Fright Night (2011) Review

Fright Night (2011)

Directed by Craig Gillespie

Based on Fright Night by Tom Holland

Starring: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, David Tennant, Imogen Poots, Toni Collette

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The plot follows a teenage boy who discovers that his neighbor is actually a vampire, which culminates to a battle between the two.

My Opinion:

I might as well start by pointing out the obvious to anyone who knows me: I prefer the original Fright Night and remakes piss me off. I haven’t actually watched the original in years, though, which is why I’m not going to do a comparison review. But I’ll always be fond of it as, along with A Nightmare On Elm Street, it was my introduction to 80’s slasher-type flicks at a junior high spin the bottle party. Ah, good times!

So, this is indeed yet another completely pointless remake but is it any worse than all the other pointless remakes? I guess it’s probably at the ever-so-slightly better end of things. It at least didn’t completely piss me off & make me want to shout at my TV like that godawful A Nightmare On Elm Street remake. Argh!!! That one actually damaged the franchise & I wish it didn’t exist. This Fright Night is just a bit “so what?”. It’s ultimately forgettable but is luckily different enough from the 1985 film that it hasn’t damaged it in my mind.


These signs seemed extraneous at the time…

The only reason I decided to watch this was to see Anton Yelchin (R.I.P.). I’ve liked Yelchin ever since Charlie Bartlett & was saddened by his untimely death. He was uniquely talented and the absolute perfect choice to play Charley Brewster in Fright Night so I have no complaints there. I also liked Toni Collette as his mother and had no problem with Imogen Poots as Charley’s girlfriend even though she’s too hot for him. But that’s movies for you! The nerdy guys always get the hot girls. Anyway – She’s a cutie & the name Poots never fails to make me giggle. Finally, I loved David Tennant as “vampire hunter” Peter Vincent. He’s my favorite Doctor Who and I found him strangely attractive in his leather pants & eyeliner…


Unfortunately, while the casting of these actors/actresses was spot on, I really disliked Colin Farrell as our main vampire baddie Jerry. I don’t normally like him much anyway but he really didn’t have the charisma or the sexy charming thing going on that I expect from a vampire. As for Christopher Mintz-Plasse, I can see why they chose him as Charley’s nerdy friend Ed but he’s so typecast now that he’s starting to get on my nerves & just ended up an annoying distraction. Massive fail with the casting of these two, which was disappointing as everyone else was so good.

Summary:

Fright Night (2011) is pointless but I suppose it’s not horrible. I’m not stupid, though – I know that younger people don’t like watching older movies so are very unlikely to seek out the original. Therefore, I’m not going to waste my breath (er… fingers?) telling everyone to just watch the 1985 film. If you like Yelchin & think this looks like your type of thing, give it a go. As a standalone film, it’s a fun vampire flick. I’d have liked more humor & it dragged to begin with but it did really pick up once Tennant came into the picture more about halfway through. Tennant & Yelchin are both very good and made a fairly mediocre vampire movie not feel like a complete waste of time. Meh. I’ve seen worse.

My Rating: 6/10

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Exam, Paul Williams Still Alive & The To Do List Movie Reviews

Happy Bank Holiday Monday to those in the UK who won’t be reading this since you’re not at work pretending to work while actually reading blogs! Then I think you Americans have next Monday off? So, since no one will be around the next couple of weeks, I figured it was time to do a few more mini-reviews of movies that I didn’t give enough of a shit about to review when I watched them a year ago. Sounds like fun, right?! 😉 Here we go…

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Exam (2009)

Directed by Stuart Hazeldine

Starring: Adar Beck, Chris Carey, Gemma Chan, Nathalie Cox, John Lloyd Fillingham, Chuk Iwuji, Luke Mably, Pollyanna McIntosh, Jimi Mistry, Colin Salmon

My Opinion:

Exam is the best of these three movies, which doesn’t say much for the other two. I’ll say that Exam had a brilliant concept and I did appreciate that. It started out pretty great but got too far-fetched & silly by the end, which was disappointing since it had a lot of potential. I’m feeling lazy today so I’ll let Wikipedia give you the set-up:

The film is set in present-time United Kingdom in an alternate history. Eight candidates dress for what appears to be an employment assessment exam; they enter a room and sit down at individual desks. Each desk contains a question paper with the word “candidate”, followed by a number, from one to eight. The Invigilator, a representative of the company named DATAPREV, explains that the exam is 80 minutes and consists of only one question, but there are three rules: they must not talk to the Invigilator or the armed guard at the door, spoil their paper, or leave the room. If they do, they will be disqualified.

That sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? And it is – it’s why I watched this movie. And it gets even more interesting when the exam starts and the candidates discover the one question. The state of the world in this alternate history, which we learn a little about as the movie progresses, does help to explain the lengths that these eight candidates are willing to go to in order to get this job. But not quite… As to be expected, there are a couple of pricks who you’re meant to immediately dislike but none of the characters are very well developed and you don’t care enough about any of them to really care who will get the job at the end.

Had the characters been better instead of so one-dimensional and had the story been less far-fetched by the end, I’d have liked this one a lot more. I did really enjoy the mystery involved with the whole thing. It was fun seeing the candidates trying various ways to figure out what the hell was going on with the bizarre exam. In a world (shit, did I just use the “in a world” phrase?) where times are desperate, as in the story’s alternate history, you can almost believe that these candidates will do anything to get this very important job. However, the movie doesn’t manage to make us believe that “this could really happen”, which sucks as I think it could. Exam reminded me a lot of The Purge, which is another movie that I thought had a brilliant concept & so many ideas to be explored but never were. Like The Purge, Exam feels like a wasted opportunity (although I really liked The Purge and find myself always sticking up for it).

Don’t let my negativity discourage you if you like the sound of this movie. I think I may just be too picky in always expecting movies to have some deeper sort of meaning. If you don’t think about it too hard & are able to suspend disbelief, you may get some enjoyment out of Exam.

My Rating: 6/10

Paul Williams Still Alive (2011)

Directed by Stephen Kessler

Starring: Well, mainly just Paul Williams, his wife, and the director but there’s plenty of old footage with famous celebrities to watch. 

My Opinion:

What a shitty documentary. Hell, I think I could make a better documentary. The trouble isn’t the subject as I think Paul Williams is fascinating enough to make for an interesting documentary. But god the director, Stephen Kessler, is annoying! This reminded me a bit of the John Hughes documentary, Don’t You Forget About Me (which I reviewed HERE). In both films, the makers almost feel more like stalkers than like proper filmmakers.

I’ll say that Paul Williams comes across a bit grumpy in the documentary but that’s probably understandable as the director pretty much spends the whole film talking about how Paul Williams used to be a pretty big star but now he’s nothing (which isn’t true at all, especially since Daft Punk soon after declared their love for him & worked with him on their amazing Random Access Memories album). It’s ridiculous as Paul Williams has had a longer and FAR more successful career than Kessler (his only other movie you’ll have heard of is the crappy National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation).

As for Paul Williams, I know some people here probably know nothing about him although you may recognize his face. He was (well, still is) mainly a singer-songwriter but also an actor whose most famous work was in the Seventies. He wrote songs for people such as Barbara Streisand (Evergreen) and The Carpenters (We’ve Only Just Begun & Rainy Days And Mondays). Perhaps his most famous song, though, is The Rainbow Connection from The Muppet Movie (it’s certainly my favorite & in my list of My Top Ten Happy Songs). He was also in Smokey And The Bandit and the spectacularly mad Brian De Palma film Phantom Of The Paradise, which I reviewed HERE. Williams plays an evil record executive in Phantom, which is a mental “horror musical” that I enjoyed so much that I decided to watch this documentary soon after. Bah! Rubbish. Watch Phantom instead.

