Jumanji: The Next Level (2019) Review

Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)

Directed by Jake Kasdan

Based on Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Awkwafina, Alex Wolff, Morgan Turner, Ser’Darius Blain, Madison Iseman, Danny Glover, Danny DeVito

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
This time, the adventures continue in the fantastic world of Jumanji, where nothing is what it seems to be. The players must return to the dangerous game; however, their characters have exchanged with each other leaving us the same heroes but with different looks. Moreover, we must find out where the rest of the players are in order to beat Jumanji again.

My Opinion:

I honestly kind of love these new Jumanji films. There aren’t enough good live-action “family” movies nowadays and they fill that gap perfectly. We had so many fun family movies in the 80s! Why do they make so few now? And by good I mean ones that are enjoyable for all ages. A lot of family films are aimed at pleasing only the kids in the audience and they’re a waste of time. Family movies don’t have to be dumb or boring for anyone over the age of 10. I want to take my kid to movies that I enjoy just as much as she does, dammit. And we (and the hubby!) thoroughly enjoyed this and Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle.

I’m old. I was an adult when the first Jumanji came out in 1995 so it’s not special to me in the same way that it is to those who were kids at the time. I do like it as I really liked Robin Williams but I think this reboot(?) has been fantastic. And, admittedly, the first one is very dated in that way that so many 90s movies with certain special effects now are. As much as I normally hate reboots, etc, they can sometimes work when they get them right. Those who loved the 1995 film will now have (or soon have) kids they can watch these with and updating it into a video game was a wise choice. But, mostly, the new ones are damn funny. Good writing and a good cast has made for two really good family cinema trips. For me, they took a great original idea and managed to improve on it with these.

I won’t ramble on forever since I have lots of 2019 movie reviews to catch up on. If you liked Welcome To The Jungle, you’ll like this. If for some strange reason you didn’t like the last one, you won’t like this. Yes, it’s essentially the same story again but mixing up the characters was a great way to make this one different from the last. It was funny to see who was better at acting out different people this time. Surprisingly, Kevin Hart was a big highlight as he’s hilarious doing Danny Glover impressions. Spot on! And his bickering with Dwayne Johnson was a delight. I can’t say I really believed Johnson as Danny DeVito, though, and I always love Jack Black but he’s still best as Bethany (Madison Iseman). It didn’t matter too much, though, as it was still funny and there’s an extra surprise in store that I won’t spoil. Oh, and I loved seeing DeVito & Glover for a decent amount of time before getting into the game. I’m ready for this to be a trilogy (and I’m sure that’s likely, as is hinted at in an end credits scene).

My Rating: 7.5/10

Escape From Alcatraz (1979) Review

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Escape From Alcatraz (1979)

Directed by Don Siegel

Based on Escape from Alcatraz by J. Campbell Bruce

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Patrick McGoohan, Fred Ward, Roberts Blossom, Larry Hankin, Jack Thibeau, Paul Benjamin, Danny Glover

Running time: 112 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Escape from Alcatraz is a 1979 American prison film based on true events. It dramatizes possibly the only successful escape attempt from the maximum security prison on Alcatraz Island.

My Opinion:

This movie is great! I remember scrolling through Netflix a few months ago & being so sick of the absolute shit I’d watched recently and really wanting to see a proper,  good movie so I decided to give Escape From Alcatraz a go. I’m happy to say that I wasn’t at all disappointed! I actually don’t know why it isn’t a little more highly regarded – I think its IMDB rating is a little low at 7.6 as I actually enjoyed it quite a bit more than several of the “classics” that are in the IMDB Top 250. I think Escape From Alcatraz actually deserves a place in the Top 250 more than a lot of the films that are in it (especially the current films that end up there just because users rate modern movies far too highly).

If you haven’t seen this but you like either The Shawshank Redemption or The Great Escape, I can pretty much guarantee that you’d enjoy this one as well. It’s actually funny just how similar this is to Shawshank! There’s quite a similar set of quirky & likeable characters (even though they’re criminals) and an evil warden (Patrick McGoohan). Alcatraz even has its own Shawshank Brooks in the form of a painter & lover of chrysanthemums named Doc (Roberts Blossom). They’re so similar that I just looked up Stephen King’s novella on Wikipedia to see if he was inspired by the true story & this movie. Turns out that his story is heavily based on the 1872 short story God Sees the Truth, But Waits by Leo Tolstoy. What? Huh – I never knew that! You learn something new every day. ๐Ÿ™‚

While watching this, I couldn’t help but wonder about the true story and how accurately it’s portrayed in the movie. From the little bit of investigation that I did, it seems pretty accurate from what I can tell (with the usual small changes to make for a better movie). Maybe I should read the J. Campbell Bruce novel someday – it really is a fascinating story. It’s funny how in this (and Shawshank), the criminals are the “heroes” while the prison employees are the bad guys. As this story is based on real people, however, I was worried after it finished that I was cheering the escape of hardened criminals. Looking them up, it appears that they were there mainly just for robberies. Not that I condone robbery! I’m just glad they weren’t murderers or rapists. Eastwood’s character (Sam Morris) was sent to the maximum security island as he had escaped from other prisons and, like the real life Morris, had a very high IQ. It was quite an elaborate two-year long escape plan – You have to give these guys credit for their determination. Well, Andy Dufresne spent far longer on his plan. ๐Ÿ˜‰ (Sorry, sorry… I just can’t help the Shawshank comparisons!).

Besides Clint Eastwood, we have a lot of other very recognizable faces in this movie. The painter & flower-lover that I mentioned, Doc, is played by Roberts Blossom (the nice “scary” old man in Home Alone!). Another really great character who is based on one of those involved in the plan but whose character was changed slightly from the real-life man is played by Larry Hankin (grumpy neighbor Mr. Heckles in Friends!). The warden is played by Patrick McGoohan (Scanners!) and another great inmate who helps out, English, is played by Paul Benjamin (Across 110th Street! Never seen it!). The actors playing the bank-robbing brothers from the real story are played by Fred Ward (Tremors!) and Jack Thibeau (I didn’t know him but he was in Lethal Weapon as was Danny Glover, whose very small film debut was in Alcatraz). As for Clint Eastwood, I have to honestly say that I think this is now my personal favorite of his movies that I’ve seen so far.

Summary:

Based on the fascinating true story of what is probably the most famous prison break, Escape From Alcatraz was likely to be a highly entertaining film. And it certainly was! The story seems pretty unaltered as far as the main characters & the actual prison break go. As for the lesser characters, I don’t know if people like Doc were real but I’m not too bothered if things like that were added as these little things help to make this such an enjoyable film. Were the real-life criminals such likeable “heroes”? Unlikely. But movies often elaborate in this way. All in all, this is a great film and those who are interested in the real story can further explore its accuracies if they wish (and I just might someday). I call that a successful movie when it makes you want to learn more about the real story. And, as brilliant as this movie is, it’s only my second favorite “Escape” movie that I’ve watched for the first time this year! (I’d have to put Escape From New York above this one – what a good year I’ve had for Escape movies). ๐Ÿ™‚

My Rating: 8/10