Arrow Video’s ‘Cold War Creatures’ Blu-ray Box Set Is A Wonderful Treat For Classic Sci-Fi, Horror Fans This Halloween and Beyond

Courtesy: Arrow Video

Halloween is less than half a month away.  With the unofficial start of the holiday season once again so close, Arrow Video is offering audiences a great way to get into the holiday spirit with its recently released Blu-ray box set, Cold War Creatures.  Released Sept. 14, the four-disc collection is an excellent way for audiences to do just that.  That is due in no small part to the movies featured in this collection and their stories.  They will be discussed shortly.  The bonus content featured across the set is just as important as the movies and their stories and will be discussed a little later.  The set’s pricing rounds out its most important elements, considering the overall content.  It will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the box set.  All things considered, they make this collection one of the absolute best of this year’s new DVD and BD box sets for grown-ups.

Arrow Video has quickly become one of the leading names in home entertainment over the course of the past year or so, even surpassing the likes of Shout! Factory.  The reason being is its offerings.  It continued to do just that last month when it released its new classic sci-fi horror cinema collection, Cold War Creatures.  Released Sept. 14 on Blu-ray, the four-disc collection features four classic Columbia Pictures flicks, all produced by Sam Katzman.  The movies are all from the 1950s, the era that gave audiences some of the greatest sci-fi and horror flicks of all time.  In this case, the movies are spread across those genres.  The Giant Claw (1957) is a classic creature feature.  It was Columbia Pictures’ answer to all of Universal’s classic creature features.  Yes, it is so cheesy from beginning to end, but it is one of those flicks that is just so bad that it is great.  Thanks to HD technology, audiences can even see the strings and wires that controlled the giant bird and all of the model planes.  On another note, The Werewolf (1956) throws back to Universal’s older monster movies, but even being a werewolf movie, is not just a ripoff of The Wolfman.  This will be discussed shortly as the focus turns to the movies’ stories.  Creature With The Atom Brain takes the focus on atomic energy in that era and crosses it with a mob flick and a zombie flick.  That all sounds really contrived, but in a weird way, it works here.  Meanwhile, Zombies of Mora Tau is a more supernatural movie that, as the title infers, centers on a bunch of zombies.  However in this case, they aren’t brain-eating zombies.  This will also be discussed as the focus turns to the movies’ stories.  Looking at all of this, it is clear that the movies are unique from one another while also showing the ground that they cover within the sci-fi and horror realms of the time.  Simply put, they in themselves give audiences diversity in their viewing options.

Moving to the movies’ stories, the stories are as diverse as the movies themselves.  The story featured in Werewolf for instance centers on a man named Duncan Marsh (playe by Steven Rich – Wagon Train, Plunder Road, City of Fear) who is suffering from amnesia and just wants to remember who he is and how he became a werewolf.  Meanwhile, the residents of Mountaincrest — the town where Marsh ends up — meet him and eventually come to find out he is also the one responsible for a series of “murders” that happen in the town.  The revelation of how Marsh became a werewolf in the first place versus the mindset of sheriff Jack Haines (Don Megowan – Blazing Saddles, The Creation of the Humanoids, The Devil’s Brigade) and that of his fiancé, Amy Standish (Joyce Holden – Private Eyes, The Milkman, The Ford Television Theatre) really does a good job of making Marsh a sympathetic character.  Haines’ mindset meanwhile really makes him more of a villain in the bigger discussion on humans’ humanity and lack thereof.  That and the intolerance shown by the townspeople versus Amy’s more humane mindset really makes the story even more interesting.  That coupled with the blatant Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde comparison makes the story even more engaging and entertaining.  It does well to help separate this movie from its Universal Pictures counterpart, The Wolfman.  Interestingly enough, the movie is in fact a lifting of another movie, as is revealed in some of the set’s bonus content.  This will be addressed later.  Getting back on topic, it is just one of the interesting stories featured in this set.  The story featured in Zombies of Mora Tau is completely unlike that featured in The Werewolf.

The story featured in The Zombies of Mora Tau centers on a group of treasure hunters who have come to an unnamed region of Africa to retrieve a cache of diamonds.  As the set’s bonus content notes (again, this will be discussed later) the comparison to RKO Pictures’ 1932 movie White Zombie (which starred Dracula himself, Bela Lugosi) are inescapable.  AS it turns out, the diamonds are “protected” by the zombie crew that originally tried to steal the diamonds.  There is some tension and action throughout.  It is a story that is completely unlike that of the stories in the set’s other movies.

