Saturday, February 25, 2017

Movie Review: Monster High: Frights, Camera, Action!

Monster High: Frights, Camera, Action!
Mattel Entertainment, Playground Productions, USA, 2014.
Monster High: Frights, Camera, Action!

Romantic drama movie about Vampire Queen starring Veronica van Vamp is running in boovie theaters. Draculaura is annoyed by the inaccuracies of the story and makes no effort hiding her displeasement. Hauntlywood got it all wrong! There hasn't been a real Vampire Queen for 400 years. Lord Stoker (!) has been trying to find the new Queen using magic jewel Vampire's Heart. But as he is the temporary leader he has little motivation to find the real Queen so that's where the bottleneck lies. The Vamp-bassadors give one week to find the Queen or else.
Draculaura is annoyed
Lord Stoker
Stoker plans to find a weak vampire that he can control. Dracula's daughter Draculaura doesn't even have vampire powers yet so she is the perfect candidate. Also the Heart is missing so Stoker can use fake jewel to carry out his plot. Draculaura, Clawdeen, Cleo, Robecca travel to Transylvania to prepare for coronation. Clawd has to spend the time without Draculaura so he stays home showing a sad face. Living voodoo doll Hoodude travels to Transylvania as a stowaway offering comic relief. But why do not also Lagoona, Frankie, Ghoulia and Abbey travel there? They stay behind working for school project and offer only back up support when needed. 
Clawd's sadface
It is cool in Castle Dracool
It is understandable that the makers wanted to put new doll characters to spotlight. Abbey and Ghoulia had been used many times as Deusas Ex Machina. Abbey's powerful freezing skills were comparable to Iceman's of the X-Men and Ghoulia's hacking skills had saved the ghoul friends several times (later they are useful also here) and especially Abbey was becoming overly powerful character. Also Lagoona's swimming skills had been useful more than once. Although Frankie Stein has not always been the main character of the stories she has been the main protagonist since beginning and often the world of Monster High has been introduced from her viewpoint. Her electric powers and detachable hand had often been useful savers of the day. So this time they stay on the players' bench and have their own mini-story.
Back up team
So for the remaining characters the problem solving methods are less obvious and make the plot development slightly less predictable although the end results are quite obvious. Clawdeen and Cleo have generally been strong willed characters but without major supernatural powers. Clawdeen perfected her artistic skills in "Scaris: City of Frights" but her strongest monster skill is having a strong sense of smell. "Being a diva is like Cleo's super power" says Draculaura. Cleo is the kind of person who can say "Don't you know who I am" and it has actually an effect. Robecca has appeared often having variable importance foor the stories but her background has remained a mystery and her story gets some new information here preparing the way for the sequel "Freaky Fusion." Draculaura's vampire skills have been never been strong so it was about time to develop her character. 
Gory Fangtell
Another notable character development is that since "Scaris" Toralei is becoming a minor antagonist and more like a comic annoyance. She still has bad attitude but her former function as Draculaura's minor antagonist is largely transferred to Gory Fangtell, who first appeared in "Fright On!" where she was a mean character. Being a background character since that she behaved well, until her mean streak returned in "13 Wishes." Clawdeen's angsty little sister Howleen has grown stronger after events of "13 Wishes" and now she can stand her ground against rivals such as Toralei.

