Monsters come alive in family adventure ‘Goosebumps’

Opposite Jack Black, the filmmakers of Columbia Pictures’ family comedy Goosebumps cast so many of author R.L. Stine’s famous monster creations. The film brings the Goosebumps book series to life on the big screen for the first time, starring Black as the famed writer.

Whenever possible, the filmmakers created a practical creature out of make-up and special effects. “Any monsters that we could do practically, we did,” says director Rob Letterman.

“There are a few that are CGI and some that are a hybrid of practical and CGI, but we knew that we wanted to get as much in camera as we could. I didn’t want the monsters to feel like a cartoon, or dumbed-down. I knew it would be great for the actors’ performance to have something real there, on the spot – and it really gives the movie this great feeling, as the magic of the books comes to life.”

Leading the way as the chief villain is Stine’s most lasting creation: Slappy the Dummy. In the film, Slappy is Stine’s alter ego and the mastermind behind the evil plot. The filmmakers reached out to Ironhead Studio to design and create a real, working ventriloquist’s dummy – one that resembles Jack Black in many ways. The dummy was entirely manual – no electronics at all – and puppeted by Avery Lee Jones, who got the job after a nationwide audition. Jones could move Slappy with his hand controls in many different ways: head turning side-to-side or all the way around, mouth control, eyes side-to-side, eyes blink, wide eyed, and eyebrow movement. Overseeing the working of the dummy itself, to make sure that everything remained in working order, was Ironhead Studio’s Jake McKinnon.

Joining Slappy in the film are many of Stine’s other creations: The Ghouls from Attack of the Graveyard Ghouls, Snake Lady from Escape from the Carnival of Horrors, Bog Monster from You Can’t Scare Me!, Egyptian Princess from Return of the Mummy, Cronby the cave troll from Deep in the Jungle of Doom, The Evil Clown from When the Ghost Dog Howls, Vampires from Vampire Breath, The Witch Doctor from Deep in the Jungle of Doom, Madam Doom from Help! We Have Strange Powers!, The Executioner from A Night in Terror Tower, The Pirate from Creep from the Deep, The Creeps from Calling All Creeps, and The Haunted Mask from The Girl with the Haunted Mask.

Also appearing in the film are Scarecrows from The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight, Jack O’Lantern from Attack of the Jack O’Lanterns, The Mummy from Return of the Mummy, The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, The Werewolf from Werewolf of Fever Swamp, The Gnomes from Revenge of the Gnomes, The Blob from The Blob That Ate Everyone, Toy Robots from Toy-Terror: Batteries Included, Bug-Eyed Aliens from Invasion of the Body Squeezers, Vampire Poodle from Please Don’t Feed the Vampire!, and the Praying Mantis from A Shocker on Shock Street.

Among all of these choices, which is Black’s favorite? “Slappy the Dummy, of course,” he says – noting that the reason is probably because the dummy looks just like him. Besides Slappy? “The bug-eyed aliens, or the bog monster,” he says. “The bog monster is a swamp thing, but from the right angle, it looks just like a butt. Can we call it the butt monster?”

In “Goosebumps,” teenager Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette), upset about moving from a big city to a small town, finds a silver lining when he meets the beautiful girl, Hannah (Odeya Rush), living right next door, and makes a quick friend in Champ (Ryan Lee). But every silver lining has a cloud, and Zach’s comes when he learns that Hannah’s mysterious dad is in fact R.L. Stine, the author of the bestselling Goosebumps series.

As Zach starts learning about the strange family next door, he soon discovers that Stine holds a dangerous secret: the creatures that his stories made famous are real, and Stine protects his readers by keeping them locked up in their books. When Stine’s creations are unintentionally released from their manuscripts, Zach’s life takes a turn for the weird. In a crazy night of adventure, it’s up to Zach, Hannah, Champ, and Stine to team up and get all of these figments of Stine’s imagination – including Slappy the Dummy, the girl with the haunted mask, the gnomes and many more – back in the books where they belong to save the town.

Opening across the Philippines on October 21, 2015, Goosebumps is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.

‘Sicario’ bags best indie film opening for 2015

Golden Globe® winner Emily Blunt, who gave impressive characterization of her roles in memorable hit movies such as “The Devil Wears Prada,” “Edge of Tomorrow,” “Into The Woods” and “Looper” takes on another strong female character in Sicario opposite Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin about an agent hired to bust drug cartels in Mexico.

While “Sicario” first opened on a limited release showing in only six theaters, it sure made a strong impact in box-office records due to its rave reviews when it earned almost US$ 67,000 per theatre, earning over US$400,000 making it the highest grossing title on a limited release achieved by an independent film for the year. With its follow up wide release on its second weekend, “Sicario” continued to seize this year’s indie-film arena, with US$26.7million in earnings to-date (and counting), it is now US’ second in the top five independent releases of 2015.

“Sicario” which means hitman in Mexico, brings Emily Blunt’s character, Kate Macer, an idealistic FBI agent, in the lawless border area stretching between the U.S. and Mexico who is enlisted by an elite government task force official, Matt Graver, played by Josh Brolin (an Academy Award® nominee) to aid in the escalating war against drugs. Led by Alejandro, an enigmatic consultant with a questionable past, played by Academy Award® winner Benicio Del Toro, the team sets out on a clandestine journey forcing Kate to question everything that she believes in order to survive. Even as Kate tries to convince herself she’s on a hunt for justice, she is thrust into the dark heart of a secret battleground that has swept up ruthless cartels, kill-crazy assassins, clandestine American spies and thousands of innocents.

The jagged line of the U.S. and Mexican border is now awash in some of the most pressing questions of our times – drugs, terror, illegal immigration, corruption and an escalating swath of dark crime that has left people on both sides frightened and vigilant. “Sicario” explores the journey of an intelligence operation that pushes the rules to engage with those who don’t play by any.

“Kate is tempted by this world,” says Emily Blunt, who breaks the mold with her portrait of a fierce female character whose life is in jeopardy throughout every second of the film. “She realizes she was barely scratching the surface doing things by the book and now she wants to believe she can do something that will make a real difference. Yet the very idea of no longer following the rules turns Kate’s whole world upside down. Nothing makes sense anymore.”

“Sicario is partly about a phantasm: the old idea that North America will be able to solve the most violent problems of the world in a very efficient and invisible way. That was once a comforting thought – but the world seems to have become more and more complicated.” says director Dennis Villeneuve, a four time winner of the Canadian Screen Awards for Best Director. Villeneuve is currently in pre-production on two additional projects “Story of Your” Life, starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker and the Untitled Blade Runner Project, starring Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling.

He goes on: “We have a need for super heroes. However, in today’s reality, heroes don’t usually have clean hands. Heroes are in contact with the most difficult moral choices, the choices we must make when confronted by evil. Sicario’s moral choices fascinate me.

“Sicario” opens October 28 in cinemas nationwide from Pioneer Films.