On yet another side of things, the story featured in The Giant Claw harkens back to the so bad they’re great creature features, such as The Deadly Mantis (1957), Them! (1954) and The Fly (1958).  In the case of The Giant Claw, the story is simple.  A giant, monster bird (apparently from outer space) comes to Earth to terrorize the planet while also preparing the next generation of super powered creatures.  It’s up to a smart mathematician named Sally Caldwell (Mara Corday – The Rookie, The Gauntlet, Sudden Impact) and her guy friend, the stereotypical, headstrong male lead, Mitch MacAfee (Jeff Morrow – This Island Earth, Kronos, Flight To Tangier) to figure out how to beat the apparently extraterrestrial beast.  This approach – the elite pair/team working to defeat the deadly beast(s) – was so typical of the creature features of the 50s, but is still just as entertaining to watch here as in those movies, even as cheesy as it is here.  Of course Sam Katzman was known for just rehashing previously used plots and plot elements from other movies for the movies that he produced.  This is also noted in the expansive bonus content featured in this set.  It will also be discussed later.  Getting back on topic again, this story is yet another example of the diversity in the movies’ stories.

As noted earlier, the story in Creature With The Atom Brain is unique in its own right.  It features a mobster named Frank Buchanan (Michael Granger – Battle of Rogue River, Fort Vengeance, Murder By Contract) who enlists the aid of ex-Nazi scientist Dr. Wilhelm Steigg (Gregory Gaye – Ninotchka, My Gal Sal, Dodsworth) to bring a bunch of dead criminals back to life and use them to get even with the law enforcement officials who caused him to be deported.  What audiences get here is a story that blends elements of a crime story and a zombie story to make quite the unique tale that is, again, super cheesy but still somehow so entertaining at the same time.  Looking at all of this, it is clear that the stories featured in this set are just as unique from one another as the movies’ genres.  To that end, they are just important to the set’s presentation as the movies themselves.  The two together are just one part of what makes this collection so entertaining.  The bonus content that accompanies the movies and their stories is of its own importance. 


To say that the bonus content featured in this set is expansive would be an understatement.  Each movie comes with its own bevy of bonuses.  Film historian and critic Kim Newman provides his own new introduction to each movie.  Each also features its own feature-length audio commentary and other extras.  One of the most notable of the “other” extras is the in-depth bonus, “Family Endangered!,” which comes with The Giant Claw.  Critic Mike White discusses in this feature, how so many movies in the 1950s reflected audiences’ concerns and the real world in general.  For instance, White points out that Creature With The Atom Brain features two antagonists who essentially represented the axis powers from WWII, in an Italian mobster and an ex-Nazi scientist.  The hero, an American detective went up against the pair, eventually defeating the men.  In the essay about the movie (which is part of the set’s bigger “Essaays” collection about each movie), writer Curt Siodmak was himself a survivor of sorts of Hitler’s regime.  The movie’s essay points out that he and his family actually fled their homeland to come to America to get away from Hitler and his evil.  So it is interesting to note that this likely played into his writing here.

Getting back on topic, in the case of The Giant Claw, White points out that the bird was essentially a physical manifestation of the fears that Americans had during the Cold War.  It was able to “cloak” itself from radar, and destroy so much of America.  It even ate the United Nations building while also building a nest in an attempt to spread its evil.  In other words, the whole movie was, in essence an allegory of global political tensions at the time.  That is interesting in its own right to learn.

On a related note, Newman points out in his introduction to The Giant Claw that allegedly, special effects legend Ray Harryhausen looked into The Giant Claw and essentially turned it down because of the low budget special effects.  This is shocking in its own right.

Moving on to Werewolf, Newman points out in this movie’s introduction, the comparison to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hydeand adds that it was an intentional throwback to the old Universal monster movies of days gone by.  The noted “Essays” collection that comes with the set adds to Newman’s own in-depth discussion, pointing out that the movie was in fact a lifting of the 1943 Columbia Pictures flick The Return of the Vampire.  This goes back again to the bigger discussion on Katzman’s willingness to just lift from other movies for the works that he produced.  This is also discussed in the “Essays” booklet. 

The discussion on Katzman’s willingness to lift plots and plot elements from other movies points out that such a move was intentional.  It was part of Katzman’s overall overly spendthrift approach to making movies during the 1950s.  He knew that people would buy into such an approach, and that in turn, the movies would make a profit.  Keeping that in mind, it leads one to realize that the more things change the more they stay the same, especially in Hollywood.  Knowing that movie studios have been excessively taking such an approach over the past 20 years or so, it looks like their approach is nothing new.  It lessens the annoyance of studios doing that even today, but at the same time adds to the annoyance that Hollywood even has taken such approach.  Ironically if not for that approach, the movies in this set would never have existed, so it becomes something of a bizarre necessary evil.  It is just one more of so many bonuses featured in this collection that show the importance of the set’s bonus content.  Between everything noted here and so much else featured with the set, the whole strengthens the set’s presentation that much more.  Keeping the breadth and depth of that content in mind along with that of the movies and their stories, the whole of the primary and secondary content gives audiences more than enough reason to own this cinematic set.  It also makes the set’s pricing money well spent.

