Tag Archives: Adam Sandler

ParaNorman, Hotel Transylvania, Frankenweeknie

Guest review by Tommy “Slug” Togath, age 14

There’s been a wave of animated monster movies in the past few weeks. Two stop-motion and one CGI movie have been released. Does this signify a trend, or is it just a coincidence? I don’t know, but all three movies are entertaining and explore different aspects of monster stories.

ParaNorman (2012)
Written by Chris Butler; directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This movie is from the makers of the wonderful movie Coraline (adapted from a book by Neil Gaiman). ParaNorman is an original story about a boy named Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who can see and talk to ghosts. No one takes him seriously, and as a result his classmates tease him to the point of bullying. When a group of ghosts start terrorizing the town, it’s up to Norman to save the day.

ParaNorman is an entertaining movie, but probably not a movie that will stand the test of time. The stop-motion animation is better than in Coraline, with scenes containing multiple characters moving at the same time. The story, however, is kind of forgettable. The best part of the movie was when Norman had to contend with the body of his teacher who dies. It was one of the funniest and grossest scenes in a movie I’ve seen. I also liked when Norman talked to his dead grandmother.

The overall moral of the story is that everyone is different, and that bullying is bad whether it’s directed towards the living or the dead. It was a bit heavy-handed, but a valuable lesson anyway.

Hotel Transylvania (2012)
Story by Todd Durham and Dan Hageman & Kevin Hageman; screenplay by Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel; directed by Genndy Tartakovsky

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked the setup for this movie. Count Dracula (Adam Sandler) builds a hotel in a remote and well protected forest so that his monster friends have a safe place to take their vacations without interference from evil humans. Dracula has a daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), who is about to have her 118th birthday party with all the monsters in attendance. A teenage boy named Jonathan (Andy Samberg) stumbles upon the hotel and Dracula has to disguise the boy to prevent his guests from panicking. Of course, Mavis and Jonathan fall in love, complicating Dracula’s efforts.

Hotel Transylvania is a funny, slapstick CGI movie. I wouldn’t mind seeing it again. Much of the credit goes to director Genndy Tartakovsky who created two of my favorite TV cartoons, Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack. Apparently, the movie was in development for many years with various writers and directors, but it was Tartakovsky who basically rescued it with his action-packed style.

The whole movie was funny, and I enjoyed seeing a lot of different monsters, although most of them didn’t get much screen time. The best part of the movie was at the end when Dracula finally realizes that humans aren’t as evil as he thinks. The message is that it’s ok to be different, and that we all need to accept others who may not look or act the same.

I could easily imagine that Hotel Transylvania could be a continuing TV series. There are a lot of potential stories that could be told with different monsters being highlighted. My understanding is that there is already a movie sequel in production.

Frankenweenie (2012)
Screenplay by John August, based on an original idea by Tim Burton and a screenplay by Leonard Ripps; directed by Tim Burton

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this black-and-white, stop-motion parody of the Frankenstein story. I was actually quite captivated by the movie. A boy named Victor (Charlie Tahan) doesn’t have many friends, except his faithful dog Sparky. After Sparky gets run over by a car, Victor decides to bring him back to life using electricity that he learned about in science class. When Victor’s classmates discover what he has done, they try to steal his idea for the upcoming science fair, creating chaos.

I haven’t seen very many Tim Burton movies. One of the movies he made a long time ago was The Nightmare Before Christmas, using the same kind of stop-motion animation. Some of my friends really liked this movie, but I didn’t like all the singing. Alice in Wonderland was only so-so. Frankenweenie is definitely better than those two movies, and I am now motivated to see some of Burton’s other movies.

