it’s not to kiddie it hits middle ground pretty well.
The anchor of the film is Jack Black he doesn’t overplay, he’s not over the top and dare I say he’s understated, he doesn’t force it and he does play R.L. Stine different that most of his other film characters.  In a film like this all the characters are there to keep the plot moving cause this film is about all the creatures and monsters.  With that being said this is a very good cast.  There’s no big standout but all help keep the film going.

The best part of the film is the idea, and it’s a different one that R.L Stine has created all these monsters and he keeps them locked up so they won’t do harm.  It’s a clever idea about imagination and also keeping the monster at bay, every horror film has to toe that line, they have to convince you monsters are real but always have a way to defeat them and the key to this story is have it scary but not to make it too dark. I also liked the character played by Odeya Rush, it was different and I didn’t see it coming and I think her character shows that the filmmakers might have made a formula film but it wasn’t weighed down by using all the standard cliches they bought in different takes and breathed fresh air into the story.

What I Didn’t Like: It was too bad that they had to rely on CGI so much, it would have been nice if they honoured the stories by going old school.  Now some worked but some kind of took you out of the film.
Also though the film was a little long as it did drag at the beginning it’s the only part of the story that seemed forced, they pushed the neighbours together to get the plot going now once R.L. Stone is introduced then the film flows better. I mentioned the cast and they’re good but Amy Ryan has nothing to do and Jillian Bell could have been used better.

Final Thoughts: I liked it and it’s one of those films that even though it’s not great you really appreciate the fact that it’s not nearly as bad as it could of been or you feared it was going to be.  It was a nice surprise.

Rating: 7/10

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017) Movie Review by John Walsh

Jumanji Welcome to the JungleDirector: Jake Kasdan
Writers: Chris McKenna (screenplay by), Erik Sommers (screenplay by)
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, Jack Black

It’s been nearly 22 years since the original Jumanji film released in the UK back in 1996. I’m going to level with you. This is a fact that I struggle to comprehend. I vividly remember watching Alan Parish (Robin Williams) pop out of the board game with his bushy beard and eccentric personality. And listen, despite not being the greatest film in the world, it had its charm and as a child I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Fast forward two decades and clearly somebody at Sony Pictures had a momentous brainstorm during a field trip to Vietnam or something because it was time for a new Jumanji film to enter our midst. Now again, I’m going to level with you. I wasn’t looking forward to this release. A conclusion formed from a combination of “not another bloody reboot” and apprehension at destroying a happy childhood memory. I’m pleased to say, however, that this film has surprised me and is actually pretty decent.

It’s not a reboot for one or at least I don’t think it is anyway. It appears to carry on in the same universe, opening in 1996 as a teenager called Alex happens upon the mysterious board game on a beach. He’s soon sucked into it and much like Parish before him, disappears off the face of the Earth. It then jumps into the present day and follows the daily routine of the awkward Spencer (Alex Wolff), as he does homework for his estranged friend Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain). An act which lands him and Fridge in detention.

Joining them in the cleaning duties are Bethany (Madison Iseman) and Martha (Morgan Turner). Almost inevitably, Spencer discovers the Jumanji video game in the storage room, they all join for a game (isn’t it convenient that there was four controllers?), picking a character each and then they’re all subsequently sucked into the game mere moments later. Now that we’ve got that rather boring cliched stuff out the way, the film takes us to a place the original never let us see. The actual environment Alan Parish was trapped in for all those years.

It also transforms our four teenage protagonists into distinctly different people. During their journey to the Jumanji universe (I don’t know what else to call it really), they become the actual game avatars they each selected. This causes much consternation as Spencer (Dwayne Johnson) has now tripled in size; Fridge (Kevin Hart) has shrunken by a similar amount; Bethany (Jack Black) has went from being a vain, phone obsessed blonde to a middle aged, fat man and Martha (Karen Gillan) has taken on a fiery, red head Lara Croft persona.

This aspect of the film was quite unique in its application and the most enjoyable part for me. Just off the top of my head, I can’t recall it ever really happening before in a film. Red Dwarf did something very similar in an episode, but I really enjoyed the way they flipped things around here, completely changing the dynamics between the four in doing so. It also flung up the crazy situation of Jack Black playing a teenage girl.

It then introduces the quartet to the mission they face, the games interesting mechanics (certainly surrounding the re-spawning), each character’s strengths and weaknesses, and also propels the film straight into action in doing so. The general gist of the films plot at least superficially anyway, is that they have to find a gem and take it to a mountain top, before calling out Jumanji. If you scratch under the surface however there’s deeper stuff going on within each character. They all have to work together just to make it through the world and learn about strengths and traits they never thought they possessed.

I thought the leading quarter were all very strong and I struggle to pick a definitive favourite, but if you were to twist my arm then I’d probably go for Jack Black. It was incredible the way he took on the personality of a teenage girl. He really imbued the film with plenty of comedic moments. Dwayne Johnson was great again in a role that is right up his street. There was also a slight fragility to his character that we don’t often see. Kevin Hart was his usual self. He’s got brilliant chemistry with Johnson and there was a few hilarious moments between the two. Karen Gillan is a great actress and she perfectly embodied the shy, awkwardness of Martha.

If I was to have one criticism of the film then it would be the distinct lack of threat throughout. There was an antagonist in there, but honestly, he made so little impact on me that I couldn’t even tell you his name. There was never a point in the film when I felt any of them would die. For instance, Bethany sacrifices a life (they’ve got three each), which incidentally signalled a new found maturity to save Alex (Nick Jonas), yeah he giddily pops up to meet them in a town they visit, but the moment lacks impact for the reason above.

Indeed, they’re all whittled down to one remaining life by the end, but there’s a very James Bond-esque inevitably about their survival.

Speaking of endings, this one was a fairly identikit happily ever after effort. There’s a quick showdown, they manage to save Jumanji, make it back to the real world and everyone is on friendly terms. Spencer and Martha get together and even Alex was returned back to 1996, not missing a day, which in turn causes a whole Back to the Future alternate reality shift. Which leaves me pondering that Alan Parish must’ve been a right unlucky git.

Now I know that sounds hypercritical of me, but I really did enjoy this film. The visuals were outstanding, the characters were pretty well fleshed out and had good chemistry together, the humour was a hit for the most part and the action was excellent. It was a stereotypical popcorn flick that frankly flew in and I would have zero hesitation in recommending it to just about everybody.

Rating: 3.5/5