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Movies Reviews

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) Review

Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Directed by Michael Dougherty. Starring some blocks of wood.

Spring of Sci-Fi #10

Godzilla: King of the Monsters, released in 2019 and directed by Micahel Dougherty, is unfortunately not good. You would think that a movie featuring Godzilla, King Ghidorah, Mothra, and Rodan would be a fun sci-fi romp, but instead, most of the film deals with Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga’s divorce. I am fine with human drama being the center focus of a Godzilla movie, but it needs to be good human drama. The original 1954 Godzilla deals heavily with human drama and the effect that Godzilla (as a representation of nuclear destruction) has on humanity but this movie’s plot dealing with divorce has no thematic significance to the monster plot of the movie.

Five years after the events of Godzilla 2014, Dr. Emma Russel (Vera Farmiga) is studying the Titan Mothra. She lives with her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) who witnesses the birth of Mothra alongside her mother. After they calm the rampaging Mothra down with the Orca, a device that replicates the sonar frequencies of the Titans, they are kidnapped by Alan Jonah (Charles Dance), a former British Army Officer turned Eco-Terrorist. Madison’s father Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) is brought on by Monarch to help stop the terrorists who are hoping to destroy humanity to reverse the negative effects of the climate. After waking up Ghidorah, it is revealed that Emma is working with the eco-terrorists and is secretly the mastermind behind their plot; she wants to use the Orca to awaken the kaiju.

I have many problems with this movie, and most revolve around the uninteresting and one-dimensional human characters. This movie wants to be a human drama about dysfunctional families, and I honestly don’t understand why. Godzilla from 2014 has uninteresting human characters, but at least Gareth Edwards uses them to emphasize humanity’s insignificance to these beasts (who one could look at as representing natural disasters). The family drama in this movie in no way connects to the monster drama and battles. The character that should be our protagonist is Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe). Ken Watanabe, the actor who plays Dr. Serizawa, even made the connection between natural disasters and the monsters, but the movie doesn’t emphasize that theme. My only issue with this character is his send-off in this movie–SPOILERS AHEAD. Godzilla is defeated by Ghidorah and sinks to the ocean floor to revive himself, this revival could take months or years, time the world does not have, so they plan to nuke Godzilla, reviving him with what originally awoke him in 1954. Dr. Serizawa goes into the cavern and detonates the nuclear bomb, dying to save Godzilla. I’m sorry, but I find it completely strange that this movie uses nuclear bombs to help save the day. This completely disregards the original concept for Godzilla as a comment on nuclear war and destruction. Essentially, nukes save the day, and a Japanese man sacrifices himself with a nuclear bomb to wake the beast that represents the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I wish I could like this movie just for the fights, but that only encompasses maybe 30 to 40 minutes of screen time with nearly 1 hour and 30 minutes devoted to boring human drama. The fights aren’t even the best looking either, marred by shaky cam and weather. I feel like this movie doesn’t even begin to understand what it needs or wants to be. Godzilla 2014 aims to be a drama representing natural disaster; Kong: Skull Island embraces the campiness and is fun to watch; this movie does neither and is a chore to watch. I don’t expect this movie to be the classic that the original Godzilla is, but it could have at least had some fun with its concept.

Rating 1.5/5 (I’m being generous with this rating too)

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Movies Reviews

Kong: Skull Island (2017) Review

Kong: Skull Island. Directed by Jordan Vogt Roberts. Starring King Kong (I could list the actors, but we all know what you are really here to see)

Spring of Sci-Fi Review #9

Kong: Skull Island, released in 2017 and directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, is the second entry in Legendary’s MonsterVerse. Kong: Skull Island is one of the better entries in that universe, embracing the B-Movie concept. The movie begins with two fighter pilots crashing on a beach. It is 1944 during World War 2, and the pilots are American pilot Hank Marlow (played here by Will Brittain, later played by John C. Reily) and Japanese pilot Gunpei Ikari (played by Miyavi). We get our first glimpse at Kong as the two fight on the island and are frozen in their tracks by the massive gorilla. The movie then moves to 1973, at the end of the Vietnam War. Monarch agents Bill Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) are trying to get to Skull Island. They recruit James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), Jack Chapman (Toby Kebbel), and Cole (Shea Whigham). There are more people on the survey and military teams, but these are the most important. The human characters are insignificant next to Kong, who brutalizes their helicopters on entry. He attacks because they are using bombs to survey the area, killing wildlife and wrecking Skull Islands environment.

