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Tag Archive: Dwayne Johnson


The first big Jumanji movie (we’re ignoring the 1990s version), Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, was such a brilliant, laugh-out-loud, adventure and rollercoaster ride, it made the freezing winter two years ago a bit more tolerable.  With a Halloween snowfall across the U.S. and a likely colder winter again, the sequel, Jumanji: The Next Level, may just save us again from the winter blues.  Directly competing against the final Star Wars film, The Rise of Skywalker, the real competition isn’t going to be about seeing them once, but it will be about which you go back to again.  Now with two trailers out following the first trailer four months ago (if you missed it, watch it here), Jumanji: The Next Level appears to have everything that made us laugh the first time–and more.

In the previous film teenagers get sucked into a video game and emerge in the roles of Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Franklin “Mouse-not-Moose” Finbar (Kevin Hart in his funniest performance ever), Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), and Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black).  In the second trailer we see that returning director Jake Kasdan and writers Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg have shuffled the roles, swapping in one of the kid’s grandfather, played by Danny DeVito, and his friend, played by Danny Glover.  The next adventure brings back Nigel (Rhys Darby) as gamerunner and somehow Nick Jonas is back, too, as long-time player Alex–or will Alex really be someone entirely new?  They could change up all these character roles over and over and we’ll keep coming back for more.

And there’s a new poster:

What’s funnier, Bethany’s new character or a stack of great Kevin Hart jokes?  Here’s the next, and final, trailer for Jumanji: The Next Level:

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It looks just like a remake and update of African Queen, and a great set-up for the next big Disney franchise follow-up to Pirates of the Caribbean.  The first trailer is out for Jungle Cruise, and the theme park ride turned big-screen adventure could hardly look more fun.  Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow, Mary Poppins Returns) seems to have walked right into a role written for Johnny Depp, as she teeters through a clever Rube Goldberg-inspired scene as we’re introduced to Lily Houghton, a scientist embarking on a journey with her brother in the Amazon, via riverboat, where they meet an unusual ship captain.

With Hollywood’s #1 box office draw Dwayne Johnson still entertaining us with his Jumanji jungle series and international tours in the Fast & Furious movies, there’s hardly a better person to cast with Blunt in this kind of new team-up, and possibly a new franchise.  Here he looks a lot more like Popeye than Humphrey Bogart.  Johnson has referred to Blunt’s character as “a female Indiana Jones.”  For most of the world–who haven’t ever been to a Disney theme park–it may help to know the movie Jungle Cruise is based on a theme park ride like Pirates of the Caribbean.  As much as the latter began as what seemed like a Disney attempt to make some more money off its theme park intellectual property in a new venue, the Pirates films ultimately were a big hit with audiences and a treasure trove for Disney.  Will Jungle Cruise find Disney’s next pot of gold?

The great Paul Giamatti (Lodge 49, American Splendor, Paycheck) co-stars with Black Mirror’s Jesse Plemons, with a rousing score by composer James Newton Howard (Dave, Waterworld, The Postman, The Sixth Sense, The Dark Knight, Snow White and the Huntsman).  Check out this trailer for what could be a fun amusement park ride of a movie, Jungle Cruise:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The biggest action film of the summer is easily the most enjoyable film of the year.  That’s Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, a movie that gets so many genre formulas right it just can’t miss.  Certainly one of the better entries in the Fast & Furious franchise, it knows what works and uses it.  That’s a sure-bet cast of Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, Mission: Impossible–Fallout’s Vanessa Kirby, Idris Elba in the ultimate badass role as a James Bond spy gone bad with Superman powers, lots of futuristic cyborg tech, and an understanding of why audiences come to the movie theater in the first place.  Hobbs & Shaw is a movie for people who like movies.

The trailers gave audiences a glimpse at what to expect, and they delivered on all promises: laugh-out-loud funny dialogue, nonstop action, road races and camera angles that the franchise is known for, and lots of surprises and callbacks, and a script that doesn’t take itself seriously.  There’s something for everyone here.  If you’re after only the fast cars, action, and speed of the franchise, this entry measures up.  And that family drama that the regular franchise leads Diesel, Paul Walker, and Jordana Brewster built the franchise on is here, too.  This time that includes digging into the past between Statham’s Deckard Shaw and sister Hattie, played by Kirby, and Helen Mirren back again as their mother (Luke Evans’ brother Owen from the last film may or may not be mentioned this time), and Johnson’s Luke Hobbs is pals with his young daughter at home and returns to the family he left behind years ago in the Samoan Islands.

