House With a Clock in Its Walls

HouseWithClock

The House With a Clock in Its Walls

Directed By: Eli Roth
Starring: Jack Black, Cate Blanchette, Owen Vaccaro, Kyle McLaughlin, Renée Elise Goldberry, Colleen Camp, Sunny Suljic, Vanessa Ann Williams, Lorenza Izzo, et. al.
Rated: PG
Grade: A-

After his parents die in a tragic accident, 10 year old Lewis Barnavelt is sent to live with his eccentric Uncle Jonathan in New Zebedee, Michigan. Upon arriving in his uncle’s house, Lewis begins noticing strange things, like a stained glass window that keeps changing, and his uncle wandering around the halls at night knocking on walls. Unable to keep the secret from Lewis much longer, Jonathan admits that he and his neighbor, Florence Zimmerman, are a warlock and a witch, respectively, and that the house Jonathan is living in once belonged to an evil warlock named Isaac Izard who built a clock inside the house as part of a plan to destroy the world. Desperate to fit in at his new school, Lewis tells a popular boy about the magic in the house, and in an attempt to keep the boy’s favor, casts a dangerous spell with dire consequences.

Although based on a series of children’s books, the movie definitely doesn’t pander to children, which likely has something to do with the fact that the director, Eli Roth, normally makes horror films. The acting is well done, and you can tell that the older actors are having fun. The younger actors hold their own against their more experienced counterparts. The story itself is interesting and manages to keep pace throughout the run time.

The effects are all well done, and seem to be a mix of CGI and practical. The background filler is well done also, and isn’t glaringly obvious.

This is a movie that should appeal to most ages. Some of the parts may be a bit too much for small children, and those without a sense of whimsy may find it to be ham-handed to be worth their time. It may not have quite the scope and spectacle of Harry Potter, but it has potential and room to grow.

The House With a Clock in Its Walls isn’t available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Outlander

OutlanderMovie

Outlander

Directed By: Howard McCain
Starring: Jim Caviezel, Sophia Myles, Jack Huston, John Hurt, Cliff Saunders, Aidan Devine, Patrick Stevenson, Ron Perlman, John Nelles, James Preston Rogers, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: B+

When his ship crash lands on Earth in Iron Age Norway, Kainan, a soldier from a distant planet, attempts to find the creature he was chasing so he can kill it once and for all. However, when a local tribe of Vikings believe Kainan to be responsible for a spat of recent killings, they capture him and hold him prisoner. In an attempt to gain their allegiance, Kainan tells Hrothgar, their king, Freya, his daughter, and Wulfric, their military leader, that he is from a distant island to the far North, and that the creature responsible for the killings is a Moorwen, a fire-breathing animal that is nearly indestructible. Slowly gaining their trust, Kainan convinces them to fight alongside him to destroy the creature and protect their village.

Despite the title, this movie has nothing to do with the wildly popular television series or the books it’s based upon. Originally conceived as an update to the Beowulf legend, Outlander is a surprisingly interesting sci-fi action movie that manages to include both futuristic technology and a period setting. It’s also not predictable to the point where the main hero is guaranteed to survive through the end of the movie. The acting itself is alright and the actors all seem to work well together. The story is also relatively simple to follow, and remains engaging.

The creature effects have held up surprisingly well over the years. There’s nothing too obvious that would date it. The background filler is also well done and not too obvious.

Fans of action movies should enjoy this, since the sci-fi elements aren’t too overwhelming. The story is interesting and, as stated before, it relatively easy to follow. It’s definitely worth the cost of a rental, especially if you’re a fan of the genre.

