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Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween Review – A Pretty Slappy Sequel

Goosebumps 2 lacks the charm and inventiveness of its predecessor, but still has a reasonable amount of spoopy entertainment value to offer.

R.L. Stine’s beloved 1990s children’s horror book series makes its way back to the big screen in Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, a sequel to the live-action film adaptation of Stine’s novels that came out in 2015. While Jack Black starred as a fictional version of Stine in that movie, Sony didn’t even confirm the actor’s return for the followup until a few weeks before its release. Similarly, neither the director, writer, nor supporting cast of the (generally well-received) first Goosebumps film worked on the second installment. While Haunted Halloween certainly suffers for it, the sequel isn’t an entirely hollow continuation of the franchise either. Goosebumps 2 lacks the charm and inventiveness of its predecessor, but still has a reasonable amount of spoopy entertainment value to offer.

Goosebumps 2 picks up in the small town of Wardenclyffe, New York, as its residents prepare for the fast-approaching Halloween Night festivities. Meanwhile, in the Quinn household, high school senior Sarah (Madison Iseman) is trying to finish her college application and her younger brother Sonny (Jeremy Ray Taylor) is struggling with his science class project – a miniature replica of an experimental wireless transmission station in Wardenclyffe that was built and designed by Nikola Tesla, but never finished (aka. the Tesla Tower). The Quinns are joined by Sonny’s best friend Sam Carter (Caleel Harris), who is staying over at their house while his parents are away for the Halloween holiday.

After some prodding from Sam, Sonny agrees to take a break from his project and clear out an abandoned local house, as part of the duo’s ongoing efforts to launch a (successful) junk cleanup business. While there, however, the pair stumble upon an incomplete manuscript for a Goosebumps novel, unaware that the building was once owned by R.L. Stine himself. Not knowing any better, Sam and Sonny unlock the book and inadvertently unleash the Goosebumps villain Slappy the Dummy back into the real world. While the living ventriloquist dummy seems (sorta) friendly at first, it’s not long before he reveals his true evil plan, with only Sam, Sonny and Sarah to stand in his way.

If the original Goosebumps movie was a throwback to the popular family-friendly spooky adventures of the 1990s (think Hocus Pocus), then Haunted Halloween is closer to being the 2018 equivalent of a direct-to cable scary movie for kids from the ’90s – that is, noticeably cheaper and more generic, yet otherwise harmless and playful in its own right. The Goosebumps 2 script by Rob Lieber (Peter Rabbit) likewise carries over the first movie’s imaginative premise and conceit (e.g. Stine’s Goosebumps novel manuscripts are really enchanted objects which contain and prevent his “demons” from entering the real world) and includes references to its story, yet never really tries to build on its concepts, much less its themes and lore. Instead, Haunted Halloween offers helpful, if unchallenging, life lessons for kids and a serviceable narrative that doesn’t exactly push the envelope for the larger Goosebumps brand.

At the same time, Goosebumps 2 is perhaps more successful than its predecessor when it comes to being genuinely menacing and scary for the juice box crowd, yet still light-hearted enough to avoid traumatizing them (hence, “spoopy”). Much of the credit for that goes to director Ari Sandel (The DUFF), who does a commendable job of combining suspenseful and creepy storytelling with comedic moments here, much like Stine did so well in his original Goosebumps novels. Haunted Halloween, as indicated earlier, feels like a lower-budgeted affair than the first Goosebumps, yet Sandel and his creative team – including, DP Barry Peterson (Game Night) and production designer Rusty Smith (Get Out) – still manage to deliver a movie that’s a proper cut above a comparable TV film, in terms of overall craftsmanship. That also goes for the CGI and creature effects in the sequel’s first half (more on the second half later).

The actual setting of Haunted Halloween is mostly populated by stock types, be they the film’s young heroes or the local bullies that Sonny and Sam have to deal with (not to mention, Sarah’s dishonest would-be boyfriend). While their characters are fairly two-dimensional in the Goosebumps sequel, Harris, Iseman and Ray nevertheless have the same affable screen presence that’s allowed them to stand out in films and TV shows past and, thus, make their protagonists all the easier to root for. That also goes for the adult supporting players here, as Wendi McLendon-Covey (The Goldbergs) and Ken Jeong (Community) mostly channel their famous small screen personas as Sarah and Sonny’s adorkable mother Kathy and their eccentric neighbor Mr. Chu, respectively. As for Black as R.L. Stine: his own role in Goosebumps 2 is pretty superfluous, which is disappointing considering the energy that he brought to the proceedings as the first Goosebumps‘ co-protagonist (not to mention, his vocal performance as Slappy, which Black didn’t reprise in the sequel).

