On DVD & Blu-Ray: March 17, 2020

Much like the challenges a sequel faces in trying to stand on its own while recapturing the magic of what made the original so special, the teenage characters we met in 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle have found it difficult to completely move on from their own experiences within the video game world; longing to reclaim such feelings of empowerment and intelligence while not being constrained by their earthly forms-the separation of this experience and actual reality has been more tough for some than others. This is especially true for Alex Wolf’s character, Spencer, who has spent his freshman year at college feeling completely invisible and unworthy of the long-distance relationship he and Martha (Morgan Turner) are having to actually work for. In this way, Jumanji: The Next Level begins not by jumping straight back into the central gag, but instead by offering a surprising study of why someone in their seemingly logical mind would want to risk their life by going back into the game in the first place. This was always going to be the conundrum for a sequel to the reboot (I feel ridiculous writing that, but it is what it is) as there was no choice other than to either have the same people return to the game or have the video game land in new hands, but regardless of who would be controlling the avatars Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan and Jack Black were still going to be the stars. And so, in Jake Kasdan’s sequel (co-written by Kasdan, Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg) this somewhat weighty approach is taken in order to explain how another sequel is even possible and while this along with The Rock’s Danny DeVito impersonation, Hart’s superb turn as Danny Glover and Awkwafina’s eventual turn as DeVito are all equally appreciated The Next Level ultimately skimps on the weight of the main idea that’s powering it (not to mention it being the one facet that might allow a hint of the original Jumanji’s tone to seep into this new series) in favor of broader comedy and bigger set pieces. It’s not that these aspects are bad, cheapen the experience or even feel lazy, but more that The Next Level is very much like vanilla ice cream that could have sprung for sprinkles or syrup, but chose not to not because of cost or fear of diluting the inherent flavor, but more out of convenience. Safe without being boring, fun without being interesting, The Next Level is simply fine. Video review here. C

"The world owes us both. This is what we got."

There is a scene in Clint Eastwood's Richard Jewell in which the title character is instructed by his lawyer not to talk with the FBI as they search he and his mother's house. Of course, Jewell being the ever-enthusiastic law enforcement fan proceeds to engage his "fellow law enforcement" officers in conversation. It is one of the most tragically comedic moments in a film that outside of Paul Walter Hauser's central performance tends to feel rather hollow in its level of introspection and execution. It is in this aforementioned scene that the film, for a moment, perfectly captures the great tragedy of Jewell's life in that perception was always overshadowed by the most genuine of intent. The scene in question is a prime example of, despite how bad circumstances became, Jewell was always more than willing to cooperate and offer an explanation for his actions-even sometimes going so far as to defend the officers investigating him-as he was seemingly more compassionate to their plight of catching the guilty party then he was of his own personal battle to maintain his innocence. It is in these actions that the heart of both the character and the film show itself.

Richard Jewell is a portrait of a man so enamored with something that his obsession paints him into an incriminating corner. And though Eastwood's direction continues to remain on autopilot, the top of the line cast each bring their A-game here; especially Kathy Bates, whose portrayal of Bobi Jewell is not only compassionate, but complimentary in every regard to what Hauser brings. C+

“Better to suffer injustice than to do it.”

A Hidden Life is a beautifully painful portrait of the strength of one man’s faith in the face of evil and the contemplation of his fate proven moot by the strength of his convictions.

It’s a lot to digest and a lot movie. I may write about it more extensively after a second viewing, but for now it’s almost indescribably too distressing to consider sitting through again yet so eloquently and gorgeously rendered that I can’t help but to want to return.

Welcome back, Malick. B+

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