Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)
Written by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, and Jeff Pinkner
Directed by Jake Kasdan
The children’s literature of Chris Van Allsburg is mysterious. If you’ve ever read The Stranger, his picture book about a mysterious vagrant whose arrival at a farmhouse signals a pause in the seasons, you’ll know how powerfully haunting his illustrations can be. His work exists on a line between photo-realism and surreality. Faces look real, yet the world around these characters feel as if it emerged from a dream. The original 1995 film adaptation of Jumanji does a reasonably good job of telling its story with those visually softened edges of Van Allsburg’s illustrations but is forced to expand significantly upon the source material. The film would be followed by an animated series by Everett Peck and resembled the look of his work, Duck Man and Rugrats. A little-seen film sequel Zathura would be released in the early 2000s, based on a book that is a spiritual companion to Jumanji more than anything else. This brings us to the current state of Jumanji as a media product.
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Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (2015)
Written & Directed by Alberto Vázquez & Pedro Rivero
On an island in a seemingly endless sea, where a factory in the industrial zone exploded, leaving this place a decaying hell, lives Birdboy. Birdboy is a teenager possessed by a demonic force that makes its home in the lighthouse just off the shoreline. Despite his dark nature and dependency on meds to keep this demon at bay, Birdboy is loved by Dinky, a mouse girl from a troubled family. Dinky is a runaway who, with her friends Sandra the rabbit and Little Fox, have pooled their money to try and buy a boat so they can finally escape this place. This animated Spanish-language picture is very dark and most definitely a mature adult-oriented film dealing in themes of mental illness, addiction, and abuse.
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Pokemon Detective Pikachu (2019)
Written by Dan Hernandez & Benji Sami, Rob Letterman, and Derek Connolly
Directed by Rob Letterman
It was always a matter of time. It was 1996 when Pocket Monsters came to the United States in the form of Gameboy games and a collectible card game. I was in high school at the time and preferred to spend what little disposable income I had on comic books so I never really got caught up in the phenomenon. I think I played the card game once in college but wasn’t pulled in, I went and saw the first animated feature film in the theater due to a nearby dollar theater, and have played an hour or two of the Gameboy game. So I’m aware of the concept and can identify a few core Pokemon, but not a fan in any sense. That said, I was hoping that this live-action feature could maybe create a bridge between hardcore fans and the liminal audience that would make Pokemon appeal to the broadest audience possible.
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The House with a Clock in its Walls (2018)
Written by Eric Kripke
Directed by Eli Roth
The name Eli Roth is typically associated with, what I consider, mediocre horror films. He made Cabin Fever, the first two Hostel movies, among others. I’ve never clicked with the style and tone Roth goes for in his films, they feel like horror movies intent on undercutting any potential fear or creepiness, almost parodies of horror movies. I was a bit surprised when this was announced, an adaptation of a children’s fantasy novel written by John Bellairs in the 1970s. I feel like Roth hasn’t found his niche in the type of films he makes typically so I thought this could be a chance for him to make something I’d enjoy.
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Game of Thrones Season 8 (HBO)
Written by Dave Hill, Bryan Cogman, David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by David Nutter, Miguel Sapochnik, David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Winter has come, and all the players are aligned for the final battle for Westeros. Daenerys Targaryen has arrived with dragons bringing her armies from the East. An alliance has been formed between the exiled monarch and the people of the North. The Wall has been breached and the Night King marches south to destroy anything in his path. Meanwhile, Queen Cersei Lannister has brokered deals with the Iron Islands and the Golden Company of Essos to serve as her protection against the inevitable battle with Targaryen. Jon Snow learns of his true parentage and how this could affect his relationship with the newly arrived leader. The table is set for a new age to begin in Westeros, but will it be any better than what has come before?
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The OA Season 2 (Netflix)
Written by Brit Marling, Zal Batmanglij, Damien Ober, Nicki Paluga, Dominic Orlando, Henry Bean, and Claire Kiechel
Directed by Zal Batmanglij, Andrew Haigh, and Anna Rose Holmer
Private Karim Washington is visited at his houseboat by a distraught Vietnamese grandmother. She hands him a photo of her granddaughter Michelle and explains that she is missing. Washington begins searching San Francisco and following leads about a mysterious game that teens are playing and which Michelle was involved with. The threads of this investigation lead our detective to Nina Azarova, a wealthy Russian expatriate with ties to a secretive tech developer. Meanwhile, Prarie, the young woman with a fantastic story from season one finds herself transported to this new dimension and placed in the body of Nina, herself having lived out an entirely different set of circumstances. Prairie is immediately confronted with familiar faces who also found their way across the multiverse to this reality. More is revealed about the nature of Prarie’s powers and the structure of these webs of reality leading her towards another brush with death and a whole new world opening up.
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Written by Ali Abbasi, Isabella Eklöf, & John Ajvide Lindqvist
Directed by Ali Abbasi
Tina lives a secluded life, markedly different from everyone around her from a chromosomal abnormality compared to the humans that populate her world. She has a pronounced brow ridge and protruding teeth recalling images of long-extinct Neanderthals. What makes her valuable to people is her ability to smell guilt and shame making her a perfect customs agent at a Swedish port of entry. After years of ferreting out contraband, she eventually meets a man who shares her facial deformities and seems to be beyond her ability to detect evil. There is an attraction between them that develops and leads Tina to discover the truth about her past and the lies she has been told her whole life.
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