The Movie Snob finally makes it back to the megaplex.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (C). Ugh! I’m on Day 10 of a cold. So I looked for some cinematic comfort food, and I settled on this sleeper hit that’s still hanging on from the Christmas season. According to IMDB, it has grossed about $370 million domestically on a $90 million budget, so not bad. I didn’t see the 1995 Robin Williams version, so I had no expectations (except that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson would be likable, which he of course was). It was a mediocre experience—utterly predictable, but with a few amusing scenes here and there. Four high schoolers get sucked into a video game, where they are given new bodies reflecting their in-game avatars. It’s somewhat entertaining that they are cast against type: the nerd becomes beefy Johnson (Moana), the jock becomes diminutive Kevin Hart (The Five-Year Engagement), the awkward loner girl becomes Lara-Croft-esque Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy), and in the oddest twist the beautiful social-media queen becomes . . . Jack Black (Gulliver’s Travels). They have to complete a quest to “win the game” and escape back into the real world. The suspense is less than minimal, but as I mentioned there are a few laughs here and there. And Gillan is very attractive, so there’s that. Rated PG-13 for adventure action, suggestive content, and some language (most of the latter two arising, I believe, from the situation of a high-school girl’s consciousness getting stuck inside a middle-aged guy’s body).
New review from Movie Man Mike.
Bernie (B+). This movie has been out for quite some time and I kept hearing good things about it, so I decided to check it out. It’s still selling out! Let me say up front that I am not really a fan of Jack Black or the genre of movies that he is known for, but I have to say that he was quite good in this film. This story is based upon actual events in Carthage, Texas, and has appearances of many of the actual townspeople from Carthage. The main character is a man named Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), who is an assistant funeral director. Bernie moves to town and wins the hearts and souls of the townspeople, including rich widow Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), which is amazing because nobody likes Marjorie. Bernie winds up killing Marjorie and is put on trial for the murder. You would expect the townspeople to turn on Bernie, but he is so beloved that the townspeople come to his aid. This is a black comedy and it has some hilarious lines in it, some of which appear to be impromptu commentary from actual residents of Carthage. If you don’t see this at the theater, by all means rent it. You won’t regret it.
New review from Mom Under Cover
Bernie – A
If you have not seen Bernie, run, don’t walk, to a theater as soon as possible and be sure to stay for the extended interviews during the credits. Confirmed bachelor (closet homosexual?) Bernie Tiede (played by a restrained Jack Black–Nacho Libre) moves to Carthage, Texas fresh out of mortuary school where he befriends a wealthy widow forty years his senior, Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine). Nugent is a sourpuss; Bernie teaches her how to enjoy life. Marjorie blooms under Bernie’s attention; Marjorie funds Bernie’s shopping habit. Marjorie becomes demanding; Bernie snaps. Because of strained relationships with her family, Bernie ultimately stands to inherit Marjorie’s millions.
Richard Linklater’s (Slacker, Dazed and Confused) offering of the late ’80 events in Panola County surrounding the death of Marjorie Nugent is spot on. Linklater co-wrote the screenplay with Skip Hollandsworth (who penned a 1998 Texas Monthly article detailing the story) and hired only actors from Texas or Louisiana so the accents would ring true. Matthew McConaughey plays district attorney Danny Buck opposite Scrappy Holmes played by Brady Coleman. McConaughey’s mother has a small role as one of the local gossips. The Greek chorus of gossips (composed of actors and locals) pops in to move the story along and is by far the star of the show. Having grown up in a small, Texas town, I can attest that the locals are the real deal–even Linklater cannot write dialog that authentic. (Watch the post credit interviews to find out if you guessed correctly which were actors and which were locals.) Both MacLaine and Black’s characters were somewhat caricature though Black was respectful in his portrayal of Tiede. This black comedy will keep you laughing all the way home!
A new review from The Movie Snob.
Bernie (B+). Director Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, School of Rock) reunites with Jack Black (School of Rock) and Matthew McConaughey (Dazed and Confused) for this half-dramatization/half-documentary about a 1996 murder in the small east Texas town of Carthage. Black plays Bernie Tiede, a middle-aged mortician who moves to Carthage and becomes the toast of the town for his kindness. Shirley MacLaine (Steel Magnolias) plays Marjorie Nugent, a wealthy widow that Bernie befriends after her husband’s funeral. Marjorie is a mean old snake who is estranged from the rest of her family, and she gets her hooks into Bernie good–treating him to a high life of travel and culture, but also mistreating him as her personal slave. Until one day he finally snapped, shot her dead, and hid her body in her own deep freezer. Oh, the documentary aspect of the movie is that interspersed throughout the movie are numerous clips of interviews with actual citizens of Carthage who knew Nugent and apparently still know Bernie (and the county D.A., Danny Buck, played by McConaughey). Some of the things they have to say are priceless. You have to wonder how true to life the dramatized parts of the movie are, but they felt very authentic to me. Fine performances and a really interesting movie about a bizarre crime.
DVD review from The Movie Snob
Nacho Libre (B-). Honestly, I have no idea how this DVD made it into my collection. It must have been in a super-bargain bin at Walmart way back when I thought Jack Black (School of Rock) was the greatest actor working. Anyhoo, this is very strange movie. Maybe not The Big Lebowski strange, but getting there. Black plays Ignatio, who is a cook at a poor Catholic orphanage in Mexico. (Why do so many people in Mexico speak to each other in English? Beats me!) His secret ambition, though, is to be a professional wrestler. He teams up with a scrawny guy who used to steal food from him, and together they proceed to get beaten up in one amateur wrestling bout after another. They embark on harebrained schemes to try to find a way to start winning some fights. Meanwhile, a beautiful young nun comes to work at the orphanage and steals Ignatio’s heart. It is a goofy mess of a movie, but I laughed out loud at some of the bizarre on-screen antics. Worth a look.
From the desk of The Movie Snob
Gulliver’s Travels (2010) (C-). The explosive talent of Jack Black (High Fidelity) is wasted in this blah retelling of the Gulliver story. Black plays a loser stuck in a dead-end job in the mailroom of some publishing company. He has a crush on the travel editor (Amanda Peet, The Whole Ten Yards), and somehow manages to get himself assigned to do a story on the Bermuda Triangle. Before you can say “S.S. Minnow,” he is magically transported to the land of Lilliput, where everybody is about three inches tall. Lots of uninspired shenanigans follow as the former loser becomes the Big Man on Campus. Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada) are wasted in their small roles as Lilliputians. Don’t waste your time on this study in mediocrity.
DVD review from The Movie Snob
Be Kind Rewind (B-). This recent release was written and directed by Michel Gondry, who directed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. So I was expecting something pretty weird and off-the-wall. This flick had some odd elements, but it’s a much more straightforward movie. And basically a sweet one as well. Elroy Fletcher (Danny Glover, Lethal Weapon 4) runs a decrepit old video store in Passaic, NJ that’s about to be condemned. He leaves town for a while, leaving the store to be run by his employee Mike (Mos Def, Monster’s Ball). While Elroy is gone, Mike’s bumbling and paranoid friend Jerry (Jack Black, School of Rock) accidentally erases every video in the store, and they try to keep the business going by reshooting their own versions of whatever movies get requested. To their surprise (well, maybe not Jerry’s), people actually like their productions. The film had some laughs, like watching the two buddies film their own version of Ghostbusters. And a couple of high-powered actresses drop in (Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby; Sigourney Weaver, Ghostbusters). An enjoyable enough little movie, but nothing to particularly write home about.