Film Review: Jungle Cruise (2021)

Release Date: July 24th, 2021 (Anaheim premiere)
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
Written by: Michael Green, Glenn Ficarra, John Requa, John Norville, Josh Goldstein
Based on: Walt Disney’s The Jungle Cruise
Music by: James Newton Howard
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Edgar Ramirez, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, Paul Giamatti, 

Davis Entertainment, Flynn Picture Company, Walt Disney Pictures, 127 Minutes

Review:

“Hey, McGregor! Had a girlfriend once, she was cross-eyed. Didn’t work out. We could never see eye to eye!” – Frank Wolff

I watched this on the same day as Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. While that film didn’t do much for me, except help solidify the fact that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is nowhere near the level of greatness it once was, this film actually ended up being a lot of fun and much more enjoyable.

This isn’t a great effort by Disney and in fact, this is basically a paint-by-numbers Disney adventure film. However, just as enjoyed the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, albeit not as much as the original film, I also enjoyed this in the same sort of way.

Honestly, this has a lot in common with a Disney Pirates movie in that it has treasure hunting, fantastical villains, a well-paced, action-packed story and a lot of water… this time the world’s biggest river system instead of an ocean.

I also thought that Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt worked really well together and through their performances and their characters, you can kind of see an homage to Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen. However, Blunt’s character brings her brother along and it makes for a trio of heroes that also plays homage to the trio from The Mummy films with Brendan Fraser. Funnily enough, Dwayne Johnson was the villain in the second of those Mummy movies.

Anyway, out of everyone in this, I really, really loved Jesse Plemons role. The guy is one of the most talented actors of his generation and he has an exceptional range. The dude really can do anything. However, I believe that this is the first time I’ve seen him actually be comedic. He plays one of the film’s villains, a German prince that just happens to own a submarine that can traverse the Amazon River basin. He’s jovial, a bit psychotic and delivers his lines with an over-the-top German accent. There’s one scene where Plemons’ pronunciation of “jungle” creates a similar, hilarious scene akin to Steve Martin’s “hamburger” scene in his first Pink Panther movie.

Beyond the acting, some of the writing is cheesy as hell but a lot more jokes land in this film than they did in Disney’s Shang-Chi. Johnson’s skipper likes to use an extreme overabundance of puns while giving Amazon tours but the failure of the bad jokes are really the jokes themselves. However, some of the references didn’t make since as the film takes place during World War I and there is a pun about concentrated orange, which wasn’t invented till 1945, the final year of World War II. But then again, modern Disney writers don’t care much about research.

The film, as I’ve said, is action-packed and most of it is really good. This is a fantastical story with all sorts of supernatural characters and situations but almost all of the action was pretty grounded, all things considered. This wasn’t a total shitshow like Shang-Chi, where people without saddles or reins were riding dragons that flew and twisted at ridiculous speeds. When something crazy did happen here, there was a real reason for it and an explanation given, such as in the scene where Johnson falls to his death but miraculously survives, mostly unscathed.

I don’t know what the plans are going forward but I wouldn’t be opposed to a sequel. Granted, I’d rather see these characters go on an adventure to somewhere entirely different and I don’t know how you fit that into the Jungle Cruise concept. Unless, they use these characters and tie them to some other classic Disney ride.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: The Wolfman (2010)

Release Date: January 27th, 2010 (Rome premiere)
Directed by: Joe Johnston
Written by: Andrew Kevin Walker, David Self
Based on: The Wolf Man by Curt Siodmak
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Benicio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving, Asa Butterfield, Rick Baker (cameo), Max von Sydow (scene cut)

Bluegrass Films, Relativity Media, Universal Pictures, 103 Minutes

Review:

“I will kill all of you!” – Lawrence Talbot

Critics and audiences were kind of harsh to this movie when it came out and for whatever reason, I never saw it until now. I’m rarely dissuaded by critics and casual filmgoers but I think I didn’t see it because it came out at a weird time, was gone from theaters quickly and I just never caught it streaming anywhere.

However, considering that this was a remake of a classic Universal Monsters movie, I almost feel like not seeing this for so long is a crime.

Having now seen it, I think that people were really unfair to it. I thought that it was certainly more good than bad and there are parts of the film I enjoyed, immensely.

I thought the cast was fucking great. The only really issue I had with the film, honestly, was that the story was a bit hard to follow. It was simple but it had little things mixed in that made it a bit more complicated than it needed to be. I think some of this is also due to details and reveals casually appearing in conversations where if you missed that one line of dialogue, you were fucked for the rest of the story. I think the wonky pacing of the film also had an adverse effect on the plot and how it just didn’t flow smoothly. For those who saw this in the theater, a poorly timed bathroom break, could wreck the picture.

