The House with a Clock in Its Walls

The Movie

The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018)

The Director

Eli Roth

The Cast

Jack BlackCate BlanchettOwen Vaccaro, Kyle MacLachlan

IMDB Synopsis

A young orphan named Lewis Barnavelt aids his magical uncle in locating a clock with the power to bring about the end of the world.

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My Thoughts

I’ve a little bit of weakness for YA horror/fantasy, I can’t help myself. I think it might be because these are the kind of films that made me fall in long-term love with horror. I also have a little thing for JB and therefore this was a no-brainer. I enjoyed this ride, despite being the oldest member of the audience not accompanied by a child.

As Lewis gets to grips with his new life, living with his eccentric uncle Jonathan Barnavelt (Black) and occasionally, just as kooky next-door neighbour Florence Zimmerman (Blanchett), he learns that there is more to life than meets the eye – magic things – and there’s nothing more magical (and also sinister) as a house with a hidden clock buried in its walls.

While the family search for this torturous contraption, concealed somewhere deep in the core of the building, Jonathan’s arch nemesis Isaac Izard (Maclachlan) plans his comeback, with a little help from his beloved wife, Selena (Renée Elise Goldsberry). And Lewis must also navigate possibly the hardest landscape of all – middle school.

Honestly, this is a beautiful looking film with wholehearted performances from everyone. Cate is utterly breath-taking as the damaged (but determined) Florence. I feel like she should never veer from her purple colour palette ever again, it’s such a good look for her.

The effects are good and it’s above all fun to experience. There’s a really wonderful scene set in the ornate back garden that is stunning – and a head to head between our heroic trio and a bunch of haunted pumpkins. What’s not to love?

My Rating

3.5/5.

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The Darkest Minds

The Darkest Minds (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

Imprisoned by an adult world that now fears everyone under 18, a group of teens form a resistance group to fight back and reclaim control of their future.

*Minor spoilers*

In the not too distant future, things are looking bad for the kids. The ones that aren’t dying mysteriously have powers that fall into a series of categories, ranging from manageable to highly dangerous. These powers – including telekinesis, hyper intelligence and the ability to channel and control electricity – render the government terrified.

In response, all kids under 18 are torn from the bosoms of their families and shepherded off to internment camps where they’re filed according to colour (and therefore risk to society). They’re also given menial tasks to keep them useful and presumably out of trouble.

Our heroine, Ruby is one of the rarest of children. An Orange to be specific and considered the most dangerous. Among her skills is the ability to manipulate people into doing her will (think Jedi Mind Trick). It’s the Rolls Royce of the superpower if we’re honest and the one I would choose for myself.

During routine registration, Ruby is able to convince her doctor that she is not a threat and she is miscategorised as a Green. Nobody but her knows the level of her power and honestly, she still doesn’t really have a clue what she’s capable of.

Years later, grown up Ruby’s (Amandla Stenberg) secret is uncovered (duh). But when she meets Cate (Mandy Moore), part of an organisation called The Children’s League, she is able to escape the camp. Confused and not sure who to trust, Ruby separates herself from Cate and her husband – and finds herself on the run with Zu, Charles and Liam.

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“Wakey Wakey Eggs and Bac’y”

All Ruby wants is to go home to her parents but there’s an issue there which will soon become clear. Can she ever go back? And when the gang eventually find “Slip Kid”, a fellow Orange who runs a safe and secret utopia of his own, will they finally be safe?

The Darkest Minds is very much the first in a series of films and feels like it. While Ruby is very likable, thanks to Stenberg – it’s quite fast-moving with a lot crammed in. In addition to the rebellion and The Children’s League (and their own motives, which aren’t that clear yet), there are also freelance bounty hunters hot on the heels of our group (and all children kicking against the system).

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The Scary Spicy biopic revealed a very fantastic back story for Mel B

My girl Gwendoline Christie plays a bounty hunter called Lady Jane – and is just not very good. The role is not very meaty admittedly but it is very hammy (lol) and I don’t like seeing her like this. The romantic element, while sweet, also grows a little tiresome – maybe, just maybe I’m too old for this shit. I think anyone with a penchant for YA adaptations, such as The Hunger Games, Divergent and Twilight, will be in their element but I can take or leave most of them and this is why it didn’t work for me.

All in all the concept is good, the performances are mostly good (including Beach Rats pretty boy Harris Dickinson) and it looks nice. I like the idea of these very different children finding acceptance among their peers and the friendship element is strong here.