The average price point of Cold War Creatures is $93.23 according to prices averaged through Amazon, Best Buy and Barnes & Noble Booksellers.  The collection was not listed through Walmart, Target, and Books-A-Million at the time of this review’s posting.  Best Buy actually is the best buy in this case, listing the set at $79.99.  Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Amazon each list the movie at $99.99.  That roughly $80 price point (just over that, counting shipping and handling) is not that bad, considering – again – the amount of content and the depth thereof in this collection.  Considering so many Blu-rays ranging from as little as $9 to about $25 on average by themselves, that noted price is actually that much more affordable, considering that at the high end, buying each by itself would equal to about $100.  Add in the two extensive booklets that discuss the movies and their art one by one, and that average price point and the least expensive listing becomes that much more affordable.  Keeping that in mind along with the overall content, the whole proves even more why any cinephile, any classic sci-fi and horror fan, and any fan of all things Halloween will find this set so enjoyable.  It leaves no doubt that the set is among the best of this year’s top new DVD and BD box sets for grown ups.

Arrow Video’s recently released box set of vintage Columbia Pictures movies, Cold War Creatures, is one of the most impressive of the company’s releases so far this year if not the company’s most impressive this year.  That is due in part to its primary content.  That primary content consists of the set’s featured movies and their stories.  The movies and their stories are all unique from one another, offering plenty of diversity from the top down.  The secondary content – the bonus content that accompanies the movies and their stories – adds even more engagement and entertainment to the presentation.  That is because of the amount of background that it provides for the movies.  Any true cinephile fill agree it makes the set that much more immersive.  The set’s pricing proves to be money well spent, especially on the lower end.  On the lowest end from the nation’s major retailers, audiences will spend less than $100 on the set.  Speaking specifically, the lowest point is just over $80.  That is not bad, again, considering all of the noted content.  When that pricing is considered along with the content, the whole makes this collection overall a complete success one of the year’s top new DVD and BD box sets for grown-ups. 

Cold War Creatures is available now. More information on this and other titles from Arrow Video is available at:

Websitehttps://www.arrowfilms.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/ArrowVideo

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/ArrowFilmsVideo

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‘Attraction 2’ Is A Movie That Action, Sci-Fi Fans Are Better Off Not Seeing, Knowing About

“There’s always an Arquillian Battle Cruiser, or a Corillian Death Ray, or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life on this miserable little planet, and the only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they DO NOT KNOW ABOUT IT!”  Those were the words of “Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) in the 1997 blockbuster sci-fi flick Men in Black.  While Kay’s words were in the context of his conversation with Jay (Will Smith), it is a line that applies in the bigger picture of the science fiction film realm, including mpi/Sony/Columbia Pictures recently released flick Attraction 2: Invasion.  This movie is sadly one of those works that people would be better off not knowing about.  Released domestically July 21 on Blu-ray, the movie offers little for audiences to enjoy other than its special effects and maybe its story.  Those two elements are its only saving graces.  Its pacing meanwhile poses the biggest problem for its presentation.  It will be addressed here, too.  Each item noted here plays its own important part to the whole of this movie.  All things considered, they make Attraction 2: Invasion a movie that audiences really would be better off not seeing.

mpi/Sony/Columbia Pictures’ recently released sci-fi import Attraction 2: Invasion is a largely forgettable work that even sci-fi fans will find difficult to take in.  That is not to say it is a complete loss.  It does have at least one semi-positive in its story.  The story is relatively easy to follow as long as one pays full attention.  Yulya (Irina Starshenbaum) is caught in the middle of a conflict between her nation’s military and an aritificial intelligence from another world.  The military just wants to use her for her superhuman abilities, which she gained in the movie’s predecessor, while the AI wants her dead.  Though, it’s never fully explained why it wants her dead.  Caught up in the conflict is her alien boyfriend Artyom (Alexander Petrov).  His addition to the story is where things start to get a bit contrived.  The couple’s relationship, set against the conflict, lends itself to comparisons to the Twilight movie franchise, thus causing some problems in its own right.  As the story progresses, it is revealed that in order to beat the alien AI, the humans have to make do with analog and ditch their digital technology.  That is because that technology is what led to all the problems in the first place, as audiences will find out if they even take the time to watch this movie.  If that sounds familiar, it should.  It is a direct rip-off of the same story element from Independence Day.  This causes even more problems for the story.  Add in the confusion that is caused in the story’s conclusion and what audiences get is a story that on the surface is easy to understand, but is still rife with problems.  While the story that is featured in Attraction 2: Invasion something of a mixed bag presentation, the story’s pacing is nothing but problematic.

