Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Gun Machine (2013) by Warren Ellis

Gun Machine (2013) by Warren Ellis: Warren Ellis, a long-time comic-book writer (Transmetropolitan, The Authority, and Planetary, among many others) and acerbic futurist, creates one hell of a smart Pop detective thriller here. 

Lonely, burned-out, never-was NYPD detective John Tallow starts Gun Machine with a bad day that quickly gets worse. The violent events of the first few pages open a door into a secret Manhattan world of murder and weird maps. And guns. Lots of guns. Hundreds of guns from flintlocks to modern, near-metal-less handguns. An otherwise empty apartment filled with guns arranged into a mysterious, incomplete pattern. And every gun attached to either an unsolved murder or a murder now known to be incorrectly solved.

Tallow's detective instincts get jump-started by this room of mystery, especially after the case is dumped on him  because the NYPD not-so-secretly wants Tallow to fail and the cases to vanish as quickly as possible. A bad detective gets born again, though that rebirth may be short-lived. Conspiracies of power don't want the secret of the guns solved.

Ellis' prose is as pungent and cynical as ever, densely packed with information. The plot rockets along. Tallow and the other characters are sharply drawn. Sharply drawn, too, is our attention to the secret maps of Manhattan which Tallow discovers. A financial map based on the time it takes for financial offices to communicate with Wall Street. A map of gun crimes in Manhattan and the other boroughs. And the map the killer carries in his head, of Manhattan before Europeans came, a map that still surfaces in surprising places in the postmodern landscape.

It's a dark romp that engages with social and technological questions as it zips along, dialogue crackling and sparking, the narrative casting a cold eye on the modes of NYPD evidence collection, the surveillance state, the technical specifications of guns used in famous murders, the difficulty of parking in New York, the meaning of Occupy Wall Street, the malign rise of private policing, the dangers of too much exercise, an assortment of Native American tribes and rituals, and the politics of the police bureaucracy. 

Gun Machine is too densely packed to make a great movie, but it would make one hell of an HBO miniseries. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Trip to Italy (2014)

The Trip to Italy (2014): written by Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, and Michael Winterbottom; directed by Michael Winterbottom; starring Steve Coogan (Steve Coogan), Rob Brydon (Rob Brydon), Rosie Fellner (Lucy), Claire Keelan (Emma), and Timothy Leach (Joe Coogan) (2014): Sequel to 2011's The Trip sends British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, playing 'themselves,' on another restaurant-visiting road trip, this time in Italy. 

Highlights include more dueling Michael Caine impersonations, a hilarious take on the vocal problems of Tom Hardy and Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Rises, and some ventriloquism in Pompeii. All that and a colourful travelogue of food, scenery, Alanis Morrisette, and middle-age angst. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Marshall (2017)

Marshall (2017): written by Michael Koskoff and Jacob Koskoff; directed by Reginald Hudlin; starring Chadwick Boseman (Thurgood Marshall), Josh Gad (Sam Friedman), Kate Hudson (Eleanor Strubing), and Sterling K. Brown (Joseph Spell): Marshall plays a bit fast and loose with history in its tale of then-NAACP lawyer and future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall's participation in a rape trial in Connecticut in 1940. The major alteration come with re-imagining veteran Civil Rights lawyer Sam Friedman as a young, inexperienced Josh Gad.

Of course, this is a bit of a 'sauce for the goose' situation. The movie diminishes the contributions and experience of a white character (albeit Jewish and thus also familiar with bigotry) so as to foreground the competence and accomplishments of an African-American character. The movie does hew fairly closely to the facts of the case, so kudos for that.

Chadwick Boseman is riveting as Thurgood Marshall. The NAACP would send Marshall to consult on cases involving Civil Rights matters across America. How this hasn't been the basis for a TV show, I have no idea. Boseman has now played real-life characters Ernie Davis, James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, and Jackie Robinson. And he's the Black Panther!

Josh Gad is fine in a somewhat simplistic sidekick role. Equalizing the power relationship between Friedman and Marshall might have made for a quieter, better movie. But it's amazing that this film got made at all. And seemingly with the help of a lot of Chinese investors. What is up with that? Reginald Hudlin, whom I still associate with House Party, navigates a period-specific drama with grace and aplomb. 