But stuntman-turned-director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, John Wick) and script writers Chris Morgan (writer of five prior Fast & Furious films) and Drew Pearce (Hotel Artemis, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) know why audiences are really buying tickets, and you just need to drift over their previous film credits to see why they were tapped for Hobbs & Shaw.  Hattie is a badass equal to Charlize Theron’s Atomic Blonde (Theron also co-starred in the most recent sequel), any of the four lead characters could give Leitch’s John Wick a run for his money, and moviegoers will hardly remember last year’s much-lauded Mission Impossible: Fallout’s action scenes after they see this.  (A few casting spoilers follow).

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So how do you change the innerworkings of a game-based movie that was such a breakout comedy without gutting the heart of the film that made it all work so well?  Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle as a reboot was such an improvement over the original film Jumanji from 1995 that it really took audiences by surprise in those late 2017 cold winter months (check out our review here).  In the previous film teenagers get sucked into a video game and emerge into the roles of Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Franklin “Moose” Finbar (Kevin Hart in his funniest performance ever), Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), and Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black playing his trademark Jack Black routine).  So will returning director Jake Kasdan and writers Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg give us a whole new game or take another approach for the next?

The first trailer for Jumanji: The Next Level might have the most apt of titles.  The inside-the-game characters are the same (phew!), but the video game won’t be the same, instead giving the characters and us–the audience–a new level of play.  And the real-world players are moved around a bit, with some new twists.  All the kids are back, but Spencer’s grandfather, played by Danny DeVito, and his friend, played by Danny Glover, get sucked into the game with Spencer lost somewhere, and Martha stuck with Fridge trying to find him.  Martha is still Ruby/Gillan, but everyone else is different: DeVito is Smolder/Johnson, Glover is Moose/Hart, and Fridge is Shelly/Black.  So the swap of kids for old men in the bodies of our lead actors is the new conceit.

The next adventure brings back Nigel (Rhys Darby) as gamerunner and somehow Nick Jonas is back, too, as long-time player Alex–or will Alex really be someone entirely new?  They could change up all these character roles over and over and we’ll keep coming back for more.

Here’s the great first trailer for Jumanji: The Next Level:

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It emerges from the nearly 20-year franchise about cars and action that began in 2001 with The Fast and the Furious.  The ninth movie in the Fast & Furious franchise is on its way to theaters this summer, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, and Universal Pictures has released its second trailer–check it out below.  The five leads have ample action movie street cred, beginning with Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, not only from their previous roles in the franchise.  In addition to his Time Magazine cover appearance as one of the most influential people of today, Johnson has busted heads in films including Walking Tall, The Mummy series, Get Smart, The Other Guys, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Central Intelligence and the new Jumanji series, and, of course, there’s his wrestling days (and he wrestled Seven of Nine in a memorable Star Trek Voyager episode).  He’s already played Hercules, but coming soon look for him as Black Adam, Doc Savage, and he’s said to be in talks to play Jack Burton in a Big Trouble in Little China remake.  Statham’s own on-screen fight record goes back to three action movie series: The Transporter, The Expendables, and The Mechanic, plus The Italian Job, The Bank Job, and a bunch more, from Parker to last year’s The Meg. 

Although she hails from Plaza Sésamo, Eiza González earned her action film cred in Baby Driver, Alita: Battle Angel, and the From Dusk Till Dawn TV series.  Vanessa Kirby climbed the big peak in Everest and had her breakout performance just last year in Mission Impossible: Fallout.  As the film’s villain, you couldn’t ask for a better tough guy than Idris Elba, playing Heimdall in the Marvel movies, plus key roles in Star Trek Beyond, Prometheus, 28 Weeks Later, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Pacific Rim, and The Dark Tower).  And that’s Helen Mirren in the trailer, too, who also has a slate of badass roles in action films including the RED series, The Fate of the Furious, years of Prime Suspect, and the coming Luc Besson action movie Anna.

The Fast & Furious series has seen plenty of break-out performances along the way, including the span of the career of Paul Walker, and memorable roles for Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ted Levine, Ludacris, Lucas Black, Sung Kang, pre-Wonder Woman Gal Gadot in four of her first films, John Ortiz, Luke Evans, and Kurt Russell.  Former Brad Pitt and Jean-Claude Van Damme stunt double-turned-director David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2) is directing this entry, bringing even more action movie experience to the film.

Check out the second trailer for A Ninth of Furious, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw:

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It’s a nearly 20-year franchise, all about cars and action in the world of illegal street racing, and it’s fun moviegoing from the first movie, 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, to the latest, 2017’s The Fate of the Furious.  The ninth movie in the Fast & Furious franchise is on its way to theaters this summer, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, and Universal Pictures released its first trailer today.  The latest is a spinoff focusing on two of the newest characters joining the series, with Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs, a Diplomatic Security Service agent who began pursuing ex-con Dominic Toretto, played by series star Vin Diesel, his close circle of friends, and their turbo-charged, four-wheeled co-stars beginning with 2011’s Fast Five.  Along the way Hobbs adjusts his loyalties, and in 2015’s Furious 7, Hobbs pursues Deckard Shaw (played by Jason Statham), on a mission of vengeance for Toretto murdering his brother.  For the 2019 sequel, Hobbs and Shaw are joined in an unlikely alliance, as it’s Shaw’s turn to switch loyalties and he redeems himself, at least partially, in The Fate of the Furious.  For the first look at what’s happening next, check out the trailer for Hobbs & Shaw below.

