Review: ‘Black Adam,’ starring Dwayne Johnson, Pierce Brosnan, Aldis Hodge, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, Marwan Kenzari, Quintessa Swindell, Mohammed Amer and Bodhi Sabongui

October 19, 2022

by Carla Hay

Dwayne Johnson in “Black Adam” (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

“Black Adam”

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

Culture Representation: Taking place in the fictional nation of Kahndaq and briefly in Louisiana, the superhero action film “Eternals” features a racially diverse cast of characters (white, Asian and African American) portraying superheroes and regular human beings.

Culture Clash: Reluctant superhero Teth Adam, later known as Black Adam, finds it difficult to change his vengeful and troublemaking ways, and he does battle against the Justice Society and a group of land pillagers called Intergang. 

Culture Audience: “Black Adam” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Dwayne Johnson and movies based on DC Comics, but the movie is a disappointing and unimaginative cinematic origin story for Black Adam.

Sarah Shahi and Pierce Brosnan in “Black Adam” (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

“Black Adam” is nothing more than a mishmash of big-budget superhero clichés with empty dialogue, atrocious editing, a forgettable villain and a lackluster story. You know it’s bad when the mid-credits scene is what people will talk about the most. “Black Adam” (which is based on DC Comics characters and stories) is the type of misguided mess that tries to do too much and ends up not making much of impact at all. It’s one of the weakest movies in the DC Extended Universe.

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, “Black Adam” could have been a thoroughly entertaining, epic superhero movie, based on the fact that charismatic Dwayne Johnson has the title role, and the movie has several talented cast members. (Johnson is also one of the movie’s producers.) But the “Black Adam” screenplay (written by Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani) is a complete dud, with mindless conversations and stale jokes that look too forced.

It’s fair to say that people don’t watch superhero movies for super-intelligent dialogue, but even the action sequences in “Black Adam” are substandard. The visual effects are hit-and-miss and aren’t particularly impressive. And the choppy editing looks like something you might see in a beginner, low-budget film, not a movie that with experienced filmmakers and a bloated nine-figure production budget.

“Black Adam” begins in the year 2600 B.C. in the fictional kingdom of Kahndaq, which is supposed to be somewhere in the Middle East. The most valuable resource in Kahndaq is Eternium, which gives special magical powers to anyone in possession of Eternium. Needless to say, wars and crimes have been committed in the competition to get Eternium.

A mystical warrior named Teth Adam (played by Johnson), who has superpowers in strength and speed, is someone who experienced a tragedy as a result of this greed for Eternium. As a result, he went on vengeful crime sprees but was eventually imprisoned in the Rock of Eternity (which is a resource hub for magic), where he was entombed for 5,000 years. The legend of Teth Adam was passed on for generations.

In the present day, Kahndaq is now an economically struggling country that has been invaded by white Europeans looking to mine the land for Eternium. A villainous group called Intergang wreaks the most havoc in this quest for Eternium. Meanwhile, a group of rebel freedom fighters aiming to defeat Intergang will be hunted by members of Intergang.

What does this have to do with Black Adam? One of the leaders of the freedom fighters is named Adrianna Tomaz (played by Sarah Shahi), who ends up being captured with her brother Karim (played by Mo Amer), who is also a freedom fighter, while they are trying to get a magical crown. Their friend and colleague Ishmael (played by Marwan Kenzari) is also involved in tryng to get this crown.

While being held captive in a cave that ends up being where the Rock of Eternity is, Adrianna yells, “Shazam!” It’s the magical word that awakens Teth Adam, who breaks out of captivity from the tomb. Adrianna and Karim escape, but for a good deal of the movie, they are being chased by Intergang thugs. Will formerly imprisoned Adam help them?

Adrianna is a widowed mother of an adolsecent son named Amon Tomaz (played by Bodhi Sabongui), who’s about 13 or 14 years old. Without going into too many details, it’s enough to say that Teth Adam eventually meets Amon, Adrianna and Karim. Amon immediately is in awe of Adam, but Adam is less impressed with this family and doesn’t really want to get involved with the family’s Intergang problems, until certain circumstances lead Adam to be on the family’s side.

That entire storyline would be enough for one movie, but “Black Adam” crams in another storyline where Adam is at odds with a group of superheroes called Justice Society, which has reunited when it becomes known that Teth Adam is on the loose and causing damage again. Viola Davis has a cameo near the beginning of “Black Adam” to reprise her “Suicide Squad” character Amanda Waller, who makes a command that sets the Justice Society back in motion. There’s nothing special about any of the cast members’ acting, a lot of which looks “phoned in,” with no uniquely memorable flair.