It’s hard to know what to rate this as it IS worth checking out if you’re interested in Paul Williams and don’t know much about him. There are plenty of old clips with lots of famous celebrities & the film is almost worth watching for that alone. Don’t expect the most in-depth documentary ever, though, and be prepared to feel as annoyed by the director as Williams sometimes clearly is. I’m glad I watched it but would like to see a better documentary about Paul Williams.

My Rating: 6/10

(okay rating more for the fact that Williams is an interesting character than for the quality of the documentary)

The To Do List (2013)

Directed by Maggie Carey

Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Rachel Bilson, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader, Alia Shawkat, Sarah Steele, Andy Samberg, Scott Porter, Connie Britton

My Opinion:

How can a totally filthy sex comedy be so BORING and completely unfunny in any way? What a load of shit.

I’m thinking that maybe I truly don’t like Aubrey Plaza. I don’t have much experience with her (she’s in that Parks & Recreation thing, right? Never seen it). I didn’t mind her in the slightly pretentious Safety Not Guaranteed but then she mostly just got on my nerves in the disappointing Life After Beth. Well, I’d have to say I pretty much hated her in this. I don’t know if that’s entirely her fault, though, as I can’t say I liked anyone in this plus the movie is just plain bad. I honestly can’t think of a less funny “comedy” that I’ve seen in recent years. It’s almost as bad as a Jason Friedberg/Aaron Seltzer “parody” movie.

(Just go play with yourself instead of watching this movie – you’ll have way more fun)

So, in this movie, perfect student Plaza decides she wants to lose her virginity & do every sexual thing that she can before heading off to college. Or something like that – I don’t remember much of this movie now. Anyway, here’s her sexual “to do” list:

I wouldn’t call myself a prude so my issues with the movie have nothing at all to do with the subject matter. I do enjoy the occasional sex comedy. But what I require is for them to actually be funny. I mean, WTF is this shit?:

Aubrey Plaza’s character is beyond annoying in this movie & I can’t imagine anyone wanting to do any of the things on that above “to do list” with her. The only funny thing, looking at that list, is how it says “British?” next to “teabagging“. lol. Okay – that’s kind of funny. But the rest of this movie is NOT. This movie can go do all of the above things to itself. Yeah… Go fuck yourself, movie!

My Rating: 3/10

Now here’s the rather epic, totally 70’s prog rock-y Touch, Paul Williams’ song with Daft Punk on Random Access Memories:

How To Train Your Dragon 2 (2014) Review

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How To Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

Directed by Dean DeBlois

Starring Voice Actors:
Jay Baruchel
Cate Blanchett
Gerard Butler
Craig Ferguson
America Ferrera
Jonah Hill
Christopher Mintz-Plasse
T.J. Miller
Kristen Wiig
Djimon Hounsou
Kit Harington

Production company: DreamWorks Animation

Running time: 102 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film takes place five years after the first film, featuring Hiccup and his friends as young adults. Hiccup discovers a larger conflict brewing between humans and dragons and he finds himself at the center of it.

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My Opinion:

Yesterday, Cara from Silver Screen Serenade reviewed the first How To Train Your Dragon HERE for my IMDB Top 250 Challenge. Thanks again, Cara! (You can also read her review of the sequel HERE. She’s a big fan of these films). 🙂

I enjoyed the first How To Train Your Dragon. I say it way too often and everyone is probably sick of hearing it but I’m a huge Disney and especially Pixar fan and feel that kids films from other studios (such as DreamWorks) never come close to how amazing most of those are for kids as well as for adults. It’s kind of the same with HTTYD 1 & 2 although I do think they’re certainly two of the strongest movies from DreamWorks.