The pacing of Attraction 2: Invasion’s story is problematic in that it moves so slowly.  The first roughly hour-and-a-half of this story is just buildup that is accompanied by an ongoing chase scene and commentary about the dangers of digital media.  Considering everything we as Americans know about Russia’s clear interference in the 2016 election, it is somewhat ironic that this Russian import is sending such a message.  It is not until the third and final act that this two-hour, 13-minute movie finally picks up.  Even when it does, it still manages to drag on and build up to its conclusion.  Simply put, this movie, which clocks in at just over two hours, finds every opportunity to drag.  As a result, this concern and those raised by the story couple to make the movie that much less worth watching.  Of course, for all of the problems that this story poses, it does have at least one positive – its special effects.

The special effects that are featured in Attraction 2: Invasion are outstanding.  From the giant alien ship to Artyom’s “space cycle” vehicle thing, to the use of the cinematography in the chase scenes and so much more, the special effects rival anything featured in any of Hollywood’s biggest summer blockbusters.  The explosions are just as big and the use of something like giant video screens on buildings just as spectacular.  The final scene in which the giant AI ship starts sucking the water up and flooding the city’s center is just as immense and intense as any similar scene from so many Hollywood sci-fi flicks.  Simply put, this movie shines thanks to its special effects.  They are everything that action and sci-fi fans have come to expect from any blockbuster.  Sadly though, they are about all that this movie has to fully boast.  Sure, its story is simple to follow, but it is problematic in its own right, as is the story’s pacing.  All things considered, the movie really does prove agent Kay’s statement from Men in Black:  The only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they DO NOT KNOW ABOUT IT!” 

Mpi/Sony/Columbia Pictures’ Russian sci-fi import Attraction 2: Invasion is a movie that action and sci-fi fans are better off not watching.  It does offer a story that is easy to follow.  The problem is that the story comes across at least in part as some kind of Twilight rip-off, considering the unnecessary romance subplot that puts our heroine and her love interest in the middle of a conflict between the two opposing sides.  What’s more, the plot element involving using analog tech in place of digital as a means to defeat the AI is itself a rip-off of a key element from another well-known sci-fi alien invasion blockbuster.  The story’s pacing causes watching this movie painful, even though it runs just over two hours.  The movie feels like it runs two-and-a-half hours instead of just over two hours because of the pacing.  The only real saving grace to this movie is its special effects, which rival those of any Hollywood blockbuster.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of this movie.  All things considered, the movie is a presentation that audiences will find better off unknown and unwatched.

More information on this and other titles from mpi media group is available online now at:

Websitehttp://www.mpimedia.com

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/mpimediagrp

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/MPIMediaGroup

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Sci-Fi Sequel Import ‘Attraction 2’ Coming To American Audiences Next Month

Courtesy: Dark Sky Films/Capelight Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Sony

The aliens are coming again.

Columbia Pictures and Sony are teaming with Dark Sky Studios and Capelight Pictures to bring the new sci-fi import sequel Attraction 2Invasion to American audiences.  Scheduled for release July 21 on digital/DVD/Blu-ray, the movie is the follow-up from the 2017 movie Attraction.

The story featured in this movie picks up two years after the events of its predecessor.  Julia (Irina Starshenbaum — LetoT-34Kesa) has become a person of great interest to the Ministry of Defense after the events of Attraction.  As study on Julia takes place, she discovers that she is developing seemingly superhuman powers.  As a result of this development, it turns out that the humans are not the only ones who are pursuing her.  Beings from another world are also looking for her, but not for the same reason as those who are studying her here on Earth.

The movie’s trailer is streaming here.

Attraction 2 premiered early this year in its home nation of Russia.  It is presented in its new domestic presentation with English dubbing and in Russian with optional English subtitles.

The movie’s run time is two hours, 13 minutes.

More information on this and other titles from Dark Sky Films is available at:

 

Website: http://www.darkskyfilms.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DarkSkyFilms

Twitter: http://twitter.com/darkskyfilims

 

More information on this and other titles from Capelight Pictures is available at:

 

Website: http://www.capelight.de

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/capelightpictures

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cplght

 

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Fandango Releases New ‘Ghostbusters’ Content Ahead Of Movie’s Release

Fandango Logo

Courtesy: Fandango

Courtesy: Columbia Pictures

Courtesy: Columbia Pictures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Friday Columbia Pictures will release its much anticipated reboot of the classic paranormal comedy Ghostbusters.  In anticipation of its release Fandango has released some content to get audiences in the mood for the movie.