The movie navigates the very, very hazardous territory of a false rape accusation with care and finesse. The reason for such a rarity of a false accusation are made perfectly clear, and the film foregrounds the sympathetic reasons that Kate Hudson's lonely socialite would have done such a thing. Sterling K. Brown is solid as the accused, a chauffeur with a checkered past (but not a rapey past). In all, recommended.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (2012)

Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (2012): directed by Sophie Huber; featuring interviews with Harry Dean Stanton, David Lynch, Kris Kristofferson, Sam Shepard, Wim Wenders, Debbie Harry, and others: 

A German documentary about that great American character (actor) Harry Dean Stanton, who would pass away in 2017 at the age of 91. I guess Germans love Harry Dean Stanton. Note that the subtitle 'Partly Fiction' quotes the same Kris Kristofferson song that plays a big role in Taxi Driver.

It's more mood piece than standard autobiography. Forget chronological order or a rundown of Stanton's films. Instead, we get snippets of interviews with Stanton interspersed with interviews and conversations with some of Stanton's friends, directors, and co-stars. Stanton, who admits towards the end of the film that he wishes he'd pursued a singing career, also sings on several occasions, to the extent that about 25 of the film's 75 minutes involve singing.

If you like Harry Dean Stanton, you'll like it a lot. Debbie Harry wrote a song about him! Rebecca de Mornay lived with him for about two years before going off with Tom Cruise during the filming of Risky Business! He's from Kentucky! He drinks... tequila and cranberry juice??? Highly recommended.

The Greatest Showman (2017)

The Greatest Showman (2017): written by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon; directed by Michael Gracey; starring Hugh Jackman (P.T. Barnum), Michelle Williams (Charity Barnum), Zac Efron (Philip Carlyle), Zendaya (Anne Wheeler), and Rebecca Ferguson (Jenny Lind): 

Surprising box-office hit (nearly $500 million worldwide!) is a zippy crowd-pleaser. Just don't expect historical accuracy. It's a light, frothy musical about how difference needs to be accepted and celebrated... um, by exhibiting those differences in circuses and carnivals and P.T. Barnum's weird-ass New York museum. 

The movie is sort of set in the 1840's and 1850's, though this never seems to be stated and there are several elephant herds of anachronisms and mistakes to muddy the temporal waters. Let's just say that the real-world events the movie was "based on" occurred between 1840 and 1860 and that the movie itself in set in "the before-time" or perhaps "Oldey Timey Days." They're Oldey Timey because no one has a cellphone.

To understand the lack of historical accuracy, simply note that the depiction of P.T. Barnum in a recent episode of DC's Legends of Tomorrow was more accurate. And that's a goddam show about time-travelling superheroes.

Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, a distracted-looking Michelle Williams and the rest of the cast sing and dance up a storm in what is essentially the world's longest United Colours of Benetton ad. To fully enjoy the movie, avoid finding out what travelling act first made P.T. Barnum famous. It's a racist show-stopper to movie enjoyment! Lightly recommended so long as no one mistakes it for history.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Avengers: Infinity War (BluRay) (2018)

Avengers: Infinity War (BluRay) (2018): written by everybody; directed by Joe and Anthony Russo; starring everybody: Mostly diverting, overlong superhero slug-fest struggles to balance bombast and quippiness and mostly succeeds. 

The visuals and writing are a step down from zippier recent Marvel movies that include Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok. The logistics of fitting all these characters into this story overwhelm all other considerations. Wit is at a premium.

To wit: six years ago, Thanos managed to lose control of two of the magical plot-device Infinity Gems when he had Loki lead his forces in an invasion of Earth in the first Avengers movie. At that time, a third stone was in the possession of the Ancient One on Earth. So Avengers was basically Operation Stumblebum for Thanos. Three of the six stones in his grasp! Then he fritters away six years and goes on a stone-collecting bender in the week or so leading into and through Infinity War. We all wrote high-school essays on pretty much the same last-minute timeline!

The plot thread starring Iron Man, Spider-man, and Dr. Strange is terrific. Robert Downey Jr., Benedict Cumberbatch, and Chris Pratt are all divertingly pissy while Spider-man looks on in wide-eyed bafflement. That most of the scenes in this thread take place either on a planet right out of a videogame cutscene or on a spaceship shaped like a donut seems weirdly appropriate. Though the designers of that flying donut really should have invested in double-walled bulkheads.

