Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Moonlight Movie Reviews - Peanuts, Crimson Peak, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, Goosebumps, and What We Do in the Shadows

Time to finally get around to some movie reviews I should have done right away, but as usual, didn't.  You know how busy I get during October, often just trying to get a costume together. Over the past month, I saw 4 films in theaters and one through Amazon. Here are my thoughts on those films. I'm gonna try to keep these short and start with the most recent screening.

So, having grown up with Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang, I was very eager to check out the new, mostly computer animated Peanuts film. It was certainly a new way to see the Peanuts, and I was really curious to see how it would fair without their late creator, Charles Schulz, involved. Naturally, I was there at the Drafthouse on the day it came out. Kicking back with my fave pizza and soaking up the nostalgia. Of course, the film was preceded by the usual Drafthouse preshow goodies...

I think I had that Snoopy's Doghouse toy as a kid! I know I had the windup Snoopy and Woodstock! 

Anyway, yeah, it was a packed house, mostly people with their kids. Oy. And, before the film, there was a Scrat short (the little squirrel from Ice Age) called "Cosmic Scrat-tastrophe". It was highly entertaining. Basically, Scrat comes across a UFO frozen in ice and ends up accidentally riding it into outer space, resulting in basically arranging the planets and stuff. It's pretty amazing, really.

Then, the feature film, "The Peanuts Movie." Charlie Brown is that kid we all remember from the comic strips and animated specials and shows, and 4 theatrical films before. In this film, he occasionally recalls moments from those nostalgic cartoons, but also seems to be experiencing some things (we've seen before) for the first time. For example, the Little Red Haired Girl first moves in, right by Charlie Brown, in fact. Charlie develops that classic crush on her. Snoopy discovers a typewriter and starts concocting a story in which he's a flying ace trying to rescue his love, a poodle named Fifi, from the Red Baron. And, for some reason, Peppermint Patty and Marcy are in the same school and class as Charlie Brown. I could have sworn they went to a different school. I should say right now though, that while I love the Peanuts, I'm no expert on them. I grew up mainly a fan through the holiday specials. I watch the Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's and Easter specials every year. I own the decade DVD sets of specials, so I've since seen their other specials from the 60's and 70's. Unfortunately, further sets were never released. I have the first two movies on DVD, but I only vaguely remember the other two movies and later specials and the moment. I only casually watched the TV series, and let's face it, This Is America, Charlie Brown isn't important (I like it, it's great and very educational, but it's not a continuity thing). I have only read the actual comic strip randomly. So, I'm saying, I don't know if Patty and Marcy eventually move to Chuck's school, or if the strip is different from the animations, or what. Also, I don't know if, in the past, Charlie Brown actually ended up with the Little Red Headed Girl or had any other great successes. I'm used to Charlie Brown being the eternal failure, but who is admirable for never giving up. Getting depressed, yes. Almost or temporarily giving up, yes, but, never fully or permanently. I have always loved Charlie Brown, because I've always felt a great personal connection to Charlie Brown. And, I've had my share of crushes on little red haired girls. And blondes and brunettes, but even right now, there's a little red haired girl at work I have a bit of a crush on. She's an adult, don't get me wrong. Where was I? 

Anyway, that stuff I said before, yeah, that's actually the whole plot of this movie. Charlie has a huge crush, Snoopy imagines battling the Red Baron, oh, and there's the big popularity thing. Yeah, that's a huge part of it. See, Charlie Brown ends up getting the highest score on one of those major tests they make you take in school. You know, one of those scan-tron tests? He gets a perfect score, in fact! This makes everyone think he's a genius, and they all start looking up to him and coming to him for advice, and Charlie Brown all of a sudden is the Teen Wolf of his school! I'm referencing Michael J. Fox Teen Wolf, not that fake one on MTV. So, yeah, Charlie Brown keeps trying to use that to get the Little Red Haired Girl's attention, but he also is struggling to keep living up to the new expectations everyone has for him, which proves super tough. Plus, his efforts to be kind and help his family and friends frequently gets in the way when he's trying to make an impression on his crush. In the end though,... well, I'm not going to give any spoilers, though that might make the rest of this tricky.

Okay, overall, I really enjoyed this movie. The visuals were very impressive. They took a little getting used to, but once I did, they were very pleasant to look at, and very true to the comic strip, which was very nice. They could have screwed that up so badly taking the Peanuts to CGI. The film does a great job honoring the memory of its creator and trying to be true the the Peanuts' long history. The characters all seem to be their old selves, even better than I've seen them in some of the later specials. Snoopy steals all his scenes, as usual, and he is the same as he ever was. I think that's even the same voice actor making his sounds, though I'd have to double check that. I just have a few issues. As often is the case, the few times in the film when they work in some modern pop songs are a bit awkward, almost cringeworthy for us fans of the oldschool Peanuts material. Not as bad as in some films, but, yeah, it's a thing. I'm sure the younger kids love those parts though, and that's who they're in there for. Still, I could have done without that. Would rather have had some original music that was more Peanuts sounding. I can deal with it, but I know some folks who will definitely have a harder time than me, ha. It's a small quibble though. The plot, I mean the whole Little Red Haired Girl crush thing, it's cute, and it's nice that they stuck with something that fit the characters and classic tone rather than inventing some big story with a villain and whatever else. It was very Peanuts. The only issue I had with it was that it was something we've seen before. We all know about the crush on the Little Red Haired Girl. But, I think it's good that I took some time before writing this review. It bugged me at first that they used a plotline that seemed already done before, but looking back on it, it's an important part of the plot, but the bigger issue was Charlie Brown's struggle with confidence and just not feeling like a failure and all that. So, I really don't have an issue with the plot feeling like a rehash anymore. One thing about it will continue to bug me though, as someone who has often felt like the real life Charlie Brown. Okay, I gotta say it, SPOILER ALERT here...