Fandango released a handful of material this week in order to build excitement for Sony Pictures’ updated take on Ghostbusters.  One of those materials is a DIY Ghostbusters t-shirt.  The shirt comes complete with detailed directions on how to make the shirt along with pictures outlining the process.  Audiences can learn how to make the shirt for themselves now here.

Also released this week is a Ghostbusters personality test.  It asks audiences Which New Ghosbuster Are You?”  Through a series of questions, audiences can find out if they are Erin, Abby, Jillian, or Patty.  Audiences can take the quiz now here.

There is even a group of Ghostbusters intro videos that introduce each of the new team members.  It can be viewed online now here.

More information on Ghostbusters is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.Ghostbusters.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Ghostbusters

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ghostbusters

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Goosebumps Suffers From Scripting Issues But Is Still Spooky Fun

Courtesy:  Sony Pictures Home Entertainment/Columbia Pictures

Courtesy: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment/Columbia Pictures

Prequels, sequels, and remakes. It seems that there is no end in sight to Hollywood’s trend of churning out prequels, sequels, and remakes. Even the biopics and “based on actual events” flicks that were once so prevalent have largely taken a back seat to all of the prequels, sequels, and remakes out there and on the way. That is not to say that they are nonexistent. But they are not as prevalent right now as the aforementioned offerings from Hollywood’s major studios. So whenever a movie that is not a prequel, sequel, or remake hits theaters it is a reason to celebrate. However in the case of Columbia Pictures’ adaptation of author R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and FOX Kids TV series there was not as much reason to celebrate as one might hope. That remains the case now that the movie has been released on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital platforms. The movie is a fun turn-off-your brain flick that fans of Stine’s Goosebumps franchise will enjoy. It is also a nice escape from the endless stream of prequels, sequels, and remakes being churned out by Hollywood’s major studios. But it is anything but perfect. It has its flaws. They are mainly in the story’s writing. That will be discussed shortly. Its flaws aside, it still has enough positives to make it a breath of fresh air at a time when Hollywood is polluting theaters and store shelves with its endless ocean of prequels, sequels, and remakes if only a small breath.

Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s new take on author R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps franchise is a breath of fresh air in a seemingly endless ocean of prequels, sequels, and remakes that is drowning audiences and theaters figuratively speaking. That is thanks in large part to the movie’s writing. The writing team of Darren Lemke, Scott Alexander, and Larry Karaszewski crafted a story that does something few if any other literary-based movies do.  It takes Stine’s beloved family friendly horror stories and their characters, and uses them for a story that really is a tribute to Stine and his legacy in the literary world. This is important to note first because so many other movies based on books just take said books and essentially re-imagines them. On another level it doesn’t go the comic book to screen route either. So many movies based on comic books just throw a bunch of different story arcs together from different issues to make one story. Lemke and his partners don’t go that route either. It just uses Stine’s characters and stories as the basis for a story that pays tribute to said characters and stories in its own original tale. It is a story that sees Stine (played here by Jack Black—Shallow Hal, School of Rock, Kung-Fu Panda Trilogy) having to work with his “daughter” (hint: she isn’t really his daughter. That is all that will be revealed here in terms of that) and two local boys in order to get his literary monsters back in their books. The thing is that the search for the escaped monsters is caused by one of the two boys—Zach (Dylan Minnette—R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour, Scandal, Lost). This is where things with the writing become a little bit dicey.