I could really relate to Victor. I am kind of a science nerd, so I could appreciate him not having many friends. I also have a dog that I love, and I would be heartbroken if he died in an accident like Sparky. The best part of the movie was Victor’s science teacher (Martin Landau). He was kind of creepy and funny at the same time. I really liked when he said that science itself is neither good nor evil, but could be used for good or evil. Science is just a process of learning the facts about the world and the universe around us. I was disappointed that the science teacher did not have a bigger part in the movie. I also thought Sparky was a cool character. He was smart and cute, and acted like a real dog most of the time.

I didn’t come away from Frankenweenie thinking that there was a strong message, other than don’t experiment on your dead dog without permission. But overall, I liked Frankenweenie the most of these three monster movies. The production values were excellent, the story was funny, and I think that it’s a movie that I will understand more when I am older. There were a lot of references to old movies that I didn’t get.

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The Upcoming Year in Movies

2012 looks to be an amazing year for science fiction and animated movies. What will be the hits? Here are some of my predictions, but I’m sure there will be plenty of surprises in store.

January

Fullmetal Alchemist : The Sacred Star of Milos – This feature-length sequel to the hit anime series looks like it will take place somewhere in the middle of the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood storyline. The release is limited, but hopefully it will come to a theater near you. Click here for U.S. theater/Canadian theater listings in your area.

February

Chronicle – The movie dead zone of February starts with this story of high school students who gain superpowers. Go watch reruns of Heroes instead.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island – The February movie wasteland continues with an inane adaptation that would make Jules Verne weep.

Star Wars Episode I — The Phantom Menace 3-D – will George Lucas ever stop tinkering with his movies? And nothing could add dimension to the flat characters of Episode I.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance – a sequel nobody but Nicolas Cage demanded.

The Secret World of Arrietty – from Studio Ghibli, an adaptation co-written by Hayao Miyazaki (but, alas, not directed by him) of The Borrowers by Mary Norton. The trailer looks great; let’s hope the movie is, too.

Dr. Suess’ The Lorax – finally, an animated adaptation of a Dr. Seuss book that looks like it will be true to its source and actually be funny.

March

John Carter – a live action adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Mars series by writer/director Andrew Stanton (WALL·E, Finding Nemo) starring a bunch of unknowns. With a screenplay co-written by Michael Chabon, I have high hopes that Stanton will bring his animation magic to this project, just as Brad Bird did with 2011’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.

Mirror Mirror – the first of two retellings of the Snow White fairy tale, this one staring Julia Roberts and Sean Bean.

The Hunger Games – will this be a juggernaut franchise like Harry Potter or a flop like The Golden Compass? A lot is riding on this film, and all signs point to it coming through.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits – Peter Lord (Chicken Run) of Aardman Animations seemingly can do no wrong, and the trailer is hilarious. I have high expectations for this animated film.

Wrath of the Titans – Another underwhelming special-effects laden quest of Perseus doing the gods’ bidding.

April

Iron Sky – You had me at “Nazi lunar base.” This indie will premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in April. Let’s hope it makes it to the U.S. soon thereafter.

Extracted – Sasha Roiz (Caprica, Warehouse 13, Grimm) stars as a brilliant engineer who invents a device that enables him to enter another’s mind. While testing it on a convict, he gets trapped and must race the clock to find a way out. Debuting at the Austin South by Southwest Festival, this indie could be one to watch for.

May

The Avengers – Joss Whedon’s take on the iconic Marvel team is the dream movie for comic book fans. I’m not a big fan of Whedon, and my concern is that he won’t be able to corral the egos of his large cast of stars, and the film will veer off into incomprehensibility. Nevertheless, this movie should deliver blockbuster numbers, no matter how good or bad it is.

Dark Shadows – Tim Burton and Johnny Depp team up once again to revive the 1960’s soap opera about Barnabas Collins and his wacky household of vampires and ghouls. I expect campy fun.

Men in Black 3 – another sequel nobody clamored for, but Will Smith will put butts in seats.

Dorothy of OZ – I saw a preview of this animated musical at San Diego Comic-Con last year, and it looked HORR! I! BLE! Why or why can’t someone just make a successful, straight adaptation of the marvelous source material?

