Tags Posts tagged with "Dwayne Johnson"

Dwayne Johnson

by -
0 726
Stampeding ostriches on a pecking mission are part of the next level in the game of Jumanji. Photo from SONY Pictures

By Heidi Sutton

Riding on the coattails of the 2017 box office hit Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, director Jake Kasdan has reassembled the original cast for an equally exciting sequel, Jumanji: The Next Level. Since opening mid-December, the action-packed film has dominated the box office, raking in over $700 million worldwide. 

Awkwafina joins the cast of Jumanji in The Next Level. Photo courtesy of SONY Pictures

Based on Chris Van Allsburg’s 1981 children’s book, “Jumanji,” the story first appeared on the big screen in 1995. Starring Robin Williams, it centered around a creepy board game that summoned forth dangerous jungle creatures each time the dice was thrown.

Kasdan’s successful 2017 reboot featured four high school students — Spencer (Alex Wolff), Bethany (Madison Iseman), Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) and Martha (Morgan Turner) — who come across the video game version of Jumanji while serving detention together. 

When each teenager picks an alias to start the game, they are teleported to the world of Jumanji and become the actual avatars they had chosen. Spencer becomes archaeologist Dr. Xander “Smolder” Bravestone (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), Bethany is cartographer Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black), Fridge turns into zoologist Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart) and Martha is transformed into martial arts expert Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). 

With only three lifelines each, evident as black stripes on their wrist, the gang is tasked with a series of challenges in order to “win” the game. Only after successfully retrieving the Jaguar’s Eye from an evil villain, with a little help from avatar Jefferson “Seaplane” McDonough (Nick Jonas), aka Alex Vreeke (Colin Hanks) who had been stuck in the game for 20 years, do they earn safe passage home. 

In The Next Level, the four teenagers, now in college, make plans to meet up at a local cafe for Christmas break. 

Danny Glover and Danny DeVito join the cast of Jumanji in The Next Level.

When Spencer fails to show up for the reunion, his friends go to his house looking for him. To their dismay, they discover the infamous video game, broken but still functional, in the basement and realize their friend has gone back to Jumanji. They decide to go rescue him but things take a funny turn. While Fridge and Martha reenter the digital world, Bethany is bypassed by the game and Spencer’s Grandpa Eddie (Danny DeVito) and Eddie’s former best friend Milo (Danny Glover) are unwittingly sucked in as well.

In a hilarious body swapping twist, Danny DeVito’s character initially finds himself in the Rock’s muscular 6-foot 5-inch body while Danny Glover’s character is now a zoologist in Kevin Hart’s body. Martha once again takes the form of Ruby Roundhouse but Fridge is now Jack Black’s map reader. 

Bethany joins the group later on in a nonhuman form and Jonas’ Jefferson “Seaplane” McDonough also makes a reappearance. As the story unfolds, the cast switch avatars several times more by swimming in magic water, and we are introduced to a new character, a cat burgler named Ming Fleetfoot (rapper Awkwafina).

From left, Nick Jonas, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Dwayne Johnson, Awkwafina and Kevin Hart star in the third installment of the Jumanji franchise.
Photo courtesy of SONY Pictures

As the game is now at the next level, the stakes have also been elevated. Jumanji is suffering from a massive drought. To leave the game, the group, in addition to finding Spencer, must recover the Falcon’s Heart — a magical necklace stolen by warlord Jurgen the Brutal — which can end the drought if brought before sunlight and uttering Jumanji. Like before, each avatar has three lifelines with the addition of new skills (Ruby Roundhouse is now a nunchuck expert) and weaknesses (Prof. Oberon can now add heat, sun and sand to his growing list). 

The special effects are top notch. In addition to an exciting rope bridge scene in the jungle with vicious mandrills, the game’s map has now expanded to include the desert and dunes where the avatars are chased by prehistoric-looking ostriches and to Jurgen’s castle on an icy mountaintop where they face perilous cliffs and an unfriendly host.

