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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Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle (2017) Review

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle (2017)

Directed by Jake Kasdan

Based on Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale, Alex Wolff, Madison Iseman, Ser’Darius Blain, Morgan Turner, Colin Hanks, Missi Pyle

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Set twenty-one years after the first film, the film follows four teenagers who are transported into the video game world of Jumanji, and playing as the characters they chose, must beat the game in order to return home. The film is also a tribute to Robin Williams, star of the original.

My Opinion:

I’ll be honest – I really liked this movie. It was exactly what I was in the mood for the other day. I needed a fun, chill-out, popcorn movie.

The first Jumanji isn’t exactly near & dear to my heart as I wasn’t the right age for it when it came out (I was in my damn 20s already. Shit I’m old). It’s a good family classic, though. I watched it again a couple of weeks ago with my daughter to refresh my memory. Sheesh – I can’t say it has aged all that well. How terrible did those monkeys look?! Even the kid commented on that. However, she absolutely loved the film. I was surprised. So the story and the characters stand the test of time even if other things about the movie aren’t doing so well now.

As I like but don’t have some kind of huge childhood affection for the first film, I had zero issues with them updating the story for current times. I thought they did a really good job adapting it to a video game this time around and I actually prefer this film to the first one. But don’t tell my kid that – she still loves the first one much more. The story just feels far less messy in this one plus I enjoyed there being a lot more humor. And penis jokes. Lots of penis jokes! But as I’m an old woman with a Beavis & Butthead sense of humor, I appreciate a good penis joke.

The teenagers were all fine in this but we don’t spend loads of time with them as they become their avatars in the game. The avatars (Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart & Karen Gillan) were great. I’ve not seen that many Dwayne Johnson films but I can say that this is the most I’ve ever liked him in a movie. He was very funny, as was Karen Gillan. There’s this whole flirting scene involving Gillan & Jack Black that’s pretty damn hilarious. Love him or hate him (I love him), Black seems to be having a lot of fun in this film and Kevin Hart also does well as his usual Kevin Hart self. You know what you’re gonna get with Black & Hart, though, so the bigger surprise was how funny Johnson & Gillan were.

Yeah, I really liked Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle. As the kid gets older, I’m enjoying seeing more of these family films that are actually entertaining for the whole family instead of just the kids. But with penis jokes. Beware the penis jokes! I think this movie is aimed a bit older than the first Jumanji.

My Rating: 7.5/10

It looks like this is my last review of 2017. Hope you all have a fun New Year’s Eve! See you in 2018 with my end-of-year Best Of 2017 lists, starting tomorrow.

My Top Ten Jack Black Movies

Happy Birthday to Jack Black, who turns 48 today.

I love Jack Black. Some people hate Jack Black. I had no idea! I suppose he’s an acquired taste. But I love that first Tenacious D album. I don’t care what anyone says! Great songs on that. 🙂

So here are My Top Ten Jack Black Movies (ranked by how much I like the movie, not performance – I’m aware some of these are tiny roles). Damn – looks like I still need to watch Demolition Man, which most people said I should watch after it wasn’t on my list of My Top Ten Sandra Bullock Movies. Oops.

The Rest That I’ve Seen:

23. The Fan
22. Bio-Dome
21. Shallow Hal
20. Shark Tale
19. Anchorman
18. Tropic Thunder
17. I Still Know What You Did Last Summer
16. Waterworld
15. Orange County
14. Tenacious D In The Pick Of Destiny
13. The Holiday
12. Be Kind Rewind
11. The Cable Guy

Top Ten:

10. Enemy Of The State

9. Ice Age

8. King Kong

7. The Muppets

6. The Kung Fu Panda Movies

5. Mars Attacks!

4. Goosebumps

3. Bernie

2. High Fidelity

1. School Of Rock

Not Seen:

Demolition Man, Neverending Story III, Dead Man Walking, The Jackal, Saving Silverman, Envy, Nacho Libre, Margot At The Wedding, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Year One, Gulliver’s Travels, The Big Year, Sex Tape

Goosebumps (2015) Review 

I’ll be finishing Creepy Dolls Week tomorrow with a reblog of a review I did of a British horror classic which happens to contain a creepy ventriloquist’s dummy. Today I’m reviewing a fun recent kids’ film which also happens to contain a creepy ventriloquist’s dummy. What is it with dummies?! They’re clearly evil. Let’s have a look at the Goosebumps movie… 🙂

Goosebumps (2015)

Directed by Rob Letterman

Based on Goosebumps by R. L. Stine

Starring: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Amy Ryan, Ryan Lee, Jillian Bell, Halston Sage

Music by Danny Elfman

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A teenager teams up with the daughter of young adult horror author R. L. Stine after the writer’s imaginary demons are set free on the town of Madison, Delaware.