Yeah, SPOILER ALERT, because I'm about to give away something about the ending. Charlie Brown, in the end, has a chat with the Little Red Haired Girl. She has selected him to be her class penpal over the summer, and he wonders why. She then gives Charlie this monologue about why she likes him. It's basically a "nice guys finish first" kind of message. This really irked me, I gotta admit. I can tell you right now, girls do not fall for guys because they're nice. I have 40 years of girlfriendless experience and know a lot of women who will back me up on this. In fact, women are hardwired to reject "nice guy" types. As Sally would say, we're just too wishy-washy. Her words not mine, but a good example of what women really think of nice guys, without ever being willing to take the time to get to know us. So, yeah, I enjoyed this movie very much, all but that end part, though I was still happy for Charlie Brown. Even if I liked the message though, it was given out in a speech manner that made it not one bit subtle, but that aside, I didn't care for the message, because while I totally get that it is nice and the way the world SHOULD work, it doesn't ring true to me at all. Most people will openly admit it's not true too, but sometimes you run into people who are like this movie (especially here in Austin), who try to tell you that life is really like that. Don't pee on my head for 40 years and tell me it's raining. I've been called nice and sweet and every other good word by females in the past, but not a one ever saw me in "that way". Then again, maybe the Little Red Haired Girl just wants to be friends with ol' Chuck too. Maybe she's getting his hopes up. I guess, if I look at it like that, it's not so bad at all. Yeah, that's probably what's going on there.

Overall, I really did like the movie though, and it's getting a lot of critical praise. Hopefully, it will turn a profit when all is said and done (last I checked, it had only made half its budget back, but everyone is praising it). I do highly recommend going to see it. It's mostly an excellent update of a classic American treasure. The main issue I had, admittedly, was a personal one that probably wouldn't bother the average person at all. 

Oh, I almost forgot, the film had a special menu available at the Drafthouse screening I went to. I don't know if these menu additions will be available throughout the film's engagement there, but in case it is, here's an image. The people next to me got the macaroni, and I must admit, it looked pretty tasty. I'm not huge on macaroni, but I did wish I'd given this one a try (maybe with some wings too, ha).

Now, as you probably remember, my friends were in town for Halloween weekend. On Sunday, the day after Halloween, we all went out to the Drafthouse together. They had never been. However, there wasn't much out that I wanted to see which I hadn't already seen, or that they might want to see, aside from "Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension," and they do seem to really enjoy that film series, so that's what we saw.

I can't seem to find any images taken from that evening, so I guess I didn't snap any to avoid looking weird in front of my friends, I really don't know. Anywho, this time, for real, I'm gonna keep the rest of these reviews short. I think this was the 6th Paranormal Activity movie. I actually liked the previous one. I'm not sure I've seen the 4th fully awake. The first three I saw with the same friends I saw this new one with. I remember really liking the third one, though it takes a lot of shit. The second seems to be popular, but I only remember being bored with it. The first I have seen with Rifftrax so many times that I can't remember watching it straight. It was okay, as I recall, but not great. However, I found them all watchable, all having their fun moments. This new one is about a little girl who starts to get possessed, and a doorway to "the ghost dimension" opens up in her room. But, yes, they do tie the story to the original film. There's this demon that haunts the house too, and it looks a lot like Groot made of ink (and evil). There are some cool scenes with it though, and overall, this movie was surprisingly entertaining and fun. Probably moreso than any of the others, because it was more like a movie than the others, but still...  found footage. I admit, I'm a little tired of found footage. However, like I said, this proved to be a pretty fun movie. We all enjoyed it, even my sister, who is probably the most critical of this sort of thing. Everything gets measured up against the classics (and the best of the James Wan stuff). So, yeah, if you enjoyed the previous Paranormal Activity movies, you'll probably enjoy this one.

I had tried to get my sis to go see this next one with me, but I ended up going to see it by my lonesome, ha. Before I get into it, here's a bit from the preshow. Love their Halloween-themed preshow stuff!