One thing about King Kong movies that always irks me is the human characters. They exploit and destroy whatever is in their path for their gain. Bill Randa, the Monarch agent, knows Kong is on the island and uses the bombs to get his attention. This causes Preston Packard, a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army, to seek revenge on Kong even though they are the ones who invaded his territory. Samuel L. Jackson knows exactly what kind of movie this is and gives one of the better performances in the movie. John C. Reily as Hank Marlow is also great. He serves as a slight comic relief but has an interesting story about wanting to get back home to his wife who he has not seen in nearly 30 years due to being trapped on Skull Island. Other than these two performances, no one else stands out. Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson seem like they are set up to be the protagonist of the movie, but have little to no screen time at certain parts of the movie. The characters, like in 2014’s Godzilla, leave a lot to be desired. However, unlike that movie, this movie embraces the B-movie concept and to me is an improvement.

Kong: Skull Island is an entertaining monster movie–which is a lot more violent than I was expecting–with excellent special effects and two performances from Samuel L. Jackson and John C. Reily which are entertaining to watch. The rest of the characters are serviceable to what we want to see, and that is the glory of Kong. I was surprised I enjoyed this one more than Godzilla since I have always enjoyed Godzilla’s previous movies more, but this movie was entertaining and fun.

Rating 3.5/5

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Movies Reviews

Sci-Fi Review: Geostorm (2017)

Directed by Dean Devlin. Written by Dean Devlin and Paul Guyot. Starring Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Andy Garcia, and Ed Harris.

The Spring of Sci-Fi Review #8

Geostorm is a disaster film that tries to be epic in its scale. Unfortunately, it falls flat. Gerard Butler stars as Jake Lawson, who’s a scientist that has crafted a satellite system that can control the weather on a global scale. The system, called “Dutch Boy,” was developed after the world was hit by several deadly storms that terrorized the planet. The weather system begins to go rogue and satellites start attacking the earth via the weather. Lawson has to figure out who caused the system to go haywire and why they caused the system to do so in order to save the world.

The writing is poorly done in Geostorm as the characters are uninteresting and one-dimensional. The performances by the actors lack any emotional depth. I couldn’t connect with Jake Lawson or any of the supporting cast. The filmmakers tried to craft a sibling rivalry between Jake Lawson and Max Lawson (Jim Sturgess). It’s a sibling rivalry that fails to catch any attention as Butler and Sturgess have no chemistry with one another. Since the film fails at connecting the audience to Jake Lawson, it makes it hard to care about the character saving the day or not. The film also struggles with its final act’s countdown sequence. It keeps showing a timer that lets the audience know when the geostorm will hit. The geostorm is literally happening when the timer is ticking down. It hits and destroys several cities during the timing sequence. The timer is utterly useless.

Another flaw of the film is the special effects. They’re poorly generated and crafted. There’s one sequence where the effects are horrendous, but it did manage to make me laugh. It’s when the geostorm is starting to take shape across the world. The film shows hail, the size of icebergs, hitting the earth. I laughed at the absolute absurdity of how it looked on-screen. It was like Sub-Zero from Mortal Kombat having a reign of terror on the human population.

The film’s not a mystery like it aspires to be. It’s not hard to determine who is the cause of the problem. I took a guess at who it was in the beginning of the film and I was right by the end. The antagonist’s reason for triggering these storms is stupid and unnecessary. It’s the typical selfish reason of wanting to control the world.

Geostorm is a lazy attempt at making a sci-fi epic. It clearly draws inspiration from previous disaster flicks. There’s never a sense of true urgency in this film. When we can’t connect with the characters, we’re not gonna care. I wish a tornado would’ve blown my ass away while watching this.

Overall rating: 1.5/5.

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Movies Reviews

Godzilla (2014) Review

Godzilla. Directed Gareth Edwards. Starring Aaron Taylor Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, and Sally Hawkins

The Spring of Sci-Fi Review #7

We continue our look at The King of the Monsters with the 2014 American-made Godzilla, directed by Gareth Edwards. This was an enjoyable movie, but it doesn’t live up to the same quality that we see in the 1954 original. The original balanced the characters and Kaiju entertainment well, using Godzilla to tell an allegorical story about the destruction of nuclear war. This movie seems to try and follow the lead, balancing themes of human destruction with stunning spectacle, but unfortunately doesn’t live up to that promise.

The movie begins with clips showing Godzilla being sent back into the sea and the nuclear bombs that woke them. When then see two scientists, Ishiro Serizawa (played by Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (played by Sally Hawkins), who work for Monarch, which consists of scientists investigating Kaiju. The movie then moves to Japan following the character Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) an engineer who works with his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) at a nuclear power plant in Janjira. Unfortunately, Sandra is killed after a tremor causes the plant to collapse. The area is quarantined and everyone is forced to leave. We cut to 15 years later and Joe’s son Ford (Aaron Taylor Johnson) is a Navy officer returning home to his wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen). Ford receives a call that his father has been arrested due to entering the quarantine zone and has to fly to Japan to get him out. After an incident at the former nuclear plant–SPOILERS AHEAD–Joe Brody is killed, and a Kaiju known as MUTO is released. From here we follow Ford as he tries to make his way back home to his wife in San Francisco.

An immediate problem with this movie is the number of characters that it tries to juggle. Like Gareth Edward’s other blockbuster, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, this balancing is unfortunately not handled very well and it leaves the characters one-dimensional and incredibly uninteresting. We spend most of our time with Ford as he bounces around the globe, but other than a few heroic acts–such as saving a child on a train so he can make it back to his parents–we don’t get to know Ford. If the movie spent less time on the characters and more time on the Kaiju action this would be less of a problem, but the movie wants the audience to see through the eyes of these bland and dull characters which make the movie’s two-hour runtime a slog sometimes. However, Gareth Edwards does pull it off in the third act creating an awesome fight between the MUTO’s and Godzilla that culminates in an amazing display of power from Godzilla. The creatures and their design are great, with CGI that is jaw-droppingly amazing.

Gareth Edward’s Godzilla is a flawed but epic monster movie. Edwards consistently creates interesting action sequences but is unable to create compelling characters that add drama to those scenes. If you are looking for some giant Kaiju fun check this movie out, but if you are looking for a more human drama mixed in with the Kaiju elements maybe just stick to watching the original. I know I had fun with this movie, but it was a chore in some parts.

Rating 3/5

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Japan Movies Reviews

Retro Sci-Fi Review: Godzilla (1954)

Godzilla. Directed by Ishiro Honda. Starring Takashi Shimura, Akira Takarada, Momoko Kochi, Akihiko Hirata.

The Spring of Sci-Fi Review #6

Godzilla, released in 1954 and directed by Ishiro Honda, is a classic science fiction film. Godzilla is truly a landmark of cinema, a piece of history that has inspired numerous films that came after. The franchise that this film has spawned includes 36 films in total; 32 produced in Japan, and 4 produced in America. The most recent of these films is 2021s Godzilla vs. Kong (that will be reviewed on another day, today we focus on the original masterpiece).

Godzilla tells the story of a prehistoric beast awoken after an h-bomb test in the ocean. Godzilla serves as an allegory, dealing with Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s destruction after they were terrorized by nuclear bombs during the Second World War. The film dramatizes the toll that Godzilla’s destruction has had on the lives of the Japanese people. The movie begins with ships destroyed near Odo Island. A paleontologist named Kyohei Yamane (played by the magnificent Takashi Shimura) discovers not only a prehistoric trilobite but also a giant radioactive footprint belonging to Godzilla. It is at this moment that we get our first glimpse of Godzilla. The special effects created by Eiji Tsuburaya are legendary, iconically created a magnificent and terrifying monster that still presides over our screens to this very day.

