*NEW* GOOSEBUMPS REVIEW *NEW*

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Black is back!

Corny, frantic BUT highly watchable.

A teenager (Dylan Minnette – Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) teams up with the daughter (Odeya Rush – The Giver) of young adult horror author R. L. Stine (Jack Black – School of Rock) after the writer’s imaginary demons are set free on the town of Madison, Delaware.

The opening 20 minutes was easy going enough as Minnette’s Zach moved to a new town and (even worse) a new school. And if that wasn’t bad enough. His own mother (Amy Ryan – Birdman) is the new vice principal! I liked the dynamic between Ryan and Minnette. It was a little disappointing to see that thrown out of the window for a cheesy little romance subplot between Zach and the mysterious girl next door Hannah (Rush).

Don’t get me wrong, the pair had good chemistry BUT it was all a little too schmaltzy for my liking. Thankfully it wasn’t too long before the obsessive Stine (Black) made his introduction. Welcome back, Mr Black. As soon as the big man kept randomly popping up at windows and fences, threatening Zach at every opportunity to stay away from Hannah, I was entertained.

It was a different side to Black. More subdued and obnoxious. Not quite as loud or in your face. BUT still on scene stealing form. He has been missed. And with Kung Fu Panda 3 fighting its way at the box office, we will be spoiled.

“If there’s danger, I will run the other way”. Ryan Lee (Super 8) was brilliant as social misfit Champ.

For fans of the real Goosebump books, all the little references were there. The whole magic spiel was a different take. Every creation Stine ever wrote coming to life. All the silly creatures that used to frighten you as a little ‘un (and may still do) were all there.

Slappy the dummy was the one that always freaked me out. And lo and behold, guess who made a special appearance? Black provides his sinister voice-over skills to bring the terrifying toy to life. Slappy’s movie makeover wasn’t quite as spine-tingling as his TV series counterpart. BUT I’ll let you be the judge.

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Shudder. Moving on . . .

The special effects were actually quite good. The 3D gimmick wasn’t missed so save your pennies. I couldn’t really pick any moments that would have better with it. The effects weren’t too cartoony BUT this is a kid’s film, let’s not forget. Can’t creep em out too much now. That’s not to say there weren’t a few jumpy bits that might have got the best of yours truly (What?).

The adorable BUT highly violent garden gnomes suggested a darker undertone and gave me that old Gremlins nostalgia as the gang fought wave after wave of them in the kitchen.

It was silly, a little cheesy BUT good fun as our dysfunctional heroes try to get every creature back in their paperback prisons. The endless statistics that Black spewed up about Stine’s career were all true. Believe me, I checked. Selling more novels than Stephen King?! A passing cameo delivering the perfect punch line.

BUT that’s not to say it was perfect. Just like Scouts’ Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and Paper Towns, Halston Sage was type cast (yet again) as another high school damsel in distress. Anyone could have played her and, by the end, you realized how unnecessary her character really was.

Amy Ryan was cast aside and reduced to nothing more than a naff running joke with her character avoiding the awkward advances of Ken Marino’s (We’re The Millers) high school coach. Unfunny and a real waste of another actress.

My main issue however, was despite this being a mad little movie; it felt rushed. Not enough of Stine’s ghastly ghouls were brought into the mix. Too many of them were quickly thrown in at the last minute that you couldn’t tell what was what.

It just seemed to push for a frantic finale after all that build up. Veep’s Timothy Simons was heavily underused as dimwitted Officer Stevens. More gags could have made with the guy. He had me in stitches in the two scenes he was lucky to feature in.

BUT grumbling aside, coming from a GB fan, this was a silly little blast from the past. It wasn’t perfect (and didn’t quite top the iconic TV series that ruined my childhood) BUT I could think of worst things to kill the time with the little ‘uns.

3/5 (Just)

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THE GIVER REVIEW

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Hollywood gives us another post-apocalyptic teen franchise to sink our teeth into but does it make you want to?

In a seemingly perfect community, without war, pain, suffering, differences or choice, a young boy is chosen to learn from an elderly man about the true pain and pleasure of the “real” world.

Jonas: “If I’m the receiver of memories. What does that make you?”