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I won’t get too wordy as I think Cara has done better reviews but I’ll kind of try to review it for those with kids as well as give my own personal opinion. The sequel is pretty dark – both movies are aimed at a higher age than most of the Disney/Pixar stuff anyway but there are a couple things in the sequel that may be upsetting to younger kids. There’s a sad thing that may be very confusing to them & need explaining and there’s one very big, mean dragon that will probably frighten some. As always, it depends on each individual kid (I saw this with a five-year-old who rarely gets scared by a movie and even this one didn’t seem to bother this kid in the slightest). If your kid is very young and easily upset by movies, it’s probably best to wait a couple years on this one.

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One thing I really liked about the sequel was that there are LOADS of dragons compared to the first one. They’re colorful and it was really quite lovely seeing them all flying around. I also really liked there being much more development of the relationship between Hiccup & his father – this was probably the best thing about the movie. There’s also just as much going on in this one between Hiccup and Toothless, who is possibly even more adorable at first in the sequel and has a lot to do later in the film. The addition of a new character worked really well too, I thought. It’s a shame that Astrid and the other kids (well, they’re 20 now) didn’t have as much screen time as I’d have liked (especially Astrid as I think she’s a great female character in a movie aimed more at boys) but they are still in it plenty so I’m not really complaining.

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I think I must not have paid close attention to the first movie as, for half of this one, I thought the twins that look like Nelson (showing my age!) were both boys. The girl twin lusts after strong, manly men in this one and I honestly thought “Wow, that’s pretty cool that a kids film is brave enough to have an openly gay character. Bravo!”. With the Hiccup leg thing as well, I was thinking that DreamWorks are really doing a good job showing kids that there are lots of different types of people and that we’re all equal and all that. Lol! I’m an idiot. Well, maybe it’ll happen someday. And, hey – Kristen Wiig sounds like a boy. Here’s Nelson for you kids under 35:

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See??

Hopefully they get along better than these two:

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I’ll wrap this up now that I’ve admitted to being an idiot.

Summary:

How To Train Your Dragon 2 is a very strong sequel and they’re both two of the better (and possibly the best) DreamWorks movies. It’s much darker than the first, however, and younger kids may find a few things confusing and scary. For a kids film, the story gets a little complicated toward the end and I think the simpler story in the first one worked better, especially how it came full circle with what happens to both Toothless & Hiccup. It’s still a good sequel, however, and I liked seeing much more character development for the main characters as well as loads more dragons. Definitely recommended if you’re a fan of the first film but be cautious with younger kids as I think one upsetting scene will be quite difficult to explain to them.

My Rating: 7/10

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How To Train Your Dragon (2010) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Cara of Silver Screen Serenade. She also reviewed Fargo HERE. Thanks for the reviews, Cara! 🙂 Now let’s see what she has to say about How To Train Your Dragon, IMDB rank 166 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

How to Train Your Dragon (2010) IMDB Top 250

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This movie…THIS MOVIE. Oh my God. I’m a little obsessed.

How to Train Your Dragon was one of those movies that came out, and I thought, “Huh. That looks kind of cute. I guess I’ll check it out.” So I went to the movie theater…and it blew my mind. I saw it twice, and I have been watching it over and over on DVD ever since I got it. When HTTYD popped up on Miss Mutant’s IMDb Top 250 Challenge, I was all over it. So here I am. Let’s do this.

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

Directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders

Starring:

Jay Baruchel
Gerard Butler
Craig Ferguson
America Ferrera
Jonah Hill
Christopher Mintz-Plasse
T.J. Miller
Kristen Wiig

Music by John Powell

Running time: 98 minutes

Plot synopsis: (via IMDb)

A hapless young Viking who aspires to hunt dragons becomes the unlikely friend of a young dragon himself, and learns there may be more to the creatures than he assumed.