The members of the Justice Society in the “Black Adam” movie are:

  • Carter Hall/Hawkman (played by by Aldis Hodge), a loyal and earnest warrior who has lived for thousands of years and has the flying skills of a hawk.
  • Kent Nelson/Doctor Fate (played by Pierce Brosnan), a kind-hearted and grandfatherly archeologist who has the powers of a sorcerer.
  • Al Rothstein/Atom Smasher (played by Noah Centineo), a clumsy and goofy 20-year-old who can grow to the size of a skyscraper.
  • Maxine Hunkel/Cyclone (played by Quintessa Swindell), a playful and courageous 19-year-old who has the power to use her mind to create cyclone-like gusts of wind.

Unfortunately, all of these Justice Society characters are written to have very generic personalities and extremely bland chemistry with each other. Maxine Hunkel/Cyclone in particular is very under-used and is more like a placeholder than an impactful, developed character. And some of the lines of dialogue they have to say are downright cringeworthy. More than once, Hawkman says to Doctor Fate: “A bad plan is better than no plan at all.” That sounds like the same attitude that the “Black Adam” filmmakers had in making this shoddy superhero movie.

Expect to see a lot of formulaic chase scenes, shootouts, explosions and all the usual stereotypes of superhero action flicks. “Black Adam” has some half-hearted preachiness about white colonialism in countries where most of the residents aren’t white, but this attempt to bring a “social consciousness” to “Black Adam” looks as phony as some of the movie’s often-unconvincing visual effects. Everything in the story is jumbled up and scatterbrained, as if the filmmakers couldn’t decide how to juggle the storylines of Adam being at odds with the Justice Society and Intergang. (The 2021 action flick “Jungle Cruise,” also directed by Collet-Serra and starring Johnson, had the same overstuffed story problem.)

Meanwhile, Teth Adam/Black Adam scowls and smashes his way throughout the movie like a bulldozer on autopilot. The teenage character of Amon is hyper and talkative to the point of annoyance. Amon’s uncle Karim is supposed to be the comic relief of the movie, but just ends up looking mostly like a buffoon. Adrianna is the voice of reason for the group of freedom fighters, but nothing stands out about this character’s personality. And when one of the movie’s heroes has an underage child, you know what that means when the villains want revenge.

And about those villains. One of the biggest failings of “Black Adam” is that none of these villains is particularly memorable. The “chief villain” battle at the end looks more like a video game than a cinematic experience. The best superhero movies have villains who make the type of scene-stealing impact that audiences talk about for years. “Black Adam” comes up very short on every level when it comes to unforgettable villainous characters.

What happens in the mid-credits scene of “Black Adam” has already been widely reported, but it won’t be detailed in this review. It’s enough to say that it involves another DC Comics superhero and how that superhero might interact with Black Adam. It’s never a good sign when a movie’s main character and story are so underwhelming, it’s upstaged by the sudden appearance of another character in a mid-credits scene that foreshadows the anticipated plot of an obvious sequel.

Warner Bros. Pictures will release “Black Adam” in U.S. cinemas on October 21, 2022.

Review: ‘DC League of Super-Pets,’ starring the voices of Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart

July 26, 2022

by Carla Hay

Merton (voiced by Natasha Lyonne), PB (voiced by Vanessa Bayer), Krypto (voiced by Dwayne Johnson), Chip (voiced by Diego Luna) and Ace (voiced by Kevin Hart) in “DC League of Super-Pets” (Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

“DC League of Super-Pets”

Directed by Jared Stern; co-directed by Sam Levine

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in the fictional city of Metropolis, the animated film “DC League of Super-Pets” features a racially diverse cast (white, black, Asian and Latino) portraying talking animals, superheroes and citizens of Metropolis.

Culture Clash: Inspired by DC Comics characters, “DC League of Super-Pets” features a group of domesticated pets, including Superman’s dog Krypto, fighting crime and trying to save the world from an evil guinea pig that is loyal to supervillain Lex Luthor.

Culture Audience: “DC League of Super-Pets” will appeal primarily to fans of DC Comics, the movie’s cast members and adventure-filled animated movies centered on talking animals.

Lulu (voiced by Kate McKinnon) in “DC League of Super-Pets” (Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

Even though “DC League of Super-Pets” sometimes gets cluttered with subplots and characters, this animated film is a treat that has a winning combination of pets and superheroes. There’s plenty to like for people of many ages. In addition to the appeal of having familiar characters from DC Comics, “DC League of Super-Pets” is a well-cast film for its voice actors, because the cast members bring their own unique flairs to the characters. It’s helpful but not necessary to have knowledge of DC Comics characters before watching this movie.

Directed by Jared Stern and co-directed by Sam Levine, “DC League of Super-Pets” makes good use of mixing zany comedy, engaging action and some heartwarming and touching moments. Stern makes his feature-film directorial debut with “DC League of Super-Pets,” which he co-wrote with John Whittington. Stern and Whittington also co-wrote 2017’s “The Lego Batman Movie.” Where “DC League of Super-Pets” falters is when it tries to cram in certain plot developments to the point where “DC League of Super-Pets” comes dangerously close to biting off more than it can chew. (No pun intended.)