Godzilla premiered at a landmark time for the sci-fi film. The sci-fi films of the 50s were inspired by the advancement made in science, as well as the destruction that it caused in the war close to a decade earlier. One of the things that makes Godzilla such a powerful film is the connection Japan and the filmmakers had to this destruction. The film serves as a cautionary tale and a reminder of the lives lost in this kind of destruction. Shimura’s Dr. Yamane gives a warning at the end, warning that as long as we continue testing nuclear weapons, Godzilla could rise again. We also get a representation of the nuclear conflict in the character of Serizawa (an excellent performance by Akihiko Hirata). He has designed a dangerous, and possibly a world-ending device that could destroy Godzilla and end his rampage, however; he is torn between helping rid the world of Godzilla but potentially awarding it a destructive weapon on the same level as the atomic bomb. His character’s arc throughout the movie is one of the most dramatically satisfying and helps give the story a soul.

The franchise Godzilla spawned ranges from serious to campy, but this first film is more than a monster movie, it serves as a reminder of the destruction caused at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the lives lost in its wake. Godzilla is powerful, awe-inspiring, terrorizing, and melancholic. It is truly a masterpiece that birthed The King of the Monsters, and he reigns supreme to this day.

Rating 5/5

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Movies

Sci-Fi Movie Release of the Week: Voyagers

Voyagers hits theaters today, April the 9th. The film focuses on a crew of women and men who go on a space expedition to colonize a planet. On the journey, these women and men give in to their primal urges. This causes the trip to spiral into a frightening mess. Some critics are calling this a sexual, space version of Lord of the Flies. It sounds intriguing.

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Movies Reviews

Retro Sci-Fi Review: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

Directed by Robert Wise. Written by Harry Bates and Edmund H. North. Starring Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, and Hugh Marlowe. Available on Amazon Prime Video.

The Spring of Sci-Fi Review #5

The Day the Earth Stood Still is a sci-fi classic by 20th Century Fox. The film is about the arrival of an alien in human form, Klaatu (Michael Rennie), who lands in Washington, D.C. with a dire warning. Klaatu comes to the earth as a messenger for all alien life throughout the galaxy. Klaatu speaks to the audience with his towering robot (Gort) by his side. Klaatu’s message to the earth is to be more peaceful or life on earth will cease to exist. The humans of earth learn the meaning of peace in order to save their world.

The film highlights the height of paranoia and fear that our country was suffering from during the 1950s. People were afraid of other races and afraid of people from other countries. The 1950s was the dawn of the civil rights movement and the Cold War. Our country would be divided over these issues. Humans on earth automatically assume that Klaatu is a dangerous threat because he’s from outer space. Klaatu comes with the impression of peace, but is quite aware of how violent the earth is. The film takes place during the post-WWII era. Klaatu tells the world that the aliens are okay with them feuding. The alien race doesn’t want atomic weaponry reaching space as one country is planning to send a spaceship with atomic weaponry into orbit. That’s the problem the aliens have with the earth.

Gort (left) and Klaatu (right).

The film does a fantastic job of creating horror in the film without being violent. The camera shots of Gort are expertly structured to make the robot seem menacing. The score/music that accompanies Gort has ominous and bold tones. The beam that comes forth from its eyes is able to penetrate objects and make them disappear into thin air. During the 1950s, radio was a very prominent media source in the delivery of news. The filmmakers use this to their advantage to create a source of tension. In one scene in the beginning of the film, Klaatu wonders the streets of Washington, D.C. at night while the audience can hear broadcasts on the radio of Klaatu’s arrival to earth. It’s creepy and it’s meta in a way. Meta as the broadcasts are about Klaatu and we’re watching Klaatu before us.

