The House With A Clock In Its Walls (2018) & Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (2018) Reviews

Two more quick October reviews for two current “scary” family films…

The House With A Clock In Its Walls (2018) Review

Directed by Eli Roth

Based on The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs

Starring: Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sunny Suljic, Kyle MacLachlan

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film follows a young boy who is sent to live with his uncle in a creaky old house. He soon learns it was previously also inhabited by a nefarious entity.

My Opinion:

This was an enjoyable family film that unfortunately was slightly ruined by a terrible cinema experience. Why are people such inconsiderate wankers?

Let me see if I can remember what happened in this movie in between all the chatting, the guy shining his phone light to be able to dip his nachos into his supermarket salsa, and the kid’s LED shoes constantly flashing and lighting up the entire cinema. I was excited for another “scary” family film starring Jack Black after really enjoying watching the first Goosebumps movie with my daughter. Well, I still prefer Goosebumps but this was at least a lot better than Goosebumps 2 (review below). I don’t think this quite has the magic of other family fantasy films and the characters aren’t as strong as I’d have liked although all the actors did well in their roles. When compared to things like A Series Of Unfortunate Events (my kid loves that series) or to something like Harry Potter, this story feels a bit forgettable. It was fun, however, and I wonder if the book was a bit more in-depth and if this adaptation didn’t fully do it justice.

Fuck it – I was so distracted that I feel like an ass even attempting to “review” this. It was entertaining and Black & Blanchett worked very well together. Slight spoiler but, basically, the baddie wants to make everyone in the world disappear to which I replied rather loudly “Can he start with this audience??“. This is worth a watch if you like a slightly dark family film. It’s not for the very young but there’s nothing at all unsuitable for ages 6 or so & up.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

Directed by Ari Sandel

Based on Goosebumps by R. L. Stine

Starring: Wendi McLendon-Covey, Madison Iseman, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Caleel Harris, Chris Parnell, Ken Jeong

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The plot follows two young boys accidentally releasing Slappy the Dummy and the Goosebumps monsters in their town, causing a wave of destruction on Halloween night.

My Opinion:

This was a very big disappointment. I liked the first film a lot, even though I was too old to read Goosebumps by the time R.L. Stine wrote those (I did read earlier stuff of his). But that series of books is very much the type of “scary & weird” stuff that I loved as a young kid and I was happy to share that movie with my own kid and to have her briefly get into reading the Goosebumps books. But she’s off those now. Damn! I’ll probably never manage to get her into the original Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Hour TV shows that I loved at her age. I was such a weirdo.

The first Goosebumps movie was a great “scary” family film. It was fun and I would imagine that fans loved seeing so many of Stine’s book characters come to life. It had a good story with a great twist for kids (though completely predictable to someone who grew up on The Twilight Zone). The main characters were strong, especially Stine’s daughter, and that relationship was great. The second film is just an inferior copy with weak characters that no one will really care about in the same way. Once again, Stine’s characters are brought to life but on a smaller scale. Slappy is the main star of this one, which is fine as those ventriloquist dummies have always given me the creeps. But so much time is spent on him instead of the character development of the actual humans in the story. Plus, slight spoiler: Jack Black is barely in this film. It’s really not much more than a cameo, which is another huge disappointment if you’re a fan (I am but I know many aren’t). It felt like a TV episode of Goosebumps instead of a movie. Oh well. I’m sure that fans of the books will still get some enjoyment out of it but it feels like a cash grab.

My Rating: 6/10

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Inglourious Basterds (2009) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Josh of JJames Reviews. He’s already done a review of Apocalypse Now (which you can read HERE). Thanks so much for joining in, Josh! Now let’s see what he has to say about Inglourious Basterds, IMDB rank 113 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list HERE. See the full list & links to all the films that have been reviewed HERE.

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Inglorious Basterds (2009)

Written and Directed By: Quentin Tarantino

Starring
Brad Pitt
Christoph Waltz
Melanie Laurent
Eli Roth
Michael Fassbender
Diane Kruger
Daniel Bruhl
Til Schweiger
Gedeon Burkhard
Jacky Ido
BJ Novak
Sylvester Groth
Martin Wuttke

Running Time: 2 hours 33 minutes

Plot Synopsis

In an alternate history mash up, two different groups of assassins plot the murders of important Nazi leaders, including Adolf Hitler (Martin Wuttke) and Joseph Goebbels (Sylvester Groth). Meanwhile, Hitler, Goebbels and Nazi detective, Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) hunt The Basterds, a group of special forces assassins led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt).

