• Film reviews

    #586 – Goosebumps (2015)

    Goosebumps (2015)

    Film review #586

    Director: Rob Letterman

    SYNOPSIS: Zach Cooper moves with his Mother to the town of Madison, Delaware, where he learns he has a strange new neighbour. Things take a twist when Zach learns that his new neighbour is none other than R.L. Stine, author of the Goosebumps series of books, and the monsters from his books have accidentally been brought to life…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Goosebumps is a 2015 film based on the series of horror books by R.L. Stine. The film starts up in a very typical way, introducing teenager Zach Cooper and his Mother moving to a new town and having to get used to a new school and all of that: a situation you’ve seen in films plenty of times. Fortunately, the film doesn’t linger too long on it, and it’s somewhat necessary to provide the grounds for the film’s twist. Zach learns that his odd neighbour is none other than R.L. Stine, the author of the Goosebumps series, and the creations in his horror stories are very much real; as he finds out when the monsters are released from their books to terrorise the town. The meta-twist of the film, making R.L. Stine (played by Jack Black) a character and referencing the actual books is implemented well, and provides a good way of incorporating the different characters from the books. If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll appreciate the different monsters that appear, but even if you’re not familiar with them, it doesn’t impact the experience in any way.

    What the film does well is – when it kicks off with the monsters being unleashed – that it keeps up an unrelenting pace and energy as it moves along without any real lulls. The different parts of the film aren’t really anything unique, but it never slows down enough to make it boring. Part of this is due to Jack Black’s portrayal of R.L. Stine, as he brings his usual energy to the role and to basically steal every scene he is in. If you’re not a fan of Jack Black, maybe you’ll have an issue with the film, but otherwise you can certainly enjoy the ride. The rest of the cast is fairly uninteresting and don’t really develop beyond their typical roles, but again it’s not that much of an issue since they aren’t really the ones driving the plot.

    Overall, Goosebumps overcomes a predictable setup with a self-referential twist that works well, with a constant energy and entertainment that doesn’t give you a chance to get bored. Like the series itself, it is horror for kids, so there’s no real scares or frights to be had, but again, it focuses more on the action and self-referential humour that make the film work in it’s own right. Not perfect, but entertaining enough, particularly if you’re a fan of the franchise.

  • Film reviews

    #371 – Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (2019)

    Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (2019)

    Film review #371

    Director: Rob Letterman

    SYNOPSIS: When Tim Goodman gets news that his Father has been killed in a car crash, he travels to Ryme City where he worked as a police detective, to collect his things. While there, he finds a Pikachu who for some reason he is able to understand. Tim also learns that this Pikachu was his Father’s pokémon partner, and he has had his memory wiped. Tim decides to team up with Pikachu to help him regain his memories and carry on the case that he and his Dad were working on before he seemingly died…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSISPokémon: Detective Pikachu is a 2019 film based on the successful video game franchise, and loosely follows the 2016 game Detective Pikachu. The film starts off introducing Tim Goodman, a 21-year old insurance salesman who gets news that his father has died in a car crash in Ryme City. Tim heads to the city to collect his father’s things, but while in his apartment finds a Pikachu that Tim can understand when he speaks. Not only this, this Pikachu was his father’s pokémon partner in his job as a police detective, and has lost all his memories, so Tim gets caught up in this curious mystery that he teams up with Pikachu with, to try and work out what happened to his father, and what happened to Pikachu’s memories. The plot of the film is focused on unravelling this big mystery, which impacts on each of the characters, but becomes tied into the fate of the city as a whole too, meaning it has lots of facets and interesting avenues to head down. Nevertheless, the story is fairly simple to follow, while also offering some decent twists along the way. The different elements of the plot perhaps don’t weave together enough though, as scene-by-scene it focuses on either story, action or emotional aspects, and they don’t overlap too much. With this in mind the villain’s big plan can feel a little muddled, especially in comparison to the much more interesting mystery concerning Pikachu and Tim’s father. 

    It should be noted that you don’t really need to have an extensive knowledge of Pokémon to enjoy this film: it is easy enough to follow the mystery without knowing what all the pokémon are. Nevertheless, the film is clearly aimed at fans of the franchise, and there’s a ton of little references that will satisfy the hardcore fans, and they will be the ones who get the most out of this film. Every pokémon has their own personality and comes alive on the screen, and while the human characters sometimes do not possess that amount of presence, they have their own specific roles that they play out well. Overall the film is easy to follow, and offers plenty of entertainment tailored to the pokémon themselves.

    One of the most noted aspects of the film are the pokémon visuals: they have a unique aesthetic that maintains the original designs, while also making them more ‘believeable’ in the real world, such as accentuating the fur on Pikachu and others. Altering and adapting character designs is always a challenging task to pull off, as any alteration will no doubt anger fans and purists. However, Detective Pikachu seems to have struck the perfect balance with it’s designs: it makes the pokémon more ‘real’ looking, while also keeping the proportions and feel of the original designs, which went over well with the significant majority of fans. Sometimes the CG lets itself down (particularly with regards to Mewtwo), but on the whole it is pretty solid. The pokémon are also full of character, and their facial expressions (especially Pikachu’s) really bring them to life. Ryme City itself has its own unique aesthetic as a mix of London, New York and Tokyo, while also bringing in its own original elements to give it a feel of something new and also as a distinct place in the pokémon universe. Overall, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is a success in translating the franchise into a live-action setting for the first time: it offers something new without deviating so much that it is unrecognisable to fans. The story is easy to follow, and the characters are entertaining, and the negatives don’t detract too much from the overall enjoyment. I think the film really is intended both for die-hard fans and (equally) also for those who were only into the franchise when they were a kid many years ago, and will appreciate the nostalgia trip. Even with all the new pokémon they would have never seen before, there’s still plenty of classic pokémon they will recognise and enjoy seeing again.