Jumanji: The Next Level – Review

Written by Michael Cole

Two years ago when Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was about to come out, I was one of the only people I knew that was actually excited to see it. I even wrote an article about it here on World’s Best Media, what I wanted to see. One of the things that I talked about wanting, was world building. Welcome to the Jungle brought us into the world of Jumanji in a way that they weren’t able to do in 1995 when the Robin Williams version was made. It was awesome, and I genuinely loved the film.

The latest entry in the series, Jumanji: The Next Level delivers on the world building aspects. We’re no longer confined to just a traditional jungle environment, but get to see the desert, and a snow covered jungle, and with new levels, we get different animals than the previous film. This is now fully realized, and I suspect I know how the next film is going to go, but we’ll get to that in a little bit.

* SPOILER ALERT! For The Rest Of This Article*

One of the cool things of Welcome to the Jungle, was that our four main characters, are avatars of teenagers, and it allows for some strong character moments, as well as comedic fodder. Jack Black was a teenage girl, Dwayne Johnson was a skittish nerdy kid, Karen Gillan was a nerdy girl, and Kevin Hart was a black jock. In this film, in order to keep everything fresh, they scramble the characters and introduce some new ones. This time, Johnson is playing Danny Devito, Kevin Hart is Danny Glover, Jack Black is now the jock, and Spencer , who had the Dwayne Johnson avatar in the last game, is now Awkwafina who is a new playable character.

Eventually once they’ve done the necessary character work, they find a way to switch all the characters back into the previous avatars, with Danny Glover becoming a horse, and Danny Devito transferring into Awkwafina.

Since the avatar actors playing multiple characters (mostly) is such a big part of the film let’s talk about it. Personally, I think Welcome to the Jungle’s character assignments were perfect, but I understand that they wanted to do some work with it this time. Kevin Hart is great as both of his characters, handling Danny Glover’s character just as well as the jock character. Also Awkwafina is amazing as both characters; she handles being a nerdy teenage boy with perfection, and I think her Danny Devito is great. That brings us to Dwayne Johnson, I don’t love his Danny Devito; he has moments that are great, but there’s a lot of moments when the ‘Rock’ persona and Devito persona aren’t blended well; he doesn’t fully get the cadence and accent right, and it’s a bit cartoony. Jack Black as the athlete doesn’t work well for me, it’s not terrible, but Jack Black as the jock handles the character stuff well, but his ‘black voice’ borders on uncomfortable, it’s less about racial issues for me, and more about his voice falling into the uncanny valley, of being close enough to not be offensive, but far enough where it’s awkward.

I think that the character work, and set pieces really overcome all of the shortcomings in the performances. I won’t tell you much about the actual plot, I wouldn’t do it much justice, but the film is well paced, and really enjoyable. I’ll just say, as you should already know, is that our characters win, and escape Jumanji. So let’s talk about easter eggs, and where I think the next installment is going.

In the previous film, the characters find tree a house with a carving that says: “Alan Parrish was here”. Which is an homage to Robin Williams and the first Jumanji movie. And I amThe Next Level, talks about a restaurant called Nora’s several times throughout the film, and eventually once everything is back to normal we discover that Nora was the Bebe Neuwirth character from the original, and in the end we see her hiring Danny Devito. I suspect that she’ll have some part to play in the next film, and will not just be a cameo.

As our heroes, recently returned to their own bodies outside of the game go to Nora’s to grab a meal and celebrate their victory, we cut back to the video game console, in the teenage boy’s basement as a heating repairman goes to touch it, and we hear the drumbeats that signal the game is coming, and cut to the main street where Nora’s is, and a pack of Ostriches comes rampaging down the street, the characters see them, and we cut to the credits.

Now, when I say I think I know where this is going, it’s probably pretty obvious, and I’m not making any bold predictions, but I think we’re going to get to see a setting more similar to the original film, (although I suspect the effects and scale will be drastically expanded), and we’ll have to see the characters working with the avatars who have stepped out of the game into their world. This will allow for a third set of avatar characters, the ones that the game originally intends for them, and by bringing them into our world, they keep the ‘fish out of water’ theme. I also suspect we may see something of a “Last Action Hero”/Buzz Lightyear style identity crisis within the characters in which they realize their reality isn’t actual reality.

Personally, after the previous two films, I’m 100% down for whatever comes next.

Overall grade: B+

REVIEW: Pixar’s Onward!