Outlander isn’t available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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The First Purge

FirstPurge

The First Purge

Directed By: Gerard McMurray
Starring: Y’lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Joivan Wade, Mugga, Patch Darragh, Marisa Tomei, Luna Lauren Velez, Karen Solis, Rotimi Paul, Mo McRae, Jermel Howard, Siya, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: C+

In the not-too-distant future, crime, overpopulation, and unemployment threaten to destroy the United States economy, and their best hope is to try an extremely unorthodox social experiment called The Purge, which would allow citizens to rid themselves of all violent impulses over a 12-hour period. Using New York’s Staten Island as the base of operations for the first trial run, they use a cash incentive to get citizens to remain during the test. Nya, a Purge critic, stays to help others who stayed behind just for the incentive money. Meanwhile, her brother, Isaiah, secretly stays behind to get revenge on a drug addict who threatened Nya’s life. Dmitri, a local gang leader, stays with his lieutenants to protect to business assets. Watching all of it is the Chief of Staff for the newly elected president, put into office by the New Founding Fathers, as well as Dr. Updale, who created the archetype for the Purge, and who becomes suspicious after previously unseen gangs of killers suddenly appear toward the end of trial period.

This prequel to the massively popular Purge franchise is another entry into the horror-by-association category, and once again goes more for the urban action format instead of a true horror/thriller. There’s also very little new information presented in this movie. Those who had seen the previous installments already knew that the NFFA was using the Purge as a means of population control and thinning out the lower classes, who couldn’t always afford to properly secure themselves in their homes. And that they would send out their own kill squads to ensure a ‘successful’ Purge. The acting is middling, with Tomei seeming to be an out of place acting choice since the other actors aren’t necessarily immediately recognizable. Despite this, the characters all work well together, and the actors have decent chemistry.

There are a few effects beyond the typical background filler, but the technology isn’t quite as futuristic as seen in the previous installments, since it’s supposed to take place closer to the present.

Anyone who liked the previous installments should like this one as well, and since it’s an origin story of sorts, the uninitiated shouldn’t get too confused if they decide to watch. You shouldn’t feel too bad about spending the money on a rental if you decide to go that route, and it’s not tedious enough to grate on repeat viewings.

The First Purge isn’t available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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The Accountant

Accountant

The Accountant

Directed By: Gavin O’Connor
Starring: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Jon Bernthal, John Lithgow, Jean Smart, Andy Umberger, Alison Wright, Jason Davis, Jeffrey Tambor, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: B

Math prodigy Christian Wolff does most of his business balancing books for criminal organizations and corrupt corporations, and in his downtime supplements his income with a legitimate accounting firm in a small town strip mall. When he takes a legitimate job looking for an embezzler in a company called Living Robotics, he meets Dana Cummings, the accountant who first noticed the discrepancy, and immediately feels a connection to her. As Christian and Dana attempt to unravel what’s going on in Living Robotics, they learn that their lives are in danger as they’re being pursued by an assassin hired to keep knowledge of the fraud under wraps. Also pursuing Christian are Treasury Department agents, one of whom has been searching for him since an incident some years earlier when they crossed paths while the agent was investigating a mafia family.

While meant to be something of a tour de force for Ben Affleck, his portrayal of Christian Wolff, a high-functioning autistic, he comes off more as dour and unaffected rather than the slightly quirky but still serious you can imagine he’s going for. Though this may have been more excusable had they spent a little more time showing his father’s tough-love conditioning that was supposed to have turned both Christian and his brother into highly trained killers. Affleck’s chemistry with Anna Kendrick, who plays something of a love interest in the movie, is evident, though a bit underwhelming. They never seem to lose that edge of uncomfortable unfamiliarity, even after they’ve been through a few firefights together. One of the real standout performances belongs to Jon Bernthal, who plays his character with a slight edge of sociopathy that seems to be just a hair away from total loss of control.

Most of the effects are limited to bullet strikes and background filler, and are all fairly well done.

While not a great movie, it’s also not terrible. Despite Affleck’s odd acting choices, the storyline is solid and keeps a relatively quick pace. It’s probably not one where you would mind spending the couple bucks to rent it, or even purchase it if it’s cheap enough.