If you have no interest in watching an animated movie about pets and would-be pets of superheroes, then “DC League of Super-Pets” probably is not for you. The world already has more than enough animated films about talking animals. However, “DC League of Super-Pets” mostly succeeds at being entertaining when putting comic book characters in a predictable but dependable story of a group of misfits that become friends while trying to save the world.

“DC League of Super-Pets” begins by showing how Superman (whose birth name is Kal-El) ended up with his loyal Labrador Retriever dog Krypto. Kal-El was born on the planet Krypton. When he was a baby, Krypton went under attack, so his parents put Kal-El on a spaceship alone and sent him to Earth for his safety. Kal-El’s parents Jor-El (voiced by Alfred Molina) and Lara (voiced by Lena Headey) say their emotional goodbye to Kal-El.

Jor-El says, “Krypton is about to die.” Lara adds, “But you, dear son, will live on.” Suddenly, the family’s Labrador Retriever puppy jumps on the spaceship with Kal-El. At first, Jor-El wants to try to get the dog back, but the space ship has already been set in motion. Lara tells Jor-El: “Our boy will need a friend.” Jor-El says to the dog: “Watch over our son.”

Years later, Kal-El is now an adult living in the big city of Metropolis under the name Clark Kent. He’s a bachelor who works as a reporter at the Daily Planet newspaper, but Clark Kent is an alter ego to his secret identity: a superhero named Superman (voiced by John Krasinski), who has super-strength, X-ray vision and the ability to fly. The dog, named Krypto (voiced by Dwayne Johnson), is still his loyal companion and knows about the secret life of Superman, because Krypto often fights crime alongside Superman.

Krypto has superpowers that are the same as Superman’s superpowers. And they both have the same weakness: an energy force called kryptonite that can drain their superpowers. Krypto and Superman are a lot alike, when it comes to how they view crime and justice. However, Superman and Krypto are very different when it comes to adapting to life on Earth: Superman/Clark Kent is social with humans, while Kypto is very aloof with other pets on Earth.

An early scene in the movie shows Krypto trying to get Superman to wake up because Krypto wants to go for a walk. But “walking the dog” for Superman really means “flying through the air with the dog.” Krypto often leads the way on the leash. The Metropolis in “DC League of Super-Pets” is designed to look like a modern, well-kept city with many tall buildings, just like in the comic books.

In this version of Metropolis, Superman is such a familiar sight, no one really thinks it’s unusual to see Superman in a park with his dog Krypto. It’s during one of these park outings that Krypto sees that things at home will soon change for Superman and Krypto. Superman/Clark Kent and his Daily Planet journalist co-worker Lois Lane (voiced by Olivia Wilde) are very much in love, and they meet at the park for a date. They show lovey-dovey public displays of affection, much to Krypto’s dismay.

The relationship between Superman/Clark Kent and Lois has gotten serious enough where it looks like this couple could be headed toward marriage. Krypto is jealous and fearful that Superman/Clark Kent will no longer have the time and attention for Krypto if Lois moves in with them. Krypto doesn’t dislike Lois. Krypto just sees her as a threat to the comfortable existence he has always known with Superman/Clark Kent.

As Krypto worries about how his home life will change if Lois moves in, some other pets in Metropolis are worried if they’ll ever have a permanent home. At an animal shelter called Tailhuggers, several pets are up for adoption, but so far, they have no takers. The shelter is run by a bachelorette named Patty (voiced by Yvette Nicole Brown), who is very kind to the pets and keeps them under vigilant protection.

Brash and sarcastic hound dog Ace (voiced by Kevin Hart) is the leader of the shelter pets. Other animals at the shelter are elderly turtle Merton (voiced by Natasha Lyonne), cheerful pig PB (voiced by Vanessa Bayer) and nervous squirrel Chip (voiced by Diego Luna), who are Ace’s closest friends at the shelter. Also at the shelter is a cat name Whiskers (voiced by Winona Bradshaw), whose loyalty to the shelter pets is later tested.

Ace is anxious to run away from the shelter and is constantly plotting his escape. He tells his animal shelter friends that he knows of a paradise-like farm upstate where they can all go to live freely. One day, Ace actually manages to run away from the shelter, but he doesn’t go far. He’s literally stopped in his tracks by “law and order” Krypto, who uses his superpowers to freeze Ace’s legs to the sidewalk when he sees that Ace is a runaway shelter dog. Needless to say, Ace and Krypto clash with each other the first time that they meet.

