Sunday, 20 December 2015

REVIEW: STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS




A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away….

 
(Well, it was not that long of a time, probably about 15 to 20 years ago, and it was in a local diner near where I used to live)
 
Myself and a few friends were having drinks and talking about the most random thing imaginable. An interesting question was raised. The question:-

“What is or are the most popular entertainment entities which can be instantly recognizable throughout all cultures and among all ages of people anywhere around the world?”
 
The question does sound somewhat intellectual and obviously very debatable. We all came to the conclusion of three entertainment entities; the late pop singer Michael Jackson, Disney’s cartoon character Mickey Mouse, and the Star Wars films. As this is a film review, I will of course write about Star Wars. Let me start again.


A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away....

....a young filmmaker from Central California name George Lucas had the most random imaginable idea of creating a world set in the farthest regions of outer space which consist of various types of people who engage in territorial wars and the quest for domination. Lucas pitched the idea to various major film studios in Hollywood and received many rejections. His idea was deemed absurd, crazy, non-profitable, and the list goes on.

However, 20th Century Fox Studios had faith in his idea. The studio funded his idea which eventually became the film called Star Wars (1977). The film became a surprise box-office hit, received many award nominations, established the actors in iconic roles, managed to conquer the world of toy merchandising, complimented by critics and audiences worldwide, and eventually led to five more movie sequels under the name Star Wars. All six films were very profitable garnering billions of dollars at the box-office. Most importantly, the Star Wars film series created a very solid fan-base and cult status worldwide. As the years go by, Lucas decided to sell the rights of his creation to Disney for a whopping $4 billion dollars.


George Lucas directing the first Star Wars film in 1976 for release in 1977.

Walt Disney Studios announced that more Star Wars films will be made under their funding. Fearing the Star Wars films will be totally rebranded, the fan-base start voicing their doubt and objections. However, the studio gave the assurance that the intellectual property of Star Wars will remain intact as how George Lucas envisioned it many years ago. As an unconventional release date (usually Star Wars films are released during the summer season) of 18 December 2015 was set, the anticipation for the past two years leading up to the seventh has been nerve-wrecking. Yes, I consider myself a fan of Star Wars.

18 December 2015 has finally arrived (17 December for me here in Malaysia). The title of the seventh Star Wars film is called Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The task of helming the film from the director’s chair is the critically acclaimed J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Super 8). Stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, and Anthony Daniels reprises their roles since the last 6th film in 1983. They are joined by newcomers Daisy Ridley and John Boyega in the lead roles. Rounding up the entire cast are Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Domnhall Gleeson, Gwendolyn Christie, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’O, and Max Von Sydow. The writing duties were undertaken by Abrams, veteran Lawrence Kasdan, and Michael Arndt. Abrams is also a producer on the film with Kathleen Kennedy and Bryan Burk.

Star Wars is no doubt the most beloved movie franchise in cinema history. There is one rule I apply when watching movie sequels of any kind from any film series. I will view the film from two perspectives; as a fan and as a non-fan or someone who is watching it for the first time. How will the latest installment fare? Do read on…

Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford)



Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia Skywalker now General Leia Organa

Droid R2-D2 and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels)



SYNOPSIS:
Set 30 years after the events of the last film, when the Rebel Alliance managed to defeat the evil Galactic Empire, war is still on going in the galaxy. The Rebel Alliance is now known as The Resistance and is led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). The heroes from the battle 30 years ago Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), and R2-D2 are still active fighting in the Resistance. However, a new evil faction which are remnants from the Galactic Empire called The First Order has emerged with an evil plan. Together with Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), a Starfighter pilot, a former Stormtrooper soldier from The First Order named Finn (Jon Boyega), and Rey (Daisy Ridley) a scavenger from the planet Jakku, The Resistance battles The First Order which is led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and General Hux (Domnhall Gleeson).

