Tag Archives: Dwayne Johnson

tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ is Just Fun Enough

The highs aren’t that high, but this belated sequel doesn’t have any significant lows, either.

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Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle kicks off in 1996, where the old board game is found on a beach, taken home, and magically turns into a game cartridge. In present day, teenagers Spencer, Fridge, Martha, and Bethany (Alex Wolff, Ser’Darius Blain, Morgan Turner and Madison Iseman) find the game while doing detention, and are magically zapped into it. Inside the perilous world of the game, they take on the roles of the game’s characters (Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, and Jack Black), and in order to get back into the real world, they have to work together to lift a mystical curse from Jumanji.

This sequel bears very little actual connection to the 1995 film. It immediately changes the dynamic of the story by having the teenage characters transform into in-game avatars. The film basically builds a lot of its screenplay around the incongruity of who these teens are and what their avatars represent. It does so pretty broadly: the nerdy hypochondriac Spencer becomes the fearless action hero Smolder Bravestone. His football player ex-best friend becomes a dimunitive sidekick. The popular girl becomes an overweight academic, and the loner outsider becomes a Tomb Raider-style adventurer.

The plot feels incidental, but that’s inherent to the design of Jumanji. The characters just face a succession of perils that play out as a series of levels. If Jumanji was a real game, it doesn’t seem like a very good one. But the film just embraces the possibilities of the premise and uses the game as a platform for telling a story of teens being taken out of their comfort zone. So nerdy Spencer learns to be fearless, and Bethany learns to not be so self-obsessed. At least that’s what the film does in theory. By the end, Fridge’s arc feels a little murky. In fact, there’s something left a little unresolved.

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It’s mildly fun, at best. But it doesn’t really dip all that low, either. It gets pretty funny as it explores the possibilities of sticking these John Hughes teen constructs in incongruous physical forms. It doesn’t really go anywhere particularly interesting, but what’s there is fairly entertaining. Every now and then, the action sequences distinguish themselves by displaying a rather unique cartoonish sensibility. The film wastes a little too much time on swooping establishing shots and endless chases, but when Dwayne Johnson gets to punch people, it gets pretty fun.

To that point, it’s the cast that ultimately provides most of the appeal of this film. It really gets by on the charisma of its leads. Dwayne Johnson is the perfect kind of absurd in what basically functions as the film’s lead role. Jack Black, playing a teenage girl stuck in a Jack Black body, avoids many of the landmines inherent to this development, and instead becomes a reliable source of laughs for this movie. He attacks the role with real gusto. Kevin Hart plays really well with Johnson, the two exhibiting potent comedic chemistry. Karen Gillan shows off some real comedic chops playing against her much more seasoned co-stars as well.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is okay. It’s very okay. It doesn’t quite feel like the kind of film that will be remembered five years from now, its genial appeal barely lasting five minutes outside the cinema. And even in the moment, the film feels like it’s stretching out that moment for many fifteen minutes too long. But theirs is nothing majorly wrong with it, and the charisma of its stars go a long way in making the experience pleasant and more or less enjoyable.

JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Baywatch’ Fails to Embrace the Absurdity

The film adaptation is about as memorable as the TV show, which is not a good thing.

NBHD movie 1-2 ticketsBaywatch follows Lt. Mitch Buchanan (Dwayne Johnson) and his crew of lifeguards on Emerald Bay. The film kicks off with the lifeguard being made to add disgraced Olympic swimmer Matt Brody (Zac Efron) to his team, in spite of the athlete’s severe attitude problems. Brody, on his end, is completely baffled by Buchanan’s insistence on tackling matters that really should be handled by the police. He is forced to take part in an investigation involving drugs, corrupt politicians, and an ambitious real estate magnate that intends to take over the bay.Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 5.27.49 PMNobody particularly remembers Baywatch for its storylines or its characters. When it comes up at all in the cultural conversation, it is almost exclusively for its visual signifiers: the women running in slow motion on the beach in bright red swimsuits. This film does nothing to better that reputation. Rather than take the opportunity to try and actually tell a worthy story within this heightened context, it delivers a forgettable plot that wouldn’t have felt out of place in the TV show, and then mainly adds a sprinkling of dick jokes.Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 5.33.34 PMThe film doesn’t really commit to a particular direction. It might have sincerely tried to tell a story of lifeguards who keep getting caught up in bigger things. Or it could have completely embraced the absurdity inherent to the show, spoofing its elements at every juncture. It ends up doing a little bit of both. So we are supposed to marvel at these lifeguards saving lives and solving crimes while the movie simultaneously acknowledges that it’s all stupid and none of it makes any sense. This is a film that seems to try and call out the latent sexism in the way the original show might have treated its female characters, while not really doing anything to correct it.Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 5.40.07 PMThe film ends up building itself around the tension between Buchanan and Brody, with the narrative arc largely involving Brody gaining respect for Buchanan’s unusual methods. Meanwhile, the female characters are basically decoration. They are prizes meant to be won by the film’s male characters. For all of their supposed competence, we hardly get to see these women do anything cool. Heroism is ultimately still reserved for the men. Even the one schlubby lifeguard gets to do something of more consequence than any of the female characters.Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 5.36.36 PMBuchanan and Brody don’t even make for a particularly compelling pair. Sure, Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron are very committed performers that try hard to sell every joke. But the relationship depicted on screen is so unbalanced that the typical buddy rhythms don’t really work. Brody ends up feeling like a whipping boy, never really getting any good lines in. And the film never really decides just how stupid his character is supposed to be. No one else in the cast really gets to do anything good. At some point, its use of Alexandra Daddario and Kelly Rohrbach just starts feeling exploitative.Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 5.26.31 PMBaywatch is just about as memorable as the TV show, but that isn’t really a good thing. It has better lead stars and marginally better production values, but its halfhearted commitment to satirizing the elements of its source material means that a good chunk of it is actually just the kind of thing that the TV show would have done. If anything, its criminal investigation plot is actually less zany than something that Hasselhoff might have tackled once on the show. It feels like the film is coasting on the recognition that the Baywatch name gives, having little ambition beyond delivering all those same elements, even though it recognizes just how weak all of it is.