I’m a huge fan of Pixar, and I think the argument can be made that they have the best record of any film company ever, based on average quality, and financial success rates. I do not however, have an issue seeing Pixar’s flaws, and from the moment I saw the trailer for Onward, I thought “Well, that’s gonna be a dud.”

Onward in someways seemed to diverge from what I was used to from Pixar, of the 21 previous films, 16 of them had main characters that were animals/objects/emotions, and while Onward isn’t about humans, they’re human-lite. Other than Brave (and perhaps you’d argue Coco, but that’s a religious and philosophical debate for another post) none had featured magic, and this was the first film to not have some connection with ‘Earth.’

I don’t exactly know how to to describe it, but there was a lack of interest on my part, and if I didn’t have a 3 year-old, I probably would have skipped the film. But, I do have a 3 year-old, and he wanted to see unicorns eating trash, and so my wife and I took him on Saturday, and the three of us loved this film.

Now, one of the things that has become something of a Pixar staple, In the last 15 years, you could argue that it’s been their defining trait, has been their ability to make you adults sad, and in that way, this film was totally Pixar. I’m a bit of a crier as it is, but my wife isn’t, and she was choking up a couple times during the film. But one of the other things that Pixar does well, is they make you sad and then make you happy again, and this didn’t fail to deliver.

I don’t really think I need to go into spoilers, so please note that all of what I’m about to tell you, is in the trailers.

The film is about two brothers who go on a quest two finish a spell that brings their father back to life for a day, and because they have half completed the spell at the beginning, it’s a race against the clock. It’s a story about family, something Pixar has done an pretty incredible job with on a few occasions. (See what I did there? Incredible job?)

This film has fun, and adventure, plenty of laughs, and as I mentioned before, tears. It’s a great time start to finish. I do want to mention something that it accomplishes, which no animated film has ever done before, and it’s a super mild spoiler. There is a scene in which they’re dealing with a great height, and there are some live action films in which I have gotten a sick to my stomach feeling due to my own fear of heights (The Walk did it in the trailer alone), and this film had me feeling that flip-floppy vertigo feeling for about a minute. That may sound like a complaint, but it should really be a testament to how invested I was in the story.

As far as ranking this with other Pixar films, I would say it’s in the top third, I don’t know if it’s as good as Toy Story 3, WALL-E, Up, or Inside Out, but it’s certainly better than all of the Cars films, Brave, and The Good Dinosaur.

Overall grade: A-
Written by Michael Cole

What I Want to See: The Next Star Wars Trilogy

Written by Michael Cole

We’re more than two months separated from Rise of Skywalker, and the finale of The Mandalorian season 1, and so it’s time to speculate and dream. I want to tell you all my personal pitch for the next Star Wars trilogy. If Lucasfilm happens upon this post, I am available to hire for either screenwriting or directing responsibilities.

Let’s go back to Revenge of the Sith, in that film Anakin kills the younglings who have been training to be Jedi. It’s a sad moment, and it does a pretty good job at showing just how far toward the Dark Side Anakin is heading. Now, the idea is kills all the youngling who are there on Coruscant, but certainly Jedi would always be picking up little force users throughout the galaxy, right?

The first film tells the story of Jedi Knight Sharhor Kii, who has had little to no interactions with Anakin by the time of the youngling slaughter.  Sharhor is traveling from an Outer Rim planet with a young boy, Kar Weil, whom he plans to present to the council. He hasn’t transmitted in about the his hopeful new apprentice, because why would he. But the Council sends out the news of Anakin’s betrayal, and Sharhor returns to the Out Rim planet, and begins training in secrecy, waiting for any word that it is safe to return. We see the youngling grow up in training to the point of a teenager (through montage), and eventually Sharhor, aware that Darth Vader is hunting down Jedi, decides to leave his apprentice in hiding, since there is not record of him in the Jedi temples or the remnants of the council, and he goes off to face Vader, never to return. We follow Kar as he continues his training, and goes off looking for Sharhor. Along the way, he falls in love with Cera, the pilot that he’s hired for transport, and marrying her.

The second film, Kar and his wife have three children, all of whom Kar is now training in the ways of the force. They do not consider themselves Jedi, but they all wield lightsabers, none the traditional Jedi colors. Kar has a yellow lightsaber, his two daughters Pik and Ana wield orange, and his son Lon wields a turquoise blade. The Weil family’s presence on their home planet becomes unsafe especially when the four force users are together, and they split up with the intention of rendezvousing when they can. For the majority of this film, we split between Kar and Cera traveling to different Jedi temples, trying to uncover ruins, Lon trying to hitchhike off to join the rebellion, and Pik and Ana going to planets where slavery and injustice are the norms, and helping to free those people. At the end of the film, we learn that the second Death Star has been destroyed, Lon sending the message to his parents and his sisters.