Battleship – very loosely based on the popular board game (coming soon: Candy Land, I kid you not), the trailer is just a mess and a half—lots of explosions and women in bikinis. And it will make a ton of money.

June

Snow White and the Huntsman – the second Snow White adaptation; this one a bit edgier than the first.

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted – I have to admit that the first two in the series were lighthearted fun, and I don’t expect them to deviate from the formula.

Prometheus – Ridley Scott’s triumphant return to science fiction as co-written by Lost’s Damon Lindelof, this will either be astounding or a big, fat mess. No one seems to know whether this is a prequel to Alien or whether it morphed into something else during filming, but the trailer definitely makes me want to see it.

Jack the Giant Killer – another fairy tale retold, this time “Jack and the Beanstalk” as directed by Bryan Singer.

Brave – Pixar’s big release of 2012, their first starring a female protagonist. The trailer looks amazing, and I expect this will be the animated feature to beat at next year’s Oscars.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – cheesy fun from producer Tim Burton.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation – stars Bruce Willis and Dwayne Johnson should ensure this will be better than the first G.I. Joe movie, but director Jon M. Chu’s background is from the music and dance world (most notably, the Step Up franchise), so it’s hard to imagine it will be much better.

July

The Amazing Spider-Man – July will be the battle of the titans: Spider-Man vs. Batman. This reboot of Spider-Man will hopefully reinvigorate the franchise, but I think it will be overshadowed by…

The Dark Knight Rises – Christopher Nolan’s final entry into the dark world of Batman. Will Nolan be able to pull off a tour de force without a force of nature like Heath Ledger? Most likely it will be an emphatic “yes.” Here is a clever mash-up trailer for the film using footage from Batman: The Animated Series:

Ice Age: Continental Drift – at least we get to laugh at Scrat try to rescue his acorn, regardless of the other dreck that may be in the movie.

August

Total Recall – this new Total Recall will supposedly stick close to the original Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” it’s based on.

ParaNorman – this animated fantasy/horror/comedy from the makers of Coraline could be a sleeper hit.

September

Hotel Transylvania – Director Genndy Tartakovsky (The Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack) animates Adam Sandler as Dracula in this Sony Pictures Animation presentation.

Dredd – Karl Urban stars in a new take on the ultra-violent British comic book. Without Sylvester Stallone to muck it up, it might actually turn out ok. Lena Headey co-stars.

October

Frankenweenie – Tim Burton’s feature-length stop-motion remake of his infamous 1984 short. Will audiences flock to see a black-and-white animated film in 2012? The hip ones will.

November

Wreck-It Ralph – Disney Animation’s big film for 2012 features the voices of John C. Reilly, Jane Lynch, and Jack McBrayer in something to do with video game characters coming to life.

Rise of the Guardians – Dreamworks Animation brings together the voice talents of Hugh Jackman, Jude Law, Chris Pine, and Alec Baldwin in a story that has Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and Jack Frost banding together to fight the Bogeyman.

December

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – the one every fanboy has been waiting for—Peter Jackson’s long delayed adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved children’s book. My only question is whether it will remain true to its source material or whether it will be Lord of the Rings, Part 4. Either way, it should be awesome.

World War Z – based on Max Brooks’ tongue-in-cheek zombie book, this adaptation co-written by J. Michael Straczynski and staring Brad Pitt could be a surprise hit.

Unscheduled

Robot and Frank – A well-reviewed entry at the Sundance Film Festival starring Frank Langella as a burglar who teams up with a robot to commit his crimes. Co-starring James Marsden, Liv Tyler, and Susan Sarandon.

Upside Down – A man searches an alternate universe for a long-lost love from his youth. Stars Kirsten Dunst.

The Prodigies – Warner Bros. Pictures is planning to distribute this French animated superhero movie from 2011 sometime this year; my guess in limited release.