It is hard to believe that after twenty-two years, a sequel to ‘Jumanji’ exists (especially since star Robin Williams passed away three years ago). At one time, this was supposed to be a straight “re-imagining”, until fan backlash over the announcement coming after Williams’ passing caused Sony Pictures to hire Scott Rosenberg to re-write the script as both a reboot and a sequel (Think that is impossible? Look at ‘Vacation’ (2015)). For those still skeptical about whether this should exist, you have nothing to fear; ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ is not another ‘Ghostbusters’ (2016), nor is it another ‘Emoji Movie’. This movie is as fun and thrilling as expected from the trailer. The only worry is that ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ could have been annoying. Yes, at times, it can feel tiresome, but with its never-ending energy and fast performances, the journey is worth the hour and fifty-nine minute run time.
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In recent years, Tom Cruise has been labeled by people as “crazy”; whether it be his real life behavior, (Jumping on Oprah’s couch to declare his love for actress Katie Holmes, joining the church of Scientology) or becoming the American Jackie Chan by performing death-defying stunts in his action movies. (The ‘Mission: Impossible’ franchise, ‘The Last Samurai’) Here, in ‘American Made’, Cruise further cements that label as real life American pilot Barry Seal; who became a drug mule for the Medellin Cartel in the early 80’s. Yet, his performance is not as over-the-top as I am making it out to be, instead, it is a bit restrained, and is more of a chance for Cruise to relive his glory days when he played the rebellious jet pilot, Maverick, in ‘Top Gun’. However, instead of fighting enemy pilots in a jet, Cruise plays your average everyday airline pilot who eventually gets an offer that leads to the smuggling of guns and drugs.
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Just because ‘The LEGO Ninjago Movie’ looks like a legit ‘LEGO’ movie, does not mean it is spotless. (Or without its buffs and scratches.) While the style is an improvement over this year’s ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’ (which felt more of an animated spoof than an actual movie in the ‘LEGO’ franchise.) to the point where it is equal to ‘The LEGO Movie’ itself, its humor and story line are a result of trying too hard to stand alone as an action comedy for family audiences. You could say that the ‘LEGO’ train has run out of steam and should stop there, (It could go until ‘LEGO Star Wars’, or ‘LEGO Indiana Jones’.) while I believe ‘Ninjago’ suffers from a disease I call “Same Year Syndrome”; this happens when two movies from the same animation studio get released the same year, only months apart, and only results when one or more films end up not living up to their potential. Pixar started suffering with the 2015 release of ‘The Good Dinosaur’, months after ‘Inside Out’, and may continue this year with ‘Coco’ (If it is not good); Last year, Illumination Studios released both ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ and ‘Sing!’, now ‘LEGO’ may be suffering the same fate. It is a shame, because I expected ‘Ninjago’ to be as funny as it was marketed to be.
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What made ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ a fun movie were not just its action sequences or sense of humor, but its elements of both surprise and danger. Almost every moment kept you on your toes – making you wait for something to happen – only to provide a twist at each and every turn. Here, in ‘The Golden Circle’, every bit of surprise and sense of humor is traded in for a gleefully out-of-place story-line involving Julianne Moore playing a drug kingpin named Poppy, living in a hideout drenched in 50’s nostalgia, while grinding unsuspecting victims up as burgers as if she were Mrs. Lovett in ‘Sweeney Todd’, only the opposite. Cheerful and bubbly, but not actually creepy enough to pass as a good villain. Let’s take a look at Samuel L. Jackson’s Valentine from ‘The Secret Service’. He was a ridiculous and clichéd spy movie villain with a cliched agenda, but one with an appeal to make him entertaining. I must mention that ‘The Secret Service’ was an action-comedy, which added to the fun.
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What is the threat Captain Jack Sparrow has to face this time around? Might I remind you that he fought Captain Barbossa and his crew of pirates to retrieve the Black Pearl in ‘The Curse of the Black Pearl’, found treasure containing a beating heart in ‘Dead Man’s Chest’, faced his inner madness and later fought Davy Jones in ‘At World’s End’, and went on a quest with former jilted flame (played by Penelope Cruz), and the ruthless Blackbeard in ‘On Stranger Tides’. Here, at first, he is nowhere to be seen until – 15 minutes in – he is found sleeping with a governor’s wife while napping off one of his drunken hangovers in a giant bank, which causes a funny chase that kicks off the fun, high-octane action that the series held on to for so many years. While that may not be the actual challenge Sparrow has to face, ‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’ seems to focus on the humor more than the quest written out for the heroes: Seeking out Poseidon’s ancient, all-powerful trident with the power to get rid of any curse placed on everyone, mostly pirate.
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While Jeff Gordon’s ‘Baywatch’ tries to be a more ridiculous film adaptation of the popular TV guilty pleasure of the same name – which starred David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson (who each make brief- respective -cameos) – it barely feels like a comedy. One rule about turning a popular TV drama into a feature-length comedy reboot is to not take the material too seriously (Given that the show is famous for its use of slow-motion with Pamela Anderson jiggling her way through the beach with her bosoms, why would anyone?) and just have fun; It is the same rule which made the ‘Jump Street’ movies and ‘Starsky & Hutch’ work while leaving not only references to their respective source material, but saving the special surprise – which is the original actor cameo – for us to enjoy. ‘Baywatch’ does have the ingredients necessary for a good film adaptation of a successful TV show, but it feels like there is not much to work with, and we feel spoiled; Also, there is too much of a tonal inconsistency floating above the surface of ‘Baywatch’.
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I was excited for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ after seeing the first major trailer which showed the original cast (including the likes of Chris Pratt, a green-skinned/sexy Zoe Saldana, an excitable Dave Bautista, a CGI-raccoon with Bradley Cooper’s close-to-Italian accent, and a tiny version of one of everyone’s favorite repetitive could-be annoyances in tree form.) doing some action/comedy exercises intercut with Sweet’s ‘Fox on the Run’. I was given more exciting action, humor, brightly colored footage compared to the first ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’s dimly lit cinematography, and excitement that thrilled me.
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Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, Jack Reynor, Cillian Murphy, and Armie Hammer get into more trouble than it’s worth in Ben Wheatley’s action-comedy ‘Free Fire’. Through its first act, ‘Free Fire’ feels like a climax heavy rip-off of Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Reservoir Dogs’, with an equal (yet maybe more or less) amount of F-bombs, more bloody violence, and no back story to compare it to. Most of it even feels like an extended short film; for that, I will praise ‘Free Fire’. As much as I feel this is ripping off one of my favorite movies of the 90’s (and possibly one of the best Tarantino films of all time), I found ‘Free Fire’ to be quite original and bold.
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The only thing charismatic about Kevin James is his smile, I’m thinking that’s why he is the star of an action-comedy. Either that, or Netflix must have thought that it was unfair for him to be left out of ‘The Ridiculous Six’ and ‘The Do-Over’ starring Adam Sandler and most of his buddies. Yep! That’s the reason. All bets are off the table now! It’s time for Mr. James to be the center
of attention when it comes to the first thing you see on your Netflix. While this could be a home-run for Sandler and his band of merry men, it may not be the case for the film critic. I do admit that like ‘The Ridiculous Six’ and ‘The Do-Over’, ‘True Memoirs of an International Assassin’ is a decent film; but it is also a bit of a low point in comedy. Continue reading “‘True Memoirs of an International Assassin’ Film Review.”