The Accountant isn’t available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Ant-Man and the Wasp

AntManAnd Wasp

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Directed By: Peyton Reed
Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Peña, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Hannah John-Kamen, Laurence Fishburne, Walton Goggins, David Dastmalchian, Randall Park, Abby Ryder Fortson, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: A

Several days before his two-year house arrest resulting from his participating in Captain America’s fight against Iron Man, Scott Lang is ready to start living his post-superhero life. However, when he suddenly has a memory of his time in the Quantum Realm, he reaches out to Hope and Hank, from whom he’s been estranged during those two years, and quickly finds himself sucked back into a quest to find Hope’s mother, who’s been lost in the Quantum Realm for nearly 30 years. However, shortly after they begin their rescue mission, they find that they’re being pursued by a mysterious figure that can seemingly phase in and out of the Quantum Realm at will, as well as a shady businessman who wants to sell Pym technology to the highest bidder, and the FBI, who are determined to send them all to jail for violating the Sokovia Accords.

This movie was the first one the MCU released after Infinity War, and there was a lot of speculation about how it would address the end of that movie. For the most part, there’s no mention of the events that took place in Infinity War. Scott is in his own world as he awaits the removal of his ankle monitor, and once the action starts, no one really takes the time to check out what’s on the news. All of the actors from the first movie, save for the villain, returns for this installment, and the new characters fit in just fine. Despite the daunting task of coming up with compelling storyline in the wake of Infinity War, they managed to find something that works and adds to the overall universe as well.

The effects are all well done, as is typical with Marvel movies. There are no explosions, but there are plenty of other effects used, which all fit seamlessly into the movie, and the sequences in the Quantum Realm are beautifully done.

Marvel has managed to deliver another worthy entry into their MCU. The Ant-Man movies tend to be a little more light-hearted than some of their counterparts, but it doesn’t detract from the overall quality of the film. It also serves as a palate cleanser from the gut-wrenching Infinity War.

Ant-Man and the Wasp isn’t available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Dirty Book Club

DirtyBookClub

The Dirty Book Club

Written By: Lisi Harrison
Published: October 2017
Grade: B+

M.J. Stark thinks she has built the perfect life in the wake of losing her mother, father, and sister in a tragic accident. She has a gorgeous doctor boyfriend, a fantastic Manhattan apartment, and is a shoo-in to take over running New York’s City magazine when her boss retires. However, when her boss informs M.J. that, due to her asocial way working, she’ll have to share her promotion with another coworker, M.J. impulsively decides to take her boyfriend up on his offer to join him in California. After weeks of self-pity, M.J. decides to bring a thank you gift to a neighbor after Dan, M.J.’s boyfriend, borrows their patio furniture while they’re out of town. There she meets Gloria, a sassy older woman with a taste for strong martinis and juicy gossip. After Gloria’s husband dies suddenly, Gloria decides to pack up and move to Paris in honor of a decade-old pact with her friends, leaving M.J. alone and friendless. Then, shortly after Gloria leaves, M.J. is sent an invitation to a secret club, along with a date and time for her first meeting. When she arrives, M.J. meets the other members: Addie, a women’s clinic nurse with a healthy sexual appetite; Britt, an overworked mother of two who’s tired of husband’s lack of interest in her; and Jules, a hopeless romantic who’s blissfully ignorant of her husband’s affairs with other women. Together they learn the purpose for the club: to read quote/unquote dirty books and cultivate a lasting friendship. Intrigued, the four women decide to give the club a try for the summer before returning to their own, hectic lives. However, as the group begins reading the selections and the letters the original group wrote to accompany them, they find they have more in common than they originally though, and learn that sometimes the strongest friendships are forged in the most unusual circumstances.

While author Lisi Harrison usually write for the YA set, her adult novel debut is solid. Her characters are well-developed, including the original club members, whom we mostly learn about through the letters they wrote to accompany the books. While M.J. is clearly the main character, the book is written in the third person and rarely deviates from her, though it would have been interesting to read firsthand what we learn about as the information is being relayed to her.

Chick lit is usually a safe bet for authors, as there are many who enjoy a light, simple read. I was able to finish the novel in a little over a morning without missing any of the information. The plotline manages to hold your interest and doesn’t read like it was originally meant for teenagers.

Anyone looking for a fun, easy read who doesn’t mind books gear towards women should enjoy this. It’s a little jarring in the beginning to start with Gloria and her friends and then jump over to M.J. I spent a little time wondering if M.J. was somehow related to one of the original club members until I figured out that she wasn’t, but aside from that, the book is easy to follow.