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What I liked:

 

  • Gees where to begin? How about the entire freaking voice cast? Jay Baruchel is perfect as misfit Hiccup; he’s sarcastic and funny and lovable all at once. Gerard Butler just…is Stoick, and it’s so wonderful to hear him with his natural Scottish accent. Same for Craig Ferguson as Gobber—love his accent. Plus, he’s just hilarious. Add in the voice talents of America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, and T.J. Miller, and it’s quite a cast.
  • Oh! And did I mention David Tennant? Because David Tennant (a.k.a. the Tenth Doctor, for my fellow Whovians) tooootally has little fill-in lines for this! Apparently he voices the audiobooks for the series this film is based on, so they brought him on for this, too. Neat, right?
  • Can I just say in general that I love this premise? Due credit to Cressida Cowell for that—she is the mastermind behind the books. I think bringing Vikings and dragons together is not only a lot of fun, but very visually interesting, too.
  • The humor in this film is spot-on. It may lean toward appealing to the kiddies, but there are plenty of laughs to be had for grown-ups as well, which makes it an excellent candidate for family movie nights.
  • TOOTHLESS THE DRAGON. He is adorable and hilarious, and he will absolutely warm your heart. The relationship he develops with Hiccup is too wonderful for words. Imagine the best human-animal relationship you can think of and multiple it by a thousand. I mean, that scene where Hiccup reaches out and touches Toothless for the first time…PERFECT.
  • There’s an absolutely gorgeous scene where Toothless flies through the clouds with Hiccup and Astrid. Love it.
  • The end of this film is sheer perfection. There’s a dramatic final fight, a very touching moment, and then just joy. I won’t ruin it if you haven’t seen it, but I will say this: Hiccup and Toothless were made for each other (*sniffle*).
  • There’s a nice lesson to be learned here about being your own person—even if that means going against the grain. Hiccup has a tough time convincing his fellow Vikings about a few things, but he knows what’s right, and he stands by that. The little guy is an excellent role model.

 

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What I didn’t like:

 

  • Though the little romantic thing between Hiccup and Astrid is cute, it’s kind of unnecessary—the relationship we really care about is Hiccup and Toothless. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to see Hiccup get the awesome dragon bestie and the girl, but it simply becomes a subplot that is barely touched (heck, it’s hardly addressed in the sequel either).
  • I do love the supporting Viking kids, but does anybody else find it weird that none of them have the thick Scottish accents that all the adults have? It’s a minor qualm, and I’m sure this was done to set the kid characters apart from the adults (and maybe to make them more relatable to American kiddies), but still…
  • I wouldn’t mind spending more time getting to know some of the types of dragons. Some of them have weird rules—like having limited fire, needing two heads to start a fire, having to report to an alpha dragon, etc.—and some don’t. I think the film does a good job covering most of this, but there are a few questions here and there.
  • By the end of this film, you will want a dragon. Like, a lot. I struggled with this for a long time. And after seeing the sequel, I am struggling with it all over again.

 

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Summary: My issues with this film are very, very minor. I’ve already made it abundantly clear, I’m sure, but I’ll say it anyway: I adore How to Train Your Dragon. It’s one of the most creative, touching, humorous, and adorable animated films I have ever seen. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’m going to be super bossy and tell you to go watch it RIGHT NOW—RIGHT NOW, I say!

My Rating: 9.5/10 (An A, maybe even an A+ on my rating system!)

Thanks, Mutant, for letting me geek about this film! Also, I’m sorry for so much geeking about this film. 😉

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**Note from Cinema Parrot Disco:

Cara also reviewed How To Train Your Dragon 2 over on her blog. You can read her review HERE. Plus, if you’re interested, I’ve just seen the sequel as well and will also be reviewing it HERE tomorrow. 🙂

ParaNorman (2012) Review for Halloween Horror Fest

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ParaNorman (2012)

Directed by Sam Fell & Chris Butler

Starring Voice Actors:
Kodi Smit-McPhee
Jodelle Ferland
Tucker Albrizzi
Anna Kendrick
Casey Affleck
Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Leslie Mann
Jeff Garlin
Bernard Hill
Elaine Stritch
Tempestt Bledsoe
John Goodman
Alex Borstein

Studio: Laika

Distributed by: Focus Features
Universal Pictures (International)

Running time: 92 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
Norman Babcock is able to see & speak with the dead. No one, including his family, believes him and he’s ridiculed & bullied at school. But it’s soon up to Norman to save his town from an old witch’s curse.

