Premise: Clancy, a spacecaster with a malfunctioning multiverse simulator who leaves the comfort of his home to interview beings living in dying worlds.
It’s hard to imagine what TV’s cartoon landscape (outside of Fox’s primetime lineup) would look like today without Cartoon Network’s already-classic Adventure Time. The show may not have been the first cartoon aimed at children that adults could appreciate, but was one of the longest-running and most unique offerings, thanks in no small part to the vision of its creator, Pendleton Ward. Ward left the critically acclaimed show after the fifth season and has now returned on Netflix with The Midnight Gospel, a nuttier, decidedly more adult-friendly version of what he started at Adventure Time. While the two shows share nothing in common beyond a colorful aesthetic, it wouldn’t be a stretch to consider them in the same universe, so to speak. Continue reading →
Premise: One of the sons of Frankenstein finds his father’s monster in a coma and revives him, only to find out he is controlled by Ygor who is bent on revenge.
Son of Frankenstein finds Baron Wolf Von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone) traveling to the village in which his father’s monster wreaked havoc many years after the tragic events transpired. The young baron brings his bride Elsa (Josephine Hutchinson) and son Peter (Donnie Dunagan) to the Frankenstein castle where Wolf is set to collect his inheritance. In the village, the Frankensteins are met with hostility while, in the castle, the Frankenstein patriarch faces off with the heavy shadow of his father’s legacy. Continue reading →
Premise: Hungarian countess Marya Zaleska seeks the aid of a noted psychiatrist, hoping to free herself of a mysterious evil influence.
The Universal Monsters’ second direct sequel, 1936’s Dracula’s Daughter, takes a different approach than Bride of Frankenstein before it. Like Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula’s Daughter begins immediately after the events of its predecessor. However, there is no retconning to be found here. Dracula is dead. Long live Dracula. This sequel examines the fallout of the events of the first film through Van Helsing’s (Edward Van Sloan) interactions with the law and the introduction of Hungarian countess Marya Zaleska (Gloria Holden), who is seemingly possessed by the re-deceased Dracula. Continue reading →
Premise: The juice of a rare Tibetan flower is the only thing that keeps Dr. Glendon from turning into a werewolf during a full moon.
Though it underperformed commercially compared to the success of The Wolf Man six years later, 1935’s Werewolf of London has the distinction of helping to create much of the mythology that is still associated with werewolves today. Prior to the film, transforming into a werewolf involved witchcraft, did not involve a full moon, and bites were not transformative to humans. Thus the legacy of Werewolf of London is indelible even if the film itself is slightly uneven and muddled with too many protagonists. Continue reading →
Premise: Poppy and Branch discover that they are but one of six different Troll tribes scattered over six different lands devoted to six different kinds of music: Funk, Country, Techno, Classical, Pop and Rock. Their world is about to get a lot bigger and a whole lot louder.
Dreamworks Animation made history by adapting to the rapidly changing circumstances of the novel coronavirus and, instead of postponing its release of Trolls World Tour, the studio gambled by making the film the first to forego any kind of theatrical release by dropping it for home viewing on the same day it was scheduled to hit the cinemas. The strategy honestly makes perfect sense for a family-friendly film like this: rather than wrangling the kids, finding a babysitter for the siblings that are too young, shelling out major dollars for marked-up snacks, and all the other hassles associated with taking kids to a movie, families can sit down and watch the film at their own leisure, even having the luxury of pausing for a bathroom break. Just make sure your home internet connection is more reliable than that of yours truly.
As with most animated franchises aimed at a younger audience, the sequel is generally used as an opportunity for world building, and director Walt Dohrn literally makes it his primary objective from the opening minutes. Throughout the film, we’ll meet all manner of trolls, every size, shape, and color of the rainbow (including their signature hair). All trolls are united by their love of music, but separated by their respective genre tastes. The original cast has thankfully all returned here: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, James Corden, and Ron Funches (Dohrn actually steps in and replaces Jeffrey Tambor as the voice of King Peppy, and brings some unexpected energy to his performance). Rachel Bloom makes a meal out of her character, the queen of the rock-n-roll trolls, whose mission is to eliminate all other forms of music and turn every other troll into guitar-shredding, leather-clad rock zombies.
Yes, the theme of Trolls World Tour becomes fairly evident early on, preaching the virtues of individuality and diversity over the drabness of hegemony. I think there was an episode of Doug that had the same message when it was on Nickelodeon. Easily the weakest aspect of this Trolls entry is its script, which takes the path of least resistance at nearly every turn. For instance, you have Timberlake’s Branch, whose character arc here is essentially the same as Poe from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (only here, the director at least remembers his character exists by the end of the film). The climax is literally recycled, beat for beat, from the first film when all color goes out and all hope is lost until the heroes discover the music within.
