Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

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Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween was not quite on par with the first film, but still a good family Halloween movie. There are plenty of good things about this movie, but a few tiny adjustments could have improved it a bit. The pacing of the story was excellent; no part of the movie felt slow once the adventure starts in earnest. It is also family friendly enough to feel like a Disney Channel movie, but with a bigger budget. But as much as that helped, it also held the movie back a bit.

The plot was the first big thing that held Haunted Halloween back. There is nothing that makes the story back, it is just basic. There are no twists and turns the audience is not expecting. Considering the Goosebumps books usually did have some kind of twist (the first movie even poked fun at that), the lack of one was a bit disappointing. For kids that works, but as an adult watching the movie for nostalgia it did not. And as is the case with most modern movies, a good portion of the plot was spoiled by the trailer.

Characterization was something else that made Haunted Halloween a bit rough. The kid characters are a bit younger than the ones in the first film. While there is nothing wrong with younger heroes, they did not have that same chemistry going as the original group. The adult characters were extremely underutilized this time around. There was a healthy balance between kids and adults in the previous movie and that just does not ring true here. Most of the adults get one or two scenes and fall to the wayside for the rest of the movie. This includes Jack Black, which is understandable since he was working on another movie while this one was being filmed.

The really big thing in the first Goosebumps was…well, Goosebumps. Every monster in the first film was from the Goosebumps books. The main villain of Haunted Halloween is still Slappy, which was great. Slappy has significantly more screen time, better motivation, and shows how smart he is despite being a dummy. But while a few other Goosebumps classics make an appearance, most of the monsters are generic. Some of them looked really cool but did lack that nostalgia factor. And while the monsters still looked nice, many of them had one close-up and were then reduced to background pieces. While all this makes Haunted Halloween a fine movie for kids, it is not going to become a Halloween staple.

October 28, 2018

Kung Fu Panda 2

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Poster for the movie "Kung Fu Panda 2"

Kung Fu Panda 2

Prepare for the Year of Awesomeness!

20111 h 31 min

Po is now living his dream as The Dragon Warrior, protecting the Valley of Peace alongside his friends and fellow kung fu masters, The Furious Five - Tigress, Crane, Mantis, Viper and Monkey. But Po’s new life of awesomeness is threatened by the emergence of a formidable villain, who plans to use a secret, unstoppable weapon to conquer China and destroy kung fu. It is up to Po and The Furious Five to journey across China to face this threat and vanquish it. But how can Po stop a weapon that can stop kung fu? He must look to his past and uncover the secrets of his mysterious origins; only then will he be able to unlock the strength he needs to succeed.

Runtime 1 h 31 min
Release Date 25 May 2011
Movie Media DVD
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Very good

Kung Fu Panda 2 is a fantastical film that perfectly follows up the first movie. Many aspects of the film are done just the right way, from character development to the hero vs. villain conflict to aesthetics and more.  This film is equal to Dreamworks’ other epic sequel films, like Shrek 2 and How to Train Your Dragon 2. Despite being known as underdogs to Disney, Dreamworks continually puts out somewhat underacknowledged movies that are still pretty darn good. With a powerful blend of action, comedy, and storytelling, Kung Fu Panda 2 more than holds its own.

Being a sequel, we already know a bit about some of the characters here. Going in we already know a lot about Po so, while the film still focuses on him a lot, we have more time for side characters. The Furious Five all get more developed here (particularly Tigeress) as they accompany Po on this new adventure. Po/Jack Black’s arc focuses less on who he is and more on why he is that way. And extending from there, what kind of person he will grow into in his life as the Dragon Warrior. As is usually the case with heroes, Po is largely shaped by the villains he faces.

Shen gets a fair amount of screen time and was a much better villain than Tai Lung in the first film. That is not to say Tai Lung was a bad villain, there is just so much more to Shen. Audiences get to see more of Shen’s past, his goals are much grander, and the atrocities he commits are darker. The way his movements are animated are also very elegant; the animators took advantage of his peacock body and incorporated that into his fighting style. He sees himself as a poised gentleman while his temper and ruthlessness show his true self: an arrogant, merciless monster.

The creators of Kung Fu Panda 2 clearly did their research regarding China more ways than one. The land in the film is referred to as “China” by the characters, just with talking animal people here. The landscape, from farmlands to mountains, all resemble China’s actual geography. The architecture of the buildings, the food characters eat, everything is taken from Chinese culture. The villain Shen is even a white peacock (white symbolizes death in China). The Kung Fu Panda series even caused a stir in China regarding how accurate they are for American made films. While Disney still wins all the awards, Dreamworks shows its own films are on par (except Shrek 3 & 4).

May 27, 2018


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The stories are alive.

20151 h 43 min

I have always had a soft spot for scary stories, largely thanks to my Stephen King fan of a father. But since King is not what you want to start a child on, I read a large number of Goosebumps books throughout my grade school years. My little brother is the same way, so when the 2015 Goosebumps film was announced we knew we had to see it.

Based on the summary and the trailer, the film looked as though it would either flop completely or be a funny little film that may or may not wind up as a cult classic. In the Goosebumps books, there are many constant elements that R. L. Stine repeats throughout the series. The kids in each book seem to be around 12 or 13 years old (close to the age of the series’ target audience), they are usually in an unfamiliar place (moved into a new neighborhood, at summer camp, on vacation, etc.), and have to face some kind of supernatural or sci-fi threat that does not actually kill anyone or put people in too much danger since these are children’s books. As expected, all of these common elements are repeated in the film since it is a family movie. This makes the film acceptable and appealing for younger audiences while also providing nostalgia for those of us who grew up reading Goosebumps.

The actors all did a good job for the film they were in. An intentionally cheesy movie like Goosebumps should not have its actors trying to play their roles off too seriously and this film had the protagonists behaving the same way as the characters from any Goosebumps book. But as is the case for any creature feature, it is the monsters that make this movie. The credits list over two dozen actors as monsters, although the film actually features more than that as some of the creatures were made completely from special effects and/or unvoiced. The plethora of monsters adds more danger to the film for the characters and it is awesome to see so many classic Goosebumps creatures on a screen instead of just on a book cover. They also selected the best monster they possibly could have to serve as the leader for the group; longtime Goosebumps fans will not be disappointed there.

This movie was not intended to be a cinematographic masterpiece, nor should anyone go into the film expecting it to be one. It is a horror comedy family movie, a lot of the viewers are probably watching it more for nostalgia than anything else, and Jack Black is more or less free to do his thing within the film. But if you liked Goosebumps when you were younger, have a kid who enjoys Goosebumps or similar series’, or if you just need a cheesy monster movie to entertain children with for Halloween purposes than this film is the way to go (you can only have the kids rewatch Hocus Pocus or The Monster Squad so many times). Overall the film was enjoyable and it may become a Halloween tradition for many families in years to come.

February 7, 2016