My Opinion:

This was my seven-year-old’s first proper live action “scary movie”. I’m happy to report that she loved it. I was too old for R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series when he started it but know I would’ve absolutely loved those books if they’d been around when I was younger. I grew up watching (the original) The Twilight Zone & The Alfred Hitchcock Hour from a very early age (probably 7 or 8) and have loved strange, scary, and/or supernatural & sci-fi stories ever since. As a pre-teen I got into Christopher Pike books (nice & weird – I loved those) and remember reading some pre-Goosebumps R.L. Stine (Twisted, The Babysitter, Blind Date – I had fun looking these up just now & remembering the covers!).

Anyway, I’m not going to force it but I’m hoping that this movie gets my daughter into liking these kind of stories a bit more now. Then she can be as weird as her mother! 😉 I’d love to read the Goosebumps books with her at some point. For those who’ve read them, what sort of ages would you recommend them for? I always thought they were aimed slightly older than this movie, which felt quite “young”. The movie stayed the right side of the line for my daughter – she was a little scared by some bits but I didn’t feel anything was too scary or at all inappropriate. If your kid doesn’t scare easily, I think this is fine for ages 7 & up. Goosebumps is a really fun family movie and, believe me, when you have young kids you appreciate when you start getting to watch some movies with them that you yourself can get some enjoyment from as well!

I of course won’t have had as much fun with this movie as those who read the Goosebumps series, though. I imagine this film was a real treat for his fans. The story’s setup is fantastic, which sees various R.L. Stine monsters brought to life when they’re accidentally released from the manuscripts he keeps locked in order to keep his out-of-control creations imprisoned. Jack Black plays R.L. Stine, which was fine by me as I’m a Jack Black fan & my daughter already liked him thanks to School Of Rock. The film’s concept was very bold & I think it works really well. Imagine this same story with Stephen King. That would be interesting! Can you imagine someone letting Pennywise loose?! (Although, that’s kind of happening in the US & UK at the moment with those asshole clowns running around). Look! Gnomes! I adore garden gnomes. I never thought of them as murderous before this movie…

The werewolf was also pretty cool…

But, of course, the main “monster” unleashed from R.L. Stine’s books is Slappy, this evil-looking ventriloquist’s dummy…

Yep. Dummies are evil! I’ve always known that. There are other creatures that are set loose but these were my favorites & Slappy is definitely the best (and most evil) of them all. He’s not overly terrifying, though – he’s “kid-friendly scary”. If that makes any sense. He won’t be in my nightmares but my daughter might now have a lifelong (healthy) distrust of creepy dummies. Oh, there’s also an abandoned amusement park in this movie (complete with working electricity somehow). I loved the amusement park scenes – what a perfect setting for a kids’ film.

There’s not much more I can really say about Goosebumps other than that it’s great when they actually make decent family films like this one. However, I know you’re unlikely to watch this unless you have children between 7 & 13ish or if you grew up reading the Goosebumps books. Dylan Minnette is fine as the lead teenage boy & I have to say I far prefer this film to the wildly overrated Don’t Breathe (so very NOT a family movie, FYI! Just comparing as he starred in both plus I just reviewed that one recently). I enjoyed Jack Black as always but I thought the biggest stars of this film were Slappy & Stine’s daughter (played by Odeya Rush). She’s a strong female character, which is always important to me as the parent of a girl. I loved a final twist to this movie, which I saw coming from the very start since I’ve lived & breathed these types of stories for 30+ years but know my daughter will have thought “Wow!” to the twist. That’s what I want to see! Her loving a strong story & great twist ending in the same way I did when watching all those Twilight Zone episodes as a kid. I can see Goosebumps being a favorite movie for a lot of kids & thinks it’s one that my daughter will forever be fond of.