Meanwhile, Superman has a crime-fighting incident where he summons the help of his Justice League superhero colleagues: Batman (voiced by Keanu Reeves), Wonder Woman (voiced by Jamila Jamil), Aquaman (voiced by Jemaine Clement), Green Lantern (voiced by Dascha Polanco), The Flash (voiced by John Early) and Cyborg (voiced by Daveed Diggs). Through a series of incidents, all of these superheroes are captured by billionaire supervillain (and longtime Superman nemesis) Lex Luthor (voiced by Marc Maron), who is keeping his captives hidden in a secret lair. Lex also has a cynical assistant named Mercy Graves (voiced by Maya Erksine), who isn’t in the movie as much as she could have been. Mercy’s screen time is less than five minutes.

All of that would be enough of a plot for this movie, but “DC League of Super-Pets” also has a plot about a devious guinea pig named Lulu (voiced by Kate McKinnon), who manages to escape from a Lex Luthor-owned scientific lab that was experimenting on guinea pigs. Somehow, Lulu gets ahold of orange kryptonite (she’s immune to kryptonite), she develops telekinesis powers, and goes on a mission to prove her loyalty to Lex by trying to destroy the Justice League.

Lulu has an army of former lab guinea pigs to do her bidding. Two of Lulu’s most loyal of these accomplices are mutant guinea pigs that also have newfound superpowers: Mark (voiced by Ben Schwartz) is fiery red and can shoot flames, while Keith (voiced by Thomas Middleditch) is ice-blue and has the ability to freeze things. Lulu also has a plot to (cliché alert) take over the world.

It should come as no surprise that Krypto ends up joining forces with Ace, Merton, PB and Chip to try to save the Justice League and save the world. During the course of the story, certain superpowers are gained, lost and possibly gained again for certain characters. Viewers of “DC League of Super-Pets” should not expect the Justice League superheroes and Lex Luthor to get a lot of screen time, because the movie is more about the pets.

Lulu’s revenge plot gets a little convoluted, but not so confusing that very young children won’t be able to understand. The movie has the expected high-energy antics, with animation and visual effects that aren’t groundbreaking but are aesthetically pleasing on almost every level. Once viewers get used to all the characters that are quickly introduced in the movie, it makes “DC League of Super-Pets” more enjoyable.

The movie has some recurring jokes, such as self-referencing all the movies and licensing deals that come from comic-book superheroes. “DC League of Super-Pets” also has a running gag of guinea pig Lulu being insulted when she’s often misidentified as a hamster. After one such misidentification, Lulu snarls, “A hamster is just a dollar-store gerbil!”

Lulu has some of the funniest lines in the movie. When she sees the DC League of Super-Pets together, she makes this snarky comment: “What is this? PAW Patrol?” And even though Batman isn’t in the movie for a lot of time, he also has some memorable one-liners, which he delivers in a deadpan manner.

It soon becomes obvious that these Super-Pets have another purpose besides saving the world: Each pet will be paired with a Justice League superhero. PB is a big fan of Wonder Woman. This star-struck pig thinks that Wonder Woman has the confidence and independent spirit that PB thinks is lacking in PB’s own personality.

Turtles are known for walking slow, so it should come as no surprise that Merton admires The Flash, whose known for his superpower of lightning-fast speed. Ace sees himself as an “alpha male” who strikes out on his own when he has to do so, which makes Batman a kindred spirit. Chip is attracted to the fearlessness of Green Lantern. As for Aquaman and Cyborg, it’s shown at the end of the movie which pets will be paired with them.

Amid the action and comedy, “DC League of Super-Pets” also has some meaningful messages about finding a family of friends. Ace has a poignant backstory about how he ended up at an animal shelter. Ace’s background explains why he puts up a tough exterior to hide his vulnerability about being abandoned.

Johnson (who is one of the producers of “DC League of Super-Pets”) and Hart have co-starred in several movies together. Their comedic rapport as lead characters Krypto and Ace remains intact and one of the main reasons why “DC League of Super-Pets” has voice cast members who are perfectly suited to each other. Hart is a lot less grating in “DC League of Super-Pets” than he is in some of his other movies, where he often plays an over-the-top-buffoon.

Even though Ace is an animated dog, he has more heart than some of the human characters that Hart has played in several of his mediocre-to-bad movies, Law-abiding Krypto and rebellious Ace have opposite personalities, but they learn a lot from each other in ways that they did not expect. All of the other heroic characters have personal growth in some way too.

“DC League of Super-Pets” is a recommended watch for anyone who wants some escapist animation with entertainment personalities. The movie’s mid-credits scene and end-credits scene indicate that “DC League of Super-Pets” is the beginning of a movie series. It’s very easy to imagine audiences wanting more of these characters in movies if the storytelling is good.

Warner Bros. Pictures will release “DC League of Super-Pets” in U.S. cinemas on July 29, 2022.

Review: ‘Jungle Cruise,’ starring Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Edgar Ramírez, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons and Paul Giamatti

July 27, 2021

by Carla Hay

Dwyane Johnson and Emily Blunt in “Jungle Cruise” (Photo by Frank Masi/Disney Enterprises, Inc.)

