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Tag Archive: video game movies


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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