Tag Archive: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle


Review by C.J. Bunce

The Lost City arrived in theaters a little more than a month ago, but it’s already made its way to streaming provider Paramount+.  It’s a step above your average rom-com, a better than average new release and a worthy unofficial remake of the 1980s classic Romancing the Stone.  If you miss classic rom-coms steeped in adventure and lighthearted fantasy, this should be your next watch, a Sandra Bullock star vehicle with 16 years younger actor Channing Tatum as the potential love interest, a rare and welcome Hollywood choice–when was the last time you saw an older woman with a younger man in a major production?  Add Brad Pitt and Daniel Radcliffe, and some goofy humor and high adventure and The Lost City is movie that would have been difficult for anyone to get wrong.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In a pre-pandemic world we all would have seen Free Guy in the theater by now and everyone would have been raving about it since August.  Now it’s arrived for a wider audience on streaming platform Disney Plus.  Is it worth your time?  Absolutely.  It’s so much better than advertised, you’re certain to be surprised at the layers of storytelling found in this mix of Ready Player One (but 50 times better) Tron: Legacy, Mr. ROBOT, The Truman Show, The LEGO Movie, Elf, Sleeping Beauty, and lots of other great shows.  Yes, it’s another video game movie, but it’s bigger.  It’s another Ryan Reynolds action movie.  But lots more fun.

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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

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Ten years of movie reviews.  How do you pick the best?  Our theory from the very first day of publishing borg has been reviewing only those things we like, things we think are fun, imaginative, or just plain cool—because if we think they’re cool, maybe you will, too.  What makes a great movie?  #1 for us is great writing—great storytelling.  #2 is re-watchability.  Lots of movies are good, but if every time you watch it you enjoy it all over again and maybe find something you didn’t see before, then you likely got far more value from the movie than the price of a movie ticket.  #3 is innovation—there’s nothing to top off a good story like new technology surprising us.  Finally, the experience must be fun—why else would you devote two hours or more of your valuable time?

So in Casey Kasem style, here are the Top 40 movies we recommend, spanning 2011 to 2021.  These are our favorites.  How should you use lists like this?  If you like what we talk about at borg, you’re probably going to like these movies.  If you’ve missed any, odds are you have some new movies to take a look at.  Let’s start at #40 and move our way to #1.  As with everything borg, we’re stressing genre movies, so don’t expect to see strict dramas or a lot of Best Picture Oscar winners here.  Title links are to our original borg review.

Let’s get started!

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Love and Monsters a

Review by C.J. Bunce

Initially marketed as Monster Problems, Love and Monsters is a surprise sleeper hit apocalypse movie, also marketed as an adventure comedy, which puts it into the camp of movies like the Jumanji series and Finding ‘Ohana.  It was scheduled for release last April, then delayed to late 2020 because of the pandemic, and you probably missed it.  Which is now a good thing, because it’s a nicely timed story about survival–namely surviving a big event and getting to the other side of that event, being able to breathe freely again, at least at some level.  Starring Dylan O’Brien, Jessica Henwick, and Michael Rooker, it’s a monster movie so well done it is nominated for a visual effects Oscar in tonight’s Academy Award ceremony.  It’s now streaming on Vudu, Amazon, and DVD/Blu-Ray.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Two episodes in, and you’ll probably get drawn into at least three of the characters in the story.  Four episodes in, you’re thinking about who is going to to make it to the second season and how quick they can get that filmed and released.  Directed by Shinsuke Sato, Haro Aso’s popular manga series comes alive in Alice in Borderland, the live-action dystopian, Japanese noir-meets-steampunk thrill ride streaming now on Netflix.  Doomsday, Tokyo-style, is surprisingly violent, surprisingly thought-provoking, as a city finds itself mostly vacated (as in The Quiet Earth and 28 Days Later) and the remaining citizens must fight for their lives The Running Man-style or they’ll get zapped and killed The War of the Worlds-style.  Clever casting of characters introduces looks of action heroes from all sorts of Japanese video games, manga, and anime, all living (many briefly) in a world loosely pulled from Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland.  A gamer-themed series on the heels of the popular Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit, the result is a very different story allowing the audience to try to solve clues along with the players on the screen–what I was hoping for when I first heard about the book Ready Player One.