The overall approach taken to Goosebumps by its trio of writers is in itself a major positive to this take on R.L. Stine’s beloved literary franchise. As positive as the trio’s approach proves to be for the movie’s presentation the script in whole suffers from having so many hands in the proverbial pot. Having so many hands in the pot led the script to develop some noticeable plot issues beginning with the story’s setup. If not for Zach and his friend Champ (who is randomly introduced only minutes ahead of the key scene) sneaking into Stine’s house in search of Stine’s “daughter” Hannah (Odeya Rush – The Odd Life of Timothy Green, The Giver, We Are What We Are) then the monsters might never have gotten free. That is because the whole chain of events was set off by Zach. And it wasn’t accidental either. If not for his impulsive behavior (brought on largely by teenage hormones) then the hunt for Stine’s monsters never would have happened. In other words Zach and company end up having to solve a problem that was caused by Zach in the first place. Sound familiar? Disney and Marvel studios used a similar plotline for its recent blockbuster sequel The Avengers: Age of Ultron. The Avengers had to stop a megalo-maniacal robot created by one of their own in that movie. I.E. they had to clean up a mess ultimately created by one of their own. Many of the classic creature features that were so popular in the 1950s and 60s also ended up centering on the American military having to stop giant mutant monsters that they created through their nuclear testing. Of course the military never told the populace that they caused the problem along the way. The Avengers 2 was very similar in this fashion and so was Goosebumps. Stine and company never make it known that Zach essentially caused the problem. So it goes without saying that Goosebumps’ core plot is anything but original. What’s more, as with those older movies, there is a giant, gaping plot hole in that the only ones that know the cause of the conflict are the ones that caused the conflict in the first place. Why are they the only ones that know? This has always been a sorely overlooked issue with monster movies. And it needs to be addressed by writers, studio heads, critics, and audiences alike. It is just one of the problems that weighs down this monster movie, too. There is also an issue in character introduction/development that must be addressed within the movie’s script.

The major issue with Goosebumps’ story is its setup. It is a setup that presents an age-old plot hole which reaches all the way back to the creature features of the 1950s and 60s. It’s just one of the problems that weighs down this script. Another major problem with this movie’s script lies in the introduction of Zach’s friend Champ (Ryan Lee – Super 8, This Is 40, Trophy Wife). Zach is randomly introduced in a school assembly scene about a quarter of the way through the movie. This comes after Zach had told his mother Gale (played by Amy Ryan – Birdman, Gone Baby Gone, Escape Plan) that he didn’t want anyone knowing that he was the new kid at the school where Gale was the new vice principal. Now if he didn’t want anyone knowing he was the new kid, how did Champ know at the assembly that Zach was the new kid? There was no background offered on this within the context of the movie’s script or in any bonus material. That makes this very much a problematic plot hole especially being that the two just happen to get along and cause the very problem which sets up the movie’s central story line. Again, it is just one more of so many problems presented in the movie’s script. There is one more problem—a dual-part problem—that must be addressed. That problem lies in the relationship between Zach and Hannah.

The central story line behind Goosebumps’ and the random introduction of Champ into the story are in themselves a couple of very problematic issues with the movie’s script. They are not the only issues that the movie’s script presents either. The relationship between Zach and Hannah is one more problem that must be addressed. That is because it actually presents three major issues that cannot be overlooked. The first problem lies in the pair’s relationship. The high school, puppy-love scenario is anything but original in the horror movie genre. The boy next door falling for the girl next door, who is herself in grave danger is one of the most overly used story elements in the world of horror movies. In other words, it is yet another unoriginal aspect thrown into the movie. Moving forward in the script, the story’s final scene presents its own problem. The scene in question won’t be revealed for the sake of those that have yet to see the movie. But needless to say it plays back into a statement made by Hannah earlier in the movie in regards to her revelation about her identity. Considering the revelation and that final scene it essentially negates everything that had developed between the pair. This includes the related issue of Zach even searching for Hannah early on when he thought something had happened to her. Since she was obviously in the house when he and Champ went looking for her, how could she have not heard them in the basement in the first place? Why did it take Zach and Champ getting into Stine’s study for her to find them? One would think that this would have been addressed before script went to screen. If she had stopped them early on they might have never made it to Stine’s study and in turn caused the problem that led to the movie’s central story. It all comes full circle. And being all tied together, all of the noted issues with the movie’s scripting show why three heads are not better than two and for that matter that two heads are not better than one. Luckily for viewers, for all of the script’s problems those problems don’t make Goosebumps entirely unwatchable. The movie’s special effects department does its part to make the movie watchable as do some of the cast members.

There are a number of problems with Goosebumps in regards to its script, as noted. As a matter of fact there are even more problems than just the trio that are listed here. For all of the problems posed by the movie’s script, they are not enough to make the movie a total loss. There actually are some positives other than just the writers’ overall approach to the movie. Another of those positives is the work of the movie’s special effects department. The special effects department is to be applauded for its work in bringing to life Stine’s monsters. From Slappy the dummy to the abominable snowman to the giant praying mantis and the evil gnomes every one of the monsters resurrected for this movie look outstanding. It is obvious that they are computer generated. But even in being computer generated those behind their creation went to painstaking efforts to make them not look like just another bunch of computer generated creatures. To a certain point their design throws back to the monsters of the old creature features from the 1950s and 60s. This is especially the case with the blob and the mantis. It is obvious not just in their design but in how they move, too. Little elements like that make them all the more believable and enjoyable to watch as they wreak havoc on the town. Being so believable makes them all the more enjoyable to watch, yet again exhibiting why the work of the movie’s special effects department proves to be so important to Goosebumps’ presentation. It is not the last notable positive involved in this movie. The cast’s work in front of the camera is just as notable as that of the special effects department.