“Jungle Cruise”

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

Culture Representation: Taking place mostly in 1912, in Brazil and England, the action-adventure film “Jungle Cruise” features a racially diverse cast of characters (white, African American Asian and Latino) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A sassy researcher and her fussy botanist brother, who are both from England, enlist the help of a wisecracking American skipper of a ramshackle cruise boat to go to a Brazilian jungle to find a magical tree which has a petal with the power to save lives.

Culture Audience: “Jungle Cruise” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of any Disney adventure films, but might not hold much interest to people who’ve seen better family-friendly adventure films that take place mostly in a jungle.

Jack Whitehall, Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson in “Jungle Cruise” (Photo by Frank Masi/Disney Enterprises, Inc.)

Overstuffed with generic villains and too rambling for its own good, “Jungle Cruise” offers nothing new or exciting to people who’ve seen higher-quality and more unique adventure films with a jungle at the center of the action. It’s a bland misfire that borrows heavily from 1981’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and 1951’s “The African Queen.” Viewers already know how a movie like “Jungle Cruise” is going to end, so “Jungle Cruise” needed to have other elements to make it stand out from similar movies that have a wisecracking male hero and his adventurous love interest who wants to be treated as his equal. Unfortunately, “Jungle Cruise” is stuck in a rut of mediocrity that will make this movie forgettable soon after watching it.

At a total running time of 127 minutes, “Jungle Cruise” over-indulges in characters and scenes that weren’t needed for the movie. Children under the age of 8 and people with very short attention spans might get bored or irritated by the unnecessary convolutions to the plot, which just weigh the story down more than stagnant muck in a jungle swamp. Don’t be surprised if some parts of the movie will make you want to go to sleep.

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, “Jungle Cruise” was written by Glenn Ficarra, John Requa and Michael Green. The extraneous plot contrivances seem entirely designed to stretch out the movie’s running time, as if the writers were afraid that that sticking to a simple concept wouldn’t work. In addition, too many parts of the movie seem forced and very fake, such as the romance between the male and female protagonists.

There are also some heavy-handed references to sexism and feminism that are repeated to irksome levels, as if the “Jungle Cruise” filmmakers think viewers are too dimwitted to notice the first three times these same references are in the movie. A running commentary in “Jungle Cruise” is that some of the men can’t believe that the female protagonist is wearing pants. The male protagonist even starts calling her “Pants” as a nickname. It’s a tired joke that wears very thin quickly. And the “feminism” messages in “Jungle Cruise” come across as extremely phony when this movie’s cast members who get top billing are several men but only one woman.

“Jungle Cruise” takes place in 1912, but there are flashbacks throughout the story to previous centuries. The movie opens with a voiceover explanation about the ancient legend that serves as the catalyst for this story. (The musical score during this intro uses an instrumental version of Metallica’s 1991 ballad “Nothing Else Matters,” which is kind of distracting for viewers who know this song.)

In the Legend of the Tears of the Moon, a magical tree called Tears of the Moon exists in the Amazon jungle. This tree has a petal that can cure any illness and break any curse. Over centuries, many explorers sought to find this petal. One of these explorers was a Spanish conquistador from the 1500s named Don Lope de Aguirre (played by Edgar Ramírez), also known as Aguirre, who got injured during his exploration and was found by the guardians of the tree.

After these guardians nursed Aguirre back to health, he demanded that the guardians give him a sacred arrowhead, which is believed to be the key to finding the Tears of the Moon. Aguirre and his conquistadors attacked the guardians, and the jungle fought back. (And yes, there are predictable scenes of trees coming to life and using their branches to tie up people.) As a result, Aguirre was cursed and held captive by the jungle trees for eternity.

In London in 1912, botanist MacGregor Houghton (played by Jack Whitehall) is making a presentation pitch to an all-male group of high-society members in a museum lecture hall. He’s reading a speech from index cards that were written by his much-smarter sister Dr. Lily Houghton (played by Emily Blunt), a researcher who is watching nervously from the balcony. MacGregor wants to convince this group of elites that the Legend of the Tears of the Moon is real, so that they can invest in a trip that MacGregor and Lily want to take to the Amazon jungle to find this magical tree.

MacGregor is fairly unskilled at public speaking (or he didn’t take the time to rehearse his speech), because on the index cards, where Lily wrote in parentheses “pause for dramatic effect,” he actually reads out loud the words “pause for dramatic effect.” MacGregor’s speech is not well-received, to put it mildly. He gets a resounding “no” from the group when requesting funding for the exploration trip.

