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Scooby-Doo

There’s a wide variety to cover here.  The original Scooby-Doo cartoon from the 1960s was fairly slow paced with lots of physical gags and some decent voice acting.  The concept of a group of teens solving supposedly supernatural mysteries wasn’t a new one, but something about this group caught on.  Ever since then, the Scooby gang has been reinvented for each new generation of viewers.  There’ve been some high and lows.  The movies from the ’70s were mostly good, with great guest stars and some funny dialogue.  The ’80s brought us the low of Scrappy-Doo.  Every decade has had a new tv series and some new tv movies, and they’re mostly good to great.  It’s a tough idea to mess up as long as you stick to the original characters.  There has been a time or two when studios haven’t adhered to that advice as well as they should have, but picking a Scooby show to watch usually means that you aren’t going to go wrong.  It’s family-friendly and well animated, and the voice acting is usually very well done.  The older shows might be a bit slow and dumb for older kids, but younger ones will still enjoy them.  I could list favorite movies or tv episodes, but most of them have something to recommend them, even ones that don’t seem quite right at first.  I can’t really recommend Scrappy, though.  He’s just annoying.

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Monster House

This new Halloween classic is loads of fun.  The story involves a possessed house that comes to life and eats people.  The kid across the street and his friends take on the mission of putting an end to the house’s terrorism.  There’s comedy and suspense, and the characters are very sympathetic.  The voice acting is excellent, helped along by the realistic and detailed animation.  Movements are scarily real-life, and even facial expressions are believable.  There isn’t an attempt to make everyone look like a photograph, however, so there’s no creepy valley effect.  The action is exciting, and there’s a satisfying ending.  Altogether, it’s great fun for the whole family, except maybe the very youngest, who might be frightened by the terrifying house.

This version of the classic, well-known story is much gentler than most.  It also sticks a lot more closely to the original book.  Our protagonist Ichabod Crane is more of an impractical narcissist, and his adventures consist mainly of him trying to get the most out of his meager adopted community.  The ghost of the headless horseman is seen only once, at the end of the story, and his existence is highly suspect, but the result is the same.  There is more historical accuracy in this film than you find in most versions of the tale, but it’s still not perfect.  The worst part is how the female characters are portrayed.  While none of the men are taken in by Ichabod’s faux intelligence, every single woman falls for his every pompous move.  Katrina is at least afforded a minor bit of common sense and wit, and she even displays a small amount of logic but never really utilizes it.  Beyond that, the movie is entertaining and amusing.  It’s definitely not your typical Sleep Hollow story when it comes to tv and movies, but it’s safer for audiences that are easily scared, just as long as they don’t internalize its simplistic and offensive portrayal of women.

Little Einsteins

This show came out during the glut of products that were meant to turn babies into geniuses.  It doesn’t work as well as parents hoped, but this tv series is one of the positive results.  The young cartoon characters are sympathetic for kids, and the educational information is gently provided.  It’s a bit too smart for the youngest viewers, but even they will get a kick out of the animation/live-action combos and their cute presentation.  The music is top-notch since much of it comes from classical composers.  The plots might be a bit too simplistic for older viewers, but even they might learn something from the fact-providing portions.

This Disney tv show is just for kids, but it’s not the most grating of such shows, even for adults.  It’s slow and mildly educational, focusing mainly on getting the kids in the audience to participate.  There’s always a gentle plotline and extremely simple puzzles about making things work.  The Halloween episode in particular takes Mickey and pals on a trip to Trick or Treat Tower, and they have to get over Candy Corn Mountain, through the dark woods, and across a frog-infested bridge.  It’s all light-hearted fun, and none of it will tax your brain.  It’s designed primarily for the youngest viewers, but its familiar, cute characters will keep any adult in the room from rolling their eyes too hard.  They still won’t be able to stomach too much of it in one sitting, but the animation is well-done if a bit simplistic, and there’s always something cute and colorful to look at.  The music is also very simple but, again, enjoyable.  It’s not something most people would seek out, but if you have a kid or just enjoy kids shows, this one is a pretty good choice.

Hocus Pocus

This live-action Disney comedy is great fun for the Halloween season.  It stars some well-known comedy actors and has some great acting, subsequently.  The writing is sharp, the music is fun, and the humor is gentle enough for kids but with plenty of in-jokes for the adults.  The story is engrossing and involves a group of witches coming back to Salem from 300 years ago.  Bette Midler sings a great toe-tapper of a song, and the characters are interesting and sympathetic.  It’s fun and goofy and great for the season and the family.