The climactic Wakanda battle scenes make little strategic or tactical sense, and suggest that, among other things, none of the Avengers or Wakandans have ever seen Zulu. Or read about military battles after the invention of projectile weapons. Wait, didn't Captain America FIGHT in World War Two?

Thanos has been much-changed from his tirelessly malevolent comic-book self into a mournful giant who desperately needs a hug that he never receives. Maybe in Part Two! Brolin invests the big purple fella with a certain bruised gravitas even if his master plan for the universe was stolen from the original series Star Trek episode "The Conscience of the King." 

The BluRay is a little thin in terms of interesting features, especially compared to the loaded Thor: Ragnarok BluRay of a few months back. The featurettes play more like long advertisements than anything substantive, there's nothing about the comic-book origins of Thanos, the gag reel is perfunctory, but the deleted scenes are sort of interesting. I'd guess a much more fully loaded BluRay will appear a couple of weeks before Infinity War 2 bows in April 2019. Recommended.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Metal of Man

Dark Nights: Metal: Dark Knights Rising (2017): written by Scott Snyder, Grant Morrison, James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson, Frank Tieri, Sam Humphries, Dan Abnett, and Peter J. Tomasi; illustrated by Doug Mahnke, Philip Tan, Tony S. Daniel, Francis Manapul, and others: There's no point reading this as a separate entity from the DC Comics Event series it supports, Dark Nights: Metal. Well, unless you like depressing What if? superhero stories about horrible alternate realities in which Batman goes crazy and kills off most or all of the other super-heroes. Then it's awesome!

I think you're supposed to read these stories about halfway through your reading of the main series, but reading them afterward (as I did) worked fine. They fill in some of the blanks of the main series. The writing is mostly solid and occasionally inspired. The art, too, is solid and occasionally inspired. The Seven Evil Batmen from alternate universes are depressing and awful here as in the main series. Moreso, really, as we see the depth of their falls from grace. Recommended.

Dark Nights: Metal: The Resistance (2017): written by Scott Snyder, Benjamin Percy, James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson, Rob Williams, Robert Venditti, and Tim Seeley; illustrated by Doug Mahnke, Howard Porter, Yanick Paquette, Jorge Jiminez, Jaime Mendoza, Liam Sharp, and others: There's no point reading this as a separate entity from the DC Comics Event series it supports, Dark Nights: Metal. You are supposed to read the stories collected here about four issues (of a total of six) into Dark Nights: Metal. Certain major things in that series are explored and explained. To say more would spoil that.

But yeah, you're going to need to read Dark Nights: Metal. And Dark Nights: The Road to Metal if you want to understand why Dick Grayson/the original Robin/Nightwing keeps having transdimensional visions.

Well, no, not exactly. Perhaps 2/3 of the volume comprises The Resistance. That follows the efforts of the Bat-Family, the Suicide Squad, and Green Arrow to figure out what the Hell is going on in Gotham City in the absence of the (real) Batman. The Seven Evil Batman are there. So too is Challengers Mountain, dropped into the middle of Gotham like a lawn dart made of sweet, sweet granite. 

So, too, concentric circles patrolled by the minions of the Dark Batmen. Harley Quinn and Killer Croc get a lot of space to be their good-bad selves, fighting for Gotham even though they're mostly villains. It's probably about as fun as it can be, though it refers to events preceding the story-line that aren't collected in any of the four Metal volumes. Oh, well. Recommended.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Wonder Woman: War of the Gods

Wonder Woman: War of the Gods (1991/ Collected 2017): written by George Perez; illustrated by George Perez, Jill Thompson, Cynthia Martin, Russell Braun, Romeo Tanghal, and others: War of the Gods was DC Comics' company-wide crossover for 1991 and one of its best from the first decade of company-wide crossovers that kicked off with 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths. And as with Crisis, writer-artist George Perez is a major component.

As 1991 was the 50th anniversary of the first appearance of Wonder Woman, War of the Gods also served as a de facto anniversary celebration, centered as it was upon Wonder Woman, the Amazons, WW-foe Circe, and the Amazon island of Themyscira (aka Paradise Island). 