The Giver: “I guess I’m the giver”

Childish laughter aside (I can’t believe they actually put that in there), we are handed another sci-fi teen flick with a protagonist who battles against conformity disguised as peace by a conniving dictatorship.

It certainly zipped along and wasn’t a bad way to kill 90 minutes but as I was watching I found it incredibly tough not to make comparisons to Divergent and Ender’s Game and as it concluded, all I could think was Hollywood better quit while they’re ahead before they kill more franchises.

Director Phillip Noyce has a great cast at his disposal; a mixture of fresh talent with the experienced Oscar veterans . . . and Katie Holmes. It was a surprise to see Holmes. Released from the Cruise cage to do a spot of acting. In all fairness, she doesn’t do a bad job. Let’s be honest, her acting was never brilliant. Meryl Streep does her best to make the role of Chief Elder engaging but the character is so mechanical and one dimensional that not even the Oscar winning starlet can work her magic. A shame as Streep is remarkable. She is able to pull in some emotion with her encounters with the gruffly Giver (Jeff Bridges).

Brenton Thwaites is a likeable lead. He has certainly been making the right impressions. Just not in the right films. Oculus was a dud no matter how hard Thwaites tried. Maleficent was actually not bad but his character was a little hammy. Yes, he was Prince Charming. However, he finally gets given a character he can work with and delivers a memorable performance. One to watch. Once Jeff Bridges gets over sitting looking angry and staring out Thwaites in a chair for 15 minutes, he delivers the goods yet again.

Odeya Rush (The Odd Life of Timothy Green) is also quite likeable and has some good chemistry with Thwaites. It’s a shame that there is always an inevitable romance brewing but if you finally fight conformity and stop taking a pill that suppresses emotion (Yep. I was thinking Equilibrium too), you would suddenly feel attraction, love, etc. Just a little corny for my liking.

Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood) was surprisingly wooden and seemed to be sleep walking the role but for those you have seen the film, I think there may have been a point to that. Speaking of which, I did not expect a cameo from a particular pop star as Rosemary. Let’s just say she made a swift impression.

Ross Emery’s cinematography is to die for. His use of monochrome juxtaposed against the introduction of colour as Jonas (Thwaites) begins to experience feelings and visions was a nice touch. The panning out to view the remaining colonies was a feast for the eyes. The 1984 overtones around the film was one aspect that did keep me intrigued and the idea of censoring people’s memories and using precision of language to specify exactly what they mean is something that feels all too real. And with the way political correctness is going . . . (REDACTED)

What I hate is that they give us little tidbits in the hope that we will be interested in another installment. Wrong. I want the first installment to hit the ground running and get me wanting another. NOT think that was okay. Maybe the next one will be really good. Noyce certainly ticked the boxes on pace. 97 minutes certainly breezes by with enough content to keep you watching. But the content, despite being brilliantly shot, has been done to death and so much better. A mesh of Divergent meets Equilibrium. I mean even the process in which the kids are given positions was just a futuristic sorting hat scenario from Harry Potter.

The film seemed all too nicey nicey. Until . . . a twist. A predictable one in hindsight. But a twist that turned the cheesy overtones to something much darker and it did make for a thrilling finale. However, it all ended too quickly and flatly for my liking. Now, unfortunately I haven’t read the Lois Lowry bestseller but I have it on good authority from fans that the film remains true to the source material. In that case, I will not be rushing to get the book.

At it’s best, it’s well acted, zips along, has moments of clever satire and action. At it’s worst, it’s predictable, a mix of teen and sci-fi flicks with an inevitable foot note that reeks of “THERE WILL BE A SEQUEL”

My main gripe with films like these is that they are just being churned out with no real attempt to be different. Originality is tough these days but I think Hollywood should spend a little more time looking at the source material, making a stronger film instead of relying on the same old guff or ripping off classics in such a lazy way. This is why The Host, Mortal Instruments and Ender’s Game all failed to earn another sequel. All best selling novels with die hard fans in their own rights. It’s always tough to impress fans but you can at least try NOT yammer on with corny dialogue, poor pace or stretching out a story to milk more movies. You need to impress us with the first. IF The Giver earns one, then they better come out guns blazing. A comment I use too often. (Even for Divergent).

3 (just) out of 5