Daisy Ridley as Rey and John Boyega as Finn are the new leads

SCRIPT:
Cleverly structured and innovative. It has been 32 years since the last Star Wars story was told on film in 1983. The hunger for new storylines from Star Wars fans has been building for a long time. When fans were expecting a story continuation, The Force Awakens was something else different entirely. The script became a story which honoured the previous Star Wars films in a unique way and at the same time managed to create a new storyline at the same time. The new film parallels the real life 30 year absence by setting the story also 30 years after the last film. What most interesting is how parallels became a theme in the script. There were a lot of references to the old films which Star Wars fans will surely notice when they appear. Such references range from plot and dialogue to surprise twists and scene settings. Fans will most certainly reminisce at the many nostalgic references being conveyed throughout the story. I believe the decision to design such a story is to keep the massive fan appetite for a new story satisfied. For the fans, if you think the surprise revelation from a certain villain to a certain hero was huge, The Force Awakens has an even greater surprise twist than what occurred in the fifth film The Empire Strikes Back. By this time one might think, do I need to be a Star Wars fan to appreciate The Force Awakens? Absolutely not. Amidst all these parallels, references, and homage there is a story which is easy to follow and very exciting. The dialogue is kept understandable with less scientific jargon compared to previous films. The plot is straightforward and gets to the point. Again, another interesting aspect of the script is the addition of some comedic moments. The previous films were not known to be funny therefore this really surprised me and most certainly the fans will feel the same way. I think The Force Awakens has the most comedic moments compared to all the previous six films combined! I feel this is a wise decision on the part of the writers as not only it would make the film more interesting, it would make non-fans more engaged and relatable to the film’s story. As a fan, I hope these plot holes are resolved in the next film installment. There was good enough backstory and characterization for the roles which is good. The fans will be familiar with the characters but the non-fans may find it hard to understand at first. Despite what I think is a very good script, there are some flaws which I will explain further on down in the review.

Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron

ACTING:
Solid and impressive. Since the film announced the return of previous cast members who have reached old age, the new actors joining the film became a focus of attention. Ford, Fisher, and Hamill eased into their roles of Han Solo, Princess Leia Skywalker, and Luke Skywalker respectively really well. As I expected, the audience in the theatre I was watching erupted in claps and cheers the moment they appeared on screen. However in my opinion, they were outshone by the new actors which consist of a mix between established actors and newcomers. I am impressed by the performance all the new actors playing the main roles. Daisy Ridley was magnificent in the female lead role of Rey. For an actress who is making her feature film debut, she really made her presence felt was immersed fully into her character. John Boyega as the male lead did extremely well. He provided some comedy as a balance to Rey’s seriousness as a character. I am also impressed with Oscar Isaac role. Although Isaac was merely a supporting one, he gave a memorable performance in a critical role to the film. Speaking of memorable, a popular film series is not as good if it does not have a memorable villain. In the previous Star Wars films, the main villain was a character named Darth Vader. I think even non-fans of Star Wars must have at least heard of him. In The Force Awakens, a new villain is introduced by name of Kylo Ren played by actor Adam Driver. Darth Vader was an iconic character and Driver has some very big shoes to fill. I am delighted with his performance as he gave a magnificent and menacing performance as the main antagonist of the film. He brought a different level of intensity to his villainous role compared to Darth Vader. However, I would have loved to see more of Gwendolyn Christie who plays Captain Phasma. Although she plays a supporting role, I hope her character gets more developed in future films. The introduction of BB-8, a new robot droid is really awesome. Just like how R2-D2 was lovable in previous films, you would probably form a likeness for BB-8.

Adam Driver as main antagonist Kylo Ren

FILMING:
Stunning and spectacular. Director J.J. Abrams is no stranger when it comes to making successful projects. Earlier in his career, he is known more as a writer and a producer for television having being responsible for such hits as Lost and Alias. He eventually made the transition to film with successful hits such as Super 8 (2011) and a film adaptation of popular television series Star Trek (2009). Abrams films has generally been praised in particular Star Trek, which reinvigorated the movie franchise by respecting previous Star Trek films and gaining new audiences. I believe this is why Abrams was hired, to bring new life and new meaning to Star Wars. With that in mind, he most certainly did. Abrams’ directing approach, dare I say, had more style and excitement compared to previous films. He made the film feel fresh for both fans and non-fans alike. The cinematography was beautiful and the shots were creative. The editing was fast and snappy making it exciting and thrilling almost all throughout the film. Just like all the previous films, the visual effects is again spearheaded by giants Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) which is owned by Star Wars creator George Lucas. The very first Star Wars film in 1977 gave birth to the establishment ILM and since then has been responsible for many successful films and pioneered the visual effects medium. ILM did amazing visual effects work on the film while retaining a feel of the old film from the 1970s and 1980s.

Director and co-writer J.J. Abrams on the left in discussion with fellow co-writer Lawrence Kasdan

PACING:
The Force Awakens has the best pacing among all the seven films. It started well in the beginning and immediately brings you into the galaxy far, far away of Star Wars. At times the film felt just a little slow but it is quickly countered with fast paced action scenes. The film builds up to a great climax, one which will no doubt be historical.