George Perez had been writing and/or illustrating Wonder Woman ever since her series rebooted post-Crisis in 1986. War of the Gods would also serve as a farewell to Perez -- his problems with DC's low-key anniversary acknowledgement of WW's 50th helped cause him to leave Wonder Woman with the issue that served as an epilogue to War of the Gods.

A lot of people help out on the artwork here, including two pioneering female artists when it came to mainstream superhero comics -- Cynthia Martin and Jill Thompson. They're very good. They also follow Perez's lead in giving Wonder Woman a realistic physique. Which is to say, she's not top-heavy. In mainstream superhero comics, that's something of a Mission Statement then and now. You can sort of chart sexism in superhero comics by the size of Wonder Woman's bust.

War of the Gods sees the witch Circe incite a war among various pantheons of gods. Initially, this involves the Greek and Roman gods. Initially, the similarity of the Greek and Roman gods also creates confusion as to who is who and why and what and what-have-you. Then other gods from the Hindu and Egyptian and Babylonian and assorted other pantheons start wreaking havoc on Earth. It's a good thing Earth has superheroes! If you've ever wanted to see Aquaman defeat the Babylonian demon Tiamat, this is the comic for you.

Wonder Woman leads the battle against Circe, with Earth's other heroes taking their cues from her. Perez and the other artists do a solid and often inspired job of depicting all these mythological battles and weird dimensionnal realms, including another take on Perez's M.C. Escher-influenced Olympus, the war-god Ares' realm of Areopagus, and the cosmic burial ground of of the dead Titan Cronus.

Still, this is a company-wide crossover, so many other heroes are involved. And even with the 'company-wide' part trimmed to just the miniseries and issues of Wonder Woman, things get pretty crowded. Omitting all the other issues that tied into the War of the Gods sometimes means 'not crowded enough,' though. Some events that clearly occupied entire issues of Superman or Justice League get only passing mention in this volume. 

I suppose there may some day be a War of the Gods Omnibus edition that compiles all the stories. For now, we're left wondering why, to cite one example, Firestorm is given such a major introduction in this volume before going on to do, um, nothing. I assume he had a pivotal role in one of the tie-ins. Or maybe not. Thanks for coming out, Firestorm!

There's some fairly typical Continuity Wankiness here, especially when it comes to Shazam. Why do the names that make up the acronym Shazam come from Greek, Roman, and Biblical figures? Well, now you will know! 

And the answer isn't 'Because they start with the right letters?' No explanation is given for Mary Marvel's different set of gods and legends, but I'm not sure Mary Marvel was in DC continuity in 1991. Hoo ha! 

Three characters from Crisis on Infinite Earths -- Harbinger, Pariah, and Lady Quark -- also make appearances here so as to tie in the universe-shaking events to the multiverse-shaking events of that series. Hey, it's always nice to see Lady Quark and her weird costume.

In all this is an enjoyable, sometimes choppy volume, that choppiness coming from the missing tie-in issues. I suppose if you're not going to reprint all the issues for the sake of brevity, you could always insert text pages explaining, 'Meanwhile, in Superman this happened, and in JLA that...'. But it's nice to see Wonder Woman figure so prominently in a crossover. Recommended.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Wonder Woman and the Justice League of America

Wonder Woman and the Justice League America Volume 1 (1993-94/ Collected 2017): written by Dan Vado, Chuck Dixon, and Bill Loebs; illustrated by Kevin West, Mike Collins, Chris Hunter, Greg LaRocque, Rick Burchett, Ken Branch, and others:  

DC repackaged these early 1990's Justice League America issues to put Wonder Woman's name above the title. Which is fine. It's an undercollected era of DC's super-group, so whatever helps it sell!

Wonder Woman takes over as leader a few months after the Death of Superman event removed the Man of Steel from the group. The surviving members, most of whom took a beating at the hands of Superman-killer Doomsday, are still pretty traumatized. Booster Gold needs new armor, his 25th-century duds having been shredded by Doomsday. Blue Beetle is still recovering from his own physical and emotional trauma. Fire still hasn't regained her fire powers. Former Green Lantern Guy Gardner, now wielding Sinestro's yellow power ring, is unusually pissy even for him.

