Jungle Cruise: Film Review

Jungle Cruise

Photo by Frank Masi. © 2020 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

I absolutely love classic family-friendly action-adventure films like Pirates of the Caribbean and Indiana Jones so it’s no surprise that I enjoyed Jungle Cruise big time.

Taking inspiration from the Disneyland theme park attraction of the same name, Jungle Cruise is set in 1916 and follows Dr Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), a botanist who wants to find the Tears of the Moon, a flower which is believed to have healing powers that could benefit modern medicine. After stealing an arrowhead from a society in London, she heads to Porto Velho in Brazil with her reluctant brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) to find a riverboat captain to take them up the Amazon River on their quest. But in a case of mistaken identity, she ends up meeting skipper and tour guide Frank (Dwayne Johnson) instead of his more esteemed rival Nilo (Paul Giamatti). Their journey is filled with peril in the form of deadly animals, raging rapids, cursed mercenaries and a German aristocrat named Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons) in hot pursuit.

Jungle Cruise reminded me of films such as Romancing the Stone, The Mummy (1999), the first Pirates of the Caribbean and the Indiana Jones franchise – I love all of these movies so Jungle Cruise was right up my street and I know that if I was still a youngster I would have watched this over and over again. It’s just so much fun! It is an entertaining thrill ride for all the family – there’s screwball comedy, tons of exciting and amusing action setpieces and stunts, heartfelt scenes, and some darker moments that kids may find scary.

There are a few downsides – I thought the film was way too long so I was fully ready for it to wrap up as it approached its (very predictable yet heartwarming) conclusion. Also, the film is too heavy on the CGI, particularly with the animals and the cursed villains.

Blunt is perfectly cast as the determined and fearless Lily, who won’t take no for an answer and wears the trousers (quite literally). She is a pioneering woman, a trailblazer for all female scientists and I loved her as this character. She has great chemistry with Johnson and they both seem to be having a great time making this. I wasn’t totally convinced Johnson was the right fit for Frank in terms of physicality but he was a lot of fun and his dad jokes were very bad.

A lot of people took issue with Whitehall being cast as Disney’s first-ever openly gay character, which I can understand, but I personally thought he embodied the spoiled rich boy character well, even if his jokes didn’t always work. I’m glad the film included a scene which addressed his sexuality, but it’s a shame that Disney wouldn’t let them actually use the word “gay”. This scene could easily go over the heads of many and I’m sure that was the intention.

Plemons has been tapped to play the antagonist many times in the past and that’s because he does it so well. He was hilarious as the campy villain. His accent was fantastic and he seemed to really enjoy himself in the role. While he is the fun villain, there is also Edgar Ramirez as Aguirre, a cursed mercenary that has quite a scary appearance – I would put him on a same level as the Captain Barbossa reveal in Pirates.

Jungle Cruise is a feel-good throwback action-adventure that looks set to be the family movie of the summer.

In cinemas and Disney+ with Premier Access from Friday 30th July

Rating: 4 out of 5.

July in film: My recommendations

Black Widow

©Marvel Studios 2021

It’s the start of July so that means it’s time to take a look at what’s coming out this month!

Freaky
I have been excited to see this film for more than a year and I’m thrilled it’s finally coming out in the UK. It’s a gender-bending body-swap comedy starring Kathryn Newton and Vince Vaughn as a high school girl and serial killer who swap bodies. It’s very funny and really gory and seeing Vaughn playing a teenage girl brought me so much joy. In cinemas from Friday 2nd July.

Another Round
This Danish movie rightly won the Best International Feature Film Oscar earlier this year. Mads Mikkelsen is fantastic in this comedy-drama, about a group of friends and teachers who experiment with varying blood alcohol levels throughout their workday. This film has one of the best endings in recent memory. Read my review here. In cinemas from 2nd July.

Black Widow
It’s been a while since we’ve had a Marvel movie to watch on the big screen! I’m very excited by the fact cinema has recovered enough for it to happen! This standalone movie is led by Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and explores what she got up to between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. In cinemas from 7th July and on Disney+ from 9th July.

Gunpowder Milkshake
To be honest, I don’t know exactly what Gunpowder Milkshake is about because I avoided the trailer but all I need to know is that it’s an action-thriller starring Lena Headey and Karen Gillan as hitwomen. Sign me up! They are supported by more kickass assassins played by Angela Bassett, Carla Gugino and Michelle Yeoh. Hell yeah! In cinemas from 14th July.

Old
M. Night Shymalan‘s latest thriller looks wild. A family go for a day out at a secluded beach which somehow causes them to age rapidly, reducing their entire lives into a single day. I can’t wait to find out the explanation for this. The film stars Gael Garcia Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Alex Wolff, Thomasin McKenzie and more. Shymalan’s recent work hasn’t blown me away but this looks so intriguing. In cinemas from 23rd July.

