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Tag Archive: Jack Black


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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Sony has already released a few teasers for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, but they didn’t offer much to describe the film or give moviegoers a reason to buy a ticket.  That is, until the latest trailer dropped, which is attached to the previews to this weekend’s premiere of Spider-man: Homecoming.  This trailer netted a full house of laughs, and supports star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s personal buzz he’s been generating for the film over the past year.

Emerging from the world created by author Chris Van Allsburg (Jumanji, Polar Express, Zathura: A Space Adventure) and (happily) not having any real ties to the 1995 movie starring Robin Williams, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a new Jumanji adventure.  The film begins with four high schoolers who get stuck cleaning a storage room at school and find an old video game.  Their initial selections of the game and in-game characters dictate their roles in the film as they are sucked Tron-style into the game, emerging as adults played by The Rock (Doc Savage, Black Adam), Karen Gillan (Doctor Who, Guardians of the Galaxy), Kevin Hart (Central Intelligence, The Wedding Ringer), and Jack Black (King Kong, Kung Fu Panda, School of Rock).  The new trailer includes some great footage of Gillan finally getting lead actress screentime as a badass, Lara Croft-inspired heroine.  And we also learn that, as promised by Gillan in earlier interviews, her outfit makes perfect sense for the role.

The film is directed by Jake Kasdan, known for his television work as producer/director on New Girl and Freaks and Geeks, but also for the great coming of age movie Orange County, starring Colin Hanks and Jack BlackThe script for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is from a dream team of TV and movie writers: Chris McKenna (Spider-man: Homecoming, The LEGO Batman Movie,  Community, Igor), Jeff Pinkner (The Dark Tower, ROM, M.A.S.K.: Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, The Amazing Spider-man 2, Fringe, Lost, Early Edition), Scott Rosenburg (High Fidelity, Impostor, Life on Mars (U.S.)), and Erik Sommers (Spider-man: Homecoming, The LEGO Batman Movie,  Community).

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Kong Skull Island comic con 2016

It looks like the set up for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sci-fi classic Predator.  A mission gone wrong.  A puzzled crew.  And something unexpected hunting man in the jungle.  It’s not an alien but the next King Kong reboot, Kong: Skull Island, and the first trailer for the movie was released Saturday at San Diego Comic-Con.

With an impressive cast, including Tom Hiddleston, John Goodman, and Samuel L. Jackson, Skull Island has the feel of Jack Black’s most recent big budget King Kong from 2005.  And that movie was a generally good remake.

The producers, who also made the last version of Godzilla, were savvy enough to hide a full shot of the giant ape from us this early on.

Kong Skull Island 2017

So check out this trailer for Kong: Skull Island, direct from Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures at this year’s Comic-Con:

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Zootopia sloth

So many movies, so little time.  This year several new animated movies are coming to a theater near you.  How do you choose which to see?  Don’t choose… just see them all!  Many of these trailers were previewed with Christmas releases last month and this month.  Zootopia may just be the funniest of the trailers.  We also have Angry Birds and Snowtime! 

Kung Fu Panda 3

First up–Next week Jack Black brings his awesome panda back to the big screen in Kung Fu Panda 3.  Look for the voices of Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Bryan Cranston, Wayne Knight, Kate Hudson, J.K. Simmons, and the great James Hong.

Here’s the trailer for Kung Fu Panda 3:

Kung Fu Panda 3 is in theaters January 29, 2016.

Snowtime!

This great looking French Canadian production features every kid’s favorite thing–the snow day.  How fun is that?

Snowtime! hits theaters February 26, 2016

Zootopia

Zootopia features the voices of Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Alan Tudyk, and Tommy Chong.  Check out this great trailer, which was previewed in December with Star Wars: The Force Awakens:

March 4, 2016.

The Angry Birds Movie

Your favorite cartoon birds arrive in theaters this summer with the voices of Peter Dinklage, Jason Sudeikis, Maya Rudolph, Keegan-Michael Key, and Bill Hader.

Check these out:

The Angry Birds Movie is in theaters May 20, 2016.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Weird Al Yankovic Mandatory Fun CD cover

The best part of Weird Al Yankovic’s release of his latest album isn’t because he released eight songs along with music videos for free on YouTube.  It’s that the best of his new album Mandatory Fun provides some lyrics that are as good as his early hits.  Maybe there’s no “Eat it” or “Yoda” or “I Lost on Jeopardy” or the “American Pie” parody “The Saga Begins.”  But there is plenty to like in the “Amish Paradise,” “Another One Rides the Bus,” and “Dare to Be Stupid” vein.  And Mandatory Fun is Weird Al’s first number one album in 32 years–his first number one album in the U.S. ever.  With all his classics, how is that possible?

When all things retro and nostalgia have reigned across current pop culture like never before, it’s no wonder everyone is clamoring for the simple fun Weird Al brings to the table.  His album includes 12 new songs, and eight of the them are on YouTube with great new music videos, just like in the heyday of MTV–that old cable network that used to air music videos to accompany the latest hits.  Yes, that MTV.  After the break check out eight of the new songs below.  To hear the other four, like a parody of Imagine Dragons’s song “Radioactive” called “Inactive,” you’ll just have to pick up the album.  It’s available here at Amazon.com, where you can get a digital download of the album with each hard copy purchase.