The point is that by now the characters had established themselves, the Monster High world had become larger and the film makers could play with the regular cast of characters (Draculaura, Frankie, Clawdeen, Cleo, Lagoona, Ghoulia and Abbey or Robecca) while introducing new characters and using them in either larger or smaller roles. That's why I'm not happy about some aspects about the 2016 reboot movie "Welcome to Monster High." But we'll return to that later when we reach that episode.
Howleen has more guts now
But back to the plot. Stoker has underestimated Draculaura and her friends. They find out that the Heart is a fake. Stoker's niece and Draculaura's childhood friend Elissabat went missing for some time ago and she knows something about the jewel. So the team travels to Londoom and New Goreleans to find clues. Stoker sends his hunchbacked assistant Ygor to spy on them. Clawdeen's sister script writer Clawdia Wolf joins the team and later also documentary maker Honey Swamp and make-up artist Viperine Gorgon (Deuce's cousin). Everywhere they go they find out that Draculaura's least favourite actress Veronica van Vamp has visited there. Final answers will be found in  Hauntlywood and Draculaura learns that you can't judge a book by the cover.
Honey Swamp and Clawdia Wolf
Viperine Gorgon
This is Draculaura's movie so there is a lot of girly giggling. Take it or leave it. Other than that it is about as good and enjoyable as the Monster High movies get. There are a lot of movie themed puns and the opening titles spoof known hit movies. As a side plot the school is divided to Team Alucard and Team Edweird based on their favourite actors (resembling the Twilight fans debating about Edward vs. Jacob). Tarantino is funnily spoofed in the form of famous and hyperenergetic movie director Scareantino. The story has light joking references to the classic vampire stories that partially inspired the franchise.
Gossip column: notice sulking Heath (back row) as Abbey has a date with a famous actor

There are again three web animation episodes included.

Crime Scream Investigation
Secret admirer sends Cleo a flower. Jealous Deuce hunts the culprit but the truth is weirder than expected.

Games Ghouls Play
Catgirls Meowlady and Purrsephone chase two mice who look like Stuart Little.

Lagoona is suddenly acting weird. I see what allegory they did there.

Rating: Good

Voice actors: Kate Higgins, Salli Saffioti, Debi Derryberry, Marcus Griffin, Jonquil Goode, Karen Strassman, Audu Paden, Evan Smith, Laura Bailey, Cam Clarke, America Young, James Horan, Julie Maddalena, Yeni Alvarez, Erin Fitzgerald, Cindy Robinson, Mark Mercado
Directors: William Lau, Sylvain Blais

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Movie Review: Monster High: 13 Wishes

Monster High: 13 Wishes
Mattel Entertainment, Nerd Corps Entertainment, USA, 2013.

In ancient Middle Eastern country someone has found a magic lantern but she is not happy about it. Genie Gigi tries to stop evil shadow genie Whisp before Whisp can take over the world. Gigi uses magic mirror and both genies get trapped into the lantern. 
Centuries later it is a new semester in Monster High. Clawdeen's little sister Howleen Wolf is bullied in the school. She wants to be popular but her plans always backfire. Boogeyman's daughter Twyla tries to comfort her. While cleaning the attic as punishment for causing trouble Howleen finds the lantern and gets 13 wishes from Gigi. "You have to be careful of what you wish for, because you may achieve it.” would Andy McCoy say.

BTW Howleen's hair style has changed since the previous animations.
Howleen finds the lantern
For comparison this was Howleen in "Why Do Ghouls Fall in Love"
She uses the first wishes to help her friends. But the evil shadow genie starts to whisper to her that she should use the wishes for selfish purposes. Suddenly Howleen is the most popular student in the school and Cleo gets a taste of how it feels to be a nobody. Twyla suspects that there is something evil lurking in the shadows and tries to help Howleen before it is too late.
Deuce and Cleo
Abbey as the President
Heath, Manny and Clawd in distress
Howleen's wishes cause confusion in the school. Abbey is selected for Student Disembodied President and makes the school run more efficiently much to annoyance to other students. Manny, Clawd and Heath try to survive reality stunt show "Die Trying" hosted by Crash Maxxon. Frankie, Clawdeen, Ghoulia and Draculaura get trapped in the lantern wearing fabulous Arabian Nights costumes. They have to find the mirror to stop Whisp's schemes but the palace is full of traps. One by one the students are replaced by evil Gothic versions of themselves and possessed Howleen turns the school into North Korea.
The girls in the palace of Arabian Nights
Evil ghoul friends
It is a notch darker than the previous MH-films, as Howleen has always been one of the more angsty characters in the MH-universe. There is also a bit more action with flying carpet chases and the amusing reality show contest. This tale is a cautionary tale about cult of popularity and youth wanting to be instant celebrities. Not everything that you wish for should become reality and some things require effort and that is what Howleen and the other monsters learn. Nice adventure again, with quite predictable plot but amusing and enjoyable nonetheless.
Crash Maxxon
Weird angler fish shaped map
Gossip column: Skelita seen together with skeleton brace boy
There are again some web episodes included.