Jungle Cruise
Another movie based on a Disney theme park ride, this action-adventure stars Dwayne Johnson as a steamboat captain who agrees to guide a British scientist and her reluctant brother – Emily Blunt and Jack Whitehall – on their mission into the jungle to find the Tree of Life. This looks like great fun. In cinemas and Disney+ from 30th July.

The Suicide Squad

I’m excited to see Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn again tbh! This sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad follows a group of imprisoned convicts – some familiar, some new – who are sent to destroy a Nazi-era prison and lab. The trailer for this movie, directed by James Gunn, is awesome so I have high hopes. Robbie is joined by the likes of Idris Elba, Joel Kinnaman and John Cena. In cinemas 30th July.

June in film: My recommendations

In the Heights

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

The cinemas are back open and there’s lots of exciting releases coming up this month!

So without further ado, here are my top recommendations for June (released in cinemas unless stated otherwise):

A Quiet Place Part II

Emily Blunt, Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds are back for more in this sequel to the amazing 2018 horror. This one continues right where that first film finishes off and follows the Abbott family as they try to find a new home. Expect more jumps and plenty of unsettling tension as they encounter the monsters, which hunt by sound. My review is already live, check it out here. Released: 3rd June.

The Father

This release is supremely delayed but you’ll finally be able to find out why Anthony Hopkins well and truly deserved his Best Actor Oscar win! His performance as a man suffering from dementia is absolutely devastating and if the final 10 minutes don’t reduce you to tears then you have a heart of stone! This film is clever and deliberately disorientating to put us in the shoes of somebody with dementia. Can’t recommend enough. Here’s my review. Released: 11th June.

In the Heights

I loved Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s stage musical so I’m very excited about the movie adaptation, directed by Crazy Rich Asians’ Jon M. Chu! This film tells the story of different characters living in the Washington Heights neighbourhood of New York City, and judging by the trailer, I’m going to love every second of it. Cannot wait to see all the singing and dancing on the big screen! Released: 18th June.

Luca

I always expect a very high standard from Pixar’s films and so I have high hopes for Luca, an animation based in 1950s Italy. It tells the story of best friends Luca and Alberto who are both hiding a secret – they’re sea monsters! It looks so good! Released on Disney+ (with no premium fee): 18th June.

F9

The ninth instalment in the Fast and Furious franchise looks set to be the most ridiculous one yet! But wouldn’t you be disappointed if they went for realism instead of defying the laws of physics?! Blockbusters are certainly back in business. Newcomer John Cena joins the franchise as Vin Diesel‘s onscreen brother and nemesis. Released: 24th June.

Supernova

Now for something a little different. This lovely drama stars Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci as Sam and Tusker, a couple who go on a trip in an RV to visit their favourite spots and people before Tusker deteriorates further in his battle with dementia. Two dementia films in one month! I saw this at the London Film Festival and cried so I’d definitely recommend tissues for this one. Here’s my LFF review. Released: 25th June.

There are other honourable mentions coming up, including Dream Horse, In the Earth, Land, Shiva Baby, Nobody, and The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard.

A Quiet Place Part II: Film Review

A Quiet Place Part II

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

I loved the first A Quiet Place, I gave it a full five stars and thought it was a terrific horror, so I was cautious about this sequel because I didn’t think it was necessary and I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the standard of the first one.

Following a cool prequel-style prologue, the main action takes place right where the first film ended and it is now day 474 in their new world, which is dominated by monsters with an acute sense of hearing so everybody has to be as quiet as possible to survive. The Abbotts – Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and her children Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Regan (Millicent Simmonds) (plus baby) – must find somewhere new to live and come across a warehouse which their old friend Emmett (Cillian Murphy) calls home. While there, Regan comes across a radio channel that only plays Beyond the Sea by Bobby Darin and becomes convinced the song is a signal so sets off to find the location of the transmission on an island a couple of days’ walk away.

What I loved about 2018’s A Quiet Place was that it was taut, focused and concentrated on one family and their experience of the monster apocalypse. It was inevitable that the sequel would expand and explore the world surrounding them more, but as a result, it becomes more sprawling, the pace is slower and the film has to cut back and forth between different characters and storylines and it just lacks that special magic that made the first film so awesome.

And number two, once again directed by John Krasinski, essentially feels like a bridge between number one and number three. A third hasn’t been announced yet but it is inevitably going to happen since this one basically has no ending. Outside of the incredible, thrilling opening flashback, the action just continues on from the first film and then stops after 90+ minutes even though it felt like it should carry on – there is so much more story left to tell. It didn’t feel like a satisfying conclusion. This sequel is basically just the one that gets them from point A to B and sets up the next storyline, which is apparent from this “ending”.