The group gets asked by the United Nations to intervene in an African military coup. There may be no super-villains involved in the coup, but that rapidly changes. The Extremists show up. Or maybe The New Extremists. A sort-of generic group of super-villains, they're working for a sinister mastermind who won't be revealed until the next collected volume.

The JLA makes its way through several problems, from alien fugitives to problems in member Ice's frozen Northern kingdom. The Extremists and the political problems in Ice's homeland are both part of a larger strategy from a mystery figure. Guy Gardner's ultra-belligerence is not -- it's something from his own book crossing over into JLA. We also get a chapter from perhaps DC's least-loved title-wide crossover of the 1980's and 1990's, Bloodlines.

New writer Dan Vado keeps things chugging along with what is really a Marvel-level of angst and superheroic sorrow. New regular artist Kevin West is certainly a competent penciler, though he's outshined in a one-off appearance by Mike Collins. The JLA was never really an 'Art book' -- it's hard enough to keep all the costumes straight, I think! Overall, it's a solid slice of 1990's superheroics, complete with some truly hair-raising costumes and hair-styles. Recommended.

Wonder Woman and the Justice League America Volume 2 (1994/ Collected 2017): written by Dan Vado, Gerard Jones, and Mark Waid; illustrated by Marc Campos, Chuck Wojtkiewicz, Sal Velluto, Ken Branch, and others: 

Wonder Woman leads the Justice League America against the somewhat wiggy Cult of the Machine. But that's just the warm-up for the six-part crossover with Justice League Europe and Justice League Task Force as the three Leagues must join forces in the Day of Judgment story-line to save the Earth from the Overmaster and his Cadre.

Primary JLA penciler Marc Campos does a decent job throughout, though he's occasionally overwhelmed by a desire to do unusual page lay-outs that compromise the reader's ability to understand what the Hell is going on. But he does seem very energetic and enthusiastic. Because the book crosses over with two other titles, the artists change between Day of Judgment chapters, which can be a bit discombobulating.

Wonder Woman does her best as team leader. There's a sly visual nod to Watchmen at one point which I like a lot. Booster Gold screws up. Blue Beetle gets off the mat. Vandal Savage gets to be non-threatening for once. Co-writer on Day of Judgment Mark Waid seems to do a practice run for the Quintumvirate of Kingdom Come with a trio of immortals here debating what to do about Earth's potentially dire fate. 

Overmaster never comes into complete focus as a villain. He's like Galactus if Galactus were into eugenics rather than planet-eating. Superman and Batman are completely absent from the shenanigans because of events over in their own books. They should probably have appeared for at least a cameo, given the stakes, but editors can be really, really fussy about appearances of their characters in the books of other editors. This is how one sometimes ends up with a Justice League or an Avengers that would have problems defeating the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Oh, well.

One of the period-specific curiosities here (well, other than a book called Justice League Task Force, a name it shared with a video game of the time) are repeated references to Wonder Woman's loss of the ability to fly. Clearly this happened in her own book. We're told again and again that she can no longer fly, but never is it explained further. Get this woman an Invisible Jet stat! Recommended.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Battle of the Sexes (2017)

Battle of the Sexes (2017): written by Simon Beaufoy; directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris; starring Emma Stone (Billie Jean King), Steve Carrell (Bobby Riggs), Bill Pullman (Mustachio Twirling Villain), Alan Cumming (Gay Fashion Designer Yoda), Andrea Riseborough (Saintly Lesbian Hairdresser), Austin Stowell (Saintly Husband of Billie Jean King), and Sarah Silverman (Never Properly Identified Tennis Something):

Oh for captions or brief expository spurts of dialogue! Battle of the Sexes is about the famous inter-gender tennis match of 1973 between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. It's also about getting fair wages for professional female tennis players, King's gradual coming-out process, Bobbie Riggs' problems with family and gambling, and Howard Cosell's giant, invasive hands. Without captions or exposition, some characters never come into focus. For example, I have no idea who Sarah Silverman's sassy character was or what her official relationship to the women's tennis tour was.

The movie mostly tells but doesn't show such important things as King's current excellence and Riggs' past excellence on the court in the build-up to the match. Margaret Court might as well have a mustache to twirl as the anti-feminist side-villain of the piece. Bill Pullman plays some male chauvinist guy who runs something to do with women's tennis. What? No real idea. He's a promoter. Or maybe he's head of the North American Ladies' Lawn Tennis Association. Or maybe he's just reliable Bill Pullman!