So, obviously, this was the "Goosebumps" movie. My family was more of an "Are You Afraid of the Dark" family, but we watched Goosebumps on occasion, and Jack Black is pretty funny, and I just love monster stuff, naturally, especially around Halloween, so I wanted to make it out to see this one (wanted to see Hotel Transylvania 2 as well, but I missed that one). It was about a teenager who moves to a new town (that old chestnut). He ends up discovering that his next door neighbor, using a false name, is actually Goosebumps author R.L. Stine (Jack Black, playing the role as a pretentious author type rather than as an impression of the real Stine). He also learns that Mr. Stine has a gorgeous and really charming daughter. Concerned that the daughter is being mistreated (this is before he discovers her dad's identity), the teenage boy ends up snooping in her house one night with his new sidekick at his... side. They accidentally set a vicious Yeti free from one of Stine's manuscripts. While trying to get the Yeti back in the book (oh, basically, Stine's manuscripts are all magic,... just because), they unleash an evil ventriloquist's dummy bent on revenge. The dummy starts letting all the other monsters out, and it's Jumanji and Zathura all over again, this time with a Goosebumps theme. Not the most original or creative concept in the world, but seriously, it's loads of thrills and fun! The cheesy and flimsy premise gives it a real Goosebumps feel, too. If you enjoyed the old show, you'll probably really get a kick out of this one! Or if you enjoyed Jumanji, Zathura, or any of the Disney Channel movies. It's that kind of stuff, but Jack Black and the lovely Odeya Rush take it from cheesy fun to pretty awesome! Great for Halloween, but if you're like me and like to celebrate Halloween all year round, yeah, this is good anytime!

Now, I mentioned in my last article that I had a bad experience last month that hit me very hard. I won't go into it, because I don't want to upset anyone. But, my sister was very sweet about it and ordered a pizza and rented a movie for me, and this was the movie we watched that night. "What We Do in the Shadows" is a vampire mockumentary comedy from New Zealand. I've been known to refer to it as the "Spinal Tap" of vampire movies. That really is the perfect description. It's billed as being from the creators of "Flight of the Conchords", one of my all time favorite comedy shows, and you'll see some of the cast members in the film. Basically, the documentary crew follows around a group of vampires that share a house in New Zealand. They all have very different personalities, and they are all totally hilarious. This movie is so much fun, seriously! It even tugs at your heartstrings sometimes. But mainly it just has you laughing a lot! If you like "This Is Spinal Tap" and "Flight of the Conchords", you'll like this. I can't recommend it enough. Unless you just don't like that mockumentary style. Admittedly, it's been used a lot for TV shows (The Office, Parks and Rec), and when the Muppets started doing it with their new show, I had to roll my eyes and think, "This format again?" I am still adjusting to it with the Muppets, but it still totally works for feature films, as far as I'm concerned. Love this one! Gotta get it on Blu-Ray sometime.

And, going back to earlier in the month, before my mom went home from her last visit, we all headed out to see "Crimson Peak", a movie we had been anxiously awaiting, simply because a cool, old-fashioned haunted house movie was just what the doctor ordered to ring in the season. Well, we rang in the season already in Florida, but this was our local ringing in of the season. Anywho...

So, the Drafthouse was selling some nice Crimson Peak pint glasses, but we had to pass. We love that the Drafthouse has brought back the tradition of movie tie-in glasses like the old Star Wars ones we used to get from fast food joints back in the 80's, but we also have limited shelf space. We have to pick and choose. We got the Jurassic World glasses and have some Force Awakens glasses coming to us with the tickets we already bought for that premiere, and had they made Peanuts Movie glasses, I probably would have gotten one of those, but we really do have to pick and choose. Wish I hadn't missed the Princess Bride and Back to the Future glasses though! I'm getting way off topic, sorry.

Crimson Peak was very much an old-fashioned ghost story. It started out in America, where a young woman meets a charming British man who is Stateside seeking investors in his drilling venture. After losing her father, she marries the young man and travels to his decrepit old home to start her new life. There, his sister already lives with him, and the strangely red colored clay has a tendency to stain the snow outside a blood red color. Also, there are ghosts. Really freaky looking ghosts.

Crimson peak isn't really the scariest ghost story in the world, but it's very atmospheric and classic feeling. The first act that is set in America had me worried. I didn't care for much of the acting from the rest of the cast, honestly. However, once that cast is killed off or left behind in America, the film really gets good, and has a classic haunted house movie kind of feel to it. The story may be predictable, but the acting (again, once they all move to England) is excellent and the atmosphere is wonderful. If you like moody, creepy, spooky haunted house movies, you'll probably like this. Especially if you're one of these girls who is always squeeing over Loki, he stars as the leading man of the film. Not everyone is satisfied from a viewing of Crimson Peak, but I very much enjoyed it. Don't go into it for the scare, go in for the haunted house atmosphere and an old-fashioned, spooky tale.

And, that's it for now. I guess I rather enjoyed everything I saw this month. I actually went to the Drafthouse a lot in September for a couple of special events I should really write about too, but we'll see. The holidays are sure to keep me very busy, and I"m way overdue in getting some new comic strips out to you guys too. I still wanna write about my Halloween Florida trip though, if you don't mind reading about something Halloweenish this far into November! Ha ha

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