Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Diabolical (2015)


Number Rolled: 59
Movie Name/Year: The Diabolical (2015)
Tagline: Evil is timeless.
Genre: Thriller, Sci-Fi, Horror
Length: 86 minutes
Rating: NR
Production Companies: Campfire
Producer: Jamie Carmichael, Ross M. Dinerstein, Joel Henry, Kevin Iwashina, Andrew Schwarz
Director: Alistair Legrand
Writer: Luke Harvis, Alistair Legrand
Actors: Ali Larter, Arjun Gupta, Max Rose, Chloe Perrin, Merrin Dungey, Patrick Fischler, Kurt Carley, Wilmer Calderon, Laura Margolis, Mark Steger, Tom Wright, Trey Holland, Andrew Varenhorst

Blurb from Netflix: Terrorized by unexplained disturbances and horrific visions in her home, a young widowed mother turns to her scientist boyfriend for help.

Selina’s Point of View:
The people who write the blurbs for Netflix really don’t watch the film do they? The first part of the sentence is spot on. The second part of the sentence makes me face-palm. They didn’t even describe the main character correctly. You’ll see the differences if you watch the movie.

Sorry, had to rant about that.

I found the movie to have good aspects and bad aspects that eventually even out into complete mediocrity.

As a good part, I rather enjoyed the acting in this film. Ali Larter (Pitch, Legends, You’re Not You) did well with her part, Arjun Gupta (The Magicians, Nurse Jackie, HairBrained) was a believable scientist… and even the kid actors, Max Rose (Lost Fare, Secret Summer, Criminal Minds) and Chloe Perrin (Papa, Jurassic World, Reckless), were on point. All the actors did the very best they could with the script that was handed to them.

Arjun Gupta
Unfortunately, the script and the plot were not good. I liked that a couple of well-known tropes were completely dashed in the beginning, but it all went downhill from there. The story became progressively easier to predict and the ending was completely unsatisfying. A different end – with maybe five more minute – would have elevated the film to amazing. The one interesting twist that could have really made this film unique, was never given closure.

I’m not sure who’s at fault. It could be the writers, but it could also have been the editor. It’s possible that the scenes I think the movie needed could have been filmed and then cut from the final product. That shit happens all the time. If that’s the case, then the film editor, Blair Miller (Mr. Right, Scream 4, Quarantine), has a lot to answer for.

The base idea of the movie was so good that I really wanted to like it more. Unfortunately, regardless of who’s to blame, the film failed to deliver anything more than: meh.

Cat’s Point of View:
I was really hoping to like this movie. I’m a fan of Ali Larter (Obsessed, You're Not You, Legends). Pair that with my love of sci-fi, the supernatural, and the horror genre and you should have had a winner.

Ali Larter
That’s right – should have.

The set up here seemed to fit most haunting recipes. The movie’s title implied something sinister going on behind whatever was going to happen to the characters. They tried to flip the script a bit and take the story in an unexpected direction. I have to give them kudos for trying something somewhat original but I don’t think it was executed well enough.

The plot just seemed a bit cobbled together, and I didn’t buy in to the ending.

The kids did a pretty bang up job with their roles, and Larter’s performance was mostly sound. Arjun Gupta (Motherhood, How to Get Away with Murder, French Dirty) was a relative unknown to me. I mostly liked him in this movie but I’m still a bit on the fence.

We’ve had some movies recently that have fed the audience information a tidbit at a time too slowly but surely draw us from a feeling of ‘wtf is going on’ towards the ultimate big reveal. I think they tried to do that with this movie, but weren’t quite so successful.

The majority of the movie had me in supernatural horror zone and there wasn’t enough setup for the rest. It felt like a bit of a smack upside the head rather than the epiphany that I think they were going for. I don’t think they spent enough time with how they tied things together in the last quarter of the movie.

The effects were ok through most of it, but there were points that I got the impression of a hologram or projected image rather than what they were really trying to sell me. I don’t know – maybe that’s what they were really going for.

All in all – I didn’t want to turn it off or anything and I didn’t hate it, but I won’t be watching this again. I’m not sure it would be very high on my list of recommendations, either.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 43%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 17%

Netflix’s Prediction for Selina – 2.5/5
Selina’s Trust-the-Dice Score2.5/5

Netflix’s Prediction for Cat – 2.5/5
Cat’s Trust-the-Dice Score2/5

The Random Rating: R

Movie Trailer: 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Goosebumps (2015)

Number Rolled: 72
Movie Name/Year: Goosebumps (2015)
Tagline: The stories are alive.
Genre: Comedy, Family, Adventure
Length: 103 minutes
Rating: PG
Production Companies: Columbia Pictures, LStar Capital, Original Film, Scholastic Entertainment, Sony Pictures Animation, Village Roadshow Pictures
Producer: Bill Bannerman, Greg Basser, Greg Baxter, Bruce Berman, Deborah Forte, Tania Landau, Neal H. Moritz, Ben Waisbren
Director: Rob Letterman
Writer: Darren Lemke, Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski, R.L. Stine
Actors: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee, Amy Ryan, Jillian Bell, Halston Sage, Steven Krueger, Keith Arthur Bolden, Amanda Lund, Timothy Simons, Ken Marino, Karan Soni, R.L. Stine, Caleb Emery

Blurb from Netflix: A teen is glum about moving to a small town until he falls for his new neighbor. But her dad is a horror writer whose scary world soon turns real.