All this criticism makes it seem like I didn’t like it but that’s not the case. I just wanted it to be better because I liked the first one so much. I found this one less scary in a horror sense, even though there were a couple of good jumps, and more of an unsettling thriller, which was very effective at getting my heart pumping and making me feel tense every time they slowly tried to avoid making any noise is a potentially loud situation.

Simmonds was the emotional heart of the first film and she’s the star of the show here, without a doubt. She has the most exciting storyline, the one that pushes the narrative forwards, and she has such a compelling presence. I liked Regan’s partnership with Emmett and how they learned to communicate without him knowing sign language. Blunt felt side-lined somewhat. She really didn’t have much to do, which is a shame because she had the central role last time. Jupe is a very talented young actor and he does well with what he’s given, while Murphy is ace as what is essentially the kids’ new father figure. Also, Djimon Hounsou makes a small but important appearance and keep an eye out for Scoot McNairy, who looks barely recognisable in his role.

I had a great time watching A Quiet Place Part II but it failed to live up to the standard of its predecessor and I felt disappointed that it wasn’t enough of a standalone story.

In cinemas from Thursday 3rd June

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Wild Mountain Thyme: Film Review

Wild Mountain Thyme

Wild Mountain Thyme was ridiculed on social media over the cast’s dodgy Irish accents in the trailer late last year and I held back and decided to give the movie the benefit of the doubt and judge it in its entirety. Well, everybody was on the money because this movie is bad and absolutely bonkers.

Directed by John Patrick Shanley, who has adapted his 2014 Broadway play Outside Mullingar, Wild Mountain Thyme stars Emily Blunt and Jamie Dornan as Rosemary Muldoon and Anthony Reilly, who have lived on neighbouring farms in Ireland since they were kids. She has been in love with him for years and he’s absolutely oblivious. However, when his American cousin Adam Kelly (Jon Hamm) visits the farm, with the view of taking it over after Anthony’s father Tony (Christopher Walken) dies, he complicates matters by taking a liking to Rosemary.

It’s hard to understand why such talented actors would sign up for this barmy and over-the-top romantic comedy. The absurdity of it is quite amusing and I chuckled at it (not with it) often but mostly about how silly it all was – and that’s before I reached the late twist that is so ridiculous that I sat in disbelief, scratching my head, wondering if I had really just heard those lines correctly. I hadn’t been taking the frivolous, lightweight movie all that seriously, but the ending was just on a whole other level and I’m baffled by Shanley’s decision to go down such an unexpected and bizarre route.

Blunt and Dornan’s characters don’t seem like real people; she’s so sassy and headstrong that she stomps around and huffs a lot, while he’s so awkward and eccentric, you can see why his father doesn’t want to leave the farm to him when his charming and smooth American nephew is willing to do the job. The screenplay never manages to make them anything more than caricatures, it’s littered with cliched Irish references – to accompany the obvious landscape shots – and the accents don’t help matters.

As the trailer made very obvious, the accents in Wild Mountain Thyme are all over the place. Walken barely attempts to do it and Blunt goes overboard so they are both baffling bad. Dornan comes off slightly better since he’s Northern Irish but he clearly had some trouble switching to Irish and his effort is very inconsistent. Hamm is saved by the fact that he has to play a suave American businessman, something he’s got some experience in.

You can’t help but expect more from this film given the A-list cast and the fact Shanley is a Tony and Oscar-winning playwright and filmmaker, but sadly, Wild Mountain Thyme amounts to nothing more than an absurd and forgettable romcom that was a misjudgement for all involved.

On digital platforms from Friday 30th April

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Mary Poppins Returns: Film Review

When Mary Poppins Returns was announced I was horrified because I thought the 1964 original shouldn’t be messed with in any way and I was worried it would ruin the legacy and my memory of the original. I desperately wanted it to be good so I’m happy to report that it is loyal and I didn’t come away disappointed.

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Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep and Lin-Manuel Miranda at the Mary Poppins Returns London premiere: My pics

Tonight it was the Mary Poppins Returns European Premiere at London’s Royal Albert Hall and here are all my pics of stars including Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Meryl Streep.

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Top Films for December

It’s the start of December so that means it is time for my usual monthly preview! Here is my last recommendation list of the year:

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Sicario 2: Soldado – Film Review

I didn’t love the original Sicario as much as everyone else and I didn’t hold much hope for this instalment knowing it would be without Emily Blunt and cinematographer Roger Deakins, my two favourite things about the first. They were certainly missed in this sequel, also known as Day of the Soldado, which I didn’t like much, yet again.

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A Quiet Place: Film Review

I have shied away from horrors in recent years but I had to check out A Quiet Place because I love Emily Blunt and was intrigued about her teaming up with her real-life husband John Krasinski, who directs, co-writes and co-stars, and I’m glad I did because it’s not just a good horror, it’s a good movie in general.

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