Some of the lighting and the cinematography is really heavenly to look at and the whole idea of being forgotten by the ones you love is heart-wrenching but it’s just not really my jam. I allowed myself to be seduced by the “From the producers of Stranger Things” tagline and, while I don’t regret going out of my way to see this, I’m not sure I’ll be in line for part 2.

Who am I kidding though, of course I will.

My Rating

3/5.

 

 

Pacific Rim Uprising

Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018)

Directed by: Steven S. DeKnight
Starring: John BoyegaScott EastwoodCailee SpaenyCharlie DayTian Jing

IMDB Synopsis

Jake Pentecost, son of Stacker Pentecost, reunites with Mako Mori to lead a new generation of Jaeger pilots, including rival Lambert and 15-year-old hacker Amara, against a new Kaiju threat.

*Minor spoilers*

I want to add a disclaimer to this review before I start: I abhor movie snobbery. People should watch what makes them happy, be it Adam Sandler movies or dogme 95. Who cares, right? Life’s too short for guilty pleasures and I strongly believe we should all be loud-mouthed enthusiasts. So when it comes to blockbuster season, I am all in.

I live to see giant robots/apes/aliens smashing the shit out of one another while the poor city around them crumbles to the ground. I love action heroes and explosions, prehistoric sharks, Wookies and above all, spectacle. It doesn’t always work and I don’t always leave the theater satisfied but I’m still down for whatever because that’s what film is about: Escapism. Joy. Magic (in no particular order).

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Pacific Rim (2013) was a balls out sci-fi adventure romp directed by Guillermo del Toro, a high octane alien ride of epic proportion starring Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost, the hero of the hour and defender of the universe. And although I realised during the viewing of its sequel that I couldn’t remember a damn thing about it (apart from how Elba filled his uniform), the first movie was HUGE and beloved by fans around the globe. 

Uprising follows Jake Pentecost (Boyega), son of Stacker and all-round babe ten years after the first movie. Oh to keep it that family, eh? (sorry Mum).

Jake isn’t as disciplined as his Kaiju war hero father and is reluctant at times to be associated due to the fact that he doesn’t stack up that favourably in comparison. *Spoiler* Pops sacrificed himself for the good of humankind remember? And Jake’s more irresponsible than that.

When he gets picked up by the feds for nefarious horseplay, he’s given an ultimatum by PPDC General Secretary Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchiwho is also Jake’s adoptive sister: join the Jaeger program as a cadet trainer or face prison. Along the way he picks up Jaegar enthusiast Amara (Spaeny), a scrap yard baby who has single-handedly built her own Jaegar from scratch. Amara is recruited as a cadet for the program too because of course she is.

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Things kick off quickly as the Kaiju return to fuck up Earth and the responsibility of saving the world is once more placed in the hands of a Pentecost. Is Jake up to the task? With the help of his new recruits and old buddy Nate Lambert (Eastwood) you could say he’ll at least give it his best shot.

In other news, Charlie Day’s high-energy Doctor Newton Geiszler is up to his own japes while super-bitch Liwen Shao (Jing) heads Shao Corporation’s drone program, which threatens to overshadow everything the Jaeger program has been working toward. For the good of mankind, can’t they all just get along? Hmmmmm?

This sequel is not great, nor will it particularly stick in the mind. It is what it is in the moment, it’s fun and larger than life. The robot work is excellent and frankly, at least this isn’t as soulless as some of the Transformer movies.

It’s clever to have cast Boyega in the lead, he’s gorgeous, funny and a good actor, just like his father (Stacker) but he’s also very current and off the back of his Star Wars success, probably the best man for the job. Although he doesn’t have a lot of really sophisticated dialogue to work with here, he seems to be having fun and that my friends is half the battle. The other half is the Kaiju themselves obvi.

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I think my forgetfulness relating to the original PR has harmed my enjoyment of Newt’s story line as I didn’t even remember Charlie Day was in it. He’s definitely and understandably the comic relief and he does an okay job. He puts me in mind of a younger Bobcat Goldthwaite but not as accomplised.

Clint Eastwood’s son Scott doesn’t fair well either, though he is uncannily like his father in certain lights. I did also like the females in this movie – it’s good to see equal opportunity on the battlefield and in the laboratories. I thought Tian Jing was good as not-all-bad corporate witch Liwen Shao particularly.

All in all I’m not mad I saw this on the big screen if only to get my Boyega on and to soak up the scale of everything.

My Rating

2.5/5.

Ready Player One

Ready Player One (2018)

Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Tye SheridanOlivia CookeBen MendelsohnLena WaitheT.J. MillerMark RylanceSimon Pegg

IMDB Synopsis

When the creator of a virtual reality world called the OASIS dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune.

