Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson and Karen Gillan in Jumanji: The Next Level
[not yet reviewed]
Sorority pledges are stalked by a killer during Christmas break. Opens Dec. 13 at theaters valleywide.
Jumanji: The Next Level *
Welcome to an unfortunate new Christmas movie tradition: the Jumanji
movie. Two years ago, a quartet of high-schoolers magically entered a 1990s-era videogame and were transformed into “hilariously” opposite avatars (scrawny nerd becomes buff swashbuckler; shy girl becomes scantily clad “dance fighter;” etc.) to solve a jungle adventure puzzle. The one-joke wonder of the 2017 movie is painfully extended as, going back into the game, two grandpas join the shenanigans, and now it’s “hilarious” that squawky curmudgeon Danny DeVito lands in the body of The Rock (later Awkwafina-as-a-cat-burglar) and a loquacious Danny Glover becomes “boy scout” Kevin Hart. Writer-director Jake Kasdan—son of Lawrence Kasdan, legendary writer of Raiders of the Lost Ark
; the apple fell far from that tree—directs action sequences as if he intends to suck all the excitement and suspense out of them. The stakes are too low, anyway, to generate much suspense: Everyone gets another life when they “die” in the game. This isn’t an action adventure so much as a body-swap comedy, minus any real laughs. Stay tuned for another rote sequel in 2021. Opens Dec. 13 at theaters valleywide.
If this were a live-action blockbuster, we’d be talking about one of the funkiest ever to hit the screen. Director Hiroyuki Imaishi and writer Kazuki Nakashima concoct a deep mythology—about a world where mutant humans with fire powers known as Burnish become a threat, addressed with a specialized Fire Prevention Bureau—before spinning into a scenario about a world-threatening seismic event and a space-ark evacuating humans. At the center is a conflict between cocky firefighter Galo (Kenichi Matsuyama) and Lio Fotia (Taichi Saotome), sort of the Magneto of the persecuted Burnish, and their big battles are epic-length set pieces bursting with pastel colors and jagged character design. But it’s an unusual twist to repeatedly emphasize that the story’s ostensible protagonist, Galo, is kind of stupid; at one point during the crap-ton of exposition this movie needs to shovel out in order for it to make any sense at all, we see him literally falling asleep. Giant robot fights in movies are fun—somehow more fun with a story goofy enough to introduce a robot that could save everyone, and give it the name Deus X Machina. Opens Dec. 13 at Tower Theatre.
Richard Jewell **1/2
See feature review
. Opens Dec. 13 at theaters valleywide.
The Two Popes **1/2
If you’re going to call your movie The Two Popes
, it seems a bit off to effectively make it only about one of the two Popes. Though the narrative begins in 2005—with the death of Pope John Paul II, and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger becoming Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins)—the bulk of the story takes place in 2012, as Jorge Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce), the Argentinian cardinal and future Pope Francis, visits with Pope Benedict, hoping to ask for approval of his retirement. The scenes focused on hypothetical conversations between the two men of God—Benedict the strict conservative, and Bergoglio the social activist—are quite engaging, energized by the two strong central performances and their philosophical disagreements. But screenwriter Anthony McCarten (Bohemian Rhapsody
) doesn’t play fair with the two sides of that debate over the future of the church, giving us extensive flashbacks to Bergoglio’s complicated youth while Benedict remains fussily enigmatic. While it’s not surprising that a contemporary movie would conclude that “help the poor” is better than “clamp down on doctrinal progressivism,” the journey to that conclusion might allow both participants an equal place at the table. Opens Dec. 13 at Broadway Centre Cinemas.