All in all, Haunted Halloween is a passable if derivative sequel – but not because the Goosebumps books themselves are incapable of sustaining multiple films. Rather, the problem is that the sequel recycles too much from the first movie and struggles to make creative use of the fresh elements (like the real-world Tesla Tower) that it brings into the mix here. It’s too bad, seeing as Goosebumps 2 had a wealth of different monsters and horror genres in Stine’s source novels to draw from, yet elected to continue simplifying the author’s mythology by making Slappy the big bad (again) and skimping on giving the other creatures much in the way of personality. As a result, the second half of the movie plays out as a watered down version of what happened in the original Goosebumps, albeit with lower production values and emotional impact.

Still, Goosebumps 2 should go over best with its young target demographic and provide them with enough silly scares and fun adventure to keep them engaged for its brisk runtime. Moreover, much like your average comic book movie these days, Haunted Halloween delivers its fair share of Goosebumps easter eggs and nods to the real Stine’s source material (right down to a Stan Lee-esque cameo from Stine himself), to further serve the property’s youngest fans. As for those who prefer their family-friendly fantasies with Jack Black starring front and center – The House with a Clock in Its Walls is still playing in theaters and ought to fulfill your own needs for some spoopy entertainment this Halloween season.

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Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween begins playing in U.S. theaters on Thursday evening, October 11. It is 90 minutes long and is rated PG for scary creature action and images, some thematic elements, rude humor and language.

Let us know what you thought of the film in the comments section!



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2018-10-10 01:10:58 – Sandy Schaefer

Better Call Saul Season 4 Finale Ending Explained

This post contains SPOILERS for Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul’s fourth season ended with “Winner,” an exciting finale that inches the spinoff closer to its Breaking Bad roots. This year, AMC’s acclaimed drama had to followup the jaw-dropping cliffhanger of season 3, where Chuck died in a horrifying fire. That tragedy is what truly spurred Jimmy McGill’s transformation into Saul Goodman as he dealt with the consequences and aftermath of not only his brother’s death, but also his bar suspension. Over the course of the fourth season, Jimmy became more involved with the criminal underworld of Albuquerque, launching his “get-rich-quick” scheme of selling prepaid cell phones to unsavory individuals.

Elsewhere in the Saul universe, Gus Fring looked to expand his cartel operations, commissioning the construction of the famous “super lab” Walter White and Jesse Pinkman cooked in during Breaking Bad. Entrusting Mike Ehrmantraut to oversee the operation, Gus hired a group of German nationals led by Werner Ziegler. While the project was taking longer than originally planned, the crew was working diligently and hoped to have it finished soon. Of course, things hit a snag at the end of last week’s “Wiedersehen” when Werner went AWOL, leaving only a note with detailed instructions for his team. These storylines (Werner’s disappearance and Jimmy’s bar reinstatement appeal) are the crux of the finale’s narrative, with both resolving in powerful ways.

The Tragedy of Werner Ziegler

Throughout the season, Werner’s team were recurring players, frequently interacting with Mike. Early on, it looked like Kai would be the troublemaker of the group, especially after his incident with the nightclub. However, Kai turned out to be a red herring, and Werner caused the biggest headaches for Gus and Mike. Werner, of course, is far from home and dearly misses his beloved wife. Wishing to see her again, Werner pitched Mike the idea of going home for a weekend, but was denied. Since he couldn’t get his superiors’ approval, Werner took matters into his own hands and hatched a plot for a loving reunion.

“Winner” reveals Werner ran off to a resort where he planned to spend time with his wife. He made travel arrangements that would see her fly over to America for a weekend and go back home. Sadly for Werner, he never gets to see her again. Mike tracks him down and after a discussion with Gus, realizes there’s only one resolution for this setback. Allowing Werner the opportunity to call his wife and tell her to return home before Gus’ people do anything to her, Mike then (reluctantly) kills Werner. Ehrmantraut says Werner’s death will be covered up as a tragic accident and his men will be sent back. As one might expect, Gus is angered by the lack of progress on the super lab (cutting a conversation with Gale short), which he thought would be completed by now.

