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Non-Review Review: Jungle Cruise

Jungle Cruise is a throwback to a throwback to a throwback.

Jungle Cruise is inspired by the eponymous theme park ride, a surprisingly common occurrence in the age of intellectual-property-derived blockbusters, and an approach that has led to films like Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl and The Haunted Mansion. However, because even narrative-driven theme park rides don’t necessarily provide enough story to sustain a feature-length film, Jungle Cruise positions itself as a very deliberate homage to movies like The Mummy, and traces that lineage back to classic eighties adventures like King Solomon’s Mines, Romancing the Stone and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Cruise Control.

There’s an undeniable charm in this. After all, that adventure movie template can trace its roots back to movies like The African Queen and even into classic screwball comedies. It is a narrative framework that lends itself to charismatic movie star performances, and so it makes sense that Jungle Cruise features two genuinely engaging movie stars at its core: Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt. Jungle Cruise is at its strongest when it is willing to trust its leads to do what they do best, to be fun and charming while having exotic adventures together.

Unfortunately, Jungle Cruise feels too beholden to the conventions of modern blockbuster storytelling to lean into its stronger elements. Instead, those aspects of the films are constantly at war with the demands and the limitations of a modern spectacle-driven blockbuster. At times, Jungle Cruise feels more like a faded map promising a path to precious treasure. The broad outline is clear, but the richer detail has been lost to time.

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Non-Review Review: Unknown

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

Unknown is not, despite what it may want you to believe, anything to do with Taken. I have a sense that audiences catching the film without that pre-existing expectation might enjoy it more than others, but I can’t help but feel the movie suffers by comparison to the earlier film in the “Liam Neeson as badass action hero” subgenre.

Taken for a ride?

Note: By its very nature, this review will involve the very slightest of spoilers. I will literally be discussing the first twenty or so minutes of the film, and I doubt it’s any more than you could discern from the trailers, but I figure it’s worth flagging with the spoiler-conscious out there.

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