by Keith Kilburn
‘Paranorman’ is one of the many kids films that have come out in the last couple of years that has been computer animated, yet gives it the ‘claymation’ look; if you remember ‘James and the giant peach’ or even ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ those are the movies that I am talking about. I had wanted to see this movie (not having children that I could use as an excuse to see it…) since seeing the preview back before it came out, but somehow it was in and out of the theaters before I could manage to catch. Thanks of course to the magic of Netflix, I was finally able to see ‘Paranorman’ and give you my take on the movie.
The setup for the movie is simple enough; a young boy who happens to be into scary movies can see and converse with the ghosts of the dead. As you can imagine Norman (or Paranorman as he is called…) doesn’t have many friends due to his ability and the general fact that people think that he is crazy or some kind of witch, which plays into the tone of the movie. Set in the fictional Massachusetts town of Blithe Hollow the plot revolves around the fact that 300 years before the town elders condemned a witch to die and she cursed the town. Now the town is witch crazy including casinos, stores, witch-themed restaurants and much more; when you see this witch represented in the movie (in the form of a statue in the middle of town square…) she looks like the wicked witch of the west from the ‘Wizard of Oz’. What eventually comes to light as the curse is enacted (causing the dead to rise and walk the Earth…) is that the witch wasn’t some withered old hag looking to bake children, but was instead actually a child herself.
That’s right; the town elders put a child to death as a result of being fearful of her witch powers.
An adult watching this movie will get the fact that it is dealing with themes like ‘being accepted for who you are’, ‘learning to accept others for who they are’, ‘truthfulness’, ‘communication between a child and parent’ and just being able to ‘listen to watch your family has to say…’. Children on the other hand won’t quite get those deeper themes, focusing instead on ‘Paranorman’ being picked on, him getting friends and the antics with the ghosts. It was actually a pretty good movie and had a decent enough message behind it, despite the fact that there were zombies and numerous references to actual horror films (‘Halloween’, ‘Cujo’ and ‘Friday the 13th’ that I saw…) sprinkled throughout the movie.
If you enjoy a decent children’s film from time to time you can sit down and watch this, children could certainly watch it as well although I think anyone younger than eight might be put off by the imagery. My advice would be to check it out ahead of time, just to make sure it is okay for your child.
3 stars out of 5, ‘it must be the season of the witch…’
Star Trek into Darkness (Now in theaters…)
Before I get into this review, let me first warn you that I am going into what movie fans refer to as ‘Spoiler territory’, that is to say that I will speak directly about the plot, themes and secrets of the movie. I will warn you the reader when I plan to do that, but if you continue to read after that, then you will have no one but yourself to blame for whatever you see or learn.
I was never a huge Star Trek fan growing up. The original series predated me by about 10 years so that when I was old enough to watch it all I knew was that they there was some pointy-eared guy living on a space ship with an angry doctor who always seemed to be yelling and very rarely actually treating anyone. Any real exposure I had to Star Trek came from the movies and my having seen the original Star Trek in third grade when they pulled all of the students out of our classes, assembled us in the auditorium and made us watch ‘Star Trek: The motion picture’ I have no idea why or how it happened, but I remember clear as day sitting in the auditorium watching Star Trek and realizing that the Pointy-eared guy and Doctor who yelled were still on that space ship. So when I say I’m a Star Trek fan that really is the broadest sense of that term. I do own seven of the ten original movies and the only reason I don’t own the others is because the versions I have became expensive and I wasn’t going to spend that much money getting movies I only marginally liked.
This movie takes place a year after the last Star Trek movie and follows the further adventures of James T. Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise. The movie opens with Kirk and crew on some primitive alien planet trying to save the indigenous population from certain death at the hands of a super volcano. For those of you unfamiliar with ‘Trek’, Starfleet (the now paramilitary organization they all work for…) has a pretty strict rule about intervention with primitive cultures and the influence there of. Just so we’re clear here, rather than saving the primitive tribesman, Starfleet would have them die from the blast of the volcano. These aren’t people who have (as we’re told later…) yet to invent the wheel and are still living out of grass thatched huts with mud floors. So Spock stopping the volcano’s eruption with a cold fusion device before having to be rescued from the then still active volcano isn’t ‘bad’, but the primitives who draw the shape of the ship in the dirt afterwards seeing the enterprise fly off through the cloud of smoke and ash is?
As you can imagine Kirk’s bosses back at Starfleet aren’t really happy about this turn of events and rather than getting the promotion he is hoping for, they demote him back to the academy and reassign Spock to another ship. As all of this is getting underway, we see some strange things happening in London at some sort of secret Starfleet installation that is destroyed by a terrorist bombing. (There is a little more to it, but bear with me for the explanation…) this results in all active Starfleet commanders being called back to Starfleet HQ for a meeting in San Francisco that mere seconds later is attacked by the same terrorist. A fight ensues, Kirk’s mentor (and the Enterprises original Captain, Pike…) is killed causing him to swear vengeance on this madman and demanding to be put in charge of the hunt to find him. When Scotty, the engineer and evidentally C.S.I. technician of the Enterprise, finds evidence pointing to this terrorist having fled to the Klingon home world of Kronos, Kirk takes the evidence to the head of Starfleet who reinstates him and sends him armed with 72 special proton torpedos to carpet bomb this guy and the Klingon home world back into the stone age. So Kirk gathers up his crew and after Scotty quits over a screaming match with Kirk, they head out to get this terrorist.
This is where the spoilers come in…If you want to be surprised or stay blissfully unaware of any further plot twists in this movie, now is the time to turn away…
Still with us? Last warning…
Alright, here we go…
The terrorist is revealed to be ‘Khan’, the same ‘Khan from the original series episode ‘The Space Seed’ and from its sequel ‘Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan’. I’d hoped that when these new series of Trek movies started that your average movie going fan would be able to walk into them without having seen every episode or previous movie and still manage to find them entertaining. In the theater I could tell the hardcore Trek fans from the movie goers (thankfully they were paired up…) because once the reveal happened and the Trek fan gasped, the movie goer turned and asked ‘Who is this Khan guy?’ What’s worse than that is the fact that back half of this movie literally rips off chunks of ‘Wrath of Khan’ completely by giving us the same scenes, filmed with a different character right down to someone screaming ‘Khan’ at the top of their lungs in an overly dramatic sort of way. I walked out of the theater realizing that I had just spent money and time watching a remake of ‘Wrath of Khan’ and it wasn’t even that good of a remake.
I am surprised at the complete and total lack of imagination on the part of the writers, director and Paramount Pictures that instead of giving us something fresh and new, they give us a remake of quiet arguably the best Trek film of them all with a cast that just isn’t up to dealing with the weight of this material. There isn’t anything new or exciting in this film and while it’s a decent action film (that, I will agree with…) it’s not even really a good ‘Star Trek’ film and that is biggest problem they could have with something like this. My advice is stay at home and watch the original on Netflix…
2 Stars out of 5, feel the Wrath of Keith….
Keith Kilburn and his wife, Dawn, live in Leesburg with two cats and dog named Godzilla. He’s written for Herorealm.com before they were bought out by corporate interests and has written a novel that he’s working on publishing. It’s rumored that he’s seen more movies than Blockbuster rents in a year and knows more about comic books than Stan Lee himself!