The original Halloween is a classic of the slasher genre.  It sort of created that class of horror movie.  It might seem over-hyped if you’ve seen a lot of such films, but its style is second to none.  The acting is mostly very good, the pacing and suspense are exemplary, and the music is perfect.  The film utilizes all the classic slasher movie tropes, which might be a turn-off for some, but there is plenty to make up for it.  The opening sequence is a bit melodramatic, and it all falls into the stereotypical only-the-virgin-survives plot, but there are plenty of good scares, and you genuinely care about the main character.

The first sequel begins just as the first movie ends.  It retcons the villain just a bit by making him the first film’s survivor’s long-lost brother, instead of just a serial killer who went after the first teen girl he saw.  This sets up the series’ insane downward spiral into complicated plotting, but for now, it doesn’t seem so farfetched.  The murders start to become a bit odd, with increasingly bizarre deaths at every turn (at least one of which makes no sense at all), and the pacing is thrown off by the fact that you already know what’s going on.  Also, the characters are less sympathetic as a whole.  It’s still not a bad movie, but it’s nowhere near the quality of the first.

The third film could be removed from the series entirely.  Our villain, Michael Myers, is non-canon in this one, as evidenced by one character watching the original Halloween movie on television.  Instead, the story focuses on a strange cult that’s trying to use black magic and robots to kill children.  It’s complicated and strange, but the main characters are sympathetic and interesting.  The ending is a bit vague, however.

The fourth and fifth films can be considered together.  Both feature Jamie, the daughter of the original film’s protagonist, Laurie.  Laurie was killed in a car accident, leaving young Jamie to deal with her family’s past.  Michael stalks her, killing everyone around her over the course of the two movies.  There isn’t much to make them stand out, except for the actress who plays the young girl.  She’s quite brilliant and makes both of the films worth watching.  The fourth movie could have ended the series entirely; its ending has Michael’s legacy moving on to Jamie and feels like a fitting finale, bringing the story full-circle.  The fifth film gives the poor girl a psychic connection to him instead that traumatizes her severely and leaves things more up in the air.

That leads us to number six.  This one skips ahead in time and shows us poor Jamie being held by an evil cult that wants to control Michael or some form of him.  They’ve forcibly impregnated her with his seed, hoping she’ll bear a child of strength and power that they can control.  This is the culmination of the crazy storyline that this series went down.  Little Tommy Doyle, whom Laurie was babysitting on that first night so long ago, is all grown up and a little crazy himself.  He finds the baby after Jamie is killed, and so begins the hunt.  In the end, they seem to escape Michael, while the psychologist who has been chasing him for five movies seems to die at his hands, off-screen.  There could have been more to that story, but no one ever bothered with it.  Can’t say I’m sorry.  The only redeeming quality this movie had was the actor who played Tommy.  Even the ending sucked, and the sideplot involving another child who’s hearing voices and getting violent urges is never fully resolved.

Up next, we get the awesome H20.  This one disregards 3-6 and rejoins Laurie in hiding halfway across the country.  She has a son and has spent two decades dealing with her severe PTSD.  Michael finds her and starts killing again, and we’re back in familiar territory.  The thrills and scares are back in top form, and we get a brilliant, satisfying, cathartic ending that should have provided a proper finale to the entire franchise.  Acting, writing, and music were all excellent, and the last scene leaves you with, if not exactly a happy ending, something close to it.

Unfortunately, the wheels of profit-making can never leave well enough alone.  Resurrection was made afterwards and retconned the ending of H20 to completely undo it.  Instead, we get the death of Laurie and a ridiculous plotline about a reality show being filmed in Michael’s old house.  The main characters are unlikable, and the story is obviously trying way too hard to connect to younger viewers.  Not to mention how hard it tried to give Busta Rhymes his own shining success over Michael; seriously, it’s painful to watch.  Very little of it makes any sense, and in the end, you’re left with the feeling that none of it mattered.

Ultimately, I’d recommend watching 1, 2, and 20, and leave it at that, unless you want to see the brilliant acting on Danielle Harris’ part in 4 and 5.