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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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When we created last year’s preview of 2018 movies we were pretty sure we were going to have some great movies this year, but we were surprised by what ended up being the best.  All year we tried to keep up with what Hollywood had to offer and honed in on the genre content we thought was worth examining.  We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our picks for our annual Best Movies of 2018.

GenredomAs always, we’re after the best genre content of the year–with our top categories from the Best in Movies.  There are thousands of other places that cover plain vanilla dramas and the rest of the film world, but here we’re looking for movies we want to watch.  What do all of this year’s selections have in common?  In addition to those elements that define each part of genredom, each has a good story.  Special effects without a good story is not good entertainment, and we saw plenty of films this year that missed that crucial element.

Come back later this month for our TV and print media picks, and our annual borg Hall of Fame inductees.  Wait no further, here are our movie picks for 2018:

Best Film, Best Drama – Bohemian Rhapsody (20th Century Fox).  For the epic historical costume drama category, this biopic was something fresh and new, even among dozens of movies about bands that came before it.  Gary Busey played a great Buddy Holly and Val Kilmer a perfect Jim Morrison, and we can add Rami Malek and Gwilym Lee’s work as Freddie Mercury and Brian May to the same rare league.  But it wasn’t only the actors that made it work.  Incredible cinematography, costume and set recreations, and an inspiring story spoke to legions of moviegoers.  This wasn’t just another biopic, but an engaging drama about misfits that came out on top.  Honorable mention: Black Panther (Disney/Marvel).

Best Sci-fi Movie, Best Retro Fix, Best Easter EggsSolo: A Star Wars Story (Disney/Lucasfilm).  Put aside the noise surrounding the mid-year release of Solo before fans had recovered yet from The Last Jedi, and the resulting film was the best sequel (or prequel) in the franchise since the original trilogy (we rate it right after The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars as #3 overall).  All the scenes with Han and Chewbacca were faithful to George Lucas’s original vision, and the new characters were as cool and exciting, and played by exceptional talent, as found in the originals, including sets that looked like they were created in the 1970s of the original trilogy.  The Easter Eggs scattered all over provided dozens of callbacks to earlier films.  This was an easy choice: no other science fiction film came close to the rip-roaring rollercoaster of this film, and special effects and space battles to match.   Honorable mention for Best Sci-Fi Movie: Orbiter 9 (Netflix).

Best Superhero Movie, Best Crossover, Best Re-Imagining on Film Avengers: Infinity War (Disney/Marvel).  For all its faults, and there were many, the culmination of ten years of careful planning and tens of thousands of creative inputs delivered something no fan of comics has ever seen before:  multiple, fleshed out superheroes played by A-list actors with intertwined stories with a plot that wasn’t all that convoluted.  Is it the best superhero move ever?  To many fans, yes.  But even if it isn’t the best, its scope was as great as any envisioned before it, and the movie was filled with more great sequences than can be found in several other superhero movies of the past few years combined.  But teaming up Thor with Rocket?  And Spider-Man with Doctor Strange and Iron Man?  That beat all the prior Avengers team-ups that came before (and anything offered up from the other studios).  It’s easy to brush off any given film with so many superhero movies arriving these days, but this one was the biggest, grandest, and greatest made yet and deserves all the recognition.  Honorable mention: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Sony Pictures Animation), Black Panther (Disney/Marvel).

Best Fantasy Movie, Best Comedy MovieJumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Columbia Pictures).  No movie provided more laugh-out-loud moments this year than last winter’s surprise hit, a sequel that didn’t need to be a sequel, and a video game tie-in for a fake video game.  A funny script and four super leads made this an easy pick in the humor category, but the Raiders of the Lost Ark-inspired adventure ride made for a great fantasy film, too.  Honorable mention for Best Fantasy Movie: Black Panther (Disney/Marvel), Ready Player One (Warner Bros./Amblin).

Best Movie Borg, Best Borg Film – Josh Brolin’s Cable, Deadpool 2 (20th Century Fox).  Brolin’s take on Cable ended up as one of those great borgs on par with the Terminator from the standpoint of “coolness” factor.  But the trick that he wasn’t really the villain of the movie made him that much more compelling in the film’s final moments.  Ryan Reynolds was back and equal to his last Deadpool film, and his Magnificent Seven/Samurai Seven round-up of a team was great fun.  If not for all that unwinding of what happened in the movie in the coda, this might have made the top superhero movie spot.  But Deadpool 2 was a good reminder there is something other than Disney’s MCU to make good superhero flicks.

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