Filming in the Abu Dhabi desert. J.J.Abrams directing Daisy Ridley

DOWNSIDE (THE DARK SIDE):
The Force Awakens not only became Star Wars film I hoped it would be but it also became the film I feared it would be. J.J. Abrams applied the same nostalgic approach in writing and directing the film as he did on Star Trek. Even though The Force Awakens is better in many ways, it felt unoriginal. As I mentioned earlier in the review, this film has parallels and references to previous films. In fact, I feel there were close to maybe 60 or 70 references in total. It is unoriginal because it took scenes from the previous films and make for ‘friendly’ for the modern audience. As a Star Wars fan, I ended up keep guessing which films these references were borrowed from. At times, it felt a little bit distracting. Another downside is for the non-fans. Once in a while, you might yourself lost amidst all the homage which Star Wars fans can relate.

Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his Stormtroopers
 
UPSIDE (THE LIGHT SIDE):
For the non-fans of Star Wars, there is good news. There is a high chance you will enjoy the film and don’t need to know any history from the previous films. I do still recommend you watch the previous films in order to have an even greater cinematic Star Wars experience. I will list the titles of previous Star Wars films at the end of this review. For Star Wars fans, I don’t think I need to tell you the upsides about The Force Awakens. When I watched the film in theatres on opening day, the crowd cheered and clapped when the Star Wars logo with its identifiable theme music appeared at the beginning. This is followed by more cheers and claps, maybe about 20 more or so, during scenes or shots where certain characters and props appeared. My experience watching The Force Awakens with such an enthusiastic crowd will certainly be remembered for a long time.

BB-8 says hello to Rey (Daisy Ridley)

OVERALL: 
As I come to end of this review, I realized that it is the longest movie review I have written. It has been a long time since the last film so I guess the review should be long too. LOL! But really, I wanted to make my review suitable for both Star Wars fans and non-Star Wars fans because I feel The Force Awakens is appealing for all ages. It is certainly a must-watch and do-not-miss kind of film. Go see it in the big screen instead of the small screen on television. You won’t regret my recommendation.

The person responsible for creating the Star Wars universe
 
RATING:
9.5 out of 10 – as a Star Wars fan.
9.0 out of 10 – if I am watching Star Wars for the first time.

 

 

 

Previous Star Wars films (in order of release year):-

1)     Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
2)     Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
3)     Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
4)     Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
5)     Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
6)     Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

 

 

Thursday, 17 December 2015

REVIEW: JAGAT (Malaysia)




Films in Malaysia are mostly told in the national language Bahasa Malaysia. On some occasions, Cantonese and Mandarin films are made. It is extremely rare that a primarily Tamil-speaking movie by Malaysian filmmakers is produced. I had the pleasure of attending the media screening of one such film and here is my spoiler free review.

The film’s title is called Jagat. The word Jagat loosely means ‘brutal’ in English. The word is also a Tamil slang in Bahasa Malaysia for the word ‘jahat’ which in English means ‘bad’. The director of the film Shanjhey Kumar Perumal. The film stars Harvin Raj, Jibrail Rajhula, Tinesh Sathi Krishnan, Kuben Mahadevan, Senthi Kumaran Muniandy, Perakas Rajaram, Marup Mustapah, Steven Chua, and Aahmu Thirunyanam. All of the film’s cast are either newcomers or acting for the first time. Dato’ Seri A. Anandan and Pasupathi Sithambaram serves as producers.

How will a Tamil-speaking film fair among all the Malaysian films? Do read on…

 
Life as seen through the eyes of young Appoy (Harvin Raj)

 
SYNOPSIS (as taken from the film’s press kit):
Set in the early 1990’s, a critical period in Malaysian Indian history, the story subtly underlines the plight of the Malaysian Indian. Forsaken by the estate owners who had employed them for generations and systematically marginalized, they are forced to move to the cities and survive under harsh circumstances. Left out of the nation’s urbanization and development plans, many live in squatters and work at minimum wage jobs. The plot centers on bright but mischievous 12 years old boy, Appoy and his relationship with his father, Maniam and his uncles, Bala (an ex drug addict) and Dorai (Mexico) a local gangster.