Selina’s Point of View:
Growing up I think I owned every single Goosebumps book R.L. Stine put out. I loved the entire series. My mom would put me to bed and I would hide under the blankets with a flashlight and read Night of the Living Dummy (1993) or Say Cheese and Die (1992) or The Girl Who Cried Monster (1993). My absolute love of all things horror can probably be traced back to R.L. Stine and Are You Afraid of the Dark (1990-2000).

Last year, when I heard they were putting out a new film, I was super nervous. I wanted to see it in the theaters, but I just couldn’t stand the thought that – if they fucked it up – they could be ruining something I held incredibly dear as a child. It was still #3 on my list of movies to look out for that month… but that didn’t make me any less nervous.

Tonight, I took a deep breath and then hit play on the Netflix app of my Apple TV.

Goosebumps turned out to be everything I could have possibly hoped it would be.

There were some cheesy moments, but even those moments stayed true to the feel of the Goosebumps series. I have no doubt that it exceeded my expectations because the director/writer of this film actually consulted the real life R.L. Stine and took his advice.

The film is based on the book series, but it’s not an adaptation. Instead, it links all the stories into a single universe and becomes a continuation – the next story in the series.

This is one of those movies that you can show your kids, but it’s really made for you – at least if you’re around my age. It’s a film the entire family can watch without anyone tearing their hair out from boredom.

I’ve heard rumors there’s going to be a sequel, and IMDB does have a page that indicates the rumor is more likely true than not.

This time, I will absolutely be seeing the movie in theaters.

I’m going to go rebuy and read some old Goosebumps now.

Cat’s Point of View:
This actually wasn’t my first watch-through of this movie. I had seen it not too long after it was released in theaters. I remembered my general impression of the film, but watching it again was certainly not a loathsome experience. It also was a bonus that I could double check that it was going to be appropriate for my daughter’s upcoming Halloween slumber party.

I loved this movie.

Of course, I expected to really enjoy it.

I have several of R.L Stine’s (When Good Ghouls Go Bad, The Nightmare Room, Mostly Ghostly) books. I watched a bit of the TV series of Goosebumps (1995-1998); and, while not Stine’s work, I was a fan of the Nickelodeon series Are You Afraid of the Dark (1990-2000). Everyone has their own nightmare fuel, though. I know some of Stein’s works stuck with me long after closing the books or turning off the TV.

To give a bit of a further comparison, this was nowhere near the horror and disgusting factor found in another book series of the 80s and early 90s. Do you remember the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (1981-1991) trilogy by the late Alvin Schwartz (Kickle Sniffers and Other Fearsome Critters, All of Our Noses Are Here and Other Noodle Tales, In A Dark Dark Room and Other Scary Stories)? There’s supposedly a movie in the works, but there’s no telling how long it’ll be in development hell.

Back to the movie before I babble forever about my horror book collection.

I actually sat here for a little bit and tried to think of a movie I’ve seen Jack Black (Nacho Libre, The Big Year, The Brink) in that I didn’t like – at least his performance, specifically. I can’t think of any. He’s capable of so many levels of humor as well as a versatile range in other genres beyond the humorous. He’s not afraid of physical comedy, and quite often goes for the over-the-top. His performance in this role as the iconic author was just right - hilarity with pathos.

Dylan Minnette (Saving Grace, Let Me In, Prisoners) was the perfect foil for Black in this film. I loved the deadpan humor of this character, and all of his sarcasm. It wasn’t all laughs, though. I believed his emotional journey. This wasn’t his first trip into the world of R.L. Stine, either. He and another of his cast mates from this movie were also in R.L Stine's The Haunting Hour (2011-2013).

That brings me to Ryan Lee (Super 8, White Rabbit, A Merry Friggin' Christmas). He also appeared in a 2012 episode of R.L Stine's The Haunting Hour. I imagine that gave this duo a bit of a leg up in experience with some of the material already. I loved Lee’s character in this movie. Unfortunately, I must remain mum as to which bits of the film he shined the best in – no spoilers, sorry!

I loved the spirit and sense of adventure with Odeya Rush’s (We Are What We Are, See You in Valhalla, When the Devil Comes) character, Hannah. She was seemingly fearless with just enough vulnerability. I enjoy strong female roles and this one was both poignant and witty as well.

The film has plenty of spooky elements without resorting to gore. It’s fast enough paced and the story is engrossing enough that I didn’t miss it. Lots of laughs and some cool monster effects abound.

I’m looking forward to firing this back up again on Netflix for my daughter’s party, and we’ll likely watch it many more times in the future.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 76%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 63%

Netflix’s Prediction for Selina – 4.5/5
Selina’s Trust-the-Dice Score5/5

Netflix’s Prediction for Cat – 5/5
Cat’s Trust-the-Dice Score5/5

P.S. Artwork during the beginning of the credits. Some spooky sounds near the end of the credits.

Movie Trailer: