Some Movie Reviews

Well, the cinema might still be closed here, but I’ve been streaming quite a bit, buying the occasional digital copy of movies, including a was-going-to-be-in-the-theater film that went straight to digital.

“Scoob!”

Originally intended for theatrical release, this is a computer animated reboot of sorts of the sometimes animated, sometimes live action adventures of Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker), Shaggy (Will Forte), Velma (Gina Rodriguez), Daphne (Amanda Seyfried), Fred (Zac Efron), and their “Mystery Machine” van as they try to solve crimes that may or may not involve monsters. In this version we are treated to a brief backstory of how Shaggy and Scooby first met and became friends, then got together with the other kids to start solving mysteries (although updated to be more modern).

What follows brings back not only the Scooby Gang, but several other characters from the Hanna-Barbera animated catalog, including Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg), Captain Caveman (Tracy Morgan), Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs), and some others. The gang has to figure out why the evil villain seems to want Scooby-Doo, and what they can do to stop his nefarious plot with the help of some new friends. As several other Scooby big screen adaptations have gone, this time some of the supernatural events are real and will require the gang to keep their wits about them as they try to get to the bottom of things.

Filled with jokes, pop culture references, and some clever animation, “Scoob!” is an enjoyable romp for kids and grown ups who love Scooby and his friends.

“Shirley”

Based on a novel by Susan Scarf Merrell of the same name, “Shirley” is a fictional look into a portion of the life of famous author Shirley Jackson. The movie concerns itself with a young couple, Rose and Fred Nesmer (Odessa Young and Logan Lerman), coming to stay with Jackson (Elisabeth Moss) and her professor husband Stanley Hyman (Michael Stuhlbarg), after Stanley has offered an assistant position to Fred at his school.

While the young couple was only meant to be with Jackson and Hyman for a short time until they could find their own home, Hyman convinces them to stay on for longer, to help keep the house and look after Jackson while he is at work. For this, he’ll give them free room and board. Taking cues from the real life Jackson and her troubles with agoraphobia and the like, Jackson is initially standoffish, aloof, and rude to her new house guests, Spending days together while the husbands are at work, she and Rose do eventually develop a strange friendship. Jackson starts to write a new tale, taking an interest in an unsolved missing person case that she could expound into a novel. Rose offers her assistance in the endeavor, though not without concerns. With her husband working long hours at the university, Jackson’s odd behavior, and a baby on the way, Rose experiences strange dreams and hallucinations leading to an ever growing paranoia.

I have never read a biography of Jackson, but I have read some of her work. I am a particular fan of her novel “The Haunting of Hill House” and even it’s first movie adaptation “The Haunting” in 1963 (but don’t even get me started on the bizarre Netflix adaptation that only seems to have kept the name). Whether this fictional account of her life is accurate or not, I cannot say.

What I can say is I found the movie entertaining, though I am hard pressed to put it into any one genre. Directed by Josephine Decker, screenplay by Sarah Gubbins, the movie is bolstered with excellent performances by its cast, as well as it’s recreation of early 1960s styles and aesthetics. Is it a fictional biographical film? Yes. Is it a psychological thriller? At times. It kept me entertained, and that’s what matters.

“Child’s Play” (2019)

A reimagining of the 1988 film of the same name, the story still involves an evil doll named Chucky that goes around killing people.

In the original 1998 movie, serial killer Charles is shot by police. He still manages to run away and gets into a building, grabs the nearest toy — a talking Good Guy doll — and performs a voodoo ritual on it to transfer his soul from his dying body into the body of the toy. When the police catch up, they find Charles’ body and figure case closed. Through a series of events, single mom Karen purchases a Good Guy doll for her son Andy, and it happens to be the one Charles’ soul is inhabiting. Chaos ensues.

That plot made more sense then the new story.

We start with a lazy employee at a toy factory. This factory makes smart dolls that connect to all the devices in your house, have artificial intelligence to understand you and your family through speech, and so forth. Think Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, or iPhone’s Siri, but in a robotic doll form. Anyway, lazy employee is lazy, so his boss fires him but tells him to finish his current robot before leaving (who fires someone and then tells them to finish doing the work they didn’t do that got them fired?). Said employee decides to sabotage the one he’s working on by setting it’s options to “disable violence inhibitor” and “disable language inhibitor”, ensuring the doll will be violent and have a potty mouth. I couldn’t help but wonder why these were even configuration choices in the manufacturing process — and wondered if I wasn’t watching an episode of the Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror. As in the original, a single mom (Aubrey Plaza) gets hold of the doll (voiced by Mark Hamill) and unwittingly gives it to her son Andy (Gabriel Bateman) for his birthday.

Whie the explanation of the evil robot might not have made a ton of sense, once the action starts and the doll becomes murderous, the movie goes out of its way to make several of Chucky’s victims horrible people. A philandering father; a creepy pervert who spies on people. Are we supposed to be rooting for the doll? Are we supposed to think these characters are getting their comeuppance?

I suppose it doesn’t matter, because if you couldn’t tell already, I disliked this movie. The main cast does fine in their roles, just without a tremendous lot to work with here. Effects work is decent, and if you’re into gore there is a lot of that in the kills. But from the absurd opening, to the ridiculous and over-the-top conclusion, this movie just didn’t work for me. I’ll just stick to the original.

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