BAYWATCH IS NOW SHOWING IN SELECTED CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Fast and Furious 8’ Makes a Lot of Noise

The latest entry in the blockbuster franchise forgets to bring the humanity to its spectacle.

NBHD movie 2 ticketsFast and Furious 8 (Fate of the Furious in the US) catches up with Dominic Toretto and Letty (Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez) on their honeymoon in Cuba. While headed back home one day, Dom is accosted by the international hacker and terrorist known as Cipher (Charlize Theron), who shows him something that causes him immediate alarm. Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) once again recruits Toretto and his crew to help keep a powerful weapon from falling into dangerous hands. But at the end of the mission, Toretto betrays Hobbs and steals the weapon from him. Dom has apparently joined forces with Cipher, and the rest of his team is soon forced to go up against him.Screen Shot 2017-04-13 at 10.25.41 PMThe Fast and Furious movies have never been known for their narrative rigor. Ever since the franchise took its new direction, the plot has been mostly there to facilitate the staging of increasingly absurd set pieces. And so, the expectations for telling a story within this blockbuster are pretty low. And yet, this edition of the franchise still manages to trip over the ridiculously low bar set by the other films. In trying to set up its twists and turns, in its determination to call back things from the past, the film betrays its characters, and gets aggressively dumb along the way. Screen Shot 2017-04-13 at 10.31.31 PMA lot of this has to do with the villain, whose plan is always at best, and insistence on using Toretto in her schemes seems to run counter to her interests. She is presented as being dangerously competent, with enough technology to take control of pretty much anything. But for very flimsy reasons, she risks recruiting Toretto knowing full well that he would be actively plotting against her. This ends up making Cipher seem much less dangerous than she really ought to be. With the resources at her disposal, she ought to be killing Toretto and his crew. But she seems to squander every opportunity to do so. Screen Shot 2017-04-13 at 10.29.39 PMSimilarly, it makes no sense that Toretto wouldn’t at some point find a way to let his crew know what’s going on. The script just isn’t working hard enough to make its most basic elements work. Instead, it has its characters exclaiming things to explain to the slowest members of the audience what exactly is going on. Not that it really helps when it counts. The film needlessly sketches out every dumb detail of the plot, but is unable to provide clarity in the middle of its action sequences. The basic motivations of each character in the big set pieces are murky, making the spectacle emptier than it’s ever been.Screen Shot 2017-04-13 at 10.28.53 PMOf course, people are just here for the absurd destruction. To that end, the movie is competent, but uninspired. It doesn’t quite put together the memorably ludicrous images of previous films. A lot of it feels abstract, the scenes lacking a human element amidst the crunch of metal and the hiss of flames. The cast, at the very least, is still having fun. Vin Diesel is as Vin Diesel as he’s ever been. Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham make a lot of out of the tension between the characters, even if the film can’t provide a payoff. And every scene Kurt Russell is in is a real joy. The film kind of wastes Charlize Theron, though, whose performance is mainly relegated to cutaways of her at a computer saying sinister things right before she presses a button. Hollywood blockbusters should never have a hacker villain. It just doesn’t work.Screen Shot 2017-04-13 at 10.51.28 PMFast and Furious 8, more than any of the previous movies, is about empty spectacle. In a few ways, this film betrays the silly yet weirdly affecting overall theme of the franchise: family. In trying to pursue, for example, the thrill of having former enemies work together, the film seems to absolve villains of the crimes they’ve committed against the central family. The film makes all sorts of nods to the franchise’s past, but in the most crucial ways, it has forgotten what this whole thing is all about. It has stripped itself of its last vestiges of its humanity, and has just become this ugly machine that produces nothing but noise. That’s just not as fun.

FAST AND FURIOUS 8 OPENS TOMORROW, APRIL 15, IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.