Some fine acting from Jibrail Rajhula

SCRIPT:
Unexpected and meaningful. Since the film is primarily in a foreign language to me, the subtitles were important. The story had a good structure where we see 4 different lives intertwining to culminate in one purpose. There are a lot of underlying themes in this film which carries positive moral values. The story is rich in morality and dignity which I really liked. I am surprised at the good characterization of the main roles. Good comedic insertions throughout the film to keep the audience more engaged.

Kuben Mahadevan as Maniam, brother to Dorai and father to Appoy

ACTING:
Given the fact that all of them are newcomers, I think the actors performed reasonably well. The standout performances young child actor Harvin Raj as the lead and Jibrail Rajhula as Mexico. They brought strong purpose to their characters and should be complimented.

A scene in the film which proved to be pivotal

FILMING:
The film was produced on quite a low budget and it is represented throughout the film. As a producer and director, I can understand the restraints felt by the production team. However, there were some scenes which can be commended. I noticed the key important scenes were given more attention. This I feel is smart directing as it keeps the story going while keeping the production within budget.

Directing on the film set

PACING:
Quite slow in the beginning but it picks up well in middle towards the end.

DOWNSIDE:
The feel of a low-budget production is evident throughout the film. However…

UPSIDE:
If you can look beyond the downside, there is a good story with strong moral messages.

Gotta work hard for the money

OVERALL:
This film has one of the finest Malaysian stories I have seen in quite some time. It focuses on a minority section of the race divisions in Malaysia which it rare. Out of this rarity, a good story was told that any Malaysian of any race can be proud of.

RATING:
8 out of 10

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

REVIEW: THE GOOD DINOSAUR


 
Most movie fans around the world should be familiar with Pixar Animation Studios. In fact, I think all movie fans MUST get to know the company if they have not yet do so. Here’s a little brief. The animation company had its roots from two giants of the entertainment and media industry. It started in the 1970s as a small department in George Lucas’s company, Lucasfilm. As Pixar grew into a corporation, former Apple co-founder Steve Jobs became a majority shareholder. In 2006, The Walt Disney Company bought Pixar and the animation studio has made its home there ever since. This year, marks the 20th year anniversary of Pixar since its first animated feature film Toy Story in 1995. This year also marks the first time Pixar is releasing two films in a year rather than one film every two to three years. Technically, this is quite an extraordinary feat as animation is not easy to do and one animated feature film usually takes three to four years to develop. The majority of their films have received critical acclaim. I will be reviewing the second film released by Pixar this year.

The film’s title is The Good Dinosaur. It marks the directorial debut of Peter Sohn who has worked as a story artist on other Pixar films. The film features the voice talents of Raymond Ochoa, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Sam Elliott, Anna Paquin, Steve Zahn, and John Ratzenberger. The film is written by Meg LeFauve who also wrote Inside Out, the other Pixar film released this year.

How will Pixar’s latest animated feature film fare up to the other films? Do read on…

Meet Arlo and his 'surprise' companion
 
SYNOPSIS:
The film begins with the idea of what if the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago did not make an impact on our planet Earth. Naturally, the dinosaurs today will be roaming Earth freely as the dominant species. In this alternate reality, we meet a young dinosaur named Arlo who lives with his parents and two brothers on a farm. Being the youngest, Arlo is regularly given lighter chores and constantly seeking approval from his parents. On a trip in the jungle one day with his father, a fierce storm caused Arlo to separate and resulted in the unfortunate death of his father. Now, young Arlo is lost in the wilderness and desperately trying to find his way home. Together with a little ‘surprise’ friend, he ventures on his journey.


Human: Category cuteness

SCRIPT:
Decently appealing and quite nice. It is obvious that animated feature films in general are usually geared towards children. However, Pixar films usually mixes in adult themes so the parents can enjoy too. The storyline is pretty much straight-forward in which the ending is predictable. The interesting elements in the script are the various types of discoveries in which the protagonist (hero) encounters along the way to a destination. There were interesting things in which Arlo discovers but I felt there wasn’t enough and needed more. The dialogue was okay. What I liked about the story is the many positive underlying themes such as courage, determination, teamwork, and many more. I would have loved to have more humour in the script.


Adventure in the wilderness...

ACTING:
The voice acting performance of the entire cast was not too bad. An exceptional good performance was provided by young actor Raymond Ochoa who voiced the protagonist Arlo. Another voice that I enjoyed listening was Sam Elliot's deep vocals. He just has one of those voices that is instantly recognizable and love hearing to. He plays the adult Tyrannosaurus Rex.