The approach taken to Goosebumps in regards to its overall story and the work of the movie’s special effects department are both key to the movie’s presentation. While both elements are important in their own right to the movie’s presentation they are not the only notable positives. The work of the cast is just as notable as the movie’s other positives. This is especially the case with Jack Black. Black is billed as the movie’s lead. But in watching the movie he is in reality more of a supporting character even playing the famed children’s horror author. The lead roles belong to his younger counterparts. Black shows throughout that he understands this and never tries to take over any of the scenes, opting instead to let his younger cohorts have their time in the spotlight. What’s more audiences will note that the buffoonery for which he is commonly known is nearly nonexistent in his portrayal of Stine. That is not to say that he doesn’t have a few moments in which that side of him comes out. But even when they do they are few and far between. Rather Black takes his experience and centers it in a way that gives his humor a drier, more focused presentation. For those that have ever seen the real life R.L. Stine interview, this means that Black’s portrayal of Stine is pretty close even with his occasional moments of goofiness. On a related note Ryan Scott Lee is just as entertaining as Champ. In all honesty it could be argued that he actually outshines Minnette with his portrayal of the high-strung and somewhat neurotic Champ. One can’t help but laugh as he pleads with Minnette about going into Stine’s basement versus being Zach’s lookout. He easily could have hammed it up in this moment. But instead he nailed the moment. And when he saves the girl from the werewolf later in the movie his momentary hesitance, while small, shows great character growth. For that he is to be applauded just as much. Of course Minnette is entertaining in his own right as he plays the hormonally challenged Zach. Audiences won’t be able to help but laugh at his portrayal at least somewhat because of the number of male leads that have been so much like Zach in other horror movies. Minnette never overdoes it in his portrayal. But he does just enough to make it clear that he is poking some fun at those male characters. His work is just one more way in which the work of Goosebumps’ cast proves to be just as important to the movie as that of the movie’s special effects department and its writers for their overall approach to the story. Even with the number of problems with the movie’s script the overall approach to the story still sits as a key element to the movie’s presentation. And together with the work of those both in front of and behind the camera the movie proves in whole to be good, spooky fun for the whole family.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Columbia Pictures’ new Goosebumps feature is an interesting new take of R.L. Stine’s literary franchise. That is because it presents an approach unlike most other movies based on literary works. Yes, it presents a number of problems in its scripting. But luckily those problems, while glaring, are not enough to make the movie completely unwatchable. That is because the work of the movie’s cast and its special effects makes up for the script’s various problems. In the end the movie proves that while it might have flopped at the box office (it hemorrhaged money right from the get go in terms of ticket sales, and only got worse from there) it is still a movie that anyone familiar with the Goosebumps franchise will agree is good, spooky fun that is worth at least one watch if no more. It is available now in stores and online on DVD and Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.

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Sony’s MIB Franchise Returns To Form In Its Latest Release

 

Courtesy:  Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Sony Pictures’ Men in Black franchise has finally returned to form with the release of the third movie in its franchise.  Whereas the franchise’s second movie dropped flat with audiences, this second sequel has brought the movie’s fun and action back.  Given, the whole time travel/alternate timeline bit has been done far too many times in both movies and television.  And there are far too many sequels, prequels, and remakes out there today.  But this is one of those rare sequels that can be forgiven.  It has brought the MIB franchise back to where it should be.

MIB 3’s bonus “Making of” featurette does a good job of explaining what exactly it is that made this movie at least somewhat successful.  Director Barry Sonnenfeld explains that the movie isn’t so much about the time travel, but about the secrets of the relationship between Agents “Jay” and “Kay.”  Having an understanding of this helps to be more accepting of the time travel/alternate timeline bit that is otherwise far too overdone in the science fiction genre.  Audiences will find the relationship especially heartwarming in the story’s final moments in understanding this, too.  It’s those final moments that really bring the entire trilogy full circle and hopefully will mark the end of this movie property.