Special effects in this film are top notch. The sequence where Klaatu’s spaceship arrives on the earth in Washington, D.C. runs smoothly. The effects aren’t fancy like they are today, but they work for its time period. I mentioned Gort’s eyebeams above. The scenes were Gort uses the beams is effective due to the camera’s close shot onto the face of the robot. It creates the idea that this beam could potentially make the earth disappear.

Although this film is science fiction, it does contain elements of the noir genre. The movie is shot in black and white. The film’s mystery is why this spaceman is on earth. The lighting of the film makes Washington, D.C. an intimate, yet frightening city at night. The sequence where Klaatu leaves his apartment to sneak back to his ship at night is well shot. We have the beauty of the street lamps illuminating while the shadows perfectly cover Klaatu from being seen. It makes sense for the filmmakers to blend these two genres together since the genres were at their height during this time.

The Day the Earth Stood Still is a classic that all sci-fi fans need to see at least once. It’s a sci-fi film that encapsulates the events in politics from the 1940s to the early 1950s. It’s a film that teaches peace over violence. The Day the Earth Stood Still reminds us of the choice that we have every day whether to be peaceful or violent towards others. This film’s message is still effective for even today.

Overall rating: 4.5/5.

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Movies Reviews

Wild Sci-Fi Review: The VelociPastor (2019)

Directed by Brendan Steere. Written by Brendan Steere. Starring Greg Cohan, Alyssa Kempinski, and Daniel Steere.

The Spring of Sci-Fi Review #4.

In this life, we’re going to come across a film title that’s going to catch our attention. I stumbled upon this movie while scrolling through my feed on Reddit. I laughed immediately with intrigue in the back of my mind. Before I watched this movie to review, I looked up articles about the movie. The film’s director, Brendan Steere, did an interview with Forbes about the movie. He states that he drew inspiration for the film when he tried to type “velociraptor” into Google, but it auto corrected to “veloci pastor.” The goof inspired him to create this bonkers B-movie with only a budget of $35,000. I was excited for what’s to come.

VelociPastor focuses on Pastor Doug Jones (Greg Cohan), whose parents were killed in front of him by a car explosion. Instead of a shot of the burning car, we get a gag with a title card that says, “VFX: Car on fire.” The film immediately is letting the audience know to not take this film seriously. After the death of his parents, Doug heads to China where he earns the ability to turn into a dinosaur. He decides to use his newfound power to fight crime…and ninjas.

Dinosaur versus ninjas.

The film is going for the outlandish to induce great, effective comedy. VelociPastor has fantastic quotes and dumb, memorable scenes that will stay with audiences after the movie’s over. Two scenes come to my mind as examples. Early in the film, audiences meet a supporting character by the name of Frankie Mermaid. Frankie Mermaid is a pimp, who asks one of his prostitutes why do they call him by that name. She responds, “because you’re swimming in bitches.” I was dead. I completely lost it. I had to pause the movie and let the laughter out. The next scene that was comical was a Vietnam flashback scene. It’s a flashback sequence where supporting character, Father Stewart (Daniel Steere), remembers his time at war. In the sequence, his lovely girlfriend randomly shows up out of nowhere on the battlefield and gets blown up by a mine. Father Stewart stands there in shock, while his war buddies talk about the mine casually. Such good shit, dudes.

Greg Cohan needs to be commended for putting forth the effort in this whacky movie. He goes all out with the dinosaur transformation scenes. The dinosaur is a giant, rubbery-looking suit that they made. It’s not Jurassic Park quality. It’s Walmart/Dollar General quality. They make the most of the dinosaur with it decapitating people and gouging people’s eyes. As for the fight scenes, they’re hilarious watching someone running around in a dinosaur outfit, who’s knocking over people dressed as ninjas. This movie deserves a shot of getting airtime on Syfy or another network.

If you enjoy absurdity, this film is for you. If you don’t like comedy, you will find this movie to be stupid and not worth your time. I recommend it for lovers of B-movies.

Overall rating: 4/5.

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Movies Reviews

Sci-Fi Review: After Last Season (2009): A movie so bad it needs to be witnessed.

