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Movie Review – Jumanji 2: Welcome to the Jungle

This “sequel” version of *Jumanji* is adorable and funny. Predictable, yes, but the story is based on a video game plot, so it’s kind of a baked-in thing.

It’s also bit too pat in how each teenage character gets the perfect game avatar to grow as a person, but this is yet another thing that can be explained away in-universe: it’s a *magic* game, and that’s what it does. So I guess we can make allowances for this too. It’s all in good fun to service the adventure story.

This movie is very like a fantasy-version of *The Breakfast Club*, updated for the cell-phone/video game era. It’s got detention, stereotypical teens from different cliques, and the theme is an exploration of how the characters learn to work together and become close through their experiences. So, yeah, the same concept.

The plot is paper-thin, which is, again, part of the conceit. What the film really sells are the sweet character interactions, tons of gorgeous visuals, lots of humor, and the swashbuckling tone. There are hints this could become a lightweight adventure/humor classic. We’ll see, over time. The audience enjoyed it — they were laughing and clapping throughout. There’s also a good message for young people about tolerance and acceptance. Nothing world-changing, but I’m glad I got to see this.

Everyone in the film was just great — the actors seemed like they had a blast. Jack Black was fantastic, and I normally don’t enjoy his brand of broad humor. He had the obviously funny part, but didn’t oversell it, even when teaching “Martha” how to flirt. Dwayne Johnson was super playful, and pulled off a believably bashful teen. Kevin Hart was a crack-up as the “backpack guy.” Karen Gillan has nice comedic timing, and it was good to see her actual face without the blue makeup of Nebula from *Guardians of the Galaxy*. At some points she still channeled Nebula, but her physicality as a warrior served her well in both roles. Everyone played off each other very well. The ensemble was just too damn cute, and they knew it.

Do you need to see the original *Jumanji* to follow along? In a word, no. Somehow the old one never pinged on my radar. I think I should catch it now; *Jumanji 2* was that much fun. I laughed almost the whole time, and enjoyed these veteran actors doing their campy best of reviving the old “body swap” tale. It made me forget about life for a few hours, and that’s what a movie can do at its best.

Movie Grade: A-

Movie Review – The Disaster Artist

I’m working on my review for The Disaster Artist right now, but wanted to give you a heads up while I do it. It’s hilarious, and full of amazing actor and director cameos. The audience was into it in a way that I haven’t seen since my last midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 30 years ago. Hold tight; the longer review is coming shortly…

Update — Okay, here we go, for what it’s worth…

When I went into the theater, I was shocked: the room was jam packed, and before I entered, there was a professional fellow handing out intensely detailed questionnaires about the film. I’d never seen that in all these years of doing Peetimes in the theaters. Another cool thing: I got a “Tommy’s World” Planet Pen for finishing the questionnaire. (I love this pen: it’s a copy of the same one Tommy gives Greg, early on in the film. So, yeah, I have one now. Sweet).

(Also, I have an extra copy of the long, specifically picayune questionnaire, filled with bubbles to mark in. It reminds me of an SAT test. Seriously.)

The thing about this movie: it’s more of an experience than just a passive viewing. The audience clapped, laughed, roared, yelled, and shouted lines as the actors said them. This might have been a select group of people who loved the cult film “The Room” that this was based on (okay, it clearly must have been), so your experience might be less participatory. BUT, I promise it will still be a good time. I laughed more at The Disaster Artist than any film since A Fish Called Wanda, A Knight’s Tale, or Deadpool (my high-water funny-movie marks). It’s seriously weird, but never dumb.

Strangely, there’s really nothing amazing about The Disaster Artist as a story. Period. It’s got a lot of cringe humor (which I don’t normally like). There’s no plot. You just go with the smartly sharp nonsense. It’s a very cool film on several levels, and it’s not actually mindless…there’s a lot going on, but with great sound and fury, signifying nothing. Am I making any sense? Because the film doesn’t. 🙂

You can probably see I ‘m having a hard time reviewing this film. Here’s the deal: it’s wacky, funny, and chock-full of exciting entertainment cameos. I think everyone in the Industry wanted to be in this film! It’s a lovely tribute to Franco that he’s so beloved in entertainment circles, and he really does quite an unrestrained, committed job inhabiting his whack-job role of Tommy. (There’s also a ton of Easter Eggs and in-jokes, if you keep your eyes open.)