*Minor spoilers*

Oh my Lord. It’s always disconcerting when you go into a movie whispering the mantra, “Please be good. Please be good.” To say I went into the theater with high expectations would be an understatement, especially since I loved the book and have pressed it into the sweaty hand of many a friend.

Luckily for me, the adaptation was handed to the perfect director for the project and, with Ernest Cline on-board for screenwriting duties, I was left more than impressed. At one point I nearly lost my shit, it was so perfect and so relevant to my personal interests.

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Spielberg has the nostalgia thing down pat at the best of times but with the OASIS at his fingertips, he has the freedom to let loose on the popular culture references. There’s no limit to what he can do and it’s so multi-layered, so awe-inspiring I defy anyone not to come away with a new respect for what special effects can do.

I’m wary of giving too much of the game away in this review but what I can say is that, through Wade Watts and his avatar Parzival (Sheridan), we learn all about the OASIS and what it really means to the inhabitants of a now desolate world in 2045. While things IRL aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, OASIS’ creator James Halliday has just passed away, leaving a legacy that has the potential to change Wade and his friends’ lives forever.

Wade’s crew is small but perfectly formed and grows stronger still when they team up with Parzival’s crush, the elusive Art3mis (Cooke). But with super villain Sorrento (Mendelsohn) hot on their tail and determined to solve Halliday’s riddles and win control of OASIS for himself, they’re really up against it.

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Man, I have a couple of favourite scenes that I just want to gush about but I can’t, let’s just say as a classic horror fan, I was moved almost to tears by one extended segment and if you’ve seen RPO you’ll know which one I mean.

While the romantic aspect of the story I could take or leave, everything else about it was appealing and exactly what I wanted from this adaptation. Fans of the book might notice a few differences but there’s nothing too jarring and the visual references pad it out perfectly.

I hope you enjoy it too.

My Rating

5/5.

 

 

The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water (2017)

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones

IMDB Synopsis

At a top secret research facility in the 1960s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity.

*Minor spoilers*

Hype is a dangerous thing, as Andy used to say – or something along those lines. But it is – and I’m not sure this beautiful, whimsical fairy tale quite lives up to it much as it pains me to say.

Elisa and Zelda are cleaners at a top secret government laboratory. They’ve been friends for years, comfortable and happy together in their familiar routine. Elisa lives alone, in a crumbling tenement block where she also adheres to her own rituals, everything just so. She also lives next door to her BFF, closeted Giles, a struggling commercial artist who she likes to take care of.

One day Elisa (Hawkins) and Zelda (Spencer) become inadvertently involved in some secretive goings on that change all of their lives forever. There are goodies and baddies here, spies and monsters – but above all there is love and sometimes that’s all you need. Am I right?

The Shape of Water is lovely. Certain segments are pure magic and the performances are really something. That Sally Hawkins can convey so much without uttering a word is sensational. I’ve had a soft spot for her since she played Poppy in Happy-Go-Lucky. Octavia is also flawless and the women’s chemistry is touching.

Shannon is text book Michael Shannon and I liked it, though I found I was less impressed that I usually am. Perhaps because he can play a role like this with his eyes closed – or because I’ve seen him do it so many times before? In direct contrast, the nervous babbling of Giles (Jenkins) works so well. He’s a coward who takes a giant leap of faith because he loves his friend, he is flawed and he is understanding – and Richard Jenkins is adorbs too.

The story itself isn’t that complex and I’m not going to go into it too much. I think if you’re reading this you already have a gist of what it’s all about. I came into the viewing knowing not much about the plot which may have helped me – I just wanted to be wowed.

My issue is with the pacing, with the length of the film and with some of the more talky elements. I wanted to spend more time with Amphibian Man, marveling at his perfect fishy butt. We get a lot of fish man action, don’t get me wrong but I wanted less old white Russians sitting around tables discussing him and more HIM.

Fish Face for the record is beautiful (and opens quite the discussion about whether one would do it with a fish under the same circumstances). The monster work is brilliant in terms of makeup and aesthetic, while Doug Jones’ lanky (yet graceful) presence is as good as ever.

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Oh, and the opening scene is pure Jean-Pierre Jeunet. It could have been ripped directly from Delicatessen – which is a good thing, I’m not adverse to a little (or a lot of) homage. I was also pleasantly surprised that although this is all about the love story, it’s also pretty hot. For all the whimsy, it’s also sexy and there’s a distinct darkness too.

All in all, this experience was strong but not exceptional.

My Rating

3.5/5.