The story of the relationship between “Jay” and “Kay” makes up for the otherwise dull and done to death time travel plot.  It’s only part of what makes this movie bearable.  This movie gets everything right that the second movie in the trilogy got wrong.  Whereas the second of the MIB movies was simply not believable and focused far too much on melodrama, MIB 3 brings back all the aliens, gadgets, and action that made the first of the MIB franchise so fun.  Also, since it does everything that MIB did, it is also much easier to suspend disbelief.  That is the center of everything.  The gadgets, aliens, special effects and action were fun.  But it’s that believable storyline between “Jay” and “Kay” that makes MIB 3 what it is.  Instead of a standard romance subplot, this story evolves the partnership/relationship between “Jay” and “Kay” and this makes them as characters more believable.  By the story’s end, audiences who allow themselves to believe the relationship between “Jay” and “Kay” will see that while it may not be the most memorable of movies, it is still one that’s fun and funny for everyone.

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Skyfall Is Bond Done Right

Courtesy: MGM/Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures

There’s an old adage that states something to the effect of the third time is the charm.  That adage has never been truer than in the case of Daniel Craig’s take on the revered Bond franchise.  When Casino Royale first debuted, it was met with mixed reviews.  That is because it came across more as a movie that was struggling to deal with the expectations placed on it by critics and the public.  In trying so hard, it lost its identity, and became more of a melodrama than a classic Bond flick.  Then came Quantum of Solace.  The second of Craig’s Bond films wasn’t bad.  It was just misunderstood.  Its problem was that it was more a sequel to Casino Royale than its own standalone movie.  Enter Skyfall.  This is the Bond flick that fans have wanted from the very beginning.

Skyfall is the movie that long-time Bond fans have waited for since the release of Casino Royale.  This movie is a throwback to the glory days of James Bond in every sense of the word.  Right from the beginning of the movie, audiences are taken back in time with a classic Bond style opening credit sequence complete with musical number.  This time the opening musical number is provided courtesy of pop star Adele.  And go figure, she sings in the song’s chorus, “This is the end.”  For those who haven’t seen Skyfall yet, this single line is far more prophetic than anyone could realize until the story’s surprise ending.  In between the classic opening and the surprise ending, the rest of the movie is entirely classic style Bond, complete with a wild opening chase scene, and nonstop action throughout the story’s first two acts.  The story’s final act is the only downside to the entire presentation.  The buildup to the final confrontation between Bond and Silva drags on more than it really should have.  But the story’s surprise epilogue makes that slow boil forgivable.

The meat and potatoes of Skyfall is classic James Bond in every sense of the phrase. The action is much the same as old school Bond flicks.  And fans will thrill at the inclusion of a certain classic Bond car complete with ejector seat and guns in the headlights.  Yes, that car.  And then of course there is the classic Bond attitude on the part of Daniel Craig.  Rather than being the finely trained killer/agent with emotional baggage that audiences came to know from the franchise’s previous efforts, what audiences get here is a mix of Pierce Brosnan and Sean Connery and his own attitude, too complete with the occasional semi-cheesy one-liners.  Combined with the story’s non-stop action and the constant references to the Golden Days of Bond, Skyfall quickly becomes the first true definitive Bond film for this generation.  Keeping that in mind, it also has made its argument for consideration to be one of the year’s top movies.  With any luck, now that the people behind Skyfall have crafted a movie for ALL Bond fans, those same people will realize that “the end” is just the beginning for this Bond.

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Hotel Transylvania Is Halloween Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Animation

Hotel Transylvania is hardly the most memorable of the year’s holiday movies.  In its defense, it isn’t the worst, either.  One part Monsters, Inc. and one part Mad Monster Party, it has just enough heart and jokes to make it appealing to both parents and children.  The heart of the movie comes from the primary storyline in which Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) throws a party for his daughter, Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez—Wizards of Waverly Place).  It takes place on the eve of her *ahem* 118th birthday.  The thing is that this incarnation of Dracula is like any other parent.  He knows that his daughter is an adult.  But he’s scared to let her go and cut the leash.  This is something to which every parent can relate.  Sure, so many movies use this kind of plot.  But the execution of the storyline offers enough heart to make it enjoyable for parents even in the twenty-first century.Hotel Transylvania’s primary plot is executed in an original manner.  But without its secondary plot, the main story of Dracula learning to let go of his daughter might not have worked so well.  That secondary plot is the buddy comedy between Dracula and Jonathan (voiced by fellow SNL alum Andy Samberg).  At first the pair is at odds with each other.  But thanks to a course of events, they end up becoming close friends.  It’s that series of events that will leave both kids and parents laughing and really make the movie worth its hour and a half run time.

The dual storylines written into Hotel Transylvania make it an enjoyable movie both for parents and kids.  On another level it’s enjoyable in that seeing the collection of classic Universal movie monsters will make parents (and even grandparents) feel nostalgic.  At the same time, it serves as a good way to indoctrinate young audiences into the world of classic horror monsters.  This combined with the movie’s family friendly storylines makes it a movie that while hardly memorable, is worth at least one watch.

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