Seth Rogen, as the film-within-a-film director, also deserves a shout out: he’s hysterical. Dave Franco, James’ real-life brother, is serviceable as Greg, and adds a grounding component to the story. He’s the Luke Skywalker to James’s crazed Obi-Won Kenobi.

So, should you see this film? Well, yes. (Duh. I don’t give out A grades willy-nilly.) If you’ve seen the cult classic “The Room”, you’ll be freakishly happy with this “making of” version. Definitely stick around for the mid-credit side-by-side scenes, so you too can shout out “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!”

And, if you are a complete newbie to “The Room” (I was), it’s still a hoot from beginning to end. Weird! Oddishly fun. Okay, I’ve said enough. Enjoy.

Movie Review – A Bad Mom’s Christmas (RunPee Jilly’s POV)

A Bad Mom’s Christmas isn’t much to write home about, but there were a few decent laughs and it was consistently entertaining. Don’t expect much, and you’ll enjoy it. Susan Sarandon did her best with the low-brow script, and Kristen Bell was adorable, as always. The overbearing moms were overbearing, and the raunchy jokes were raunchy. The meaning of the mother-daughter bond was discussed. It was all a little rote. A lot of movies try to recreate a woman’s version of The Hangover, but this just doesn’t get there.

The plot-line of making the perfect Christmas party was all kind of nuts – I don’t know a lot of people who care that much about party perfection. My thought is that if you’ve got good food and drink, some decor and appropriate music, you’re golden. But then I thought about it: I love Harry Potter. If I was going to make a Hogwarts Yule Ball, I’d probably go a little overboard in the planning department. It’s all in what you enjoy obsessing on. 🙂

I was able to follow this movie without having watched the previous Bad Moms movie. This is to be expected – it’s fluffy, forgettable entertainment, capitalizing on viewers wanting to relax at mall theaters after all the holiday shopping. It delivers on this count.

Movie Grade: C+

Movie Review – Thor Ragnorak (RunPee Jilly’s POV)

Thor 3, AKA Ragnarok, was incredibly engaging and hard to tear my eyes from. It’s now in my top tier of MCU movies, beaten only by the first Guardians of the Galaxy. Hemsworth’s slightly dim but mighty character is a joy, from his 4th wall breaking open, to the mid-credit end, and the man’s got surprisingly perfect comedic timing. Who knew? Turns out Hemsworth really can carry a movie on his muscular back, with more than raw beauty to show for it.

I wasn’t expecting too much going in, but admittedly the bar was so low with Thor 1 and 2 (especially 2, with the Dark Elves). The director used Thor wisely in his 3rd, and presumably final, solo film. Although it’s essentially a buddy movie about Hulk, too. Just like Captain America 3: Civil War is basically an Avengers movie, right? It works.

Along these lines, I have a few alternate titles for Thor: Ragnarok that I think would work even better (unless you are a huge Norse Mythology fan). List whichever you prefer in the comments section:

  • Thor: God of Hammers
  • Thor: Gladiator Edition
  • Thor: The Funny One
  • Revengers (like the Avengers, with added dysfunction)
  • Hulk 2
  • Thor and Hulk: Road Trip to the Devil’s Anus

What’s unusual about this film are the villains. They aren’t bland  meanies, like most superhero supervillans; they’re actually okay.  Damning with faint praise, I know. Cate Blanchett does a decent job with what she’s given (I sense there were more scenes left on the editing floor). The Ragnarok fire demon was fine – he wasn’t intended to be more than a burning lava monster, from cold open to the unusual climax. And Golblum isn’t even a “bad” guy — he’s just an amiable meglomaniac with a harem and God Complex. He reminded me of The Collector. I hope we see them both again

I do feel bad for Hela…there could have been a lot more depth to her arc. I guess she needed to get in line for scene time after Loki and Odin and Heimdall (who, thankfully, had something to do this time around). I’d be super happy with a Heimdall movie, for reals. The man was wasted, although the teaser suggests more to come. Saying anything more  would enter spoiler territory, so let’s just move along.