Former Brad Pitt and Jean-Claude Van Damme stunt double-turned-director David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2) is directing this entry, which should mean fans are in store for a new level of action within the series.  Idris Elba (Thor: Ragnarok, Star Trek Beyond, Prometheus) plays the show’s villain and superhuman, Brixton.  Eiza González (Baby Driver) and Vanessa Kirby (Mission Impossible: Fallout) co-star.

If you decide to jump in and get caught up on the previous eight films in the series (and why wouldn’t you?) you need to know that you’ll find some bouncing around of characters throughout the series.  It’s Universal’s biggest franchise of all time and currently the eighth-highest-grossing film series of all time, so it’s worth diving into.  Take it from someone who watched the series in the order in which the films were released, you’re better off watching the series with one movie pulled out and added back in later.  And that film is 2006’s The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.  As the third film in the series, Tokyo Drift came as a bit of a surprise, a detour from the regular cast to pull in a new character (and the result of actor and studio conflicts), but once you climb onboard it’s another fun ride on par with the rest of the series.  But there’s a twist at the end of Tokyo Drift that doesn’t get explained until the end of Fast & Furious 6.  So skip the third film and view it sixth.  Got it?

First, check out the first trailer for Furious’s ninth, Hobbs & Shaw:

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Merry Christmas!

It’s that time of year again, time to take a look forward at what movies should be on your radar for 2019.  Are you going to see them all?  Heck no.  These are the genre films we think borg readers will want to know about to make their own checklists for the coming year–and they are only the films we know about so far.  We pulled 78 of the hundreds of films that have been finalized or are in varying stages of final production, slated for next year’s movie calendar.

What looks to top the list for most fanboys and fangirls?  The last of the nine films in the Star Wars saga.  Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far From Home.  Shazam! is DC’s contribution.  Quentin Tarentino returns to movies to direct Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Martin Scorsese is back with an all-star cast in The Irishman (on Netflix).  M. Night Shyamalan finishes his dark superhero trilogy with GlassArnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton return in TerminatorJordan Peele is back with another horror film with Us.

Do you like sequels?  This is your year.  Another Men in Black, X-Men, Shaft, Happy Death Day, Lego Movie, Hellboy, John Wick, Kingsman, Jumanji, The Secret Life of Pets, How to Train Your Dragon, Fast and the Furious, Zombieland, Addams Family, Charlie’s Angels, Godzilla, Shaun the Sheep, Annabelle,and Stephen King’s It and Pet SemataryDisney is trying to get you to move into your local theater with another Toy Story, Aladdin, Dumbo, Frozen, and Lion King–all in one year.  Yep, lots and lots of sequels are coming.

Some films don’t have locked-in release dates yet.  Amazon Prime and Netflix haven’t revealed dates for these 2019 releases:

  • Martin Scorcese’s The Irishman, a film about Jimmy Hoffa starring Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, and Bobby Cannavale (Netflix)
  • The Kid, a Western biopic with Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Dane DeHaan, and Vincent D’Onofrio (Netflix)
  • The Man Who Killed Hitler Then Bigfoot, starring Sam Elliott (Netflix)
  • 6 Underground, a Michael Bay film starring Ryan Reynolds, Ben Hardy, Dave Franco, and Mélanie Laurent (Netflix)
  • The Last Thing He Wanted, Dee Rees directs Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, Willem Dafoe, and Toby Jones; journalist quits newspaper job to become an arms dealer for a covert government agency (Netflix)
  • The Laundromat, Steven Soderbergh directs Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, James Cromwell, about the Pentagon Papers (Netflix)
  • Radioactive, Rosamund Pike plays Marie Curie, with Anya Taylor-Joy (Amazon)

Some of these films will have revised release dates, or get pushed to 2020.

So grab your calendar and start making your plans–here are the movies you’ll want to see in 2019 (and many you might not):

January

Glass – Superhero, M. Night Shyamalan trilogy part 3, stars Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy; continues where Unbreakable and Split left off – January 18.

Serenity – Mystery/Thriller, stars Anne Hathaway, Jason Clarke, Djimon Hounsou, Jeremy Strong, Diane Lane; sorry, no relation to Firefly – January 25.

King of Thieves – Heist Comedy, stars Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Charlie Cox, Michael Gambon, and Ray Winstone – January 25.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

King Kong.  Mighty Joe Young.  George of the Jungle.  And all the derivative films made since.  Add to that mega-sized monster movies like Godzilla and you’ll find their latest incarnation in this month’s release of Rampage.  The evolution of the technology of putting a giant ape on film is all about CGI and motion capture now, and you’ll learn all about it in the new book The Art and Making of Rampage, by Ellen Wolff.