After Last Season. Directed by Mark Region. This is a real scene from the movie. This movie also cost $5 Million Dollars and most of it was spent of the visual and computer effects.

The Spring of Sci-Fi Review #3

After Last Season was painful to experience. Something about watching this movie was the equivalency of having an anxiety attack. The production design is ugly, the music will make your ears bleed, and the direction, editing, and cinematography will make you question the reality of the project you are watching. For a moment, I thought I must have fallen asleep and dreamt this movie, but here I am typing this review trying to understand what I just witnessed. 

After Last Season‘s “story” seems to revolve around two medical students specializing in neurology who begin working on a telepathic test linking two minds together. During this experiment, the female student, Sarah, links telepathically with a murderer who killed a student, Craig, sometime in the last week. While that may sound like a decent enough plot it is not really used in the movie. Most of the movie features non-sequitur shots of ceiling fans and chairs. THERE ARE MULTIPLE LENGTHY SHOTS OF WALLS AND NOTHING ELSE! How does one go about making a movie as inept as this? The music sounds like it was composed by the director’s nephew’s double amputee dog. During the telepathic scenes, we get to witness geometrical shapes forming on our screen. These scenes look like screensavers from 1995 (the movie was made in 2009).

My brain cannot comprehend how bad this movie was. At one point I just started manically laughing. Not at the movie, not at anything in general, I just lost my mind momentarily. I honestly think this movie needs to be seen to be believed. The camera occasionally pans around to look at nothing and I jokingly said the killer would be an invisible man…low and behold, he was an invisible man. This is a strange movie masquerading as something experimental and abstract, but don’t let that fool you…it’s shit, pure shit.

No Rating. It defies the numerical system

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Movies Reviews

Retro Sci-Fi Review: Scooby Doo and the Cyber Chase (2001)

Directed by Jim Stenstrum. Written by Mark Turosz.

The Spring of Sci-Fi Review #2

I remember my friends talking about this movie while I was growing up. This film released twenty years ago and it doesn’t feel like it has been that long. Scooby Doo and the Cyber Chase is an animated movie that’s a part of what I call the Scooby-Doo animated movie universe. There are over thirty films that are animated starring Scooby and the gang. An animated universe that spans from the 1980’s to today in the 2020’s. Impressive. Scooby Doo and the Cyber Chase stars Frank Welker as Fred, B.J. Ward as Velma, Scott Innes as Shaggy & Scooby, and Grey DeLisle as Daphne.

In this movie, Scooby and the gang get transported into a video game where they have to stop the Phantom Virus and defeat all levels of the game in order to escape. The gang is transported into the game via a laser that left me intrigued. The laser can make objects into reality and absorb objects into virtual reality. This is an idea that Warner Brothers should’ve used again in a sequel. The concept is fantastic. A new villain could steal it to take care of their nefarious plans.

Speaking of villains, it’s not normally hard to figure out who the baddie is in a Scooby Doo show or movie. The plot gives clear clues as to who the villain is in different levels of the video game. The mystery of who the villain is would’ve been better if they left the clues out. The film introduces several potential people who could be the villain. If the movie didn’t introduce the clues, the eventual villain reveal at the end would have had a bigger payoff. The clues are still fun though. It does reveal the villain early in the movie, but that’s if you’re paying attention closely.

The overall plot is fun and creative. Yes, it’s filled with the classic antics of the show, but it does introduce new ways for the gang to solve mysteries. The real gang working with their cyberspace counterparts is a blast to watch. Also, we get to see the gang in various environments that we haven’t seen before. The gang goes to the Roman Coliseum and a prehistoric jungle with dinosaurs. It’s always entertaining to see the gang get away from their hometown on occasion. The film’s animation holds up well for a twenty-year-old movie. Everything operates smoothly with the gang having a fresh and classic look all at once.

In the end, Scooby Doo and the Cyber Chase is an exciting movie with a classic formula. The film puts the gang in a new danger, while making sure that it stays light in spirit. A great film to watch to unwind for the day. Why did Shaggy put whipped cream on that hot dog though?

Overall rating: 3.5/5.