My Rating: 7/10

CREEPY DOLLS WEEK ROUNDUP:

The Boy (2016)
Magic (1978)
Dolls (1987)
Annabelle (2014)
Finders Keepers (2014)
– Goosebumps (2015)
Dead Of Night (1945)
My Top Ten Creepy Dolls In Movies & Television

My Top Ten Celebrities With Color Names

As I’ve already done lists of My Top Ten Color Movies & My Top Ten Color Songs, I figured it was time to also do a list of My Top Ten Celebrities With Colors In Their Names as well. 🙂

I think this list is pretty self-explanatory. I enlisted the hubby’s help & he started giving me lots of names which are colors in other languages. Too complicated! I’m sticking to English (sorry, Mel Blanc). Also, I decided to stick with real people instead of fictional characters as that also got too complicated. So here’s a quick shoutout to two characters I love: Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding from The Shawshank Redemption & Charlie Brown from Peanuts.


Okay – let’s do this! Here are My Top Ten Celebrities With Colors In Their Names (along with my favorite thing they’ve starred in, sung or written):

10. Sienna Miller
My Favorite: Stardust

9. Shel Silverstein
My Favorite: The Giving Tree

8. Robert Redford
My Favorite: Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid

7. Eve Plumb
My Favorite: The Brady Bunch

6. Jeff Goldblum
My Favorite: The Fly

5. James Brown, Ian Brown & Jackson Browne
My Favorites: The Boss, I Wanna Be Adored & Somebody’s Baby

4. Jack & Meg White
My Favorite: Icky Thump & Hotel Yorba

3. Scarlett Johansson
My Favorite: The Prestige

2. Jack Black
My Favorite: Tenacious D & School Of Rock

1. Betty White
My Favorite: The Golden Girls

Honorable Mentions (No, I didn’t forget these):
Karen Black, Alicia Silverstone, Frank Black (aka Black Francis), Pink, Emma Stone, Jennifer Grey, Eva Green, Whoopi Goldberg, Sarah Silverman, Seth Green, Emily Browning, Clancy Brown, Shirley Temple-Black, Rose Byrne, Rose McGowan, Erin Gray, Al Green, Tracey Gold, Matthew Gray Gubler, Shane Black, Joel Silver, Marc Almond, Paul Greengrass, Barry White, Eddie Redmayne, Goldie Hawn, Macy Gray, Otis Redding, The Redgraves, Sharon Stone, Amber Heard, Cee Lo Green, Christopher Plummer, Amanda Plummer, Oliver Stone

And, no – I didn’t forget these either: 😉
Dakota Blue Richards, Red Buttons, Red Skelton, Red West, Ron Silver, Indigo, Amber Tamblyn, Amber Valletta, F Gary Gray, Adam Goldberg, Phil Silvers, Emerald Fennell, Claire Coffee, Professor Green, Jonathan Silverman, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Simply Red, Cilla Black, Dan Brown, Logan Marshall-Greene, Brian Austin Green, Tony Goldwyn, Ginger Rogers, Bobby Brown, Lorne Green

Sorry – I had such a huge list to work off of plus someone always comes along to yell at me for the one thing I missed off of a list. But I’ll still have definitely missed some so let me know of any other Color Names you can think of! 🙂

Kung Fu Panda 3, The House Of Magic, Rio 2 & Muppets Most Wanted Movie Reviews

I have four quickie kids’ film reviews for you today! I promise they’ll be quick. Why? Because I barely remember three of them.

I’ve just seen Kung Fu Panda 3 so that review will be a little longer than the rest. You see, I get a little annoyed when I look at the pages on my blog & see that I still have some movies that I watched but never reviewed on the 2014 page & the 2015 page (never mind the 2016 page! I’m way behind). It’s especially annoying that the only movies that I actually went to the cinema to see but then didn’t review were these three 2014 kids’ movies. They were so “meh” that I guess I couldn’t be bothered.