And more adventure in the wilderness...

FILMING:
I have worked professionally as a director and producer in television for 15 years. I am have dealt with many types of production and animation is one of them. Although my knowledge is not as great as seasoned veterans in the field but I am a fan of its techniques. From a technical standpoint, this film is one of the better of Pixar films when it comes to animation. The greenery (grass, trees) and liquid (water, tears) are some of the best I have seen. They look quite photo-realistic as if they were filmed with an actual film camera. However, I felt the editing could have been improved more to make the action scenes tighter and edgier.

Along the way they meet more dinosaurs and became friends...

PACING:
Good start, but the middle part became a little draggy but picked up pace towards the end.

And friends taking some time to get more acquainted...

DOWNSIDE:
Just a little draggy when it comes to the story. That is about the only downside I can think of.

A movie is incomplete if there aren't any antagonists (villains)...

UPSIDE:
There were many and really good underlying positive themes which can be beneficial for the younger audience.

And not forgetting surprise appearances here. This character is voiced by the film's director Peter Sohn.

OVERALL: 
It is quite a good film. In essence it is a family-oriented film, told somewhat like a cowboy Western film from yesteryears, which I think is creative. A good family film for all to enjoy.

An angle reminiscent of old cowboy Western films which became somewhat a trademark


RATING:
8 out of 10.

 

 

 

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

REVIEW: CRIMSON PEAK



I am a big fan of Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro. His work in the film industry has been critically acclaimed and even achieving some form of cult status. Some of his best directorial efforts include Hellboy, Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, and Pacific Rim. My favourite film of his is Pan’s Labyrinth (2007) which some critics have proclaimed it one of the finest Spanish films ever made. A must-watch if you have not seen it. Therefore, I am quite excited to watch his latest directorial effort which I will be reviewing.

Del Toro latest film is called Crimson Peak. He shares screenwriting credits with regular collaborator Matthew Robbins. The film stars Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, and Charlie Hunnam. The film is produced by Legendary Pictures, the production company responsible for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, Godzilla, and many others.

Will one of my favourite directors strike a chord with the fan in me? Do read on…

The mansion nicknamed Crimsom Peak.
SYNOPSIS:
In the late 1800s, a young Edith Cushing is visited by her deceased mothers and warns her about a place called Crimson Peak. Baffled by this event, she shrugs it off over the years but still keeps that warning in mind. Now an adult, Edith (Mia Wasikowska) helps her entrepreneurial father in his business but longs to be a writer. One day, a charming aristocratic English gentleman Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) approaches Edith’s father for a business prospect but was rejected. During this time, the ghost of Edith’s mother appears again with the same warning Both Thomas and Edith develops a romantic relationship much to the dismay of Thomas’s sister Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain). After the death of Edith’s father, she marries Thomas and moves to England. Together with Lucille, both of them live in a mansion called Crimson Peak.

Mia Wasikowska as Edith Cushing
SCRIPT:
Original and scary. From the start, the film establishes itself that it will be a horror film with ghost and ghouls but it slowly became a period drama. The script was trying to combine a balance of horror, gore, romance, drama, and mystery but I feel this was not done well. Although the story can be easily understood, the script opened up to several plot holes which begs some questioning. I’ll explain more of this in the filming section later on. The four main characters were well established and can be relatable to the audience. The dialogue is a little over-the-top and fancy as the film is set in a certain time period.

Tom Hiddleston as Sir Thomas Sharpe
ACTING:
Very well acted by Wasikowska, Hiddleston, Chastain, and Hunnam. I was impressed at how they brought life to their roles. Mia Wasikowska burst onto the Hollywood scene as Alice in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010) and she is definitely a star to look out for in the future. I have always liked Jessica Chastain as an actress and she too performed well with Tom Hiddleston.

 
Jessica Chastain as Lucille Sharpe

FILMING:
As with all Guillermo Del Toro films, he will transport you into a world that is believable on screen. He pays close attention to art direction, production design, set decoration, visual effects, and many other things which forms the core essence of his film. Everything in the film looks beautiful and pleasant even though it is a horror film. The cinematography and choice of colours were really good. As I mentioned earlier, the script had several plot holes. However, Del Toro manages to make the audience overlook them and interjects practical effects and visual effects to raise the level of excitement. Speaking of effects, they too were really good.


Above: Director Guillermo Del Toro
Below: Del Toro on -set with Mia Wasikowska

PACING:
Started off good but became a little draggy as it progressed. Good climactic ending but I felt it could have been slightly better.