As McGregor verbally flounders and gets flustered on stage, Lily sneaks off into an off-limits room to find the sacred arrowhead that supposedly will lead whoever possesses it to the Tears of the Moon tree. She pries open a crate, sees the arrowhead and steals it. But before Lily can leave undetected, she runs into a museum official named Sir James Hobbs-Coddington (played by Andy Nyman), a stern and greedy bureaucrat.

He’s about to secretly sell the arrowhead to a visiting German royal called Prince Joachim (played by Jesse Plemons), who sees that Lily has the arrowhead and demands that she hand it over. A predictable chase ensues in the room with some unrealistic choreography involving a ladder that leads to Lily hanging out of a window where she could fall and die. Prince Joachim has her cornered and tells Lily that if she hands over the arrowhead, he will rescue her.

Lily gives Prince Joachim a small box that she says has the arrowhead, but he pushes her off the building anyway. Just then, a double-decker bus with an open top drives by, and Lily lands in the bus. Inside the building, Prince Joachim sees that what’s inside the box isn’t the arrowhead but a duck-hunting decoy shaped like a toucan. Meanwhile, MacGregor gets kicked out of the lecture hall with perfect timing to be outside in the same place as Lily when she landed. MacGregor and Lily make their getaway on the bus. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.

You know the rest: Lily and MacGregor find a boat navigator who can take them to the Porto Vehlo, Brazil, where their Amazon jungle adventure will begin. He’s a skipper named Frank Wolff (played by Dwayne Johnson), who makes a meager living as a tour guide to visitors on his run-down steamer boat La Quila. One of Frank’s identifying qualities is that he constantly likes to tell jokes with bad puns. People will either find it charming or annoying.

For example, while ferrying a group of unlucky tourists who have to listen to his bad jokes, Frank points out a pair of toucans and says, “Only two can play.” Frank’s “wink and nudge” tone is: “Get it? The words ‘two can’ rhyme with ‘toucan.'”

He tells another groan-inducing pun joke to the people on his boat: “I used to work in an orange juice factory, but I got canned. I couldn’t concentrate. Yeah, they put the squeeze on me too.” A young girl on the boat tour voices what a lot of viewers will be thinking about Frank and his cheesy jokes: “Make him stop!”

“Jungle Cruise” is very self-aware that the jokes are silly, but after a while it does get very tiresome and comes across as lazy screenwriting not to have anything else about Frank’s personality that’s memorable. In fact, one of the reasons why “Jungle Cruise” is so disappointing is that none of the characters in this movie has an outstanding personality. You know a movie is bad when it has three villains/antagonists, and they’re just watered-down versions of many other movie villains.

The most obvious villain is Prince Joachim, who spouts cliché lines and does everything a stereotypical villain does but twirl his moustache. Plemons struggles with having a believable German accent in this role. It’s like he’s trying to do a parody of a Christoph Waltz villain, but it doesn’t land very well because Prince Joachim’s dialogue is so witless. Prince Joachim doesn’t come across as cunning or dangerous as much as he comes across as a spoiled and stupid royal who wants his way.

Another villain is Aguirre, who shows up later in the movie. The “Jungle Cruise” filmmakers wouldn’t have taken all that time in the beginning of the movie to tell viewers who Aguirre is without him making an appearance. Aguirre could’ve had an interesting personality and story arc, but he mostly just growls his words and gets into fights.

A third villain, who’s in the movie for less than 10 minutes, is Nilo (played by Paul Giamatti, speaking in a questionable Italian accent), a rival riverboat tour operator who is after Frank for debts that Frank owes to Nilo. If Frank doesn’t pay up, Nilo will get Frank’s boat. Nilo is probably the movie’s most useless character that has a well-known actor in the role. Most people who see “Jungle Cruise” won’t remember who the Nilo character is and what he does for a living.

There’s a time-wasting sequence where Frank impersonates Nilo when he first meets Lily, who’s looking to hire a boat navigator. She soon finds out who the real Nilo is, so her first impression of Frank is that he’s a liar and a con artist. The expected bickering between Lily and Frank ensues, which we all know will eventually lead to them feeling romantically attracted to each other.

MacGregor is a high-maintenance dandy who’s upset that he can’t take many of his possessions—such as a large wardrobe of clothes and tennis rackets—with him on Frank’s boat. Frank’s way of dealing with this issue of MacGregor’s extra luggage is to throw away the luggage in the water. How rude. Later in the movie, it’s implied but not said directly that MacGregor is a semi-closeted gay man. MacGregor talks about how grateful he is that Lily is his sister, because she protects him from being persecuted.

Frank has a pet leopard named Proxima, which is introduced in the movie in a very dubious way: Frank has trained the leopard to scare people away in a restaurant. How is that supposed to be funny? The visual effects for this CGI leopard are not very convincing. It looks every inch like the computer-generated animal that it is.

In fact, all of the visual effects in “Jungle Cruise” are very ho-hum or look bogus enough to be distracting to the movie. The hair and makeup are overdone for Lily, who looks too polished in certain action scenes, where realistically her makeup would’ve sweated off of her face, and her hair would be lot more disheveled.

