17 June 2016

Movie Review: "Goosebumps" (2015)

Rated: PG for scary and intense creature action and images, and for some rude humor
Starring: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, and Odeya Rush
Released: October 14, 2015 (theaters)
Synopsis: Zach Cooper is bummed, big time.  He just started at a new school where the assistant principal is none other than his mother! Worse yet, he meets a pretty girl next door, only for her creepy and seemingly insane father (Jack Black) to hide her in his house! Determined to find out the real truth, Zach discovers that the guy next door is none other than R.L. Stine, author of the best-selling Goosebumps books! When they open a manuscript, it sets free all of the monsters Stine created, who are bent on destroying the town.  The only way to stop them is to force them back into the books that once contained them...but, with the monsters bent on staying free, it'll take everything they've got to save the day and their town.

The Good: What a ride! This is one of those stories that grabs you and doesn't let go.  While the ending may be obvious--don't the good guys always win in films like this?--it's still full of thrills and adventure.  I don't normally do scary stories, but I didn't find the monsters in this movie to be all that frightening; maybe if I were still eight years old, I'd feel differently.  A fun cameo from the real R.L. Stine, great special effects, and even a little romance...what's not to like? Well, nothing, except...

The Bad: There were too many misuses of God's name within the dialogue, which was unfortunate, considering that there wasn't much other profanity.  That may ruin this film for some viewers.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Three scenes involving teens kissing, more than one of which is passionate; two or three stray sexual remarks, including one involving pedophilia. 3/5
  • Nudity: A girl in a low-cut dress. 4/5
  • Language: One usage of the h-word; ten or so misuses of God's name; harsh words include "shut up" and "imbecile". 2/5
  • Violence: Though there's no blood or gore and no apparent deaths, this movie is rife with violence.  People are frozen; vehicles are wrecked; monsters are blown up; buildings and other structures are destroyed, etc. 2/5
  • Drugs: A stray drug-related remark. 4/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: As you'd expect from a movie like this, scary monsters are seen throughout.  There is also some emotional intensity. 1/5
  • Other: Some of the monsters are disgusting as well as scary; the kids in the movie lie to adults. 3/5
Conclusion: Despite being a longtime avid reader, I have never read a Goosebumps book.  I've always had a low tolerance for scary stuff, and even more so when I was younger, which was when the books first became popular.  I never even saw the show; when I saw the advisory coming up that it was "inappropriate for children under 7," I turned the TV off.  Still, per the recommendation of a friend, I checked this movie out...and I'm glad I did! It reminded me of Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, a favorite film from my childhood.  Maybe now that I'm older, I should check out some of Stine's books.  Who knows? I might enjoy them!

Score: 4/5

08 June 2016

Quickie TV DVD Review: "Gargoyles": The Complete First Season

Synopsis: In tenth century Scotland, Goliath and his band of gargoyles protected their castle...only to be betrayed and turned to stone via magic by the humans they trusted.  Over a millennia later, billionaire Xanatos buys the gargoyles' now-ancient castle...and ends up breaking the spell! The gargoyles are now free to explore New York...but not all is as it should be.  Not only are there still plenty of bad guys around, but Xanatos isn't all he claims to be.  With the help of their friend, NYPD detective Elisa Maza, the gargoyles are determined to fight for all that is good...but, in a big city like Manhattan, they could be in for the fight of their lives.
Featuring the voice talents of Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek: The Original Series), Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: The Next Generation), and screen legend Ed Asner.

My Review: I never watched this show when it was on back in the day, but, honestly, I don't think I would have properly appreciated it back then; as an adult, though, I had a blast with this one.  The heroes were admirable, the villains despicable, the animation spot-on, the voice work great...everything about it was fabulous.  It was a bit edgier than I expected--see below for a further explanation--but still fun and exciting nonetheless.  Fans of '90's kids' series should definitely check this one out, if they haven't already.  Better yet, one episode has a very poignant moral--guns are not toys!--and the characters don't fail to mention Goliath's biblical namesake.  All in all, great stuff.

Content Concerns: The main concerns here are the violence and the dark settings.  The former is never gory, but a couple of scenes are bloody, and one such sequence gets repeated in a flashback; the latter is seen throughout, as most of the show takes place at night.  Some of the gargoyles could be too scary for young children, as well.  A human character is almost shot dead.  (Spoiler: She recovers from her gunshot wound.) Also of note: A female gargoyle wears an off-the-shoulder, midriff-baring, short-skirted outfit.  She isn't in every episode, but right many of them.  For millenials like me, these are small potatoes; however, you may want to think twice before showing it to your young children.

Score: 4.5/5

TV DVD Review: "What's New, Scooby-Doo?": The Complete Third Season

Synopsis: It's the last hurrah for this reboot of those mystery-solving meddling kids and that insane Great Dane, Scooby-Doo! Between a video game convention gone awry, a coral monster threatening beachgoers, and a headless snowman preventing a small town from their Christmas celebrations, this season has some of their craziest mysteries yet!
Featuring voice work by Miranda Cosgrove (iCarly), Taylor Lautner (Twilight), and James Belushi, among others.  Also features an appearance by Smash Mouth and music by CCM bands Calibretto 13 and Relient K.

My Review: For the most part, this final season delivers what I've come to expect from this franchise: action, excitement, humor, mystery, and, overall, good, clean fun.  However, I'm kind of glad this was the last season, as the makers seemed to be running out of ideas.  One episode had Fred, Daphne, and Velma seemingly missing in action, though the former character was mentioned in the opening credits.  Another one featured Shaggy as a pro golfer, and showed him and Velma as you've never seen them before; that is, totally unlike their usual selves.  Still, on the whole, this was a nice send-off, though, as we all know, the franchise still continued on after this!

Content Concerns: The main concern is the monsters; though mostly just people in suits, they look and act scary enough that it may bother some young children.  Also, though there's no actual profanity, the characters do have a tendency to overuse the euphemism "heck".  One other thing of note: An episode that takes place on a beach features many people in swimwear, including Daphne in a bikini top, though the animation style makes it a bit less sultry.  All of that is small potatoes compared to the garbage that constantly infiltrates the airwaves today; still, that may be too much for some viewers.

Score: 4/5