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This is my second review for my Halloween Horror Fest. I first reviewed From Beyond (which was pretty messed up). I liked the sound of ParaNorman after reading Abbi’s review at Where The Wild Things Are HERE. She liked it okay so I figured it must be good as she’s not a huge fan of this sort of kids’ stuff usually. 🙂

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My Opinion:

ParaNorman was a pleasant surprise. I really enjoyed it! This is from the same studio that made Coraline, which I fell asleep in the middle of in 2009 and haven’t yet bothered to finish. I know that was more highly rated & looked great but I really didn’t find it any fun to watch. ParaNorman is fun & a few things actually made me laugh (I’m not a “laugh out loud” person).

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Norman can see all of the dead people in his small town of Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts, including his own grandmother (who lives in Norman’s living room & watches zombie movies with him). His father doesn’t believe him and wants him to start acting “normal”. His sister and his schoolmates think he’s a freak. One day an overweight bullied boy named Neil Downe befriends Norman after he sees him being bullied as well. I loved Neil! He’s a typical dorky chubby kid in a movie but he’s so sweet & funny that you can’t help but like him. He’s the first one to believe Norman & thinks it’s really cool that he can talk to the dead (As he says to Norman: “Can you see my dog, Bub? He was hit by an animal rescue van. Tragic and ironic.”). Ha! Well, it was funny in the movie.

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I think what makes this film better than a lot of other kids’ films (Other than Pixar. Sorry – Nothing beats Pixar!) is the fact that it’s aimed at a higher age so a lot of the jokes and references are “older” and will also be funny to the adults watching it. I’m not talking anything risqué (I don’t think that has a place in a kids’ film) but things such as a great reference to Halloween (the movie, not the holiday). Loved that! And a Friday The 13th gag that was pretty damn funny too.

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And speaking of that, it was great that this film has a clear love of old scary movies (traditional stuff – zombies, witches, etc). Norman’s room is full of classic movie monster toys, posters, a cool alarm clock, etc. It reminds me how little I’ve watched the old horror classics (Vincent Price, Hammer Horror, that kind of stuff…). It gives this film a great “Halloween” feel (the holiday, not the movie). This movie actually reminded me a bit of the 1986 Amazing Stories episode called “Go To The Head Of The Class”. I used to watch that EVERY October but had sort of forgotten about it until Norman made me think of the teenage boy in that (Scott Coffey), who is obsessed with classic horror films & agrees to perform some black magic on his mean old teacher (Christopher Lloyd) to impress a girl (Mary Stuart Masterson). Oh man – I want to watch that again. It’s been years! Hell – I’ll watch it and do a mini review later. Let’s finish talking about ParaNorman instead…

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Summary:

ParaNorman is a great family film for the slightly older kids (maybe 8 or 9 and up but don’t quote me on that in case your 8-year-old is traumatized) that the adults will enjoy as well thanks to some genuinely funny stuff and references to horror classics. There’s still a “moral to the story” for the kids but it’s not a Disney-style one that’ll make the adults gag – It’s actually a good one for pre-teens. A pleasant surprise and a fun watch for this adult.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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Sorry – that review was even more rubbish than usual because I’ve just realized that if I’m going to manage this Horror Fest I’ve planned, I’m going to have to post one review every day until Halloween now. Argh! So they’ll be written quickly…

Oh – Here’s another ParaNorman quote that made me giggle like an 11-year-old boy:

Mr. Prenderghast: [hiding behind statue] Psst!
Neil: [whispers to Norman] I think that statue just pissed at us.

Hahaha! I loved Neil. I’m immature…