As for the “jungle adventure,” Frank, Lily and MacGregor have the predictable experiences with jungle tribes, as well as chase scenes with Prince Joachim and his henchmen. There’s also the “eccentric exotic person” who seems to be in every jungle movie. In “Jungle Cruise,” this character is a tribe leader named Trader Sam (played by Veronica Falcón), who becomes an ally to these adventurers. And there are more bad pun jokes from Frank.

But when it’s revealed that Frank has a secret identity, that makes the movie go off the rails. Without giving away too much information, it’s enough to say that Frank’s secret identity meant that he grew up in a country where English is not the primary language. However, Frank has a very American accent throughout the movie. This discrepancy can be explained by Frank living enough of his adult life in the U.S. that he now has an American accent.

But the movie’s tone gets a little too dark for a family film when Frank says that he wants to die. (And it’s not a joke.) It puts a weird damper on the rest of the “adventure,” because it’s an unnecessary death wish for the hero of the story to have, after it’s made obvious that he has romantic feelings for Lily. (And yes, they’ve already kissed each other at this point.) Apparently, no one told Frank that telling a potential lover that you want to die is not the way to romance someone.

Anyway, we all know that this “death wish” is a very manipulative part of the story just to create unnecessary drama. After all, why kill off the hero when there are potential “Jungle Cruise” sequels to be made? Do the filmmakers really think viewers are that stupid?

The chemistry between Johnson and Blunt isn’t convincing enough to make Frank and Lily look like they could be in a real long-lasting relationship. Sparring partners in arguments? Yes. But as romantic partners? No. “Jungle Cruise” tries very hard to make it look like Frank and Lily are a great couple. But after this trip is over, it’s hard to imagine that Frank and Lily would enjoy each other’s company and have a lot to talk about in their everyday lives.

In “Jungle Cruise,” Johnson and Blunt do versions of characters that they’ve already played in other movies. There’s nothing fresh or intriguing about their “Jungle Cruise” performances. Johnson just isn’t very good at portraying someone from an era that happened before he was born. The way he talks and his mannerisms are better suited for roles that take place in his contemporary time period.

Everything about “Jungle Cruise” (which is inspired by the Jungle Cruise theme park ride at Disneyland and Disney World) is supposed to be fun, original and adventurous. Instead, too much of it looks and sounds over-calculated and ripped off from other movies. (And the hackneyed “Jungle Cruise” musical score by James Newton Howard is overbearing at times.)

There’s a pivotal scene in “Jungle Cruise” where an entire jungle lights up in purple, but it looks like it was copied from a pivotal scene in Pixar’s 2017 Oscar-winning film “Coco.” Simply put: “Jungle Cruise” takes no bold or creative risks when it could have. “Jungle Cruise” is more like “Jungle Snooze.”

Walt Disney Pictures will release “Jungle Cruise” in U.S. cinemas and at a premium extra cost on Disney+ on July 30, 2021. 

2019 MTV Movie and TV Awards: “Avengers: Endgame’ is the top winner

June 17, 2019

With three prizes, including Best Movie, “Avengers: Endgame” was the top winner at the 2019 MTV Movie & TV Awards, which took place June 15 at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California. Zachary Levi hosted the show, which MTV televised on June 17.

“A Star Is Born” won two prizes: Best Musical Moment (for “Shallow”) and Best Performance in a Movie (for Lady Gaga). Noah Centineo also won two awards, for his co-starring role in the Netflix romantic comedy “To All the Boys I Loved Before”: Best Kiss (a prize he shared with co-star Lana Condor) and Breakthrough Performance.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was honored with the Generation Award. Jada Pinkett Smith received the Trailblazer Award.

The show’s performers were Bazzi and Lizzo. (Martin Garrix, who had been scheduled to perform with Macklemore and Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump, cancelled the performance.) Presenters included Annie Murphy, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Gavin Leatherwood, Noah Schnapp, Ross Lynch, Aubrey Plaza, Daniel Levy, Dave Bautista, David Spade, Elisabeth Moss, Jameela Jamil, Kiernan Shipka, Kumail Nanjiani, Maude Apatow, Melissa McCarthy, Mj Rodriguez, Shameik Moore, Storm Reid and Tiffany Haddish.

Joel Gallen of Tenth Planet Productions served as executive producer with MTV’s Amy Doyle, Wendy Plaut and Vanessa Whitewolf for the 2019 MTV Movie & TV Awards. Rick Austin also served as executive producer. Joseph Buoye and Alicia Portugal were executives in charge of production. Amani Duncan and Lisa Lauricella were executives in charge of music.

Official sponsors of the 2019 “MTV Movie & TV Awards” included M&M’S®, MTN DEW®, Taco Bell®, and truth®.