Check your local library or bookstore for availability, or purchase through any participating on-line retailer.

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Incredibles 2

Incredibles2

Incredibles 2

Directed By: Brad Bird
Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Catherine Keener, Bob Odenkirk, Sophia Bush, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Eli Fucile, Michael Bird, Brad Bird, Isabella Rossellini, Phil LaMarr, Jonathan Banks, et. al.
Rated: PG
Grade: A

After failing to defeat the Underminer, who showed up at the end of the previous film, the Parr family and their friend, Lucius Best, are threatened with legal action for illegally partaking in super hero activities. After being released from government custody and sent to a motel while they await relocation, they’re approached by wealthy businessman Winston Deavor and his sister, Evelyn, who want their help in an endeavor to reverse the laws making super heroes illegal. Believing that the public will once again wish to embrace supers once they see how helpful they can be. Soon after agreeing to be the poster girl for their campaign, Elastigirl is encounters a new villain, the Screenslaver, who wants to destroy all supers.

This sequel to the beloved Pixar movie is carefully crafted to exude the same sense of adventure and fun that the first one gave. The storyline feels like a natural progression, instead of the forced stories that plague most sequels. Most of the voice actors from the first movie that have characters in this movie returned, with only a couple of exceptions, mainly with the voice actors for the younger children. The voices all seem to work well together, and from what I could tell, it seems like the actors had fun performing. It was nice to see Elastigirl get some time in the spotlight after being relegated to simple housewife in the first movie, and Bob being out of his element as the at-home parent was a fun change.

Pixar is well known for high-quality animation, and this movie is no different. The colors are vibrant without being too bright, and the blacks are dark and fuzz-free.

All in all, this is another great Disney/Pixar movie. The storyline is fast-paced and engaging and doesn’t pander to children, the characters are well-developed, and the villain’s motivations are believable. Despite there being nearly 15 years between the movies, this sequel doesn’t miss any steps. It’s thoroughly enjoyable, and something that everyone can watch.

Incredibles 2 isn’t available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Killer Elite

KillerElite

Killer Elite

Directed By: Gary McKendry
Starring: Jason Statham, Robert DeNiro, Clive Owen, Dominic Purcell, Yvonne Strahovsky, Aden Young, Ben Mendelsohn, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, David Whiteley, Matt Nable, Lachy Hulme, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: C+

Loosely based on a true story, Killer Elite follows a group of four hitmen-for-hire several years after a job went wrong. After having retired to his native Australia when a hit went bad, Danny receives word that his friend and former partner Hunter has been taken hostage by a disgraced sheik wanting vengeance for his dead sons against the British SAS officers responsible for their deaths, Danny takes it upon himself to figure out how to kill the men. Recruiting his other old teammates and calling in favors from old contacts, Danny enters into an unwitting game of cat and mouse, as he soon learns that there is another killer protecting the SAS officers and threatening the success of Danny’s mission.

What little story exists in this movie seems to solely be a means to get to the next action/shootout scene, of which there are many. While the actors seem to have a decent chemistry, some of the accents are off. Jason Statham is supposed to play an Australian, but seems to maintain his natural, rough English accent, and Dominic Purcell is supposed to play a Welshman, but ends up sounding more like his native Australian instead. It’s usually not a good sign when my untrained ears can hear an accent that’s off, but I’ve stated in other reviews that, at the very least, Statham isn’t good at hiding his natural accent.

The effects are alright. There aren’t many effects-heavy scenes, with most of the CGI being used as background filler. There are also lost of explosions, but they seem to have been done well.

As stated before, despite being (somewhat) based on a true story, the movie itself uses as little plot as possible in order to get it from one action/shootout scene to the next. While the movie could have used a few scenes to show why DeNiro’s character is so important to Statham’s (and the other characters that were part of the crew), or even why they all decide to help, most of the interim scenes are basic setups for the next action sequence, which leaves you with characters you don’t actually care about taking on the rescue/assassination mission because… reasons.

Killer Elite can be streamed free through Netflix for now, and it can also be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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