Department of Monster Vehicles
Frankie is going to driving test and friends try to coach her.
"Evil Dead" reference spotted.
Royal Pest Sitter
Cleo agrees to babysit Rochelle's furry pet with disastrous results.

Cookie Creeper
The girls bake cookies for fundraiser but the dough comes alive and tries to eat them.

Ever After High Speak Peek
Introduction to MH's spin-off franchise starring fairy tale characters.
It's Piggy!

Rating: Good

Voice actors: Cam Clarke, Erin Fitzgerald, Missi Hale, Cindy Robinson, Marcus Griffin, Julie Maddalena, Salli Saffioti, Jonathan Lipow, Evan Smith, Debi Derryberry, Jonquil Goode, Audu Paden, Kate Higgins, America Young, Laura Bailey, Karen Strassman 
Directors: Steve Sacks, Andrew Duncan, Audu Paden

Monday, February 20, 2017

Movie Review: Monster High: Scaris: City of Frights

Scaris: City of Frights
Mattel Entertainment, Nerd Corps Entertainment, USA, 2013.
Scaris City of Frights

Clawdeen and her ghoul friends arrange a fashion mob that is a success despite Toralei's  pranks. Famous fashion designer Madame Moanatella Ghostier sees a Frighttube video of Clawdeen's show and becomes interested. Madame Ghostier invites Clawdeen to Scaris to be her possible apprentice. 

Rochelle is from Scaris so she can be Clawdeen's guide. Can the other friends other come too? 
Pretty please?
Sure they can.

Also Toralei smuggles herself into the plane being a nuisance for the rest of the trip. The boys stay home longing for the girls. After all Scaris is the most romantic city in the world, so who knows what kind of hunky monsters the girls may meet there. Rochelle Goyle misses her über-romantic boyfriend Garrott who suddenly stopped writing letters to her.
Rochelle's grandma
Toralei is always a meanie
Clawdeen is not the only candidate. There are also Hexican skeleton girl Skelita and Chinese dragon girl Jinafire from Fanghai. Madame Ghostier is a harsh teacher who demands that Clawdeen must give up her unique style if she wants to work for her. But Madame Ghostier has skeletons in the closet. And more skeletons are trying to get sleep in the catacombs under Scaris.
Skelita and Jinafire
Madame Ghostier
Given the fashion context, Clawdeen looks a lot like Tyra Banks
Meanwhile the other girls go shopping and sightseeing famous tourist attractions such as Ogre Dame Cathedral and the Bouvre Museum. Ghoulia tries a career as street musician. Some surprise visitors pop for a visit and finally it is time for the great fashion show.
Ogre Dame Cathedral
Yet I'm playing my accordion
It feels that for this entry the budget was higher, the animation looks more polished. The city of Scaris looks lively with monsterified versions of famous landmarks. The story expands the monster universe and introduces new locations. The franchise seems to ditch the idea of mainly normie populated world, going to full fantasy territory, as the monster towns with familiarly punny names are so abundant all over the world.

From now on the Monster High movies aim to have more epic plots. As the Monster High antagonists have usually been Toralei, members of Van Hellscream- family or some minor comical villains, Madame Ghostier feels more serious than the usual villains. Some of the inspiration seems to come from "Project Runway" fashion contest show. The story has a theme of keeping it real and staying true to your own ideas.
Fun upbeat rock with roll or greatest hits of Himalayan Yak Band?
Fast and furrious
As a bonus adventure there is a short "From Fear to Eternity."
It is time to return home. But Cleo and Draculaura are still shopping and they are going to need more than one suitcase. Due to overbooked flights the Monster Highers have to take separate flights. Clawdeen's living design book gets on the wrong flight that is going to Fangladesh. After some jungle adventures the monsters travel all around the world visiting even Abbey's homeland at Himalayas. The split team revisits also Skull Shores and remeets the Tikis.