Related: How Better Call Saul’s (Unseen) Breaking Bad Character Connects To Jimmy

Werner clearly had no ill intent (Mike knew he was jut homesick), but when he ran off, his fate was essentially sealed. This was the second transgression Werner committed against Gus – the first being his friendly chat about construction work with bar patrons. These two incidents back-to-back made it very difficult for Gus to trust Werner moving forward, and by now, fans are well aware of Fring’s ruthlessness. Mike mentions multiple times in the episode there are other ways to go about things, but he can’t convince Gus to spare Werner’s life. No amount of begging or pleading has any effect on Gus when he’s made up his mind about something. Unfortunately for Werner, he never completely understood what he got himself into and crossed the wrong people.

Lalo also factors into this storyline, with the mysterious member of the Salamanca clan tailing Mike and trying to locate Werner for his own reasons. Lalo does discover which resort Werner is staying at and briefly speaks to the Russian over the phone, posing as one of Gus’ employees. Not knowing any better, Werner begins to tell Lalo the first couple of basic instructions for the super lab construction, before Mike arrives in person and interrupts the call. Near the end of the episode, Mike tells Gus about what happened, and it’ll be fascinating to see how this continues in season 5. Of course, Fring does not get along with the Salamancas, and despite Lalo’s cheeky offer of a peace treaty in last week’s episode, the two warring sides will continue their power struggle. Lalo is clearly curious about what Gus is up to and wants to get an upper hand for himself.

Page 2: Jimmy McGill Becomes Saul Goodman

Jimmy McGill Is Finally Saul Goodman

Jimmy’s arc in season 4 is dealing with the fallout of his felony from season 2 (tampering with Chuck’s documents) as he tries to get by in life with his one-year suspension. Picking up lawful employment at CC Mobile, he does everything he’s supposed to do to work himself back in the graces of the committee. However, last week’s episode ended with the shocking twist that Jimmy was denied reinstatement – after he was found to be insincere in his comments. Kim, as she always does, stays by Jimmy’s side to help him win the appeal. In Kim’s mind, the sincerity issue stems from Chuck and Jimmy needs to show remorse for what’s transpired.

The two forge ahead with another one of their brilliant schemes. Jimmy spends the one-year anniversary of Chuck’s death mourning at his brother’s grave. An “anonymous” donation is made to HHM to name the legal library after Chuck, with members of Jimmy’s go-to video team telling people in attendance they heard the gift was from Jimmy. It all builds up to another hearing in front of the committee, where Jimmy uses the letter Chuck left him as a weapon in his favor. After (faking) being unable to read it in place of an opening statement, Jimmy launches into a nostalgic monologue where he reminisces about his brother, talks about wanting to make Chuck proud, and credits Chuck with influencing his interest in a law career. In their celebration afterwards, Kim feels some it was truthful, but Jimmy’s reaction makes it painfully apparent it was all a show for the committee so he could get his law license back. As he prepares to sign the necessary documents, Jimmy states he’ll no longer be practicing under his legal name. Turning to a clearly shocked Kim, he closes out the season by saying, “S’all good, man.”

Related: Bob Odenkirk Responds to Fan Theory About Chuck’s Letter

At a certain time in his life, Jimmy probably aspired to be an honest, hard-working lawyer like Chuck, but the events of Better Call Saul have rendered that impossible. During a key sequence of the episode, Jimmy (as part of his sincerity scheme) sits on the board awarding scholarships in Chuck’s memory. He vouches for a student named Kristy Esposito, who received only one vote (from Jimmy) because she was found guilty of shoplifting. In that moment, Jimmy realizes that the law community at large will never accept someone with a prior record, and clearly sees himself in the young Kristy. Because of his actions in season 2, the most prominent firms in the country will always consider Jimmy a liability, no matter how much he swears he’s changed. Chasing down Kristy after the scholarship meetings, Jimmy basically lays out the Saul Goodman playbook, telling his favorite student to cut corners and to not worry about what others think (because she’ll never “make it” the traditional way).