Visually, I thought the movie was pretty damn perfect. I liked the tone, the darkness, the detail of the more opulent settings and how they used shadow and light during the werewolf scenes.

I thought that the CGI was generally good but sometimes it felt a bit artificial. I think this was mainly a problem when they were tasked with trying to make werewolf facial shots work in the dark with subtle, artificial light.

Still, the werewolf action scenes were great. I loved the first werewolf attack, which led to Benicio del Toro’s version of Lawrence Talbot getting infected with the werewolf curse. Beyond that, the sequence that ends with del Toro’s werewolf decapitating the cop was solid, as was the slaughter of the bourgeoise intellectuals in the insane asylum.

Everything comes to a head in the final werewolf vs. werewolf fight between father and son and man, I liked this a lot too. I also thought that, in this scene, they did a great job in making each werewolf resemble their actor enough for you to tell them apart.

Another thing that also enhanced this film was Danny Elfman’s score. I think it’s one of his best in more recent memory.

The Wolfman is a pretty decent Victorian era werewolf film. It’s nowhere near the caliber of considering it a classic, like the film that served as its source material, but I wouldn’t have been opposed to Universal using this as the launching pad for more Universal Monsters movies. Alas, and after multiple attempts since this movie, Universal still hasn’t figured out how to make a shared universe work, even though they invented it with this franchise in the 1930s and 1940s.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: Sicario (2015)

Release Date: May 19th, 2015 (Cannes)
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Written by: Taylor Sheridan
Music by: Johann Johannsson
Cast: Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya, Jeffrey Donovan

Black Label Media, Thunder Road, Lionsgate, 121 Minutes

Review:

“Nothing will make sense to your American ears, and you will doubt everything that we do, but in the end you will understand.” – Alejandro

This is a film that I put off watching because there was a lot of hype about it when it came out. Had I watched it in 2015 or even 2016, I probably would’ve lost my shit.

Reason being, this is nowhere near as good as the critics and my friends led me to believe.

In fact, other than less than a handful of scenes, this is a boring fucking movie that doesn’t seem to have much of a point.

I mean, I get it, the drug cartels in Mexico are fucked up. But I’ve known this and seen this in lots of film and television shows that are far better than this.

With the cast and a very capable director I was expected an intense, badass neo-western in the vein of No Country For Old Men and Hell or High Water. Sadly, this doesn’t hold a candle to those films and it is just a few cool action sequences and one intense dinner scene, strung together with moral babble and Emily Blunt not doing much other than looking offended and confused.

I can see why she didn’t come back for a sequel but her character was completely vacant anyway and it didn’t really matter that she was in this film. And that’s not to knock Blunt, she’s an incredibly capable actress. However, they could’ve just taken all her close ups in this movie, spliced them into the sequel and no one would’ve been the wiser, as she is just sort of in the film as an observer and moral compass.

Now I can’t completely shit on the film. The high points were actually good and intense. The dinner scene has incredible tension but at the same time, the end result of that scene is not shocking and has little effect. It’s more fucked up than shocking.

Also, the cinematography and shot framing were incredible. This is a good looking film from start to finish and that’s probably its biggest positive. But I can get these things in a music video from a talented director of photography. Alluring visuals are great and they are important but they can’t be the sole driving force of a film.

For instance, The Revenant was visually breathtaking but none of that would’ve mattered if the rest of the film was a crap factory.

I absolutely love the modernized western film but they are really hard to do well. Sicario doesn’t deliver on much but I’ll still probably check out the sequel just to review it.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the sequel and other neo-westerns, most of which are better than this.

Film Review: A Quiet Place (2018)

Release Date: March 9th, 2018 (SXSW)
Directed by: John Krasinski
Written by: Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, John Krasinski
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski

Platinum Dunes, Paramount Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Who are we if we can’t protect them? We have to protect them.” – Evelyn

I was a bit skeptical about going to see A Quiet Place in the theater. Not because I didn’t want to check it out but because my theatergoing experiences have been really bad, lately. So how was it going to play out, going to a theater that is typically full of talkie assholes during a film that is all about keeping quiet?

Well, the theater was dead f’n quiet. This film pulled the room in and had everyone’s attention from start to finish. There may have been a whisper or two but people actually followed the golden rule of theatergoing: STFU.

And man, this film builds suspense so well, I found it damn near impossible to get up and go pee, even after three beers before the film and a Diet Coke the size of Andre the Giant’s torso during the film. Granted, I hate having to leave the theater for anything and I’m glad that I didn’t.

