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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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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Hotel Transylvania 3

HotelTransylvania3

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

Directed By: Doug Murphy
Starring: Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Katherine Hahn, Kevin James, David Spade, Keegan Michael-Key, Steve Buschemi, Maya Rudolph, Fran Drescher, Chrissy Tiegen, Chris Parnell, Jim Gaffigan, Joe Jonas, et. al.
Rated: PG
Grade: C+

When Mavis, daughter of Dracula, the owner of the luxurious Hotel Transylvania, decides that her dad needs a vacation from planning other people’s vacations, she books the whole family on an exclusive cruise through the Bermuda Triangle with all their friends. Almost as soon as they arrive, Drac falls for the beautiful cruise director, Ericka, despite believing all his life that monsters only have one chance at true love. And although she’s developing feelings for Drac herself, Ericka fights against it in order to fulfill her family’s legacy and be the first Van Helsing to finally destroy all of monster kind.

The third movie in the Hotel Transylvania series, this is the first one to mostly take place away from the hotel itself. It’s nice to see Dracula attempting to relax, though he spends a good deal of the time complaining that they have the same amenities/activities at his hotel. Pretty much everyone from the first two movies is back, with no noticeable changes in voice actors, and they all seem to mesh well together, as with the first two movies.

The animation looks like it was hand-drawn, though it was likely done by computer, and the color timing is well done.

The storyline may have been a bit shallow, but all in all, the movie is still entertaining, and not just on a kids level. The franchise remains true to its core belief that monsters aren’t bad, just misunderstood. This is also the first time they’ve had an actual human as the antagonist, instead of another monster. The movie tends to dip down into the ridiculous, but that’s true for most children’s movies anymore, and it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment.

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation 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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Constantine City of Demons

CityOfDemons

Constantine: City of Demons

Directed By: Doug Murphy
Starring: Matt Ryan, Laura Bailey, Emily O’Brien, Damian O’Hare, Robin Atkin Downes, Rachel Kimsey, Jim Meskimen, Kevin Michael Richardson, Rick D. Wasserman, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: A-

A decade after a tragic accident sent an innocent young girl to Hell, John Constantine is asked by his old friend, Chaz Chandler, to help save his daughter, Trish, from whatever dark force has put her into a mysterious coma. Tracing the demon responsible back to Los Angeles, Constantine travels there to try and strike a bargain with the beast to free Trish’s soul, but soon realizes he’s in over his head. Enlisting the help of both old friends and new, John does everything in his power to save Trish, even if it costs him nearly everything.

While this movie may or may not count as another official entry into DC’s Animated Universe, it still stands on par with the others that I’ve seen. Matt Ryan reprises his role of John Constantine, which he has played in several television series, as well as in the Justice League Dark movie, and he seems to still be fairly comfortable with the role. He also does a decent job with the voice work, as does everyone else involved. As I’ve stated before, it’s hard to tell chemistry through voice work, but the voices all seem to mesh well together.

The animation looks hand-drawn, though it was likely done by computer, and the color timing is well done.

Despite being cobbled together from digital shorts that originally aired on the CW Seed app, they managed to make a coherent, compelling, movie-length story. It fills in pieces of Constantine’s dark past for those who haven’t read the Hellblazer comics and shows how John became the antisocial antihero of the live-action series. While it may be a little bloody and violent for smaller children, fans of DC and DCAU movies should enjoy it.

Constantine: City of Demons can be streamed as digital shorts through CW Seed, and it can be rented as a feature-length movie from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Ocean’s 8

Oceans8

Ocean’s 8

Directed By: Gary Ross
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Richard Armitage, James Corden, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: A-

When Debbie Ocean is released from prison after serving five years for insurance fraud, she has just two things on her mind: revenge on the man who sent her to prison and pulling off one of the greatest heists ever seen. With the help of Lou, her friend and former partner, Debbie recruits the best all-female team of criminals they can find to help them steal a multi-million dollar necklace off the neck of vapid starlet Daphne Kluger during the annual Met Gala. Starting with roping in a washed-up designer wanted for tax fraud to design the perfect dress for Daphne to wear, Debbie and Lou then seek out old colleagues Amita and Tammy, a jeweler and fence, and recruit Nine Ball and Constance, a hacker and pickpocket to round out their crew. As their deadline draws near, the group perfects their plan, and Debbie makes plans to place the blame for the theft on Claude Becker, the man who sent her to prison for fraud, all the while trying to keep both Daphne and the maker of the necklace in the dark about the scheme.

This latest sequel to Stephen Soderbergh’s 2001 remake of the 1960s film is a decent entry into the franchise. The overall story and planned may not be as grandiose or ambitious as any from the previous trilogy, but the smaller scale works in this instance. Instead of showing a big heist with lots of distractions and red herrings, this movie almost gives a long-con plan with regard to getting the necklace. The characters all work well together, and the actors all have good chemistry. Rihanna is slowly improving her acting skills, though she still has a ways to go.

There aren’t too many special effects beyond background filler, which is done well.

All in all, this is a pretty good movie. The story moves along quickly, and the characters have a decent amount of development. Anyone who liked Ocean’s Eleven should like this one, as should fans of a good caper movie, just so long as you don’t mind a fun, female-centric movie.

Ocean’s 8 isn’t available 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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