So, here we go! I’ll finally say something about them two years later. I’m limiting myself to one paragraph each for the three older ones (plus my kid’s opinion on each). But let’s start with the longer review for the most current film (and by far the best of the four)…

Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)

Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson & Alessandro Carloni

Starring: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, J. K. Simmons, James Hong, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Bryan Cranston, Kate Hudson

From: DreamWorks Animation

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Continuing his “legendary adventures of awesomeness”, Po must face two hugely epic, but different threats: one supernatural and the other a little closer to his home.

My Opinion:

I actually thought this movie was really good. As far as DreamWorks movies go, at least. I’ve stated here before how I see DreamWorks movies as strictly kids’ films while I view Pixar & most Disney ones as just being great films overall for every age group. Like, I wouldn’t feel weird discussing both WALL-E & Citizen Kane in the same breath. Except, I’ve not seen Citizen Kane… Never mind.

What I liked about Kung Fu Panda 3 is that, while it has a message as does every kids’ movie, it didn’t let the message get in the way of the movie being fun and actually making kids laugh. The previous movie we went to as a family was Disney’s Zootropolis (aka Zootopia) & I did NOT expect to think a DreamWorks film was far better than a Disney one! But that’s the case this time.

Kung Fu Panda 3 hasn’t forgotten that, first & foremost, it’s meant to be aimed at kids. I felt that Zootropolis completely forgot this while trying to drive its message home with a convoluted plot and uninteresting characters. But Kung Fu Panda 3 isn’t dumbed down for kids, either, which is a big pet peeve of mine. Kids aren’t stupid & shouldn’t be treated that way. The jokes were all age-appropriate without being dumb but also not being too grown-up like things such as the Godfather references in Zootropolis.

I have to admit that Kung Fu Panda 3 was even enjoyable to me as an adult who probably wouldn’t watch many animated films not made by Disney or Pixar if I didn’t have a kid. I do love Jack Black (I don’t care about the haters!) and think he’s been perfect as Po in all these films. I think all the characters are strong & really like the setting and the look. In this one, the baby pandas are adorable & even had grumpy me going “aww”. The baddie in this one was also pretty cool, as were his storyline & all the chi stuff. Plus I’m a sucker for the color green. Here’s the baddie:

I’d even go so far as to say that I like the Kung Fu Panda movies the most out of all the ones made by DreamWorks. I find Shrek a little overrated and I’d say that the How To Train Your Dragon films are possibly their “best” work but they’ve never really clicked with me at all (or the kid). But all three of us have enjoyed each of the three Kung Fu Panda movies.

My Rating: 7/10

My Kid’s Opinion: She liked this movie a lot & giggled through the whole thing. She was far more enthusiastic about this one than she was after walking out of Zootropolis, which she called “not very good”. Her favorite part was Po doing his “chitty chitty chat chat” thing that she’s been annoying us with ever since (thanks a lot, Jack Black!). She also loved the baby pandas, especially when they ate everything in sight. She’s not watched the first two films since we went to see them but this one has renewed her interest (and mine!) in watching those again. I’d happily pick them up on DVD now – I think this is a very solid trilogy from DreamWorks.

The House Of Magic (2013) (US Title: Thunder And The House Of Magic)

Directed by Jeremy Degruson & Ben Stassen

Starring: Cinda Adams, George Babbit, Murray Blue, Kathleen Browers, Joey Camen, Grant George, Shanelle Gray, Nina Grillo, Kyle Hebert

From: nWave Pictures, StudioCanal

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The House of Magic is a 2013 3D Belgian-French computer-animated fantasy-comedy film. The film focuses on an abandoned young cat who seeks shelter in the home of an old, retired magician with his automatons and gizmos.

My Opinion:

I admit to not fully remembering the plot of this strange little Belgian/French film (which was in English but I assume originally in French?) two years later. But I clearly remember the kind old magician, the cat he adopts, and the man’s REALLY cool magical toys (automatons and gizmos) such as that adorable lightbulb dude in the photo at the very top of this post. I also remember some great songs being used quite prominently (The Lovecats by The Cure & the always catchy House Of Fun by Madness). It’s not some big Disney, DreamWorks, etc production and that does show but I still thought that the characters, the music, and especially those inventive toys were pretty damn good! I wonder if those who made this have gone on to do more animated films? I’d like to see this sort of thing with a bigger budget. It’s a very sweet & charming film from what I remember. I wouldn’t complain at being made to watch it again.