Charlie Hunnam as Dr. Alan McMichael

DOWNSIDE:
There are lots of dialogue and it is advised to be attentive. If you one doesn’t like a film with lots of dialogue talk, this movie may not be fun.

UPSIDE:
A beautiful film to look at. A beautiful film to appreciate. A beautiful film to admire its technical achievements.

Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain)

OVERALL: 
It may have been marketed as a horror drama but the film is more a heavy drama. It is not one of Guillermo Del Toro’s best work but he does it in his own trademark style. Del Toro fans should not miss this film.

 

RATING:
7.5 out of 10.0

 

 

 

REVIEW: GOOSEBUMPS




In popular culture and entertainment, horror stories are generally not associated with children as its target audience. However, there is a series of children’s horror fiction novellas titled Goosebumps which is hugely popular worldwide which I was unware of. The books are written by American author R.L. Stine which has been published in many languages and also has an animated TV series. The books depicts children encountering scary situations involving popular folklore monsters and supernatural beings. It would be a little extensive for me to explain its background, so you can click here to read more about it.
 
This would be the first film adaptation of the Goosebumps book series. On the director’s seat is Rob Letterman who directed animated feature films Shark Tale (2004) and Monsters vs Aliens (2009). Letterman’s first live-action film was Gulliver’s Travels starring Jack Black. Both director and actor are reunited in this film in which Black plays the male lead. He is supported by Dylan Minette, Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee, Jillian Bell, and Amy Ryan. The screenwriters are Darren Lemke, Scott Alexander, and Larry Karaszewski. Veteran Neal H. Moritz serves as one of the producers.

Will a subject material meant for children appeal to mass audiences of all ages? Do read on…

 
Jack Black as R.L. Stine
SYNOPSIS:
A teenage boy named Zach and his mom are new residents at a small town after having moved from the big city due to mom’s occupation transfer. Upon arriving at their new home, he is greeted by a teenage girl named Hannah who stays next door to him. Her dad fiercely forbids any interaction of her daughter with anyone and keeps her locked in their house. Fearing that something may be amiss, Zach breaks in to his neighbour’s house to investigate. When Zach encounters Hannah, he learns that her father is famed author R.L. Stine (Jack Black) who writes horror fiction novels for children. While trying to clean up his mess during the break-in, he accidentally opens one of her dad’s many book collections and to his amazement, a creature crawls out from the book. Once Stine finds out, he and his teenage companions must catch the creature before things get more chaotic. Unbeknownst to them, that is not the only creature they have to deal with.

Dylan Minnette as Zach

SCRIPT:
Inventive but a little kiddy. As I mentioned earlier, the film’s target audience are young kids and teenagers so I expected the story to be not too serious. However, I was surprised that the storyline and plot could even appeal to an adult audience. The premise is pretty straightforward and predictable like most kids films. However, there is a good mix of dark humour and intense moments which adults might like. Characterization is focused more on Jack Black while the supporting roles were minimal. I like the fact that the story was a heightened reality of author R.L. Stine’s work.

Actors Ryan Lee, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, and Jack Black confronting one of his creations

ACTING:
Jack Black did well as he is an established actor. Nothing much can be said for the supporting cast as there were mostly newcomers. I would like to have seen more of Amy Ryan, once a nominee for Oscar’s Best Supporting Actress in the past. Look out for Ryan Lee who may just be a scene stealer for the film.

Director Rob Letterman on set with Jack Black

FILMING:
Rob Letterman has background in animated feature films and he brought the same style of excitement to this film. He did well in balancing a story aimed for kids but at the same time not making the film to kiddie. Most of the scenes takes place during night time so nothing much can be said for the cinematography. Visual effects was just okay but it was effective in making the film interesting.

A visual effects shot from the film

PACING:
Good start and good build-up. A little anti-climactic towards the end but it is meant to be a fun film so it is okay.

DOWNSIDE:
Can be too kiddie for some. Visual effects didn’t ‘wow’ me.

UPSIDE:
Kids will love it especially those between the ages of 10 to 15 years old. Not bad of adventure film.

(L-R): Jack Black as R.L. Stine, Dylan Minnette as Zach,


 

OVERALL: 

I like it simply because of the freshness of the story material despite it being an adaptation. The multitude of  scary monsters was fun to watch.

 

RATING:

7.5 out of 10.0