It is a fitting comedic bookend for the slightly more serious main story.
Tikis again
Poor Eyeball-guy (whose real  name is Eyera) gets eye inflammation.

Rating: Good

Voice actors: Erin Fitzgerald, Kate Higgins, Ogie Banks, Salli Saffioti, Evan Smith, Debi Derryberry, Audu Paden, Garrett Sander, Laura Bailey, Cam Clarke, Cindy Robinson, America Young, Stephanie Sheh, Julie Maddalena, Jonathan Lipow, Dustin Mckenzie
Directors: Dustin Mckenzie, Andrew Duncan, Audu Paden

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Movie Review: Monster High: Friday Night Frights

Monster High: Friday Night Frights
Mattel Entertainment, Nerd Corps Entertainment, USA, 2012. 

Actually this part should have been watched before "Monster High: Ghouls Rule" but I got some misinformation about the order of the movies. Not that it would matter much except for the introduction of two new characters that appeared also in "Ghouls Rule." 

The boys' team loses the Skultimate RollerMaze contest to Granite City Gargoyles. Deuce Gorgon, Clawd Wolf and Gill Webber are injured and the team loses the school's crest. As the result the school loses their Spirit (literally) and the school begins to crumble. As other schools must have lost their crest at some point of their history it is a mystery why other monster schools have not collapsed. 
Deuce and Gil get treatment
Smart zombie Ghoulia does detective work to find out if the gargoyles cheated. She finds some curious parts that will be useful later. Frankie tries to find new players for the team. The best player is Lagoona but the boys do not want girls in their team despite the fact that one of the best players ever was robot girl Robecca Steam. Now Robecca has been missing for a century. So the girls form their own team. Their team is scorned as surely girls can't be as good players as boys. How absurd! But the girls do not give up easily and decide to try their best. Their first opponents are zombies so that should be an easy win but it isn't. 
New team is formed
Toralei and Rocco
With long teeth Clawd Wolf begins to coach the girls. Ghoulia finds the location of Robecca and the girls reassemble and restart her. However she is still missing some parts so she can not join the team yet. So Clawd and Robecca start coaching the team together with Ghoulia's scientific skills.
Clawd and Robecca begin coaching the team
Draculaura, Rochelle and Operetta
The team starts getting better results. Meanwhile naughty Toralei conspires with the gargoyle team. One gargoyle Rochelle Goyle gets enough and transfers to Monster High joining the team. There is a feeling of great sports festival in the air!
With hard work the team wins the support of the audience
The story teaches kids the importance of team play and that girls can be sports champions too. As the players are newcomers they have to find their style of play. Also the weaker players need help to find their potential. As the contest has quite free rules the players can use their special powers. Abbey uses her freezing powers, Operetta her voice and Cleo just focuses on looking gorgeous. She's a Diva alright. The humour is similarly fun as in the previous films, so no big surprises there. However the plot has some stupid writing and some plot elements just make no sense. The aforementioned crest problem is one. Also Gholia suddenly drops seeking evidence about Granite School's cheating. Also the boys' first hostility against the girls' team is bizarre as the girls have already proved to be tough and athletic in the web series and movies.

Rating: Average

Voice actors: Cam Clarke, Debi Derryberry, Andrew Duncan, Erin Fitzgerald, Kate Higgins, Julie Maddalena, Audu Paden, Cindy Robinson, Salli Saffioti, Ira Singerman, Evan Smith, Laura Bailey, Ogie Banks, America Young  Director: Dustin Mckenzie

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