My Rating: 6/10

My Kid’s Opinion: She doesn’t now remember much of this but does remember all those really cool toys that I mentioned above. She said she’d like to watch it again too (fine with me – I’ll pick up the DVD if I see it).

Rio 2 (2014)

Directed by Carlos Saldanha

Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Andy García, Bruno Mars, Jemaine Clement, Kristin Chenoweth, George Lopez, Tracy Morgan, will.i.am, Jamie Foxx

From: Blue Sky Studios

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
It’s a jungle out there for Blu, Jewel and their three kids after they’re hurtled from Rio de Janeiro to the wilds of the Amazon. As Blu tries to fit in, he goes beak-to-beak with the vengeful Nigel, and meets his father-in-law.

My Opinion:

Wow. I really remember very little of this except that I think it was about saving the rainforest, right? I don’t remember the first one either – I only know that these Rio movies are very bright & colorful and have some big musical numbers that are okay. This is from Blue Sky, whose movies are quite similar to DreamWorks in that I see them strictly as films aimed at kids and only truly enjoyed by kids. The only Blue Sky one I really liked was The Peanuts Movie but that’s because I’m obsessed with Peanuts & the movie stayed very true to its spirit. Don’t get me wrong – these Rio movies aren’t bad. They’re very pretty to look at & not the worst way to spend a couple of hours with your kid but I don’t think they’re very memorable. I’d have to say that the Ice Age films are a stronger series from this studio as the characters are better. Also, could they get a more annoying set of voice actors for Rio? Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Leslie Mann & Kristin Chenoweth(!!)?? Ugh. I think I remember Eisenberg’s bird kids in this being quite cute, though…

My Rating: 5.5/10

My Kid’s Opinion: She says she liked this although she couldn’t remember the specifics of it now. She said “I liked the pink frog!” (Ugh. Kristin Chenoweth.) I think it’s proof that the Rio films are pretty & enjoyable enough while being watched but are ultimately forgettable.

Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

Directed by James Bobin

Starring: Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey, The Muppets

From: Walt Disney Pictures

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
While on a grand world tour, The Muppets find themselves wrapped into an European jewel-heist caper headed by a Kermit the Frog look-alike and his dastardly sidekick.

My Opinion:

I grew up with The Muppet Show so I of course love The Muppets. Who doesn’t?! The Muppets movie in 2011 (2012 here) was pretty good. It was fun and managed to kind of capture the spirit of the original show (plus I like Amy Adams). But I found Muppets Most Wanted really disappointing even though it was great, as always, to see these beloved characters. The problem was the messy, boring story and the fact that I really didn’t like the main real-life stars. Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell & Tina Fey? How do you go from Amy Adams to some TV stars? Never been a fan of any of them (in fact, who is Ty Burrell anyway? That prick in Dawn Of The Dead??). I just think they made a real mess of this movie – I’ll stick to watching my DVDs of the original show.

My Rating: 5.5/10

My Kid’s Opinion: She remembers this one more than I thought she would! She remembers the plot & the evil Kermit with the mole. She likes The Muppets & says she liked this movie. Maybe I should give it another try…

This is her favorite Muppet-related thing. I agree:

**I’d like to finally take this opportunity to draw attention to a favorite blogger of mine here who does fantastic paintings of The Muppets (and loads of other awesome artwork with a focus on pop culture – but I first started following him because of The Muppets). Please have a look at Scott’s site at Mojoswork.com. You can see all his Muppets artwork HERE.

Scott – I’m sorry it took me two years to finally get around to doing this review! Let me know if you want me to add any more info or if you want me to include a specific Muppets image you’ve done. 🙂 Oh! Scott does a lot of wrestling & sports stuff as well and I thought his History Of The WWF was absolutely amazing despite knowing nothing of that sort of thing myself (MIB – you should really check this out).

I figure I should end this with some Madness since I have House Of Fun in my head after talking about The House Of Magic. I miss this era of music!

Bernie (2011) Review

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Bernie (2011)

Directed by Richard Linklater

Starring:
Jack Black
Shirley MacLaine
Matthew McConaughey

Running time: 99 minutes

Short Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
In small-town Texas, an affable mortician strikes up a friendship with a wealthy widow, though when she starts to become controlling, he goes to great lengths to separate himself from her grasp.

