Will It Give You Goosebumps Again?

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween Poster

 

The book series that got me hooked to reading many years ago has tried to keep its relevance as up-to-date as possible.  With the first installment doing pretty well, it’s no surprise that they made a second film and yours truly is ready to dive in and figure out what lies in the latest book of R.L. Stine.  Can this family friendly horror keep things spooky enough to warrant a theater visit?  Robbie K here with a review on the latest silver screen sensation:

 

Movie: Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (2018)

 

Director:

Ari Sandel

Writers:

Rob Lieber (screenplay by), Rob Lieber (story by)  |2 more credits »

Stars:

Wendi McLendon-CoveyJack BlackMadison Iseman

 

 

LIKES:

 

Family Friendly:  The Goosebumps books have been a solid intro into the world of horror that brings kids into the fold of literature.  This movie sticks to those guns and adds that kid friendly element to warrant a try for a family outing.  Is it dark? Yes, but the studio managed to dilute the darkness to be manageable (for the most part) that kids should have a laugh at it. Case in point a three-year-old did very well in my viewing.

 

Good Pace:  Short and to the point, this movie was a quick, fun adventure that did little to slow the antics down.  From the get go, you’ll be immersed into the adventure at hand, as what can be describes Stranger Things, meets a Disney vibe and is executed well. The fact that time seems to fly by is a good sign that this will be fun for most.  Plus, 90 minutes is a good target goal in my opinion.

 

Creature Design: While certainly not as epic as Stine’s descriptions in his book, the crew in the movie studio have done some decent research.  The new creatures that inhabit the screen have got some flare to them, and while not the most realistic, at least have that same Stine vibe to them to still be easy for the little ones to handle.

 

The Use of Slappy: Slappy in the last film was not as utilized as I expected, reserved for a few jokes and that was it.  The sequel though really brought him out in spades, using him to establish a bit ,ore of the horror element, while also grounding the story down. Slappy was much more himself in this installment, his malicious side mixed with his deceitful antics bringing back memories of the horror that was Slappy in his books.  A solid antagonist to support the story, I enjoyed this character much more.

 

DISLIKES:

Under Utilization of Characters:  The kids get center stage and do well, but the older cast members not as involved as I was hoping.  Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ken Jeong were reduced to a few short sequences, still bringing their tricks to trade, but not getting involved in the story like I had hoped. As for Jack Black, he’s there, but not much more I can say .  They really diluted “Stine’s” part in this film and left me a little bummed with my Haunted Halloween treat.

 

Not as Much Nostalgia: Part of the fun of the last movie was all the references to the books and trying to find the cameos in their involvement.  Sadly, this film short sheeted us in this factor.  Yes, there are a few nods, but Haunted Halloween is trying to go a little more original than its predecessor.  Nothing wrong with that, it’s just I missed the find your childhood reference component from the first film.

 

More Creature involvement: Design might be good, but Haunted Halloween 2 didn’t use their creatures to their full potential either.  Many creatures get their kicks for a few seconds before being reduced to background images and occasional sound effect.  Such a step down in this design, Haunted Halloween didn’t have quite the spectacular impasses they wanted to bring in, and that left me feeling a little bored in terms of suspense.

 

Predictability/Trailer Spoilers:  My friend Tim has shared wisdom of be careful what trailers you watch.  These words are very applicable to this movie, as watch enough of the trailers and you have 80% of the movie.  Haunted Halloween has little in terms of grand surprises, and by watching these trailers, you can skip this film in the theater.

 

The Story Component: It’s not that the story was bad, but it was much less involved than the first installment.  Very straightforward, very cliché, and very piecemeal that it feels like an unfinished manuscript.  Slappy may have tied things together and made one heck of an antagonist, but their execution of his skill set was just missing something.  Some of the antics, gimmicks, and threats were very lighthearted, and due to the kid atmosphere, I feel they threw some punches to not go too extreme to leave nightmares.

