[INSERT OMINOUS DRUM SOUNDS HERE] as we review Jumani: Welcome to the Jungle on the latest episode of the Alan Smithee Film Review !
In diametric opposition to my previous review of Bright, here’s something that will win an Oscar.
Dunkirk tells the story of the retreat of British forces out of France, prior to the Battle of Britain. The retreat’s entire purpose, in fact, was to have an army left to protect Britain when the Nazis attempted to cross the English Channel. Hemmed in on all sides by the Wehrmact, and periodically hammered by what little of the Luftwaffe managed to pierce British air defenses, thousands upon thousands of British troops sat and waited for salvation on the French shores of Dunkirk. Unfortunately, the nature of the beach, lack of deep water port and ever present threat of Kriegsmarine U-Boats meant that the British could either risk their surface ships, or mobilize a massive flotilla of citizen boats. The beauty of this film is that it tells all the stories, in a rather balanced kind of way. If you’re on the beach getting bombed, you’re asking yourself where’s the airforce. The air force knows that if they’re dogfighting on your head, then that means that the enemy has already slipped through your defences. The navy knows that big, slow warships aren’t the best troop transports, but you make do with what you can.
So you get to the actual film, where you follow four storylines. Much to Christopher Nolan’s credit, he does each story line justice in just 2 hours. You have the soldier on the beach trying to catch a ride home, when every attempt he makes results in death and destruction, he fights on. You have the British family on their pleasure boat doing their duty to cross the channel in an attempt to save as many as they can, who stumble across single soldier atop of sunken ship suffering greatly from PTSD (back when it was just known as shell shock). You have the hot shot pilot in his beat up Spitfire giving his all to protect the skies over all of this. Finally, you have the admirals and generals on the shore just trying their best to make the impossible happen. It’s fascinating, and the acting from every single one of these leads was noteworthy. Of course Kenneth Branagh was masterful, as were other British acting stalwarts Mark Rylance and James D’Arcy. Cillian Murphy continues to be underrated in my eyes, while Tom Hardy embodies stoic swagger. I’ll even give credit to Harry Styles, of One Direction fame, for putting in a much better than expected performance. However, I’m going to give the prize to newcomer Fionn Whitehead, who plays Tommy the normal regular infantryman. He had a lot on his shoulders, and he carried it well.
To say that this is a pretty movie is an understatement. Largely shot on IMAX, that was lost to me as I waited until I could stream it on Amazon Prime ($5.99). However, the visual impact was stunning. When there was CG, it was seamless, and every frame was a painting.
One of the hard things about reviewing a historical period piece is that you already know how it ends, but unless you really focused on the beginning of the Second World War in school, you probably don’t realize just how poorly things went for the Allies at first. Nor do you know the kind of grit and determination that helped our European friends persevere and overcome. There’s a lot to be said about the impact of American reinforcements being integral to winning the war, but what I’m getting at is that there almost weren’t Allies there for us to reinforce! This movie does a masterful job of communicating both that despair, and the appreciation the for sacrifice those soldiers, sailors and airmen paid in order to hold back the enemy.
I really can’t recommend this movie highly enough if you’re interested in history. I wish I had seen it in the theater.
The hardest part of logging into Netflix (or Hulu or whatever) is that there are a lot of movies you can stream, but are you sure you want to? Well, you can leave that decision up to your trusty intrepid movie reviewers now that Alan Smithee will also be reviewing things you can stream! You see, I play a lot of mindless video games on one of my computer’s monitors, while watching movies on the other. That means I watch a lot of streamed movies, and let me tell you, there is some real garbage out there. Here’s a review of what I consider a diamond in the rough: Bright on Netflix.
If ever there were a movie designed to make movie critics hate it, it’s Bright.
Starring Will Smith, Joel Edgerton and Noomi Rapace, Bright is the story of two LAPD officers in a version of LA inhabited by orcs, elves and other mythical beasts. The concept is what if mythical creatures existed, but the world’s history was still pretty much the same. Everything, even good old fashioned racism. Directed by David Ayer (Suicide Squad) and written by Max Landis (Victor Frankenstein), Bright is pure, unadulterated pulp alt-fantasy. The people that are going to have a problem with this movie, are the people who are going to have a problem with this type of movie. I am not one of those people. I love this garbage (don’t miss the Geostorm podcast!). I loved all of the things that came before it, as well: Excalibur, Williow, Demolition Man, and Last Action Hero. Those movies were never intended to win Oscars, they were intended to be fun escapism. The real world is horrible, quit trying make me live in it in my entertainment.
The plot is that there is a magic wand, effectively a handheld nuclear weapon, that can only be effectively handled by genetic wildcards of the Elven and Human races, known as Brights. One has been stolen by an elven cult leader/mob boss, and our intrepid heroes are trying to keep it out of the wrong hands. Their opponents also include latin street gangs, orcish death metal fans, corrupt police officers and society at large. While I listed four movies previously that feel like they influenced this film, no movie could be a better parallel than Blade. Well. No. Spawn. Either, take your pick.
If you liked the way Suicide Squad was shot (meh), then you’ll like how this was shot as well, and the writing is fascinatingly cliche and campy as well. Which brings me to the acting. Without Will, Joel, or Noomi, this movie would have fallen flat on its face, and the critics would have all been right. Somehow, however, their perfect balance of taking things just serious enough, while still having fun, bleeds through the screen and makes this enjoyable.
This is not a good movie.
But I still think you should give it a try. If you haven’t been poisoned by cynicism, then you might just have a lot of fun.
Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment below, or on our Facebook page. If you’d like to see more of these streaming reviews, then strap in, I’m going to do more!