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Non-Review Review: Jumanji – Welcome to the Jungle

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a weird and interesting experiment, in part because it is a nostalgic and belated sequel that remains caught between its past and the present.

Welcome to the Jungle joins a long (and perhaps undistinguished) line of twenty-first century franchise revivals for beloved nineties properties. The original Jumanji was a hardly a breakout hit, even if it did make an impression on a younger generation who would have grown up on it as part of Robin Williams’ nineties family-friendly oeuvre along with Hook or Ms. Doubtfire. Indeed, Jumanji is arguably the nineties Robin Williams film most perfectly suited to a revival like this, in that it involves a premise that can be divorced from its iconic and beloved star.

Franchises find a way.

At the same time, Jumanji is undoubtedly near the bottom of nineties adventure films in need of a revival, lurking in the shadow of other resurrected blockbusters like Independence Day or Jurassic Park. Perhaps because of this distance, and perhaps because of the lack of a true cult iconography, Jumanji serves as an interesting control case. This is a film with one leg in the present, aimed at what modern families expect from blockbuster entertainment. The other leg it planted firmly in the past, harking back to certain aspects of formula that seem almost quaint.

Welcome to the Jungle is not a particularly good film, but it is an interesting one. It serves as a prism through which certain aspects of nostalgia might be deconstructed and explored.

Players.

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Non-Review Review: Night at the Museum III – Secret of the Tomb

Night at the Museum III: Secret of the Tomb is fairly inoffensive family fare. It largely sets out to do what it wants to do – providing a sense of closure to the hits series while encouraging its all-star cast to have a bit of family-friendly fun together. The movie is hardly the most compelling adventure; it never manages to generate substantial stakes, it introduces a convenient third-act villain as the plot demands, it is frequently distracted by individual set pieces. At the same time, it feels like the movie largely hits the targets that it sets for itself.

Knight at the Museum...

Knight at the Museum…

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Robin Williams

Robin Williams passed away.

It took a moment to let that sink in, to accept that we would be talking about Robin Williams in the past tense. Although the news broke in the evening time in the United States, it was announced in the middle of the night in Irish and European time. Over here, most of us fell asleep in a world where Robin Williams was a perpetual and much-loved screen presence, only to wake up in a world where Robin Williams was gone. It is very strange and very difficult piece of information to process, and something very hard to wake up to.

insomnia2

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Non-Review Review: Happy Feet II

Happy Feet II is perfectly functional kids entertainment. It has enough set pieces to keep the audience ticking over, lovely animation and a timely environmental message underneath the fuzz. It is a little bit too inconsistent to hold the attention of older audience members, as the plot struggles to find a focus, with the movie often seeming like a stew brewed from a variety of different ideas. The result is often satisfying enough in small chunks, but it doesn’t impress enough overall to make a lasting impression. Although a younger, perhaps more idealistic, viewer at the screening did describe it as “the bestest experience in united history.”

The pitter-patter of little Happy Feet...

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Non-Review Review: Shrink

There’s a good movie to be found somewhere within Shrink. I’m just not sure exactly what it is. Ensemble dramas are a lot tougher to get right than they may initially seem: lining up a variety of interesting plot lines is only half the battle, as the movie has to balance these threads and ensure that all remain intriguing, while none dominate. Shrink doesn’t really do that. Using Kevin Spacey’s “self-medicating” Los Angeles psychologist as a jumping-off point, the film never really finds a compelling hook for us – and the performances aren’t strong enough to get us to invest in the characters colliding and intersecting like balls on a pool table.

Small problems...

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Non-Review Review: World’s Greatest Dad

It’s hard to talk about World’s Greatest Dad without spoiling it, but I’m going to try. I’m going to try, because – despite the fact that every article discussing the film spoils a fairly key plot development – it’s a movie that’s best seen with relatively little idea of where the plot is going. Bobcat Goldthwait’s satire on fame, the price success and the public’s desire to rewrite an unsavoury history is dark, but never unnecessarily cruel, and feels strangely relevent without ever feeling too forced or unnatural. It’s acerbic and well-observed, without ever being tasteless or needlessly offensive – which is a rather wonderful target for a comedy like this to hit. The fact that Goldthwait has given Williams one of his better roles in recent years is also quite an accomplishment.

Too cruel for school?

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Non-Review Review: Celebrity

As I was watching Celebrity, one of Woody Allen’s mid-nineties efforts, two things ran through my head. The first was that the movie was clearly intended to explain why the director had given up on his life in America and moved overseas (sparking his creative rebirth with films like Match Point and Vicky Christina Barcelona). The second, and much more pressing, was the observation that it’s not really fair to write a character with yourself in mind and then expect Kenneth Branagh to step in and play that avatar as you. Not to diminish Branagh’s Woody Allen impression (it’s much better than one might expect), but it tends to draw attention away from the rest of the film.

Woody clearly thinks this Hollywood malarkey is bananas...

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