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My Take

Inglorious Basterds bears Quentin Tarantino’s trademarks, mostly in good ways. Using at least three storylines and an episodic chapter structure, it is always fun and suspenseful. Soshanna Dreyfuss (Melanie Laurent), Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) and Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) take turns as the film’s protagonist, and each proves capable of carrying the movie, in no small part because all three of the actors are spectacular. Waltz won an Oscar for Inglorious Basterds, and it is easy to understand why, but his is not the only award-worthy performance. This might be Pitt’s best acting since 12 Monkeys (1995) and Laurent shines, as well, especially when she’s opposite Waltz or Daniel Bruhl (Frederick Zoller).

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Even still, the performances are not Inglorious Basterds’ greatest strength. Editing is. Tarantino and Oscar-nominated editor Sally Menke piece together the separate storylines sparklingly well, cutting away from each at exactly the right moments. Even more impressively, they time many takes and shots a heartbeat or two longer than we subconsciously expect, a decision that creates tension and heightens our anxiety. Consider the movie’s opening scene, when Landa arrives at Pierre LaPadite’s (Denis Menochet) home in search of hidden Jews. When the former first meets the latter’s daughters, he politely compliments their beauty, at which point Menke and Tarantino use a wide-angle shot from behind the young women, one that frames Landa’s face with the female’s bodies, thereby ensuring we see the intimidating glare the Colonel gives them. At that point, we expect Menke and Tarantino to cut away from the shot, probably to a close up of Landa, or perhaps LaPadite, but they don’t. Instead, they hold it an extra moment, just long enough to make us feel Landa’s threat. Later in the same scene, the Nazi is centered in the frame as he drinks a glass of milk. While he’s drinking it, we expect the director and editor to show us a reaction shot of LaPadite or one of his daughters. They don’t. Instead, they hold the shot of Landa until the milk is gone, a decision that once again increases our anxiety. Why? Because now we know that Landa can and will do anything he wants, that the LaPadite family is powerless to stop him, and that soon all of them might be dead.

Such brilliant editing continues throughout the movie. Menke lost the Oscar to The Hurt Locker, but she unquestionably deserved her nomination and would have been a fitting victor.

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Tarantino makes other standout directorial decisions. Inglorious Basterds is visually striking, and the sound design is very good. So too are all of the director’s casting decisions. Daniel Bruhl is excellent as the flirtatious but frightening Frederick Zoller, and Michael Fassbender is scene-stealingly good as British soldier Lt. Archie Hicox. Diane Kruger (Bridgit von Hammersmark), Jacky Ido (Marcel) and Sylvester Groth (Joseph Goebbels) all give memorable supporting performances, as well.

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With excellent acting, near impeccable direction and some standout technical elements, Inglorius Basterds has potential for perfection. Unfortunately, Tarantino’s screenplay is uneven. Yes his dialogue is witty and sometimes funny, as it is in everything he writes, but the way he tells this story fundamentally prevents emotional attachment to the characters, something that is all the more disappointing given each of the protagonists’ potential to be memorable. Shoshana is a tragic anti-hero if ever there was one. Raine could be, too. And Landa could be a complex opportunist, whom we never completely understand and therefore whose actions we cannot predict.

But instead, Tarantino chooses to gloss over his three lead characters, assigning each of them one or two traits, and never further developing them. Then, he introduces a bevy of minor characters, some of them historical figures and others not. He gives these secondary players as many traits as the leads, which guarantees that no one is well developed. That, in turn, means we do not care about any of the characters.

And so we do not extrapolate important life lessons from their experiences.

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Conclusion: Inglorious Basterds, then, is a prime example of style over substance. It is entertaining and darkly comedic, just as it is incredibly well made. But, thanks to underdeveloped characters, it is not thematically resonant. Though we can enjoy it, we are not inspired by it.

My Rating: 7.5/10