Dohrn at least deserves some credit, though, for wisely expanding the role of Ron Funches’ Cooper – the only troll that looks less like a person and more like a giraffe. Once his eyes are opened to the wider troll world, he sets out to find out if there are more out there like him. His arc has the most personal stakes, despite the character being a little thinly sketched, though it unfortunately gets cut short to make more room for the main plot.
It may be tired by now to praise a children’s movie as “fun for kids AND adults”, but such a feat is harder to pull of than just throwing in a few jokes – and maybe a visual Mad Max Fury Road reference – specifically targeted at the grown-ups and calling it a day. But with World Tour, you’ll probably find yourself digging a little deeper to find something to hold onto. The original film sneakily turned itself into a fun jukebox musical, mashing together hits both old and new. Here, the musical numbers are so overwhelming, you begin to wonder if more were added to pad out the already thin plot. Yes, the sequences are all animated spectacularly, and the singing is all top-notch, but how many of us were really itching for another cover of “Barracuda”?
It should be mentioned that all of World Tour looks great. The gloomy world of the Bergen’s from the first film is replaced with even more Technicolor vibrancy, as each troll world is given its own distinctive style. Not to mention the character designs of each musical region: the country trolls have gaudy, bouffant-style hair, while the techno trolls are glow-in-the-dark neon. The hilarious “Smooth Jazz Troll” sequence in particular is a visual highlight, bringing to mind a drug trip in a Lisa Frank factory.
Nobody at Dreamworks could have predicted the circumstances surrounding the release of Trolls World Tour. Who knows – maybe a year from now, we’ll hail them as pioneering geniuses. The quarantine has undoubtedly made me hungry for new content aside from the doldrums of Netflix’s typical winter and spring releases. 2016’s Trolls mostly worked because it wasn’t beholden to any particular mythology. With World Tour, it’s fun to explore the wider world, but it needs a better story to justify its existence.
FINAL TAKE: The cast list here is truly insane, but Ozzy Osbourne’s cameo was a personal favorite. Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say that he was definitely not cast against type.
About the Writer: Ben Sears is a life-long Indianapolis resident, husband, and father of two boys, as well as a contributing writer on ObsessiveViewer.com. Aside from watching movies and television, Ben enjoys photography (bensearsphotography.com) and running marathons, but never at the same time. That would be difficult.
Premise: Mary Beth and Priscilla Connolly attempt to cover up a gruesome run-in with a dangerous man. To conceal their crime, the sisters must go deep into the criminal underbelly of their hometown, uncovering the town’s darkest secrets..Continue reading →
Premise: Mary Shelley reveals the main characters of her novel survived: Dr. Frankenstein, goaded by an even madder scientist, builds his monster a mate.
The first direct sequel in the Universal Classic Monsters chronology is also the final one to be helmed by James Whale (after Frankenstein and The Invisible Man). Bride of Frankenstein is replete with themes of creation and destruction amidst subtext involving identity politics, nature vs nurture, and a healthy of dose of homosexual undercurrents thrown in for good measure. The film builds upon what was previously established in Frankenstein by introducing a more menacing mad scientist character and further humanizing Boris Karloff’s monster. It also pays homage to the woman who created the monster and brings some light religious commentary to the forefront as well. Continue reading →
Premise: A scientist finds a way of becoming invisible, but in doing so, he becomes murderously insane.
A man enters an inn, demands privacy, and works tirelessly at mysterious experiments. He’s isolated, agitated, and slowly growing more and more insane. Also, he’s invisible. The Invisible Man is the mind-blowing journey of a man overcome with the conflicting feelings of the power he has gained and the longing to come back to the one he loves. It’s a mad scientist motif that drives a narrative more and more toward an ending that may not be as redemptive or emotionally satisfying as one might expect. With a powerful lead performance by Claude Rains and spectacular visual effects, The Invisible Man leans into its mad scientist’s descent as it leads to a thrilling conclusion. Continue reading →
Premise: A resurrected Egyptian mummy stalks a beautiful woman he believes to be the reincarnation of his lover and bride.
A year after making his mark as the monster in Frankenstein, Boris Karloff cemented his icon status with his portrayal of Imhotep in 1932’s The Mummy. Despite having a plot that is heavily borrowed from Dracula, The Mummy showcases Karloff’s strength and range as an actor behind it. The film also features an exotic Egyptian locale and set design that is noticeably different from the Gothic horror of Dracula or the villages of Frankenstein. More importantly, The Mummy has tense atmosphere and a sense of grandeur to its monster that keeps it from simply being a rip-off of Dracula. Continue reading →
Premise: An obsessed scientist assembles a living being from parts of exhumed corpses.