We are shown a lot of King's burgeoning relationship with a female hairdresser in the lead-up to the match. This is a case of Hollywood Screenwriting 101 and its love of twinning a personal and public narrative. In reality, the (married) King had been seeing the woman in question for two years prior to the Battle of the Sexes. And the woman wasn't a hairdresser. She was King's personal assistant. And that same personal assistant sued King a few years later for 'Palimony' after their relationship ended. 

The narrative streamlines this messy, human story into a tale of a saintly lesbian hairdresser, a saintly female tennis player, and a saintly, understanding husband for King. Hollywood turns everyone into either saints or sinners, it seems, in the slurry-making process of the 'biopic.' The upshot is that King and the hairdresser are too saintly to be interesting -- Steve Carrell and Sarah Silverman get all the fun lines and fun things to do. Riggs' long-suffering wife and long-suffering adult son are also saintly and sanitized.

The acting keeps things afloat despite the often deadly dull first hour and the relative lack of actual scenes of tennis-playing. Emma Stone is fine as King, and Steve Carrell is also fine as Bobby Riggs. As Billie Jean King's husband, Austin Stowell is a portrait of wounded decency. The last 40 minutes rescues the first 80, but just barely. Lightly recommended.

Jumanji !!!

Jumanji (1995): adapted from the Chris Van Allsburg book by Chris Van Allsburg, Greg Taylor, Jim Strain, and Jonathan Hensleigh; directed by Joe Johnston; starring Robin Williams (Adult Alan Parrish), Jonathan Hyde (Van Pelt/ Alan's Dad), Kirsten Dunst (Judy Shepherd), Bradley Pierce (Peter Shepherd), Bonnie Hunt (Adult Sarah Whittle), Bebe Neuwirth Nora Shepherd), David Hyde Pierce (Carl), Adam Hann Byrd (Young Alan), and Laura Bell Bundy (Young Sarah):

Jumanji imagines its tale of a magical board game along the lines of any number of 'Forbidden Tome' horror stories over the decades. The movie may be seriocomic and star Robin Williams, but Jumanji the game is pretty horrifying for much of the movie's narrative. 

Jumanji's ground-breaking CGI looks terrible now, far worse than most stop-motion animation of decades past. The monkeys are especially terrible. But the movie, riffing on the Necronomicon and It's a Wonderful Life in equal measure, remains something of a curious hybrid of comedy and horror. Robin Williams is given almost nothing to work with comically; his desperate, traumatized character is one of his finest non-comic performances, delivered here in the midst of what should be comedy. 

Director Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer, Captain America: The First Avenger, and a lot of work on Spielberg movies) works some shocks into the material, though it really feels like this should have been set in the 1930's to play to his (period) strengths. A young Kirsten Dunst and Bradley Pierce are mostly non-annoying children; Bonnie Hunt doesn't have a lot to do. Recommended.

Jumanji: Welcome To the Jungle (2017): adapted from the Chris Van Allsburg book and the 1995 film by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, and Jeff Pinkner; directed by Jake Kasdan; starring Dwayne Johnson/ Alex Wolff (Spencer), Kevin Hart/ Ser'Darius Blain (Fridge), Jack Black/ Madison Iseman (Bethany), Karen Gillan/ Morgan Turner (Martha), Bobby Cannavale (Van Pelt), Rhys Darby (Nigel), and Nick Jonas/ Colin Hanks (Alex):

Genial, light action-comedy sequel of sorts to the 1995 movie about a reality-altering board game. Now the board game is a retro videogame cassette that pulls players into the world of Jumanji rather than vomiting up portions of the game world into the real world depending on the result of a roll of a dice.

Four high-school kids get dumped into the world of Jumanji and transformed into avatars from the game. This allows Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, and Kevin Hart to play at teen-aged personalities in adult (and in Black's case, gender-swapped) bodies. 

The Rock seems like he's auditioning for that Doc Savage movie that will never come. Things stay light, occasionally clever, and very CGI-heavy throughout. Rhys Darby (Murray on The Flight of the Conchords) appears as an NPC guide; would that there were more of him. Recommended.