Tag Archive: Jack Black


Suddenly several animated series and movies in the fantasy, adventure, and science fiction genres are going to be appearing on your TVs and in theaters.  Most are coming to Netflix and Disney+, so get ready.  Each one has a unique look, and they all feature intriguing trailers that offer enough to get us to give them at least a try.  From a pirate sea beast tale to Sonic the Hedgehog, Ice Age, and Despicable Me sequels, to the latest seasons of the Pacific Rim and Ghost in the Shell spin-offs, a new kind of vampire series, an Apollo movie, and more.  Which will be the biggest hit?  Take a look at all these trailers:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s unlikely anyone in 1976 could have foreseen the direction the adaptation of Mary Rodgers’ novel Freaky Friday could take in the 2020s.  One of those Walt Disney studio classics before the company issued special re-release limited VHS tapes and merchandised every film to its hilt to become a corporate behemoth, the film starred Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris as mom and daughter swapping bodies and needing to live life literally in the skin of the other.  Swap in part-time wacky comedic actor (Wedding Crashers), part-time horror actor (Psycho) Vince Vaughn as a creepy 50-year-old serial killer, and a high schooler named Millie played by young actress Kathryn Newton (Supernatural, Paranormal Activity 4) and you get Freaky, Blumhouse’s latest horror film, now streaming on Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, and other services. Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

In brief, it’s the best adventure, fantasy, and comedy in theaters in 2019 and a great way to begin your new year.  Jumanji: The Next Level is still packing-in theaters a little more than two weeks into its run–an alternative to the other holiday releases and guaranteed to leave you smiling at the end.  The four stars didn’t miss a beat in their return, swapping roles and adding new laughs, and the new characters inside and outside the game are perfectly matched to tell a new tale.  Two films down and Jumanji: The Next Level is now the new major adventure fantasy franchise, up there with Tarzan, The Jungle Book, Conan the Barbarian, John Carter of Mars, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Mummy, and Indiana Jones.  Put this sequel at the top of the best of those franchises.

The studio didn’t hold back on new action sequences–inside the movie again Jumanji is the same video game of curious origin.  The new levels introduced this time increase the stakes in bigger and better ways.   A bridge-crossing scene with swarming apes and a geometric, Mario Brothers/Donkey Kong-like element is now going to be the adventure film standard to try to beat.  Sure, there are throwbacks to jungle adventures of the past, but it’s not derivative, all presented in fresh ways.  As another tour inside a video game (like Tron and Ready Player One), you’ll have the added fun of spotting video game influences (like Pitfall and Q-Bert), including a new, more difficult gauntlet.

The movie does double duty as an epic quest and rollicking comedy.  Comedians turned comedic actors Jack Black as Dr. Shelly Oberon and Kevin Hart as Mouse Finbar again are comedy gold.  Even the small bits are a scream–Hart riding and getting off a camel is a lesson in physical comedy.  They make the movie loads of fun, but straight man roles performed by Dwayne Johnson and Karen Gillan as in-game characters Dr. Smolder Bravestone and Ruby Roundhouse share the credit for the laughs, too.  If you’ve seen Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, you’d expect big comedy from the sequel.  And that’s where the writing genius comes into play, thanks to a script by writer/director Jake Kasdan and writers Jeff Pinkner, and Scott Rosenberg.  How do you bring back the hour movie stars, the four young actors who played the original players (Madison Iseman, Morgan Turner, Alex Wolff, and Ser’Darius Blain), the rescued Alex played by Colin Hanks, and in-game characters played by Nick Jonas, and Rhys Darby without re-hashing the first movie?  You’ll have to see it to find out.  Just be prepared for some great twists and surprises.

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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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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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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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