 

The Verdict:

 

            Goosebumps 2 has some fun little quirks that will be very appropriate for the family atmosphere of the movie.  With good creature design and pacing it shows some promise to being the horror movie for the young and young at heart.  However, the originality factor took a little from the adventure I enjoyed in the first installment, primarily at how disjointed this movie felt in integrating all its characters and creatures.  It’s a step back in quality overall, and you can skip this one due to the trailers, but not the worst movie to come out overall. 

 

My scores are:

 

Adventure/Comedy/Family: 7.0

Movie Overall:  5.5

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Welcome To The Jungle

Jumanji

 

The drums beat heavy in the air, the impending sound of doom resonating with their deep sounds indicating another threat on the horizon.  Those tribal instruments were just one component of the adventure Jumanji was back in the 90s, well that and about a thousand other things that made for a fun adventure.  Now, decades later, the jungle is to be unleashed once more to the modern generation in hopes of reviving the adventure once more, perhaps for more sequels.  Robbie K here to give you the 411 on the latest movies, so let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

 

The References:  It’s always fun to get pleasant memories of your childhood refreshed with a nostalgic reference.  Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, tips its hat towards a couple of Easter eggs that will take you back to the nineties.  The animatronic animals, the familiar sounds of wild life hidden in the bushes, and a few shout outs to previous characters were well placed to revive the spark the prequel made long ago.

 

Acting:  Okay, this film isn’t going to win any major awards for best actor/actress, but that doesn’t count it out for quality, entertaining talent.  Dwayne Johnson is still a rugged, stud adventure type with a smolder and skill for comedic sarcasm.  Kevin Hart has the rant style down, focusing on energetic, loud delivery with a little cursing to sweeten the pot.  Jack Black provides the awkward comedy, yet manages to take it one step further by acting like a girl trapped in a man’s body, including all the mannerisms that modern teenage girls exemplify. Karen Gillan is edgy, angst filled, yet somehow reserved to bring a fighter not fueled by raging hormones of stress.  While it doesn’t sound that different, there are a couple of things that impressed me.  The first is that the chemistry between these actors, which seemed very natural as they bounced their insults and dialogue off of one another.  The second component is how the actors seemed to portray not only the qualities of their avatar, but also of the kids trapped inside them.  Much like Jack Black, the actors all had to balance teenage adolescent with epic adventure role and it worked very well for me.

 

Comedy: By far the strongest component for me though is the laugh fest hidden in the foliage of the artificial jungle world.  Jumanji 2 was one of the funniest adventures I’ve seen in a while, filled with a plethora of comedic styles to tickle your fancy in a variety of ways.  Insult humor, one-liners, meme worthy antics, and even sexual innuendos are all crammed into the 2-hour run time.  Spreading the humor throughout kept things fresh for me and changing up the style only further kept me laughingHowever, the component I loved was how tasteful the stupidity was, managing to combine wit and slapstick into a blend that is just a hoot to watch.  I feel this style will work for a wide variety of ages, though beware of the occasional curse bomb to light up the screen.

 

 

DISLIKES;

 

A Little Corny/Stretch:  Welcome to the Jungle is a stretch in many regards, however there are times where the movie treks of the already ridiculous path.  Some of the action scenes have stunts that defy physics, or performances that are pushing the limits at times.  These inconsistencies are easy to ignore for the most part, and really don’t ruin much with all the fun to be had.  Yet, these components are a little cheesy at times, fake looking even more so, and dilutes the message in a preachy fashion.

 

The Bad Guy:  The main villain has a cool power to use, but sadly the villain doesn’t utilize it very well.  In addition, the primary antagonist and his cronies are a little anticlimactic in terms of threatening the jungle, being more roar than bite.  A few lousy maneuvers, a threat here or there, and some lame NPC minions just didn’t do it for me in regards to development and design.