As far as laughs go, The Next Level just might outdo its predecessor. Blain’s character Fridge finds much to complain about being in his new avatar, Prof. Oberon, which he finds even worse than when he was stuck as “Mouse,” whose weaknesses include cake. “At least I was still black,” he groans. 

Hart and Johnson’s characters are even funnier as perennially confused grandpas stuck in younger bodies. Johnson’s Danny DeVito impersonation with a New Jersey accent has hilarious results, especially when attempting to “smolder,” while Hart is tasked with capturing Glover’s slower speech, and his avatar ends up revealing key facts of the game too slowly to be of any use.

The clever script, filled with action, adventure and lots of comedy coupled with an outstanding cast and terrific soundtrack, is a winning formula. The final scene hints at a “Jumanji 4” — can’t wait! Running time is two hours. 

Rated PG-13 for adventure action, suggestive content and some language, Jumanji: The Next Level is now playing in local theaters.

From left, Nick Jonas, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart star in the new ‘Jumanji’ reboot. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures

By Heidi Sutton

After a 21-year absence, the African drums are back and beating stronger than ever. Fresh, original and exciting, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” rightfully topped the charts last weekend as king of the mountain, bumping “Insidious” to second and “Star Wars” to third.

Directed by Jake Kasdan (“Bad Teacher,” “Sex Tape,”) “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is based on the 1981 children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg. While many theorize the film is a remake of the original 1995 classic starring Robin Williams, it is actually a sequel that has been adapted for modern audiences where the creepy board game finds new unsuspecting players to terrorize. That was Kasdan’s goal from the beginning, reaffirmed in a recent interview with Forbes Magazine. “I loved the original movie, and [this new film] was a really cool extension of that, but it was vital to us that it stands on its own and be its own thing.”

This time around, instead of the jungle and all its creatures coming to town and creating havoc (remember the monkeys?), the four main characters are sucked into the game and have to overcome many obstacles to be able to come back home.

From left, Alex Wolff , Ser’Darius Blain, Madison Iseman and Morgan Turner play four teens that fall prey to ‘Jumanji,’ now in the form of a video game. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures

The year is 2016 and “Jumanji” has transformed itself into a video game, the only way it can attract its next victims (“who plays board games anymore?”). Sitting innocently on a shelf in a high school storage room, it peaks the interest of four students of Brantford High School who find it while serving detention for the afternoon. (Think “Breakfast Club.”) There’s Spencer Gilpin, self-proclaimed nerd; jock Anthony “Fridge” Johnson; popular girl Bethany Walker; and shy bookworm Martha Kaply. When each teenager chooses an avatar to start the game, they are teleported to a dangerous jungle and become the characters they have chosen.

Spencer is now Dr. Smolder Bravestone, played by the 6-foot 5-inch Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson; Fridge is the short zoologist Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart); Martha is a martial arts expert, Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan); and Bethany is an overweight, middle-aged cartographer named Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon (Jack Black). Black’s performance as a 16-year-old girl is brilliant.

The group soon realizes that they are in a video game, and each has just three lives. If they lose all three, they will die for real. Their mission is to steal the Jaguar’s Eye from big-game hunter, Russel Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale), return it to its rightful owner and win the game.

One of the funniest moments throughout the film is the special skills and weaknesses attributed to the avatars. While Gillan’s character weakness is venom and Black’s weakness is endurance, Hart’s weakness is strength, speed and cake, and instantly self-implodes when he takes a bite. On the other hand, The Rock has no weaknesses, only a “smoldering charisma,” which he utilizes quite often.

As the movie progresses, the avatars lose lifeline after lifeline, dying in various ways and then dropping from the sky for another try. When things start to look grim, they bump into Alex (Nick Jonas), a boy from their town who has been lost in the jungle for 20 years. Can the five combine their skills to overcome the game’s magical power and return home?

Filmed on the Hawaiian island of Kauai where “Jurassic World” was also filmed, the movie is visually stunning and the special effects are top notch. With a great script, adventure, action packed and funny as tech, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is now playing in area theaters.

Rated PG-13 for suggestive content and some language.