The third film, Kar and Cera are now fully into the Jedi historian process, trying to learn and preserve as much as possible, trying to rebuild. They’re still mostly remote from the population of the galaxy, and while they know that the Empire has fallen, they haven’t desired to return to it. Pik and Ana also still have their fight, because the slavery and injustice existed before the Empire, and the fall of the Empire meant little in their fight. Lon now with war-worn A-wing, goes off to find his parents and his sisters, hoping to reunite them all finally.  By the third act, the sisters have pissed off a mob-boss with his own hired gun army, and Lon who is with his parents go to help them escape. The four force users, and their pilot mother/wife manage to take down the majority of the army before Lon is killed, and his father loses his dominant arm. His father driven by grief and rage uses the force at a level he’s never done before and lays waste to the remnants of the small army.

I don’t have all of the set-pieces or specific act structures for these three films, just a very brief outline, as you can see. But I want this to be a family story, something that shows just how life somewhat carried on during the time of the Rebellion and the Empire. The idea that a force user could slip under the radar due to clerical error, and kick off this whole separate legacy. I would call this trilogy, The Force Kin Trilogy.

Let me know in the comments below what you think of the idea!

3Below Season 1: Reviewed

 

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Earlier this year, Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia ended after their third season.  As far as I know, they completed the story and ended according to the schedule that creator Guillermo Del Toro had envisioned.  I loved the series, and I was sad to see it go.  Then about a month ago or so, I saw on one of those “Everything new coming to Netflix in December” articles, something called “3Below: Tales of Arcadia,” and the article had an image, and it was clear that the animation was similar style to Trollhunters, but the article itself didn’t mention whether or not the two were related, so a quick IMDb check confirmed that his was a spinoff series, and a brief conversation with Paul, he informed me that this was the second in a planned 3 part series.

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Anyway, the show has been out for about three weeks, and I just finished watching the first season, and I’ve got to say it’s pretty good.  It’s not as good as Trollhunters, (my 2 year-old would give up about thirty seconds into every episode and say “we watch real Trollhunters now?”) but it’s good.

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Above: Krel, guardian Varvatos Vex, & Aja in their natural form.  Below: In their human disguises.

First off, even though the two main characters Aja and Krel, extra-terrestrial (they don’t like the term aliens!) siblings living in Arcadia were featured briefly in Trollhunters, the show had a little more work to setting it up than Trollhunters did.  Trollhunters starts out on Earth, on a pretty standard version we would all recognize, and then reveals that there is a secret underworld of trolls, and other magical creatures; they start with the default and add.  3Below however starts on a planet known as Acaridian 5 and tells the story of Princess Aja and Prince Krel on the day they are to become the King and Queen in waiting, and are attacked by enemies and have to go on the run.  We don’t see Earth until the end of the episode.  This doesn’t make it a worse show that Trollhunters, but certainly it gives it a different set of challenges to overcome.  They do so pretty well, but it takes just a little longer to really get invested.

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I’m not going to get too into spoilers, but I will say that one of the things I really like about this show, is that they create a lot of new mythology within this universe, and they aren’t just applying the same formula as Trollhunters to this, meaning it’s not an Madlibs style situation where they’re like alright we need this role because Trollhunters had it.  Trollhunters is largely about Jim and his friends going after something, and this is definitely more of Aja and Krell running from something, and not necessarily in a cowardly way, but in order to protect their kingdom.

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Another thing that I really like about this show, is that they manage to pull in characters we’ve gotten to know through Trollhunters, and build upon them.  We get to see Jim, Toby, and Claire, but we also get to see Steve, who’ a bully on Trollhuntersgiven some fleshing out, fully realized on this show, as he quickly has a crush on Aja after she kicks his ass.  We get to see Senor Uhl, less as the authority figure to be thwarted or avoided, but more as the protector when other humans seem to target the twins in their human forms.

 

                                           (Steve & Aja. Steve’s come a long way…)

All in all, I really liked this show, and I hope that we get to see another season or two (whatever Guillermo Del Toro has envisioned) and now that I’ve seen how aliens and magic have played with each other in this setting, I’m really interested in seeing what he has in mind for the 3rd series he’s planning.