 

Missing Adventure:  As fun as the video game twist was on the movie, I missed the component of the board game that made the original the adventure it was.  Remember the terror of the unknown as the dice rolled and the swirling green mist formed into a message?  How about seeing the horrors of the jungle out into the real world and our heroes having to do everything to keep the board safe?  Yeah, those thrills are what Jumanji was about as the beasts were unleashed in special effect glory.  This movie focused a little too heavy on the biker gang motive and sort of ditched the jungle component for me.  I missed the animal part of this adventure and the blending of these threats together, and the adventure they crafted.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Welcome to the Jungle is a very fun movie and I was not disappointed as I could have been. It’s funny, with a great cast to bring the crew to life and a great energy to keep one entertained throughout the whole movie.  Yet, the comedy seemed to be the main focus, because the balanced laughs really overshadowed the adventure component the first movie had within it.  Still, many ages will enjoy what this movie has to offer and will be quoting this movie for quite some time after it leaves theaters.  Worth a trip to the theater?  Absolutely, though save your dough and don’t see it in 3-D.

 

My Scores:

 

Action/Adventure/Comedy:  7.5

Movie Overall: 6.0

Another Legends Of Awesomeness

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SKADOOSH! A word that seems to hold no meaning for many was the trademark word for an animated film franchise that’s beloved by many. Kung-Fu Panda is a tale about Po the clumsy, food loving panda who also is a master of martial arts. Over the last eight years, Po and his fellow animal fighters have tackled one overlord after another to save China. And this weekend yet another villain rears it’s anthropomorphic head to face our heroes. However can a third adventure maintain the fun its predecessors have or does it flop like so many sequels?

 

Kung-Fu Panda’s animation remains as phenomenal as ever, with Po and company zipping about in fluid motion. Both human and animalistic motions are flawlessly blended together to bring our anthropomorphic cast alive and in stunning detail and color. This quality remains even during the fast paced G-rated action scenes of Kung-Fu and comical chaos.

Of course fans of the series know that Po’s main angle is comedy in terms of entertaining our younger audience members. Kung-Fu Panda 3 has plenty of laughable moments as Po’s enthusiasm and clumsiness leads to many situations that filled the audience with high pitched squeals. Running into walls, screaming in overdramatic voices, and goofy, thought cute, faces are the ploys they unleash. Fortunately there are some well-written lines, great delivery, and a few advanced jokes that add a little wit to the mix.

And like any good animated feature, this movie also brings about some emotional moments to grab you into the story. Morals, especially those geared towards finding your self, are integrated into the excitement and add some more depth to Po. Seeing Po reunited with his kind starts pulling the heartstrings, and the interactions with his dad (combined with the powerful musical score) nearly brought tears to my eyes. While some moments are a little on the preachy/cheesy side, the story team did a nice job teaching the lessons that we can all stand to learn.

While all of these animation tactics work to bring the movie the life, it would still be nothing without the voice acting. Jack Black’s goofiness works great with Po and is perfect for the comedy aspect of the film, while also transitioning into a more serious tone when the scene calls for it. The new comers to the series are well received in this movie. Bryan Cranston as Po’s father was a different role for him and interesting to see considering his last few roles were much more intense. J.K. Simmons as the bad guy was a perfect choice as his gruff tone and history of being a stubborn hard head fell right in line with his animal. Our other cast members reprise their roles with the same ferocity and fun they had back in the other films.

In terms of what could be improved in this movie there were a few things I would have liked to see. First is that the opening segment was a bit rushed, the rise of the master villain happening much faster than I expected. As a result the training and morals of Po were also a little hasty in development and lacked the same emotional punch of the first two. I felt they also put the other animals in the background again with only Tigress really getting the screen time worthy of billing. Comedy wise some of the ploys did get old after a bit, some of the new jokes getting overused like so many memes in the Internet generation. The action I didn’t think was as good as Kung Fu Panda 2, especially when it turns into the grandiose display of color than actual martial arts prowess.

Overall Kung-Fu Panda 3 is another notch on the belt of awesome goodness in Dreamworks productions. It is fun, funny, and maintains the fun story elements that we fell in love with all those years ago. For a third installment this is one of the better ones I have seen, and is a strong start to the family movie genre in 2016. I strongly encourage everyone to take a trip to the theater for this adventure.

