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Our Christmas Day with “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”

Jumanji!

Dwayne Johnson on a motorcycle with a flamethrower. Maybe movies do get better than this, but some days they don’t need to.

No one deserves to be left alone on Christmas, least of all a grandmother. When one of our families canceled their Christmas gathering altogether at the last minute, it left one kindly relative in danger of spending all day alone with her dashed hopes and her TV dinners and a 227 marathon. We knew we had to do something. That’s why for the first time in ages we headed to the theater on Christmas Day — gave her some company, some fresh air, and the treat of an all-new movie. Waiting there for us with two hours’ worth of innocuous, family-bonding fun was Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and his happy sidekicks in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

In his wrestling days our man Mr. Johnson famously asked his opponents, “Can you smell what The Rock is cooking?” He may not get into the ring anymore, but we can still smell what he’s cooking. And if there’s one thing The Rock cooks best these days, it’s popcorn. Lots and lots of popcorn. Movies with The Rock in them are like the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving of cinema. You might groan at what’s on the table, but even if you don’t touch it, someone else will appreciate the love and effort he put into that popcorn, and they’re gonna have some and love it.

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Yes, There’s a Scene After the “Moana” End Credits

Moana!

With the invigorating Polynesian nautical epic Moana it’s time once again for Disney to flaunt their recovered mojo while the once-flawless Pixar pins their hopes on selling more Cars merchandise as well as the expensive, grim, Zack Snyder-looking commercial they made to go with all of it.

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“San Andreas”: Our Stars in the Fault

San Andreas!

The Rock prepares to go punch the San Andreas Fault really hard. YOU try telling him that’ll only make it worse.

I said it to myself six years ago, and I stand by my stance today: every natural disaster film ever made for the rest of my life will pale in comparison to Roland Emmerich’s 2012. The pretenders will come, they’ll try to convince us their version of Mother Nature is the angriest of all times, they’ll knock over buildings by the dozen, they’ll grind hundreds of extras and millions of CG avatars into so much disaster mulch, and they’ll end with the reassurance that all the right costars will survive. None of them can hope to match Emmerich’s ludicrous audacity, the intimidating sight of America burning and sliding into the ocean, the world’s fastest limousine, the pre-Fast/Furious car-jump out of a flying plane, Woody Harrelson’s free-spirit zealotry, the post-apocalyptic speech to end all post-apocalyptic speeches as delivered by future Academy Award Nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor, or the bizarre fact that the movie costarred a screenwriter but was co-written by its composer.

It’s cute when someone invests a lot of money in giving one a try anyway. My mom needs reasons to get out of the house and she loves disaster movies (for her the gold standard is Earthquake), so one night I found myself at a showing of San Andreas with zero expectations and the satisfaction in knowing that sometimes I do try to be a good son.

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“GI Joe: Retaliation”: a Big-Budget, Old-Fashioned Military Cartoon

Cobra White House, G.I. Joe: Retaliation

Once again our old friend the White House is humiliated, this time in G.I. Joe: Retaliation.

Even though I thought Stephen Sommers’ G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra was a handful of loopy action scenes stitched together into summer action filler that bore no resemblance to the Joe I knew from childhood, I decided to give its sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation a chance anyway, in case it had any worth as a “popcorn flick”. In the end, I found myself left with a lot of unpopped kernels.

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