The album’s big hit so far is “Word Crimes”–Weird Al’s fourth Top 40 song in four separate decades, parodying the song “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

With all the holiday movies hitting the theaters this season, there’s one that is sure to satisfy kids of all ages.  The Muppets premiered last week and that makes this the seventh film in the Muppet franchise, based on characters first created in the 1950s by the late Jim Henson.  Henson would no doubt be happy with the latest effort, a light-hearted and cheery, nostalgic mix of sillyness and a hard but subtle look at entertainment and society today.  It’s cute film, not as good as the original Muppet Movie oreven the novel adaptations A Muppet Christmas Carol or Muppet Treasure Island, but it’s worth seeing to find out what the Muppet crew has been up to and catch the cameos from a motley group of comedic actors.

You probably can’t find a sweeter couple than Gary and Mary played by Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother) and Academy Award winning actress Amy Adams in the lead human roles of the movie.   Segel also serves as co-writer of the film.  You can tell Segel put a lot of love into this film, it is the ultimate film of shiny happy people niceness (think Brendan Fraser’s family in Blast from the Past).  Gary is brother to Walter, played by a new Muppet creation and addition to the Muppet universe.  Walter has been a fan of the Muppets his entire life, and his brother invites him along on his and Mary’s anniversary vacation to Los Angeles.  There they find the Muppet studio has become abandoned.  Walter overhears evil businessman Tex Richman, played by Academy Award winning actor Chris Cooper, plotting to destroy the studio to drill for oil.  Because of fine print in the “rich and famous” contract Kermit the Frog signed at the end of the original Muppet Movie, the contract is expiring in a few days and the Muppets will lose all the Muppet properties, including even their names, if they don’t raise $10 million to buy-out the contract.

Part of the movie becomes a play on The Blues Brothers, where the trio of Gary, Mary and Walter “put the band back together” to save an orphanage, a throwback to the plot of the original Muppet Movie.  You wish this part of the movie was longer and that they had spent more time fleshing out what the characters have been doing for the past several years since Muppets in Space, but the movie rushes through this bit.  They even joke about the quick montage, with a funny bit about Rowlf the dog.  The self references in the film actually become the funniest moments, and these bits of not taking itself too seriously nicely cut the overflow of frothy sappiness and nostalgia.

A key storyline is the triangle between Gary and Mary and Walter–Gary isn’t spending enough time with Mary–he can’t let go of his brother’s reliance on him as his brother becomes a full-fledged part of the Muppet family–and Mary has become a third wheel.  Finding out whether Gary is a Muppet or a man, and whether his brother Walter is a Muppet or a man, is the point of the whole film and the center of a good musical number.  Look for even more musical numbers here than any past Muppet film.

Each Muppet gets his own share of screen-time, too.  From a great throwback scene of giant Muppet Sweetums chasing after the Muppet entourage, to Fozzie having joined a Reno cover band of the Muppets called The Moopets, to successful Ms. Piggy leading up a magazine in Paris, to Gonzo the Great, now a plumbing company magnate who sounds and looks a bit like Al Pacino, to the best E Hollywood True Story type Where are they Now, that of Animal the drummer, who has been part of an anger management self-help group with sponsor Jack Black, who plays himself.  Jack Black’s unabashed throwing himself into this movie is one of its highlights, and he plays every scene for all its worth.

After literally playing sweetheart roles in Enchanted, Julie and Julia, Doubt, and now The Muppets, it will be nearly impossible to see Amy Adams as Lois Lane in the next Superman movie.  But acting is what actors do, so it will be fun to see her play tough and determined for once.  Segel couldn’t be better for his role as supportive brother and caring boyfriend, and if anything makes this movie work it is the believability and sincerity Segel radiates, like Will Farrell in Elf.

Although it will be lost to the kids in the audience, the adult themes of a world gone cynical, to predominantly reality TV shows and shock entertainment and a world in need of something to change it for the better is a powerful theme.  Chris Cooper’s villain being simply the embodiment of corporate greed as espoused via the current Occupy Wall Street movement makes the themes here particularly timely.  Although it’s way over the top, Cooper’s portrayal of the villain is as evil and sinister as past Disney hives of scum and villainy.

If there is one place the show is lacking it is big name cameos, considering that the original Muppet Movie had the icons of film, like Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Mel Brooks, Orson Welles, and James Coburn, and then new comic names like Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Elliott Gould, Carol Kane and Madeline Kahn.  The latter category is covered with a handful of contemporary standup comics, yet the extra layer of big names is non-existent, except for two actors from classic Hollywood film.  When it used to be an indication of whether or not you were a big name or not based on whether you hosted the Muppet Show, you’d think you could get any number of volunteers for this kind of movie.  Consider the Muppet Show featured everyone from Julie Andrews, George Burns, Vincent Price, Elton John, Alice Cooper, Sylvester Stallone, Roy Rogers, Christopher Reeve, the cast of Star Wars, to Roger Moore–The Muppet Show was the ultimate bridging of all genres.  It begs the question:  Why not make a new Muppet Show work today?  They tried and had a short-lived series back in 1996-1998 with Muppets Tonight.  The difference today is that Disney now owns most of the Muppet properties, and with their various networks and influence and the marketing revenues from the characters that could come with this kind of show, this one is a no-brainer.

The cameos they did find are funny additions to the story.  Don’t go to this one looking for more than chuckles, although I heard kids and adults laughing out loud throughout the show in my theater.  This one was a nice break from the typical “family” film.

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