Instead of conforming to fit within the perceived standards of the field, Jimmy gamed the system to his own advantage. He told the reinstatement committee what they wanted to hear – even though he has no intention of following through on it – and is now set to play by his own rules. In his argument with Kim on the rooftop in “Wiedersehen,” Jimmy went on the defensive about how Kim views him as “the kind of lawyer guilty people hire” and is unworthy of sharing an office with her (while she thrives at a large firm in New Mexico). Jimmy is embracing his reputation. Saul Goodman, as Breaking Bad fans know, is exactly the type of lawyer criminals hire. Howard Hamlin wouldn’t touch Walter White and Jesse Pinkman with a 10-foot pole, but Saul went into business with them, doing whatever he could to protect his clients’ rights and help them avoid jail time.

The beauty of this is how it all traces back to Chuck and recontextualizes the character of Saul Goodman. When he was introduced in the second season of Breaking Bad, he was nothing more than an entertaining side player; a riff on the “sleazy lawyer” archetype who came up with elaborate schemes to win his cases. Now, the persona is revealed as a last resort for a man who once upon a time looked up to his brother, only to have his hopes and dreams destroyed by that very same sibling. Chuck went out of his way to block Jimmy from getting a position at HHM, fearful of what “Slippin’ Jimmy with a law degree” would be capable of. He wasn’t willing to give Jimmy the benefit of the doubt, and ended up unknowingly launching the career of Albuquerque’s shadiest criminal defense attorney. Maybe if he was more accepting and loving towards Jimmy, things would have turned out differently.

It’ll be exciting to see how the confirmed fifth season picks up on this. There were already hints the Jimmy/Kim relationship was fraying (the wonderfully constructed cold open of “Something Stupid”), and the former’s new career path might be the final straw. Kim is never mentioned in Breaking Bad, so obviously something happens there. Better Call Saul correctly took the long road to get to this point, and now the possibilities for its future are wide open.

More: Better Call Saul Fills In Breaking Bad Gaps



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2018-10-08 07:10:07 – Chris Agar

Murder on the Orient Express Followup Death On The Nile Casts Armie Hammer

Armie Hammer joins the cast of Death on the Nile. Agatha Christie’s famous detective Hercule Poirot was reborn last year at the hands of acclaimed actor and director Kenneth Branagh. He rebooted the character through Murder on the Orient Express, which he both starred in as Poirot and directed. On the backs of an A-list cast that included Daisy Ridley, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, and many more, the mystery film found great success at the box office despite mixed reviews. Still, with a $350 million worldwide gross (on a reported budget of $55M), Fox quickly moved forward with the sequel that the final few minutes of the movie set up.

Branagh is of course returning to direct and star, with Orient Express‘ writer Michael Green also returning to pen the script. The movie has been progressing nicely and just recently announced Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot had landed the female lead role. She is just one of many new faces who will eventually join the ensemble film, and now the new male lead has been found, too.

Related: Death on the Nile Gets 2019 Release Date

Deadline reports Armie Hammer is set to play the male lead in Death on the Nile. There is no confirmation as to which character from Christie’s novel Hammer will be playing. This marks his latest career move after a stellar performance in Call Me By Your Name and a small role in Sorry to Bother You. Hammer will be seen during awards season this year opposite Felicity Jones in On the Basis of Sex, but he’ll now get the opportunity to star in a potential financial hit.

Although Hammer’s role is not yet confirmed, the plot of Death on the Nile and information on Gadot’s role are clues to solving the mystery. Gadot is reportedly playing Linnet Doyle, a recently married woman. In Christie’s novel, Linnet marries Simon Doyle, the fiancé of her best friend Jacqueline de Bellefort. Since Gadot and Hammer are the first two to join and are described as leading roles, it appears Death on the Nile has found its Simon Boyle – but that will still need to be confirmed.

Now that Hammer is onboard Death on the Nile, the project will continue to move forward with a spring 2019 start date in mind. Christie’s book featured an additional 14 characters that mysteriously start to die one by one as the killer’s identity attempts to be uncovered. It is unclear if Green and Branagh plan to utilize this large of a cast for their adaptation, but they did have nine main cast members last time, and sequels do tend to go bigger. However many more characters they include, Hammer and Gadot are just the first of many that will join Death on the Nile, and it’s already in good position securing these two major stars.

MORE: Kenneth Branagh Wants an Agatha Christie Movie Universe

Source: Deadline



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2018-10-03 01:10:58 – Cooper Hood