James Whale’s 1931 adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was released in the same calendar year as Dracula. Together, the two films kicked off the Universal Monsters’ reign in cinemas. While both are similar in their Gothic horror aesthetics, Frankenstein infuses its monster with a science fiction hue to great effect. The scientific and moral concepts at the heart of Frankenstein help enhance the wonderful characterization and tragedy-laden arc of the film’s titular character and his complicated monster. Continue reading →
Premise: The ancient vampire Count Dracula arrives in England and begins to prey upon the virtuous young Mina.
1931’s Dracula, the beginning of the Universal Classic Monster films, is a work of stunning beauty and dread from the outset. The detail in the backdrops of the opening scenes is awe-inspiring and lends to an impressive scale and cinematography that has aged extremely well. Within the first few moments, we’re introduced to Count Dracula and his castle. Giant interior scenes are filled with broken staircases and cobwebs. The set design goes a long way in establishing tone and a sense of danger for every character who crosses Dracula’s path. Continue reading →
Premise: Set in a suburban fantasy world, two teenage elf brothers embark on a quest to discover if there is still magic out there.
At what point should we start worrying about the original storytelling capabilities of Pixar? While the studio remains at the forefront of modern animation and earns plenty of major awards at the end of almost every year, the studio has loaded its docket lately with sequels to its most beloved franchises, some less successful than others. Look through their recent filmography and the last non-sequel put out was all the way back in 2017 with Coco. Go back even further and you won’t find any until 2015, with The Good Dinosaur and Inside Out – a mixed bag, as the former is one of Pixar’s worst, and the latter one of its best. Granted, most of their sequels have been mostly solid (Toy Story 4 was one of my favorite films last year and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature), but the studio’s reliance on existing property could be taken as a troubling sign. Continue reading →
Premise: When Cecilia’s abusive ex takes his own life and leaves her his fortune, she suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of coincidences turn lethal, Cecilia works to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see.
Leigh Whannell’s reimagining of one of Universal’s iconic monsters for the #MeToo era has its highs and lows. The Invisible Man takes the classic monster and makes him into a predatory, controlling, and abusive narcissistic sociopath. It’s a far cry from the mad scientist searching for a cure to his invisibility in the 1933 James Whale film. That’s not a bad thing, however, as Whannell creates a menacing and intrusive villain within the framework of a highly effective thriller. Unfortunately, the film ultimately falters in its depiction of the aftermath of abuse to the point where it becomes a bit reckless in its handling of the material.
Premise: Set in a suburban fantasy world, two teenage elf brothers embark on a quest to discover if there is still magic out there.
In telling the story of two disparate brothers on a time-sensitive quest to temporarily bring their father back to life, Pixar’s Onward recaptures some of the heart and soul of some of the studio’s earliest hits. Onward takes the classic “what if” template that makes Pixar films so magical and creates a charming epic suburban fantasy world plagued by modern technology and consumerism. Though the world building itself is just slightly lacking in the long run, there’s a hefty emotional weight to the story of Ian and Barley Lightfoot that harkens back to some of the studio’s most heartfelt films.
Premise: A teenage girl’s secret love letters are exposed and wreak havoc on her love life.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is Netflix’s charming teen romance film based on the first of Jenny Han’s trilogy of novels. In adapting the story to film, screenwriter Sofia Alvarez and director Susan Johnson pack the ethos of classic John Hughes films into a modern teen world. They do so in an earnest and unironic way that feels refreshing in an age of cynicism and satire. Guided by a pair of very charismatic young stars, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a romantic teen drama you won’t soon forget.
The passion for politics that resides within the kids of Boys State is inspiring. Despite the majority of them holding political ideologies that I adamantly oppose, there's a tinge of hope that permeates through Boys State. In it, we see kids who are passionate about government and passionate about the political process with a fire that most people don […]
Not that funny and pretty disjointed. The fish out of water premise is abandoned for a satirical take on capitalism and the American dream. As a satire, it falls pretty flat. It makes broad swipes at social media mobs and the court of public opinion without having much of anything to say about it beneath its surface level bits.Ben and Herschel are solid enou […]
Loved this movie while I was growing up. It still has its charms, but the pacing is pretty off and the ending doesn't really land in any memorable way. But the comedy with Brendan Fraser's naivete is pretty fun.