13 December 2019.
JUMANJI – THE NEXT LEVEL ***
Here is what can be called a quality ‘popcorn blockbuster’. If you’re looking for a good family outing, this is great fun for kids from 5 to 95, with fast-paced action and story, and clever acting by all involved. This is the fourth installment about Jumanji, a powerful video game that transforms participants into avatars that are very different from their real selves. And keeps switching them around, to their chagrin and our amusement.
The first JUMANJI from 1995 starred the late, great actor and comedian Robin Williams, and was based on books by Chris van Allsburg. The last two additions to these wild and exciting adventures star Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Jack Black, who make a hilarious team replacing a bunch of teenagers who keep getting trapped in their various bodies in this fantasy game.
For extra fun, director Jake Kasdan (son of Lawrence) has this time thrown in the delightful/grumpy Danny DeVito along with Danny Glover who plays his estranged buddy. The two oldies really mix up this crazy escapade where the participants are caught in the game until they go through all the hurdles. Just watching the mighty Johnson talking and acting like little DeVito is worth the price of the ticket.
MARRIAGE STORY ****
This film will leave you dazed with its honesty, its raw emotions, its decency. It’s really about the trauma of divorce rather than about marriage. And yet it is also about evolving, modern love that maybe expects too much from its partners. For these two artists – director and actress – do love each other and their son, yet are tearing themselves apart. The film actually starts with the couple enumerating the reasons they love the other. Their marriage counsellor has requested that bit of information, saying they should at least remember why they fell in love.
This film by Noah Baumbach is impeccable – the rich, open acting of Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver; the sharp yet tender script by Baumbach (somewhat based on his own experiences); the feel of both New York and California; the bare truth of love unraveling and it’s deep, bewildering pain. More intimate than this you cannot get, yet it is never cheap or carnal. It is about a good relationship that is going bad between two people as they are being buffeted and stifled by lawyers, with ugly facts taken out of context.
This has been a bumper year for fine films, each better than the last, many of them Netflix productions like this one. But this little, private story may very well beat the others in the coming award season and rightfully take all the prizes – film, director, script, actors, the works. For it is completely human and real. A modern, more delicate “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?”. It is simply bouleversant, as the French say.
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.