REVIEW: “JUNGLE CRUISE” (2021) Disney Studios

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I was probably 4 years old when I was first taken to Disneyland. I can’t remember my exact age, but I do know I was very young and my parents took me on the Jungle Cruise ride – and I freaked out and started screaming and crying. Because yes, I thought it was real and I remember so well the big hippo opening his mouth right where I was sitting in the boat and I thought I was going to be eaten, and basically thought lions, tigers and bears were all after me. I cried so hard and was so terrified, that I never went on that ride again until I was a teen – possibly even older! Needless to say, there was no crying watching this version of Disney’s “JUNGLE CRUISE”, only laughter as it is definitely not that ride and a much different story to boot.

This adventure begins with Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), who hires a wisecracking skipper, named Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson), to take her down the Amazon in his ramshackle boat. Together, they search for an ancient tree whose petals hold the power to heal all — a discovery that will change the future of medicine. Along for the ride Lily’s posh, upper-crest brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall), who doesn’t clearly belong anywhere in a jungle, but succeeds in stealing a lot of his scenes with his over-the-top persnickety ways, most particularly his interactions with Frank’s pet leopard whom they have on board the cruise. The CGI might have been a bit lacking on the leopard, but Whitehall makes it funny so it’s very easy to overlook.

(L-R): Dwayne Johnson as Frank Wolff, Emily Blunt as Lily Houghton and Jack Whitehall as MacGregor Houghton in Disney’s JUNGLE CRUISE. Photo courtesy of Disney. © 2021 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

While ‘Jungle Cruise’ could have just been a simple escapade through the jungle with some good action and laughs thrown in, we do get some long drawn out sections with Johnson’s character Frank explaining a bit of a convoluted backstory of the special flower, and the enhanced version of the long dead enchanted conquistadors of his time. Kids especially, might get a bit lost here as let’s face it, they just want the lions, tigers and fun action aspects of his character that help endear Frank to us more. Director Jaume Collet-Serra gives us a big scale action adventure here with plenty of laughs thanks to Johnson giving us some of his best cheesy humour with one-liner awful, terrible jokes that are so bad they are absolutely downright funny. It’s perfectly done and no one in this film takes it all to seriously and that is possibly it’s biggest highlight except for the fact that the biggest thing that upstages them is the absolute wonderful, electric chemistry between Blunt and Johnson. This would have been a totally different movie without that as together they are an unbeatable team here and yes, the glue that holds this film together. But the supporting cast consisting of Jesse Plemons, and again, Jack Whitehall with his witty-ness, Edgar Ramirez, and Paul Giamatti, all add to the adventure as well and round it all up.

So my advice is no crying – and get your ticket for the fantastical journey that is – Jungle Cruise.

Grade: B-

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Review Screening: Monday, July 26, 2021 at El Capitan Theater ~ Courtesy of Disney Studios

“JUNGLE CRUISE” IS IN THEATERS AS OF FRIDAY, JULY 30, 2021 also VOD on Disney+

REVIEW: “JOY” (2015) 20th Century Fox

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With narration told by her grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd), the only person who believes in and encourages young Joy’s as her story begins at Rudy’s Bus and Truck metal shop, where being an imaginative creative girl, she entertains herself through paper models of forests and castles.

Based on a true story, the film depicts the rise of female inventor and entrepreneur Joy (Jennifer Lawrence), who rises to fame by hawking her Miracle Mop on QVC. The story is much more than about business success, for Joy is a 1970’s housewife who supports four generations in her house, including her ex-husband, Tony (Edgar Ramirez) and father Rudy (Robert De Niro).
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Director David O. Russell struggles here, a bit unsuccessfully I might add, to portray a harrowing the path to the mop. Joy deals with a houseful of kids, only a few of them children by actual age. The motley crew she calls family all crammed in her small house are not on Joy’s side. She is the breadwinner, the adult, the rock whose imagination is a liability to those overly dependent on her. Her mother Terry (Virginia Madsen) a soap-opera viewing addict, who watches made-for-this-film, unfunny soap opera segments that seem unmotivated with there being no implication as to why we are pointing to the off-TV characters. It’s goes on to become a paint-by-numbers affair from there – familial jealousy from sister Peggy (Elisabeth Rohm), dirty financial dealings, the nightmare of the age-old saying, “Do not do business with your family.”
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After all, Joy manages to build a mop prototype. She brings it to QVC where the initial sale segment bombs. With Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper), the slick head honcho of newly formed shopping network QVC behind her, he takes a chance and allows Joy to showcase the mop herself. Bingo! The mop sells out. Success? Nope. The parts supplier is screwing Joy, every sale of the mop loses money, and the family wants their money back. Financial ruin follows. Then Grandma passes. But Joy decides she’s been walked all over enough and ‘womans up’ to settle all scores financial and emotional. You would think Hooray! right? If only the story wasn’t so average and been done so many times before would it be all that and more.

