The House with a Clock in Its Walls Review

Leave it to director Eli Roth (Hostel, The Green Inferno) to make a children’s fantasy film that’s full of bizarre humor and dark imagery. I didn’t even think it was possible to make fun of the disabled in a mainstream movie anymore Yet, Roth made it happen, and somehow the well-timed joke landed a perfect 10 in the process.

This movie begins where most movies are at the 30-minute mark. There’s no introduction to characters or the fantasy world they inhabit. No, we’re thrown right off the deep end without any floaties. Before you know it, our soulless protagonist is learning magic and is knee deep in what this film considers “plot”.

Why is the house alive? How is Jack Black a magical warlock? What is the extent of this magical universe? Who knows and who cares! Pretty much the perfect tagline for this movie.

I’ll attempt to summarize the plot; however it’s been only 24 hours since I’ve seen the film and I already forget several key plot details. Like a distant, hazy dream.

After a car accident kills both his parents, Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) goes to live with his mysterious kimono-wearing uncle Johnathan Barnavelt (Jack Black). Lewis quickly learns that Johnathan and his home aren’t as they seem, discovering that his uncle is in fact a wizard. And after Lewis accidentally raises the dead with a powerful spell, he must help his uncle save the world from a malevolent force. Mixed into the plot is a variety of frightening images and intense scenes fused with a whimsical message about family and magic.

The child actor in The Clock deserves an award for worst acting in a motion picture, period. It’s so awkward that scenes meant to be emotional and touching just come off as strange and unintentionally hilarious. In one scene, Owen is crying over the recent death of his parents, and Jack Black attempts to cheer him up by pulling an endless length of handkerchiefs from his pocket. An old magician gag. It’s supposed to be quirky and heartfelt, but the whole scene was just odd.

Yet, that’s kind of the unexpected charm of The Clock, as it teeters between predictable family adventure flick and unforeseen absurdity. Even with the many little idiosyncrasies and plot holes there’s something enjoyable to find in almost every scene. Whether intentional or not.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a good fall themed movie for families with small, brave children that don’t mind some oddball (and slightly offensive) jokes. If you’re laughing at the terrible acting, weird plot, or deliberately goofy scenes, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you’re laughing and entertained, so I say mission accomplished.

The verdict: B-

-Zachary Flint

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Review

Anticipating what I assumed to be a distasteful soft reboot of a fun, lighthearted adventure film, I expected the worst from Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. However, to my pleasant surprise (and curious confusion), Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle shares little resemblance to its supposed source material. Instead of a murderous board game that forces players to partake in increasingly difficult tasks, this involves the hip millennial version of the whole thing.

Four clichéd high school students are sucked into a video game while in detention. Once inside the video game, each high schooler takes on a completely different persona, kind of like an in-game avatar. These avatars are played by Jack Black, Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan, who all go off on a vague MacGuffin plot to stop a one-dimensional bad guy. Basically, get the thing, put it in the thing, so it will do the thing.

Jumanji is about as ridiculous and uninspired as you can possibly get, and thankfully the film knows that, making the absolute best of its lame and outrageous premise.

It’s obvious the cast is having a lot of fun shooting Jumanji, and that genuine enthusiasm easily rubs off on the audience. The journey these characters embark on and the lessons they learn along the way was where I derived most of my enjoyment.

Another big part of the film aside from the characters is the humor, which in my opinion was a tad overplayed. Some jokes work very well at first and get a good laugh, only to be drawn out for too long until they become tiresome and annoying. Other scenes intended to be humorous were incredibly childish and tonally inconsistent, leading me to assume that Jumanji had no clear audience it wanted to appeal to.

Jumanji’s strongest suit wasn’t in its humor, but in the genuine moments shared between the protagonists, who were so goofy and animated that I couldn’t help but join in on the fun. The cheesy and poorly written aspects of Jumanji all teeter precariously on “so bad it’s good”. Altogether, I think there is more amusement to be had in Jumanji’s faults than boredom or irritation.

The Verdict: C+

-Zachary Flint

Kung Fu Panda 3 Review

I have always been very skeptical when sequels to a film series continue to be made, especially when it feels the series his already over. When I heard there would be a third Kung Fu Panda movie, I just rolled my eyes. My mind immediately took me to the Shrek series, which is DreamWorks other major hit series. Shrek 2 is one of my favorite comedies of all time, yet its sequel Shrek the Third sucked. I felt Kung Fu Panda 3 was sure to meet the same unfortunate fate as Shrek the Third.

To my amazement, I was completely wrong.

It is a mystery how DreamWorks has taken the concept of a kung fu fighting panda and not only made it interesting, but made it a great experience. Kung Fu Panda 3 something memorable that the entire family can enjoy. I sincerely loved this movie and thought it was the funniest in the series thus far.

Kung Fu Panda 3 continues following Po (Jack Black) on his quest to learn what it truly means to be the dragon warrior. The film brings back the original cast of Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogen, and various others. Kung Fu Panda 3 also flaunts some new characters, including Po`s long lost Panda father Li Shan voiced by Bryan Cranston and an evil Ox named Kai voiced by J.K. Simmons. Kai has returned from the spirit realm and is now stealing the Chi of all the great kung fu masters throughout China. Po must now travel to the secret sanctuary of his Panda family and learn the ins and outs of how to be a Panda. Po must also simultaneously learns the long lost art of Chi mastering. Along the way we meet each of Po`s siblings who live within the Panda sanctuary. Each with their own eccentric personality.

The story of Kung Fu Panda continues to become more complex with each installment. We are introduced to many new characters as well as many old ones, yet DreamWorks still finds the time to develop each one. Finding the right balance of character development can be very tricky, especially when there is a lot of them. DreamWorks does this beautifully in Kung Fu Panda 3 and gives the audience a great group of likable and unique protagonists.

The action sequences are a staple of the Kung Fu Panda movies, and that is no exception here. The film is packed with ‘family friendly’ fight scenes involving a lot of humorous jokes and slapstick. These scenes are impressively choreographed and are very engaging to watch. I found myself lost in excitement during many of the fight scenes, especially the climax.

I think that Kung Fu Panda 3 works as a great film on a variety of levels. The animation that DreamWorks puts forth is spectacular, and the characters and voice acting have never been better. It is enjoyable for not only small children, but brings enough fun and imagination to the table to entertain all viewers. I have little doubt that Kung Fu Panda will continue to amaze audiences with its future installments.

The Verdict: A-

-Zachary Flint