Finally, Loki was appropriately used, and is more understandable — this director “got” what the God Of Mischief is about. Loki is like the “Scorpion” in the parable with the fox (Google it) — it’s true to his nature to sting. Yet he does try (when it suits hims, natch) to be a hero. He wants to be better, and if you recall from the first Thor movie, both brothers had some moral growing to do. With Thanos mad at him, we can guess which side he’ll lean on now. Loki has always been a scene stealer, as well as a PITA to boot, but here I’m fully onboard with his character. He can be a positive force, if he’s just accepted and understood — that’s become super clear, finally, in Ragnarok.

I’m really stingy with my A grades, and the last time I gave out a full A+ was the 2017 space cruise ship flick Passengers. Strangely enough, my favorite MCU film is still the original Guardians of the Galaxy. The blue and purple villains were underwhelming though, and I can only give GoTG a A- grade in good conscience. (I’ll link to that article when I write it.)

But, we’re still talking about Thor here, and Thor 3 manages to pull a win from their previously low Marvel tier buttocks.

And yes, I rank Marvel movies by tier: Great, Good, Okay, and Fetid…and Thor’s been scraping the bottom in his stand-alones,  til now. I credit the director — who also played the delightful Rockman — for understanding what Thor should be used for, along with Hemsworth for embracing his slightly slow but funny godhood (“Because that is what heroes do!”), Ruffalo for being freaking awesome in his dual roles, and for the writers giving us something happy in these dark times…YES. Thank you for the color, the fun, and for Goldblum. He’s the perfect weirdo to be the Grandmaster, and I hear he smartly improvised most of his lines, playing himself, as usual. Go Goldblum, go.

And now I’ve got The Immigrant Song, by Led Zepplin, stuck in m head. It’s a good choice, so that’s okay by me. The reprise was certainly welcome, and the audience clapped at it. I was a happy movie goer that day, and saw it this three more times in the cinema later. Watch it in the theater, and watch it again on DVD.

Movie Grade: A+

Movie Review – Daddy’s Home 2

It’s been almost 24 hours since I saw the movie and I’m still laughing. This was perhaps THE funny movie of the Christmas season. I am really curious how it was on the set. It looked like they had so much fun. This cast was stupendous.

Each and every actor was great. I can’t single any of them out because they were all perfect. This was a great movie to kick off the holiday season. My normal go-to movie has always been *Christmas Vacation* with Chevy Chase. From here on out *Daddy’s Home 2* will be in the DVD player while we put up the tree.

Great job, movie people. I appreciate such a wonderful movie.

Movie Grade – A

Movie Review – The Hitman’s Bodyguard

*The Hitman’s Bodyguard* is really, really darn hysterical. The audience laughed out loud, frequently, as the relationship between Ryan Reynold’s and Samuel Jackson’s characters would ramp up, get deep, get ridiculous, and grow more affectionately abusive towards each other.

There are car chases (many) and foot races (also, many)…but the heart of the movie is between these two actors and their infectious chemistry. There’s some wonderful symbolism throughout (hint: look up the official name for a ‘group’ of crows), and a lot of stylized violence. The plot itself is kind of inconsequential: it’s just a vehicle to serve up some fantastic verbal interplay.

There’s also a great meta set-up to Jackson’s signature phrase…wait for it, by Reynolds. After that, all bets are off if you want to count how often that ‘special’ line is used.

Gary Oldman turned in a reliable performance as the villain, a hard act to pull off on the heels of Reynolds and Jackson. Salma Hayek was definitely over the top, but this is intentional; her performance is enjoyably wackadoodle.

What kept this review from a coveted A- grade was a slightly weary sense of repetition from the endless chase scenes. Some went on way too long, and there seemed to be a lot of filler padding out the runtime.

Frankly, I could just watch the leads play off each other all night, just bickering away.

Great date movie – or to just take yourself to, if you need some cheering up and laughter.

Movie Grade – B+