Tag Archives: Bonnie Hunt

The Ultimate Playlist of Noise

High school senior Marcus (Keean Johnson) isn’t trying to be rude but yes he is wearing two different sets of headphones because maybe he wants to listen to Radiohead and a gentle field breeze at the same time. He’s that guy, a total audiophile, most of his music taste inherited from his big brother who died saving him from a house fire. He’s teased about the burn marks on his back but Marcus is proud to wear such visible proof of love. He’s a little less enthusiastic about the toll these events have taken on his mother, who is the living, breathing embodiment of “overprotective.” He takes off his double head phones to hear some live music, but mom says he’s got to be home by 10, and he fully intends to comply. Except the opening act is transformative in many ways; Wendy (Madeline Brewer) is beautiful, her voice like gold to him, and when her set is finished, Marcus makes to follow her but gets elbowed in the head and falls to the floor in the throes of a seizure.

At the hospital they tell him he has brain tumors that need to be removed as soon as possible. Just one problem – well, aside from the obvious: this brain surgery is going to leave him deaf. With only a month to hear all there is to be heard, he embarks on a road trip toward New York City, completing a bucket list of all the best noises, and recording them all on his ultimate playlist of noise. Which noises would you choose? And more importantly, at least to a red-blooded teenage boy, who would you choose to accompany you on this quest? It’s a no-brainer for Marcus, particularly because she doesn’t exactly give him a choice. He and Wendy take off in his mom’s minivan without a plan or permission, determined to record everything worth hearing.

It sounds like a fairly typical young adult film, but Keean Johnson finds layers to his character, and I think most audiences who bother to will find layers to the film as well. Marcus’s trip is an attempt to find some peace with a looming loss, but he’s dealt with loss before, and perhaps he knows grieving, and coping, better than most. The script remembers to touch base with Marcus’ whole life – his friends, his family, the brother he never stops thinking about – but in his pursuit to hear all the sounds, he brings along a brand new person, the last new voice he will ever know. Of course there’s a certain melancholia to this act of goodbye, but the film is also a celebration of sound. Kudos to the guys in the sound department for their dedication to detail; even noise that doesn’t appear on Marcus’s list is paid special attention to.

The first half of The Ultimate Playlist of Noise played in a familiar way, much like that dying teen trope that movies like this just can’t stay away from – and yet this one has. Despite Marcus’s struggle to cope, losing his hearing isn’t a death sentence, it’s just the start to a new way of living, and yes, the end to the old way. But Marcus’s road trip isn’t just a recording session, it’s also a reminder that there are still plenty of beautiful things to see and think and feel, and that life will go on and be worth living and indeed be very good, hearing or no.

Jumanji (1995)

Sean thought Jumanji was just the movie for viewing on Halloween night. Sean had fond memories of having watched it repeatedly in childhood, whereas I hadn’t seen it at all, but understood it to be a film marketed towards children. In fact, it is a little spooky and a little scary.

In 1969, a little kid named Alan Parrish finds an old board game buried deep in a construction pit and ropes his friend Sarah into a game. The game, Jumanji, is more than they bargained for. The board game claims Alan, sucks him right up, and he’s never seen again.

Cut to: 1995. Judy (Kristen Dunst) and little brother Peter (Bradley Pierce) move into what used to be the Parrish family home, which as been abandoned since Alan vanished and his parents left heartbroken. Jumanji still sits in the home’s attic, where it soon calls to them. They start playing, which once again unleashes the beast, but does have one small bonus: Alan pops back out of the game, now a fully grown man (Robin Williams), after having spent some 26 years fending for himself in what I believe he describes as both “a jungle” and “hell.” But he hardly has time to reflect because the game must be finished, which means Sarah (Bonnie Hunt) must be tracked down, and horrible creatures and terrible catastrophes must be survived because every roll is a different kind of doom.

Having seen only the 2017 reboot starring The Rock, I didn’t realize that this movie wouldn’t bring us inside the game, rather the game would escape into 1995: flash floods, angry lions, quicksand, spiders the size of basketballs. It’s actually disappointing that we just gloss over Alan’s 26 years of board game purgatory because he certainly insinuates that shit. went. down. And it feels like there might be an interesting story about innocence lost and the good of the group vs. the good of the individual – there’s stuff to be mined if only we had time between elephant stampedes. And of course it’s hard for 2019 eyes to watch 1995’s CGI, which more or less looks like someone cut pictures of monkeys out of a National Geographic magazine, drew silly faces on them, and called it special effects.

Anyway, I’m pretty jazzed to have seen this one if only to give context to a future rewatch of 2017’s Welcome To The Jungle (and 2019’s sequel). Is that a sad thing to say? Sean says that we actually see Alan’s treehouse in the 2017 film, and that might actually mean something to me now that I know who the heck Alan is. Of course it also makes me wonder what 2017 Alan is up to. We know that in 1969, young Alan and Sarah chuck the game, weighted, into a river. Which is dumb. That game is evil and needs to be destroyed. We also know from the end of that movie that of course Jumanji washes up on a shore somewhere and is discovered by two little French girls. However, the 2017 iteration contradicts this: it tells us that in 1996, Alex Vreeke’s father found the game washed up on the beach in the same New Hampshire town. Alex isn’t over taken by the game but when it magically turns into a video game cartridge, he loads it up and gets sucked inside. He basically pulls a 20 year vanishing act, just as Alan had done. At the end of original Jumanji, Alan is alive and well in 1995 and still living in New Hampshire, so I have some questions:

  1. How did the French girls find the game in 1969 or soon after, play it or not play it, then throw it back into the ocean…only to wash up in the exact same New Hampshire town from which it originated?
  2. How does grown up 1995 Alan hear about Alex’s vanishing and not put two and two together? Or Sarah for that matter, who lived through his 26 years of disappearance being called delusional for her insistence that he’d been drawn into a board game?
  3. And where is Alan in 2017 for that matter? I realize that Robin Williams is dead so a cameo is more or less impossible, but it would have been nice.

Anyway, it seems the 2017 movie managed to weave in some interesting elements from the first movie, references I may actually catch now that I know about them, which is kind of the catch with references.

Which is not to say the 1995 movie is trash. It was obviously loved enough to spawn a sequel 20 years after the fact. Robin Williams is always a joy to watch, even if it takes a third of the movie before he’s actually on screen. Jonathan Hyde plays both Alan’s father and Jumanji’s main bad guy, Van Pelt – “that’s symbolism,” Sean tells me. And he’s not wrong.