Here is the complete list of winners and nominees for the 2019 MTV Movie & TV Awards:

*=winner

BEST MOVIE
Avengers: Endgame*

BlacKkKlansman
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Us

BEST SHOW
Big Mouth
Game of Thrones*
Riverdale
Schitt’s Creek
The Haunting of Hill House

BEST PERFORMANCE IN A MOVIE
Amandla Stenberg (Starr Carter) – The Hate U Give
Lady Gaga (Ally) – A Star is Born*
Lupita Nyong’o (Red) – Us
Rami Malek (Freddie Mercury) – Bohemian Rhapsody
Sandra Bullock (Malorie) – Bird Box

BEST PERFORMANCE IN A SHOW
Elisabeth Moss (June Osborne/Offred) – The Handmaid’s Tale*

Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen) – Game of Thrones
Gina Rodriguez (Jane Villanueva) – Jane the Virgin
Jason Mitchell (Brandon) – The Chi
Kiernan Shipka (Sabrina Spellman) – Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

BEST HERO
Brie Larson (Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel) – Captain Marvel
John David Washington (Ron Stallworth) – BlacKkKlansman
Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) – Game of Thrones
Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man) – Avengers: Endgame*
Zachary Levi (Billy Batson/Shazam) – Shazam!

BEST VILLAIN
Jodie Comer (Villanelle) – Killing Eve
Joseph Fiennes (Commander Fred Waterford) – The Handmaid’s Tale
Josh Brolin (Thanos) – Avengers: Endgame*
Lupita Nyong’o (Red) – Us
Penn Badgley (Joe Goldberg) – You

BEST KISS
Camila Mendes & Charles Melton (Veronica Lodge & Reggie Mantle) – Riverdale
Jason Momoa & Amber Heard (Aquaman & Mera) – Aquaman
Ncuti Gatwa & Connor Swindells (Eric Effiong & Adam Groff) – Sex Education
Noah Centineo & Lana Condor (Peter Kavinsky & Lara Jean) – To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before*
Tom Hardy & Michelle Williams (Eddie Brock/Venom & Anne Weying) – Venom

REALITY ROYALTY
Jersey Shore: Family Vacation
Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta*
The Bachelor
The Challenge
Vanderpump Rules

BEST COMEDIC PERFORMANCE
Awkwafina (Peik Lin Goh) – Crazy Rich Asians
Dan Levy (David Rose) – Schitt’s Creek*
John Mulaney (Andrew Glouberman) – Big Mouth
Marsai Martin (Little Jordan Sanders) – Little
Zachary Levi (Billy Batson/Shazam) – Shazam!

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE
Awkwafina (Peik Lin Goh) – Crazy Rich Asians
Haley Lu Richardson (Stella) – Five Feet Apart
Mj Rodriguez (Blanca Rodriguez) – Pose
Ncuti Gatwa (Eric Effiong) – Sex Education
Noah Centineo (Peter Kavinsky) – To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before*

BEST FIGHT
Avengers: Endgame – Captain America vs. Thanos
Captain Marvel – Captain Marvel vs. Minn-Erva*
Game of Thrones – Arya Stark vs. the White Walkers
RBG – Ruth Bader Ginsburg vs. Inequality
WWE Wrestlemania – Becky Lynch vs. Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair

BEST REALLIFE HERO
Alex Honnold – Free Solo
Hannah Gadsby – Nanette
Roman Reigns – WWE SmackDown
Ruth Bader Ginsburg – RBG*
Serena Williams – Being Serena

MOST FRIGHTENED PERFORMANCE
Alex Wolff (Peter) – Hereditary
Linda Cardellini (Anna Tate-Garcia) – The Curse of La Llorona
Rhian Rees (Dana Haines) – Halloween
Sandra Bullock (Malorie) – Bird Box*
Victoria Pedretti (Nell Crain) – The Haunting of Hill House

BEST DOCUMENTARY
At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal
McQueen
Minding the Gap
RBG
Surviving R. Kelly*

BEST HOST
Gayle King – CBS This Morning
Nick Cannon – Wild ‘n Out*
Nick Cannon – The Masked Singer
RuPaul – RuPaul’s Drag Race
Trevor Noah – The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

MOST MEME-ABLE MOMENT
Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club – The Lilo Dance
Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood – Ray J’s Hat
RBG – The Notorious RBG
RuPaul’s Drag Race – Asia O’Hara’s butterfly finale fail
The Bachelor – Colton Underwood jumps the fence*

BEST MUSICAL MOMENT
A Star is Born “Shallow”*
Bohemian Rhapsody Live Aid Concert
Captain Marvel “Just a Girl”
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina “Masquerade”
On My Block “Look at that Butt”
Riverdale “Seventeen”
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse “Sunflower”
The Umbrella Academy “I Think We’re Alone Now”

 

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