 

My scores for Kung Fu Panda 3 are:

 

Animation/Action/Adventure: 8.0

Movie Overall: 8.0

R.L Stine’s Books Come to Life In A Fun, Simplistic Tale

Goosebumps

            Remember when you were a kid, and your parents told you to read something? Chances are you were like me and chose Goosebumps as your series, enjoying the juvenile horrors it brought. R.L. Stine’s band of ghouls, goblins, and dummies left me with chills many years ago, along with many memorable stories to enjoy. Now years later, following reprints, spin-offs, and more reprints a movie surrounding Stine’s creatures has emerged, and just in time for Halloween. What thrills, or chills, does this installment have for audiences? Read on to find out.

For those who grew up with the series, the main benefit this movie brings is a sense of nostalgia. Director Rob Letterman has placed iconic monsters (such as Slappy, Werewolf of Fever Swamp, and Lawn Gnomes) throughout the movie that will take you on an adventure that screams R.L. Stine. I felt the crew did a nice job integrating some of the characters into the story, providing plenty of “exciting” moments that young and young at heart will enjoy. Many of these scenes make a reference to a part in the book, be it in the form of a quote, iconic scene, or some other mark representative of our monsters. Unfortunately…they limited their monsters to only a few of Stine’s horror champions, reducing others to quick cameos that lasted mere seconds. I’m knew that it would be impossible to adequately provide all sixty four books proper screen time in 103 minutes, but was hoping for a few more appearances.

The second strength of Goosebumps is how fun the story is. It’s a very simplistic adventure that after a cliché’ opening gets pretty exciting. Chases through grocery stores, battling ceramic ornaments, and attempting to escape the clutches of massive mantis are just some examples of the bouts our heroes go through. The plot is of course obvious, but is certainly representative of an R.L. Stine plot. There are a few highly predictable twists in the film, but there are a few lessons that will hit home to audiences of all ages. Humor was injected into the sequences as well, mostly juvenile antics and over the top screaming that had little kids screaming in delight. However, there are a few witty puns and lines dropped at the right time that got some laughs from the older generation. All of the fun takes away from the “scariness” of Slappy and his crew, and wraps the whole film in a cute package.

Acting wise our cast has done their jobs of bringing the kids series to life. Jack Black was by far my favorite of the crew, capturing both the look and persona I envisioned of the famous writer. Black’s theatrical, overdramatic delivery works well in this film, building up the comedy in the scenes and adding some punch to the punch lines. He even does some voice acting in the film, bringing some humorous elements to Slappy and the Invisible Boy but still adding a little menacing atmosphere to the mix. Dylan Minnette’s performance as a struggling teenager was spot on, and was perhaps the most balanced character of the bunch. He held his emotions in check, and made for a relatable hero to latch on to. The lovely Odeya Rush helps ground the silliness and excitement, resetting the moment to keep the adventure fun instead of overbearing. As for Ryan Lee, well his role is the opposite of Rush’s, primarily escalating the scene to ridiculous levels with screaming, panicking, and more screaming. He was funny at times, but his characters antics got old after a while.

Filming wise the movie is has decent quality, in both special effects and camera work. The animation and design of the monsters is decent, personalized to mimic their expected natural movements. Slappy moves in a jerky, blocky, and somewhat stiff motion much like you would see in a ventriloquism dummy. However, the werewolf’s digital design is sleek, with fierce, fluid movements seen in wolves. The camera work is also decently stable, only going into a chaotic frenzy once or twice during the adventure. Our team maximizes the intensity and emotion in each scene, making sure to use the best angles to film the scene. There are numerous shots that are obviously designed for the 3-D version of the film, many of them involving something coming out of the screen to “terrorize” the audience. At this point I will say I don’t see a need for watching this movie in 3-D, but for the full cinematic effect you’ll need to spend the extra cash.

Overall Goosebumps is a fun Halloween adventure that families will certainly enjoy. Nostalgia runs deep in the veins of this movie, and fans like me will enjoy the adventure Hollywood has set up for us and be thoroughly entertained. Would I recommend a trip to the theater? For the special effects and fun, yeah I would recommend it, especially in the 2-D version. It is at least worth a NetFlix or RedBox rent whenever it joins their library in the future.

My scores for Goosebumps are:

 

Action/Adventure/Comedy: 7.5

Movie Overall: 6.5