In Rampage, a genetic experiment goes wrong, unleashing three giant, mutant predators.  Dwayne Johnson stars as a primatologist whose once-gentle friend George, a highly intelligent silverback gorilla, is exposed to the experiment.  Johnson’s character joins with a geneticist played by the James Bond films’ Naomie Harris to find an antidote to try to save both George and the world from the giant mutants.

From its roots in the 1980s Midway arcade game (Warner Bros. owns the Midway game titles) to the corresponding giant-sized personality of the film’s star, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Rampage is all about bigger and better.  The recurring theme is “go big, or go BIGGER, or go home.”  Readers of The Art and Making of Rampage, a full-color hardcover volume, will get the entire behind-the-scenes tour.  From concept to screen readers will follow the “band getting back together” as Johnson reunites for the third time with director Brad Peyton and producers Beau Flynn and Hiram Garcia, who he worked with on Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and San Andreas.  With bits of Jurassic Park, Project X, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Pacific Rim, Rampage is full of action sequences, all detailed in the book.

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In addition to the eagerly awaited first look at Solo: A Star Wars Story, today’s Super Bowl game included a look at Tom Cruise’s next go at the American version of the James Bond movies.  The sixth Mission: Impossible film, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, has Cruise returning as Ethan Hunt, along with regulars Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, and Alec Baldwin, plus some surprises.

Also look for appearances by Henry Cavill and Angela Bassett.  As with the past entries in the series, that’s Cruise performing many of his own stunts.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is playing a father with a prosthetic leg trying to save his family in Skyscraper, the next big action flick featuring the blockbuster star.  Johnson continues to pile up box office wins, most recently in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (reviewed here).

Have a look at new trailers for Mission: Impossible –  Fallout and Skyscraper:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

You might think that a movie from 22 years ago isn’t prime material for a reboot, especially when that movie is Joe Johnston’s barely memorable Jumanji.  It starred Robin Williams, a bunch of kids and a nice pantheon of supporting actresses (including Patricia Clarkson (The Maze Runner series, The Station Agent), Bebe Neuwirth (Cheers, Malice, Star Trek: The Next Generation), and Bonnie Hunt (Zootopia, Monsters, Inc.)).   Ten years later Jon Favreau would take the same formula ahead with Zathura.  Both movies featured kids getting pulled into a board game where they must fight to survive.  Blending these shows with the pulled-in concept first taken on by Tron in 1982, the new fantasy adventure Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle takes the idea from board game to video game, and does it much better by taking the child actors and having them turn into adult fantasy world avatars, all played by some of Hollywood’s best-loved actors.

The result is great fantasy fun–escapist, easy, laugh-out-loud humor that showcases the talents, charisma, and humor, of the four stars.  Leading the way is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (who according to Meet the Press is considering a 2020 presidential bid).  No current personality is better at poking fun at himself, with charisma, good looks, and the smarts to pull off the persona of a teenager afraid of everything who becomes the chiseled Dr. Smolder Bravestone, and yes, smoldering is one of his video character powers.  My screening was preceded by a trailer for Rampage, another big action film game tie-in along the lines of San AndreasJumanji: Welcome to the Jungle co-stars Johnson’s Central Intelligence co-star Kevin Hart, who brings his stand-up comic, self-effacing persona to the big screen again as the tough kid turned short-statured sidekick to Bravestone, Franklin Finbar.  Finbar’s video game powers are hysterical–one of his powers is carrying Bravestone’s tools, and his weaknesses include cake and strength itself.

Another nice choice is comedic actor Jack Black, who plays self-absorbed teenager Bethany’s avatar, Professor Shelly (as in Sheldon, not Michelle) Oberon.  Black plays the role for great laughs, and he pulls off playing a teenage girl like only he could.  Karen Gillan stars as studious teen Martha’s avatar Ruby Roundhouse, a seriously badass superheroine of the Tomb Raider Lara Croft school.  Gillan, known best for her role as Amelia Pond in Doctor Who and as Nebula in the Guardians of the Galaxy series, proves again she was born to play big action roles.  She and Bravestone are exactly what you’d expect from online role player fantasy personas, not in actual Activision game but maneuvering pitfalls just the same.  When they’re saving the day the audience is cheering them on every step of the way.  In between those scenes audiences will be laughing as the coming-of-age story of the kids breaks through.  By the end of the film, a cameo actor performance–a brilliant casting move–will take audiences full circle with the mystique of another coming of age fantasy with life-changing implications from the 30 years ago (hint: the cameo actor previously co-starred with one of this film’s actors in one of our favorite coming of age classics).

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