The acting is nothing notable as De Niro is no stranger to playing a conflicted father with a big heart, though there is something a bit off-kilter here even for him on this. We all know Lawrence & Cooper play well off each other and they do that again here. It’s Edgar Ramirez, who after falling so flat in Point Break, really stands up and dazzles amongst this all-star cast.
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So let me just do a quick sum up for you in one sentence. ‘Down and out mother thinks up an invention, brings it to market, and becomes rich after some pitfalls that, in reality, is all fought and done with lawyers in the end’. In lieu of dramatizing a woman overcoming, Russell instead created a often unfunny comedy.

While the real life, inventive Joy deserves kudos, the bottom line is this is a feature film about the creator of a better mop and offers little on the path to an unsatisfying end where Joy makes it big and helps others succeed.
With all the heavy-hitters in film coming out these last 2 weeks of the year, it’s doubtful JOY will stand out amongst them.

Grade: C
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Review Screening: Monday, December 21, 2015 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Studios
Nationwide release: Friday, December 25, 2015

REVIEW: “POINT BREAK” (2015) Warner Bros.

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I am not inherently opposed to remakes and reboots, and I don’t think I could call myself a ‘purist’ as I’ve liked some re-makes and I am perfectly fine with rebooting material and even straying from original material is fine if it serves the story well. What has happened here is that the studio has produced a garden variety action movie and slapped a name on it purely for the sake of brand recognition. But let us remember that when the original Point Break was released in 1991 it was universally panned and garnered quite terrible reviews. It’s only in the years since that we’ve come to be able to recognize it for the sheer fun it was, hence becoming a cult classic.
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This film exceeds expectations in the sense that this a slickly produced action film with a truly amazing soundtrack. The camera work, framing of the scenes and editing give everything you could desire of a decent action flick. There isn’t anything new going on here, but it’s produced in a professional manner and the action scenes are handled well and while it seems like X-Games on steroids at times, some of it’s truly breathtaking. This is where the second coming of Point Break truly excels. When it hits just the right velocity, it’s truly worth the watch. Also a bit of kudos as the helmets used for a robbery here, they stuck on caricatures of the Presidents, clearly in tribute to the original version.
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And then along comes the story. Luke Bracey takes on the role of Johnny Utah and this time our group of baddies, Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez), Grommet (Matias Varela), Roach (Clemons Shick),and Chowder (Tobias Santelmann) are all European and instead of pulling bank jobs to fund adrenaline junkie lifestyles, the action men of 2015 are self aware crusaders, too cool for school, hipsters on a self-imposed mission to nirvana. And where Lori Petty actually did something in the original, here we just sort of add in a Samsara (Teresa Russell) for only one reason. Honestly, you will find almost every character in this film to be quite annoying with the problem lying in the fact that not one of the main characters are in possession of a redeemable quality and their motivations are completely nonsensical. With that, clearly you know there will be no acting kudos coming from this crowd where everyone seemingly NEEDS loads of tattoos to be cool & belong. They do throw in Ray Winston as Pappas & Delroy Lindo as Instructor Hall for good measure, but not even these two can save the day of acting props here.
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The original Point Break was mostly known for its memorable bromance between Johnny Utah and Bodhi and some of its greatest action scenes ever put to film. Either way, this remake doesn’t bring enough justice to the cult classic.

Grade: D+
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MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL!!

Review Screening: AMC Century City ~ Wednesday, December 16, 2015 ~ Courtesy of LAFTV Meetup Group & Warner Bros. Pictures
Nationwide release: Friday, December 25, 2015