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My Opinion:

I wrote a review for this trying to remain totally spoiler free and giving no more information than what’s showing in the above plot synopsis. Well, this is one time that was pretty impossible to do so I’ve had to start over. I think most people know what this movie is about anyway as it’s based on a true story plus it was in the news again recently. So, to more easily discuss this, I’ll include a more detailed plot synopsis. So…

***Spoilers if you know nothing about the real life story & don’t want to***

I don’t think it spoils the movie as I already knew all this before seeing it and it made me more interested anyway. I’ll of course not say what happens at the end for anyone who doesn’t know the outcome. Wikipedia plot synopsis:

Bernie is a 2011 black comedy film based on a 1998 Texas Monthly magazine article by Skip Hollandsworth, “Midnight in the Garden of East Texas,” that chronicles the 1996 murder of 81-year-old millionaire Marjorie Nugent in Carthage, Texas by her 38-year-old companion, Bernhardt “Bernie” Tiede. Tiede proved so highly regarded in Carthage that, in spite of having confessed to the police, the District Attorney was eventually forced to request a rare prosecutorial change of venue in order to secure a fair trial.

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As I said in my review of Boyhood, I’m a Richard Linklater fan. Not sure why it took me so long to get around to watching this one as I also love Jack Black. I know he’s a “love him or hate him” kind of guy but he’s perfect in this and he’s NOTHING like he is in other roles so, if you like the sound of the movie but don’t like him, you really should still check it out. Plus – Shirley MacLaine! I love her too! I wish she’d been in this one for a bit longer but it was still a big role. Matthew McConaughey is in the film less than I expected him to be but he’s also absolutely perfect as the District Attorney. All three are perfect – I honestly don’t think they could have done a better job choosing the cast for this film.

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This movie is indeed a black comedy. It’s weird to think that they made a black comedy out of a real-life murder. I can’t say I know how the real-life residents of the small town in which this occurred (Carthage, Texas) really feel about the movie (it’s touched on a little in the above Wikipedia link) but, as a form of entertainment, I think it works really well how they chose to present the story. Throughout the film, people from the town are “interviewed” about the murder and their thoughts on Marjorie Nugent & Bernie Tiede. Some are actors (including McConaughey’s real-life mother – she’s hilarious!) but apparently some are real people from Carthage. I loved these “interviews”, which were really just gossipy chats with small-town people. Being from a VERY small town myself, I could totally relate to these bits as everyone reminded me of various people from the little community where I grew up. I think adding this to the movie was a brilliant idea and it really made the film for me – they were quirky, likeable characters and they actually made me a little homesick. (Although I’d NEVER want to live in a small town again!). This movie captured small town life perfectly and I found it very endearing in a way (considering, you know, that it’s about a woman being murdered).

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The way people feel about Jack Black is the same way they’ll feel about this movie: You’ll like it or you’ll hate it. If you don’t like black comedy, it’s best to avoid this one. It’s also very slow and there’s a lot of talking so it’s not for the impatient. I was a little worried at how they’d portray Marjorie Nugent as, after all, she did get murdered and there’s no excuse for that but, luckily, I think MacLaine did a good job showing a controlling woman but never going overboard and actually making us “hate” her. Although it’s told more from Bernie’s side, you feel for both of them as they’re clearly just two lonely people who happen to form an unusual friendship. It’s really a very sad but fascinating story (even more fascinating if you know the current outcome!). I think the movie handles the story well & I didn’t feel it was disrespectful – the comedic elements are mainly the “interviews” I discussed before.

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Summary:

Black & MacLaine are absolutely fantastic in two very understated roles and, along with Linklater, deserve all the credit for making a black comedy about a tragic real-life murder actually work as a film. I thought Bernie was very good but I often like movies that are slightly more unusual. I doubt I’d ever watch it again as it’s not exactly a “re-watcher” like something like Dazed & Confused (which I’ve watched loads of times) but is more like Boyhood in that it’s more of an “experience”. I’m glad to have finally seen it. It’s definitely not for everyone but, if it sounds like your type of film, definitely give it a watch! It’s well worth your time. Then make sure to look into the real story if you don’t know the current situation – I’m still a bit amazed by that myself…

My Rating: 7/10

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