John Krasinksi was once Jim on The Office. Like many sitcom stars, he could have easily been typecast for the rest of his career and he probably would have had he not fought hard for roles he thought he had something to offer. Since The Office, he has fared better than all of his other co-stars except for maybe Steve Carell, who has also proved he can do drama. But Krasinski’s unique path led him to the director’s chair. This is the second picture he has helmed (after The Hollars) and he already displays great skill.

The building of tension and suspense in this film is incredibly effective and it relies on that tactic to tell the story and to convey the feeling of dread. While you see the monsters throughout the film and even see one very early on, A Quiet Place could have easily done what lesser horror films do and just tease the monster leading to a disappointing reveal late in the film. Many pictures try to build tension this way and most of the time, it fails. Krasinski threw the monster on the screen in the opening sequence and just got that bullshit out of the way, so we could focus on the human characters, their dynamic, their pain and their struggle to survive in a new and deadly world.

I liked the casting of Krasinski as the lead with his real life wife, Emily Blunt, playing his wife in the film. It made Krasinski’s picture a lot more personal and their chemistry came through adding extra emotional weight. While I’m typically not a huge fan of directors starring in their own things and casting family, it works here.

The kid actors: Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe were both absolutely fantastic. They handled the material very well, weren’t annoying and didn’t need to be rescued all the time. Sure, in the end, dad had to step in but they were capable and heroic characters, which was nice to see for a change.

I liked the monsters. They weren’t particularly unique but they were effective, scary and they worked for the story. They’re sort of like these armored humanoid four legged, spidery things that have a mouth similar to Venom from Marvel Comics.

I didn’t know what to expect with A Quiet Place, as it is really hard to find satisfying horror films this decade. While I wouldn’t call it a classic or anything, I hope it is adding to a new trend where we see better, smarter horror coming back. Between this, Get Out and It Follows, there is still hope in a genre dominated by PG-13 CGI haunted house movies.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: It Comes at Night but this is a better film than that.

Film Review: Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Release Date: May 28th, 2014 (London IMAX premiere)
Directed by: Doug Liman
Written by: Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth
Based on: All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka
Music by: Christophe Beck
Cast: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson, Franz Drameh

Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, 3 Arts Entertainment, Viz Productions, Warner Bros., 113 Minutes

Review:

Edge of Tomorrow was not a film I went into expecting much. Lets be honest, the trailer was subpar, the action looked over the top and really CGI heavy, plus the last few sci-fi outings from Tom Cruise weren’t that great or memorable. Also, the film was directed by Doug Liman who gave us Swingers and The Bourne Identity but he more recently gave us the abominations Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Jumper. What Liman gave us this time, was probably his best film or, at the very least, a film that was at the level of The Bourne Identity in quality.

Tom Cruise’s character did not start out like you think he would in this film. He is pretty much a pussy and forced into an awful suicidal combat situation. It’s what happens to him in that battle that changes him and moves him forward, evolving into Earth’s top bad ass. Granted, Emily Blunt’s character is probably Earth’s top bad ass but Cruise had to go the extra mile. By the way, Blunt was nothing short of fantastic and really ran with this role. If she was less than perfect, I didn’t notice because she had me mesmerized from the moment she came on screen. No, I wasn’t perving out, I was just captivated and damn it, she’s beautiful with mud on her face and a giant buster sword.

This film was based on a Japanese “light novel”, which is essentially their version of young adult novels. It had a very Manga feel to it, especially with Emily Blunt running around with a sword that looked like it was ripped out of the hands of Cloud in Final Fantasy VII.

The cinematography was superb. The big beach battle in the first act of the film was reminiscent of the Battle of Normandy. Except in this war, it was humans versus some tentacled dog aliens that looked pretty friggin’ bad ass. I liked the aliens a lot and they were different and refreshing and certainly not a disappointment like those horrible aliens from Cowboys Vs. Aliens.

I enjoyed this film a lot more than I was anticipating. It isn’t a masterpiece by any means but it is worth your time if you just want a good sci-fi action epic that isn’t a shoddy CGI festival like those deplorable Michael Bay Transformers movies. Edge of Tomorrow is a really good one-off sci-fi treat. I hope they leave it alone and don’t spin this into a franchise, it doesn’t need to be. It’s great the way it is.

Additionally, I’m glad to see Tony Way in this. I’ve liked him since he started out doing bit parts in BBC comedies like Spaced, Black Books and No Heroics.

Rating: 8/10