DreamWorks Animation's 3Below

Written by Michael Cole

Thank You For A Great 2018!

Hey Everyone,

Paul here…

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This New Years Eve… party like you’re partying with The Avengers! You only go ‘round once!

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As we close out 2018, I just wanted say a heartfelt thank you to all of our readers, listeners, and supporters. World’s Best Media wouldn’t exist without you and I’m so grateful to you all for helping to make my silly dream a reality.

I also want to give special shout outs and thank yous to our fantastic contributors and a few other great people who’ve helped World’s Best Media in so many ways. To Michael Cole, Chocolate Diamond Media, Ryan McDonald, Paul Sr., you guys help make this whole thing work, so thank you very, very much. I’m eternally grateful.

To the guys at The Hall of Comics in Southborough, MA, Mathew Wright, Constance Wright, Matt Supple, Marc Rodolfo, & Sam Gryzbowski, you all know what wonderful things you’ve done and your help and support keeps me going. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

All of you have given me a gift I can never repay. Thank you. But make sure you stick around, because 2019 is shaping up to be our best year yet!

Now, I like to end every New Years Eve by watching this classic moment of quiet friendship, between two iconic DC characters. It’s a great little moment. Enjoy and Happy New Year!

Have a safe and happy night!

-Paul

PODCAST: Movie & TV Fan Theories!

Hey Everyone,

Paul here..

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On this episode of The World’s Best Podcast, Writer and Filmmaker Mike Cole returns to the podcast as guest co-host where we discuss movie and TV fan theories. We cover popular fan theories from Harry Potter, Pixar films, The Flash and more. Of course with some fun detours along the way! Enjoy! Listen here or subscribe on Stitcher and iTunes:

https://www.spreaker.com/episode/16421489

iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-worlds-best-podcast/id1246038441?mt=2&i=1000425462176

Stitcher:

https://www.stitcher.com/s?eid=57632995&autoplay=1

Also, if you get a chance, check out our Facebook page, World’s Best Media, to see my video breakdown of the new trailer for the highly anticipated Avengers: Endgame! It’s one of my best trailer breakdown videos, so I’d love for you all to give it a watch. Please feel free to leave any questions or comments below. We love hearing feedback from you guys, good or bad! Thanks for listening!

-Paul

“Alexa’s Request” A Short Film by Mike Cole & Chocolate Diamond Media!

Check out this hilarious short film from Mike Cole and Chocolate Diamond Media that takes a sobering look at the relationship between man…and machine… DUN, DUN, DUNN!

For more great content like this from Mike Cole & Co., subscribe to Chocolate Diamond Media on YouTube!

PODCAST: A Kevin Smith Episode! (But We End Up Mostly Telling Funny Stories Instead)

Hey Everybody!

Paul here…

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At long last, Special guest co-host Mike Cole returns to The World’s Best Podcast! He and I set out to discuss the work of filmmaker Kevin Smith. His movies, his comics, his podcasts, his whole career. The highs and the lows. Buuuuut… when you get a couple of old friends together and the crazy, absurd stories start flying, it’s easy for everything to go of the rails. Boy, did it! In the best possible way. This is a 2-Part Episode so we still have plenty of Kevin Smith analysis coming your way. But in this podcast, enjoy some ridiculous, profane, and hopefully pretty damn funny stories! We did manage to get just a little bit of Kevin Smith discussion here or there, though.

(His weight loss transformation has been incredible. He’s the last guy I’d expect to make a change like this. Yes, the heart attack was a huge factor, but he’d already lost a lot of weight at least a year or two before the incident. I think it’s very inspirational)

We had a lot of fun recording this one and I hope it shows in the episode. On a technical note, Mike and I recorded this in different states, so just once or twice in the show his voice is a little lower than mine, but you can still hear him loud and clear. For now please enjoy this hilarious episode about love, life, high school, mental illness, and of course, penises. Listen here or subscribe on Stitcher and iTunes:

https://www.spreaker.com/episode/15557798

ITunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-worlds-best-podcast/id1246038441?mt=2&i=1000418408432

Stitcher:    https://www.stitcher.com/s?eid=55925798&autoplay=1

Check out the scene below from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, probably one of my favorite scenes in any Kevin Smith flick (or any flick for that matter). From Jay’s incredulous, pitch perfect “What The Fuck Is The Internet?!” to Affleck reading the comments section, it’s all gold.

 

Thanks for listening!

-Paul